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Jaks View from Vancouver

Tuesday, April 30, 2002

The Good Old Cars

Neither my wife nor I own cars. I gave mine up back in 1991 and I haven't missed it a day since. Way back in those days, there were only two automobiles I ever really coveted -- a Jaguar XJ6 and a Lincoln Town Car. There were several times when I could have bought either one but didn't -- preferring, I guess, to remain covetous.

I have no intention of getting a car anytime soon. However, I was interested -- actually, amazed -- to read in Ad Age that the median age of a Lincoln Town Car buyer is 70 years old. It's been around a long time and has a loyal following, I guess. It also makes it less surprising that 66-year old Dennis Hopper is the marketing spokesperson for the brand.

Lincoln Town Car

Lincoln spent $90 million selling itself to us last year. This year's tag is: "There are those who travel. And those who travel well." However, as ad industry skeptics are already pointing out, that emotion-less slogan won't cut it and will soon be changed.

The better news I got from this story is that the Lincoln Navigator, with which I fell in love last summer when I looked one over as we shared the Arrow Lake Ferry, has a median aged buyer of only 49. That means buying one should make me feel a little younger.

That is, if I wanted a car.

Washington's Zero-Some Game

Following hard on the heels of the disaster called the War on (Some) Drugs, the U.S. Administration finds itself enmeshed in its War on (Some) Terrorism.

The War on Some Drugs -- in which a zero tolerance for the use of some drugs is the excuse for a multi-billion dollar paramilitary civilian surveillance and incarceration aparatus, while the heavily advertized use of some other death-producing drugs funds political campaigns, government treasuries and rich folks' bank accounts -- has signally failed to deliver any of the law enforcement benefits that have been promised over and over again by the law-and-order-PAC-funded politicos and their tobacco-and-booze-funded allies.

The War on Some Terrorism is fraught with similar dangers. The U.S., for example, has declared a zero tolerance policy for terrorism. However, they have also consistently refused to define "terrorism" and can therefore rule somerthing in or out of scope at the whim of an unelected and unaccountable official like Donald Rumsfeld or John Ashcroft. (An aside -- "unelected and unaccountable" sounds like the job description of most dictators.) Would the Contras with their penchant for slaughtering peasants in their villages be consider terrorists? Or would they be called, like the Reagan-era Taliban, "freedom fighters" by the President and thus exempted -- like tobacco and whiskey -- from persecution? Moreover, this War on Some Terrorism is once again the backdrop to a huge expansion of the security forces and their vast panoply of otherwise unproductive weaponry and intelligence gathering.

The similarities between these "Wars" is frightening, and the failures of the former will doubtless be matched by the failures of the latter with unimaginable consequences for huge numbers of people around the globe.

The Rule of Law ... At Last

In a move of real significance, the British military has announced that they will no longer turn over al-Qaida or Taliban prisoners captured in Afghanistan to the Americans. Instead, they will be treated to full combatant POW status under the Geneva Conventions and delivered to Afghani authorities.

We can be grateful that not all the "allies" are willing to flout international law just to satisfay Washington.

Palestine Daily Log

Racism is the targeting of individuals of an identifiable national or racial group not because of what the individuals have done but simply because of their membership in the identifiable racial or national group.

Israel -- that supposed beacon of freedom and democracy in the Middle East -- is planning to strengthen its already heavily racist citizenship policies. Instead of trying to bring ordinary working Palestinians into the mainstream of democratic Israeli society, yet more barriers are to be placed in front of any peaceful Palestinian in Israel who is seeking his or her civil rights. Specifically, the Interior Ministry is "formulating a new plan to limit the number of Palestinians eligible for Israeli citizenship through marriage to Israeli nationals ... The immediate recommendations included in the new plan - the continued freezing of thousands of Arab citizenship requests that have already been submitted, and a refusal to accept any new requests." Peaceful, hardworking Palestinians with no ties to terror groups and living in Israel are subject to racist legislation.

Yesterday, the Israeli government, using the same Saddam-esque excuses, once again refused to accept the UN committee of inquiry into the assault on Jenin. And they wonder why we think they have something to hide?

Overnight, two Palestinians were killed by IOF fire near the occupation settlement of Kfar Darom. From the beginning of the renewed Intifada on 29th September, 2000, until now (6:00am PDT April 30th, 2002), the total number of Palestinians killed is 1,494. In the same period, 462 Israelis were killed. This year so far, 583 Palestinians and 213 Israelis have been killed.

[Until international verification is possible, getting definitive numbers of Palestinian dead in Jenin is problematic. The number of Palestinian dead shown here includes a nominal number of 100 for Jenin which will be adjusted once the bodies can be counted.]

Monday, April 29, 2002

Slippery Slopes

In the comments section of the previous item, Mary Madigan's WhatAreTheySaying? blog of quotes is accused of taking those quotes out context and thereby misusing them. I haven't followed enough of the links to talk about that one way or another. What I can speak to however is her trashing of the religious beliefs of much of the world.

In a part of her site entitled "Morons on Parade", Ms Madigan includes a quote from Dr Karen Davis of the animal rights' group United Poultry Concerns that fairly represents a letter Dr Davis wrote to the Vegan Voice. The quote in question is as follows:
"In conclusion, I think it is speciesist to think that the September 11 attack on the World Trade Center was a greater tragedy than what millions of chickens endured that day and what they endure every day because they cannot defend themselves against the concerted human appetites arrayed against them."
I am not about to defend Dr Davis' analogy (which, given the temper of the times was at best unwise), but I can defend her right to state publicly a religious perspective that is shared by billions of Buddhists, Hindus and Jains around the world. It may seem strange to you, Mary, that a majority of the earth's population believe that all sentient beings share certain rights, including that of life. But it is certainly no stranger than, say, a belief in a virgin birth or a bodily resurrection after death.

I hold no brief for any religion, I damn them all equally. But I also hold no brief for calling someone else's religious beliefs "moronic". Down that road lies discrimination and persecution.

Palestine Daily Log

The Israeli government has halted the Jenin inquiry team once again; they still don't like the composition of the committee. These cynical manouvres to avoid the truth are cheered by the Israel-at-any-cost bunch of warbloggers. They are, of course, exactly the same tactics used by Saddam Hussein over the last four years to avoid UN inspection teams. These tactics, when used by Saddam, have been villified by those very same warbloggers. Can anyone spell "situational ethics"?

The Israeli occupation forces have launched a new incursion into Hebron today. Nine Palestinians were killed in the initial assault. Also, a Palestinian militant was killed by a sniper as he emerged from the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. IOF reports originally said he had been shooting with a weapon, but they were forced to retract those stories.

From the beginning of the renewed Intifada on 29th September, 2000, until now (5:00am PDT April 29th, 2002), the total number of Palestinians killed is 1,492. In the same period, 462 Israelis were killed. This year so far, 581 Palestinians and 213 Israelis have been killed.

[Until international verification is possible, getting definitive numbers of Palestinian dead in Jenin is problematic. The number of Palestinian dead shown here includes a nominal number of 100 for Jenin which will be adjusted once the bodies can be counted.]

Sunday, April 28, 2002

A New MADness

Douglas Turnbull has suggested a new form of nuclear deterence designed to meet modern threats. After explaining his idea, he writes, "I’d certainly be interested to hear why I’m crazy to suggest this." Unfortunately his site has no comments feature and so I am obliged to respond here.

Turnbull describes the Cold War theory of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD), which successfully kept the massive nuclear arsenals of the United States and the Soviet Union locked down and unused. He goes on to make the case that MAD doesn't work in today's world where only one superpower exists. Specifically, MAD means nothing in any battle against the threats posed by international terrorism. So far I agree with him completely. Unfortunately, Turnbull goes on to suggest a solution to this problem:
"... the question then becomes what can we threaten with nuclear weapons which would deter a radical Islamic terrorist? Perhaps it’s an inaccurate psychological read, but it seems to me that a threat of retaliation against Mecca ... could be a viable deterrent. Would a radical Muslim be willing to trade half of Manhattan for all of Mecca? My guess is no.
There are so many problems with this idea, I could write about them for hours. But I'll limit myself to just three.

First, such a threat can only be effective while those threatened do not themselves have nuclear weapons. It would take just one breakthrough, one successful manufacture, for the terrorists to turn the threat back upon the United States. "You nuke Mecca, then we nuke New York .... and Los Angeles ... and Washington ... " Would a U.S. President be willing to trade scores of millions of American dead for the pleasure of blowing Mecca to dust? My guess is no.

Second, and similar to the first, what if the international terrorists simply called your bluff even without having nukes of their own? What if they killed 10,000 in New York, shrugged at the destruction of Mecca, and went on to kill 10,000 in Boston, and 10,000 in Houston, and on and on. In other words, if nuking Mecca is the highest threat you can make, what happens if that isn't enough?

Finally, and this is key, the solution is based on an inaccurate assumption. The Turnbull quote I gave above is actually preceded by the following clause: "Given that the international terrorist problem is wholly an Islamic problem, ..." I am not going to get into a contentious debate about who is and who isn't a terrorist, but I doubt I would get too much flak for suggesting that the major narcotics gangs and their huge armies are international terrorists of a very large order (for example, the war in Colombia that extends to the streets of North America, and influences coups and military manouevres throughout Latin America) and few if any of them are Muslim.

I cannot believe that either FARC or the narco-cartels would give a damn if Mecca stands or falls, and yet it is groups such as these which have the money and the land and the utter ruthlessness necessary to gather the resources for such a project. To ignore them as Turnbull does would be a major mistake.

The Need To End NATO Now

It has been a couple of months since I last wrote about the need for NATO to be dissolved, and time has certainly not reduced the urgency with which this issue should be faced. The catalyst is the continuing project of the unification of Europe. Whatever you may read about the political difficulties and public disputes surrounding European union, this project is moving apace. It is happening under US auspices, on US terms, exclusively for US purposes; and the United States is using NATO to accomplish it.

Current rightwing pinup Victor Davis Hanson is entirely wrong when he writes in a recent National Review that "Europeans ... are going to learn that their real fears are not that we wish to control them, work with them, influence them, or corrupt them, but rather that we simply prefer to forget about them." Quite the opposite is about to happen. If current plans go ahead, in Prague this November, seven eastern European countries - Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Slovenia, Slovakia, Bulgaria and Romania will be invited to join NATO. Others -- Croatia, Macedonia and Albania -- will line up, anticipating their turn will come soon. As U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage told a NATO conference in Bucharest earlier this month, the U.S. is "looking to the widest possible accession" in November. In a message sent to the same meeting, Bush himself made the policy clear: "In Prague our nations will take a historic step toward removing the last divisions of Europe."

In other words, through an expanded, US-controlled NATO, Europe will be united despite the Europeans.

After the meeting in Prague, yet more countries, such as Ukraine and Georgia, will edge closer to NATO membership. It is not impossible that Prague will also see Russia itself drawn into associate membership. At that point, NATO will enclose the entire northern hemisphere, and it will all be under the exclusive control of U.S. military command. Independent foreign policy backed by independent military capability will have disappeared for a score or more of nations.

It is vital therefore that the leaders of Europe wake up to the dangers and get themselves together before November. As European Commission President Romano Prodi has said, "It is about Europe standing on its own feet and not letting someone else dictate our agenda.” And not just in matters of diplomacy. If it is true, as I am sure we all assume to be the case, that foreign policy is somehow connected to domestic public opinion, then this de facto control of Greater Europe’s defense and foreign policy by the United States will soon require internal regulation as well to ensure that the resistance in, say, Tuscany and Bavaria to a policy made in Washington, D.C. does not get out of hand.

European opinions on the Middle East, Africa and Iraq are already ignored. If the Europeans don't stand up to the United States over NATO, full colonial status will not then be far behind.

Palestine Daily Log

The United Nations is reported to have agreed to Israel's blackmailing terms on the immunity of IOF soldiers from any prosecutions regardless of what they tell the Jenin investigation committee. The Israelis also want the committee to investigate the growth of suicide bombings emanating from Jenin. Will they give the same guarantee of immunity to any Palestinians who testify? I won't hold my breath!

I find no reports of casualties since the last Log. From the beginning of the renewed Intifada on 29th September, 2000, until now (7:30am PDT April 28th, 2002), the total number of Palestinians killed is 1,482. In the same period, 462 Israelis were killed. This year so far, 571 Palestinians and 213 Israelis have been killed.

[Until international verification is possible, getting definitive numbers of Palestinian dead in Jenin is problematic. The number of Palestinian dead shown here includes a nominal number of 100 for Jenin which will be adjusted once the bodies can be counted.]

Saturday, April 27, 2002

A (Way Too) Short Diversion

Well, it is impossible to hide the disappointment. Losing four straight games after thrashing Detroit in games one and two is a tough hit.

Detroit definitely deserved games three and four, outplaying the Canucks in every department, I thought. In the last two games, it was all Canucks defensive errors and an inability for the top line to finish their scoring moves. I thought Matt Cooke was consistently the brightest spark for Vancouver, and I was very pleased to see the development of the Sedin twins.

Shame to be out of the playoffs in the first round. But Vancouver is a pretty young team and we'll be all the better next season.

Ahhh, yes: Timbuktoo!

Timbuktoo sign

More than thirty years ago, I sat for several months in a downtrodden Saharan garrison town called Zagora hoping to catch a ride with a Taureg camel train heading for Timbuktoo. It was my dream. However, it was high summer, the season when camel trains don't operate but I didn't know that at the time. I never made it across the desert and eventually found myself back in Marrakech and the more usual hippy haunts of late 60s Morocco. Later, in the 1980s, I spent two more years working in Africa and my dreams of getting to Timbuktoo never faded. By then, unfortunately, Mali was no place to be, with coups and ethnic tensions making life dangerous for residents and tourists alike.

I've still not made it there, but I know my dream has been shared with other roadies. I've sat in bars all over the world talking to travellers of my own vintage, and whenever I tell them the Zagora story, they invariably get a faraway look in their eye, nod their heads with understanding, and whisper, "Ahhhh, yes: Timbuktoo."

This rather discursive beginning is by way of introducing a fascinating article in the International Herald Tribune concerning modern day Mali.

In June, President Alpha Oumar Konare will complete his second term, handing over power to a new President who is to be elected in voting that begins this Sunday and continues to a runoff on May 12th. It will be the first truly peaceful transfer of power since Mali gained its independence from France in 1960, an important step for any new country. President Konare, having brought peace and a somewhat more equitable distribution of economic resources across the nation, seems genuinely popular.
"In every sector I've seen enormous improvement - in education, health, privatization of state industry, infrastructure," the leader of a Western aid agency with long experience in Mali said when asked to assess Konare's legacy. "The one area I would fault him with is failing to do anything about corruption."
Konare grants that corruption remains a problem. "Corruption is not something new," he said. "Democracy is simply making it more visible."

There are fears that Konare's undoubted popularity combined with the nation's lack of democratic history will lead the President to somehow manipulate the vote to retain power. Konare "smiled when he was asked if he wanted to keep power. 'I think I can do a lot as an ex-president to help the fragile democracy by simply being an adviser,' he said."

And what of my dream town, Timbuktoo?
"Compared to the bad old days of the 1990s, things are looking up in Timbuktu. The Tuareg rebellion is over, tourists are back, and a new airport and a cyber cafe are easing the isolation of this city on the edge of the Sahara that did not get television until 1996 and still does not take credit cards."
Well, maybe someday soon.

Timbuktoo market
This picture of a Timbuktoo marketplace is from a collection at: http://www.galen-frysinger.org/timbuktu.htm

Palestine Daily Log

With a brilliant response, Jim at Objectionable Content has struck a blow against the blatant race-hatred of a grotesque Libertarian Samizdat post. It has to do with the number of Palestinian children killed, and why, and is best read as written by Jim. Check it out.

As Israeli operations move into a new phase, stories from the massive raids continue to develop. Suzanne Goldberg opens her description of one village's story as follows:
"Arif Said Ahmed's life ended at 5.05am on April 9 when two Israeli helicopter gunships soared over the hillside, firing a rocket at him and his cousin Naif as they walked home from morning prayers. The helicopters returned, firing their machine guns for several terrifying minutes as Arif's wife, Samira, stumbled out to their bodies with her infant daughter. Mother and daughter were saved from serious injury by her brother Farooq, who flung himself over them. A bullet pierced his side and fragments ripped his leg. That was the beginning of the invasion of Dura, a village south-west of Hebron."
Overnight, two Palestinian gunmen dressed in IDF uniforms entered the occupation settlement of Adura and killed four Israeli civilians. From the beginning of the renewed Intifada on 29th September, 2000, until now (5:00am PDT April 27th, 2002), the total number of Palestinians killed is 1,482. In the same period, 462 Israelis were killed. This year so far, 571 Palestinians and 213 Israelis have been killed.

[Until international verification is possible, getting definitive numbers of Palestinian dead in Jenin is problematic. The number of Palestinian dead shown here includes a nominal number of 100 for Jenin which will be adjusted once the bodies can be counted.]

Friday, April 26, 2002

Palestine Daily Log

The Ha'aretz newspaper today includes an extraordinary Op-Ed piece that reviews the history of the Zioinist experiment, arguing that it is a good thing threatened by the actions of the current Zionist government. It ends as follows:
"What went wrong, and now threatens to undermine that enormous Zionist accomplishment to the point of endangering the actual enterprise, is that the Jewish state broke the rules of the game. It ceased behaving as a rational state. The ideological hooliganism (in the original sense of the term birionut, from the tragic last days of the Second Temple), and the false messianism that now shape Israel's policies - Minister Effi Eitam is their ultimate personification - seek to drag the Jewish people outside of history, sending it reeling backward into the realms of the meta-historic. There, it is not a state's power - nor the limits of its power - that dictate its fate. Nor do strategy or diplomacy govern in those realms. Those are the realms of the irrational, of the supernatural, the miraculous, and the metaphysical; the realms of evil spirits, of hatred, fanaticism - and anti-Semitism. This is the world of Bashevis Singer. And that is where the post-Zionist, nationalist-religious camp wants to take the Jewish people.

With macabre timing, on the day that le Pen restored dark and irrational French anti-Semitism to its former glory, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, drunk with his victory over Jenin, proclaimed that he would never dismantle a single settlement. Not even the most isolated and indefensible of them. Nor would he ever discuss the subject in his government. Forever and ever, until eternity. Amen."
Combined with today's editorial which dissects the economic irrationality of holding onto the Occupied Territories, this article should be required reading.

The Israeli government has now given permission for the Jenin inquiry to begin but only on the basis that no criminal charges can ever be laid against any Israeli who testifies. In other words, Israel wants any crimes of any sort that are discovered to be forgiven in advance. It will not be lost on anyone that this "forgiveness" is only available to Israelis: Any Palestinian who tells the committee that he threw a rock or fired a rifle at the invaders has to take his chances, while any Israeli who admits to crimes against humanity will be let off scot-free. This is the ultimate arrogance based on Big Brother's protection and concurrence in their acts of violence.

Overnight, two Palestinians were killed by the IOF in Qalqilyah. From the beginning of the renewed Intifada on 29th September, 2000, until now (6:00am PDT April 26th, 2002), the total number of Palestinians killed is 1,482. In the same period, 458 Israelis were killed. This year so far, 571 Palestinians and 209 Israelis have been killed.

[Until international verification is possible, getting definitive numbers of Palestinian dead in Jenin is problematic. The number of Palestinian dead shown here includes a nominal number of 100 for Jenin which will be adjusted once the bodies can be counted.]

Thursday, April 25, 2002

Where Is Africa?

I haven't done any research on this yet, but it just seems to me that, with limited exceptions, the continent of Africa has essentially disappeared. I read an awful lot of news each day in an attempt to keep up, and my perception is that I just don't hear about Africa at all.

The exceptions should be noted first, perhaps. South Africa is still a news item, peripherally. I suspect that once Mandela dies, it too will slip from view. North Africa (usually thought of as a bloc) gets the occasional mention, especially as the civil war in Algeria produces horrific numbers of civilian casualties, and Qaddafi is good for a quote or two once in a while. Egypt, again, is separate, linked inextricably to the Middle East in the minds of most editors and readers. And that's it.

The rest is the Zone of Brutal Strangeness, from Senegal and Liberia clean down to Mozambique and Madagascar, crossing Congo, Somalia, Zimbabwe, Kenya and all the others on the way. This is an undifferentiated Zone where undifferentiated black people do horrible things to other undifferentiated black people. Or so the mass media would have us believe. They have decided that most of the continent is unworthy of coverage (except, of course, where white farmers or western oil companies are threatened.) What little they do show fixates on the Brutal Strangeness of it all.

And in this vacuum of real information the corporations and their crony black dictators continue to devastate nations with their vicious exploitation and grandiose corruption, western export Ministries continue to peddle bad debts against trade, and arms dealers of every stripe pry billions from starving fingers.

It is time once again to shine a light on to the Dark Continent.

Palestine Daily Log

Overnight, four Palestinian militants were killed in action at the occupation settlement of Kfar Darom, and another was killed by IDF fire at Dir al-Balakh, both in the Gaza Strip. A Palestinian security officer was killed by IDF units in action at Beit Cahil near Hebron, and another militant was killed on an attack on a military checkpoint north of Jerusalem.

From the beginning of the renewed Intifada on 29th September, 2000, until now (5:00am PDT April 25th, 2002), the total number of Palestinians killed is 1,480. In the same period, 458 Israelis were killed. This year so far, 569 Palestinians and 209 Israelis have been killed.

[Until international verification is possible, getting definitive numbers of Palestinian dead in Jenin is problematic. The number of Palestinian dead shown here includes a nominal number of 100 for Jenin which will be adjusted once the bodies can be counted.]

Wednesday, April 24, 2002

Three Time Losers Try Again

There are signs in Venezuela that the crisis is far from over. The immediate confrontation will take place both in Congress -- where Chavez's foes will try to overturn his progressive economic reforms -- and in the streets during a May 1st demonstration called by the anti-Chavez opposition led by big business and their crony corrupt unions. It seems certain that the same oligarchic powers will try to complete what they failed to do two weeks ago.

The main participants in the drama of 11-A are already in denial, preparing for the future. An AP despatch says: "Army officers brought to court for their role in the coup against President Hugo Chavez called the decision a humanitarian act to prevent the slaughter of civilians by soldiers acting on Chavez's orders." Gen. Efrain Vasquez Velasco, the army's former second-in-command, "acted out of respect for human rights, respect for the law,'' said Vasquez's lawyer, Rene Buroz. Army Gen. Nestor Gonzalez has defended the coup as "a humanitarian act meant to avoid having the army attack the people and produce a massacre.''

Pedro Carmona, the interim "President" now under house arrest, like his American masters denies there even was a coup. He prefers to call it a "vacuum of power." He and his people "will continue the struggle,'' he says. In another interview with the Miami Herald at the end of last week, given while serving house arrest in his apartment in the wealthy gated complex of La Arbolada suburb, Carmona denied ever plotting to oust Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, saying he never suggested the idea to U.S. officials in Washington or Caracas. ''I was not involved in any conspiracy,'' Carmona said. "I cannot accept any conjecture or soap operas. I categorically deny it.'' He accepts that he was at two U.S. Embassy meetings where the coup was discussed, but claims he never mentioned the coup. "There was no premeditation, no conspiracy," he tells the Guardian.

Carmona's assertions make no sense when tracked with his known meetings with U.S. officials where, it has already been admitted, details of the coup were discussed. Organization of American States officials, for example, have told British media that legendary Latin American coupmaster and Assistant Secretary of State Otto Reich had "a number of meetings with Carmona and other leaders of the coup" over several months. "The coup was discussed in some detail," the paper claims. "right down to its timing and chances of success, which were deemed to be excellent." Reich readily concedes that the U.S. encouraged the demonstrations that led to the coup,

"There's no secret that President Chavez has had a rule that has been controversial and was not met with widespread popular support within Venezuela or among his neighbors and certainly in the United States with President Bush," White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said. He denied, once again though, that the United States had any active dealings with the coup. However, the known involvement of U.S. personnel in the coup is growing daily. Already by last Thursday, the U.S. Embassy in Caracas was obliged to admit that the Military Attache met with the coup plotters just hours before they overthrew the legally instituted government. The claim at that time was that the attaches had heard of unusual troop movements at Fort Tiuna and went to the fort to find out what was going on but "they never left the car and there was no contact whatsoever," the Embassy spokesman said.

However, a military source in Venezuela said earlier that US army Lt-Col James Rodgers, an aide to the US military attache, was present at Fort Tiuna in Caracas from before Chavez was taken there after the coup until the self-proclaimed provisional government fell apart. Some Venezuelan military officers saw his presence as a green light from Washington to unseat Chavez. "They were assured that the movement had the full support of the US and that was why they participated."

Venezuelan charge d'affaires in Washington, Luis Herrera Marcano, wrote in the Ultimas Noticias newspaper on Sunday that "on the morning of April 12 after Chavez's fall but before Carmona was sworn in the embassy had a call from Phillip Chicola, the state department's point man on Venezuela, saying that Washington 'understands and sympathises' with changes in the country." Marcano wrote that Chicola told him that Washington believed it was necessary for the national assembly to ratify Chavez's resignation and for the Venezuelan supreme court to give "its stamp of approval". This was hand-holding of a very intimate nature, and the fact that the plotters decided not to take advice does not take away from the fact that coup advice was given in the first place.

Larry Birns, director of the Council of Hemispheric Affairs opined that "there isn't a single political person in Latin America who does not believe that the CIA was involved in some form, and in the same way, as it was in Chile. Those responsible for Latin America in the state department are the most extremist, off-the-wall team - seven out of the top 12 officials in the Latin-American department are Cuban-Americans." Otto Reich, for instance.

In January this year, in a recess appointment that saved the appointee from Congressional scrutiny, and against the advice of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Bush appointed Reich to the State Department. Reich is a man with "a shabby record of covert meddling in Latin American politics." Previously US ambassador to Venezuela, he is now the Assistant Secretary at the State Department for the Western Hemisphere and as such "calls the shots for the US - almost literally - in Latin America." Of similar background is the Pentagon's point man with responsibility for Latin America, Rogelio Pardo-Maurer, now deputy assistant secretary of defense for Western Hemisphere affairs, who was Washington aide to the head of the Contra terrorists when they were waging their US-backed war against the elected government in Nicaragua. And rumours have it that, even more so than Otto Reich, the crucial figure in the coup was convicted Iran-Contragate felon Eliot Abrams, who, having been pardoned by Bush senior, works in the Bush junior White House as senior director of the National Security Council for 'democracy, human rights and international operations'.

Bush made all these appointments under heavy pressure from the powerful Cuban lobby in Florida, where his brother, Jeb, is seeking re-election. However, it is reasonable to assume that Bush's own proclivities allowed him to welcome and encourage these assignments. It is also reasonable to assume given their backgrounds that these parties will be only too happy to further the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld imperial oil-based strategy that will involve maintaining control over Venezuela's vital oil exports to the U.S.

Did the U.S. supply physical assets for the coup? I have no idea, but stories abound. According to NarcoNews: "the CIA headquarters for organizing, distributing said cash, and engineering the attempted coup d'etat, was the office known as the MIL GROUP. That's the name by which the US Military Liason staff in Embassies - "usually a repository for fixers and grafters pitching Department of Defense sponsored weapons sales to third world satrapies," as one source colorfully explained to Narco News - had, according to another well-placed source, greatly increased its staff size in the weeks prior to the attempted coup. We presume the increase in personnel - or individuals posing as personnel at the MIL GROUP - was not due to a sudden desire by Washington to sell more arms to the Chavez government." More, if one is to believe the information supplied by Richard Bennett and Wayne Madsen, the full panoply of United States' power in Colombia and the Caribbean was brought to bear in support of the Chamber of Commerce's coup d'etat.

I have no way of knowing whether the details given are correct, but the evidence is building for a U.S. involvement that was a lot more than nods and winks. "This was a coup d'etat that had been planned for quite a long time," says Edgardo Lander, a professor of sociology at the Central University of Venezuela. "Each of the main participants had visited the US state department very publicly in the preceding months to get approval." Yesterday, the Pentagon seemed to indicate that the public evidence for U.S. participation was so strong that they were obliged to acknowledge it at least. "We are informally gathering details of what occurred in Venezuela," said a Pentagon official. "The facts are clear, but events on the ground occurred very rapidly so we want to make sure we have all the details. All the information we have at this time confirms that [Department of Defense] personnel engaged with Venezuela issues acted in a highly professional and proper manner," the official said. "There is no indication or suggestion that DOD personnel aided or encouraged improper extra-constitutional or unlawful actions in Venezuela."

The internal inquiry is being headed by Pardo-Maurer, one of the key revanchists. It seems unlikely, therefore, that this "inquiry" will bring out any truths that are uncomfortable for the Administration. The Bush Administration could be trying to set up a defence that will blame certain "rogue" U.S. military personnel for minimal involvement. They'll claim they knew nothing of this. Regardless, says Julia Sweig, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, D.C., "This has hurt the U.S., which is now perceived as supporting democracy only when we like the person in power."

The American case is not strengthened by the appearance in Miami of several coup leaders. They include Isaac Pérez Recao, 32, a reputed arms-dealer and heir to a Venezuelan oil fortune. With his private armed militia, Pérez Recao played a highly visible role in the coup, according to reports in Caracas. He and his brother and business partner, Vicente Pérez Recao, were seen later in Miami, where they own properties. It seems doubtful the Bush Administration would extradite them back to Venezuela to face charges.

In Venezuela itself, the stories of American involvement are of interest, but less so than trying to get to the bottom of the events that shaped the coup. There are widespread calls for a Truth Commission or at least an inquiry into the shootings at the Miraflores that are claimed to have precipitated the military intervention.

Time Magazine, much of the rest of American mass media, and the American Administration continue to peddle the "Chávez-funded militiamen opened fire on 300,000 protesters" line without any evidence other than that of the coup-tainted generals themselves, and there is no concerted call to investigate the 90-odd deaths that occured after Chavez was overthrown. Eye-witnesses to the events of April 11th have reported right-wing snipers on high buildings and amateur videos show gunmen not bothering to hide their appearance and casually firing from roof-tops. Chavez's chief ideologue — Guillermo Garcia Ponce, whose official title is director of the Revolutionary Political Command — claims the opposition hired sharpshooters to fire on the anti-Chavez demonstrators. "The people planning it placed sharpshooters at strategic points to open fire on pro-Chavez and anti-Chavez marches,'' Garcia Ponce said. "It was a provocation, part of the coup, to create this massacre to justify the coup.''

A poll published last Friday in the El Universel newspaper suggested Caracas residents believe they'll never know who was responsible even though seven teams from the attorney general's office and a metropolitan police homicide squad are investigating the violence.

AP reports that "Chavez's supporters and many opponents have agreed on talk shows that such a panel should uncover who and what sparked shootings during the massive opposition rally April 11 and the violence that accompanied Chavez's restoration." Rafael Simon Jimenez, a pro-Chávez member of the small Movement Toward Socialism (MAS) party, told reporters the National Assembly was also ready to set up a so-called "Truth Commission". However, as Jose Miguel Vivanco, executive director of the Americas Division of Human Rights Watch, points out: "It's important that [such a Commission] be perceived from the beginning as an extra-judicial effort, that its people are independent of politics, and it have enough political and financial support for its mission." The question will be, can both sides agree to these terms?

The Truth Commission, if it can be established, will form part of the reconciliation process that most believe to be necessary for the future stability of the country. "Let us hope that all the events that happened lead to the reconciliation and reunification of Venezuelans," Chavez told the nation after his restoration. As an earnest of future intentions, Chavez new appointee, Ali Rodriguez, the former secretary-general of OPEC and now head of Venezuela's state-owned oil monopoly, appointed a new company board on Monday that he hopes will placate dissident executives. Rodriguez stressed there should be no retaliation against those who rebelled against Chavez's original board appointments.

But there are serious signs that the opposition will not be satisfied. "We still consider this to be an illegitimate government,'' said Rear Admiral Carlos Molina Tamayo as he was whisked away by military police from the court where he faces charges of rebellion for his part in the coup. "The armed forces are very beaten down and divided.'' On a New York Times online forum, one oponent of Chavez wrote, after the coup failed: "'We would like to appeal to the international community in this darkest of moments for the people of this country. Hugo Chávez, the cold-blooded assassin and thief who is today dictator of this country, cannot be internationally recognized as President of this country." Again, from her bougainvillea-covered terrace in the plush Bello Monte neighbourhood, far away from the world of real people in Caracas and the countryside -- in a country with one of the widest income disparities in the world, a gap that Chavez threatens to close -- there is precious little social mixing between the 80% of the population that live in poverty and the wealthy elite, a lawyer tells the BBC: "I watched [Chavez' restoration] with horror ... He is a communist and he's a disaster for Venezuela."

"We are looking ... (at) an abyss between two Venezuelas, where it will always be difficult, if not impossible, for there to exist a spirit of reconciliation and understanding," said Catholic Archbishop Baltazar Porras.

Carlos Ortega, the corrupt pro-business head of Venezuela's largest labour federation, warned that there would be civil war if Chavez does not make better efforts to accommodate the views of the opposition. Another anti-Chavez union leader, the equally corrupt Manuel Cova, demanded a complete change of Cabinet. "One of the things President Chávez has to sort out for the nation to really believe he is sincere in his call for dialogue and national unity is that he must dismantle most, if not all, of his Cabinet." Cova, secretary-general of Venezuela's largest union group, CTV, said the president's current Cabinet consisted of hardline pro-Chávez ministers who had a confrontational attitude toward the domestic opposition. "If he's talking of dialogue then it's a different picture. This cabinet is no good to him," Cova told local Union Radio. "Another diehard foe of Chávez, Caracas Mayor Alfredo Pena, called on him to form a new "national salvation" Cabinet

No doubt Ortega, Cova and their oligarchic compadres would like a return to the "good old days" during which Venezuela was dominated by two political parties, Democratic Action and COPA, widely acknowledged as "cesspools of corruption favouring the elite". This does not bode well for a peaceful future. As Chavez has said of Carmona: "Everything they have accused me of ... not that I would ever do it ... he decreed within four, five hours!" Chavez said of Carmona. "Imagine what he would have had coming! Tyranny!"

They couldn't beat Chavez in the election of 1998. They couldn't beat Chavez in the election 2000. They couldn't beat Chavez in the U.S.-supported coup of April 11th. Now, the oligarchs and the corrupt "union" bosses, the Venezuelan elite, are telling Chavez he should change all of his Cabinet and all of his policies in order to be "conciliatory." In other words, "we haven't been able to beat you constitutionally OR extra-constitutionally, so please just give in anyway."

Shouldn't it be these three-time losers who should change their policies to better reflect the reality of what the Venezuelans want -- as shown by two crushing elections defeats and a business-led military intervention that the people of Venezuela rejected wholeheartedly?

Palestine Daily Log

The United Nations has bent once again to the will of the Israelis and Americans, halting the Jenin investigating committee because Israel doesn't like the make up of the team. I wonder if Robert Blake gets to choose which police officers investigate his murder charge? For a country that claims to want a genuine finding of facts, the israelis are doing everything they can to avoid that reckoning. If the Palestinians had tried this trick, can you imagine the screams for the warbloggers?

As yet another example of the Israeli government's indifference to Palestinian suffering, they have today refused landing permission for an aid flight from Greece that included 34 earthquake rescue experts to help salvage bodies from beneath the ruins in the Jenin refugee camp..

Egypt's Hosni Mubarek, generally a U.S./Israeli collaborationist regime, spoke out forcefully yesterday calling Sharon's "barbaric and systematic aggression" a use of "state terrorism."

Ha'aretz has a disturbing article today about the censorship of the arts in Israel, in which well-known artists are having their works cancelled because they have criticized government policies in the Occupied Territories. For a country that professes an open, "western" view of things, this is indeed "echoes of McCarthyism."

Overnight, three Palestinians were killed in an explosion at Jabalya refugee camp in the Gaza Strip. Two other Palestinians were killed in action against an IDF incursion against Bani Naim, near Hebron. Note that the Palestinians noted as killed in the Gaza Strip yesterday without further details have been identified as three 14-year old boys.

From the beginning of the renewed Intifada on 29th September, 2000, until now (5:30am PDT April 24th, 2002), the total number of Palestinians killed is 1,473. In the same period, 458 Israelis were killed. This year so far, 562 Palestinians and 209 Israelis have been killed.

[Until international verification is possible, getting definitive numbers of Palestinian dead in Jenin is problematic. The number of Palestinian dead shown here includes a nominal number of 100 for Jenin which will be adjusted once the bodies can be counted.]

Tuesday, April 23, 2002

Wash Out Your Mouth, Idiot

It seems that the publisher of the weblog called Liberty's Lungs is a racist. He has an article today that begins:
"While it is no surprise that Americans are virtually the only people in the world that don't hate the Jewish people simply for being Jewish, the wave of recent attacks throughout Europe is disusting."
Two points:--

(1) While I agree with him that the rash of anti-Semitic attacks in Europe is disgusting, cannot be condoned and needs to be criticized loudly from the rooftops, so too do the 3,000 plus anti-Semitic incidents that the Anti-Defamation League say have occured in the United States in the last two years. I hear nothing -- abosolutely nothing -- from Liberty Lungs or any of the other race-war inciting warbloggers about these U.S. attacks. Perhaps anti-Semitic attacks are OK if committed by Americans, can that be it?

I hear nothing from these vicious European-haters about the continued existence of the John Birch Society or the KKK or the Aryan Brotherhood or the Christian Identity Movement, all violently anti-Semitic organizations based in the United States.

I hear nothing from these blind haters about the country clubs in the United States that still won't accept Jewish members, and the golf clubs that turn you away if you are black.

Until these vicious people are willing to clean up the dogshit in their own backyard they ought to keep quiet about other people's habits.

2) To suggest that the rest of the world is anti-Semitic -- that only the United States and Israel are pure enough to be free of this taint -- is by itself a deeply racist and stupid statement, one that anyone who believes in non-discrimination needs to condemn in the most forceful terms..

This is the A Team in Foreign Affairs?

Cheney, Runsfeld, Powell, Wolfowitz, Rice -- these were touted as the superheroes of foreign affairs, the folks who would move U.S. diplomacy from what they considered the ambiguous swaying of the "inexperienced" Clinton team to firm steady leadership of the world. As it turns out, these people only know how to make war; their grasp on regular day-to-day policy making is weaker than any we've seen for decades.

I was tempted down this path of discussion by Jim Lobe's discussion in the Asia Times Online which begins:
"If foreign observers are increasingly confused about US foreign policy under President George W Bush or even whether it occupies the same planetary space as the rest of the world, they are not alone. Serious US analysts, too, are scratching their heads at the incoherence in the administration's public statements about its policies or even about reality itself."
The article goes on to analyze divergent statements and policies from different officials about the Middle East and Venezuela. The piece ends with Michael Kinsley's acerbic comment that there is a tendency in the Bush Administration to "construct an alternative reality on some topic, and to regard anyone who objects to it as a sniveling dweeb obsessed with 'nuance'."

Palestine Daily Log

Overnight, two Palestinian militants were killed by an Israeli helicopter gunship attack in Hebron. Three Palestinians were killed in Hebron after the Israeli attack, presumably as collaborators. An IDF sergeant and two Palestinian militants were killed in an Israeli attack on the village of Asira a-Shamaliya near Nablus. The IDF also announced they had killed three more Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, but details were not yet available.

From the beginning of the renewed Intifada on 29th September, 2000, until now (6:00am PDT April 23rd, 2002), the total number of Palestinians killed is 1,468. In the same period, 458 Israelis were killed. This year so far, 557 Palestinians and 209 Israelis have been killed.

[Until international verification is possible, getting definitive numbers of Palestinian dead in Jenin is problematic. The number of Palestinian dead shown here includes a nominal number of 100 for Jenin which will be adjusted once the bodies can be counted.]

Monday, April 22, 2002

Gay Bashing By The Libertarians

A number of far-right warbloggers are glorying in some fake posters that have been webbed by Something Awful. Jane Galt and Cold Fury, for example, think they are swell.

The collection, some of which are amusing for sure, includes this disgusting anti-gay poster ...

anti-gay poster beloved of the right wing

.. which incites hatred because of sexual orientation, a fine right wing tradition beloved of fascist dictators everywhere.

No doubt they will say this is all "just in fun" or come up with some other rationalisation. I'd prefer they came out and condemned the hatred for the Other which permeates this kind of thinking. Doubt I'll see it though, so I won't hold my breath.

A Great Canadian Resource

I don't usually do this, plug another site, but I feel compelled to say that wood s lot is one of the finest, most interesting stops on the web today. If you want a change from politics and war and popular mass culture, if you want solid lead-ins to matters of art and philosophy and literature, then wood s lot is the place for you.

Today's edition -- a typical selection -- runs the gamut from post-modern religious thought to paintings by Caspar David Freidrich, via hermits, Mark Twain, Jacques Derrida, Jurgen Hamermas, Thomas Traherne and Ansel Adams.

If I only had the time to read even half of what I am directed to by Mark Woods, I would be far better educated than I am.

Canadian Deaths in The U.S. War on Some Terror

I haven't felt the need to write anything about the four Canadian soldiers killed in a training exercise in Afghanistan last week. This has not been because of any lack of sympathy for the families involved, but rather because I believe if you send soldiers to a war zone, then casualties are to expected.

Again, the nature of their deaths -- a mistake by a U.S. pilot -- does not surprise me. A very large proportion of "western" deaths in recent conflicts have been caused by "friendly fire" or, as another blogger put it, fratricide. We can be pretty sure it wasn't deliberate, so it remains an accident.

Neither was I surprised that Bush forget to mention these deaths during five public appearances on that day: His people are not good at this sort of public relations business for non-Americans, and Dubya would never have thought to do it by himself.

I cannot say I was shocked that Canada's leading newspaper would have on its front page something like ...
"The symbolism, for those who think we have no business being in Afghanistan, is too rich to miss. We went to help out the Americans with their war - and they used us for target practice."
... nor that some foreign media would pick up on that.

And finally, I am less than amazed that there are now three or four inquiries into the incident, inquiries that will cost U.S. and Canadian taxpayers millions of dollars before they are through even though, as Jack Granatstein, Canada's leading military historian says, he expects both investigations will do little more than reiterate the importance of following standard operating procedures.
"I expect there will be a series of recommendations," Mr. Granatstein said. "That's really all that will emerge. The recommendations, unless there's more to what happened than we know, will be that you need close communication between the army and air force and you need to make sure everyone knows that there are training areas. There isn't a great deal more you can say. ... They'll simply restate the obvious."
No, what made me decide to post this was watching an interview last night with one of the dead Canadian's grandmothers. After describing her grandson and how proud she was of him, she said:
"I don't know anything about military or politics. I just know this family won't have that boy to love in the future."
I am no pacifist, believe me. But I cried when I heard her say that, and if ever there was an argument for an end to war, that was surely it.

Why Should Only The Dutch Resign?

The report on the massacre at Srbrenica in Bosnia has already caused the resignation of the entire Dutch government. But, as we are shown in Richard's Aldrich's analysis of just one of the volumes -- "Intelligence and the war in Bosnia, 1992-1995" by Professor Cees Wiebes of Amsterdam University -- few in any government's come away with clean hands.

In particular, Professor Weibes proves that both sides in the Bosnian conflict enjoyed a steady supply of arms regardless of the United Nations embargo. For example, the Americans supported the Bosnian Muslims:
"Rather than the CIA, the Pentagon's own secret service was the hidden force behind these operations. The UN protection force, UNPROFOR, was dependent on its troop-contributing nations for intelligence, and above all on the sophisticated monitoring capabilities of the US to police the arms embargo. This gave the Pentagon the ability to manipulate the embargo at will: ensuring that American Awacs aircraft covered crucial areas and were able to turn a blind eye to the frequent nightime comings and goings at Tuzla.
But this certainly wasn't just the Americans in breach of the embargo:
"The result was a vast secret conduit of weapons smuggling though Croatia. This was arranged by the clandestine agencies of the US, Turkey and Iran, together with a range of radical Islamist groups ...

"Arms purchased by Iran and Turkey with the financial backing of Saudi Arabia made their way by night from the Middle East ...

"The Croats themselves also obtained massive quantities of illegal weapons from Germany, Belgium and Argentina - again in contravention of the UN arms embargo. The German secret services were fully aware of the trade ...

"Meanwhile, the secret services of Ukraine, Greece and Israel were busy arming the Bosnian Serbs."
A couple of interesting sidelights: First. the US was still in its pre-9/11 mode, supporting and using extremist Islamic groups, many of whom they are now fighting elsewhere.
"In the 1980s Washington's secret services had assisted Saddam Hussein in his war against Iran. Then, in 1990, the US fought him in the Gulf. In both Afghanistan and the Gulf, the Pentagon had incurred debts to Islamist groups and their Middle Eastern sponsors. By 1993 these groups, many supported by Iran and Saudi Arabia, were anxious to help Bosnian Muslims fighting in the former Yugoslavia and called in their debts with the Americans. Bill Clinton and the Pentagon were keen to be seen as creditworthy and repaid in the form of an Iran-Contra style operation - in flagrant violation of the UN security council arms embargo against all combatants in the former Yugoslavia ...

"Initially aircraft from Iran Air were used, but as the volume increased they were joined by a mysterious fleet of black C-130 Hercules aircraft. The report stresses that the US was 'very closely involved in the airlift.
The other point of interest to me was that while the U.S. was calling in IOUs and spending billions supplying the Bosnian Muslims, those same Bosnian Muslims were being killed by guns supplied by Israel to the Serbs.
"Mossad was especially active and concluded a deal with the Bosnian Serbs at Pale involving a substantial supply of artillery shells and mortar bombs. In return they secured safe passage for the Jewish population out of the besieged town of Sarajevo. Subsequently, the remaining population was perplexed to find that unexploded mortar bombs landing in Sarajevo sometimes had Hebrew markings."
Civil wars are necessarily bloody events. They are made even more deadly when the world's "intelligence" agencies become involved in a competitive arms' supplying game. It is clear that the Dutch government did the honourable thing by resigning as a form of compensation for their actions in Bosnia and Croatia. It is unfortunately unthinkable that the U.S. and British and German and Iranian and Israeli governments will do the same.

Welcome, Jordan!

Yesterday, in Manchester, England, my son Sam's partner Sara gave birth to a slightly early but still healthy baby boy who is to be called Jordan Alan King! My second grandchild, Jordan is cousin to the irrepressible Gemma-Louise.

Welcome to our world, Jordan!

Palestine Daily Log

In an angry outburst at the Cabinet table, Sharon has shown himself yet again an ideologue unconcerned with genuine security for Israelis or justice for Palestinians. Senior military leaders have argued for the abandonment of isolated settlements in the Occupied Territories; they are, claim the military experts, impossible to defend at reasonable cost.
"The Council for Security and Peace, an organization of some 1,000 former senior officers from the IDF, Shin Bet security service, Mossad, and the police believes there are some 40 such settlements in the West Bank and, in its plan for a unilateral withdrawal from the territories, says all of Gaza's settlements should be evacuated, except in the northwest corner of the strip."
Sharon's response? Banging his fist on the table, the inflexible Prime Minister announced there would be no discussions about the settlements until at least the elections of October, 2003 and, if wins the next election, there will be no discussion even then. As there can be no possible peaceful solution to the Middle East crisis without discussion of the settlements, Sharon has in effect publicly declared war on peace.

In its continuing war against press freedoms, the IDF has now confiscated the press credentials of most of the foreign press that is trying to cover the Israeli seige of the Church of the Holy Nativity in Bethlehem. In an unrelated release, Journalists Sans Frontiers has accused Israel of taking a "racist attitude to the Arab media" and claimed its violations of press freedom were "deliberate".
"The policy of the Israeli authorities towards the international media, especially Palestinian journalists, must be condemned for what it is: a massive, deliberate and conscious violation of press freedom and an unprecedented low in the history of Israel," the organisation said.
Yesterday, two Palestinian policemen were killed by IDF fire at a refugee camp near the occupation settlement of Kfar Darom in the Gaza Strip. Overnight, three more Palestinians were shot by the IDF near Netzarim and Dugit.

From the beginning of the renewed Intifada on 29th September, 2000, until now (5:00am PDT April 22nd, 2002), the total number of Palestinians killed is 1,458. In the same period, 457 Israelis were killed. This year so far, 547 Palestinians and 208 Israelis have been killed.

[Until cleanup and international verification is possible, getting definitive numbers of Palestinian dead in Jenin is problematic. The number of Palestinian dead shown here includes a nominal number of 100 for Jenin which will be adjusted once the bodies can be counted.]

Sunday, April 21, 2002

Palestine Daily Log

Giedeon Levy in Ha'aretz has a pungent op-ed piece in which he regrets the capture of Marwan Barghouti who, he suggests, may become the Nelson Mandela of the Palestinians. After pleading that Israel not torture Barghouti as they did on his previous arrest, Levy goes:
Of no less importance is to listen to the accused. Not only could the Shin Bet learn quite a bit from him, all Israelis should take heed as well. Look at Barghouti and you'll understand the entire story. The path he took was the only one we showed the Palestinians - a path on which we tripped and pushed them deeper and deeper into despair and ultimately to violence.

Barghouti may be responsible for ruthless terror attacks, but Israel is likely to long for leaders like him, because his heirs will be much, much worse. Full of vengeance and hate, they will not be partners to a compromise like he would be ...

An alumnus of Israeli prisons, Barghouti is practically the last vestige of those Palestinians who knew Israelis well and even admired some of their characteristics. 'I tell myself how patient we were,' he said recently. 'I was ready to meet with Shas and the Likud - with everyone. To talk. To persuade. But the Israelis don't want to understand'."
In the Erez industrial area of the Gaza Strip, an Israeli Border guard and a Palestinian militant were killed in an attack. A Palestinian bomber was killed trying to attack a checkpoint at Qalqilyah in the West Bank, and another was killed at the Gush Katif junction in the Strip.

From the beginning of the renewed Intifada on 29th September, 2000, until now (5:30am PDT April 21st, 2002), the total number of Palestinians killed is 1,453. In the same period, 457 Israelis were killed. This year so far, 542 Palestinians and 208 Israelis have been killed.

[Until cleanup and international verification is possible, getting definitive numbers of Palestinian dead in Jenin is problematic. The number of Palestinian dead shown here includes a nominal number of 100 for Jenin which will be adjusted once the bodies can be counted.]

Saturday, April 20, 2002

It's A Bird's Life!

I don't know about you, but I always thought that the lives of most birds -- parrots, owls and albatrosses excluded -- were pretty short. My aunt's canaries, for example, didn't seem to last more than a year or two. I was flabbergasted, therefore, to read about a pigeon-sized bird, a Manx shearwater, that was at least fifty years old! More, this little birdie had five million miles under his belt and was still chasing the chicks!

Manx Shearwater (not the old guy, I'd guess)

This game guy was first ringed in 1957 when he was thought to be about five years old. He has been flying back and forth between South America and Britain every year since. He was netted in a breeding colony in north Wales earlier this month, no doubt preparing to extend his lineage. Graham Appleton, the British Trust for Ornithology's fund-raising manager, told CNN, "Not only is this bird considerably older than you would expect, it is still breeding. As long as they are still going, they produce young. Birds don't really have old age!"

Not a bad life, I'd say.

Thor Heyerdahl

Thor Heyerdahl, one of the most significant heroes of my childhood, has died at age 87. He lived a wonderful life and, once he knew that medical science had done as much as it could for him, he chose his own way out.

I'm guessing that my father was impressed by Heyerdahl because it was at a very young that I learned about the balsa wood raft, the drift currents of the Pacific and a mythic hero called Kon-Tiki. It was because of Heyerdahl's epic trip that I first became aware of Easter Island, Tahiti, and the other isolated specks of land in that vast expanse of ocean. It was because of Heyerdahl that I wanted to look in atlases and learn about foreign countries and other cultures. He inspired me to look outwards from the rather bleak streets of London in the 1950s.

Kon Tiki

Later, as I read more and came to my own conclusions about his theories of diffusion, I still recalled and respected the heroic status that he had enjoyed in my younger days; and as an adult, I cheered him on during the Ra and Ra II expeditions even though I was dubious about the scientific prospects.

Now, there are other quite different oceans for him to explore.

A Death Revisited

Way back on 16th October last year, I published the following short article:
Dubya Dubya Three has not, it seems, put a damper on weird murders. A boy's body (sans head, arms and legs) has been found in the Thames in London. An almost identical case from Holland makes the case even more mysterious. South African witchcraft practices are seriously suspected.
I haven't been following the case, but I did notice this week that Nelson Mandela has become involved. Mandela described the case as tragic.
"It seems likely that the boy might have come from Africa ... I wish to direct my appeal specifically to people in Africa. If anywhere, even in the remotest village of our continent, there is a family missing a son of that age, who might have disappeared around that time, September 21 2001, please contact the police in London, either directly or through your local police.

"Such cruel wastage of the lives of our children and youth cannot be allowed to continue."
The article gives fascinating and gruesome details of some African witchcraft practices, learned by British detectives travelling the continent in an effort to solve the mystery. Credo Mutwa, one of South Africa's leading sangomas, or traditional healers, was one of the first spiritual leaders the men visited.
"I think this is a human sacrifice to some sort of water deity carried out by a gang of people strengthening themselves to do some very ugly crimes. They have made this sacrifice because they are filled with fear for what they have done or what they are going to do."
It is a pity that we are learning this fascinating anthropological material through the nexus of a young boy's death.

Palestine Daily Log

Bush is now calling for an inquiry into the events in the Jenin refugee camp. His call comes many days too late, made now perhaps because the Israelis have done whatever they needed to obfuscate their killing ways. As the BBC has it: “The tight military cordon around the camp has made it impossible for the claims of atrocities to be independently verified or refuted.”

"I think it's vitally important, obvious to anyone who can see, to provide full and complete access to relief agencies so that they can do their work, so that they can get equipment and supplies here," says William Burns, assistant-secretary of state for the Near East. Well it has not been "obvious" to the Israeli who have refused to allow assistance in for the last week. Yesterday the Israeli army confirmed it had pulled out of Jenin but declared it a closed military area and began reducing access by blocking roads. This would be to assist survivor recovery teams?

Tony Blair, another collaborator, also called for an inquiry. In doing so, he did that thing the warbloggers hate so much – he used moral equivalency: “Yes, what is happening in Jenin is appalling and tragic. So is large numbers of totally innocent Israeli citizens being blown up in cafes, restaurants and even during religious services.”

I can find no reports of casualties since the last Daily Log. From the beginning of the renewed Intifada on 29th September, 2000, until now (7:00am PDT April 20th, 2002), the total number of Palestinians killed is 1,450. In the same period, 456 Israelis were killed. This year so far, 539 Palestinians and 207 Israelis have been killed.

[Until cleanup and international verification is possible, getting definitive numbers of Palestinian dead in Jenin is problematic. The number of Palestinian dead shown here includes a nominal number of 100 for Jenin which will be adjusted once the bodies can be counted.]

A Brief Interruption For Hockey

In order to be as unbiased as possible, I am using a Detroit News link to Vancouver Canuck's superb 5-2 victory over the Detroit Red Wings in Detroit last night.

Vancouver scores!

Two straight on the road means we can finish the sweep here at home!

Friday, April 19, 2002

Three Down And Counting ...

The deeply offensive race-war-inciting Letter From Gotham is closing down. I'd like to say something pleasant as a farewell, but I can't.

However, the interesting Libertarian reads the paper... will be missed. As would be Sgt Stryker's site if he does decide to pull the plug. Today's entries seem to suggest he was -- hopefully -- just tired yesterday.

Palestine Daily Log

British forensic experts, finally allowed into the Jenin camp, say that – regardless of the Big Lie currently being spun by Israel, the pro-Israel lobby, and the race-hatred-inciting warbloggers – evidence is mounting of large numbers of casualties buried beneath the rubble. I suppose it is not odd that Israel had dozens of massive bulldozers to help tear down the camp, but can offer no heavy equipment to search for survivors and the dead.

It was another bloody night to be a Palestinian. Three Palestinians were killed in the West Bank village of Hirbat Beit Hassan during the arrest by the IDF of a Hamas leader, and a Palestinian youth was killed by IDF fire on a beach near Dugit in the Gaza Strip. Five Palestinian militants were killed in a battle with the IDF near the occupation settlement of Netzarim, while three Palestinian civilians were killed by Israeli gunfire near Rafah. Another Palestinian militant died in a bomb explosion near Gush Katif.

From the beginning of the renewed Intifada on 29th September, 2000, until now (5:30am PDT April 17th, 2002), the total number of Palestinians killed is 1,450. In the same period, 456 Israelis were killed. This year so far, 539 Palestinians and 207 Israelis have been killed.

[Until cleanup and international verification is possible, getting definitive numbers of Palestinian dead in Jenin is problematic. The number of Palestinian dead shown here includes a nominal number of 100 for Jenin which will be adjusted once the bodies can be counted.]

Thursday, April 18, 2002

Venezuela Today

As one of several moves designed to show conciliation after the restoration of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, the erstwhile figurehead of last week's coup, Pedro Carmona Estanga, head of the employee’s group FEDECAMARAS, has been released from prison into house arrest while he awaits trial. General Efrain Vasquez, who appeared on television last week to announce that Chavez had resigned, was replaced as head of the army command by General Julio Garcia Montoya.

Meanwhile investigations into the coup get underway. A brigade of police under the control of the anti-Chavez mayor of Caracas Alfredo Pena -- accused of shooting at unarmed demonstraters -- has been raided by a squad from the national police commando, and more than 80 soldiers remain under detention for their role in the uprising. A number of Venezuelan citizens sought political asylum in the Bolivian embassy. Chavez himself has said that “a lot of Machiavellian people planned this operation … It was not just a military coup. The intellectual authors were not military personnel.”

Chavez was talking about domestic politics, but the U.S. connection is clear. It may not have been as direct as many other CIA-inspired coups, but their fingerprints are all over it. For a start, from the American perspective, they had every reason to want a change in Venezuela. Chavez has irritated Washington by his actions to improve the Venezuelan benefits from its own oil industry, by refusing to cooperate with the U.S.'s "anti-drug" campaigns, and by his sympathy for both Cuba and Colombian guerillas. The New York Times editorial for 13th April must have come close to reflecting official policy, calling Chavez "a would-be dictator" and "a ruinous demagogue", while coup front man Carmona was described as "respected."

The U.S. has admitted to meeting with coup plotters during the months, weeks and days before the event. There is no doubt the U.S. allowed the plotters to believe that their move would be supported. Some officials are peddling the line that “[o]ur message was very clear: there are constitutional processes. We did not even wink at anyone.” Pentagon spokesperson Victoria Clarke said that this message had been delivered by Roger Pardo-Maurer, assistant defense secretary for the hemisphere, during one or more meetings with Venezuelan Gen. Lucas Rincon. Others in the Pentagon admit that “[w]e were not discouraging people. We were sending subtle informal signals that we don‘t like this guy. We didn’t say ‘No, don’t you dare’.”

Very early on in the coup, Administration officials were already calling members of Congress to tell them that Chavez had resigned. They now have to admit they had no evidence to back up those assertions. At the same time, Otto J. Reich, assistant secretary of state for western hemispheric affairs, called ambassadors to make sure they knew the U.S. line that Chavez had been the first to "disrupt Venezuela's constitutional order."

Both Otto Reich and Roger Pardo-Maurer have long and disreputable histories in the region. Pardo-Maurer was chief of staff to the Washington representative of the Nicaraguan terrorist group called the Contras between 1986 and 1989. Reich, appointed by Bush to his present position in a recess appointment this winter against the spirit of the constitution because Congress would never approve him, has bloody hands from all sorts of misadventures. When it became known in the 1980s that he was peddling pro-Contra propaganda while head of public diplomacy at State, it was one of the rare occasions when his dirty work had been caught in the headlights.

On Friday, Reich was deeply involved in this coup. He telephoned the usurper Carmona, not to tell him to turn power back to the democratically elected officeholders, but rather to tell him that dissolving the National Assembly would be "a stupid thing to do," and would provoke an outcry. U.S. Ambassador Charles Shapiro is said to have made the same case in person. Is this evidence that Washington was stage-managing the coup? Not by itself, but it fits a pattern, especially when Reich and his brood are involved. Meanwhile, at a closed-door briefing for Congressional aides, Reich was spewing his venom, this time to the affect that "foreign paramilitary forces" -- suspected to be Cubans -- had been involved in the shootings that precipitated the military demarche. Reich could offer absolutely no evidence for this assertion.

Hugo Chavez himself raised an interesting U.S. connection when he told reporters that an airplane with U.S. markings had been at Orchila, his Caribbean island prison. Asked if the U.S. military gave logistical or intelligence support for the failed coup, Pentagon spokeswoman Victoria Clarke said she was "not aware of that.'' Ari Fleischer at the White House said he didn't know if the U.S. had supplied a plane. He thought "the transportation was arranged after his resignation through the Venezuelan military". Neither of these non-replies were particularly reassuring.

The Guardian reported that
"Mr Chavez yesterday hinted at the possibility of US involvement in the coup attempt, noting that only days before he was ousted, dozens of Venezuelan military personnel working in the country's Washington, Bogota and Brasilia embassies returned to Caracas with no explanation. The implication was that these were military staff sympathetic to the opposition whom he had sent abroad when he became president in 1999."
Of more immediate importance within Venezuela itself, is the role taken by many of the country's most important institutions, particularly the media. Many of the planning meetings for the coup are reported to have taken place at Macondo, home of Miguel Otero, publisher of the El Nacional chain of newspapers and, after the installation of Carmona, the media barons toasted the downfall of their adversary with 18-year-old Scotch. “We can’t guarantee you the loyalty of the army,” a presidential guard heard one of them tell Mr Carmona, “but we can promise you the support of the media.”

When the coup began to fail on Saturday, the media barons -- Otero, Gustavo Cisneros, reputedly the country's richest man, and head of Venevision TV, Alberto Ravell of CNN-affiliated Globovision, and Marcel Granier of RCTV -- were summoned to the Presidential Palace and told to suppress coverage of the anti-coup resistance. That day and the next, as protesters stormed the streets and the presidency changed hands twice, Venezuelan television viewers saw cartoons, Hollywood movies, and reruns of the Carmona inauguration. (This was in sharp contrast to the repeated saturation coverage of Thursday's events leading up to the coup.) On Sunday, there were no editions to report the return of Hugo Chavez, and at no time during the coup weekend were members of Chavez' government interviewed for their view of events. As the Economist has it: "A regime that had seized power while waving the flag of press freedom spent its 36 hours in office doing its best to keep the truth from the public."
"It was a media coup, a complete blackout," said journalism professor Antonio Almeida, who teaches at the Central University of Venezuela. "Instead of informing the public they covered up the facts."
Chavez agreed:
"The news media have enormous power, and they should not act as a laboratory of lies," he said. He added that their actions during the coup amounted to "psychological terrorism."
A reporter has suggested that:
"Unless there is a serious internal investigation of what went on, professional journalism in Venezuela is finished."
Of all the media magnates, only Globovision's Ravell has had the courage to admit his role in censorship:
"On Tuesday, in an emotional appearance on his own station, Ravell asked for forgiveness "from any viewer who feels we failed them that day." While also blaming the pro-Chavez demonstrations [for keeping his reporters fromt he streets], he became the only media executive so far to acknowledge withholding information. "Sacrificing our credibility ... and freedom of expression, we decided not to broadcast images of violence and looting."
Now that this coup is over, OAS Secretary-General Cesar Gaviria has made the obvious point that Venezuelans must find a way for “dissent to be expressed constitutionally.” Chavez and his team have agreed that changes and “corrections” need to be made in the way they govern the country. But, as Milos Alcalay, the Venezuelan ambassador to the UN, told a news conference at the beginning of the week; ”You have to have two to tango. If the government makes changes and corrections, this will not work in the search for national unity unless the other side does the same.” The trouble is, according to Teodoro Petkoff, editor of the anti-Chavez Tal Cual newspaper, "[r]ight now you have one half of the country that doesn't believe in a thing that the other half says."

Much will depend on what happens at the state oil company. Chavez has already withdrawn his nominees for the Board of Directors, a major source of irritation. At Monday’s press conference, Chavez assured the USA that "I can guarantee the U.S. a normal flow of oil and products." But what will now happen to his plan to direct more of the country’s oil profits to fighting poverty rather than to further export-oriented oil exploration?

That money was to be used to help solve the serious social tensions which remain --
"A worker at a psychiatric hospital, Manzur Torre Alba, lamented that the rich looked down on him as 'subhuman.' A doctor, Pedro Baldallo, lamented equally indignantly that the poor called people like him 'squalid ones,' believing they were tainted by corruption."
-- and there is always the possibility of another coup or some other, perhaps more constitutional, challenges ahead.
"When civil society sees its hopes for democracy go down in flames with a 24-hour government that showed no respect for the rule of law, it's hard to speak hopefully of democracy's prospects," says Elías Pino Iturrieta, director of historical studies at Andrés Bello Catholic University in Caracas.
"We have lost a battle," said Rony Moscovitz, a wealthy businessman alienated by Chavez' anti-capitalst sloganism. "But we have not lost the war." However, as a street vendor supporter of Chavez said of the elites: "If they rise up again, then we will rise again too ... The rich people underestimated us."

Outside of Venezuela. much harm has been done to the United States' relationships in Latin America. The Administration's obvious pleasure at the overthrow of Chavez has not gone unnoticed. Nor has the fact that the U.S. refused to support an OAS resolution condemning the "alteration of constitutional order in Venezuela" until after it had learned of Chavez' restoration. Moreover, Administration officials did not hide their dismay at his restoration. While the Latin American democracies were forcefully lining up behind constitutional order, the U.S. was blaming Chavez for his own fall. One OAS diplomat said: "We were in that room for 14 hours, and for most of that 14 hours, [US ambassador to the Organisation of American States (OAS), Roger] Noriega was pushing the line that it was Chavez that had created the problem."

Arturo Valenzuela, Clinton's Latin American national security adviser, accused the Bush Administration of "running roughshod over more than a decade of treaties and agreements for the collective defense of democracy." "I think it's a very negative development for the principle of constitutional government in Latin America," Mr. Valenzuela said. "I think it's going to come back and haunt all of us."

I'm not a great admirer of Tom Daschle, but even he has the sense to recognize that "we've got to be supportive of democratic principles even when they choose to elect people we don't like." That is not something the Administation is willing to contemplate. The socialists are precisely on target when they note that the
Bush Administation's "conception of 'democracy' is firmly rooted in the social interests of the ruling elite, and therefore easily dispenses with such traditional democratic forms as elections and the subordination of the military to civilian rule ... Its principles are the assurance of uninterrupted cheap oil to the US petroleum corporations and the maintenance of a firm grip on both the government and the economy by the country’s thin layer of wealthy businessmen, backed by the military."
Indeed, the Administration seems determined to keep raising the temperature. The State Department has re-issued an advisory telling Americans not to visit Venezuela. They have also authorized the voluntary removal of family members and all “non-emergency” personnel at US offices. Issued on Tuesday, a significant period of time after President Chavez’s return to power, the statement claims that "the political situation remains fluid and there has been widespread civil unrest, with multiple deaths and reports of gun battles between pro- and anti-Chavez groups."

Even now the US administration refuses to admit that a coup even took place, and they claim that Chavez’ return to power does not amount to a “full restoration of Venezuelan democracy.” An administration official opined that “He was democratically elected. Legitimacy is something that is conferred not just by a majority of the voters, however.”

Given the battle of Florida and the Supreme Court’s last-minute charge to the rescue of Mr Bush’s campaign, I wonder if the irony of that remark escaped the official.

Let's Get Serious...

... there is just one news story in Vancouver this morning. The Canucks beating Detroit in overtime in Detroit last night in the first game of the NHL playoffs!

I have confidence we are going all the way this year!

Palestine Daily Log

Colin Powell returns from the Middle East with his tail wrapped firmly around his whipped ass. America helped create Sharon; now he shows them how well he has learned by telling them to mind their own goddamn business: he’ll kill as many people as wants for as long as he wants, and he’ll keep building as many settlements on as much stolen land as he chooses, and he doesn’t give a damn how any of that plays on the news shows in Peoria. Meanwhile, the U.S. leadership is so unimaginative that it cannot conceive any other way of maintaining its strategic position in the region than to continue its support of Israel do or die. And so they suck up Sharon’s insults and try to put a happy face on a sorry situation.

The political condition within Israel continues to fade away from hope. The Labor party leader Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, Defence Minister in the current unity government, is in discussions with Netanyahu to ensure his own personal position should Netanyahu form the next government.

The humanitarian disaster at Jenin continues to grow. Speaking from inside the ruined camp, Amnesty International representative Javier Zuniga said:
"This is one of the worst scenes of devastation I have ever witnessed. There is a real possibility that people are still alive under the rubble of their former homes … It is shocking that the [Israeli] authorities have not asked for help and that the international community is not offering. Help is needed now to save what life there is left."
A UN delegation also visited the camp overnight.
"I think I can speak for all in the U.N. delegation (in saying) that we are shocked," the envoy, Terje Roed-Larsen, said as he walked through the camp's center, which is filled with huge mountains of rubble where dozens of buildings had stood. "Just seeing this area, it looks like there's been an earthquake here, and the stench of death is over many places where we are standing." Roed-Larsen said he had seen the corpse of a 12-year-old boy and added that "evidently there are lots of other corpses" still unrecovered
Not just the dead are going unattended. The brutal refusal of the Israelis to allow serious recovery efforts in the camp has caused untold death and injury.
Hard life in the rubble


"We found five people, who were taken to Jenin hospital in very bad state," resident Naim Awais told Reuters in the camp, hours after Israeli tanks and troops withdrew, leaving snipers on the outskirts. "There were two boys, a woman and two men," he said, adding that they appeared to have suffered burns and other injuries. "I have heard many people asking for help, but we can't do anything for them because we have no equipment," he said, as camp residents clawed through rubble with shovels and pickaxes.
We are hearing much in the mainstream media of Israeli withdrawals and pullbacks. This is the Associated Press description of what is actually happening on the ground.
Overnight, Israeli forces sealed off the Palestinian neighborhood of Issawiyah in Jerusalem, removing residents and searching their homes for terrorist suspects. Police spokesman Gil Kleiman said two men were arrested before the operation ended early Wednesday. Residents said the military brought bulldozers into the village. Men were taken to a gas station and women and children to a school. Police imposed a nearly 18-hour curfew - rarely done inside Jerusalem's city limits - when families were barred from returning to their homes. Many slept in their cars.

In the northern West Bank, the army conducted searches and arrested suspects in the village of Silat a-Hartia, northwest of Jenin, and in Balaa, a village east of Tulkarem, a spokesman said.

On Tuesday, Israeli forces entered three Palestinian villages near Jerusalem - Abu Dis, Izzariyeh and Sawahra As-Sharkiyeh - declared a curfew and searched for suspects, while Sharon pledged to pull his forces out of two main West Bank towns within a week.”
A Palestinian militant was killed by the IDF at the occupation settlement of Netzarim in the Gaza Strip. Another Palestinian was killed in an attack on the Dugit occupation settlement in the Strip. From the beginning of the renewed Intifada on 29th September, 2000, until now (5:30am PDT April 17th, 2002), the total number of Palestinians killed is 1,437. In the same period, 456 Israelis were killed. This year so far, 526 Palestinians and 207 Israelis have been killed.

[Until cleanup and international verification is possible, getting definitive numbers of Palestinian dead in Jenin is problematic. The number of Palestinian dead shown here includes a nominal number of 100 for Jenin which will be adjusted once the bodies can be counted.]