Tag Archive: bush

Since Hugo Chavez is currently in Britain I thought I’d publish this entry by John Pilger. The reason I do this is because many are not convinced that Chavez is to be supported citing him as a demagogue etc. etc. we’ve heard it all before with Fidel Castro, George Galloway amongst others. Pilger’s argument is based on his own personal meticulous research and is a great deal more reasoned and erudite than I could hope to be.

The rise of Bush’s new enemy by John Pilger

I was dropped at Paradiso, the last middle-class area before barrio La Vega, which spills into a ravine as if by the force of gravity. Storms were forecast, and people were anxious, remembering the mudslides that took 20,000 lives. “Why are you here?”, asked the man sitting opposite me in the packed jeep-bus that chugged up the hill. Like so many in Latin America, he appeared old, but wasn’t. Without waiting for my answer, he listed why he supported Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez: schools, clinics, affordable food, “our constitution, our democracy” and “for the first time, the oil money is going to us”. I asked him if he belonged to the MVR (Movement for a Fifth Republic), Chavez’s party. “No, I’ve never been in a political party; I can only tell you how my life has been changed, as I never dreamt.”
It is raw witness like this, which I have heard over and over again in Venezuela, that smashes the one-way mirror between the West and a continent that is rising. By rising, I mean the phenomenon of millions of people stirring once again, “like lions after slumber/In unvanquishable number”, wrote the poet Shelley in The Mask of Anarchy. This is not romantic; an epic is unfolding in Latin America that demands our attention beyond the stereotypes and cliches that diminish whole societies to their degree of exploitation and expendability.

To the man in the bus; and to Beatrice, whose children are being immunised and taught history, art and music for the first time; and Celedonia, in her seventies, reading and writing for the first time; and Jose, whose life was saved by a doctor in the middle of the night, the first doctor he had ever seen, Chavez is neither a “firebrand” nor an “autocrat”, but a humanitarian and a democrat who commands almost two-thirds of the popular vote, accredited by victories in no less than nine elections. Compare that with the fifth of the British electorate that re-installed Tony Blair, an authentic autocrat.

Chavez and the rise of popular social movements, from Colombia down to Argentina, represent bloodless, radical change across the continent, inspired by the great independence struggles that began with Simon Bolivar, born in Venezuela, who brought the ideas of the French Revolution to societies cowed by Spanish absolutism. Bolivar, like Che Guevara in the 1960s and Chavez today, understood the new colonial master to the north. “The USA”, he said in 1819, “appears destined by fate to plague America with misery in the name of liberty”.

At the Summit of the Americas in Quebec City in 2001, US President George Bush announced the latest misery in the name of liberty in the form of a Free Trade Area of the Americas treaty. This would allow the US to impose its ideological “market” neoliberalism on all of Latin America. It was the natural successor to Bill Clinton’s North American Free Trade Agreement, which has turned Mexico into a sweatshop. Bush boasted it would be law by 2005.

On November 5, Bush arrived at the 2005 summit in Mar del Plata, Argentina, to be told his FTAA was not even on the agenda. Among the 34 heads of state were new, uncompliant faces and behind all of them were populations no longer willing to accept US-backed business tyrannies. Never before have Latin American governments had to consult their people on pseudo-agreements of this kind; but now they must.

In Bolivia, in the past five years, social movements have got rid of governments and foreign corporations alike, such as the tentacular Bechtel, which sought to impose what people call total locura capitalista — total capitalist folly — the privatising of almost everything, especially natural gas and water. Following Augusto Pinochet’s Chile, Bolivia was to be a neoliberal laboratory. The poorest of the poor were charged up to two-thirds of their pittance-income even for rain water.

Standing in the bleak, freezing, cobble-stoned streets of El Alto, 14,000 feet up in the Andes in Bolivia, or sitting in the breeze-block homes of former miners and campesinos (peasants) driven off their land, I have had political discussions of a kind seldom ignited in Britain and the US. They are direct and eloquent. “Why are we so poor”, they say, “when our country is so rich? Why do governments lie to us and represent outside powers?” They refer to 500 years of conquest as if it is a living presence, which it is, tracing a journey from the Spanish plunder of Cerro Rico, a hill of silver mined by indigenous slave labour that underwrote the Spanish Empire for three centuries. When the silver was gone, there was tin, and when the mines were privatised in the 1970s at the behest of the International Monetary Fund, tin collapsed, along with 30,000 jobs. When the coca leaf replaced it — in Bolivia, chewing it curbs hunger — the Bolivian army, coerced by the US, began destroying the coca crops and filling the prisons.

In 2000, open rebellion burst upon the white business oligarchs and the US embassy, whose fortress stands like an Andean Vatican in the centre of La Paz. There was never anything like it, because it came from the majority Indian population “to protect our indigenous soul”. Naked racism against indigenous peoples all over Latin America is the Spanish legacy. They were despised or invisible, or curios for tourists: the women in their bowler hats and colourful skirts. No more. Led by visionaries like Oscar Olivera, the women in bowler hats and colourful skirts encircled and shut down Bolivia’s second city, Cochabamba, until their water was returned to public ownership.

Every year since, people have fought a water or gas war — essentially a war against privatisation and poverty. Having driven out President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada in 2003, Bolivians voted in a referendum for real democracy. Through the social movements they demanded a constituent assembly similar to that which founded Chavez’s Bolivarian revolution in Venezuela, together with the rejection of the FTAA and all the other “free trade” agreements, the expulsion of the transnational water companies and a 50% tax on the exploitation of all energy resources.

When the replacement president, Carlos Mesa, refused to implement the program he was forced to resign. Next month, there will be presidential elections and the opposition Movement Toward Socialism (MAS) may well turn out the old order. The leader is an indigenous former coca farmer, Evo Morales, whom the US ambassador has likened to Osama Bin Laden. In fact, he is a social democrat who, for many of those who sealed off Cochabamba and marched down the mountain from El Alto, moderates too much.

“This is not going to be easy”, Abel Mamani, the indigenous president of the El Alto Neighbourhood Committees, told me. “The elections won’t be a solution even if we win. What we need to guarantee is the constituent assembly, from which we build a democracy based not on what the US wants, but on social justice.” The writer Pablo Solon, son of the great political muralist Walter Solon, said: “The story of Bolivia is the story of the government behind the government. The US can create a financial crisis; but really for them it is ideological; they say they will not accept another Chavez.”

The people, however, will not accept another Washington quisling. The lesson is Ecuador, where a helicopter saved Lucio Gutierrez as he fled the presidential palace last April. Having won power in alliance with the indigenous Pachakutik movement, he was the “Ecuadorian Chavez”, until he drowned in a corruption scandal. For ordinary Latin Americans, corruption on high is no longer forgivable. That is one of two reasons the Workers’ Party government of Lula is barely marking time in Brazil; the other is the priority he has given to an IMF economic agenda, rather than his own people. In Argentina, social movements saw off five pro-Washington presidents in 2001 and 2002. Across the water in Uruguay, the Frente Amplio, socialist heirs to the Tupamaros — the guerrillas of the 1970s who fought one of the CIA’s most vicious terror campaigns — formed a popular government last year.

The social movements are now a decisive force in every Latin American country — even in the state of fear that is the Colombia of Alvaro Uribe Velez, Bush’s most loyal vassal. Last month, indigenous movements marched through every one of Colombia’s 32 provinces demanding an end to “an evil as great as the gun”: neoliberalism. All over Latin America, Chavez is the modern Bolivar. People admire his political imagination and his courage. Only he has had the guts to describe the United States as a source of terrorism and Bush as Senor Peligro (Mr. Danger). He is very different from Fidel Castro, whom he respects. Venezuela is an extraordinarily open society with an unfettered opposition — that is rich and still powerful. On the left, there are those who oppose the state, in principle, believe its reforms have reached their limit, and want power to flow directly from the community. They say so vigorously, yet they support Chavez. A fluent young anarchist, Marcel, showed me the clinic where the two Cuban doctors may have saved his girlfriend. (In a barter arrangement, Venezuela gives Cuba oil in exchange for doctors).

At the entrance to every barrio there is a state supermarket, where everything from staple food to washing up liquid costs 40% less than in commercial stores. Despite specious accusations that the government has instituted censorship, most of the media remains violently anti-Chavez: a large part of it in the hands of Gustavo Cisneros, Latin America’s Murdoch, who backed the failed attempt to depose Chavez. What is striking is the proliferation of lively community radio stations, which played a critical part in Chavez’s rescue in the coup of April 2002 by calling on people to march on Caracas.

While the world looks to Iran and Syria for the next Bush attack, Venezuelans know they may well be next. On March 17, the Washington Post reported that Feliz Rodriguez, “a former CIA operative well-connected to the Bush family”, had taken part in the planning of the assassination of the president of Venezuela. On September 16, Chavez said, “I have evidence that there are plans to invade Venezuela. Furthermore, we have documentation: how many bombers will over-fly Venezuela on the day of the invasion … the US is carrying out manoeuvres on Curacao Island. It is called Operation Balboa.” Since then, leaked internal Pentagon documents have identified Venezuela as a “post-Iraq threat” requiring “full spectrum” planning.

The old-young man in the jeep, Beatrice and her healthy children, and Celedonia with her “new esteem”, are indeed a threat — the threat of an alternative, decent world that some lament is no longer possible. Well, it is, and it deserves our support.

Song Of The Day ~ Nerina Pallot – Everybody’s Gone To War

Original Comments:

john made this comment,
I’ve been reading a lot about Chavez and I like the above piece by John Pilger. I think that I also like Chavez.
-Redbaron responds – For me Pilger’s opinion carries enough weight as to be almost Chomskian, I will always take what he says seriously as I know he will have reseached it meticulously himself. I know Chavez has his flaws but I think he is far better for Venezuela than some pro-Yanqui right-wing bigot who just flogs all the oil cheap to the US. Chavez realises that he has some chips to play at the big table and he is going to use them to get Venezuela a better deal.-

comment added :: 18th May 2006, 16:35 GMT+01 :: http://bigjohn.blog-city.com

To the casual observer General Pervez Musharraf has played a deft diplomatic game since seizing power via a military coup in 1999. Whilst condemned at the time by the USA, albeit not with the same fervour that they have condemned many others, the Bush presidency has been more than happy to allow Musharraf to remain in power whilst he plays their tune and Musharraf has duly obliged, as a result no criticism has been levied as to Musharraf’s failure to step down as the country’s President in January 2005 as he had promised months earlier. For the US it really has been a better the devil you know, Musharraf is not from the usual Punjabi stock and whilst a muslim he is considerably more inclined to secular rule than any potential sucessor.

Musharraf has played a risky but personally effective strategy in preventing the US army from much operations within his territory whilst at the same time retaining the semblance of being a ‘vital ally’ in the US’s ‘war on terrorism.’ This is a neat trick and there are many who have sought to play this double agent strategy against the US and failed, just ask the Taliban, once great friends of the US. Indeed yes, the US is not so bothered about imposed Sharia law in countries through which the lucrative Caspian gas pipeline is being built, not bothered that is until the Taliban started having a problem with US T’s & C’s and then miraculously the Americans feign amazement at their being Al Queda training grounds in Afghanistan – you’d think they’d remember them since they helped build and fund them of course! When you are the US though you don’t let a messy little thing like the truth stop you. Quite the contrary, you go blazing into the country and replace the government with a ‘safe pair of hands’ in the case of Afghanistan it was former Unocal advisor* Hamid Karzai (*Le Monde 9/12/01) who was entrusted with the ball.

To ensure diversity in the fossil fuels department the US decided to pick on another former ally in the form of Saddam Hussein, the reasons for the Iraq attack were numerous: first, foremost and most obvious was the safeguarding of some cheap oil in the wake of potential difficulties in the attempted removal of Hugo Chavez from Venezuela, second was the continuation of a job, the ‘sins of the father’ if you like. Sources have shown that Bush Jnr was looking for whatever excuse to change the regime in Baghdad and having failed to pin any Al Queda link on the Iraqi leader and obviously being unable to accuse him of Islamic fundamentalism they decided a bit of Jackanory ought to sort the issue. So armed no doubt with the receipts of the chemical weapons agents from transactions at the time when Saddam was welcome to bomb and gas the shite out of the Iranians, the US decided that the evidence was unclear that he had used up his chemical arsenal on the Kurds and therefore took a gamble. The British, always happy to oblige in an obedient dog sort of way, made the mistake many dogs do of being a little too exuberant and completely fabricated a claim that the weapons, which didn’t exist, could be fired on British troops who weren’t there in 45 minutes. Even the US government decided not to use this one, which shows just how ludicrous a claim it was because the US themselves in their time have invented some fair old shit to suit their ends. Another reason it was important to go into Iraq was that the failure to find Osama Bin Laden was all well and good, after all one didn’t want to capture him because then the world would be bereft of a bad guy for the Keystone cops to track down, but it made the US look bad, so they wanted to have their cake and eat it. Perfect plan, they thought, let’s hunt down a geezer who isn’t even on the run, we can’t lose, and into the bargain there’s a country to destroy and then rebuild again, so the US defence industry is quids in, the military is occupied for a while, the country rallies round for a good war shortly before an election and then the contracting companies come in and rebuild everything and they’re quids in too. Oh, and there’s the oil reserves, that’ll enable us to keep the Gas station prices down as well as keep our supply going if that left-wing spic Chavez can’t be bumped off.

And it all pans out perfectly, exit strategy, what exit strategy? Ever feel you’ve been had?

Now the US has a problem, it hasn’t bombed anyone for a while and erstwhile target Iran may possibly have the capability to bite back a little harder than hitherto anticipated. North Korea is out of the question because they’d think nothing of nuking the shit out of the Eastern seaboard. So Bush decides if in doubt and the Generals are getting restless bomb a ~stan, after all it worked last time and if a country is a ~stan it must be full of darkies and ay-rabs not forgetting some of the black stuff. Ally, hell what does that matter, after all the US invaded British sovereign protectorate Grenada back in 1982 and they got away with that.

So Pakistan gets bombed because apparently there might have been a baddie there. Staggeringly there is no outcry in the West, The Independent has only just reported it today (Sunday) here, the Mirror devoted a mere 2 paragraphs to it, dwarfed by a large advertisement for gambling in the same column here whilst The Guardian remains entirely silent as unsurprisingly does The Sun. The BBC does run an article about it here but curiously it is listed in the South Asia section rather than the Middle East section.

Ayman al-Zawahiri, the man on the hit-list is profiled, but the actual dead all 18 of them are just more anonymous collateral damage. What is known of them or the families they leave behind, who is accountable for this? In spite of this the newspapers prefer to continue to talk about whether the Education Secretary has lost the plot or stirring up fervour in Bethnal Green amongst George Galloway’s constituents desperately attempting to interview someone who’ll say he isn’t doing his job on account of Celebrity Big Brother. One cannot blame George Galloway for his having relegated the Pakistan story to the inside pages though many will seek to try, were it not George it would unquestionably have been something and someone else. After all what constitutes news in this day and age is nothing more than the informational equivalent of a rusk designed to taste sweet and give your teeth something to do so as not to bite into anything dangerous!

What interests me is if US Intelligence is anything more than an oxymoron what good do they feel they have actually done. The CIA have failed to kill the person they were allegedly after, however they have undoubtedly added further fuel to the detractors of Musharraf’s decision to support US action of which there are many. Is it therefore US policy to galvanise popular opinion against any support for US military action? I thought that was our job on the left, I feel strangely redundant now as if the rug has been pulled from under me!

Song Of The Day ~ Garbage – The Trick Is To Keep Breathing

Original Comments:

Pimme made this comment,
Well, our government’s own stupidity brought on that cause-and-effect. The Liberals don’t have to try too hard anymore to convince the population that Bush screwed up bigtime!
comment added :: 15th January 2006, 03:12 GMT+01 :: http://pimme.blog-city.com
jamal made this comment,
A good interpretation of events. I think Musharraf could have avoided this if he had not bowed to USA initially.
comment added :: 15th January 2006, 21:36 GMT+01 :: http://opinionated.blogsome.com/
John made this comment,
I was amazed at the lack of press coverage on this story. Apparently a CIA ‘drone’ dropped the bomb. An unmanned aircraft ? One bomb ? Seems a bit restrained for the Americans. Unfortunately they got their usual result…dead civilians.
comment added :: 16th January 2006, 13:27 GMT+01 :: http://bigjohn.blog-city.com/

It would be a surprise to most, if not all, the people who know me to hear me agree with George W. Bush but in one instance it is indeed true, however let me qualify that statement before you all pack up in disgust. Bush’s famous “You’re either with us or against us” was something of a defining moment of a president who attempts to make up in sound-bites what he lacks in intellect. Bush attempts with his use of the word ‘us’ to galvanise the Western World into an alliance against those ‘he’ defines as the enemy. The actuality of the ‘us’ he is using is the US corporate political establishment and when one realises this it becomes a lot easier to see how the polarisation that Bush almost prophesied has in fact come true. The Iraq war has had a practically unprecedented unifying effect on people across the world as normally disparate groups are united in their condemnation of US involvement in Iraq.

It has also unified the violent insurrection against the US aggressor in a way that was not the case when they invaded Iraq in the first place. More and more the US has put itself up as a target to be shot at, Blair as Bush’s faithful poodle has been happy to lead Britain down the same path and there are increasing signs in Basra that the attempts to project a harmonious relationship in the British sector are far from the truth.

According to former US diplomat Peter Galbraith – in Jan 2003 Bush invited 3 members of Iraqi resistance to watch Superbowl with him. During this meeting these 3 realised that Bush was not aware at this point that there was a difference between Shia and Sunni Muslims. Whilst this is unsurprising that Bush himself is so ill-informed it seems staggering that none of his advisors had sought to rectify the fact. Galbraith goes on that since most people do not consider themselves Iraqi before they consider themselves Sunni or Shia or Kurd the idea of forming a united Iraq is Mission Impossible. We must not forget that Iraq is a modern construct of territories in Mesopotamia and Kurdistan, their is no sense of long handed-down national identity like we know in Europe. Suffice to say it was a mess the British made last time they buggered about with it. Much the same can of course be said for Palestine and Ireland!

In March 2003 US war planners met to discuss the practicalities of the ousting of Saddam – Phase 4c for reconstruction of Iraq had not nearly as much depth as Phase 3 which was combat, which is curious when you think that the vastly superior US military should have had little problem overcoming the Iraqi resistance in the initial phases of a rebellion, and certainly if the propaganda was true and the Iraqis would be welcoming the US with open arms then there would be little insurgency thereafter.

However it would be wrong to assume that it was only in the US that such idiocy was going on. On the eve of the invasion Toby Dodge of London University gave a likely case scenario to the Labour government which in fact detailed almost exactly what did indeed happen based on the historical precedent as well as the prospected operations. George Joffe of Cambridge University had similar meeting, whilst Joffe tried to explain the potential problems of such an attempt to follow the Americans in their crusade against Saddam, Blair responded “…but he’s evil isn’t he?” And this appeared to be enough justification for him.

Whether simply ridiculous naivety or a calculated facade, US expectation was that they would be met by rejoicing in the streets of Baghdad and Basra according to Cheney. I have already documented a quote that was reported by journalists at the time the US forces moved into Iraq where one Iraqi man in response to the journalist’s question “Are you pleased to see the Americans come to liberate Iraq” stated “Americans, Saddam, we don’t care who as long as you bring peace.” This tempers the euphoria somewhat. It also goes some way to explain the situation now.

The reality in Iraq is not exactly what the US and UK administration flanked by their ’embedded’ media acolytes would have us believe. It is, even now still difficult for non-embedded Western reporters to get around in order to report what is genuinely going on in Iraq, embedded journalists whilst having a greater degree of security by virtue of their military escorts get a state department view of events from Washington and London and not Iraq. Journalists like Robert Fisk who are not embedded illustrate that this state department view is either hopelessly out of touch or criminally negligent to the point of being no better than right-wing state-sponsored agit-prop.

Elections and constitutions are “theatrical events staged for US media consumption disregarding everyday state of Iraq for Iraqis” in response to mass civilian casualties one US source stated “Such tragedies only happen because Zarkawi and his thugs are driving around using car bombs.” This staggeringly insensitive and ill-conceived notion serves only to elucidate the real feeling of US officials as to the state of Iraq.

The news mentions less the situation currently in Sadr City, as if it has all gone rather quiet. The reality is that the US have left Shia militia in charge, Iraqi police and the US army have “reached agreements” with the Mahdi army the group of Moqtada Al Sadr but they claim these are agreements with local representatives as civilians and not as a massed group. The British have done the same in Basra. The result of this has been to allow fundamentalist Shia leaders to create a political theocracy the like of which has not existed in the region in such a way before. The same situation exists with the Peshmurga in Kurdistan. The US is even trying to negotiate with the Ba’athist militia in areas that are still showing signs of resistance in Baghdad and Fallujah, the same insurgents who, according to US military sources in the media are, working with Al Queda. So much for helping bring democracy to Iraq the US is intent on a quick sell-out. The second part really of what has been a simple ram-raid operation for the oil in the shop window. .

For many Iraqi women the current era marks for the first time them being forced to wear veils etc. and be subjected to a fundamentalist interpretation of Sharia law the like of which in Iran has been the subject of much condemnation by the US and UK establishments. Women are being executed for “prostitution” when this could mean nothing more than suspected adultery. These executions are not of course the result of any recognised judicial proceedings but the rough justice that fundamentalists of any variant are likely to favour.

Peter Oborne, political editor of The Spectator, concluded in a problem for the Channel 4 series Dispatches that the invasion of Iraq has failed. I believe this is far from the case because one has to evaluate what the actual goal of the invasion was.

If one believed, like I suspect Oborne does, that the goal was to remove a dangerous dictator and bring about a Western style democracy in Iraq then yes, it is clear this will not be the end result for Iraq. This seems a rather simplistic and establishment viewpoint on the matter though. Contrastingly if one believed, as I do, that US has no desire to have full functioning democracy in Iraq as this would bring about a stable secular country which would unquestionably constitute far more of a threat to the access to oil for the US and its companies involved in Iraq and beyond. Interestingly the US army operatives in Iraq are not permitted to arrest Al-Sadr despite him being wanted for murder. Al-Sadr, is the perfect young pretender to Saddam, left in place just in case the US army should need a bad guy if the whole Al-Zarkawi story ever falls apart.

This sort of conflict is likely to become ever more likely and ever more desperate as it is clear that the US domestic and foreign policy would far rather cling to the old order based on their dominance and control of oil. This means any country that has oil production or is integral to the stability of an oil producing region is going to have to watch itself for a while lest they find Uncle Sam on the borders. However US power is not what it is and it has already over-reached itself by attempting to fight battles on too many simultaneous fronts hence the debacle in Iraq. It would certainly be foolish to attempt any operations against countries such as Venezuela.

Finally one must not forget that the US never signed up to the International War Times Tribunal nor the International Criminal Court. This gives US operatives whether open or covert carte blanche to commit any acts of atrocity necessary to achieve the military objective whilst undermining the legitimacy and efficacy of the 2 supra-national judicial institutions. That is not to say that the US will not use them to moot out its brand of victor’s justice of course as we have seen in the case of Slobodan Milosevic. The US is quite happy to manipulate all sorts of laws to its own ends, for example Rumsfeld was quick to condemn the footage of US captives in Iraq as being contrary to the Geneva Convention. Al Jazeera were quick to point out of course that Guantanamo Bay and the detention of prisoners of war without due process or rights of any kind, the abuses in Abu Gharaib and Baghram, the invasion of a country against the UN security council, if not all directly in contravention of the Geneva Convention they are certainly fundamentally against the very principle.

US operations since the declaration of war on terror have become increasingly more worrying and outside the law. One only needs think of the aforementioned incarceration in Guantanamo Bay, the systematic abuse of prisoners of war in American custody both in Iraq, Afghanistan and beyond and I will be covering the strategy of ‘extraordinary rendition’ later. The CIA operations across the world and the failure of the US to hold any of its active personnel responsible for any conduct is an international scandal. I’m afraid as the US’s grip on power rescinds proportional to the oil reserves left in the world we can expect to see more of the US’s failure to conform to any standards of decency and humanity. The question only remains, which country will be next on their list?

Song Of The Day ~ Editors – Bullets

Original Comments:

Cancergiggles made this comment,
Yes Dom. I’ve been watching extraordinary rendition for many months. George and Tony are war criminals!
comment added :: 1st December 2005, 22:38 GMT+01