Thursday, February 28, 2008

Francis A. Boyle's "Protesting Power - War, Resistance and Law

Francis A. Boyle's "Protesting Power - War, Resistance and Law" - by Stephen Lendman

Francis A. Boyle is a distinguished University of Illinois law professor, activist, and internationally recognized expert on international law and human rights. From 1988 to 1992, he was a board member of Amnesty International USA. He was a consultant to the American Friends Service Committee. From 1991 to 1993, he was legal advisor to the Palestinian Liberation Organization, and currently he's a leading proponent of an effort to impeach George Bush, Dick Cheney and other key administration figures for their crimes of war, against humanity and other grievous violations of domestic and international law. Boyle also lectures widely, writes extensively and authored many books, including his latest one and subject of this review: "Protesting Power - War, Resistance and Law."

Boyle's book is powerful, noble and compelling, and he states its purpose upfront: Today, a "monumental struggle (is being waged) for the heart and soul of (America) and the future of the world...." It matches peacemakers on one side, war makers on the other, and all humanity hanging in the balance. The book provides hope and ammunition. It's a urgent call to action and demonstrates that "civil resistance (is) solidly grounded in international law, human rights (efforts), and the US Constitution." It "can be used to fight back and defeat the legal, constitutional, and humanitarian nihilism of the Bush administration" neocons and their chilling Hobbesian vision - imperial dominance, homeland police state, and permanent "war that won't end in our lifetimes," according to Dick Cheney.

Boyle has the antidote: "civil resistance, international law, human rights, and the US Constitution - four quintessential principles to counter....militarism run amuk." Our choice is "stark and compelling." We must act in our own self-defense "immediately, before humankind exterminates itself in an act of nuclear omnicide." The threat today is dire and real, it demands action, and civil resistance no longer is an option. With survival at stake, it's an obligation.

The Right to Engage in Civil Resistance to Prevent State Crimes

Post-WW II, US foreign policy adopted the political "realism" and "power politics" principles that Hans Morganthau explained in his seminal work on the subject - "Politics among Nations: the Struggle for Power and Peace (1948)." For decades, it was the leading international politics text from a man eminently qualified to produce it and whose experiences under Nazism influenced him.

His cardinal tenet was darkly Hobbesian - that international law and world organizations are "irrelevant" when it comes to conflicts between nations on matters of national interest. Ignore "reality" and perish, but consider the consequences. They've has been disastrous for America, at home and abroad, in a world of our making where life is "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short." No law or justice exists, no sense of right or wrong, no morality, just illusions of what might be, and a "struggle for survival in a state of war" by every nation against all others for one unattainable aim - absolute power and national security at the expense of other states and most people everywhere.

Political "realists" believe that when nations respect international laws and norms and ignore the "iron law" of "power politics," they invite disaster at the hands of aggressors. Boyle believes otherwise and eloquently states it: "Throughout the twentieth century, the promotion of international law, organizations, human rights, and the US Constitution has consistently provided the United States with the best means for reconciling the idealism (and aspirations) of American values....with the realism of world politics and historical conditions."

It can work the way Boyle documented it in his 1999 book, Foundations of World Order: The Legalist Approach to International Relations, 1898 - 1922. In it, he offers a comprehensive analysis of US foreign policy achievements through international law and organizations to settle disputes, prevent wars and preserve peace. It included:

-- an obligatory arbitration system for settling disputes between states - the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in 1899 that's still operating at The Hague as the oldest international dispute resolution institution;

-- the Permanent Court of International Justice (World Court) in 1922 that was replaced by the International Court of Justice in 1946 after the UN was established in 1945;

-- the codification of important areas of international law in treaty form;

-- promoting arms reduction after relaxing international tensions by legal techniques and institutions; and

-- convoking periodic peace conferences for all internationally recognized states; the League of Nations was established for this purpose and later the United Nations with its functional agencies like the International Labour Organization, WHO, UNESCO, and IAEA. Other affiliated institutions included the IMF, World Bank, GATT, WTO and regional organizations like the OAS, Arab League, African Union, ASEAN, OSCE and EU. To these add NATO, the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance (the Rio Pact), SEATO, ANZUS and various bilateral self-defense treaties under Article 51 of the UN Charter.

These organizations should have worked. In practice they don't, and Boyle explains why: compared to America's early "legalist, humanitarian, and constitutionalist approach to international relations, geopolitical (realpolitik) practioners of the Hobbesian" school prevailed - men like Johnson, Kissinger, McNamara, Nixon, Byzezinski, Carter, Reagan, GHW Bush, GW Bush, his neocon ideologues and countless others. They disdain democracy, constitutional government and their essential principles: commitment to the rule of domestic and international law, human rights, equal justice and peace.

Consider the cost. It's beyond measure and even worse looking back, in spite of all efforts toward conflict resolution. Since the nation's founding, America has been at war with one or more adversaries every year in our history (without exception), and note the consequences:

-- we glorify wars and violence in the name of peace;

-- have the highest domestic homicide rate in the western world by far;

-- our society is called a "rape culture" and three-fourths of all women are victims of some form of violence in their lifetimes, many repeatedly;

-- millions of children are violence or abuse victims and get no help from the state;

-- in a nominal democracy under constitutional law, aggressive wars and domestic violence are normal and commonplace; peace, tranquility and public safety are illusions and so are human rights, civil liberties, the rule of law, and common dignity, and the reason it's so is simple - it benefits the privileged few at the expense of the greater good.

What can be done? Plenty, according to Boyle. "Concerned citizens" and people of conscience are obligated to use our available tools - domestic and international law and human rights as "checks and balances against" government abuses of power in the conduct of domestic and foreign policies. Otherwise, administrations can run amuck and literally get away with murder and other major crimes of war, against humanity, peace and the general welfare.

Consider the alternative and what can be gained. By respecting the law, human rights and other nations' sovereignty, US administrations could defend the nation, conduct its foreign and domestic affairs, and achieve its goals successfully without wars, violence and disdain for the common good. At worst under an anti-Hobbesian construct, short-term objectives might be sacrificed in part for more vital ones in the long run, and isn't that what survival is all about.

At his book's end, Boyle quotes Hans Morgenthau's comments in 1979, just months before his death, and it's appropriate to mention them here. Boyle asked him "what he thought about the future of international relations" at the time Jimmy Carter was President. His response: "Future, what future?....In my opinion the world is moving ineluctably toward a third world war - a strategic nuclear war. I do not believe that anything can be done to prevent it. The international system is simply too unstable to survive for long." Arms reduction treaties are mere stopgaps and will be unable to "stop the momentum."

If Morganthau is right, the choice is stark and clear. Continue our present path and perish or unite at the grassroots to change an ugly, unsustainable system and let humankind survive. There's no middle ground, time may be short, and who knows if enough still remains.

Yet Boyle eschews that notion and dedicates his book to hope through resistance. We must try and use our available tools - the Constitution; UN Charter; Nuremberg Charter, Judgment and Principles; Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide; Universal Declaration of Human Rights; Hague Regulations; Geneva Conventions; Supreme (and lower) Court decisions; US Army Field Manual 27-10; The Law of Land Warfare (1956); and our own profound commitment to resist and prevail whatever the odds and consequences. Apathy isn't an option.

History, moreover, shows these tactics work when enough people commit to them. They ended the Vietnam war, and, in the 1980s, anti-nuclear and anti-war resisters forced the Reagan and GHW Bush administrations to conclude the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty in 1987 and the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) in 1991.

Conditions today are far more grave under neocon rule that disdains the law and all binding peace and international arms reduction treaties. It:

-- claims the right to develop new type nuclear weapons, not eliminate the ones Morganthau believed will destroy us;

-- ignores the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and intends to test new weapons developed;

-- ended Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty protection;

-- rescinded and subverted the Biological and Toxic Weapons Convention;

-- spends more on the military than the rest of the world combined, and it's getting worse; on February 4, the largest ever defense budget since WW II, in inflation-adjusted dollars, was proposed for fiscal 2009 at a time the nation has no adversaries, should be at peace, but chooses wars without end instead;

-- disdains a Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty to prevent additional nuclear bombs to be added to present stockpiles already dangerously too high; and

-- claims the right to wage preventive wars under the doctrine of "anticipatory self-defense" using first strike nuclear weapons against any other state. Morganthau would say I warned you.

Boyle says civil resisters like the ones he testifies for represent hope. They're "the archetypical American heros" whose names few people know - Richard Sauder, Jeff Paterson, David Mejia, Ehren Watada, Kathy Kelly, Daniel Berrigan, his late brother Philip and many other courageous, dedicated people for peace and equal justice. They risk their lives and freedom for the greater good, pay hugely for it, and Ramzy Clark once saluted them saying: "Our jails are filling up with saints." We have a constitutional right and personal duty to support them, join them, and resist our government's criminal acts. They must be stopped or the alternative may be WW III and the end of humanity.

Constitutional law supports resistance (not disobedience that violates the law). The First Amendment protects the right to "peaceably....assemble and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." It doesn't have to be lawful, just peaceable, so it's incumbent to resist when governments act criminally and endanger public safety and welfare, and the law is on our side. Resisters have the same statutory and common-law defenses as criminal defendants - defense of self, others, necessity, choice of evils, prevention of crime, execution of public duty, citizen's arrest, prevention of a public catastrophe, and other defenses. If not us, who then?

Federal courts abdicated their power and defer to presidential lawlessness under doctrines of "political question, state secrets, standing, judicial restraint, (and) national security." Congress as well has power, but won't use it. If it did, imagine how constructively it could exercise its appropriation authority under Article 1, Section 9, Clause 7 of the Constitution saying: "No money shall be drawn from the treasury, but in consequence of appropriations made by law...."

Congress alone is empowered to do it. It controls the federal budget that includes defense and supplementary military spending. Foreign wars will end and new ones not begun if Congress won't fund them. It's how Vietnam ended. Congress stopped funding it under the Church-Case June 1973 amendment that cut off appropriations after August 15. Legislative power is the same today, but post-9/11, Congress abdicated its authority and defers to Bush administration demands on nearly everything, including aggressive foreign wars.

If the courts and Congress won't act, the public must and if charged and prosecuted are protected under the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments to the right of trial by a jury of peers. Boyle explains that the "American criminal jury system (ultimately may be) the last bastion of democracy, the rule of law, human rights and the US Constitution" against a criminal administration and whichever one succeeds it if it continues lawless policies.

From his experience, Boyle is hopeful because when American juries understand government crimes, "they usually refused to convict" civil resisters trying to stop them. Two precedent-setting 1985 cases stand out as examples: People v. Jarka and Chicago v. Streeter. In both cases, defendants used a common-law defense called "necessity" and were acquitted. They were absolved of criminal liability because their actions caused less injury than the greater one they hoped to avoid. Winning these cases makes them applicable to more serious ones like crimes of war, and against humanity and peace.

Ahead, achieving victories or hung juries is crucial to preserving our constitutional system under threat. A strong message will be sent that ordinary people can confront government crimes and prevail. As such, we have to try. Surrender or apathy aren't options. The stakes are far too great.

Defending Civil Resisters: Philosophy, Strategy, and Tactics

In an age of lawless government, resisters represent hope. They're the "sheriffs," government officials the "outlaws," and it highlights the importance of seeking counsel and who to choose. The person must believe in the accused and their cause and work cooperatively with an international law expert to introduce these principles into the proceedings as evidence.

Many times, international law is the only defense, there's plenty to draw on, and Boyle believes when a peace-loving, law-abiding jury hears compelling evidence citing it, "there is almost no way the government will be able to convict" resisters on trial. The jury will either acquit, be hung, or charges will be dismissed before or during trial. It's thus clear that a successful defense requires a jury trial because too many judges support state authority and may deny evidence and convict. That's particularly true for federal judges who are nominated by the President, confirmed by the Senate, and over two-thirds on the bench now come from the extremist Federalist Society.

Proper representation and effective courtroom proceedings are crucial and follow from civil resistance acts that at times means spending time in jail. A good lawyer's job and Boyle's book are to prevent it, and he devotes considerable space explaining how. It begins with a good lawyer. After that comes:

-- a proper defense that aims to win or at least get a hung jury;

-- introducing international law as evidence and relating it to traditional common-law, statutory, procedural, and constitutional defenses that usually include one or more of the following: defense of self, others, property, necessity, prevention of a crime or public catastrophe, citizen's arrest, and other legal choices; international law is part of domestic law under Article VI of the Constitution (the supremacy clause);

Article VI also includes treaties as the "supreme law of the land;" so are Supreme Court decisions like The Paquete Habana (1900) that stated "International law is part of our law, and must be ascertained and administered by the courts of justice of appropriate jurisdiction...." In United States v. Belmont (1937) and United States v. Pink (1942), the Court ruled that the supremacy clause applies to international executive agreements that don't receive formal Senate advice and consent (the Senate does not ratify treaties as such);

US presidents take an oath under Article II, Section 1, Clause 7 to "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution...." International treaties and agreements are included. In addition, Article II, Section 3 requires the president to "take Care that the Laws be faithfully exercised;"

-- introducing the burden of proof in affirmative defenses to force the prosecution to prove guilt by disproving this type defense; the idea is to create a reasonable doubt about criminal intent;

-- distinguishing "specific intent crimes" (that many resisters are charged with) from general intent ones;

-- defending the crime of unlawful "trespass" by arguing it was done to uphold domestic and international law to prevent the commission of a crime;

-- establishing a pattern of criminal government behavior to justify resistance against it; it may include but not be limited to: Nuremberg crimes against peace, humanity, war crimes, breaches of Geneva, Hague, the UN Charter, genocide, torture and other crimes including inchoate ones, such as planning, preparing or aiding and abetting them;

-- using appropriate international criminal law standards in the US Army Field Manual 27-10 (that incorporates Nuremberg Principles, Judgment and the Charter) and The Law of Land Warfare (1956); the Field Manual paragraph 498 states that any person, military or civilian, who commits a crime under international law is responsible for it and may be punished; paragraph 499 defines a "war crime;" paragraph 500 refers to conspiracy, attempts to commit it and complicity with respect to international crimes; paragraph 509 denies the defense of superior orders in the commission of a crime; and paragraph 510 denies the defense of an "act of state;" and so forth;

-- pro se resisters (representing themselves without counsel) must take special care to prepare a proper defense with one aim - to convince one juror of their innocence; these and other considerations are vital to an effective defense when it's you v. the state and judges may be hostile. Resistance, however, is crucial because in Boyle's words: "Today is our Nuremberg moment!"

Trident on Trial

In this and succeeding chapters, Boyle reviews cases in which he testified pro bono for the defense. In each one, he explains the issue, who was on trial, followed by a summation of the crucial portions of his testimony that are text book examples of a proper and effective defense.

The Trident II strategic nuclear missile submarine is the first example and is described as follows: it's the "most hideous and nefarious weapon of mass destruction (WMD) ever devised" because of its unimaginable destructive power. The US Navy deploys 14 Tridents, the UK four others, and just one of them has enough nuclear kilotonnage to destroy much of planet earth and maybe all of it from nuclear fallout - around 270 or more times the destructive power of the low-yield bombs that incinerated Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Further, NAVSTAR satellite communications give Delta V multiple warhead MIRVs on board pinpoint accuracy to make Trident ideal for an offensive near-omnicidal first-strike capability. At patrol depth, the extremely low frequency (ELF) system is the only way to communicate with these submarines. For that reason, Plowshares defendant George Ostensen (in 1987) engaged in civil resistance against the Ashland, Wisconsin ELF facility and was charged with two counts of "sabotage." He faced a possible 40 year prison sentence if found guilty as charged.

Boyle testified for him and used the transcript as a text for other Plowshares resisters to contest similar charges against them. It paid off with two outright acquittals in 1996 and another in a 1999 Scotland case because juries were convinced that ELF/Trident II was as dangerous as described above and thus criminal under well-established international and domestic law principles. These verdicts led to a "stunning" victory when the Navy announced it would shutter its Wisconsin and Michigan ELF systems in September 2004. "Civil resistance had triumphed over the Trident II," but these weapons are still deployed and threaten all humanity by their existence.

Brief excerpts of Boyle's testimony in his Ostensen defense follow. The laws he cites are mentioned above so comments on them are brief and not repeated for succeeding chapters.

In Ostensen and other testimonies, Boyle explains domestic and international laws relevant to the cases:

-- the US Constitution; the supremacy clause under Article VI stating that all forms of international treaties and agreements to which the US is a signatory are binding on "all American citizens, government officials, (the military and) courts of law;"

-- The Paquette Habana (1900) Supreme Court decision affirming that international law is US law;

-- The Law of Naval Warfare (1955) and The Law of Land Warfare (1956) both state that international laws bind all members of the US military, government officials and American citizens; they clearly say that international law limits the threat or use of nuclear weapons because these weapons are so deadly;

-- the Navy, Army and Air Force manuals incorporate the Nuremberg Principles as binding US law; they include crimes of war, against peace and humanity as well as planning, preparing, or waging an aggressive war; also applicable is conspiracy, incitement, and/or aiding and abetting the commission of these crimes; Nuremberg also rejected the defense of superior orders; the UN General Assembly unanimously approved these Principles as recognized international law in Resolution 95(I) in December 1946;

-- the Army, Navy and Air Force field manuals are issued to all members of the military today who are told they are fully accountable for any Nuremberg violations;

-- an outstanding DOD policy states that nuclear weapons are to be developed according to international law requirements;

-- Jimmy Carter's Presidential Directive 59 involves the targeting of nuclear weapons as first-strike options; at the time of the Ostensen case, no such official first-strike policy existed; that changed under the December 2001 Nuclear Policy Review; it affirmed the right to declare and wage future preventive wars using first- strike nuclear weapons; Trident II/Delta V submarines are nuclear first-stike WMDs; so is the ELF communication system;

-- the first-strike option is clearly illegal under Nuremberg Principles as well as the 1907 Hague Regulations that require an ultimatum or formal declaration of war; no nation has the "right" to affirm a policy of "deterrence" to threaten or destroy another one, let alone all humanity by nuclear weapons; that's very clear under Nuremberg.

The Constitutionality of President George HW Bush's War against Iraq on Trial (The Gulf War)

Boyle testified at the trial of Marine Corps Corporal Jeffrey Paterson. Over time, his military obligations increasingly conflicted with his moral beliefs. Things came to a head when he was told he'd likely be sent to the Persian Gulf as part of the military buildup prior to the Gulf War. On grounds of conscientious objection, he applied to be discharged and was refused even though the law states:

"To qualify for discharge from military service as a conscientious objector, an applicant must establish that:

(1) he or she is opposed to war in any form - Gillette v. United States (1971);

(2) his or her objection is founded in deeply held moral, ethical, or religious beliefs - Welsh v. United States (1970); and

(3) his or her convictions are sincere - Witmer v. United States (1955)."

Marine Corps Order 1306.16E requires that reasonable efforts be made to assign minimally-conflicting duties while an application is being processed. Nonetheless, Paterson was ordered to deploy to Saudi Arabia on August 29, 1990. He refused to go, was arrested, incarcerated, then freed pending court-martial.

Paterson has an honored distinction. He was the first military or civil resister to GHW Bush's "unconstitutional and criminal" Gulf War. He was charged under article 86 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) alleging his refusal to muster to deploy to the Gulf. On November 1, his lawyer filed a motion to dismiss three charges on grounds they were illegal. A special hearing was then held on November 19 before a Marine Corps judge. He ruled for Paterson by concluding that the government bore the burden of proof that must be beyond a reasonable doubt.

It was "a great victory for peace, justice, international law, the US Constitution, and civil resistance." On December 5, 1990, Paterson was administratively released from the Marine Corps with an "other than honorable discharge." His case was precedent-setting, "of great historic significance," and it's applicable to all cases of military and civil resistance against government crimes, including waging wars of aggression.

The US is a signatory to the UN Charter, it's the law of the land under the supremacy clause, and its Chapter VII empowers the Security Council alone to "determine the existence of any threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression," and, if necessary, take military or other action to "restore international peace and stability." It lets a nation use force only under two conditions:

-- under authorization by the Security Council; or

-- under Article 51 that permits the "right of individual or collective self-defense if an armed attack occurs against a Member....until the Security Council has taken measures to maintain international peace and security."

In addition, both houses of Congress, not the president, have exclusive power to declare war under Article I, Section 8, Clause 11 of the Constitution that's known as the war powers clause. Nonetheless, that procedure was followed only five times in our history, it was last used for WW II in 1941, and Congress addressed the issue in 1973 when it passed the War Powers Resolution.

It requires the president to get congressional authorization for war or a resolution passed within 60 days of initiating hostilities. It also states in Section 4(a)(3): "In the absence of a declaration of war, in any case in which United States Armed Forces are introduced -- (3) in numbers which substantially enlarge the United States Armed Forces equipped for combat already located in a foreign nation; the president shall submit within 48 hours to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and to the President pro tempore of the Senate a report, setting forth" necessitating circumstances, a request for "constitutional and legislative authority," and the "estimated scope and duration of the hostilities or involvement."

Congress gave GHW Bush this authority on January 14, 1991. It did not give it to George W. Bush, yet he went to war anyway in violation of a host of laws, domestic and international. On January 15, 1991, Congressman Henry Gonzales, Ramsey Clark and Francis Boyle launched a national campaign to impeach GHW Bush. Five articles of impeachment were prepared.

They apply as well today to GW Bush's illegal wars against Iraq and Afghanistan, and Boyle states why as follows: "the House can, should, and must impeach President Bush for commencing this war, lying about this war, and threatening more wars. All that is needed is one member of the House of Representatives with courage, integrity, principles, and a safe seat" to do it. If not, the alternative is dire - wars without end, a homeland police state and the end of the republic that's already on life support.

In testifying for Corporal Paterson, Boyle reviewed the relevant laws already covered above. He also cited pertinent Supreme Court decisions going back to Little v. Barreme (1804) and Mitchell v. Harmony (1851) as well as Colonel William Winthrop's Military Law and Precedents (1880, 1886 and revised and enlarged in 1920).

Winthrop specifically states that soldiers are obligated to disobey illegal orders defined as follows: ones unauthorized by law or that are clearly illegal acts. In the Paterson case, there was no authorized law, and he had no duty to obey a clearly unlawful order.

President Clinton's Invasion of Haiti and the Laws of War

Noam Chomsky believes that every US president since WW II could be impeached because "they've all been either outright war criminals or involved in serious war crimes." Bill Clinton was one of them. In November 1993, he sent troops to Somalia, supposedly for humanitarian intervention, got no congressional authorization, and killed about 10,000 Somalis. He was then complicit in the 1994 Rwandan massacres (involving no US troops), and on September 19, 1994 again acted illegally - he invaded Haiti without congressional authority and violated the Constitution's war powers clause.

The 10th US Army Mountain Division from Fort Drum, New York was part of the force sent. Capt. Lawrence P. Rockwood II was a fourth generation soldier and career military officer with 15 years service. Yet he jeopardized his safety, career and personal liberty to aid incarcerated Haitians.

He learned about horrific human rights violations inside Haiti's prisons under its military dictator. They were especially bad at the National Penitentiary in Port-au-Prince, he informed his superiors, and then pressured them to take control and stop the abuses. Nothing was done, so Rockwell acted on his own as the US Army Field Manual 27-10 and international law require.

On September 30, he went to the prison alone, inspected conditions inside, saw firsthand how bad they were, and compiled a list of prisoners' names to deter their deaths or "disappearance." Subsequently, he was court-martialed in May 1995 and faced up to 10 years in prison if found guilty of multiple charges.

In fact, he was convicted of five specifications on three charges under the UCMJ, including:

-- failure to report for duty under article 86;

-- disrespect for a superior officer under article 89;

-- willful disobedience of superior orders under article 90; and

-- conduct unbecoming an officer under article 133.

-- He was acquitted of two specifications of an additional charge of failing to obey an order and dereliction of duties under article 92.

The court abstained from imposing a prison sentence and instead dismissed Rockwood from the army with forfeiture of pay. In so doing, the military jury affirmed his defense that he acted properly under international law to stop grievous abuses inside Haiti's prison. He left the army "an acknowledged and eternal hero to the worldwide human rights movement."

Appearing for the defense at his trial was an expert witness, an authentic human rights hero in his own right - Hugh Thompson. As a Vietnam helicopter pilot, he saved lives at the infamous My Lai massacre by threatening to kill Lt. Calley and his soldiers if they didn't cease slaughtering innocent civilians. Thirty years later, he won a medal for it, and he told the court that Rockwood also deserved one as for his heroic act. He fought for human rights and won, and Boyle relates his testimony for him to laws of war and human rights violations applicable to the Bush administration's Iraq war, its oppressive occupation, and the actions of its puppet government in Baghdad for which Washington is fully accountable under international law.

It began with an illegal March 19, 2003 "decapitation strike" against Saddam Hussein in violation of a 48 hour ultimatum he'd been given to leave the country with his sons. That crime and trying to assassinate a country's leader are also illegal under earlier cited international laws.

Next came "shock and awe," Baghdad was targeted, and Article 6(b) of the Nuremberg Charter was grievously violated. It defines war crimes to include the "wanton destruction of cities, towns or villages, or devastation not justified by military necessity." Fallujah and other Iraqi cities were similarly victimized (as were Afghan targets) in spite of a May 8, 2003 joint US-UK pledge to the president of the Security Council: that Coalition states "will strictly abide by their obligations under international law, including those relating to the essential humanitarian needs of the people of Iraq." Instead, laws are ignored and Iraqis continue to suffer grievously under an illegal, brutish occupation.

It includes the widespread use of torture that became de facto US policy after George Bush's September 17, 2001 "finding" authorizing CIA to kill, capture and detain "Al Qaeda" members anywhere in the world and rendition them to secret black site prisons for interrogation, presumed to include torture. Soon after on January 25, 2002, White House Counsel, Alberto Gonzales called the Geneva Conventions "quaint and obsolete," and it was all downhill from there to Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, Bagram in Afghanistan and countless other torture prison sites. Included also is a newly revealed secret Guantanamo one called "Camp 7" for "high-value" detainees. It's gruesome to imagine the barbarity inside under a president claiming "Unitary Executive" powers to do as he pleases outside the law.

In his testimony, Boyle again explained relevant laws that were covered above. US governments and the Pentagon willfully ignore them, George Bush flaunts them, and accountable civilian and military officials to the highest levels are guilty under domestic and international laws of crimes of war and against humanity and peace.

President George W. Bush's War against Iraq on Trial

US Army Reserve Staff Sergeant Camilo Mejia was the first Iraq War veteran to refuse further involvement in the war as a matter of conscience after serving in it from April to October 2003. Following leave on return, he failed to rejoin his National Guard unit and filed for discharge as a conscientious objector on grounds that the invasion and occupation were illegal and immoral. The army, in turn, deliberately overcharged him with desertion to send a strong message to other military personnel that they, too, would be severely punished if they acted similarly.

Mejia's May 2004 court-martial was a kangaroo-court show trial to drive home the point. It was widely broadcast and reported to all military personnel worldwide on internal Pentagon television, radio and newspaper outlets. Acting improperly, the military judge disallowed prepared defense testimony under the army's Field Manual 27-10, the Constitution and established international law.

Mejia was found guilty, a year in prison was imposed, and Amnesty International declared him a prisoner of conscience, its highest honor. Only after the verdict was Boyle allowed to testify during the sentencing phase - but under strict limitations imposed by the (hanging) judge. Again, he cited relevant domestic, international and military law, reviewed crimes of war and against humanity under them, and explained the culpability of commanders and government officials at the highest levels for abusing and torturing prisoners.

Other military resisters came after Mejia. One was First Lt. Ehren Watada in June 2006 when he refused to deploy to Iraq and publicly stated why - "as an officer of honor and integrity, (he could not participate in a war that was) "manifestly illegal....morally wrong (and) a horrible breach of American law." By his courageous act, Watada became the first US military officer to face court-martial for refusing to deploy to Iraq. He was charged with:

-- one specification under UCMJ article 87 - missing movement;

-- two specifications under article 99 - contempt toward officials (for making public comments about George Bush); and

-- three specifications under article 133 - conduct unbecoming an officer.

If convicted on all charges, Watada faced possible dishonorable discharge, forfeiture of all pay and allowances, and seven years in prison. A military equivalent of a grand jury convened on August 17, 2006 to inquire into charges and decide if they were justified. Watada called three expert witnesses in his defense, and chose them well:

-- former UN Iraq Humanitarian Coordinator (1997 - 1998) Denis Halliday who resigned under protest because he was "instructed to implement a policy that satisfies the definition of genocide (and already) killed well over one million individuals, children and adults;"

-- US Army Colonel Ann Wright who resigned her commission as a foreign service officer in the State Department in March 2003 to protest a "war of aggression (in) violat(ion) of international law;" and

-- distinguished Professor Francis Boyle, international law and human rights expert, activist and author of this and many other books on these topics.

On August 22, the Army reported on the proceding and recommended all charges be referred to a general court-martial. It began in February under very constricted rules - denying a First Amendment defense and disallowing one questioning the legality of the war. However, legality issues were impossible to exclude, they directly related to charges brought, and the prosecution introduced them at trial. In addition, Watada firmly stated before testifying that he refused to deploy because of the war's illegality.

Unable to pressure him not to so testify, the presiding judge declared a mistrial. He'd lost control of the proceeding, knew Watada was on solid ground, and had to prevent his evidence from being introduced to avoid the embarrassing possibility of an acquittal on one or all charges. If it happened, the war's illegality would have been exposed and its continuation jeopardized.

Under the Fifth Amendment "double jeopardy" clause, Watada cannot be retried on the same charges. It states that no person shall be "subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb." Watada's triumph by mistrial was a powerful tribute to his convictions and redoubtable spirit. It's also an inspiration to civil resisters and all members of the military to follow in his courageous footsteps.

Boyle explains the urgency in his final paragraph that's a powerful message for everyone: The causes of both world wars "hover like the sword of Damocles over the heads of all humanity." Civil resistance is our only hope "to prevent WW III and an (inevitable) nuclear holocaust....Toward that end this book has been written." Read it and act. Apathy isn't an option.

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

Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to The Global Research News Hour on RepublicBroadcasting.org Mondays from 11AM to 1PM US Central time for cutting-edge discussions on world and national topics with distinguished guests.

AUDIO: The Global Research News Hour on RBN

Monday, February 25, 2008

Washington v. Cuba After Castro

Washington v. Cuba After Castro - by Stephen Lendman

On February 18, at 5:30PM in Havana an era ended when Fidel Castro's written statement announced it. It was read on early Tuesday morning radio and television and reprinted in the Cuban newspaper Granma as follows:

"....I will neither aspire to nor accept, I repeat, I will neither aspire to nor accept the positions of President of the State Council and Commander in Chief....it would be a betrayal to my conscience to accept a responsibility requiring more mobility and dedication than I am physically able to offer....Fortunately, our Revolution can still count on cadres from the old guard and others....who learned together with us the basics of the complex and almost unattainable art of organizing and leading a revolution.

The path will always be difficult....We should always be prepared for the worst....The adversary to be defeated is extremely strong; however, we have been able to keep it at bay for half a century....

I was able to recover the full command of my mind (and am able to do) much reading and meditation. I had enough physical strength to write for many hours....My wishes have always been to discharge my duties to my last breath. That's all I can offer.

This is not my farewell to you. My only wish is to fight as a soldier in the battle of ideas. I shall continue to write under the heading of 'Reflections by comrade Fidel.' It will be just another weapon you can count on....

Thanks.

Fidel Castro Ruz"

The world press reacted, and here's a sampling:

The New York Times cautioned that "Castro May Not Be Exiting the Stage Completely....but whether the surprise announcement represented a historic change or a symbolic political maneuver remained unclear....It was not clear what role, if any, Fidel Castro would play in a new government (because) he signaled that he was not yet ready to completely exit the stage....There was little evidence in the streets of the capital and in other cities to suggest that a monumental change was taking place in the Cuban hierarchy."

The Washington Post.com was almost passive in stating: "Fidel Castro retires....he said on Tuesday that he will not return to lead the communist country....Cuba's National Assembly, a rubber-stamp legislature, is expected to nominate....Raul Castro as president (who's) been running the country since emergency intestinal surgery forced his brother to delegate power on July 31, 2006." The Bush administration earlier announced it would not negotiate with any Cuban government headed by either Castro brother. More on that below.

The Wall Street Journal was vintage Murdoch on its editorial page. It called Castro's legacy "ruthless....but less widely appreciated is that he was also an economic incompetent....the island is a malnourished backwater....staples are rationed, severe shortages exist in the medical system and electricity is a luxury....Cuba begs at the feet of Venezuela....young Cubans routinely take their chances with the security police and shark-infested waters rather than face life under the Castro brothers."

Phew, and the shame is that readers believe this stuff because the Journal and rest of the major media suppress the truth about Cuba, Venezuela and other regimes that successfully challenge Washington. In Cuba's case, it defeated a US invasion, a 49 year economic embargo, over 600 attempts to kill Castro, repeated US state terrorism to destabilize the country, and relentless efforts to isolate the island politically and economically.

In spite of it, Castro survived. He's now 81, an icon and living legend throughout Latin America, and most world nations have normal diplomatic and trade relations with him. In addition, Cuba is a member of the Latin American Economic System (SELA), the Organization of American States - OAS (but excluded from active participation since 1962), the Association of Caribbean States (ACS), the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and in September 2006, it assumed leadership of the 118 member nation Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) that states it's united to ensure "the national independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity and security (of its members) in their "struggle against imperialism, colonialism, neocolonialism, racism, Zionism, and all forms of foreign aggression, occupation, domination, interference or hegemony...."

Latin American expert James Petras explains Cuba's "great virtue" - that "it survived (and maintains) many of its positive social achievements (while other) reformist or revolutionary regimes were defeated or overthrown or collapsed" - Iran under Mossadegh, Guatemala under Arbenz, Chile under Allende, the Congo under Lumumba, Indonesia under Sukarno, Nicaragua under the Sandinistas, Haiti under Aristide twice and many others.

Still, 49 years of US hammering took its toll. Cubans, indeed, endure hardships that wouldn't exist or would be less severe under more ideal conditions. Incomes are low, housing shortages chronic, embargoed products scarce or unavailable and many services, like public transport, inadequate. Yet, Cuban advances under Castro have been impressive, and his support remains strong after five decades in power.

The country is a biotech industry leader and does state-of-the-art research at the Cuban Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology Center. The government also encourages small retail and light manufacturing enterprises, fosters joint ventures in tobacco, citrus and other homegrown products, invested in advanced computer science schools, and developed a thriving tourism industry after it changed its constitution in 1995 to encourage it through offshore private investment.

Then consider Cuba's social services, especially its education and health care ones. These alone, institutionalized the revolution in the hearts and minds of the people who never before had a government that provided them and much more.

Take health care for example. It's world-class, and Article 50 of the 1976 Constitution mandates it for all Cubans. They get free medical, hospital and dental care including prophylactic services with emphasis on public health, preventive care, health education, programs for periodic medical examinations, immunizations and other preventive measures. The Constitution also guarantees worker health and safety, help for the elderly and pregnant working women, and paid leave before and after childbirth. In addition, Cuba's Public Health Law obligates the state to assure, improve and protect the health of all citizens, including providing rehabilitation services for physical and mental disabilities.

Compare this to World Health Organization's (WHO) rankings for America - 37th in the world in "overall health performance," 54th in health care fairness, worst of all western countries overall, and only developed nation besides South Africa with no single-payer national health insurance system. Except for seniors under Medicare, the indigent under Medicaid, veterans through the Veterans Administration (VA), no national program exists and benefits under existing ones are dramatically eroding.

The US spends more than twice as much on health care on average as other industrialized states. Yet, it's performance is poor by comparison - on life expectancy, infant mortality, immunization rates and more. In addition, over 47 million Americans are uninsured and over 80 million are without coverage during some portion of every year.

Then consider education. In Cuba, it's first-rate because the Constitution's Article 51 assures it free for everyone to the highest level. It's Latin America's best, and it outdoes most parts of America's public school system. It stresses math, reading, the sciences, arts, humanities, social responsibility, civics, and participatory citizenship. It virtually eliminated illiteracy and compare it to America where US Department of Education figures show a 20% functional illiteracy rate that, in fact, is much higher based on inner-city math and english achievement test scores.

Consider Cuba's other achievements as well. Major US media won't report them, but James Petras does - low rents and utility costs, worker pensions at retirement, food subsidies for the needy combined with rationing that's never desirable but needed to assure adequate distribution to all, and an emphasis on "cultural, sports and recreational activities (in spite of) sharp cutbacks in funding." Impressively, "despite general scarcities and social deprivation, crimes rates (are) far below Latin American and US levels."

Petras observes that: "Even more noteworthy" is Cuba's transition to a mixed economy that aids its growth and provides jobs for its people. Unlike Eastern Europe, including Russia, however, "Cuba did not suffer the massive outward transfer of profits, rents and illegal earnings from large-scale networks of prostitution, narcotics and arms sales." Nor have there been crime syndicates that corrupted the economies of Bulgaria, Poland, Romania, Albania, NATO-occupied Kosovo, and other emergent "capitalist democracies." And most impressively, Cuba is growing its economy, if modestly, while remaining a vibrant social state that delivers essential services and remains committed to its revolutionary principles. That won't change under a new cadre of leaders after Castro.

So far, Petras explains that Cuba's survival, economic gains and "formidable national defense" are largely the result of "popular perseverance, loyalty to revolutionary leaders (and their dedication to) common values of egalitarianism, solidarity, national dignity and independence." Some dictatorship, but at the same time Cuba's no paradise. Its problems are huge, and as Petras puts it, it faces new "challenges and contradictions:"

-- less skilled tourism-related jobs pay better than ones for doctors, scientists and many others in the country;

-- new tourist enterprises created inequality and an unrevolutionary "nouveau riche bourgeoisie;"

-- "hustlers," prostitutes, drugs trafficking and other enterprise-related fallout; and

-- tourist infrastructure investments divert funds from essentials like agriculture; output thus declined, and Cuba now depends on imports.

On the plus side is the hard currency Cuba needs for everything it imports outside its ALBA-related trade. Cuba and Venezuela founded the system in 2004, Bolivia and Nicaragua joined it, and it stands for the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas. It's an integrative, cooperative system of goods and services exchanges outside the exploitive WTO-international banking one. So it lets Cuba get Venezuelan oil, for example, by providing doctor services and literacy programs to teach Venezuelans to read and write.

Looking Ahead

In spite of five decades of achievements, Cuba's problems are huge, and its new leaders must address them. They include growing inequality, corruption and public theft, a flourishing black market, productivity-sapping inefficiencies, an imbalance between an educated population and enough skilled jobs, its agriculture in decline, and more.

In addition, Cuba is no democracy, but it's no dictatorship either the way Washington and Murdoch describe it. Castro came to power as Prime Minister in February 1959. He kept the title of premier until 1976, and then became President of the Council of State and Council of Ministers as Head of State and its ruling Communist Party of Cuba (PCC).

The PCC has governed Cuba since it was formed in 1965 and is the country's only legally recognized party. Others exist as well as opposition groups, but their activities are minimal and the state calls them illegal. Cuba is a socialist state. It recognizes no other economic or political system.

Its Constitution allows free speech, but Article 62 states: "None of the freedoms which are recognized for citizens can be exercised contrary to....the existence and objectives of the socialist state, or contrary to the decision of the Cuban people to build socialism and communism. Violations of this principle can be punished by law."

Cuba now begins a new era, its challenges are huge, and consider the biggest of all - Washington's relentless pressure the way Deputy Secretary of State (and veteran state terrorist) John Negroponte put it: Castro stepping down means nothing, US policy won't change, "I can't imagine that happening any time soon."

George Bush was even more hostile by calling for international efforts to isolate Cuba and force it to accept democracy US-style. And he added: "The United States will help the people of Cuba realize the blessings of liberty." Of course, Cubans fought a revolution against that type "liberty" and won't tolerate returning to it. Remaining free, however, will be daunting, and the section below explains why.

US Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba

Washington-style freedom is Orwell's kind from his classic novel "1984." In it, he described a totalitarian state where "war is peace, freedom is slavery, and ignorance is strength." Iraqis know it. So do Afghans. It's rooted in America, and the Bush administration wants to export it everywhere, including to Cuba under and after Castro.

So it set up the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba to plot how. In July 2006, it delivered its 93 page report to the president that calls for regime change. Not surprisingly, Bush embraced it, it got an initial $80 million budget, and an open-ended one for as much more as needed.

The report is public but has a classified attachment with a secret plan to topple Cuba's government or co-opt its new leaders post-Castro. It also targets Venezuela and mentions the country nine times with comments like: "Cuba can only meet its budget needs with the considerable support of foreign donors, primarily Venezuela." It uses Chavez "money....to reactivate its networks in the hemisphere to subvert democratic governments," meaning, of course, any that opt out of Washington's orbit.

The report's aim is clear. Cuba and Venezuela threaten US interests so "friendlier" regimes must replace them and soon. How is left out, but what's said is ugly, and here's a sample. It calls for "Hastening the End of the Castro Dictatorship: Transition not Succession." America "stand(s) with the Cuban people against (Castro's) tyranny (and will) identify (any) means by which the United States can help the Cuban people" free themselves.

Regional "friends of Cuba" are also targeted and will be dealt with by unspecified political, economic, legal and military means. The message, however, is clear, and America's record leaves no doubt what it is.

It recommends new "more proactive, integrated, and disciplined (policies) to undermine (Castro's) survival strategies" and outlines a six part strategy to do it:

-- "Empower Cuban Civil Society:" It calls it "weak...divided (and) impeded by pervasive and continuous repression." But that's changing, "public opinion has turned, Cubans are....losing their fear (so by) supporting the democratic opposition....the US can help the Cuban people....effect positive political and social change....;"

-- "Break the Cuban Dictatorship's Information Blockade:" It claims Castro "controls all formal means of mass media and communication....through the regime's pervasive apparatus of repression." It also "impede(s) pro-democracy groups and the larger civil society....to effectively communicate their message to the Cuban people." So, Washington will step up efforts to export propaganda to Cuba and suppress whatever information Cubans now get;

-- "Deny Resources to the Cuban Dictatorship:" The report claims Castro ignores his peoples' needs to keep his grip on power. It sounds like Murdoch as it denounces Castro for "exploit(ing) humanitarian aspects of US policy (and) siphon(ing) off hundreds of millions of dollars for (himself)." This refers to funds and other donations Cubans outside the country send relatives back home. The report says Castro steals them to help "keep the regime afloat;"

-- "Illuminate the Reality of Castro's Cuba:" Stated here is that Cuba depends on "project(ing)....a benign international image" and hides its true nature as a "sponsor of terrorism (under the) erratic behavior of its leadership;"

-- "Encourage International Diplomatic Efforts to Support Cuban Civil Society and Challenge the Castro Regime:" Claimed here is a "growing international consensus" that "fundamental political and economic change on the island" is needed. Thus, "multilateral diplomatic efforts" must be encouraged to support "pro-democracy groups in Cuba....to hasten an end to the Castro regime;" and

-- "Undermine the Regime's 'Succession Strategy:" - It refers to Raul Castro replacing his brother as an "unelected and undemocratic" leader, calls the "ruling elite....an impediment to a democratic and free Cuba," and recommends unspecified pressures to remove it.

It then lists "Selected Recommendations" with the main ones kept classified. It mentions budgets, enlisting third-country allies, "democracy-building" efforts, training and funding opposition, beaming in propaganda, and various other measures to make Cuba scream and topple the regime. These efforts and others have failed for 49 years. Nineteen months after this report was issued, they've still failed, but remain in place nonetheless and may be toughened under Cuba's new leadership.

America's three leading presidential candidates provide hints of it from their February 19 comments. John McCain said now is a "great opportunity for Cuba to make a transition to a democracy, to empty their political prisons, to invite human rights organizations into their country and begin the transition to a free and open society....anything short of that....might....prop up a new regime...." He also hoped Castro would die and have "the opportunity to meet Karl Marx very soon," and added that Raul will be a worse leader.

Hillary Clinton said Cuba's "new leadership....will face a stark choice - continue with the failed policies of the past....or take a historic step to bring Cuba into the community of democratic nations. The people of Cuba want to seize this opportunity for real change and so must we....The United States must pursue an active policy that does everything possible to advance the cause of freedom, democracy and opportunity in Cuba."

Barack Obama's statement was equally unfriendly: "Today should mark the end of a dark era in Cuba's history. Fidel Castro's stepping down is an essential first step, but it is sadly insufficient in bringing freedom to Cuba."

We know the type "freedom" he means. So do Cubans who want none of it. So does Raul Castro in his late 2007 comments when he said: "The challenges we have ahead are enormous, but may no one doubt our people's firm conviction that only through socialism can we overcome the difficulties and preserve the social gains of half a century of revolution."

Fidel also commented in response to presidential candidates demanding change on the island: "One by one....they....proclaim(ed) their immediate demands to Cuba so as not to alienate a single voter....Half a century of economic embargo seemed like not much to these favorites. Change, change, change! they shouted in unison. I agree. Change! But in the United States. The end of one era is not the same as the beginning of an unsustainable system. Cuba changed a while ago and will continue on its dialectical course."

Castro aimed at George Bush as well and stated: "Annexation, annexation, annexation! the adversary responds. That's what he thinks, deep inside, when he talks about change."

Cuban and American Elections

Cuban and US elections have marked similarities and differences. Cuba is a one party state. So is America the way Gore Vidal describes it: the Property or Monied Party with two wings. There's not a dimes worth of difference between them that matters so Americans have no choice. That's not how things are in Cuba, and here's the difference.

Cubans overwhelmingly support their government. They remember or learned what went on before Castro and won't tolerate going back to how people once were treated so the rich could profit. Under Fulgencio Bastista, conditions were nightmarish as a de facto US colony - a combination police state and casino/brothel linked to US crime syndicates. There was systemic corruption, indifference to social needs, disdain for the common good, brutal exploitation, subservience to corporate interests, and a regime keeping power through brute force. When Cubans vote, they remember, and how it works would puzzle Americans. On the local/municipal level:

-- it's through municipal electoral commissions;

-- only ordinary citizen loyalists may nominate candidates;

-- the Communist Party has no role in the process;

-- the commissions select nominees for municipal elections and for half the provincial legislative seats;

-- a secret ballot process then elects 12,000 municipal representatives and half the members of provincial legislatures; Cuba has 169 municipalities and about 15,000 electoral constituencies within them;

The system works because participation is high, and ordinary Cubans alone choose their candidates - not politicians, corporations, the privileged or other monied or influential interests.

The rest of the process works this way to elect members of the National Assembly and remaining provincial seats:

-- it's also through municipal and provincial electoral commissions; Cuba has 14 provinces;

-- only ordinary citizen members again may nominate candidates, but included for this process are all sectors of society - labor, students, youths, women, farmers, scientists, artists, community organizers, educators, health workers and so on as well as members of the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution.

-- the final candidate list exactly equals the number of seats to be filled; it's drawn up by the National Candidature Commission (comprised of student and grassroots organizations) that chooses candidates based on their patriotism, overall merit, and support for the revolution;

-- even with no opposition, those selected must get over 50% of the vote to win;

-- voting isn't mandatory but participation is high; voters, nonetheless, have choices - to vote, not vote or destroy their ballots.

On January 20, Cubans elected National Assembly and half of the provincial legislative members. Turnout was high at around 95% because Cubans support the revolution and want officials who represent it. Look at the results and compare them to American elections discussed below.

Cuba's National Electoral Commission released the data:

-- only 36.78% of newly elected National Assembly members (224 seats) previously served in Cuba's parliament;

-- 63.22% of the winners (391 seats) are first time representatives;

-- racially, 118 parliamentarians are black and another 101 are of mixed race (35.67% in total);

-- women comprise 42.16% (265 seats) of the legislature;

-- educationally, 78.34% (481 seats) are university graduates and 20.68% (127 seats) completed high school or technical education training; and

-- skill areas represented include engineers, economists, doctors, nurses, lawyers, sociologists, the military, scientists, physical culture teachers, meteorologists, historians and theologians. Note that most new parliamentary members aren't politicians.

The rest of the electoral process works this way:

-- the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC) has governed the nation since its formation in 1965 and is the country's only legally recognized party;

-- all legislative power is vested in the country's 614 member National Assembly of People's Power;

-- a 31 member Council of State (that includes ministers) sits at the executive level;

-- 45 days after being elected, National Assembly members elect a President, Vice-President and National Assembly Secretary;

-- they also elect the 31 member Council of State that includes the President, first Vice-President, five Vice-Presidents, a Secretary and 23 other members; this process took place on February 24 on the same day National Assembly members took office and, as expected, elected Raul Castro as Cuba's new President; others elected included:

-- Ricardo Alarcon de Quesada (reelected) President of the National Assembly;

-- Jose Ramon Machado Ventura first Vice-President of the councils of State and Ministers;

-- Juan Almeida Bosque, Abelardo Colome Ibarra, Carlos Lage Davila, Esteban Lazo Hernandez and Julio Casas Regueiro Vice-Presidents;

-- Jose Millar Barruecos Secretary of the Council of State plus 23 other Council of State members;

-- the President of the Council of State is Head of State and government and its ruling PCC.

Overall, Cuba has what Hugo Chavez calls a "revolutionary democracy." It's not perfect, but compare it to America.

Voting in Cuba is participatory. People do it out of choice, not coercion. In America, in contrast, half or more of the electorate abstains. In national elections since 1970, turnout ranged from 36.4% in 1986 and 1998 to 55.3% in 2004 when angry voters failed to oust George Bush, but not for lack of trying.

US elections have never been free, open and fair. Democracy is an illusion, and more people know it and opt out. Others eligible aren't allowed to vote because of how the process works. Overall, monied interests control things, those with most of it have the most say, Americans get the best democracy money can buy, and things really got ugly in 2000 when the candidate who lost became president.

It led to the 2002 Help America Vote Act (HAVA) with federal funding for these stated goals:

-- replace punch card voting systems;

-- create the Election Assistance Commission to help administer federal elections; and

-- establish minimum election administration standards.

That's what it said. Here's what it did. It created a stampede to electronic voting that privatized the process and gave corporate giants unregulated control of it.

In the 2004 election, more than 80% of votes were cast and counted on machines that are owned, programmed and operated by three large corporations with close ties to the administration. The process is secretive, most machines have no verifiable receipts, so recounts are impossible because they'll only tally the same count.

And that's just part of the problem. In 2000 and 2004, the whole process was tainted. Millions of votes cast weren't counted. They included "spoiled ballots," rejected absentee ones and others lost or deliberately ignored in tabulating. In addition, there was massive voter roll purging and other restraints to prevent voters from making "bad choices" like ones less receptive to monied interests or Democrats over Republicans in key states or districts.

In Cuba, every citizen age 16 or over can vote and nearly all of them do. In America, all sorts of restraints and exclusions exist, starting off with a flawed Constitution. It established no universal rules, doesn't explicitly ensure the right to vote, and left most voter eligibility qualifications to the states. So unfair laws are in force, and citizens are denied their most fundamental democratic right - to vote for candidates of their choice in free, open and fair elections. Democracy in America is a sham. In Cuba, the process is flawed, but there's more of it there than here. In addition, Cubans know what they're getting and vote for it. Americans, on the other hand, know the futility of elections so half or more of them opt out of the process.

It shows in polling data with the latest record-setting February 18-published American Research Group numbers for George Bush:

-- he scored an all-time low for a US president at 19%; that compares to other presidential lows as follows: Clinton - 36%; GHW Bush - 29%; Reagan - 35%; Carter - 28%; Nixon - 23% during Watergate; and Harry Truman - 22% during the depths of the Korean War. On the economy, 79% disapprove how Bush handles it.

If Castro's poll numbers were available, they'd tell an opposite story. Most Cubans support him, many love him, but now his era is passing. He's still first PCC secretary, but he'll assume a new role as Cuba's elder statesman, to write, comment and always make his presence felt. So let Fidel have the last word from his commentary called "The Moment Has Come" and a few memorable quotes.

It's (time) to "nominate and elect" new leaders, he says. "For many years (he's) occupied the honorable position of President." But his "critical health position (forced his) provisional resignation on July 31, 2006." His brother and "other comrades....were unwilling to consider (him) out of public life" in spite of it. "It was an uncomfortable situation for (him) vis-a-vis an adversary which had done everything possible to get rid of (him), and (he) felt reluctant to comply."

Now, he's "recover(ed) the full command of (his) mind (and) enough physical strength" to go on.

This is not (a) farewell." His voice will continue to be heard, and here's a sampling:

"A revolution is a struggle to the death between the future and the past."

"I find capitalism repugnant. It is filthy. It is gross, it is alienating....because it causes war, hypocrisy and competition."

"North Americans don't understand....that our country is not just Cuba; our country is also humanity."

"The revenues of Cuban-run companies are used exclusively for the benefit of the people, to whom they belong."

"The revolution is a dictatorship of the exploited against the exploiters."

"They talk about the failure of socialism but where is the success of capitalism in Africa, Asia and Latin America?

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

Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to The Global Research News Hour on RepublicBroadcasting.org Mondays from 11AM to 1PM US Central time for cutting-edge discussions of major world and national topics with distinguished guests.

AUDIO: The Global Research News Hour on RBN

Friday, February 22, 2008

Potential Health Hazards of Genetically Engineered Foods

Potential Health Hazards of Genetically Engineered Foods - by Stephen Lendman

This article discusses the potential health risks of genetically engineered foods (GMOs). It draws on some previously used material because its importance bears repeating. It also cites three notable books and highlights one in particular - Jeffrey Smith's "Genetic Roulette: The Documented Health Risks of Genetically Engineered Foods." Detailed information from the book is featured below.

Genetically engineered foods saturate our diet today. In the US alone, over 80% of all processed foods contain them. Others include grains like rice, corn and wheat; legumes like soybeans and soy products; vegetable oils, soft drinks; salad dressings; vegetables and fruits; dairy products including eggs; meat, chicken, pork and other animal products; and even infant formula plus a vast array of hidden additives and ingredients in processed foods (like in tomato sauce, ice cream, margarine and peanut butter). Consumers don't know what they're eating because labeling is prohibited, yet the danger is clear. Independently conducted studies show the more of these foods we eat, the greater the potential harm to our health.

Today, consumers are kept in the dark and are part of an uncontrolled, unregulated mass human experiment the results of which are unknown. Yet, the risks are enormous, it will take years to learn them, and when we finally know it'll be too late to reverse the damage if it's proved conclusively that genetically engineered foods harm human health as growing numbers of independent experts believe. Once GM seeds are introduced to an area, the genie is out of the bottle for keeps. There is nothing known to science today to reverse the contamination already spread over two-thirds of arable US farmland and heading everywhere unless checked.

This is happening in spite of the risk because of what F. William Engdahl revealed in his powerfully important, well documented book titled "Seeds of Destruction: The Hidden Agenda of Genetic Manipulation." It's the diabolical story of how Washington and four Anglo-American agribusiness giants plan world domination by patenting animal and vegetable life forms to gain worldwide control of our food supply, make it all genetically engineered, and use it as a weapon to reward friends and punish enemies.

Today, consumers eat these foods daily without knowing the potential health risks. In 2003, Jeffrey Smith explained them in his book titled "Seeds of Deception." He revealed that efforts to inform the public have been quashed, reliable science has been buried, and consider what happened to two distinguished scientists - UC Berkeley's Ignacio Chapela and former Scotland Rowett Research Institute researcher and world's leading lectins and plant genetic modification expert, Arpad Pusztai. They were vilified, hounded, and threatened for their research, and in the case of Pusztai, fired from his job for doing it.

He believed in the promise of GM foods, was commissioned to study them, and conducted the first ever independent one on them anywhere. Like other researchers since, he was shocked by his findings. Rats fed GM potatoes had smaller livers, hearts, testicles and brains, damaged immune systems, and showed structural changes in their white blood cells making them more vulnerable to infection and disease compared to other rats fed non-GMO potatoes. It got worse. Thymus and spleen damage showed up; enlarged tissues, including the pancreas and intestines; and there were cases of liver atrophy as well as significant proliferation of stomach and intestines cells that could be a sign of greater future risk of cancer. Equally alarming, results showed up after 10 days of testing, and they persisted after 110 days that's the human equivalent of 10 years.

Later independent studies confirmed what Pusztai learned, and Smith published information on them in his 2007 book called "Genetic Roulette: The Documented Health Risks of Genetically Engineered Foods." The book is encyclopedic in depth, an invaluable comprehensive source, and this article reviews some of the shocking data in it.

Compelling Evidence of Potential GMO Harm

In his introduction, Smith cites the US Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) policy statement on GM food safety without a shred of evidence to back it. It supported GHW Bush's Executive Order that GMOs are "substantially equivalent" to ordinary seeds and crops and need no government regulation. The agency said it was "not aware of any information showing that foods derived by these new methods differ from other foods in any meaningful or uniform way." That single statement meant no safety studies are needed and "Ultimately, it is the food producer" that bears responsibility "for assuring safety." As a consequence, foxes now guard our henhouse in a brave new dangerous world.

FDA policy opened the floodgates, and Smith put it this way: It "set the stage for the rapid deployment of the new technology," allowed the seed industry to become "consolidated, millions of acres (to be) planted, hundreds of millions to be fed (these foods in spite of nations and consumers objecting, and) laws to be passed (to assure it)." The toll today is contaminated crops, billions of dollars lost, human health harmed, and it turns out the FDA lied.

The agency knew GM crops are "meaningfully different" because their technical experts told them so. As a result, they recommended long-term studies, including on humans, to test for possible allergies, toxins, new diseases and nutritional problems. Instead, politics trumped science, the White House ordered the FDA to promote GM crops, and a former Monsanto vice-president went to FDA to assure it.

Today, the industry is unregulated, and when companies say their foods are safe, their views are unquestioned. Further, Smith noted that policy makers in other countries trust FDA and wrongly assume their assessments are valid. They're disproved when independent studies are matched against industry-run ones. The differences are startling. The former report adverse affects while the latter claim the opposite. It's no secret why. Agribusiness giants allow nothing to interfere with profits, safety is off the table, and all negative information is quashed.

As a result, their studies are substandard, adverse findings are hidden, and they typically "fail to investigate the impacts of GM food on gut function, liver function, kidney function, the immune system, endocrine system, blood composition, allergic response, effects on the unborn, the potential to cause cancer, or impacts on gut bacteria." In addition, industry-funded studies creatively avoid finding problems or conceal any uncovered. They cook the books by using older instead of younger more sensitive animals, keep sample sizes too low for statistical significance, dilute the GM component of feeds used, limit the duration of feeding trials, ignore animal deaths and sickness, and engage in other unscientific practices. It's to assure people never learn of the potential harm from these foods, and Smith says they can do it because "They've got 'bad science' down to a science."

The real kinds show GMOs produce "massive changes in the natural functioning of (a) plant's DNA. Native genes can be mutated, deleted, permanently turned off or on....the inserted gene can become truncated, fragmented, mixed with other genes, inverted or multiplied, and the GM protein it produces may have unintended characteristics" that may be harmful.

GMOs also pose other health risks. When a transgene functions in a new cell, it may produce different proteins than the ones intended. They may be harmful, but there's no way to know without scientific testing. Even if the protein is exactly the same, there are still problems. Consider corn varieties engineered to produce a pesticidal protein called Bt-toxin. Farmers use it in spray form, and companies falsely claim it's harmless to humans. In fact, people exposed to the spray develop allergic-type symptoms, mice ingesting Bt had powerful immune responses and abnormal and excessive cell growth, and a growing number of human and livestock illnesses are linked to Bt crops.

Smith notes still another problem relating to inserted genes. Assuming they're destroyed by our digestive system, as industry claims, is false. In fact, they may move from food into gut bacteria or internal organs, and consider the potential harm. If corn genes with Bt-toxin get into gut bacteria, our intestinal flora may become pesticide factories. There's been no research done to prove if it's true or false. Agribusiness giants aren't looking, neither is FDA, consumers are left to play "Genetic Roulette," and the few animal feeding studies done show the odds are against them.

Arpad Pusztai and other scientists were shocked at their results of animals fed GM foods. His results were cited above. Other independent studies showed stunted growth, impaired immune systems, bleeding stomachs, abnormal and potentially precancerous cell growth in the intestines, impaired blood cell development, misshaped cell structures in the liver, pancreas and testicles, altered gene expression and cell metabolism, liver and kidney lesions, partially atrophied livers, inflamed kidneys, less developed organs, reduced digestive enzymes, higher blood sugar, inflamed lung tissue, increased death rates and higher offspring mortality as well.

There's more. Two dozen farmers reported their pigs and cows fed GM corn became sterile, 71 shepherds said 25% of their sheep fed Bt cotton plants died, and other reports showed the same effects on cows, chickens, water buffaloes and horses. After GM soy was introduced in the UK, allergies from the product skyrocketed by 50%, and in the US in the 1980s, a GM food supplement killed dozens and left five to ten thousand others sick or disabled.

Today, Monsanto is the world's largest seed producer, and Smith notes how the company deals with reports like these. In response to the US Public Health Service concerning adverse reactions from its toxic PCBs, the company claims its experience "has been singularly free of difficulties." That's in spite of lawsuit-obtained records showing "this was part of a cover-up and denial that lasted decades" by a company with a long history of irresponsible behavior that includes "extensive bribery, highjacking of regulatory agencies, suppressing negative information about its products" and threatening journalists and scientists who dare report them. The company long ago proved it can't be trusted with protecting human health.

In his book, "Seeds of Destruction," Engdahl names four dominant agribusiness giants - Monsanto, DuPont, Dow Agrisciences and Syngenta in Switzerland from the merger of the agriculture divisions of Novartis and AstraZeneca. Smith calls these companies Ag biotech and names a fifth - Germany-based Bayer CropScience AG (division of Bayer AG) with its Environmental Science and BioScience headquarters in France.

Their business is to do the impossible and practically overnight - change the laws of nature and do them one better for profit. So far they haven't independent because genetic engineering doesn't work like natural breeding. It may or may not be a lot of things, but it isn't sex, says Smith. Michael Antoniou, a molecular geneticist involved in human gene therapy, explains that genetic modification "technically and conceptually bears no resemblance to natural breeding." The reproduction process works by both parents contributing thousands of genes to the offspring. They, in turn, get sorted naturally, and plant breeders have successfully worked this way for thousands of years.

Genetic manipulation is different and so far fraught with danger. It works by forcibly inserting a single gene from a species' DNA into another unnaturally. Smith puts it this way: "A pig can mate with a pig and a tomato can mate with a tomato. But this is no way that a pig can mate with a tomato and vice versa." The process transfers genes across natural barriers that "separated species over millions of years of evolution" and managed to work. The biotech industry now wants us to believe it can do nature one better, and that genetic engineering is just an extension or superior alternative to natural breeding. It's unproved, indefensible pseudoscience mumbo jumbo, and that's the problem.

Biologist David Schubert explains that industry claims are "not only scientifically incorrect but exceptionally deceptive....to make the GE process sound similar to conventional plant breeding." It a smoke screen to hide the fact that what happens in laboratories can't duplicate nature, at least not up to now. Genetic engineering involves combining genes that never before existed together, the process defies natural breeding proved safe over thousands of years, and there's no way to assure the result won't be a deadly unrecallable Andromeda Strain, no longer the world of science fiction.

The industry pooh-pooh's the suggestion of potential harm, and unscientifically claims millions of people in the US and worldwide have eaten GM food for a decade, and no one got sick. Smith's reply: How can we know as "GM foods might already be contributing to serious health problems, but since no one is monitoring for this, it could take decades" to find out. By then, it will be too late and some industry critics argue it already may be or dangerously close.

Today, most existing diseases have no effective surveillance systems in place. If GM foods create new ones, that potentially compounds the problem manyfold. Consider HIV/AIDS. It went unnoticed for decades and when identified, many thousands worldwide were infected or had died.

Then there's the problem of linkage. In the US and many countries, GM foods are unlabeled so it's impossible tracing illness and diseases to specific substances ingested even if thousands of people are affected. It can plausibly be blamed on anything, especially when governments and regulatory agencies support industry claims of reliability and safety.

It's rare that problems like the L-Tryptophan epidemic of the late 1980s are identified, but when it was thousands were already harmed. L-Tryptophan is a natural amino acid constituent of most proteins and for years was produced by many companies including Showa Denko in Japan. The company then got greedy, saw a way to increase profits from a product designed to induce sleep naturally, and gene-spliced a bacterium into the natural product to do it. The result was many dozens dead, over 1500 crippled, and up to 10,000 afflicted with a blood disorder from a new incurable disease called Eosinophilia Myalgia Syndrome or EMS.

It's a painful, multi-system disease that causes permanent scarring and fibrosis to nerve and muscle tissues, continuing inflammation, and a permanent change in a person's immune system. It cost the company two billion dollars to settle claims. Hundreds have since died, in all likelihood from contracting EMS.

This is the known toll from a single product. Consider the potential harm with Ag biotech wanting all foods to be unlabeled GMOs worldwide and governments unable to balk because WTO Agreement on Agriculture (AoA) and Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) rules deny them. They're also prevented under WTO's Sanitary and Phytosanitary Agreement (SPS). It states that national laws banning GMO products are "unfair trade practices" even when they endanger human health. Other WTO rules also apply - called "Technical Barriers to Trade." They prohibit GMO labeling so consumers don't know what they're eating and can't avoid these potentially hazardous foods.

The 1996 Biosafety Protocol was drafted to prevent this problem, and it should be in place to do it. Public safety, however, was ambushed by Washington, the FDA and the agribusiness lobby. It sabotaged talks and insisted biosafety measures be subordinate to WTO trade rules that apply regardless of other considerations, including public health and safety. The path is thus cleared for the unrestricted spread of GMO seeds and foods worldwide unless a way is found to stop it.

Independent Animal Studies Showing GMO Harm

Rats fed genetically engineered Calgene Flavr-Savr tomatoes (developed to look fresh for weeks) for 28 days got bleeding stomachs (stomach lesions) and seven died and were replaced in the study.

Rats fed Monsanto 863 Bt corn for 90 days developed multiple reactions typically found in response to allergies, infections, toxins, diseases like cancer, anemia and blood pressure problems. Their blood cells, livers and kidneys showed significant changes indicative of disease.

Mice fed either GM potatoes engineered to produce Bt- toxin or natural potatoes containing the toxin had intestinal damage. Both varieties created abnormal and excessive cell growth in the lower intestine. The equivalent human damage might cause incontinence or flu-like symptoms and could be pre-cancerous. The study disproved the contention that digestion destroys Bt-toxin and is not biologically active in mammals.

Workers in India handling Bt cotton while picking, loading, weighing and separating the fiber from seeds developed allergies. They began with "mild to severe itching," then redness and swelling, followed by skin eruptions. These symptoms affected their skin, eyes (got red and swollen with excessive tearing) and upper respiratory tract causing nasal discharge and sneezing. In some cases, hospitalization was required. At one cotton gin factory, workers take antihistamines daily.

Sheep grazing on Bt cotton developed "unusual systems" before dying "mysteriously." Reports from four Indian villages revealed 25% of them died within a week. Post mortems indicated a toxic reaction. The study raises questions about cottonseed oil safety and human health for people who eat meat from animals fed GM cotton. It's crucial to understand that what animals eat, so do people.

Nearly all 100 Filipinos living adjacent to a Bt corn field became ill. Their symptoms appeared when the crop was producing airborne pollen and was apparently inhaled. Doing it produced headaches, dizziness, extreme stomach pain, vomiting, chest pains, fever, and allergies plus respiratory, intestinal and skin reactions. Blood tests conducted on 39 victims showed an antibody response to Bt-toxin suggesting it was the cause. Four other villages experienced the same problems that also resulted in several animal deaths.

Iowa farmers reported a conception rate drop of from 80% to 20% among sows (female pigs) fed GM corn. Most animals also had false pregnancies, some delivered bags of water and others stopped menstruating. Male pigs were also affected as well as cows and bulls. They became sterile and all were fed GM corn.

German farmer Gottfried Glockner grew GM corn and fed it to his cows. Twelve subsequently died from the Bt 176 variety, and other cows had to be destroyed due to a "mysterious" illness. The corn plots were field trials for Ag biotech giant Syngenta that later took the product off the market with no admission of fault.

Mice fed Monsanto Roundup Ready soybeans developed significant liver cell changes indicating a dramatic general metabolism increase. Symptoms included irregularly shaped nuclei and nucleoli, and an increased number of nuclear pores and other changes. It's thought this resulted from exposure to a toxin, and most symptoms disappeared when Roundup Ready was removed from the diet.

Mice fed Roundup Ready had pancreas problems, heavier livers and unexplained testicular cell changes. The Monsanto product also produced cell metabolism changes in rabbit organs, and most offspring of rats on this diet died within three weeks.

The death rate for chickens fed GM Liberty Link corn for 42 days doubled. They also experienced less weight gain, and their food intake was erratic.

In the mid-1990s, Australian scientists discovered that GM peas generated an allergic-type inflammatory response in mice in contrast to the natural protein that had no adverse effect. Commercialization of the product was cancelled because of fear humans might have the same reaction.

When given a choice, animals avoid GM foods. This was learned by observing a flock of geese that annually visit an Illinois pond and feed on soybeans from an adjacent farm. After half the acreage had GM crops, the geese ate only from the non-GMO side. Another observation showed 40 deer ate organic soybeans from one field but shunned the GMO kind across the road. The same thing happened with GM corn.

Inserting foreign or transgenes is called insertional mutagenesis or insertion mutation. When done, it usually disrupts DNA at the insertion site and affects gene functioning overall by scrambling, deleting or relocating the genetic code near the insertion site.

The process of creating a GM plant requires scientists first to isolate and grow plant cells in the laboratory using a tissue culture process. The problem is when it's done it can create hundreds or thousands of DNA mutations throughout the genome. Changing a single base pair may be harmful. However, widespread genome changes compound the potential problem manyfold.

Promoters are used in GM crops as switches to turn on the foreign gene. When done, the process may accidently switch on other natural plant genes permanently. The result may be to overproduce an allergen, toxin, carcinogen, antinutrient, enzymes that stimulate or inhibit hormone production, RNA that silences genes, or changes that affect fetal development. They may also produce regulators that block other genes and/or switch on a dormant virus that may cause great harm. In addition, evidence suggests the promoter may create genetic instability and mutations that can result in the breakup and recombination of the gene sequence.

Plants naturally produce thousands of chemicals to enhance health and protect against disease. However, changing plant protein may alter these chemicals, increase plant toxins and/or reduce its phytonutrients. For example, GM soybeans produce less cancer-fighting isoflavones. Overall, studies show genetic modification produces unintended changes in nutrients, toxins, allergens and small molecule metabolism products.

To create a GM soybean with a more complete protein balance, Pioneer Hi-Bred inserted a Brazil nut gene. By doing it, an allergenic protein was introduced affecting people allergic to Brazil nuts. When tests confirmed this, the project was cancelled. GM proteins in other crops like corn and papaya may also be allergenic. The same problem exists for other crops like Bt corn, and evidence shows allergies skyrocketed after GM crops were introduced.

Another study of Monsanto's high-lysine corn showed it contained toxins and other potentially harmful substances that may retard growth. If consumed in large amounts, it may also adversely affect human health. In addition, when this product is cooked, it may produce toxins associated with Alzheimer's, diabetes, allergies, kidney disease, cancer and aging symptoms.

Disease-resistant crops like zucchini, squash and Hawaiian papaya may promote human viruses and other diseases, and eating these products may suppress the body's natural defense against viral infections.

Protein structural aspects in GM crops may be altered in unforeseen ways. They may be misfolded or have added molecules. During insertion, transgenes may become truncated, rearranged or interspersed with other DNA pieces with unknown harmful effects. Transgenes may also be unstable and spontaneously rearrange over time, again with unpredictable consequences. In addition, they may create more than one protein from a process called alternative splicing.
Environmental factors, weather, natural and man-made substances and genetic disposition of a plant further complicate things and pose risks. They're introduced as well because genetic engineering disrupts complex DNA relationships.

Contrary to industry claims, studies show transgenes aren't destroyed digestively in humans or animals. Foreign DNA can wander, survive in the gastro-intestinal tract, and be transported by blood to internal organs. This raises the risk that transgenes may transfer to gut bacteria, proliferate over time, and get into cells DNA, possibly causing chronic diseases. A single human feeding study confirmed that genes, in fact, transferred from GM soy into the DNA gut bacteria of three of seven test subjects.

Antibiotic Resister Marker (ARM) genes are attached to transgenes prior to insertion and allow cells to survive antibiotic applications. If ARM genes transfer to pathogenic gut or mouth bacteria, they potentially can cause antibiotic-resistant super-diseases. The proliferation of GM crops increases the possibility. The CaMV promoter in nearly all GMOs can also transfer and may switch on random genes or viruses that produce toxins, allergens or carcinogens as well as create genetic instability.

GM crops interact with their environment and are part of a complex ecosystem that includes our food. These crops may increase environmental and other toxins that may accumulate throughout the food chain. Crops genetically engineered to be glufosinate (herbicide)resistant may produce intestinal herbicide with known toxic effects. If transference to gut bacteria occurs, greater problems may result.

Repeated use of seeds like Monsanto's Roundup Ready soybeans results in vicious new super-weeds that need far greater amounts of stronger herbicides to combat. Their toxic residues remain in crops that humans and animals then eat. Even small amounts of these toxins may be endocrine disruptors that can affect human reproduction adversely. Evidence exists that GM crops accumulate toxins or concentrate them in milk or animals fed GM feed. Disease-resistant crops may also produce new plant viruses that affect humans.

All type GM foods, not just crops, carry these risks. Milk, for example, from cows injected with Monsanto's bovine growth hormone (rbGH), has much higher levels of the hormone IGF-1 that risks breast, prostate, colon, lung and other cancers. The milk also has lower nutritional value. GM food additives also pose health risks, and their use has proliferated in processed foods.

Potential harm to adults is magnified for children. Another concern is that pregnant mothers eating GM foods may endanger their offspring by harming normal fetal development and altering gene expression that's then passed to future generations. Children are also more endangered than adults, especially those drinking substantial amounts of rbGH-treated milk.

Conclusion

The above information is largely drawn from Smith's "Genetic Roulette." The data is startling and confirms a clear conclusion. The proliferation of untested, unregulated GM foods in the span of a decade is more a leap of faith than reliable science. Microbiologist Richard Lacey captures the risk stating: "it is virtually impossible to even conceive of a testing procedure to assess the health effects of (GM) foods when introduced into the food chain, nor is there any valid nutritional or public interest reason for their introduction." Other scientists worldwide agree that GM foods entered the market long before science could evaluate their safety and benefits. They want a halt to this dangerous experiment that needs decades of rigorous research and testing before we can know.

Unchecked and unregulated, human health and safety are at risk because once GMOs enter the food chain, the genie is out of the bottle for keeps. Thankfully, resistance is growing worldwide, many millions are opposed, but reversing the tide won't be easy. Washington and Ag biotech are on a roll with big unstated aims - total control of our food, making it all genetically engineered, and scheming to use it as a weapon to reward friends and punish enemies.

Smith is hopeful that people will prevail over profits. Hopefully he's right because human health and safety must never be compromised. Resistance already halted the introduction of new crop varieties, and Smith believes that with enough momentum existing ones may end up withdrawn. He cites an example he calls a "Shift away from GM foods in the United States" in 2007. Leading it is an initiative launched last spring to remove GM ingredients from the entire natural food sector. It's led by a coalition of natural food products producers, distributors and retailers along with the Institute for Responsible Technology (IRT). It's called the Campaign for Healthier Eating in America, and its aims are big - to educate consumers about GM food risks and promote healthy alternatives through shopping guides.

A Pew survey reported that 29% of Americans, representing 87 million people, strongly oppose these foods and believe they're unsafe. That's a respectable start if backed up with efforts to avoid them, and more information how is at ResponsibleTechnology.org. Jeffrey Smith founded IRT in 2003 "to promote the responsible use of technology and stop GM foods and crops through both grassroots and national strategies." It seeks safe alternatives and aims to "ban the genetic engineering of our food supply and all outdoor releases of (GM) organisms, at least until (or unless scientific opinion) believes such products are safe and appropriate based on independent and reliable data."

IRT urges consumers to become educated about the risks, mobilize to combat them and act in our mutual self-interest. It's beginning to happen, and Smith believes "there is an excellent chance that food manufacturers will abandon GM foods in the near future" if a public groundswell demands it. He ends his book saying: "Although GMOs present one of the greatest dangers, with informed, motivated people, it is one of the easiest global issues to solve." Hopefully he's right.

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

Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to The Global Research News Hour on RepublicBroadcasting.org Mondays from 11AM to 1PM US Central time for cutting-edge discussions of world and national topics with distinguished guests.