Sunday, June 29, 2008
Executive Order: Continuing Certain Restrictions with Respect to North Korea and North Korean Nationals
By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, including the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (50 U.S.C. 1701 et seq.) (IEEPA), the National Emergencies Act (50 U.S.C. 1601 et seq.) (NEA), and section 301 of title 3, United States Code,
I, GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States of America, find that the current existence and risk of the proliferation of weapons-usable fissile material on the Korean Peninsula constitute an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States, and I hereby declare a national emergency to deal with that threat. I further find that, as we deal with that threat through multilateral diplomacy, it is necessary to continue certain restrictions with respect to North Korea that would otherwise be lifted pursuant to a forthcoming proclamation that will terminate the exercise of authorities under the Trading With the Enemy Act (50 U.S.C. App. 1 et seq.) (TWEA) with respect to North Korea.
Accordingly, I hereby order:
Section 1. Except to the extent provided in statutes or in regulations, orders, directives, or licenses that may be issued pursuant to this order, and notwithstanding any contract entered into or any license or permit granted prior to the date of this order, the following are blocked and may not be transferred, paid, exported, withdrawn, or otherwise dealt in:
all property and interests in property of North Korea or a North Korean national that, pursuant to the President's authorities under the TWEA, the exercise of which has been continued in accordance with section 101(b) of Public Law 95-223 (91 Stat. 1625; 50 U.S.C. App. 5(b) note), were blocked as of June 16, 2000, and remained blocked immediately prior to the date of this order.
Sec. 2. Except to the extent provided in statutes or in regulations, orders, directives, or licenses that may be issued pursuant to this order, and notwithstanding any contract entered into or any license or permit granted prior to the date of this order, United States persons may not register a vessel in North Korea, obtain authorization for a vessel to fly the North Korean flag, or own, lease, operate, or insure any vessel flagged by North Korea.
Sec. 3. (a) Any transaction by a United States person or within the United States that evades or avoids, has the purpose of evading or avoiding, or attempts to violate any of the prohibitions set forth in this order is prohibited.
(b) Any conspiracy formed to violate any of the prohibitions set forth in this order is prohibited.
Sec. 4. For the purposes of this order:
(a) the term "person" means an individual or entity;
(b) the term "entity" means a partnership, association, trust, joint venture, corporation, group, subgroup, or other organization; and
(c) the term "United States person" means any United States citizen, permanent resident alien, entity organized under the laws of the United States or any jurisdiction within the United States (including foreign branches), or any person in the United States.
Sec. 5. The Secretary of the Treasury, after consultation with the Secretary of State, is hereby authorized to take such actions, including the promulgation of rules and regulations, and to employ all powers granted to the President by IEEPA as may be necessary to carry out the purposes of this order. The Secretary of the Treasury may redelegate any of these functions to other officers and agencies of the United States Government consistent with applicable law. All agencies of the United States Government are hereby directed to take all appropriate measures within their authority to carry out the provisions of this order.
Sec. 6. The Secretary of the Treasury, after consultation with the Secretary of State, is hereby authorized to submit the recurring and final reports to the Congress on the national emergency declared in this order, consistent with section 401(c) of the NEA (50 U.S.C. 1641(c)) and section 204(c) of IEEPA (50 U.S.C. 1703(c)).
Sec. 7. This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, instrumentalities, or entities, its officers or employees, or any other person.
GEORGE W. BUSH
THE WHITE HOUSE,
June 26, 2008.
Didn't I hear someone say North Korea has been removed from GW's Axis of Evil? So what the.... is this? George Bush has quite certainly stewed America in an oil of irrecoverable credibility crisis
Iran's Nuclear weapons and the IAEA
As the United States, Israel and Britain continue their sabre-rattling against Iran, Christopher King warns against taking at face value “evidence” presented against Iran by the USA, whose track record at forgeries is beyond doubt and whose president is a pathological liar.
You have possibly now read the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) May report. Nothing has changed since the February report. It said that the Iranians should be more forthcoming; they have not been helpful in explaining the evidence on the Americans’ smuggled computer and further items originating with other unidentified countries. There are some points of their own that they would like cleared up. From newspaper reports, the director-general of the IAEA, Dr Mohamed ElBardei, showed some public exasperation at this. He should bear in mind and understand the Iranians’ point of view – after all, he has had the Americans trying to get him fired for not saying what they want him to say.
There’s a problem with the evidence given to the IAEA by the Americans and their friends. It’s simply impossible to believe anything that the Americans say. The list of their lies about Iraq and Afghanistan is so well known now that I will not repeat it. It’s even official now that the president of the United States is a liar with the publication of the US Senate Intelligence Committee report of a few days ago. The president made “misstatements” apparently. I would have thought that a “misstatement” was a kind of minor error, a slip of the tongue perhaps, rather than the well publicized rationale for invading and devastating two countries, killing, maiming and making refugees of millions of people.
It’s perfectly credible that the evidence against Iran has been forged. Someone forged the documents that were cited by President Bush as evidence that Iraq was buying uranium from Niger for a weapons programme, even though his security services knew that they were forgeries. Joseph C. Wilson and his wife, Valerie Plame Wilson had their careers wrecked by the White House because Wilson exposed this deliberate lie. In view of the record of the United States’ past lies, forgery and violence based on them, if Dr Elbaradei should take an extremely cautious view of this material he would be entirely justified.
It appears that Iran has not given the IAEA inspectors full access to all its facilities. The Iranians might have in mind that the USA abused the neutral role of the United Nations weapons inspectors in Iraq by using them for military spying purposes. To show the IAEA inspectors the location of their facilities is to show them the USA’s bombing targets and to tempt the Americans to subversion of the inspectors.
There’s another problem too. If, as the Iranians say, the material has in fact been forged, it’s impossible for them to say anything more about it. The IAEA’s reports clearly expect them to produce evidence of their innocence from the allegations. That’s not the way legal guilt is proven. The IAEA should surely be looking for credible evidence from its own inspections that Iran has a weapons programme. The evidence given to it by the USA is not only tainted by its proven corrupt sources but has been selectively presented.
As I understand it, the evidence for a weapons programme is of two kinds. One is a paper document voluntarily given to the IAEA by Iran, which details means of preparing uranium for a weapon and which was almost certainly provided by Dr A.Q. Khan of Pakistan. The second kind is in electronic form, some from a computer that the United States held for two years before submitting the material to the IAEA. The IAEA has not been permitted to show the electronic evidence to Iran.
In the first case, Iran has said that it received the document on uranium weapons technology with a shipment of centrifuges and did not request it. Its surrender to the IAEA is evidence of Iran’s willingness to be open about what it has relating to weapons. In the second case, one must consider how simple it is to prepare and edit the electronic evidence submitted, I understand, by the United States. The fact that the IAEA is not authorized to show this evidence to the Iranians makes it worthless. The IAEA can surely do no more than accept what the Iranians say about it. This type of evidence is now familiar to us as a United States innovation at Guantanamo Bay Prison where prisoners are not permitted to be informed at their trials what the evidence against them is. I doubt that President Bush has read Kafka’s “The Trial”, which until now has shocked its readers by its bizarre irrationality. No longer. It has become reality.
We might also recall the case on 6 September last year when Israel bombed a building in Syria which was alleged to contain a nuclear facility. The IAEA has now been called in to examine the site only after the Syrians have cleared away the rubble and rebuilt the building, which some reports say was a pumping station. Calling in the IAEA at this stage is absurd, a waste of time, a propaganda stunt. Even if traces of weapons-grade uranium are found there, the Syrians can claim that it was left by the Israelis who bombed the site.
Let us also note from the London Times a Jewish/American item entitled “Israelis blew apart Syrian nuclear cache”. Really? Well, Rupert Murdoch, a Jewish supporter of Israel, owns the Times. The article, written in heroic vein, also quotes John R. Bolton, former US ambassador to the United Nations, who is currently involved in a number of organizations, including the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs. Bolton said about this incident, “I’ve been worried for some time about North Korea and Iran outsourcing their nuclear programmes.” This is puerile fantasy – but it gets into print. Americans and doubtless UK readers believe it.
He also remarked that Syria is a member of the “axis of evil”, a term that includes Iran, that David Frum, a Jewish-Canadian speechwriter for George Bush, claims he invented. Five years ago, Frum and his mentor Richard Perle, a leading Jewish lobbyist in Washington, appeared on BBC television immediately before the Iraq invasion urging the UK to invade Iraq, without their ethnicity being mentioned. I complained about this to the BBC, which did everything possible to avoid dealing with the complaint.
The term “evil” is religious. If we are to use this term, we should examine the behaviour of the parties involved: the USA together with Israel contrasted with Iran, the country that they both now wish to bomb, invade or both. If evil is involved, it will show in actions rather than words. Much of this will be familiar to readers.
Israel, which now threatens to bomb Iran for an alleged nuclear weapons programme, itself has a nuclear arsenal of 150-200 warheads, developed under a secret programme. Nor is Israel a signatory of the Nuclear proliferation treaty (NPT). I understand that the unauthorized British sale of heavy water, which enabled Israel to manufacture plutonium and refine it by simple chemical means, was effected by a Jewish government official.
Israel was established on Palestinian territory by terrorism responsible for murdering nearly 300 British soldiers, assassinating Lord Moyne, the respected minister-resident in Cairo among others, bombing of the King David Hotel among other targets and the murder and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians whose property was taken over by the Jews. Until the present time Israel has initiated true massacres and assassinations, continuously stolen Palestinian land, murdered Palestinians with heavy military weaponry and is attempting to starve Gaza into submission. This is a terrorist state.
The United States has supported Israel in its crimes with military weaponry, finance and probably assistance to its nuclear weapons programme. Leaving aside the USA’s long record of subversion and intervention in other countries, it first became involved with Iran when the UK’s oil interests were nationalized by the secular, democratic Mossadeq government in 1951. The British government lied to the USA in presenting Mossadeq as a communist sympathizer and sought its assistance in removing him. The CIA obliged by formenting a coup against him and with the UK-installed the Shah who gave control of the oil industry to the UK and USA. This arrangement was overturned by the 1979 Islamic Revolution; the country has remained under control of its religious leaders ever since. The US objects to this but this state of affairs was brought about by its own subversion of Iran’s legitimate democratic government. The USA’s hatred of Iran, its continuous stream of lies about it and its sponsorship of United Nations sanctions is incomprehensible. Rather, it is Iran that has cause for complaint against the UK and USA.
The United States supplied conventional, chemical and biological weapons to Saddam Hussein for his use in his war against Iran. This was evidently in revenge for Iran’s renationalization of its oil resources as well as spite for the humiliation of a bungled attempt to rescue US personnel who were besieged by students in its Tehran embassy during the revolution (none of whom were harmed).
As readers will be familiar with them, I shall mention only briefly the USA’s and UK’s sponsorship of the illegal invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq that have devastated those countries, led to the deaths of over a million persons and made millions refugees. Naturally, the USA has taken control of Iraq’s oil resources. Permanent occupation of these countries is envisaged.
Let us examine Iran’s behaviour. Iran has never invaded another country. It is a member of the NPT and the IAEA inspectors have declared that there is no evidence that it has a nuclear weapons programme. The Iranians’ great crime in the eyes of the UK and USA appears to have been taking control of their own oil resources as well as their opposition to Israel’s crimes. Their war with Saddam Hussein, possibly instigated by the USA/UK, who attempted to seize their oilfields, was entirely defensive. In short, they have minded their own business as much as possible despite foreign interference and subversion.
President Bush and John Bolton speak of evil; it is clearly evident where it lies. These are religious wars led by crazed men whose objective is to seize physical resources and are motivated and justified by the Jewish Torah, the biblical Old Testament. Anthony Blair has fled to Roman Catholicism where he has doubtless been assured of God’s infinite capacity for forgiveness; he appears to think that by rushing about the world lecturing on faith, peace and aid to the poor he can undo his part in the deaths of millions. It is rumoured that George Bush might also take refuge in Catholicism, as well he might after his appalling crimes which, from his continuing talk of war against Iran, are clearly not at an end. I look forward to seeing both these men on trial for war crimes.
I will not speak of God but believe that if any good comes out of these appalling events it will be to rid Christianity once and for all of the Jewish Torah.
To return to Dr ElBaradei and the IAEA’s inspection problems, I would suggest that, unless sound evidence against Iran or any other country is presented in a proper manner, it should simply be ignored. The UN has legal officers who can give an opinion on the validity that should be ascribed to the evidence that has been presented in relation to Iran. The USA and UK have succeeded in enlisting many other countries in their crimes. The IAEA must keep its integrity on behalf of the international community as a whole. It should also bear in mind the Iranian viewpoint in the context of a barrage of lies and threats of imminent war from Israel and the USA that give the Iranians every reason to be highly defensive, whether or not they intend to develop nuclear weapons.
Friday, June 20, 2008
Ruby shoots Oswald
The mystery surrounding the assassination of President John F. Kennedy has taken a dramatic new twist following the discovery of new documents in an old safe at the Dallas County district attorney's office.
Most intriguing among the new material is a transcript purportedly recording a conversation between assassin Lee Harvey Oswald and his own killer Jack Ruby, in which the two discuss how to eliminate the president.
While the district attorney's office dismissed the document as a fictional account intended for use in the making of a movie, conspiracy theorists will leap on the new material.
Other items found locked up on the 10th floor of the county courthouse include letters to and from former district attorney Henry Wade, the now-dead prosecutor in the Ruby trial, according to The Dallas Morning News.
Ruby shot and killed Oswald as the latter was being transported to jail two days after the president's death.
There are also letters to Ruby, records from his trial, a gun holster and clothing that probably belonged to Ruby and Oswald.
Much of the attention is bound to focus on the transcript purporting that Ruby and Oswald met at Ruby's nightclub on Oct. 4, 1963, less than two months before the Nov 22 assassination.
In it, they talked of killing the president because the Mafia wanted to "get rid of" his brother, Attorney General Robert Kennedy.
In the transcript, Oswald says "I can still do it, all I need is my rifle and a tall building; but it will take time, maybe six months to find the right place; but I'll have to have some money to live on while I do the planning."
Historians have expressed skepticism over the discovery. Gary Mack, curator of the Sixth Floor Museum near where the president was shot, has not seen the transcript but doubts it is real.
"The fact that it's sitting in Henry Wade's file, and he didn't do anything, indicates he thought it wasn't worth anything," Mr Mack said.
"He probably kept it because it was funny. It's hilarious. It's like a bad B movie."
Mr Wade was apparently working with producers on a film about the assassination.
The former prosecutor wrote about the proposed movie, "Countdown in Dallas," in letters found in the safe.
The transcript resembles one published in a report by the Warren Commission, which investigated Kennedy's assassination and determined that Oswald was the lone gunman.
The FBI has dismissed that conversation between Oswald and Ruby about killing the governor as definitely fake.
The account in the commission report was "re-created" for authorities by a now-deceased Dallas attorney who claimed he recognized Oswald in a newspaper photo as the man he saw talking to Ruby.
Will Mossad assassinate Obama
Juval Aviv; Renowned
Mossad assassin or not?
Ever since the Middle Ages, there has always been one act which has been strictly prohibited. It is forbidden to speak of the death of the King.
British Communist and Nobel Laureate Doris Lessing is 88 years old, and has either decided she’s old enough to disregard the taboo, or else she’s gone senile and has forgotten this taboo exists. Lessing told an interviewer for a Swedish newspaper that ‘If Barack Obama becomes the next US president he will surely be assassinated.’ Obama, who is vying to become the first black president in US history, ‘would certainly not last long, a black man in the position of president. They would murder him,’ Lessing, 88, told the Dagens Nyheter daily.”
The article goes on: “Lessing, who won the 2007 Nobel Literature Prize, said it might be better if Obama’s Democratic rival Hillary Clinton were to succeed in her bid to become the first woman president of the United States. ‘The best thing would be if they (Clinton and Obama) were to run together. Hillary is a very sharp lady. It might be calmer if she were to win, and not Obama,’ she said.”
Ms. Lessing is delusional if she thinks Obama will be assassinated by the Klan.
The US Government stamped out any organized illegal activity by the Klan and similar organizations decades ago. The Feds have gone on to persecute and harass LEGAL pro-White organizations to this day. Lessing is completely wrong about a threat from any racialist organization, but there may be other threats out there much more real.
Most assassinations in recent history have been done by rogue elements in our government or the MOSSAD. One little known fact is that JFK had opposed Israel’s secret nuclear weapons program while his successor Lyndon Johnson turned a blind eye to it (and even refused to allow US carrier aircraft to shoot down Israeli fighters attacking the USS Liberty).
The patsy for the JFK assassination, Lee Harvey Oswald, refused to go down quietly. Oswald was loudly protesting that he was a patsy during his two days in jail. Oswald was himself assassinated two days after JFK by Jack Ruby (formerly Jacob Rubenstein). The assassination of Bobby Kennedy by Sirhan Sirhan appeared to be an early mind-control assassination, meant to create hostility between the US and Palestinians.
Arlen Spector (now a quasi-Republican Senator) invented the “single-bullet theory” to help cover up the JFK assassination. Lyndon Johnson appointed Gerald Ford to head the investigation even though Johnson considered Ford a bungling incompetent. Ford was later the target of two assassination attempts after he was appointed president with vice president Nelson Rockefeller.
Established governments almost never in the past used assassination as a tool until the rise of mind-control assassination techniques. Even then, assassination appeared to be largely a tool by rogue elements of the CIA to eliminate political undesirables within the US. Only the Israelis appear inclined to assassinate foreign politicians since they are immune from criticism in the Western press, and the MOSSAD has been largely successful at blaming certain terrorist events and assassinations on the Muslims.
The Bush and Clinton crime families seem to have their own private assassins working for them. The Clintons left a body trail from Arkansas to Washington, DC. A remarkable number of finance managers for the Clintons died mysteriously –burying any evidence of illegal mob money or foreign donors. Vince Foster famously wound up dead in a park while Clinton operatives ransacked his office. Commerce Secretary Ron Brown, who threatened to go public about Clinton criminal activities, conveniently died as Air Force Two flew into a mountain in Croatia.
George H.W. Bush was vice president for Ronald Reagan, who was shot only two months after becoming president. The shooter, John Hinckley was the son of a major contributor to the Bush campaign. John Hinckley’s brother, Scott was going to have dinner with Bush’s son, Neil, the day of the shooting. George H.W. Bush had earlier been head of the CIA, which was rumored to be experimenting with mind-control assassinations. Perhaps, the younger Hinckley brother was seen as a weak-minded individual, who could be molded into such an assassin.
In the case of George W. Bush, a highly inconvenient woman, Margie Schoedinger, who dated Bush back in Texas, complained in 2002 that she had been kidnapped, drugged and raped. The police actually confirmed that Bush had dated Schoedinger years earlier, but this story never gained national attention. Margie Schoedinger was a Black woman, and Bush’s reputation as a normal, acceptable sort of guy would have been badly shaken if his predilection for dating Black women had become public. Schoedinger actually filed a lawsuit against George Bush claiming that he was behind the drugging and kidnapping. Margie Schoedinger was found dead shortly afterwards in 2003, and no one in the mainstream media has bothered to focus any attention on this death.
And what lies ahead for Barack Hussein Obama? There is widespread suspicion that he will be assassinated during the primary much like Robert Kennedy, clearing the way for Hillary. The assassination of a political candidate is much more forgettable than someone, who goes on to become president. If the Israelis carried out the mind-control assassination of Bobby Kennedy in 1968, then they may be brainwashing another Palestinian (or Saudi or Egyptian) even now. It would be very hard to imagine the Israelis tolerating an American president with the middle name “Hussein.” One key benefit for the Israelis is the fact that most Americans would suspect that Hillary was behind the assassination and not them.
It’s highly possible a significant number of Americans would vote against Hillary if an assassination took place since many would suspect she had a role in it. This could produce a victory for the otherwise unelectable John McCain. The Israelis don’t care if Hillary or McCain becomes president. Both are equally pro-Israel.
If Hillary is ordering the assassination, she will pull it off until it becomes necessary. If she can defeat Obama in the primary, then there’s no point in assassinating him. Hillary may resort to massive vote-stealing to win as she apparently did in New Hampshire.
In view of the high body count associated in the past with people who got in the way of Bill and Hillary Clinton, if I were Obama, I’d be ordering a set of Kevlar underwear.
Sensitive US nuclear parts missing
The Pentagon has been unable to locate hundreds of sensitive nuclear missile components in the US inventory, a British daily reported.
The Financial Times citing US military officials said Thursday that the US Air Force is unable to account for over 1,000 sensitive nuclear missile components. This is yet another embarrassment for the Pentagon -- the headquarters of the US Department of Defense, it said.
The finding comes after the air force last year found that a bomber mistakenly flew across the US with six live nuclear warheads onboard and an accidental shipment of nuclear triggers to Taiwan.
After a probe that raised concerns about American nuclear safeguards, Washington recently dismissed its top air force officials, including the Chief of Staff and Service.
The daily reported that according to previously undisclosed details, the probe also concluded that the air force could not account for many sensitive components previously included in its nuclear inventory.
The Pentagon is worried that the sensitive nuclear parts may have ended up in countries that should not have received them. This issue has shaken the confidence in US control over its nuclear arsenal.
US Defense Secretary Robert Gates said "a substantial number" of generals and colonels also face possible disciplinary action as a result of an investigation into a mistaken shipment of fuses for nuclear weapons to Taiwan.
The Taiwan incident, and an accidental transfer of nuclear armed cruise missiles from one US air base to another last year, were symptoms of a decline in the air force's standards and focus, Gates said at the time.
Friday, June 13, 2008
Written on the body
June 13, 2008
The war in Iraq is of course a political issue, both domestically and internationally, and so it is natural that much of the discussion about the war centers on its various political ramifications. But in these heated debates on policy, strategy, funding, etc., there is always a danger of losing sight of the most overwhelmingly important aspect of the conflict: its effects on actual human beings, the suffering it imposes on our fellow creatures. The reality of war is written on the bodies – and seared into the anguished psyches – of the individuals who experience it. That is what war is, that is where it actually exists – in blood, in bone, in the synapses that carry the electric fire of human consciousness.
A new report from Fallujah – the Guernica of the Iraq War – brings this home most forcefully. Two of the great witnesses of this war – Dahr Jamail and his collaborator, Ali al-Fadhily – present disturbing evidence of how the use of chemical weapons against the people of Fallujah during the brutal decimation the city in 2004 continues to bear horrific fruit today:
Babies born in Fallujah are showing illnesses and deformities on a scale never seen before, doctors and residents say. The new cases, and the number of deaths among children, have risen after "special weaponry" was used in the two massive bombing campaigns in Fallujah in 2004.
After denying it at first, the Pentagon admitted in November 2005 that white phosphorous, a restricted incendiary weapon, was used a year earlier in Fallujah. In addition, depleted uranium (DU) munitions, which contain low-level radioactive waste, were used heavily in Fallujah. The Pentagon admits to having used 1,200 tons of DU in Iraq thus far.
Many doctors believe DU to be the cause of a severe increase in the incidence of cancer in Iraq, as well as among US veterans who served in the 1991 Gulf War and through the current occupation.
"We saw all the colors of the rainbow coming out of the exploding American shells and missiles," Ali Sarhan, a 50-year-old teacher who lived through the two US sieges of 2004 told IPS. "I saw bodies that turned into bones and coal right after they were exposed to bombs that we learned later to be phosphorus. The most worrying is that many of our women have suffered loss of their babies, and some had babies born with deformations."
"I had two children who had brain damage from birth," 28-year-old Hayfa' Shukur told IPS. "My husband has been detained by the Americans since November 2004 and so I had to take the children around by myself to hospitals and private clinics. They died. I spent all our savings and borrowed a considerable amount of money."
Shukur said doctors told her that it was use of the restricted weapons that caused her children's brain damage and subsequent deaths, "but none of them had the courage to give me a written report."
"Many babies were born with major congenital malformations," a pediatric doctor, speaking on condition of anonymity, told IPS. "These infants include many with heart defects, cleft lip or palate, Down's syndrome, and limb defects."
…The Fallujah General Hospital administration was unwilling to give any statistics on deformed babies, but one doctor volunteered to speak on condition of anonymity -- for fear of reprisals if seen to be critical of the administration.
"Maternal exposure to toxins and radioactive material can lead to miscarriage and frequent abortions, still birth, and congenital malformation," the doctor told IPS. There have been many such cases, and the government "did not move to contain the damage, or present any assistance to the hospital whatsoever. These cases need intensive international efforts that provide the highest and most recent technologies that we will not have here in a hundred years," he added.
This is the fate of the actual human beings in Fallujah. Behind all the debates and commentary, the think-tank wonkery, the campaign rhetoric, the academic studies and the witlessrantings of TV talking heads, this is the war: a young woman wandering through a ruined city, carrying her broken, dying children to hospitals left without medicine or gear. The fate of Hayfa' Shukur is a direct continuation of the 2004 assault on the city, when, as I noted in a Moscow Times column at the time:
One of the first moves in this magnificent feat of arms was the destruction and capture of medical centers. Twenty doctors – and their patients, including women and children – were killed in an airstrike on one major clinic, the UN Information Service reports, while the city's main hospital was seized in the early hours of the ground assault. Why? Because these places of healing could be used as "propaganda centers," the Pentagon's "information warfare" specialists told the NY Times. Unlike the first attack on Fallujah last spring, there was to be no unseemly footage of gutted children bleeding to death on hospital beds. This time – except for NBC's brief, heavily-edited, quickly-buried clip of the usual lone "bad apple" shooting a wounded Iraqi prisoner – the visuals were rigorously scrubbed.
So while Americans saw stories of rugged "Marlboro Men" winning the day against Satan, they were spared shots of engineers cutting off water and electricity to the city – a flagrant war crime under the Geneva Conventions, as CounterPunch notes, but standard practice throughout the occupation. Nor did pictures of attack helicopters gunning down civilians trying to escape across the Euphrates River – including a family of five – make the TV news, despite the eyewitness account of an AP journalist. Nor were tender American sensibilities subjected to the sight of phosphorous shells bathing enemy fighters – and nearby civilians – with unquenchable chemical fire, literally melting their skin, as the Washington Post reports. Nor did they see the fetus being blown out of the body of Artica Salim when her home was bombed during the "softening-up attacks" that raged relentlessly – and unnoticed – in the closing days of George W. Bush's presidential campaign, the Scotland Sunday Herald reports.
I began that 2004 piece with a quote from Italo Calvino, which to me is one of the very best encapsulations of the horror, and hope, of our human condition:
"The inferno…is what is already here, the inferno where we live every day, that we form by being together. There are two ways to escape suffering it. The first is easy for many: accept the inferno and become such a part of it that you can no longer see it. The second is risky and demands constant vigilance and apprehension: seek and learn to recognize who and what, in the midst of the inferno, are not inferno, then make them endure, give them space."
Thursday, June 12, 2008
Midnight on June the 12th
About two weeks ago, the Guardian carried an intriguing story on the mysterious death of Chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola, presumed winner of the June 12, 1993, presidential election in Nigeria. The story which didn’t get much media attention said Abiola was beaten to death while in detention. Abiola died on July 7, 1998, a month after the man who detained him, Gen. Sani Abacha, died under circumstances that still befuddle the mind.
According to the Guardian, “Al-Mustapha, an intelligence officer with the Nigerian Army and a major player in the despotic regime of the late Abacha, made the declaration in a sworn affidavit dated May 20, 2008 and filed at the Ikeja High Court Registry before Commissioner for Oaths, Mr. E. O. Ajiboye. The 14-paragraph affidavit deposed to by the embattled Major said that Abiola died as a result of severe beatings he received from agents of the state after he was denied medical assistance by those in whose custody he was”.
Abiola’s personal physician, Dr. Ore Falomo, has buttressed Al-Mustapha’s story, arguing that “The people that carried out the torture were professionals. They knew how to go about it without leaving any mark ... after the autopsy was carried out, I said that the heart of Abiola was three times its size. What could have caused that? It couldn’t have happened on its own.”
When Abiola died ten years ago, there was speculation that he was murdered. The military regime of Gen. Abdulsalam Abubakar had told a bewildered nation that Abiola took ill and died after sipping tea during a meeting with a visiting U.S. delegation led by Thomas Pickering. We may never know what truly transpired during the days and hours leading up to Abiola’s death, but it is clear we are nowhere near the truth on that issue.
Al-Mustapha’s confession didn’t come as a shock. It only supports what majority of Nigerians think happened to Abiola. It is ten years since what can be described as the greatest cover-up in Nigeria’s political history and it may take much longer to expose the conspirators, both local and international, in that heinous act. There is enough reason why Al-Mustahpa’s story won’t make it beyond the pages of national newspapers: the personages in that sordid affair are very much around. They are not only around; they run the show in Nigeria!
This piece, however, is not about Abiola’s death. Throughout June and July, there will be outpouring of emotions, articles, lectures, rallies, etc, to celebrate the life and death of Abiola and his wife, Kudirat, one of the many martyrs of the struggle for democracy in Nigeria, who was assassinated in Lagos this month 12 years ago. The thrust of this article is the significance of the June 12, 1993, presidential election which Abiola was set to win before it was annulled by then military president, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida.
Babangida has yet to explain why he annulled the election that was judged by all and sundry as the “freest and fairest” in the nation’s tortuous electoral history. The only thing we can deduce from Babangida’s many vain glorious pronouncements on the election is that he did it in the interest of the country, whatever that means.
This space is not enough to delve into the intrigues surrounding the presidential election of June 12, 1993. The Babangida regime did everything to ensure that the election did not hold. It redefined the political process by creating two parties, designed their constitutions and manifestoes, and orchestrated the eventual outcome of the election. Everything was primed to fail considering Babangida’s reading of the psyche of Nigerians. But Babaginda and his collaborators underestimated Nigerians. They took Nigerians for granted, but they were beaten to their own game. Nigerians defied the elements and went to the polling booths in a peaceful and orderly manner. In the true spirit of democracy they made their choice even though at the end their votes did not count.
That was a decade and half ago! Since then, the country has conducted three presidential elections – elections that would insult the sensibilities of any true democrat. One could rightly say that June 12 was a watershed in the nation’s history; Nigeria’s best opportunity at democratic reconstruction. It failed because of the inordinate ambition of a few individuals. No one knows for sure when the country would have such a glorious opportunity again. On June 12, 1993, the country found an occasion that lifted up its collective spirit. It was a momentous day full of potentials, something akin to what we are witnessing in the U.S. with Senator Barack Obama clinching the nomination of his party for the November 2008 presidential election.
We may never know where Nigeria would be today if June 12 had been allowed to stand. Some people have tried to belittle the import of June 12. Abiola was not the answer or the messiah we were told. Regrettably, when they had the opportunity to save Nigeria, they turned out to be no better than soldiers of fortune dressed in democratic garb.
I know genuine democrats and humanists who will argue that the June 12 election could not have been free and fair because Babangida literally handpicked the contestants and forced them on Nigerians. In a sentence, there was really no choice! There is some merit in that argument. But if allow ourselves to be carried away by such sophistry, it would amount to throwing the baby out with the bath water. The June 12 election was adjudged “free and fair” for the simple reason that within the limitations placed by the military regime of Gen. Babangida, Nigerians played by the rules. Compare that with what happened in 1999, 2003, and more recently, April 2007.
Of course no one expected that all the problems of Nigeria would have been solved with an Abiola presidency. Abiola was much a victim as a player in the system that eventually took his life. That system, intricately tied to a pernicious world order, can’t save the working class and millions of impoverished Nigerians who voted on June 12, 1993. My position is that the dynamics of June 12 offered something decades of pretentious posturing by successive governments (civilian and military) about national unity and ethnic integration could not offer.
Religious bigotry is as much a problem in Nigeria today as unemployment, poverty, corruption and abuse of human rights. Ethnic chauvinism defines the Nigerian state. These cankers – ethnicity and religious intolerance – are two of the major problems of the Nigerian nation. June 12 confronted these monsters frontally. June 12 offered two Muslims on the presidential ticket. They had the chance to appear before Nigerians to articulate their positions, and Nigerians – east, west, north, south -- voted, without compulsion, for the candidate of their choice!
On June 12, Nigerians from all walks of life made a fundamental political statement. On that day, the country’s impoverished and forgotten masses were able to overcome the bogey of ethnicity and religious division by the ruling class and show that these are weapons in the hands of this inglorious class to maintain its stranglehold on the country.
June 12 would have defined the face of the new Nigeria: a nation unencumbered by religious and ethnic cleavages. Those who diminish June 12 seem to have a permanent fixation about Abiola and what he did or did not represent. They fail to realize that the election was much more than Abiola. It was about the ability of a people to decide on a course of action; and nothing could be more fundamental in moving a nation forward.
Clearly, we have not learnt our lesson as a nation and the annulment of the June 12 election would remain a sad reminder of how far removed from nationhood we are. But we can still make amends. The first step in this national rebirth is for the present government to recognise June 12 as the turning point that made the current dispensation, with all its faults, possible. Of course, we can’t do that without paying tribute to all those who died in the process. Nothing else will do!
Chief Moshood Abiola once told me the meaning of his middle name - the K in the MKO, his trade mark initials. His birth came at the end of a long and heartbreaking series of failed pregnancies, still births and children who died in infancy.
Grimly, not wanting to tempt her fate, Moshood's mother gave him the name, Kashimawo - let us see if this one too will die. But this late baby proved tenacious of life and a determined fighter.
Abiola and his supportes were outraged when the election was annulled
Meeting Abiola in his prime, it was hard to imagine him as a sickly baby. He grew into a large, robust man, with a strong voice, a dominating physical presence and a flamboyant taste in clothes. And as he grew, he flourished.
Although from a modest family, he rode the crest of Nigeria's oil boom of the 1970s, and through involvement in a series of massive telecommunications projects with the American multinational ITT, became very wealthy indeed.
And in 1979, when an earlier military government kept its word, and handed over to civilians, Abiola went into politics and joined the National Party of Nigeria.
The NPN had the backing of Nigeria's powerful northern establishment, and it won the election. But it also had a zoning system for its main posts.
The President, Shehu Shagari, was from the north; his deputy from the east, and they were limited to two terms in office. After they were re-elected in 1983, Abiola, a Yoruba-speaker from the south-west, looked qualified to make a bid for the presidency the next time round.
Then the blow fell - a military coup swept away President Shagari, the NPN, and, for the time being, Abiola's political hopes. He went back to making money, his extensive business interests now including an airline and a shipping company, as well as the Concord newspaper, and a group of sister publications.
And when that military government in turn started moving, painfully slowly, toward a handover of power, Abiola came back into politics.
This time there were just two parties, set up by the military, and their leadership was carefully vetted. Moshood Abiola became the presidential candidate for the Social Democratic Party, with the government's blessing.
When the then military leader, Ibrahim Babangida, at a regional summit meeting, invited Abiola onto the platform to address the assembled heads of state on his pet project - the need for western countries to pay reparations for slavery - those present saw it as a discreet benediction, and imagined Abiola would be back at the next summit, as Nigeria's elected president.
That impression lasted through the campaign, the vote, and the count. Then, with Abiola well in the lead, General Babangida stopped the count, and annulled the election. Moshood Abiola and his supporters were outraged.
There was no question this time that he would sit down quietly and accept the decision. And when, on the first anniversary of the election, he publicly declared himself Nigeria's lawfully elected president, he was arrested, and charged with treason.
Even then he didn't give up. He could have been released on bail, if he had been willing to accept the annulment and stop claiming to be president. He refused, and stayed in detention.
Now the Nigerian political wheel has turned again, the man who detained him, General Sani Abacha, is dead, and the detainees are coming out of jail.
The question now is whether four years of confinement and isolation, and the killing of his wife Kudirat while he was inside, will have shaken even his powerful will to survive, and his tenacious ambition to lead Nigeria.
Chief Moshood Abiola was the presumed winner of the 1993 elections in Nigeria - annulled by the military. A year later he was arrested and has been in detention ever since. Former BBC West Africa correspondent Liz Blunt has this profile.
Tuesday, July 7, 1998 Published at 23:37 GMT 00:37 UK
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
The Thug-In-Chief of Ibadan passes
More details have emerged over the circumstances surrounding the death of Mr. Lamidi Adedibu, the self-styled strongman of Ibadan politics. Reliable sources in Ibadan just told Saharareporters that Adedibu died on his way back from Lagos where he went to renew his UK visa for a planned medical trip to London. According to several sources, the dreaded politician started shivering after his vehicle passed Ogere village on the Lagos-Ibadan highway. He died shortly after. His body was later deposited at the University College Hospital (UCH) in Ibadan, Oyo State.
As expected, Adedibu's death has elicited widespread jubilation in Ibadan, a city where the late gadfly sharpened and practiced his thuggish brand of politics. One observer told Saharareporters that people were seen in different parts of the city rejoicing over Mr. Adedibu’s demise. There are reports of attacks on innocent citizens by his thugs who have taken over some strategic parts of Ibadan to mourn his passing.
Adedibu’s style of politics, which included use of political thugs and street gangs to maim and intimidate political opponents, has caused pain, anguish and frustration to the people of Oyo State in the Southwest. That violent legacy accounts for the sense of relief and even celebration at Mr. Adedibu’s passing.
Incidentally, Adedibu died on the eve of planned nationwide remembrance of Nigeria's freest and fairest elections, conducted on June 12 1993. Former military dictator, Ibrahim Babangida with the active collaboration of notable civilian co-conspirators, including Adedibu, saw to the annulment of the election. That decision threw Nigeria into prolonged political turmoil and made the country a pariah for several years.
Saharareporters has received conflicting reports over the burial of Adedibu. Some sources told Saharareporters that the Chief Imam of Ibadan, Alhaji Liadi Inakoju, has refused to perform final burial rites on the late politician.
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, who is currently in Ibadan, is reportedly prevailing on the Chief Imam of Ibadan to reconsider his resistance so that Adedibu may be buried tomorrow at 2 :00 p.m. in accordance with Muslim rites.
During his eight-year reign, Mr. Obasanjo empowered Adedibu to terrorize the people of Oyo State. The former president shielded Adedibu with massive police escorts and allowed the late politician to get away with violent attacks on political opponents. Mr. Obasanjo, who is also widely despised in Nigeria, once described Adedibu as “my leader.”
LAGOS AC REACTS TO ADEDIBU’S DEATH
The Lagos State chapter of the Action Congress has reacted to the death of Chief Lamidi Adedibu, the self-styled strong man of Ibadan politics. The party, while sympathizing with the family and political allies of the late politician, sees his death as offering a vista of hope to the people of Oyo State to recover their state from the pith of darkness, which Adedibu, with the active connivance with the former president, Olusegun Obasanjo plunged the state into in one of the most bizarre political perversions ever perpetrated in the history of Nigeria.
In a release in Lagos, signed by the party’s Lagos State Publicity Secretary, Joe Igbokwe, Lagos AC expressed the belief that all Nigerians will learn positively from the death of Adedibu and the central lesson is that no aberration lasts forever.
“As Africans, we believe firmly that the dead deserve to be allowed to rest in peace. We are schooled in the belief that it is not good to speak ill of the dead because the person will not be able to defend himself and we are not about to contest that belief. But we believe that sometimes, death can open the door to a positive future that needs to be explored for human society to progress. The death of Adedibu offers the people of Oyo State and indeed the entire South West the opportunity to recover the monumental political grounds they lost to Adedibu’s kind of politics and re-position their region and state for better political era free from the brute politics Adedibu promoted.
“While we commiserate with the family and friends of Adedibu, we see his death from the bigger picture of the sanity and freedom it offers the South West to put their greatly perverted politics aright and recover the grounds lost to the brand of politics Adedibu promoted in the region. While we wish Adedibu a sweet repose, we believe that his death will free those enslaved in his vice grips, the countless thugs and urchins recruited to enforce the kind of strange political culture he perpetrated in Oyo State in the period Obasanjo ruled over this country. Adedibu’s death will offer his disciples the opportunity to retreat from the negative politics he promoted in Oyo State and chart a newer life of political sanity. It will offer all those negatively oriented about politic the opportunity to re-orientate themselves about the real meaning of politics as the process through which the people attain the highest possible level of satisfaction through a free and fair electoral process. This is at variance with the kind of gbegiri, amala, ewedu and ponmo politics, which Adedibu made the cornerstone of his politics while he lived. This has accounted for why a region that should lead the way to matured political practice in Nigeria is now being led by renegades and reprobates whose only claim to political glory is their degree of service to a primitive cult order that anchors its strength on how well it promotes modern day slavery.
“We call on all South Westerners to rally round a progressive leadership and recover their lands from the impostors who were recruited by Adedibu, sponsored by Obasanjo and forced down on the people for the purpose of enslaving the Yoruba people. We call on Adedibu’s disciples to reform themselves and adjust to the reality that politics must be refined and the people made an essential part of the process.
“Once more, we commiserate with Adedibu’s family and associates and urge them to bear the loss with fortitude and grant them the large heart to embrace reforms as an essential part of post-Adedibu politics.”
Monday, June 09, 2008
War in Iraq is pure murder (Part 1)
War is always about betrayal: betrayal of the young by the old, of idealists by cynics, and of troops by politicians. This bitter knowledge of betrayal has seeped into the ranks of America's Iraq War veterans. It has unleashed a new wave of disillusioned veterans not seen since the Vietnam War. It has made it possible for us to begin, again, to see war's death mask and understand our complicity in evil.
Troops, when they battle insurgent forces, as in Iraq, or Gaza or Vietnam, are placed in "atrocity producing situations." Being surrounded by a hostile population makes simple acts, such as going to a store to buy a can of Coke, dangerous. The fear and stress push troops to view everyone around them as the enemy. The hostility is compounded when the enemy, as in Iraq, is elusive, shadowy and hard to find. The rage soldiers feel after a roadside bomb explodes, killing or maiming their comrades, is one that is easily directed, over time, to innocent civilians who are seen to support the insurgents.
Civilians and combatants, in the eyes of the beleaguered troops, merge into one entity. These civilians, who rarely interact with soldiers or Marines, are to most of the occupation troops in Iraq nameless, faceless, and easily turned into abstractions of hate. They are dismissed as less than human. It is a short psychological leap, but a massive moral leap. It is a leap from killing -- the shooting of someone who has the capacity to do you harm -- to murder -- the deadly assault against someone who cannot harm you.
The war in Iraq is now primarily about murder. There is very little killing. The savagery and brutality of the occupation is tearing apart those who have been deployed to Iraq. As news reports have just informed us, 115 American soldiers committed suicide in 2007. This is a 13% increase in suicides over 2006. And the suicides, as they did in the Vietnam War years, will only rise as distraught veterans come home, unwrap the self-protective layers of cotton wool that keep them from feeling, and face the awful reality of what they did to innocents in Iraq
American Marines and soldiers have become socialized to atrocity. The killing project is not described in these terms to a distant public. The politicians still speak in the abstract terms of glory, honor, and heroism, in the necessity of improving the world, in lofty phrases of political and spiritual renewal. Those who kill large numbers of people always claim it as a virtue. The campaign to rid the world of terror is expressed within the confines of this rhetoric, as if once all terrorists are destroyed evil itself will vanish.
The reality behind the myth, however, is very different. The reality and the ideal tragically clash when soldiers and Marines return home. These combat veterans are often alienated from the world around them, a world that still believes in the myth of war and the virtues of the nation. They confront the grave, existential crisis of all who go through combat and understand that we have no monopoly on virtue, that in war we become as barbaric and savage as those we oppose.
This is a profound crisis of faith. It shatters the myths, national and religious, that these young men and women were fed before they left for Iraq. In short, they uncover the lie they have been told. Their relationship with the nation will never be the same. These veterans give us a true narrative of the war -- one that exposes the vast enterprise of industrial slaughter unleashed in Iraq. They expose the lie.
War as Betrayal
"This unit sets up this traffic control point, and this 18 year-old kid is on top of an armored Humvee with a .50-caliber machine gun," remembered Sgt. Geoffrey Millard, who served in Tikrit with the 42nd Infantry Division. "And this car speeds at him pretty quick and he makes a split-second decision that that's a suicide bomber, and he presses the butterfly trigger and puts two hundred rounds in less than a minute into this vehicle. It killed the mother, a father, and two kids. The boy was aged four and the daughter was aged three.
"And they briefed this to the general," Millard said, "and they briefed it gruesome. I mean, they had pictures. They briefed it to him. And this colonel turns around to this full division staff and says, 'If these f---ing hajis learned to drive, this sh-t wouldn't happen.'"
Millard and tens of thousands of other veterans suffer not only delayed reactions to stress but this crisis of faith. The God they knew, or thought they knew, failed them. The church or the synagogue or the mosque, which promised redemption by serving God and country, did not prepare them for the awful betrayal of this civic religion, for the capacity we all have for human atrocity, for the stories of heroism used to mask the reality of war.
War is always about betrayal: betrayal of the young by the old, of idealists by cynics, and of troops by politicians. This bitter knowledge of betrayal has seeped into the ranks of America's Iraq War veterans. It has unleashed a new wave of disillusioned veterans not seen since the Vietnam War. It has made it possible for us to begin, again, to see war's death mask and understand our complicity in evil.
War is the pornography of violence. It has a dark beauty, filled with the monstrous and the grotesque. The Bible calls it "the lust of the eye" and warns believers against it. War allows us to engage in lusts and passions we keep hidden in the deepest, most private interiors of our fantasy lives. It allows us to destroy not only things and ideas but human beings...
In that moment of wholesale destruction, we wield the power of the divine, the power to revoke another person's charter to live on this Earth. The frenzy of this destruction -- and when unit discipline breaks down, or when there was no unit discipline to begin with, "frenzy" is the right word -- sees armed bands crazed by the poisonous elixir that our power to bring about the obliteration of others delivers. All things, including human beings, become objects -- objects either to gratify or destroy, or both. Almost no one is immune. The contagion of the crowd sees to that.
These scenes of abuse, which began immediately after the American invasion, were little more than collective acts of sadism. Meja watched, not daring to intervene yet increasingly disgusted at the treatment of Iraqi civilians. He saw how the callous and unchecked abuse of power first led to alienation among Iraqis and spawned a raw hatred of the occupation forces. When Army units raided homes, the soldiers burst in on frightened families, forced them to huddle in the corners at gunpoint, and helped themselves to food and items in the house.
The vanquished know war. They see through the empty jingoism of those who use the abstract words of "glory," "honor," and "patriotism" to mask the cries of the wounded, the brutal killing, war profiteering, and chest-pounding grief. They know the lies the victors often do not acknowledge, the lies covered up in stately war memorials and mythic war narratives, filled with stories of courage and comradeship. They know the lies that permeate the thick, self-important memoirs by amoral statesmen who make wars but do not know war.
We make our heroes out of clay. We laud their gallant deeds and give them uniforms with colored ribbons on their chests for the acts of violence they committed or endured. They are our false repositories of glory and honor, of power, of self-righteousness, of patriotism and self-worship, all that we want to believe about ourselves. They are our plaster saints of war, the icons we cheer to defend us and make us and our nation great. They are the props of our civic religion, our love of power and force, our belief in our right as a chosen nation to wield this force against the weak, and rule. This is our nation's idolatry of itself. And this idolatry has corrupted religious institutions, not only here but in most nations, making it impossible for us to separate the will of God from the will of the state.
Chris Hedges is the former Middle East Bureau Chief of the New York Times, a Pulitzer Prize winner, and a Senior Fellow at the Nation Institute. He is the author of several books including War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning. This piece has been adapted from the introduction to the just-published, Collateral Damage: America's War Against Iraqi Civilians (Nation Books), which he has co-authored with Laila al-Arian.
GET IT HERE
Wednesday, June 04, 2008
America's Democratic collapse
Note: Chris Hedges gave this keynote address on Wednesday, May 28, in Furman University's Younts Conference Center. The address was part of protests by faculty and students over the South Carolina college's decision to invite George W. Bush to give the May 31 commencement address.
When it was announced in May that Bush would deliver the commencement address, 222 students and faculty signed and posted on the school's Web site a statement titled "We Object." The statement cites the war in Iraq and the administration's "obstructing progress on reducing greenhouse gases while favoring billions in tax breaks and subsidies to oil companies that are earning record profits."
"We are ashamed of the actions of this administration. The war in Iraq has cost the lives of over 4,000 brave and honorable U.S. military personnel," the statement read. "Because we love this country and the ideals it stands for, we accept our civic responsibility to speak out against these actions that violate American values."
I used to live in a country called America. It was not a perfect country, God knows, especially if you were African American or Native American or of Japanese descent in World War II, or poor or gay or a woman or an immigrant, but it was a country I loved and honored. This country gave me hope that it could be better. It paid its workers wages that were envied around the world. It made sure these workers, thanks to labor unions and champions of the working class in the Democratic Party and the press, had health benefits and pensions. It offered good public education. It honored basic democratic values and held in regard the rule of law, including international law and respect for human rights. It had social programs from Head Start to welfare to Social Security to take care of the weakest among us, the mentally ill, the elderly and the destitute. It had a system of government that, however flawed, was dedicated to protecting the interests of its citizens. It offered the possibility of democratic change. It had a media that was diverse and endowed with the integrity to give a voice to all segments of society, including those beyond our borders, to impart to us unpleasant truths, to challenge the powerful, to explain ourselves to ourselves.
I am not blind to the imperfections of this America, or the failures to always meet these ideals at home and abroad. I spent 20 years of my life in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and the Balkans as a foreign correspondent reporting in countries where crimes and injustices were committed in our name, whether during the Contra war in Nicaragua or the brutalization of the Palestinians by Israeli occupation forces. But there was much that was good and decent and honorable in our country. And there was hope.
The country I live in today uses the same words to describe itself, the same patriotic symbols and iconography, the same national myths, but only the shell remains. America, the country of my birth, the country that formed and shaped me, the country of my father, my father's father and his father's father, stretching back to the generations of my family that were here for the country's founding, is so diminished as to be nearly unrecognizable. I do not know if this America will return, even as I pray and work and strive for its return. The "consent of the governed" has become an empty phrase. Our textbooks on political science are obsolete. Our state, our nation, has been hijacked by oligarchs, corporations and a narrow, selfish political elite, a small and privileged group which governs on behalf of moneyed interests. We are undergoing, as John Ralston Saul wrote, "a coup d'etat in slow motion." We are being impoverished -- legally, economically, spiritually and politically. And unless we soon reverse this tide, unless we wrest the state away from corporate hands, we will be sucked into the dark and turbulent world of globalization where there are only masters and serfs, where the American dream will be no more than that -- a dream, where those who work hard for a living can no longer earn a decent wage to sustain themselves or their families, whether in sweatshops in China or the decaying rust belt of Ohio, where democratic dissent is condemned as treason and ruthlessly silenced.
I single out no party. The Democratic Party has been as guilty as the Republicans. It was Bill Clinton who led the Democratic Party to the corporate watering trough. Clinton argued that the party had to ditch labor unions, no longer a source of votes or power, as a political ally. Workers, he insisted, would vote Democratic anyway. They had no choice. It was better, he argued, to take corporate money. By the 1990s, the Democratic Party, under Clinton's leadership, had virtual fundraising parity with the Republicans. Today the Democrats get more. In political terms, it was a success. In moral terms, it was a betrayal.
The North American Free Trade Agreement was sold to the country by the Clinton White House as an opportunity to raise the incomes and prosperity of the citizens of the United States, Canada and Mexico. NAFTA would also, we were told, staunch Mexican immigration into the United States.
Monday, June 02, 2008
Cloistered shame in Israel
Among Israel's ultra-orthodox Jews, the Haredim, social workers are often called "child-snatchers" and the police "Cossacks," harking back to the 19th century pogroms against Jews in Russia. These cloistered communities, in which women are expected to raise and financially support their large families while their husbands spend their days stooped over the Torah, make up 10% of Israel's population and a third of Jerusalem's, and consider themselves defenders of a core morality in Jewish society. But that moral authority has come under scrutiny since evidence began to emerge in March of incest, rape and child abuse in four different ultra-orthodox enclaves around the country.
Over the last few weeks the Cossacks have arrived wearing the uniform of the Israeli national police force. In a series of raids following tip-offs from victims' relatives, neighbors and hospital workers, the police have arrested ultra-orthodox wives, husbands and yeshiva students.
Community elders were at first appalled. Now they are grateful for the intervention. "The Haredim are shocked by these cases," says Noach Korman, a Haredi attorney in the rabbinical court that adjudicates family and religious law, and the director of a shelter for battered wives. "At first they said, 'These people are crazy, they don't belong to us.' But now I hear Haredi voices saying: 'We should examine ourselves and not close our eyes to why these things are happening.' "Says Naomi Ragen, an orthodox woman who is an author and advocate for gender equality: "These shocking things had to come out. There was no more room left under the carpet."
Sex predators operate with ease among the ultra-orthodox communities because female victims often keep quiet, knowing that to speak out will damage their prospects of finding a husband. "The families all want their girls to have a AAA marriage to a religious scholar from a good family, and nobody's going to marry a girl who gets raped," says Ragen. In Bnei Brak, a predominately Haredi city near Tel Aviv, social worker Doron Agasi says one young Haredi man told him that he had molested more than a hundred girls. Agasi, director of the Shlom Banaich Fellowship, the only organization in Israel that treats pedophiles and their victims, convinced the young man to confess to the police. But, says Agasi, the authorities refused to bring charges because none of the parents of the alleged victims had filed complaints. Agasi says the rapist is now roaming free.
Convincing the Haredi to work with police and social workers has been a struggle, says Miki Miller, a social worker in the newly built Haredi town of Kiryat Sefer near Jerusalem. "The Haredi believe that a closed society is a pure society," she says. But a closed society can hide a multitude of sins. A senior police officer in Jerusalem acknowledges that the instincts of the Haredi community to cover up such crimes undermines the authorities' ability to investigate and prosecute offenders: "We're aware of this phenomenon of sex abuse among Haredis, but an extremely low number of these cases are ever reported."
The first port of call for Haredi families faced with violence or sex crimes is often their rabbi. But religious leaders themselves have not been immune from accusations of abuse. On April 6, a Jerusalem court indicted a Haredi mother of eight for child abuse in light of evidence that she broke her two toddlers' bones with hammers, forced the children to eat feces, and locked them inside a suitcase for hours. The alleged abuses came to light only after her three-year-old son was taken to hospital in a coma with brain damage. The woman claimed she was driving "devils" from her children following instructions from her religious counselor Elior Chen, who has since fled to Canada. Israeli police are seeking his extradition.
In Beit Shemesh, a town near Jerusalem, another case of abuse centered on a self-styled female "rabbi" who hid her face entirely behind a black veil. Her religious modesty attracted dozens of Haredi female disciples over several years, but her own sister was frantically seeking police intervention to stop the woman from thrashing her children with a rolling pin. Neighbors say she allegedly left her kids tied for hours to a garden tree. After her arrest, one of her children, now an adult, told police that his mother had encouraged incest among her offspring when they were younger.
The cock that crows in the morning belongs to one household but its voice is the property of the neighborhood.- Chinua Achebe, Anthills of the Savannah.
Well-meaning Nigerians and our American friends should speak out on the insecurity and threat to life prevalent in our society under the Obasanjo regime. In about 3 years into his presidency), almost 20,000 people, men, women, and children have lost their lives to violence and rampage occasioned by religious and ethnic differences. Why does this regime fan the embers of religious and ethnic differences in our country? Have we not always enjoyed religious freedom and accepted each other's right to hold his or her religious belief? We're working with other patriots for Nigeria's democratic future and progress. As we and millions of Nigerians pray for God to redirect and save the country, practical electoral steps are also required to vote against this corrupt leadership and save Nigerians from those who hold the reins of power in this failed and impeachable government of Obasanjo's.....
On May 29, 2002, Nigeria marked the return in 1999 to its latest efforts at democratic governance. Given the record of the incumbent president, retired Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo, to be frank, that quest at democracy is still going on, and Nigeria is not quite there. Hence, many concerned Nigerians are speaking out and political fireworks are in the making in Nigeria.
It is important to inform the international community, the Jimmy Carter Center and others who seem to have been cajoled and misled by Obasanjo's sloganeering about "anti-corruption" while running a very corrupt, unproductive, unfocused, ethnically-discriminatory and inept government the country, that 2002 and 2003 must open new and better opportunities for our great country. The Obasanjo charade needs to be exposed.
As Nigerians seek international businesses, a better reputation and opportunities for being involved with the international community, one can only imagine the damage done to our image as a nation when Gen. Obasanjo , in the full glare of the international and national media, screams, intimidates and rains abuses at citizens who were, understandably, in despair - having lost loved ones at the recent deadly explosions at the mismanaged armoury under Obasanjo's watch at Ikeja (Lagos), some of them maimed and others had loved ones missing after the explosion in the Ikeja cantonment in January this year.
Such reaction is what we face daily and reflects how much retired Gen. Obasanjo feels responsible for Nigerians as their ruler.
How does his performance compare with the reaction of the United States President after the unfortunate events of September 11, 2001? While President George Bush took it as a national and personal calamity, our own President saw the Ikeja cantonment disaster as not reflecting his responsibility or duty, but an inconveniencing issue, as he shouted "Shut up... I'm not supposed to be here!" It got worse.
I, Dan Loya Etete, the distinguished Senator and former Petroleum Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, hereby reflect the concerns of many Nigerians, concerned Americans and Africans. It has increased and mounted with the recent Abuja declaration of Gen. Obasanjo to run for a 2nd term with his vice president Atiku Abubakar. Note that Obasanjo had served as miliatry dictator from February 1976-1979.
I, Etete, like most patriots, have drawn attention to the fact that in three years in office, Obasanjo's rule have. largely, brought economic hardships, inflation, insecurity, and ethnic clashes to millions of Nigerians. Essentially, they have done incalculable harm to the reputation of our great country. In the three years of the under-achieving duo of Obasanjo and Atiku, the global community now regards Nigeria as the most corrupt country in the world -- seeing beyond the posturing of Obasanjo as 'Mr. Ethics.' The Obasanjo regime has carried corruption to new heights, corruption is now endemic in government.
With other patriots, we have diagnosed the situation as typical of a rotten fish, which deteriorates from the head first, and progressively down through the body.
We believe that with a facade of anti-corruption gimmick, the President (Obasanjo) and his Vice have designed what they consider a solid protection system, using associates to carry out deals and a racket of appropriating national assets as their private estates under the guise of privatizing national economic institutions and establishments.
The businesses and fronts used for these activities include the efforts of Obasanjo's kinsman, Otunba Fasawe. He's Obasanjo's roving ambassador to contractors and the signatory to untold numbers of contracts on his master's behalf. We know and have seen through their gimmicks. International business persons are scandalized.
There is an Italian collaborator with the Obasanjo team; a certain Signor G. Volpi who is also the Manager of Intels, the company which is connivance with highly-placed executives of government in the marginalization of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA). Volpi and Intels, we believe, have since taken over the NPA's functions for private gain.
We believe that the other business fronts used by the corrupt leadership mismanaging the affairs of our fatherland include:
•a certain Dr. Baggi, another Italian businessman, partner of Volpi's who professes to practice law in Lugamo, Switzerland.
•Alhaji Abba Usman, Mohammed Adamu, and Adamu Yaro. The damage done to the Nigerian economy and our country's reputation by Gen. Obasanjo's associates, frontmen, and team of wheelers and dealers can only be imagined. Yet, Obasanjo says he is fighting corruption! "Fighting" corruption indeed.
To imagine these are the people who say they want to continue to rule Nigeria and are now scheming to keep competent and dedicated citizens from contesting the next election with contrived INEC impossible hurdles. It is sad, and the international community should be aware that Gen. Obasanjo has perfected political and economic witch-hunting to ruin many.
"If you are not with us, you must be against us" is their motto. If one is not a sycophant, he is perceived as Yes, the dictator and his accomplices wish to remain in office while they continue with their abuse of office and disdain for the laws of our country.
We lament that the duo of Obasanjo and Atiku Abubakar are close to balkanizing our great country, Nigeria. "We must not let them," he cautions, "it is our country; one where we all have an equal stake and to whose defense we must fearlessly rally.... The Gen. Obasanjo team is no longer fit to run the affairs of our state and they must be stopped legally and politically.
Among many posers, Etete would want Obasanjo to answer the question: who owns Beach Land Estate?
Obasanjo must not hold the view Nigerians have very short memory or that they do not care. How does he explains his attempts to dispossess his erstwhile friend, Chief Egunjobi of the Beach Land Estate.
In his first coming as Head of State, he claims he built the estate and on leaving office he took his former friend Chief Egunjobi to court and shamelessly proclaimed there that he used the latter as a front.
He did not tell the court, as Nigerians wanted to know, how he came by the money to build the Estate. The court saw through him and struck out his lawsuit.
Two issues immediately arose from the outcome of this escapade. The first is the serial nature of the activities which we believe reflect Obasanjo's corruption. Having claimed before a Nigerian law court the Estate belonged to him; he must answer the question as to where he got the resources to build it? His salary and allowances, while in office, are known to Nigerians.
The court refused to be deceived and with him unwilling to declare the sources of the finance for the Beach Land Estate, the court made it clear he did not prove he owned the Estate.
Corruption is not a newly acquired attributed of this regime and their cohorts.
The other matter arising from this episode is the character of Gen. Obasanjo as a covetous person. He must own what he sees and he sees and likes even if it means illegally dispossessing the rightful owner. It could have been he saw Chief Egunjibo's Beach Land Estate; he liked it and therefore, wanted it. In his characteristic style, coveted it and Bingo, it had to be his. The only limitation at the time is that he forgot he was no longer Head of State.
When it dawned on him, he wondered what to do. He choose the option of litigation, half forgetting there are judges who guard their integrity jealously in Nigeria.
The rest is now history, Egunjobi was saved his Estate and the litigant was taught a simple lesson: live and let live.
Another issue: Take the so-called privatization of Nigerdock for example; even before the commencement of the sitting of the Commission of Inquiry into the management of Nigerdock and over the protest of the responsible minister, Obasanjo's government announced the privatization of the dockyard. When the "successful" bidder could not pay the price, Obasanjo, in all haste, extended the payment due to be sure the facility was sold. What was the haste and what was being covered up? Yet everyone recalls the stand of government during the bidding exercise for GSM licenses. For this regime, what is good for the goose is not not good for the gander!
Here again, we are seeing the same thing with the attempted privatization of NITEL; selective treatment of preferred buyers. Some anti-corruption fight!
President owes the nation a full explanation of his so-called transparency in governance. Let Nigerians see the wheeling and dealing going on in this government and let them be the judges of how transparency things have been under the Obasanjo regime. It would appear the duo of Obasanjo and Alhaji Atiku Abubakar have turned their backs on the Federal Republic of Nigeria; their primary interest now is Obasanjo, Atiku, Fasawe (Nigeria), Unlimited!
While Obasanjo gallivants about abroad, our social services are in decay; healthcare is still at a primitive stage. Education has been abandoned and University teachers are daily threatened with reprisal as if they are errant school children! Public transport and other infrastructure have collapsed under the ineptitude of Obasanjo's government.
Nigeria's debt burden has risen under this government; the international community worries our financial system is on the verge of collapse, Heavens helps us; we are Argentina in the making! The people must resist the enthronement of this incompetent team on our country and must not allow them another term in office.
How does this regime wish to be remembered? Gen. Gowon's regime will be remembered for the tremendous contribution to infrastructural development in the country; its strenuous effort to defend the unity of Nigeria and sports
development. If we look around, we see roads, fly-overs, the National Stadium, the National Theatre, the refineries, regional and international airports all over the country and so on. Alhaji Shehu Shagari will be remembered for the focus on Agriculture, investment in fertilizer production and the defense of Nigeria's oil market share in probably the most difficult market the Nigerian oil industry has faced in its history.
His bold and defining assertion, "Nigerian will match the North Sea oil pricing policy, cent for cent!" was countervailing; it checkmated the pricing strategy of the North Sea oil producers and saved Nigeria from economic ruin. The initial infrastructure for Abuja was put in place during his regime.
What of retired Gen Ibrahim Badarnasi Babangida? He invested in the development of Abuja, he introduced indeginization to the upstream segment of the petroleum sector and granted acreage to Nigerians, a situation that was previously the preserve of expatriate companies.
The Babangida regime developed the Petrochemical industry in Nigeria and carried it to where it is today.
Obasanjo may say what he likes about his predecessors in office, but he has been compared unfavorably with the latter in the management of our national economy. When respected citizens draw his attention to this simple fact, Obansanjo does what he knows best; he becomes abusive and refuses to listen to professional advice.
How much our economy has suffered under this inept regime can only be imagined. One only needs to see how inflation has accelerated, how the Naira exchange rate has deteriorated in the years since Obasanjo returned to power in Nigeria, how interest rates on loans have sky-rocketed and how businesses have suffered from the lowest level of capacity utilization recorded in modern Nigerian history. How, one may ask, does Chief Obasanjo want his regime to be remembered? As an abrasive dictatorial regime, one, that led the country to economic hardships, police and ethnic violence, and anarchy.
Gen. Obasanjo's regime will go down in history as one marked by mismanagement, corruption, witch-hunting, and a total breakdown of law and order! This regime has wrought destruction on our land and our people. Soldiers and policemen are being killed as towns and villages are being sacked.
The country is nearly in a state of anomie. How many people would die in inter-community clashes before Chief Obasanjo's government would realize it has done nothing to foster national unity. In the popular Nigerian parlance, his regime will be remembered as "kill and go!" This is a regime that has shown so much disdain for its citizens that it has turned vehicles into barracks for senior and junior police officers who are forced, out of neglect, to sleep in such vehicles with their families. The conditions of service which the police are made to serve under are so appalling that for the first time in our history the police went on strike.
How will this Obasanjo government be remembered?
Retired Gen. Obasanjo's disdain for human rights in legendary; one only has to look back at his first coming as Head of State to imagine how Nigerians have suffered under his regime. One would recall what he did to innocent Nigerians in Ita-Oko.
While now touting his new conversion to human rights, he appears to have forgotten the torture many were subjected to under his regime.
Well-meaning Nigerians must talk out and ask to be heard on the insecurity and threat to life prevalent in our society under the Obasanjo regime. Almost 20,000 people, men, women, and children have lost their lives to violence and rampage occasioned by religious and ethnic differences.
Why does this regime fan the embers of religious and ethnic differences in our country? Have we not always enjoyed religious freedom and accepted each other's right to hold his or her religious belief? We're working with other patriots for Nigeria's democratic future and progress. As we and millions of Nigerians pray for God to redirect and save the country, Practical steps are also required to save Nigeria from this corrupt leadership and from those who hold the reins of power in this failed and impeachable government of Obasanjo's.
Above all, Nigeria should remain united, keep its trust in God as we seek to build a better, ethical and productive country - away from the Obasanjo years of waste!
Signed: Dan Etete, Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Abuja, Nigeria (and former Minister).