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Allende Vive: Latin America’s Left and the Reunion of Socialism and Democracy September 11, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in 9/11, Art, Literature and Culture, Canada, Chile, Criminal Justice, Democracy, Foreign Policy, Imperialism, Latin America.
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Roger’s note: There are three items in this post.  Following Derrik O’Keefe’s article you will find the full transcript of the DemocracyNow! program featuring the widow of the Chilean folk singer and activist who was murdered by the Pinochet dictatorship.  After that I have posted David Heap’s article that tells the story of the Canadian response to the Pinochet coup and the Canadian movement to receive refugees from the Pinochet’s Chile.  And, of course, all this to remind us of Chile’s notorious 9/11.

Last night, Barack Obama spoke in defence of his threats to launch U.S. air strikes against Syria. In justifying his push for an attack illegal under international law, the constitutional lawyer and Nobel Peace Prize winner appealed explicitly to American exceptionalism. Obama also prefaced his case for bombing Syria with a stunningly ahistorical assertion of American benevolence:

 

“My fellow Americans, for nearly seven decades the United States has been the anchor of global security. This has meant doing more than forging international agreements. It has meant enforcing them. The burdens of leadership are often heavy, but the world’s a better place because we have borne them.”

Imagine how this nonsense sounds to Chileans, who are today marking the 40th anniversary of the U.S.-backed coup in Chile against the democratically elected government led by Salvador Allende. More than 3,000 were killed in Chile; tens of thousands were jailed, tortured and exiled.

Chile bore the heavy burden of all those who have shown leadership in fighting for a better world. For over seven decades — was Obama’s metaphorical anchor of global security the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945? — any people combining too much democracy and some measure of national development or socialism that threatens U.S. interests has been met with blood and suffering imposed by that enforcer of global capitalism, the U.S. Empire.

I’ve learned a lot about Chile’s tragedy through my wife and her family. She was born in a refugee camp in Buenos Aires, and came to Canada as a baby after activists in this country agitated and successfully pressured the Liberal government of the day to admit Chileans fleeing the coup (for more on this history, read David Heap’s piece.) Both of her parents were social activists and part of the resistance. So I have some knowledge of the almost unimaginable human toll of the coup.

However, on this anniversary, I don’t want to just repeat a denunciation of the U.S. and the neoliberal economists and their generals who plunged Chile into darkness. I’d rather think about the light that has emerged over the past decades from Latin America, against all odds.

Henry Kissinger et al carried out the coup in Chile because they couldn’t countenance the union of socialism and democracy. An elected Marxist president just could not be tolerated. Allende was a strict constitutionalist and democrat. The coup was a bloody reminder that the ruling classes will never fight fair. They killed thousands in a vengeful attempt to forever separate socialism and democracy. But you cannot kill an idea. Forty years later, they have failed. Socialism and democracy have been reunited. That’s why we can say today: Allende vive. Allende lives.

Allende lives in the governments of countries like Bolivia and Venezuela; Allende lives in the vibrant social movements all across Latin America; Allende lives in ALBA, a regional integration and mutual benefit alliance the likes of which could barely have been fathomed in the 1970s; Allende lives in the steadfast refusal of Latin America to accept U.S. isolation and demonization of Cuba. In fact, it’s the U.S. and Canada who are isolated in Latin America these days, notwithstanding recent coup d’etats in a couple of ALBA’s weaker links, Paraguay and Honduras. And Allende lives in the massive student movement in Chile, which has challenged Pinochet’s legacy of privatization and nudged the whole political spectrum in that country to the left.

Latin America today is the only part of the world where the political left has made concrete gains and broken the stranglehold of neoliberalism. It’s the only part of the world where the left can consistently run in elections as the left — and win.

Today’s resurgent left in Latin America poses a real challenge to timid mainstream social democracy in North America and Europe, not to mention to the small constellation of sects clinging to the certainties of 1917 and other similarly dogmatic or scholastic leftists.

On this 40th anniversary of the coup in Chile, progressives would do well to recommit to learning about and defending the myriad left movements and elected governments of Latin America.

So don’t remember Allende just as a martyr. His descendents have learned from his terrible fate, as Greg Grandin outlined in his London Review of Books article, ‘Don’t do what Allende did.’ The headline refers to reported instructions from Fidel Castro to Hugo Chavez during the hours after the (thankfully failed) coup against Venezuela’s elected leader in 2002.

Emir Sader, the Brazilian left scholar and activist, has summed up the new generation’s political project in his essential book, The New Mole, which looks at the trajectories of today’s Latin American left. Sader explains that, having learned from the Allende government’s failure to “prepare to confront the right’s offensive with strategies for an alternative power,

…processes like those in Bolivia, Venezuela and Ecuador — at the same time as they try to implement an anti-neoliberal economic model — seek to combine this with a refounding of the state and the public sphere… it is still a process of reforms, but one that leads towards a substantial transformation of the relations of power that underpin the neoliberal state.”

It’s an enormous and worthy undertaking. We should learn from Latin America and we should join them. That’s the best way to honour the legacy of the Chileans who fell forty years ago to the enforcers of global capitalism.

Derrick O'Keefe

rabble.ca Editor Derrick O’Keefe is a writer and social justice activist in Vancouver, BC. He is the author of the new Verso book, Michael Ignatieff: The Lesser Evil? and the co-writer of Afghan MP Malalai Joya’s political memoir, A Woman Among Warlords: The Extraordinary Story of an Afghan Who Dared to Raise Her Voice. Derrick also served as rabble.ca’s editor from 2007 to 2009. You can follow him at http://twitter.com/derrickokeefe.

 

 

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Today we look at another September 11th. It was 40 years ago this week, September 11, 1973, that General Augusto Pinochet ousted Chile’s democratically elected president, Salvador Allende, in a U.S.-backed military coup. The coup began a 17-year repressive dictatorship during which more than 3,000 Chileans were killed. Pinochet’s rise to power was backed by then-President Richard Nixon and his secretary of state and national security adviser, Henry Kissinger.

In 1970, the CIA’s deputy director of plans wrote in a secret memo, quote, “It is firm and continuing policy that Allende be overthrown by a coup. … It is imperative that these actions be implemented clandestinely and securely so that the USG [that’s the U.S. government] and American hand be well hidden,” unquote. That same year, President Nixon ordered the CIA to, quote, “make the economy scream” in Chile to, quote, “prevent Allende from coming to power or [to] unseat him.”

After the 1973 coup, General Pinochet remained a close U.S. ally. He was defeated in 1988 referendum and left office in 1990. In 1998, Pinochet was arrested in London on torture and genocide charges on a warrant issued by a Spanish judge, Baltasar Garzón. British authorities later released Pinochet after doctors ruled him physically and mentally unfit to stand trial.

Last week, Chile’s judges issued a long-awaited apology to the relatives of loved ones who went missing or were executed during the Pinochet dictatorship. This is Judge Daniel Urrutia.

JUDGE DANIEL URRUTIA: [translated] We consider it appropriate and necessary. We understand, for some citizens, obviously, it’s too late, but nothing will ever be too late to react to what may happen in the future.

AMY GOODMAN: The relatives of some victims have rejected the belated apology and called for further investigations into deaths and disappearances during the dictatorship. Chilean President Sebastián Piñera said the country’s courts had failed to uphold the constitution and basic rights.

PRESIDENT SEBASTIÁN PIÑERA: [translated] The judiciary did not rise up to their obligations or challenges, and could have done much more, because, by constitutional mandate, it’s their duty to protect the rights of the people, to protect their lives—for example, reconsidering the appeals, which they had previously massively rejected as unconstitutional.

AMY GOODMAN: Meanwhile, on Sunday thousands of Chileans took to the streets of Santiago to mark the 40th anniversary of the military coup and remember the thousands who disappeared during the brutal regime that followed. This is the president of the Families of Executed Politicians group, Alicia Lira.

ALICIA LIRA: [translated] Forty years since the civil military coup, the issue of human rights, the violations during the dictatorship are still current. This denial of justice, there are more than 1,300 processes open for 40 years, for 40 years continuing the search for those who were arrested, who disappeared, who were executed without the remains handed back. Why don’t they say the truth? Why don’t they break their pact of silence?

AMY GOODMAN: Just last week, the wife and two daughters of the legendary Chilean folk singer Víctor Jara filed a civil lawsuit in U.S. court against the former military officer they say killed Jara almost exactly 40 years ago. Víctor Jara was shot to death in the midst of the 1973 U.S.-backed coup. First his hands were smashed so he could no longer play the guitar, it is believed. Jara’s accused killer, Pedro Barrientos, has lived in the United States for roughly two decades and is now a U.S. citizen. Jara’s family is suing him under federal laws that allow U.S. courts to hear about human rights abuses committed abroad. Last year, Chilean prosecutors charged Barrientos and another officer with Jara’s murder, naming six others as accomplices.

Well, today we’ll spend the hour with the loved ones of those who were killed under Pinochet, and the attorneys who have helped them seek justice. First we’re joined by Joan Jara. She is the widow of Chilean singer Víctor Jara. She is the author of An Unfinished Song: The Life of Victor Jara, first published in 1984.

We welcome you back to Democracy Now!

JOAN JARA: Thank you. Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN: It’s great to have you with us and in studio here in New York, as victims and those who have worked for justice in Chile gather for this 40th anniversary of the September 11th coup.

JOAN JARA: Indeed.

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about the lawsuit you have just filed.

JOAN JARA: Well, this lawsuit, which is for the central justice and accountability, is a civil lawsuit, but the—our aim is not to receive pecuniary, because this doesn’t help at all. It’s to reinforce the extradition petition, which was approved by the Chilean Supreme Court and is now in United States territory. It’s somehow to support that and to appeal to public opinion here in the United States. We know we have—there are many people here. In repeated visits here, I have met so many friends who have condemned the coup on the 11th of September, 1973. And I appeal to all the people who listen to Víctor’s songs, who realize—and for all the victims of Pinochet, for their support and appeal to their—your own government to remit a reply positively to this extradition request.

AMY GOODMAN: After break, we’ll also be joined by your lawyer to talk more about the lawsuit. But describe what happened on September 11, 1973. Where were you? Where was Víctor?

JOAN JARA: Yeah, well, we were both at home with our two daughters. There was somehow a coup in the air. We had been fearing that there might be a military coup. And on that morning, together, Víctor and I listened to Allende’s last speech and heard all the radios, the—who supported Salvador Allende, falling off the air as, one by one, being replaced by military marches.

Víctor was due to go to the technical university, his place of work, where Allende was due to speak to announce a plebiscite at 11:00, and Víctor was to sing there, as he did. And he went out that morning. It was the last time I saw him. I stayed at home, heard of the bombing of the Moneda Palace, heard and saw the helicopter’s machine gun firing over Allende’s residence. And then began the long wait for Víctor to come back home.

AMY GOODMAN: And how long did you wait?

JOAN JARA: I waited a week, not knowing really what had happened to him. I got a message from him from somebody who had been in the stadium with him, wasn’t sure what was really happening to him. But my fears were confirmed on the 11th of September—well, I’m sorry, on the 18th of September, Chile National Day, when a young man came to my house, said, “Please, I need to talk to you. I’m a friend. I’ve been working in the city morgue. I’m afraid to tell you that Víctor’s body has been recognized,” because it was a well-known—his was a well-known face. And he said, “You must come with me and claim his body; otherwise, they will put him in a common grave, and he will disappear.”

So then I accompanied this young man to the city morgue. We entered by a side entrance. I saw the hundreds of bodies, literally hundreds of bodies, that were high piled up in what was actually the parking place, I think, of the morgue. And I had to look for Víctor’s body among a long line in the offices of the city morgue, recognized him. I saw what had happened to him. I saw the bullet wounds. I saw the state of his body.

And I consider myself one of the lucky ones, in the sense that I had to face at that moment that—what had happened to Víctor, and I could give my testimony with all the force of what I felt in that moment, and not that horror, which is much worse, of never knowing what happened to your loved one, as what happened to so many families, so many women, who have spent these 40 years looking for their loved ones who were made to disappear.

AMY GOODMAN: Because he was so well known, there have been many stories about his death. Some said because he was this famous folk singer, guitarist, his hands were cut off.

JOAN JARA: No.

AMY GOODMAN: Others said they were smashed. How did you see—what did you see when you saw his body?

JOAN JARA: No, I—this is not true. There was this invention of myths that I people, I suppose, thought would help. The truth was bad enough. There was no need to invent more horrors. Víctor’s hands were not cut off. When I saw his body, his hands were hanging at a strange angle. I mean, his whole body was bruised and battered with bullet wounds, but I didn’t touch his hands. It looked as though his wrists were broken.

AMY GOODMAN: How long had Víctor played guitar? How long had he been singing?

JOAN JARA: Oh, how long had he been singing? Since he was small. Since he was—he didn’t really learn to play the guitar until he was adolescent, but his mother was a folk singer, and he learned from her, yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: And how did you meet?

JOAN JARA: We met because in the University of Chile we—Víctor was a student in the theater school, and I was a dancer in the national ballet, but I also gave classes in the theater school. That’s how I met him. He was an excellent student. He was at least the best of his course. But we actually got together after, later, when I was recovering from when I was sort of ill, and he heard I was ill. He came to see me with a little bunch of flowers that I think he took out of the park, because he was penniless.

AMY GOODMAN: And you have two daughters together?

JOAN JARA: No, not together. My first daughter is actually the daughter of my first husband, whom I had separated from, but she was very, very small when Víctor came to see us that day. She was only a year old, slightly less than a year old. And she always felt that Víctor was her father, and Víctor always felt that he—she was her daughter. She—he—sorry, I’m not used to speaking English. So, they were very, very close.

AMY GOODMAN: And the hundreds of bodies you saw in this morgue. How many of them were identified?

JOAN JARA: Can’t tell you that. This particular young man who worked in the identification, civil—civil registry—I don’t know what you call it—he was overwhelmed with what he had to do. I can’t—I can’t tell you. I can’t—I can’t tell.

AMY GOODMAN: Were you able to claim his body and bury him?

JOAN JARA: I was—I was one of the lucky ones. I was able to claim his body, but we had to take it immediately to the cemetery and inter it in a niche high up in the back wall of the cemetery. There could be no funeral. And after that, I had to go home and tell my daughters what had happened.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking with Joan Jara, the widow of Víctor Jara. And we’re going to continue with her, as well as her lawyer. She’s just brought suit against the man she believes was responsible for his murder, among others. We’re also going to be joined by Joyce Horman, another widow of the coup. Her husband, Charles Horman, American freelance journalist, was also disappeared and killed during the coup. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. It’s been 40 years since the September 11, 1973, coup that overthrew the first democratically elected leader of Chile, Salvador Allende, who died in the palace that day as the Pinochet forces rose to power. Stay with us.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: “Vivir en Paz,” by Víctor Jara, the Chilean singer, songwriter, tortured and executed during the Chilean coup of Salvador Allende, September 11, 1973. This week marks the 40th anniversary the U.S.-backed coup. You can also go to our website at democracynow.org to see highlights from our coverage over the years. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman.

Our guest is Joan Jara, the widow of the legendary Chilean singer Víctor Jara. Last week she filed a civil lawsuit in U.S. court against the former military officer they say killed Jara almost exactly 40 years ago. Víctor Jara was shot to death in the midst of the 1973 U.S.-backed coup within the next week. Joan Jara is author of An Unfinished Song: The Life of Victor Jara.

Also with us is Almudena Bernabeu, attorney who helped file the lawsuit last week against Víctor Jara killers. She’s with the Center for Justice and Accountability, where she directs the Transitional Justice Program.

Tonight there will be a major event where people from around the world will gather who have been involved with seeking justice since the coup took place. Pinochet rose to power on September 11th, and over the next 17 years more than 3,000 Chileans were killed.

Almudena, describe this lawsuit, the grounds, the legal grounds on which you bring this 40 years after Víctor Jara was killed.

ALMUDENA BERNABEU: Absolutely. This is under—these lawsuits are happening in the United States, and there’s an important number of them. They are civil by nature, because it’s what the—it’s a tort, which is a legal word, but, I mean, it’s—what they really look for is a reward on damages. But really, the nature of the evidence and the relevance of the documents and everything that goes into the case really doesn’t distinguish, in my mind, between criminal and civil. It’s under two federal statutes in the United States called the Alien Tort Statute from 1789—ironically, first Congress—and the Torture Victims Protection Act, which is later on in 1992. And what they provide for is the right to victims, whether they’re aliens under the ATS or also U.S. citizens under the TVPA, or what we call the TVPA, to bring suit for human rights violations. The second statute provides for torture, extrajudicial killing, specifically. And the Alien Tort Statute allows you to bring in a more open or wide number of claims, including crimes against humanity, war crimes and slavery, many claims over the years. Colleagues and friends have brought suit under these laws.

In, I guess, the jurisdictional basis, not to be overtechnical, but one of the more solid ones has been the physical presence of the defendant in the United States, which is what I will say the Center for Justice and Accountability specialize. Other colleagues at the Center for Constitutional Rights and other institutions have more experience with corporate cases and so forth. And in this particular instance, Pedro Pablo Barrientos, the guy who has been investigated and identified by Chilean prosecutors and judges as the author, through testimony, of Víctor Jara’s assassination, was living—has been living for number of years, for almost 20 years, in Florida, of all places. So—

AMY GOODMAN: How did you find this out?

ALMUDENA BERNABEU: We—actually, came to the attention Chile television first, and they did a big program about both the investigation in Chile and the likelihood of this person—it was an interesting step—likelihood of this person being the Barrientos that was named in the pleadings in Chile. And after the program, the judge ordered a couple of extra, you know, steps from a criminal investigation standpoint, and they were able to identify him. And I was contacted by the prosecutors in Chile, with whom we have a relationship from prior work, to see if we could actually corroborate one more step to see if he was the person. And he is the same officer that left Chile, we believe between 1989 and 1990, and relocated in Deltona.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you believe the U.S. knew?

ALMUDENA BERNABEU: That he was in the United—

AMY GOODMAN: Who he was?

ALMUDENA BERNABEU: I’m not sure he was high enough, to be frank, from all the information that we have right now.

AMY GOODMAN: Because he was granted U.S. citizenship.

ALMUDENA BERNABEU: He was granted U.S. citizenship. And what I don’t—I don’t necessarily know that at the time that he was probably requesting to file his naturalization application, that the U.S. will know of his involvement. And I think that these guys specialize in lying in those applications, in my experience. So there’s no way necessarily for the U.S. to know, although I do believe that, overall, the U.S. looked somewhere else when all these people were coming from Latin America in the aftermath of their conflicts, no question, particularly military men.

AMY GOODMAN: This Alien Tort Claims Act, which we have covered many times in the past, you yourself have used in other cases. Very briefly, if you could talk about the archbishop of El Salvador, Óscar Romero?

ALMUDENA BERNABEU: This really was an important case, on a personal and professional level. It was filed in 2003. And also with a little bit of this twisting of fate, the—a guy who was crucial to the assassination had been identified by the truth commission, by U.S. important declassified documents and other sources, as the driver, as the sort of right-hand man of Roberto D’Aubuisson, who conceived the assassination and sort of the whole plot. And he was the guy who drove the shooter to the church, and he was living in Modesto, California, running an auto shop. And after we were able to establish that truthfully and corroborate it, we filed suit, which was a very important suit, I will say. It was the only time in the history of the crime for the conditions of El Salvador when any justice has been provided for this emblematic killing, and it was the first case—

AMY GOODMAN: He was killed March 24th, 1980.

ALMUDENA BERNABEU: 1980.

AMY GOODMAN: The archbishop of El Salvador, as—

ALMUDENA BERNABEU: While celebrating mass, absolutely. And he was kind of marks—in the history and the imaginary of Salvadorans, marks the beginning of their 10-year civil war. It really was a declaration of war in the old-fashioned sense. It was—and against all civilians and against the pueblo that he defended so much. It was one—a provocative statement, killing the archbishop, who had been in his homilies and publicly condemning the actions of the army against the people of El Salvador.

AMY GOODMAN: Joan Jara, how did you figure out that—who was responsible for the killing of Víctor, your husband?

JOAN JARA: I didn’t figure it out, because the—the Chilean army would not give the information of who—of the officers who were responsible for the Chile stadium where Víctor was killed. But gradually, within the proceedings of the case, officers were named, especially by the conscript, under whose—become orders, they were, yeah. And it’s these people who were these soldiers of lesser ranks who have identified the officers who were responsible for the crimes.

ALMUDENA BERNABEU: That’s a very important point. Sorry, just to—there’s been no desire or willingness on behalf of the armed forces in Chile to collaborate with the families and the victims struggling for 40 years. They have to rely, the investigators, in now testimony from these low-level soldiers, who don’t have that kind of pact of silence, and they’re providing information that is crucial for their work.

AMY GOODMAN: Joan?

JOAN JARA: Well, they say that they have had to have a pact of silence during many decades because they have been threatened by the armed forces, they should not speak. And there have been many who have been very scared to give their testimony until now.

The Right to Live in Peace: Forty years on, the coup in Chile still has lessons for us today

 

| September 9, 2013

Mural for Victor Jara. (Photo: aullidodelaika.blogspot.com)

Aerial bombings, tanks in the streets, widespread terrorizing of civilians by soldiers and secret police: this was the horror unleashed on September 11, 1973 by the military coup d’état in Chile. Led by Augusto Pinochet and other generals with U.S. backing, the coup overthrew President Salvador Allende’s democratically elected Popular Unity government, and brought in a brutal military dictatorship that lasted for 17 years.

Canada’s official attitude towards the coup might be politely called ‘ambivalent.’ Some Canadian banks and mining interests openly supported the military take-over as a good investment opportunity. Our ambassador to Chile’s rather sympathetic attitude toward the generals led to a rapid recognition of the military junta.

When embassy officials Mark Dolgin and David Adam allowed a handful of asylum-seekers to take refuge at our Santiago embassy, Foreign Affairs tried to shut the door on any more. The ambassador’s classified cables, which called asylum-seekers ‘riff-raff’ and the military killings ‘abhorrent but understandable,’ were leaked by Bob Thomson, a federal CIDA employee in Ottawa.

Those leaks cost Thomson his job but helped build a public clamour in favour of offering refuge to those who needed it. At the time, Canada’s lack of a formal refugee policy left these life-and-death decisions to ministerial discretion. Questions were raised in Parliament, church groups and unions called for more asylum, the media picked up the story, and solidarity activists occupied federal offices in four cities across the country: this growing groundswell in the fall of 1973 eventually led to ‘Special Movement Chile’ opening the doors for thousands of Chilean refugees fleeing Pinochet’s terror to find safety in Canada.

That historic example of citizen action underscores the importance conscientious dissent. Whether high-profile whistleblowers like Manning and Snowden or rank-and-file war resisters who refuse to participate in war crimes, conscientious dissenters deserve honour and protection, rather than vilification and prosecution. Though their individual circumstances may be less dramatic, the same lesson applies to many conscientious scientists and researchers whose work is threatened or suppressed by the Harper government’s ideological preference for evidence-free policy-making.

Many victims of military repression never reach asylum of course, but those who remember the tortured, murdered and ‘disappeared’ can take some comfort in the knowledge that there is no statute of limitations for war crimes and crimes against humanity. The renowned Chilean folk-singer Victor Jara was among those tortured and killed in the early days of the coup, and this year several military officers deemed responsible for his death are finally coming to trial. Some of the accused trained at the infamous School of the Americas (aka School of Assassins: they put Pinochet’s ceremonial sword on display) at Fort Benning Georgia, where human rights vigils continue to call for closure every year.

Whatever the outcome of these belated trials, let’s recall that General Pinochet was fond of lecturing about the health benefits of ‘just forgetting.’  So historical memory really matters: remembering can be an act of resistance in itself. Not only those officially sanctioned memorials, which prescribe just which atrocities ‘We must never forget,’ but also (especially!) independent grassroots initiatives that document and remind us of crimes our governments would prefer us to forget. Such is the case of Zochrot (‘remembering’ in Hebrew), which aims to ‘commemorate, witness, acknowledge, and repair’ the ethnic cleansing of Palestine, in the face of widespread (and increasingly state-enforced) nakba denial in Israel and around the world.

Jara’s poetic legacy lives on in song, of course. Better known for her satirical songs on CBC, topical folksinger Nancy White recorded a (now hard-to-find but recently recovered) medley of his songs called Victor Jara Presente, where she sings in part: ‘His struggle is the struggle of all who would live free. We mustn’t let a Victor Jara die again.’

But we do keep letting it happen, alas. Canada’s governments have either participated in or tacitly supported coups against elected governments in Haiti and Honduras (just to name two recent examples). And with the Conservatives’ increasing political interference in our asylum adjudication system, it is far from clear whether those 1970s Chilean refugees would even be allowed into Canada today under current rules. Refugees who do make it into Canada now also face a much harder time settling here, with mean-spirited federal cuts to health and other services — another area where we see active resistance from conscientious professionals.

Let’s also remember the real motivation for many coups. Henry Kissinger infamously explained why the U.S. set about to destabilize and then overthrow Allende’s democratically elected government: “The issues are much too important for the Chilean voters to be left to decide for themselves.” Democracy doesn’t count for much when voters ‘irresponsibly’ elect a government Washington doesn’t like.

A recent Wall Street Journal editorial is even clearer about who they support and why: about a more recent military coup, they wrote on July 4 that Egyptians would be “lucky” if their new ruling generals turn out like Chile’s Pinochet, who “hired free-market reformers and midwifed a transition to democracy.” Apart from the slur on midwifery, Pinochet’s rule was a ‘transition to democracy’ like bacon is a transition to vegetarianism. His regime savagely opposed the return to democracy in Chile, relinquishing power only when forced to by national and international pressure, and after decreeing immunity for himself and his henchmen — all the while continuing to receive support from hypocritical U.S. politicians who now lecture us about the immorality of talking with dictators.

But don’t let the WSJ’s chilling historical revisionism mask the cynicism of their underlying message: international finance approves of dictators who bring in ‘free-market reformers.’ The 1973 coup gave free reign to the Chicago-school free market fundamentalists to create havoc in the Chilean social fabric, and similar failed policies are now being pushed down our throats under the guise of ‘austerity.’ Those who revere the ‘invisible hand of the market’ ultimately also rely on its all-too-visible fist.

The poignant title of one of Jara’s most famous songs and albums (El derecho de vivir en paz, 1971) is still relevant today as it sums up the deepest wishes of so many people. A film about his life and an exhibit* of rare historic materials from the Chilean resistance against the coup both bear the name of the same song, inviting us to remember and reflect on those ideals for today and tomorrow: ‘The right to live in peace.’

 

David Heap works with the Latin American-Canadian Solidarity Association (LACASA) and People for Peace in London, Ontario, and is on the international Steering Committee of Gaza’s Ark.

A shorter version of this article appeared in UWO’s Western News on September 5.

Photo: aullidodelaika.blogspot.com

*’The Right to Live in Peace’ is an exhibit of historic materials from Toronto’s Colectivo Alas documenting Chilean resistance against the military dictatorship, running at Beit Zatoun in Toronto until September 11, and then opens at Medium Gallery in London on Friday September 13, where it will stay until September 20.

 

 

 

A Solution for Syria September 6, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Foreign Policy, Iran, Israel, Gaza & Middle East, Peace, War.
Tags: , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

 

Dear friends,

http://www.avaaz.org/en/solution_for_syria_loc/?bVyDaab&v=28859O

Just weeks ago the kids in this image were gassed to death in their sleep. There is one peaceful way to stop these massacres – if Iran and the US sit down to talks and bring the warring parties to the table to get a ceasefire. For the first time the two Presidents are showing dialogue is possible. Let’s tell them the world wants talks to start saving lives now! Sign up:

http://www.avaaz.org/en/solution_for_syria_loc/?bVyDaab&v=28859

Just weeks ago the kids in this image were gassed to death in their sleep, but it feels the world has forgotten them and got stuck in a debate between US strikes or doing nothing. Now there is a glimmer of hope for a peaceful way to stop these massacres.

Syria’s bloody war has been fuelled by rivalry between Iran, Assad’s main backer, and the US and their allies. But this vile chemical attack has changed their discourse: Iran’s new moderate president condemned the gassing and Obama signalled he’d work with “anybody” to resolve the conflict. Let’s urgently call on both leaders to sit down to talks and bring the warring parties together before any more lives are lost.

Right now, the global drums of war are beating over Syria, but if enough of us make sure Rouhani and Obama know the world wants bold diplomacy, we could end the nightmare for thousands of terrified Syrian children under threat of new gas attacks. We have no time to lose. Click now to join this urgent call — when we reach one million signers we will deliver the petition directly to the two presidents:

http://www.avaaz.org/en/solution_for_syria_loc/?bVyDaab&v=28859

Syria’s the most brutal war of our generation, and this chemical attack on innocent civilians is the worst our world has seen in 30 years. The world has a responsibility to protect Syrians from extermination, but for two years the international community has been shamefully gridlocked and has failed the innocent victims. Now, despite overwhelming evidence that Assad’s forces launched the attack, Syria’s backers have sown doubt and, wary of war, the world is unsure about a humanitarian intervention. These talks are a new chance to stop the bloodshed.

It’s always been believed that the US would never talk to Iran and that Iran would never help the US solve the Syrian crisis, but current evidence points to change and hope. President Obama may launch strikes, but he has no public support for a longer war, and he is looking for a way out of a sustained conflict. And 130 members of the US Congress are calling on President Obama to talk with Iran. A massive global public push for diplomacy right now could push Obama towards talks.

Iran’s former President Ahmadinejad spent billions supplying cash and weapons to the Assad regime. But the new President Rouhani was elected on a ticket to build bridges with the West and favours a political settlement with the Syrian opposition. The chemical attack is eroding Iranian public support for Assad, rekindling painful memories of Iraq’s gas attacks on Iran, and insiders say pressure is building to reconsider Iran’s support for Assad. This could be a tipping point to bring Rouhani to the table.

Talks won’t stop the horror overnight, but there is no quick and easy solution. We urgently need to get started on a path that can stop the killing of innocent children and bring the world closer together rather than tear us further apart. Let’s get the US and Iran to start talks now:

http://www.avaaz.org/en/solution_for_syria_loc/?bVyDaab&v=28859

A roadmap has already been put in motion for a Syrian peace process in Geneva, but this is the first time there could be the political will to overlook all the differences and sit down. Iran is the only country in the world with sufficient influence in Syria to push the regime to the table. And the US, with its Middle East allies, can push the opposition to sit down.

It took the horror of the Second World War to get the United Nations and the Declaration of Human Rights. Maybe the horror of Syria might finally push the US and Iran, and their moderate presidents, to address longstanding differences and build the basis for a more lasting peace for Syria and the region, with consequences for a host of global issues from nuclear proliferation to peace in Israel and Palestine. Our community has stood by the Syrian people from the very beginning. Now they need us more than ever. Let’s give it our best shot.

With hope,

Alice, Luis, Ian, Emily, Bissan, Antonia, Ricken, Lisa, Mais and the whole Avaaz team

PS – Many Avaaz campaigns are started by members of our community! Start yours now and win on any issue – local, national or global: http://www.avaaz.org/en/petition/start_a_petition/?bgMYedb&v=23917

More information:

Syria Offers Opportunity For US-Iran Talks (Al Monitor)
http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2013/08/syria-opportunity-iran-us-talks.html

Drawing a Line on Syria, U.S. Keeps Eye on Iran Policy (New York Times)
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/03/world/middleeast/drawing-a-line-on-syria-us-eyes-iran-talks.html?ref=world&_r=1&

No, Iran Doesn’t Need Assad (The Atlantic)
http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2013/09/no-iran-doesn-t-need-assad/279340/

For Syria’s sake, end Iran’s isolation (Guardian)
http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/sep/03/for-syria-sake-end-iran-isolation

Iran ex-president says Syria government launched gas attacks: news agency (Reuters)
http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/09/01/us-syria-crisis-iran-rafsanjani-idUSBRE98007R20130901

Over 130 Reps. Sign Bipartisan Dent-Price Letter to President Urging Diplomacy on Iran
http://price.house.gov/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=3439:over-130-reps-sign-bipartisan-dent-price-letter-to-president-urging-diplomacy-on-iran&catid=100:press-releases

Iran’s Rouhani acknowledges chemical weapons killed people in Syria (Reuters)
http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/08/24/us-syria-crisis-iran-idUSBRE97N06P20130824

Can Syrian Chemical Weapons Issue Lead to US-Iran Opening? (Al Monitor)
http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2013/08/week-in-review-chemical-weapons-possible-us-strike-on-syria.html#ixzz2drRWTAPx

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We’re entirely funded by donations and receive no money from governments or corporations. Our dedicated team ensures even the smallest contributions go a long way. https://secure.avaaz.org/en/donate_to_avaaz_gc/?cl=3241555772&v=28859

The bombing war of Syria is not inevitable September 5, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Foreign Policy, Israel, Gaza & Middle East, War.
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bush_bolton_obama_-_medium

 
By Brian Becker, National Coordinator, ANSWER Coalition

The bombing war of Syria is not inevitable.

Obama, Kerry and the mass media are working overtime to conjure up the image of “inevitability” in order to demoralize and paralyze the anti-war opposition that clearly represents the sentiment of the vast majority of the people in the United States.

We reject the concept of the inevitability of this attack.

All power does not rest in the hands of the war makers. The people oppose this next war. We must organize and organize and organize.

Right now there are deep divisions within the summits of the political and economic establishment about the reckless act of aggression being planned against a country in the heart of the Middle East. Such opposition is not based on principle but rather fear that once the war starts it is impossible to know what regional and possibly global chaos could follow.

Under such political circumstances, a mass opposition can have a decisive impact even inside the centers of world imperialism.

John Kerry has adopted all the rhetoric of Bush and the neo-conservatives. “America is the indispensable nation” he tells the world. This is the language of the neo-con criminals who took the lives of a million Iraqis and thousands of U.S. service members. The hubris of Kerry is indistinguishable from that of Cheney, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz — the grouping that put Syria on their “hit list” back in 2001.

In 2008, tens of millions of people campaigned for Barack Obama and against John McCain. They did so with enormous passion and the belief that the era of endless war in the Middle East would finally come to an end. Today, Obama and McCain are like brothers as they try to dragoon the country into the next war. McCain is always for imperial war. He has never met a war that he didn’t like. He has made a political career as cheerleader-in-chief for the death and destruction of people in weaker and more vulnerable countries. Today, he is Obama’s most important ally in Congress.

The Middle East contains two-thirds of the world’s oil reserves. The U.S. policy has been to destroy all independent, nationalist regimes whose origin was in the anti-colonial revolutions of the post-World War II era. The U.S. government wants only puppets and proxies in this resource-rich region.

The people of this country can rise and take their place as a major factor in the calculations of the war makers who speak in their name. This is not the time for hand wringing or passivity. The die has NOT been cast. We must all do everything in our power everyday in the coming days to mobilize opposition and spread the word to say “No War Against Syria!”

This Saturday, September 7 (initiated by the ANSWER Coalition) and Monday, September 9 (initiated by the Syrian American Forum) there will be major marches from the White House to the Capitol Building to tell Congress “Vote NO on war against Syria!” On Saturday, September 7, assemble at the White House at 12 Noon and on Monday, September 9, assemble at the White House at 10:00 a.m., both followed by a march to Congress. Click here for details about the D.C. demonstrations and here for a list of demonstrations taking place nationwide.

Syria: Another Western War Crime In The Making August 26, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Foreign Policy, Imperialism, Iran, Israel, Gaza & Middle East, War.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
2 comments

 

Roger’s note: If the outrageous and frightening scenario outlined in this article is substantially correct, though most Americans will not want to believe it and will consider it to be conspiratorial ranting, it is a bitter piece of hard reality, and we ignore it at our peril.

OpEdNews Op Eds 8/26/2013 at 16:13:49

By (about the author)

 

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The war criminals in Washington and other Western capitals are determined to maintain their lie that the Syrian government used chemical weapons. Having failed in efforts to intimidate the UN chemical inspectors in Syria, Washington has demanded that UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon withdraw the chemical weapons inspectors before they can assess the evidence and make their report. The UN Secretary General stood up to the Washington war criminals and rejected their demand.

The US and UK governments have revealed none of the “conclusive evidence” they claim to have that the Syrian government used chemical weapons. Listening to their voices, observing their body language, and looking into their eyes, it is completely obvious that John Kerry and his British and German puppets are lying through their teeth. This is a far more shameful situation than the massive lies that former Secretary of State Colin Powell told the UN about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. Colin Powell claims that he was deceived by the White House and did not know that he was lying. Kerry and the British, French, and German puppets know full well that they are lying.

 

The face that the West presents to the world is the brazen face of a liar.

************

Washington and its British and French puppet governments are poised to yet again reveal their criminality. The image of the West as War Criminal is not a propaganda image created by the West’s enemies, but the portrait that the West has painted of itself.

 

The UK Independent reports that over this past week-end Obama, Cameron, and Hollande agreed to launch cruise missile attacks against the Syrian government within two weeks despite the lack of any authorization from the UN and despite the absence  of any evidence in behalf of Washington’s claim that the Syrian government has used  chemical weapons against the Washington-backed “rebels,” largely US supported external forces, seeking to overthrow the Syrian government.
Indeed, one reason for the rush to war is to prevent the UN inspection that Washington knows would disprove its claim and possibly implicate Washington in the false flag attack by the “rebels,” who assembled a large number of children into one area to be chemically murdered with the blame pinned by Washington on the Syrian government.
Another reason for the rush to war is that Cameron, the UK prime minister, wants to get the war going before the British parliament can block him for providing cover for Obama’s war crimes the way that Tony Blair provided cover for George W. Bush, for which Blair was duly rewarded. What does Cameron care about Syrian lives when he can leave office into the waiting arms of a $50 million fortune?
The Syrian government, knowing that it is not responsible for the chemical weapons incident, has agreed for the UN to send in chemical inspectors to determine the substance used and the method of delivery. However, Washington has declared that it is “too late” for UN inspectors and that Washington accepts the self-serving claim of the al Qaeda affiliated “rebels” that the Syrian government attacked civilians with chemical weapons. See also here.
In an attempt to prevent the UN chemical inspectors who arrived on the scene from doing their work, the inspectors were fired upon by snipers in “rebel” held territory and forced off site, although a later report from RT says the inspectors have returned to the site to conduct their inspection.
The corrupt British government has declared that Syria can be attacked without UN authorization, just as Serbia and Libya were militarily attacked without UN authorization.
In other words, the Western democracies have already established precedents for violating international law.  “International law? We don’t need no stinking international law!” The West knows only one rule: Might is Right. As long as the West has the Might, the West has the Right.
In a response to the news report that the US, UK, and France are preparing to attack Syria, the Russian Foreign Minister, Lavrov, said that such unilateral action is a “severe violation of international law,” and that the violation was not only a legal one but also an ethical and moral violation. Lavrov referred to the lies and deception used by the West to justify its grave violations of international law in military attacks on Serbia, Iraq, and Libya and how the US government used preemptive moves to undermine every hope for peaceful settlements in Iraq, Libya, and Syria.
Once again Washington has preempted any hope of peaceful settlement. By announcing the forthcoming attack, the US destroyed any incentive for the “rebels” to participate in the peace talks with the Syrian government. On the verge of these talks taking place, the “rebels” now have no incentive to participate as the West’s military is coming to their aid.
In his press conference Lavrov spoke of how the ruling parties in the US, UK, and France stir up emotions among poorly informed people that, once aroused, have to be satisfied by war. This, of course, is the way the US manipulated the public in order to attack Afghanistan and Iraq. But the American public is tired of the wars, the goal of which is never made clear, and has grown suspicious of the government’s justifications for more wars.
A Reuters/Ipsos poll finds that “Americans strongly oppose U.S. intervention in Syria’s civil war and believe Washington should stay out of the conflict even if reports that Syria’s government used deadly chemicals to attack civilians are confirmed.” However, Obama could not care less that only 9 percent of the public supports his warmongering. As former president Jimmy Carter recently stated, “America has no functioning democracy.” It has a police state in which the executive branch has placed itself above all law and the Constitution.
This police state is now going to commit yet another Nazi-style war crime of unprovoked aggression. At Nuremberg the Nazis were sentenced to death for precisely the identical actions being committed by Obama, Cameron, and Hollande.  The West is banking on might, not right, to keep it out of the criminal dock.
The US, UK, and French governments have not explained why it matters whether people in the wars initiated by the West are killed by explosives made of depleted uranium or with chemical agents or any other weapon. It was obvious from the beginning that Obama was setting up the Syrian government for attack. Obama demonized chemical weapons — but not nuclear “bunker busters” that the US might use on Iran. Then Obama drew a red line, saying that the use of chemical weapons by the Syrians was such a great crime that the West would be obliged to attack Syria. Washington’s UK puppets, William Hague and Cameron, have just repeated this nonsensical claim. The final step in the frame-up was to orchestrate a chemical incident and blame the Syrian government.
What is the West’s real agenda? This is the unasked and unanswered question. Clearly, the US, UK, and French governments, which have displayed continuously their support for dictatorial regimes that serve their purposes, are not the least disturbed by dictatorships. They brand Assad a dictator as a means of demonizing him for the ill-informed Western masses. But Washington, UK, and France support any number of dictatorial regimes, such as the ones in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and now the military dictatorship in Egypt that is ruthlessly killing Egyptians without any Western government speaking of invading Egypt for “killing its own people.”
Clearly also, the forthcoming Western attack on Syria has nothing whatsoever to do with  bringing “freedom and democracy” to Syria any more than freedom and democracy were reasons for the attacks on Iraq and Libya, neither of which gained any “freedom and democracy.”
The Western attack on Syria is unrelated to human rights, justice or any of the high sounding causes with which the West cloaks its criminality.
acy” to Syria or punishing Assad for allegedly using chemical weapons against murderous thugs trying to overthrow the Syrian government.
Of course, the question wouldn’t be answered if asked. But the act of asking it would help make the public aware that more is afoot than meets the eye. Originally, the excuse for Washington’s wars was to keep Americans safe from terrorists. Now Washington is endeavoring to turn Syria over to jihad terrorists by helping them to overthrow the secular, non-terrorist Assad government. What is the agenda behind Washington’s support of terrorism?

Perhaps the purpose of the wars is to radicalize Muslims and, thereby, destabilize Russia and even China.  Russia has large populations of Muslims and is bordered by Muslim countries. Even China has some Muslim population. As radicalization spreads strife into the only two countries capable of being an obstacle to Washington’s world hegemony, Western media propaganda and the large number of US financed NGOs, posing as “human rights” organizations, can be counted on by Washington to demonize the Russian and Chinese governments for harsh measures against “rebels.”

 

Another advantage of the radicalization of Muslims is that it leaves former Muslim countries in long-term turmoil or civil wars, as is currently the case in Iraq and Libya, thus removing any organized state power from obstructing Israeli purposes.

 

Secretary of State John Kerry is working the phones using bribes and threats to build acceptance, if not support, for Washington’s war crime-in-the-making against Syria.

 

Washington is driving the world closer to nuclear war than it ever was even in the most dangerous periods of the Cold War. When Washington finishes with Syria, the next target is Iran. Russia and China will no longer be able to fool themselves that there is any system of international law or restraint on Western criminality.  Western aggression is already forcing both countries to develop their strategic nuclear forces and to curtail the Western-financed NGOs that pose as “human rights organizations,” but in reality comprise a fifth column that Washington can use to destroy the legitimacy of the Russian and Chinese governments.

 

Russia and China have been extremely careless in their dealings with the United States. Essentially, the Russian political opposition is financed by Washington. Even the Chinese government is being undermined. When a US corporation opens a company in China, it creates a Chinese board on which are put relatives of the local political authorities.  These boards create a conduit for payments that influence the decisions and loyalties of local and regional party members. The US has penetrated Chinese universities and intellectual attitudes. The Rockefeller University is active in China as is Rockefeller philanthropy. Dissenting voices are being created that are arrayed against the Chinese government. Demands for “liberalization” can resurrect regional and ethnic differences and undermine the cohesiveness of the national government.

 

Once Russia and China realize that they are riven with American fifth columns, isolated diplomatically, and outgunned militarily, nuclear weapons become the only guarantor of their sovereignty. This suggests that nuclear war is likely to terminate humanity well before humanity succumbs to global warming or rising national debts.

http://www.paulcraigroberts.org/

Dr. Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the US Treasury for Economic Policy in the Reagan Administration. He was associate editor and columnist with the Wall Street Journal, columnist for Business Week and the Scripps Howard News Service. He is a contributing editor to Gerald Celente’s Trends Journal. He has had numerous university appointments. His latest book, The Failure of Laissez Faire Capitalism and Economic Dissolution of the West is available here:  http://www.amazon.com/Failure-Capitalism-Economic-Dissolution-ebook/dp/B00BLPJNWE/ref=sr_1_17?ie=UTF8&qid=1362095594&sr=8-17&keywords=paul+craig+roberts

Colombia Nationwide Strike Against ‘Free Trade,’ Privatization, Poverty August 25, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Colombia, Foreign Policy, Human Rights, Imperialism, Labor, Latin America.
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Roger’s note: I am publishing this articles so that readers in the United States might know what’s going on in their 51st state.

Ignored by English-language media, rural uprisings spread across industries as hundreds of thousands protest US-backed govt

 

- Sarah Lazare, staff writer

Protests in Sincelejo (Photo: Marcha Patriotica)

A nationwide strike in Colombia—which started as a rural peasant uprising and spread to miners, teachers, medical professionals, truckers, and students—reached its 7th day Sunday as at least 200,000 people blocked roads and launched protests against a U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement and devastating policies of poverty and privatization pushed by US-backed right-wing President Juan Manuel Santos.

“[The strike is a condemnation] of the situation in which the Santos administration has put the country, as a consequence of its terrible, anti-union and dissatisfactory policies,” declared the Central Unitaria de Trabajadores (CUT), the country’s largest union, in a statement.

The protests and strikes, largely ignored in the English-language media, have been met with heavy crackdown from Colombia’s feared police, with human rights organization Bayaca reporting shootings, torture, sexual assault, severe tear-gassing, arbitrary arrests, and other abuses on the part of state agents. Colombia’s Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon recently claimed that the striking workers are being controlled by the “terrorist” Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), in a country known for using unverified claims of FARC connections as an excuse to launch severe violence against social movements.

“Violent clashes continue in rural areas where farmers and truck drivers have been setting up roadblocks since Monday, and the Santos administration has deployed 16,000 additional military personnel to ‘control the situation,’” Neil Martin of the Colombia-based labor solidarity organization Paso International told Common Dreams Sunday. “There have not been deaths reported in relation to this violence, but human rights organizations and YouTube videos have documented military personnel beating protestors, stealing supplies, carrying out vandalism unwarranted arrests, and generally inciting violence.”

Protesters are levying a broad range of concerns about public policies that devastate Colombia’s workers, indigenous, and Afro-Colombian communities. The US-Colombia Free Trade Agreement has forced small farmers to compete with subsidized US products, made them more vulnerable to market fluctuations, and eroded their protections and social safety nets through the implementation of neoliberal policies domestically. Farmers are demanding more protections and services in a country beset with severe rural poverty.

Meanwhile, the Colombian government is handing out sweetheart deals to international mining companies while creating bans and roadblocks for Colombian miners. Likewise, the government is giving multinational food corporations access to land earmarked for poor Colombians. Healthcare workers are fighting a broad range of reforms aimed at gutting and privatizing Colombia’s healthcare system. Truckers are demanding an end to low wages and high gas prices.

“This is the third or fourth large-scale non-military rural uprising this year,” Martin told Common Dreams.

Colombian workers organizing to improve their lives are met with an onslaught of state violence: Colombia is the deadliest country in the world for union activists, according to the AFL-CIO Solidarity Center, and 37 activists were murdered in Colombia in the 1st half of 2013 alone, leading news weekly Semana reports.

Santos, who says he refuses to negotiate while the strikes are taking place, has so far been unsuccessful in his efforts to quell the swelling protests that are paralyzing much of the country, particularly in rural areas.

“[W]e just want solutions to our problems,” Javier Correa Velez, the head of a coffee-growers association called Dignidad Cafetera, told the Miami Herald. “The strike is simply a symptom of an illness that the entire agriculture sector is suffering from.”

(Photo: Twitter/@zonacero)

_____________________

The Moment the US Ended Iran’s Brief Experiment in Democracy August 20, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Democracy, Foreign Policy, History, Imperialism, Iran.
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2 comments

 

Roger’s note: “They hate us because of our freedoms.”

Sixty years ago this week, on Aug. 19, 1953, the United States, in collaboration with Britain, successfully staged a coup in Iran to overthrow democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh that a newly declassified CIA document reveals was designed to preserve the control of Western companies over Iran’s rich oil fields.

Mohammad Mossadegh in front of the Straight of Hormuz, as seen from the international space station. (NASA/WikiMedia Commons)

The U.S. government at the time of the coup easily had manipulated Western media into denigrating Mossadegh as intemperate, unstable and an otherwise unreliable ally in the Cold War, but the real motivation for hijacking Iran’s history was Mossadegh’s move to nationalize Western-controlled oil assets in Iran. According to the document, part of an internal CIA report:

“The target of this policy of desperation, Mohammad Mosadeq, [sic] was neither a madman nor an emotional bundle of senility as he was so often pictured in the foreign press; however, he had become so committed to the ideals of nationalism that he did things that could not have conceivably helped his people even in the best and most altruistic of worlds. In refusing to bargain—except on his own uncompromising terms—with the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, he was in fact defying the professional politicians of the British government.  These leaders believed, with good reason, that cheap oil for Britain and high profits for the company were vital to their national interests.”

There you have it, the smoking gun declaration of the true intent to preserve high profits and cheap oil that cuts through all of the official propaganda justifying not only this sorry attempt to prevent Iranian nationalists from gaining control over their prized resources but subsequent blood-for-oil adventures in Iraq and Kuwait. The assumption is that “the best and most altruistic of worlds” is one that accommodates the demands of rapacious capitalism as represented by Western oil companies.

Tragically, the coup that overthrew Mossadegh also crushed Iran’s brief experiment in democracy and ushered in six decades of brutal dictatorship followed by religious oppression and regional instability. If Iran is a problem, as the United States persistently and loudly insists, it is a problem of our making. Mossadegh, who earned a doctorate in law from Neuchatel University in Switzerland, was not an enemy of the American people; he was an Iranian nationalist who as the CIA’s own internal report concedes was preoccupied with the well-being of his people as opposed to the profitability of Western oil interests.

The CIA report derides the Western media’s acceptance at the time of the coup of the demonization of all actors on the world stage that fail to follow the approved script provided by the U.S. government. As the report notes, the “complete secrecy about the operation,” breached only by leaked information, made it “relatively easy for journalists to reconstruct the coup in varied but generally inaccurate accounts.”

Without conceding responsibility for misleading the media, the report says “The point that the majority of these accounts miss is a key one: the military coup that overthrew Mosadeq [sic] and his National Front cabinet was carried out under CIA direction as an act of U.S. foreign policy, conceived and approved at the highest levels of government. It was not an aggressively simplistic solution, clandestinely arrived at, but was instead an official admission that normal, rational methods of international communication and commerce had failed. TPAJAX (the operation’s codename) was entered into as a last resort.”

Parts of the formerly top secret report, an internal CIA study from the 1970s titled “The Battle for Iran,” which detailed the CIA-directed plot, have been revealed previously. But the section disclosed Monday in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit brought by the National Security Archive is, as the archive’s research director Malcolm Byrne writes in Foreign Policy magazine, the first time the CIA admits to “using propaganda to undermine Mossadegh politically, inducing the shah to cooperate, bribing members of parliament, organizing the security forces, and ginning up public demonstrations.”

All of these actions were described in great detail by veteran CIA operative Kermit Roosevelt in a lengthy interview with me for the Los Angeles Times in 1979. Roosevelt is confirmed in the newly released documents as having the leading role in planning and executing the coup. In the interview, Roosevelt revealed his part for the first time, but instead of celebrating the success of the venture, he cautioned that it had set a terrible example.

As I summarized the conversation in the story that appeared on March 29, 1979: “Roosevelt said that the success of the operation in Iran—called Project AJAX by the CIA—so inspired then-Secretary of State John Foster Dulles that Dulles wanted to duplicate it in the Congo, Guatemala, Indonesia and Egypt, where he wanted to overthrow President Gamal Abdel Nasser. Roosevelt said that he resisted these efforts and finally resigned from the CIA because of them.”

Roosevelt, as he recounted in his memoir published five months after our interview, came away from the coup he engineered with serious concerns about the efficacy of such ventures.  But unfortunately it became the model in Vietnam, Guatemala, Cuba, Afghanistan, Nicaragua and other countries, where the full official record is apparently judged still too embarrassing for our government to declassify.

Robert Scheer

Robert Scheer is editor of Truthdig.com and a regular columnist for The San Francisco Chronicle.

U.S. will pay a price for its hypocrisy on Egypt: Siddiqui August 15, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Democracy, Egypt, Foreign Policy, Israel, Gaza & Middle East.
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Roger’s note: Haroon Siddiqui is that rare journalist who continues to speak truth to power in the corporate mass media.  Canadian readers will appreciate his scathing references to Stephen Harper.

The U.S. and its allies have been enablers of the grave crimes committed by the Egyptian military.

egypt.jpg.size.xxlarge.letterbox

Mohsen Nabil / AP Photo

Supporters of ousted president Mohammed Morsi capture an Egyptian security forces vehicle in Cairo on Aug. 14, 2013, after Egyptian police in riot gear swept in to clear their protest camp.

 

 

 

There has always been a hierarchy to the value of life. Kings mattered more than peasants. Killing continental European colonialists in Africa or the British in India brought the wrath of the empire down on the natives, who were strapped to the cannons and blown to bits by the hundreds. The contemporary era, with its spread of democracy, globalization and greater egalitarianism, raised hopes that all human beings would have equal value.

But the murder of 2,977 innocents on Sept. 11, 2001, led to the killing of at least 100,000 Muslim civilians in Afghanistan and Iraq and Pakistan. An Israeli life is deemed infinitely more valuable than that of a Palestinian. Our own government in Ottawa makes no bones about caring more about Christians in Egypt and Pakistan than Muslim victims of similar religious persecution there or in Myanmar. When the West does care about Muslims, it does so for the secular “good Muslim,” not the Islamist “bad Muslim.”

When Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s thrice-elected “Islamist” prime minister, ordered tear gas and water cannons on peaceful protesters in Istanbul, he was duly reviled. But the Egyptian army that has been firing live ammunition into peaceful “Islamist” protesters and killing them by the hundreds in the last month has only been told, politely, of our “concern.”

On July 11, Ottawa raised just such a pipsqueak “concern.” Stephen Harper’s government was more emphatic as it condemned the shooting death of a Coptic Christian priest near El Arish. “The targeting of religious leaders is unacceptable.” Following the second massacre, July 27, in which about 80 protesters were gunned down, Ottawa was “deeply concerned and appalled” — and fixated on its clarion call for respecting “religious minorities,” namely Coptic Christians.

Barack Obama was also mostly silent about the two massacres. So was David Cameron. So was much of Europe. They had refused to call the July 3 military coup a coup. In fact, John Kerry passed the perverse judgment that in toppling the elected president Mohammed Morsi, the Egyptian army was “restoring democracy.” American annual aid of $1.3 billion was to continue.

It’s only now after Wednesday’s bloody massacre of pro-Morsi protesters that Obama stirred himself to shed crocodile tears. The U.S. and its allies have been enablers of the grave crimes committed by the Egyptian military as well of the Goebbelsian lies it has been peddling.

After each official atrocity, the army has under-reported the deaths and blamed the victims, accusing them of “inciting violence,” “hoarding weapons,” “torturing people in public squares,” “fomenting terrorism” and being “a threat to national security.” It has hurled a slew of charges against Morsi — murder, treason, espionage, conspiring with Hamas, attacking and insulting state institutions, etc. It has held him incommunicado, along with several top Brotherhood leaders. It has shut down a dozen pro-Morsi TV stations, with a nary a peep from free speech advocates in the West.

The U.S., the E.U and others have also been doing the Egyptian army’s bidding by calling on “all sides” to refrain from violence when, in fact, the violence has been almost always one-sided. Western governments and media have also accused Morsi of having been unduly partisan when, in fact, he was far less so than most ruling political parties in democracies. Proportionately, he appointed far fewer dummies than, say, Harper to the Senate, or the Republicans or Democrats named friends and funders to key posts.

Morsi was inept in the extreme. But he did reach out to his opponents who simply refused to accept their repeated defeats at the polls.

It has now been credibly reported that the secular anti-Morsi forces formed an unholy alliance with Egypt’s Deep State (the army, the intelligence, the security forces, the police, the interior ministry and its paid thugs, the judiciary and the bureaucracy), along with the beneficiaries of the Hosni Mubarak era (crony capitalists and corrupt politicians) to undermine the Muslim Brotherhood government. They collaborated in mounting mass protests, in a blaze of hateful anti-Brotherhood propaganda by both the state and privately-owned media, which heralded the unproven and unprovable claims that 20 million people had taken to the streets and 22 million had signed anti-Morsi petitions. Post-coup, acute shortages of gas and electricity miraculously disappeared overnight. Law-and-order situations improved in selective neighbourhoods.

Reportedly in on the plot were the intelligence agencies of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and other oil-rich Gulf states except Qatar. They hate the Brotherhood, not so much for its Islamic ideology but the democratic threat it poses to their monarchies. They rewarded the coup with $12 billion in aid.

The army conveniently claimed that the coup was only a response to the people’s will. In turn, it has been forgiven all its sins — including the virginity tests on women protesters, and the shooting of Coptic demonstrators and running them over with armoured vehicles.

What we’ve witnessed is “fascism under the false pretence of democracy and liberalism,” said Amr Hamzawy, an Egyptian political activist and former MP.

All this will not be lost on the Muslim masses in Egypt and elsewhere. There will be a price to pay — we don’t quite know when and where and how. But as American pollster Dalia Mogahed, who has surveyed Muslim societies worldwide, says, it is useful to remind ourselves that “Al Qaeda was conceived in the prisons of Egypt and, contrary to conventional wisdom, not the caves of Afghanistan.”

Haroon Siddiqui’s column appears on Thursday and Sunday. hsiddiqui@thestar.ca

 

Any Other ‘Statesman’ Who Negotiated Peace Like John Kerry Would Be Treated as a Thief August 14, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Foreign Policy, Israel, Gaza & Middle East.
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Roger’s note: there is no other journalist reporting on the Middle East I trust more than Robert Fisk.

 

 

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (C) makes a statement with Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni (L) and Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat (R) during a press conference on the Middle East Peace Process Talks at the Department of State on July 30, 2013 in Washington, DC. Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat joined Kerry in some of the first direct talks in three years between Israel and Palestine. (Getty Images)

Has John Kerry no shame? First he cuddles up to both Palestinians and Israelis and announces the renewal of a “peace process” which the Palestinians don’t trust and the Israelis don’t want. Then Israel announces that it will build 1,200 new homes for Jews – and Jews only – on occupied Palestinian land. And now Kerry tells the Palestinians – the weak and occupied Palestinians – that they are running out of time if they want a state of their own.

 

Israel has been running rings around cowardly US administrations for decades, ignoring Washington’s squirming embarrassment every time it went for another land grab on someone else’s property.

 

Any other “statesman” involved in any other dispute who told an occupied people that if they didn’t make peace their occupiers would steal even more of their land, would be regarded as an outcast, a fellow thief, a potential criminal. But no. John Kerry announces that illegal Jewish colonies – or “settlements” as he likes to call them, along with the world’s Israel-compliant press – are “illegitimate”. I think he meant internationally “illegal”. But it doesn’t matter. In the first 10 years of the Oslo “process”, the number of Israelis living on stolen Palestinian land doubled to 400,000. No wonder Kerry muttered that Israel’s latest theft announcement was “to some degree [sic] expected”.

 

You bet it was. Israel has been running rings around cowardly US administrations for decades, ignoring Washington’s squirming embarrassment every time it went for another land grab on someone else’s property. The Oslo accords, remember, envisioned a five-year period in which Israelis and Palestinians would refrain from taking “any unilateral steps that would prejudice the outcome of the negotiations”. Israel simply ignored this. As it still does. And what does Kerry advise the Palestinians? That they should not “react adversely”!

 

This is preposterous. Kerry must know – as the UN and the EU know – that there is not the slightest chance of “Palestine” existing as a state because the Israelis have already stolen too much land on the West Bank. Anyone who drives around the occupied territories realises at once (unless they are politically blind) that there is as much chance of building a state in the West Bank – whose map of colonies and non-colonised districts looks like the smashed windscreen of a car – as there is waiting for the return of the Ottoman Empire.

 

And Kerry? He’s a man whose every statement must be colonised by the word “sic”. Take this, for example. “We have known [sic] that there was going to be a continuation of some [sic] building [sic] in certain [sic] places, and I think the Palestinians understand that.” I suppose there should be a “sic” after “understand” as well. And then Kerry tells us that “what this” – he’s talking about the land theft – “underscores, actually [sic again], is the importance of getting to the table … quickly”. In other words, do what you’re told now – or we’ll let the Israelis snatch even more of your property. In the real world, this is called blackmail.

 

“Kerry must know – as the UN and the EU know – that there is not the slightest chance of “Palestine” existing as a state because the Israelis have already stolen too much land on the West Bank.”

 

Then came the ultimate lie: that the “question of settlements” is “best resolved by solving the problem of security and borders”. Tosh. The colonies – or settlements, as Kerry goes on calling these acts of robbery – are not being taken by Israel because of “security” or “borders” but because the Israeli Right, which continues to dominate the Netanyahu administration, wants the land for itself. Many Israelis don’t. Many Israelis see the vileness of this land theft and condemn it. They deserve the peace and security which the world wishes them. But they won’t get it with colonisation, and they know it.

 

And Kerry isn’t on their side. He’s going all out for “peace” on Israeli government terms, and the Palestinians – “cabined, cribbed, confined” – have got to shut up and take what they can get. And they will be given a few small morsels. Twenty-six elderly prisoners will be handed over today. Crumbs for Mahmoud Abbas and his merry men. But more colonies for Israel, a country which hasn’t even told John Kerry – or us – where its eastern border is. On the old 1967 “green line”? Along the colony “line” east of Jerusalem? Or the Jordan river? But for Kerry, it’s “hurry, hurry, hurry”. Book your seats now, or it will be a full house. What price “Palestine”?

 

 

Robert Fisk

Robert Fisk is Middle East correspondent for The Independent newspaper.  He is the author of many books on the region, including The Great War for Civilisation: The Conquest of the Middle East.

Honduras: Where the Blood Flows and the Rivers are Dammed August 6, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in First Nations, Foreign Policy, Hillary Clinton, Honduras, Human Rights, Imperialism, Latin America.
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Roger’s note: As a life-long Latin Americanist I have taken a deep interest in the Honduras coup and have posted several analyses.  What is particularly of interest and concern to me has been the role of (former) Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (and likely Democratic Party standard bearer in 2016).  Her foreign policy stance towards Bolivia, Ecuador and especially Venezuela represents a continuation of the Bush Administration’s and the United States’ historic hegemonic relationship with Latin America, dating from the days of the Monroe Doctrine.  But the role she played in legitimizing the military coup against the democratically elected Zelaya government, takes us back to the days of gun boat diplomacy, albeit using surrogate gun boats (and one is reminded of the white washing of the coup that has just happened in Egypt).  The allies of the Clinton family and the Democratic party have had a direct role in supporting the illegitimate Honduran regime.  Here is one link: http://prospect.org/article/our-man-honduras.

 

 

Dams funded by foreign investors are threatening the cultural heritage and livelihood of Honduras indigenous peoples.

 

On July 3, Hondurans demonstrate demanding a halt to crime and violence. (Photo: EPA)

It is all too easy for one’s eyes to glaze over at the headlines of yet another murder in Honduras, the country that earned the dubious moniker of the world’s murder capital. Forty-nine year-old Tomas Garcia was shot dead on July 15, just one of thousands of victims. Violence marches on unabated as observers become desensitised to the mounting human toll, comforted by the illusion that the carnage is associated with, and perhaps even justified by anti-social behaviour, a convenient misconception that provides a buffer between us and the grief for the fallen.

Yet Garcia’s murder is not the result of unrestrained gang or narcotrafficking violence, corruption or random crime, and its inclusion as a statistic obscures his murder’s political motivation and the tragedy it leaves in its wake. The unarmed Lenca indigenous community leader was shot at close range in front of a crowd of witnesses. Garcia’s 17-year-old son Allan was seriously injured. The act was not random but was instead part of a pattern of systematic and calculated repression by Honduran authorities.

Garcia was killed because he stood at the front of a peaceful protest against the Agua Zarca hydro-electric dam, which is largely financed by foreign investors and threatens the cultural heritage and livelihood of his community.  Well aware of the danger he faced but unable to turn away from his community’s struggle, Garcia’s courageous stand leaves his widow to care for their seven children.

His assassination was preceded by escalating intimidation – threats and harassment, and menacing security personnel. Garcia’s community is resisting the hydro-electric project that was enticed by Honduras’s “open for business” slogan engineered in the wake of the coup that deposed democratically-elected president Mel Zelaya.

Indigenous communities have been objecting to the illegal sale of their territory to transnational companies who seek to extract profits by harnessing and privatising communally-owned water.  Yet in September 2010, the Honduran National Congress awarded 41 hydroelectric dam concessions, during a time when the government of Porfirio “Pepe” Lobo’s legitimacy was still questioned by the majority of Latin American governments.

A month later, a coalition of indigenous groups, including members of the Tulupanes, Pech, Miskito, Maya-Chortis, Lenca and Garifuna peoples, convened a meeting to organise in resistance to the illegal concessions, many of which were granted on indigenous territory without proper consultation and consent of the groups.

These omissions violate International Labor Organization Convention 169, which requires that “Consultation with indigenous peoples should be undertaken through appropriate procedures, in good faith, and through the representative institutions of these peoples” and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Indigenous groups have also noted that various international mechanisms designed to address climate change have contributed to the exploitation and degradation of the land for which they have served as rightful and responsible stewards for generations. These include the UN’s Clean Development Mechanism and the Program of Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries (REDD). The rights of indigenous communities to prior informed consultation and consent are being bulldozed, just like their ancestral land.

The Agua Zarca Dam project in Garcia’s community is one of the disputed concessions, part of four interconnected dams along the Gualcarque River. The project is coordinated by a partnership between the Honduran company Desarrollos Energeticos S.A. (DESA), which owns the concession, and the Sinohydro Corporation of China, which seeks to develop the hydro-electric power. The web of investor friendly legislation and support from the Lobo administration empowers the companies to violate human rights with impunity.  According to Berta Caceres, General Coordinator of the indigenous coalition COPINH (Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations) that seeks to defend indigenous territories, the companies are supported and protected by the Honduran security forces.

Lenca residents of Rio Blanco claim that the dam threatens to degrade the surrounding environment, deplete the local water supply, diminish their livelihood and destroy the spiritual connection to the land that is foundational to the community’s history and survival.  The Lenca communities are engaging in peaceful resistance to the construction by blocking the access road, action that has drawn a swift and brutal response from the government, along with a campaign to vilify the protestors.

The conflict escalated on May 23, when police ended 50 days of peaceful community resistance by forcibly removing protestors. A day later, the repression took an ominous turn when Caceres was arrested on the spurious charge of illegally possessing a weapon, shortly after she criticised the police eviction action. Although the charge was provisionally dropped following an international outcry, the local prosecutor is appealing the dismissal, and the case is far from over.

Business friendly, taken to an extreme

The Lobo administration signaled its embrace of a neoliberal development model when it convened an economic conference in May 2011, entitled “Honduras is Open for Business”. The government sought to reassure investors that risks would be minimised and profits maximised, promising unprecedented access to the country’s exploitable resources, many of which are located within indigenous territory that is subject to the protection of various international protection schemes. The intervening years have witnessed an ambitious and far-reaching legislative agenda that gives primacy to corporate rights.

Human rights observers fear that the recently passed “Law for the Promotion of Development and Reconversion of the Public Debt” will only intensify the exploitation of resources for the benefit of foreign investors and the country’s own economic elites and exacerbate the illegal dispossession of indigenous and campesino communities. The law authorises the Lobo administration to employ the nation’s natural territory and the “idle” resources it contains as collateral to investors who can then exploit concessions for future profits.

Critics of the law note that it was pushed through with little debate and even less transparency, as the details of implementation remain shrouded in secrecy. Observers contextualise the rush to pass the law in advance of November’s national presidential election as a bold effort to entrench protections for business interests, fearing that Xiomara Castro, wife of deposed president Mel Zelaya, and head of the newly formed Libre party will implement democratic reforms.  President Lobo has tacitly acknowledged as much in recent days, opining that a Libre party victory would be a disaster that would not be well received by the business community.

The Rio Blano conflict is emblematic of broader struggle

Similar struggles are percolating across Honduras as the dispossessed seek to protect their livelihoods and their lands from the agro – and business oligarchs who partner with the military and police in meting out repression for acts of resistance to their absolute power. In the Bajo Aguan, over a hundred campesinos have been killed resisting eviction by agro-oligarchs led by Dinant Corporation’s Miguel Facusse.

The Afro-Indigenous Garifuna people along the Caribbean coast are struggling to protect their land from ecotourism and “model cities” that will strip local control and displace ancestral communities.  Human rights defenders are criminalised throughout a country with a notoriously corrupt judicial system that consistently fails to vindicate their rights.

This repression reinforces centuries of historical exploitation and suffering, but occurs in the context of a surprisingly vibrant and resilient popular movement struggling for a more inclusive, participatory and egalitarian future for Honduras. As with the rest of Latin America, foreign influence is ubiquitous, and should be held to account.

International financial institutions, including multilateral development banks, provide development aid and impose structural adjustment policies that advance the neoliberal agenda. Governments provide aid to military and police who have supported the economic and political status quo and have been complicit in the repression. Counter-narcotics efforts are increasingly militarised, and private foreign investors demand obscenely favourable conditions and returns, irrespective of the human costs.

Hondurans deserve a brighter future, free from unfettered repression, intractable corruption, stark inequality and pervasive poverty. The international community must stand in solidarity with the Honduran popular movement and its courageous leaders and demand that the country’s future be determined by the free, democratic and fair election of a government that advances the interests and rights of all Hondurans, not just its economic and political elites.

Lauren Carasik is a Clinical Professor of Law and the Director of the International Human Rights Clinic and the Legal Services Clinic at Western New England University School of Law.

This American Life Whitewashes US Crimes in Central America, Wins Peabody Award August 3, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Foreign Policy, Genocide, Guatemala, Honduras, Latin America, Media.
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Saturday, 03 August 2013 02:17 By Keane Bhatt, North American Congress on Latin America | News Analysis

 

Ira Glass.Ira Glass. (Photo: Claire Asher / Flickr)Celebrating 2012’s best examples of broadcast journalism, the George Foster Peabody Awards attracted the likes of D.L. Hughley, Amy Poehler and Bryant Gumbel to the Waldorf-Astoria’s four-story grand ballroom in New York this past May. In a gaudy ceremony hosted by CBS star-anchor Scott Pelley, National Public Radio’s This American Life received the industry’s oldest and perhaps most prestigious accolade. The 16-member Peabody Board, consisting of “television critics, industry practitioners and experts in culture and the arts,” had selected a particular This American Life episode—“What Happened at Dos Erres”—as one of the winners of its 72nd annual awards on the basis of “only one criterion: excellence.”

This American Life’s host Ira Glass had once conceived of the weekly show, which reaches 1.8 million listeners each episode, as an experiment to do “the most idealistic, wide-eyed things that can do…to provide a perspective on this country that you couldn’t get elsewhere.” As is typical for the program, Glass weaved personal narratives and anecdotes together with broader context in “What Happened at Dos Erres,” which focused on a 1982 massacre of 250 Guatemalan civilians at the hands of their government’s elite military commandos—the Kaibiles.

But in his hour-long treatment of a savage period of Guatemalan history, Glass and his producers edited out essential lines of inquiry and concealed a key aspect of the bloodshed and its import for U.S. listeners: Washington’s continuous support of Guatemalan security forces—including the Kaibiles at Dos Erres—as they killed tens of thousands of largely indigenous civilians­ in 1982 alone. Moreover, by distorting the historical record, Glass performed an impressive feat of propaganda—he sensitively related Guatemalan victims’ harrowing personal stories while implying that the only fault of the United States was that it had simply not done enough to help them.

Ironically, “What Happened at Dos Erres” accomplished Glass’s longstanding goal of providing a perspective on the United States “that you couldn’t get elsewhere.” One would be hard-pressed to encounter another contemporary mainstream account of that period so thoroughly sanitized of Washington’s involvement in crimes against humanity.

During his brief 17-month rule from 1982-83, Guatemalan military dictator Efraín Rios Montt escalated to its grim apogee the state terror regularly employed during a decades-long attack on leftist insurgents, suspected sympathizers, and Mayan communities. This American Life correctly described the directives of the Army High Command’s scorched-earth campaign, in which soldiers burned farmland and homes, slaughtered animals, raped and mutilated women and children, and exterminated entire communities like the hamlet of Dos Erres. Glass concluded that state-led massacres “happened in over 600 villages” and added that an overall accounting of the larger conflict by “a truth commission found that the number of Guatemalans killed or disappeared by their own government was over 180,000.”

Glass did not mention, however, that the very same UN-sponsored truth commission also concluded in its 1999 report that the “government of the United States, through various agencies including the CIA, provided direct and indirect support for some state operations” involved in atrocities like Dos Erres. (Both The Washington Post and PBS reported this particular finding at the time.)

 

Notwithstanding This American Life’s omission, the extent of U.S. criminality in Guatemala is astonishing, as is the abundance of publicly available evidence of it. Beginning with a Central Intelligence Agency-organized coup that overthrew Guatemala’s reformist democrat, President Jacobo Arbenz, in 1954, the United States played a dominant and closely documented role in the horrors that ripped the country apart over 40 years, throughout a long chain of dictatorships.

Between 1956-61, for example, the United States trained over 600 Guatemalan military officers either on U.S. soil or within the U.S.-controlled Panama Canal Zone. By 1963, U.S. advisors were providing expertise in domestic surveillance and crowd control, while Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs Edwin Martin, in an internal document, lauded the “encouraging progress toward [the] establishment of an effective counter-subversive intelligence apparatus.”

With the help of security adviser John Longan of the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Office of Public Safety, that apparatus developed into Operación Limpieza. New York University historian and Guatemala expert Greg Grandin describes the program, created in 1966, as a consolidation of “the operations of the police and military” that allowed them to “gather, analyze, and act on intelligence in a coordinated and rapid manner” with the aid of “state-of-the-art telecommunications and surveillance equipment.” Among its first successes were the tortures and murders of dozens of leftist leaders over a three-day period in March 1966—Operación Limpieza quickly became, according to Grandin, the “cornerstone” of Guatemala’s state repression.

In September of that year, the U.S. embassy hailed Operación Limpieza’s head, Colonel Rafael Arriaga Bosque, as one of Guatemala’s “most effective and enlightened leaders”; by October 1966, he would help carry out the country’s first scorched-earth campaign, massacring eight thousand. U.S. planners were fully aware of the consequences of their ongoing assistance: in a 1968 State Department memo, Longan frankly conceded that Guatemalan security forces “will be continued to be used, as in the past, not so much as protectors of the nation against communist enslavement, but as the oligarchy’s oppressors of legitimate social change.”

Successive U.S. presidents avoided publicly labeling Guatemala a gross violator of human rights for fear that “it would be too difficult to clear a country of such a label once given,” thereby jeopardizing the resumption of military aid, according to State Department officials cited in a 1986 U.S. General Accounting Office report. Nevertheless, under Jimmy Carter’s presidency in 1977, Congress enacted a ban on military assistance to Guatemala. The legislation allowed for a loophole, however: it “did not prevent government arms deliveries previously under contract or commercial export of munitions,” the GAO found.

“While the Carter Administration at least implicitly recognized that Guatemala was a gross human rights violator,” wrote Tanya Broder and Bernard D. Lambek in the Yale Journal of International Law in 1988, “President Reagan’s desire to supply the Guatemalan military [with arms and training]” dealt a coup de grâce to any efficacy of Congressional prohibitions.

By 1982, U.S.-allied proxies such as Israel and Taiwan were tasked with arming Guatemala’s counterinsurgency forces, successfully circumventing U.S. restrictions. The CIA under Reagan also provided regular payments to top Guatemalan military leaders, and the administration illegally deployed advisers to teach Guatemalan cadets “anything our Army has,” according to Green Beret Jesse Garcia, who had arrived in the country months before the Dos Erres massacre. As reported by investigative journalist Allan Nairn, this included “ambushes, surveillance, combat arms, artillery, armor, patrolling, demolition and helicopter assault tactics.” Quoting Garcia, Nairn wrote that the United States provided expertise in “how to destroy towns.”*         

 

On the evening of December 4, 1982, just two days before the Guatemalan Kaibil commandos would initiate their Dos Erres operation, Reagan addressed reporters at an Air Force base in Honduras regarding a “useful exchange of ideas” he had just had with Rios Montt. “I know that President Rios Montt is a man of great personal integrity and commitment. I know he wants to improve the quality of life for all Guatemalans and to promote social justice,” he declared. “The United States is committed to support his efforts to restore democracy,” he said in reference to the coup perpetrator, and “my administration will do all it can to support his progressive efforts.”

In a question-and-answer period, Reagan also dismissed accusations of human rights violations committed by Rios Montt and his military: “Frankly I’m inclined to believe they’ve been getting a bum rap,” he protested. It has long since been clear that with these kinds of comments, the Reagan administration was deliberately obscuring Guatemala’s record of atrocities.

After all, following his 1980 election, two retired military leaders involved in his campaign reportedly told the Guatemalan military that “Mr. Reagan recognizes that a good deal of dirty work has to be done.” According to national-security documents unearthed by investigative journalist Robert Parry at the Reagan Library, the United States knew of Guatemala’s longstanding efforts to annihilate leftists’ “civilian support mechanisms.” And nine days before Reagan downplayed allegations of Rios Montt’s criminality for journalists, a State Department report noted, “our Embassy recently informed us of a new, apparently well-founded allegation of a large-scale killing of Indian men, women and children in a remote area by the Guatemalan Army.”

 

Given Reagan and Rios Montt’s close collaboration, along with a Guatemalan judge’s finding of “sufficient evidence tying Rios Montt to the Las Dos Erres massacre,” it seemed obvious that This American Life would touch upon Reagan’s culpability in the course of an hour-long episode dedicated to the atrocity. Indeed, Glass appeared to indicate a willingness to do so, when early in the program he boasted:

OK, before we dive into this story, just a quick history review. Now, I myself was the kind of insufferable, politically correct person who was obsessed with Latin America back in the 1980s. I called Nicaragua “Neek-ar-ah-wah,” and actually went to Nicaragua for a month during the fifth anniversary of the Sandinista revolution. I traveled in Guatemala during the civil war. You, however, might be what we call a normal person and didn’t do any of that.

 

Yet Glass’s history review for “normal people” completely excluded U.S. involvement in violations of international humanitarian law, despite the on-air appearance of researcher Kate Doyle of the National Security Archives, who specializes in declassified U.S. documents. He introduced her early in the episode and focused on an inane line of questioning regarding her personal “list of the ranking of most f’ed up countries” in Central America. As she related to me by phone, the program scrapped much of the rest of her in-studio discussion, in which she highlighted Washington’s participation in atrocities.

In its zeal to avoid all mention of active U.S. assistance in Dos Erres, This American Life also excluded content from its own media partner, ProPublica, which published a written article that coincided with the radio program. ProPublica’s account highlighted the case of Kaibil sergeant Pedro Pimentel, sentenced in 2012 to 6,060 years in prison for his role in the atrocities. Directly after the operation, he was spirited away by helicopter from Dos Erres to the School of the Americas, the U.S. military’s infamous training center for Latin American security forces, where he went on to serve as an instructor. (The School of the Americas had trained Rios Montt in 1950, and would in 1985 train Guatemala’s current president Otto Pérez Molina, who, as a Kaibil field commander, likely committed atrocities himself.)

When asked about such omissions by email, Glass replied, “I certainly know that history,” and admitted that he had talked “to Kate Doyle about U.S. participation in Guatemala.” Nonetheless, he and his co-producers “decided not to get into that in the program simply because we felt like we were throwing a lot of facts and history at our listeners and were worried about how much people could absorb.” He added, “It was a judgment call. And maybe we made the wrong call.”

Retrospection aside, his answer was disingenuous. While it was true that the words “Reagan,” “Jacobo Arbenz,” “School of the Americas” or “CIA” were never uttered in the hour-long broadcast, Glass and his co-producers did not simply omit context. They went one step further, by affirmatively—and falsely—framing the U.S. government as a negligent bystander whose only sin was a reluctance to speak out.

He claimed in the episode, for example, that “Embassy officials heard lots of reports about the Army massacring whole villages throughout Guatemala, which they dismissed,” until, “at the urging of the State Department back in Washington,” they went to “see for themselves if the stories were true.” This American Life’s harshest indictment is that, despite years of repeated massacres after Dos Erres, “the U.S. knew about it but stood by.”

If Glass worried about inundating listeners with too many facts, I asked in a follow-up email, “why did you introduce the factual claim that ‘the U.S. knew about [the ongoing killings] but stood by?’” And how could this characterization possibly be reconciled with his previous email’s description of “U.S. participation” in war crimes?

Glass did not respond.

 

In October 2011, Barack Obama echoed Reagan’s soaring, mendacious, 30-year-old script for his Central American ally. Having invited Honduran President Porfirio Lobo to the White House, Obama thanked him for his “strong commitment to democracy and leadership.” Lobo’s “restoration of democratic practices and a commitment to reconciliation,” said Obama, gave him “great hope.” It would have been impolite, of course, to publicly acknowledge that Lobo had presided over state security forces, trained and financed with millions of U.S.-taxpayer dollars annually, that had killed and continue to kill Honduran civilians as a matter of routine.

Given This American Life’s conformity to official U.S. doctrine regarding Guatemala, it was to be expected that a subsequent half-hour segment on Honduras titled “Some Like It Dot,” which aired in early 2013, would in no way upset the official narrative set by President Obama. The episode predictably excluded crucial, if inconvenient, political context as it centered on the attempt to develop “charter cities” in Honduras—swaths of land to be ceded to international investors and developed into autonomous cities, with their own police forces, taxes, labor codes, trade rules, and legal systems.

Although the show dutifully included a warning by Princeton economist Angus Deaton, who described charter cities as a “reintroduction of colonialism,” This American Life nonetheless enthusiastically portrayed the messianic vision of University of Chicago-trained economist Paul Romer as an exciting solution to Honduran “corruption and chaos and violence.”

That very “corruption and chaos and violence,” This American Life failed to inform its listeners, exploded as a result of a 2009 coup d’etat against the country’s left-leaning, democratically elected leader, President Manuel Zelaya. Strong circumstantial evidence implicates the United States in his ouster. The early-morning plane that spirited the pajama-attired president and his family to Costa Rica, for example, stopped to refuel at the U.S. military base of Palmerola. U.S. officials also acknowledged that they were in discussions with the Honduran military (many of whose leaders were trained at the School of the Americas) up until the very day it deposed Zelaya.

What is known beyond any doubt is Washington’s vigorous efforts in 2009 to bolster the coup government of Roberto Micheletti, and to legitimize the repressive sham elections held under that regime. With the dubious transfer of power from Micheletti to Porfirio Lobo in 2010, the ultimate success of Zelaya’s removal was guaranteed. Unsurprisingly, neither the coup, its consequences, nor Washington’s involvement appeared in This American Life’s episode.

Other than Romer, the episode’s main protagonist was Lobo’s chief of staff, Octavio Sánchez. Besides being the leading Honduran advocate for charter cities, Sánchez was one of the most strident champions of the coup. Writing in The Christian Science Monitor just days after the elected president was removed from the country at gunpoint, Sánchez characterized the event as “nothing short of the triumph of the rule of law,” and urged readers not to “believe the coup myth.” This American Life could not be bothered to point out this fact, or Sánchez’s profound cynicism, preferring instead to describe him as the country’s idealistic “national dreamer.”

In his defense, Ira Glass wrote by email: “What interested our…reporters in that story was the relationship between Octavio Sanchez and Paul Romer, and what it said about the ability of outsiders to come into a country with a development scheme like Romer was suggesting.” Though he claimed his reporters “were well aware of the broader politics of Honduras,” This American Life wanted nothing to do with it. “I think another reporter could make a totally interesting and valid story going into more of the politics you’re talking about, but that simply wasn’t the focus of what we were doing.”

By coding the crux of the debate around charter cities as extraneous “politics,” Glass was able to evade it. But the fact remains: the imposition of “development schemes” by “outsiders” on Honduras would be considered impossible if the overthrow of its democratically elected leader and the resulting decimation of its sovereignty had not occurred.

In response to Glass’s attempt to narrowly circumscribe “the focus of what we were doing,” I raised another question: if Octavio Sánchez’s vigorous coup defense was too far afield from This American Life’s preferred subject matter, was it relevant to the show’s narrative that the most prominent Honduran opponent of charter cities, Antonio Trejo, was murdered in a death-squad-style assassination in September 2012?

Yet again, Glass remained silent.

 

In the 1980s, when U.S. officials were most viciously engaged in Central America’s political violence, they could rely on media outlets as their reliable partners. Journalist Allan Nairn noted in a 1999 interview with Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting that during the period of Guatemalan genocide, “the big corporate press in the U.S. was not covering the U.S. role at all”—it was “barely covering the fact that the mass killings were taking place.” So in addition to condemning the U.S. government, he concluded that “the press also has blood on its hands.”

This American Life’s “What Happened at Dos Erres” mimicked some of the most propagandistic media behaviors of the 1980s. Its producers prohibited even a single sentence from reaching millions of U.S. listeners regarding the murderous policies of their own elected officials, executed with their tax dollars and in their name. It also bolstered the specious intellectual framework for greater U.S. intervention throughout the world on “humanitarian” grounds, by inventing the historical figment that the United States “stood by” in the face of Guatemalan violence. Months later, with remarkable continuity, This American Life concealed for U.S. listeners their relationship to the seemingly far-flung and senseless violence of Honduras.

This American Life’s journalistic misconduct is manifold: First, Ira Glass unreservedly acknowledged that both he and his co-producers were fully aware of the politics of both Guatemala and Honduras. Second, he clearly stated that they deliberately chose to omit them for their U.S. audience (and in the case of Guatemala, they disseminated a pure fabrication). Third, their motivation for suppressing the U.S. government’s hand in the barbarity of the two countries stems from either a disdain for their listeners—Glass condescendingly “worried about how much [history and facts] people could absorb”—or from their willingness to perpetuate Washington’s flattering self-image.

Whatever This American Life’s rationale may be, its two episodes on Central America prove that Glass’s earlier aspiration to do “the most idealistic, wide-eyed things that journalism can do” has been extinguished. Given the generalized dishonesty of the U.S. media and intellectual class, it’s no surprise that Peabody’s “experts in culture and the arts” rewarded the show for its excellence. But this accolade should not distract anyone from the reality that This American Life’s compelling storytelling can in no way be confused with ethical journalism.

* Allan Nairn, “Despite Ban, U.S. Captain Trains Guatemalan Military,” Washington Post, October 21, 1982, page 1

Update (7/29): I spoke with the media watch group Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting on its weekly radio program CounterSpin about This American Life‘s coverage of Central America. My segment can be listened to here. Our conversation touched upon the excellent work of Kevin Young in the latest NACLA Report on the Americas. His piece, “Washing U.S. Hands of the Dirty Wars: News Coverage Erases Washington’s Role in State Terror,” contextualizes the broader trends of the establishment media: The New York Times, The Washington Post, and National Public Radio reported on U.S. support for Latin American dictatorships in only 6% of their coverage from 2008-2013.

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