WELCOME TO WORLD WAR 4by Bill WeinbergTHE TSUNAMI’S HIDDEN CASUALTIESIndigenous Cultures "Wiped Off the Map" as Governments Exploit the Disasterby Sarah RobbinsOIL, OLIGARCHS AND THE UKRAINE CRISISPipeline Politics Behind "Orange Revolution"by Raven Healing IRAQ AND COLOMBIA: HALLIBURTON MAKES THE CONNECTIONby… Read moreIssue 106 January-February 2005
by Bill Weinberg
When opposite ends of the political spectrum agree on an initially improbable proposition, there is often something to it.
Since the end of World War II and concomitant dawn of the nuclear age in 1945, the planet has been anticipating a conflict worthy of the name “World War III,” with all its apocalyptic connotations. Two days after 9-11, New York Times columnist Tom Friedman announced that it had finally arrived: “Does my country really understand that this is World War III?”
Similarly, the day after the horrific Sept. 3, 2004 schoolhouse massacre in Beslan, North Ossetia, the Times quoted Moscow’s Orthodox Rev. Aleksandr Borisov warning his parishioners of pro-Chechen terror attacks throughout Russia, and declaring: “World War III has begun.”
Meanwhile, former CIA director James Woolsey–a top advocate of the attack on Iraq as a member of the Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board–proffers a different historical configuration. In April 2003, just after the invasion, he wrote that the Iraq campaign was “part of World War IV.” By Woolsey’s math, the Cold War itself was World War III. He warned that the new world conflict, like its immediate predecessor, “is going to be measured, I’m afraid, in decades.”
Woolsey’s concept has started to catch on among the neo-conservatives. In the September 2004 issue of Commentary, Norman Podhoretz published an essay entitled “World War IV: How It Started, What It Means, and Why We Have to Win.” Finding that “the great struggle into which the United States was plunged by 9/11 can only be understood if we think of it as World War IV,” Podhoretz drew on the work of Eliot A. Cohen, another Defense Policy Board member, Project for the New American Century co-founder and Iraq war advocate.
Wrote Podhoretz: “I agree with one of our leading contemporary students of military strategy, Eliot A. Cohen, who thinks that what is generally called the ‘cold war’ (a term, incidentally, coined by Soviet propagandists) should be given a new name. ‘The cold war,’ Cohen writes, was actually ‘World War III, which reminds us that not all global conflicts entail the movement of multimillion-man armies, or conventional front lines on a map.’ I also agree that the nature of the conflict in which we are now engaged can only be fully appreciated if we look upon it as World War IV. To justify giving it this name–rather than, say, the ‘war on terrorism’–Cohen lists ‘some key features’ that it shares with World War III: ‘that it is, in fact, global; that it will involve a mixture of violent and nonviolent efforts; that it will require mobilization of skill, expertise, and resources, if not of vast numbers of soldiers; that it may go on for a long time; and that it has ideological roots.’ There is one more feature that World War IV shares with World War III and that Cohen does not mention: both were declared through the enunciation of a presidential doctrine.”
For Podhoretz, just as the Truman Doctrine of global interventions against the spread of Communism in 1947 heralded the opening of the Cold War, the Bush Doctrine of a proactive global campaign against terrorism marks the opening of World War IV.
This logic is shared by, of all people, Subcommander Marcos–masked, poetic and prolific spokesman for the Zapatista National Liberation Army, the Maya Indian rebels of Mexico’s southern Chiapas state. Far from the corridors of power, Marcos characteristically signs his lengthy and often theoretical communiques, “from the mountains of southeast Mexico.” A peace dialogue with the Mexican government now moribund, Marcos and his Zapatistas still maintain an autonomous zone in the remote, impoverished jungles and highlands of Chiapas. In 1997, well before 9-11 and the Bush Doctrine, he wrote that globalization (“neo-liberalism,” as it is often known in Latin America, denoting a return to the free-market liberalism of the 19th century) actually constitutes a “fourth world war”–a contest for “conquest of territories.” In September 2004–the same month as the Podhoretz essay–Marcos returned to this theme in a screed entitled “The Speed of Dreams.” The multi-part statement attempted to place the Zapatistas’ stalled revolution in a global context.
“The neo-conservative ideology in the United States has a dream of building a neo-liberal ‘Disneyland’,” Marcos wrote. But the reality is working out otherwise. He cites Iraq as an example “of what awaits the entire world if the neo-liberals win this great war, World War IV: unemployment at nearly 70%, industry and commerce paralyzed… anti-explosive walls on all sides, a geometric increase in fundamentalism, civil war… and the export of terrorism to the whole planet.”
Marcos expostulates that “World War IV…is being waged by neo-liberalism against humanity…on all the fronts and in all parts, including the mountains of southeast Mexico. The same in Palestine, in Chechnya or in the Balkans, in Sudan, or in Afghanistan, more or less with regular armies. That which, by the same hand, brings the fundamentalism of one faction or another to every corner of the planet. That which, assuming non-military forms, claims victims in Latin America, in Social Europe, in Asia, in Africa, in Oceania, in the Far East, with financial bombs that blow to pieces entire national states… This war which…seeks to destroy/depopulate territories, reconstruct/reorder local, regional and national geographies, and create, by blood and fire, a new world cartography. Which, in its path, leaves its identifying signature: death.
“So perhaps the question ‘What is the speed of dreams?’ should be accompanied by the question, ‘What is the speed of nightmares?'”
This passage recognizes the paradoxical unity of globalization and the ethnic or religious fundamentalism that ostensibly opposes it–both feeding off each other, and both serving to break down democratic control over land and resources.
A chillingly utopian vision of the same phenomenon is offered by another prominent Pentagon theorist, Thomas P.M. Barnett of the US Naval War College, author of The Pentagon’s New Map: War and Peace in the Twenty-First Century (Putnam, 2004). In March 2003, just as Bush invaded Iraq, Esquire published a piece in which Barnett expounded his theory:
“Let me tell you why military engagement with Saddam Hussein’s regime in Baghdad is not only necessary and inevitable, but good. When the United States finally goes to war again in the Persian Gulf, it will not constitute a settling of old scores, or just an enforced disarmament of illegal weapons… Our next war in the Gulf will mark a historical tipping point–the moment when Washington takes real ownership of strategic security in the age of globalization… It forces Americans to come to terms with what I believe is the new security paradigm that shapes this age, namely, Disconnectedness defines danger.
“Saddam Hussein’s outlaw regime is dangerously disconnected from the globalizing world… Show me where globalization is thick with network connectivity, financial transactions, liberal media flows, and collective security, and I will show you regions featuring stable governments, rising standards of living… These parts of the world I call the Functioning Core, or Core. But show me where globalization is thinning or just plain absent, and I will show you regions plagued by politically repressive regimes, widespread poverty and disease, routine mass murder, and–most important—the chronic conflicts that incubate the next generation of global terrorists. These parts of the world I call the Non-Integrating Gap, or Gap. Globalization’s ‘ozone hole’ may have been out of sight and out of mind prior to September 11, 2001, but it has been hard to miss ever since…”
The world map accompanying the piece shows Barnett’s Gap as a distorted bulge following the equator. It is widest where its center is the Persian Gulf, surging north to incorporate Central Asia, the Caucasus and the Balkans, and south to take in nearly all of Africa. To the east it incorporates parts of the Indian subcontinent and all of Southeast Asia, including Indonesia and the Philippines. To the west, it jumps the Atlantic to follow the Central American isthmus and Andean chain as far south as Bolivia. Mexico is identified as “one of the ‘seam states’ that lie along the Gap’s bloody boundaries.”
For Barnett, globalization is mandatory for all peoples, and to be imposed on the recalcitrant by US firepower. Anti-war or anti-globalization instincts are dismissed as deluded: “The knee-jerk reaction of many Americans to September 11 is to say, ‘Let’s get off our dependency on foreign oil, and then we won’t have to deal with those people.’ The most naive assumption underlying that dream is that reducing what little connectivity the Gap has with the Core will render it less dangerous to us over the long haul.”
Barnett actually rejects the “World War IV” label as alarmist, but–tellingly–calls the current conflict “Globalization IV,” adopting terminology developed by some theorists at the World Bank. The postulated four phases of globalization roughly correspond to the four world wars. Phase I was 1914-29–from the Wilsonian era to the Depression, incorporating World War I, the carving of Western client states out of the oil-rich Arab lands of the Ottoman Empire, Britain’s counter-insurgency campaign in Iraq, and the abortive League of Nations. Phase II was 1945-80–the post-war expansion of the global system, the founding of the UN, World Bank, IMF and GATT. Phase III, 1980-2001, began with the renewed anti-communist crusade and deregulation dogma of the Reagan-Thatcher era, saw the collapse of the Soviet bloc, and culminated in the establishment of NAFTA, the European Union, and the World Trade Organization. Phase IV, significantly, began in 2001, with the new thrust of Western expansion in the wake of 9-11.
What is particularly dangerous about Barnett’s ideas is that they are a mandate for military assault not just on despots who seek closed dictatorships, but–by precisely the same logic–on indigenous peoples who seek simply to preserve ancient customs of self-sufficiency and to be left in peace. And, indeed, it is often indigenous peoples who are the true targets of the new campaigns against terrorism. Palestinian farming communities are expropriated of traditional lands by Israel’s “security fence.” The Uighurs of Xinjiang and the Berbers of Kabylia face escalated repression as the national governments of China and Algeria proclaim common cause with Bush’s global military campaign. Indians and campesinos in Colombia are targeted by US-backed army and paramilitary forces for simply demanding their right to non-involvement in the civil war. And everywhere, access to land and resources–oil, natural gas, even water–lie behind the bloody struggles.
Which invokes another telling irony of the phrase “World War IV”: it is, to a large degree, a war on the Fourth World. Despite the fact that the math has been “wrong”since the disappearance of the “Second World”at the end of the Cold War, the term “Fourth World” is used by advocates to denote that of stateless ethnicities and land-rooted cultures. The Center for World Indigenous Studies in Olympia, WA, publishes a Fourth World Journal dedicated to the survival struggles of such peoples worldwide.
The phrase “Fourth World” has also been adopted by adherents of the radical decentralist Leopold Kohr, whose 1957 manifesto The Breakdown of Nations anticipated the collapse of the Soviet bloc and the current worldwide resurgence of ethnic regionalism. Kohr’s vision of a human-scale world was inspired, in part, by the anarchists who seized local power in Catalonia and Aragon during the Spanish Civil War, when he was working there as a war correspondent. Kohr died in 1994, but his intellectual heir John Papworth still publishes a Fourth World Review in England. The journal’s kicker is “For Small Nations, Small Communities & the Inalienable Sovereignty of the Human Spirit.”
So this Fourth World can also encompass anarchists, bioregionalists and decentralists who take inspiration from indigenous peoples, and seek to loan them solidarity–without attempting to appropriate their cultures. And World War IV is also a war on us, on those even within the imperial powers who seek to expand and defend democracy and local culture against the twin related threats of economic giganticism and “anti-terrorist” police-state measures–the “Social Europe” invoked by Marcos to distinguish from the Imperial Europe of the EU and NATO.
And such movements are faced with the threat of twin seductions: first, of embracing the ethno-religious extremism which is paradoxically recuperated by the forces of globalization; secondly, of embracing the globalist military crusades which ostensibly oppose such fundamentalisms. The first error confuses the “ethnically-cleansed” armed enclaves of Bosnia or the ultra-puritanical Islamist guerilla foci of Iraq with the Zapatista autonomous zones of Chiapas or the self-governing liberated barrios of Buenos Aires. The second confuses the empty and technocratic “democracy” which military-enforced globalization purports to expand with meaningful human freedom.
The unlikely intellectual allies of Woolsey, Podhoretz and Marcos have provided a new gauge by which we can measure the relative velocity of nightmares and dreams.
In the original Spanish
Fourth World Journal, Center for World Indigenous Studies
Fourth World Review, POB 2410, Swindon, England SN5 4XN
See also WW4REPORT #90
Special to WORLD WAR 4 REPORT, Jan. 17, 2005
Reprinting permissible with attribution
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The "Dark Alliance" Imbroglio and the Dark End of an Embattled Journalist
by Bill Weinberg
On the morning of Dec. 10, 2004, a moving crew arrived at the Sacramento area home of Gary Webb—legendary and controversial journalist responsible for the "Dark Alliance" sensation eight years earlier. They found a note on the front door: "Please do not enter. Call 911 and ask for an ambulance."
Webb was found inside with two gunshot wounds to the head. Despite this seeming anomaly, the Sacramento County coroner found it was suicide.
The Internet is still abuzz with speculation of foul play. But in an on-line statement, Tom Walsh, Webb’s editor at the Sacramento News & Review, dismissed what he called "[h]earsay presented as fact on activist-conspiracy Web sites. For instance, numerous Web sites reported that Gary was killed with a shotgun (he wasn’t) and that people were seen climbing up to his balcony (there isn’t one)… Spreading rumors does a disservice to Gary’s life and work… Based on the evidence we’ve seen, it was a suicide."
Indeed, it had been a long slide downhill for Webb. After a stint as the most notorious journalist in America, he had been hounded out of respectability and was reduced to consulting work for the California state assembly. He had recently been hired by the News & Review, Sacramento’s alternative weekly.
Webb was catapulted to infamy by his August 1996 "Dark Alliance" series in the San Jose Mercury News—where the California native had shared a Pulitzer with the rest of the staff for coverage of the 1989 Bay Area earthquake. Dark Alliance detailed links between the LA crack trade and the CIA’s "contra" operations in Nicaragua—re-opening a controversy the agency had thought died a decade ago, and blowing it far wider open than the 1986 Congressional hearings on the "Contragate" scandal ever did. Webb would pay a high price for his courage.
The Small Print Giveth and the Big Print Taketh Away
Within a year of the series, both the CIA and the Department of Justice had been shamed by a national outcry into opening unprecedented investigations into the claims—and then had to be shamed into actually releasing the findings. In January 1998, Attorney General Janet Reno suppressed the Justice Department’s official report on the Dark Alliance allegations, claiming the law allowed her to indefinitely keep secret any Inspector General report which might compromise undercover operations or national security.
Justice Department Inspector General Michael Bromwich objected to Reno’s decision not to release the 400-page report, "A CIA-Contra Crack Cocaine Controversy: A Review of the Justice Department’s Investigations and Prosecutions," but told the press he "must abide by it." Anonymous Justice Department sources conveniently "leaked" that the report found no evidence that the CIA colluded with contras in the cocaine trade. But the outcry persisted, and in July the DoJ did release the Bromwich report—which did indeed find that Reagan administration officials had been aware of cocaine trafficking by contra operatives, and that the CIA had withheld such information from US law enforcement as a matter of policy.
By then, CIA Inspector General Frederick Hitz had published the results of his own internal investigation, which also backed up these claims upon careful reading—while largely (not completely) exonerating the specific figures named by Webb as ploughing crack profits in contra coffers. Further corroboration was provided by California’s Rep. Maxine Waters, who in May revealed a CIA-DoJ letter of understanding which had officially freed the agency from reporting drug smuggling by CIA assets—a provision that covered the Afghan mujahedeen as well as the Nicaraguan contras.
But the federal government and Big Media had been acting in concert to delegitimize the series for months—and the attacks on Webb’s work made far bigger headlines than the vindication buried deep in the official reports. "The agency neither participated in nor condoned drug trafficking by Contra forces," was a typical quote from Hitz given prominent coverage—while the small print in his own report indicated otherwise. The Washington Post and other big dailies which attacked the series parroted official denials from the CIA and Justice Department—even as these bodies’ internal reports on the allegations remained secret.
The Contras’ LA Connection: Exposed
Dark Alliance documented links between the architects of the LA crack trade and the Nicaraguan Democratic Force (FDN), the CIA-created counter-revolutionary army better known as the contras. Webb focused on three key players in the contra-linked cocaine ring that dominated California markets in the 1980s.
Norwin Meneses, the ring’s Bay Area-based boss, was Nicaragua’s best known drug trafficker, and came from a family close to ex-dictator Anastasio Somoza. When Somoza was overthrown in the 1979 Sandinista revolution, Meneses fled to the US. Listed in DEA computers as a major international drug smuggler implicated in 45 separate federal investigations, he nonetheless lived in peace—buying homes, bars, restaurants, real estate and factories throughout the Bay Area. Arrested in Nicaragua on cocaine charges in 1991, his judge expressed open astonishment that he went unmolested by federal drug agents during his years in the US. He currently resides in Nicaragua’s Tipitapa Prison, where he is known as "Rey de la Droga" (King of Drugs).
Danilo Blandon, the ring’s Southern California distributor, sold 100 kilos of Meneses’ cocaine a week in the LA area throughout the mid-1980s. In 1992, Blandon was arrested on cocaine charges in San Diego, but got a short sentence after cutting a deal with the DEA to squeal on other California dealers. He was eventually paid over $166,000 in US tax-dollars for his services.
Rick "Freeway" Ross was Blandon’s main connection for neighborhood distribution. They both got fabulously rich. Blandon eventually set Rick up for a DEA sting. He currently resides in San Diego’s Metropolitan Correctional Center.
Webb reported that Blandon met with FDN commander Enrique Bermudez in 1981 in Honduras, where the contras established their camps along the Nicaraguan border. "There is a saying that the ends justify the means," Blandon testified at a San Diego cocaine trial. "That’s what Mr. Bermudez told us in Honduras, OK? So we started raising money for the contra revolution." Webb also reported that Blandon and Meneses had met with FDN political boss Adolfo Calero. Blandon’s grand jury and trial testimony as well as affidavits for search warrants and Parole Department reports all indicated that his drug profits were going to contra coffers. In a 1986 affidavit, three confidential informants said that Blandon was still sending money to the contras.
The public response to the revelations was immediate and dramatic. In August 1996, Rep. Waters demanded a Justice Department investigation into the claims. In November, America witnessed the unlikely spectacle of CIA Director John Deutch addressing a public meeting in Watts to answer the Dark Alliance allegations.
The Empire Strikes Back
By then, the Big Three of the Washington Post, New York Times and Los Angeles Times were all attacking the series, dismissing Webb’s claims as anecdotal and inflated, with headlines like "The CIA & Crack: Evidence Lacking of Alleged Plot" (Washington Post, Oct. 4, 1996). The San Jose Mercury News was on the defensive, with a newsroom war raging between those who saw Dark Alliance as Pulitzer material or a tawdry conspiracy theory.
The Mercury News finally capitulated under the pressure. Editor Joe Ceppos wrote a special column in May 1997 saying the Dark Alliance series "fell short of my standards" and "oversimplified the complex issue of how the crack epidemic in America grew." The paper never published Webb’s follow-up reports, which he had traveled to Nicaragua for.
If the series was problematic, so were the attacks on it. The New York Times’ wide-eyed reporting of Deutch’s contention that "the agency never had any relationship" with Blandon and Meneses prompted Norman Solomon of the media watchdog group Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) to comment that the Times had not "included any suggestion that the CIA might be a dubious touchstone for veracity."
When the Washington Post objected to Webb’s use of the term "the CIA’s army" to "suggest that the agency was involved" in the contra-coke operations, Solomon responded that "referring to the Nicaraguan Democratic Force (FDN) as the CIA’s army is solid journalism, highlighting a relationship that is fundamentally relevant to the story. The army was formed at the instigation of the CIA, its leaders were selected and received salaries from the agency, and CIA officers controlled day-to-day battlefield strategies."
Then there was the question of the degree to which the Meneses-Blandon-Ross trio were responsible for saturating LA with crack. Was this an "oversimplification"? Two years before the Dark Alliance series, the very Los Angeles Times that would later belittle Freeway Rick’s role in the LA crack trade called him "the one outlaw capitalist most responsible for flooding Los Angeles’ streets with mass-marketed cocaine."
There was the distinct whiff of panic in the high-handed dismissals of Dark Alliance by stodgy old respectable dailies. A more balanced assessment by Peter Kornbluh, himself a seasoned investigator of illegal contra operations, ran in the January 1997 Columbia Journalism Review.
Kornbluh called Webb out on sloppy reporting which gave ammo to his opponents. For instance, Webb quoted Blandon’s grand jury testimony that "When Mr. Reagan get in the power, we started receiving a lot of money" so "we started doing business by ourselves." If the Blandon-Meneses ring stopped supporting the contras in 1981, Kornbluh noted, the basic thrust of Dark Alliance—that contra coke fueled the 1980s crack explosion—was contradicted. However, neither Webb nor Kornbluh pointed out that with the 1983 Boland Amendment, Congress cut off contra funds—again necessitating an alliance with the drug lords to fund the FDN. Congressional funds would be revived sporadically later in the decade (with the editorial support of the Washington Post and New York Times).
Down the Orwellian Memory Hole
For those who cared to look, the cocaine-contra cat was out of the bag ten years earlier. AP’s Robert Parry reported in 1985 that contra groups "have engaged in cocaine trafficking to help finance their war against Nicaragua." The San Francisco Examiner ran a 1986 expose on Norwin Meneses’ links to the so-called "Frogman" cocaine ring broken up in a 1983 Bay Area federal sting. The Examiner reported the Frogman ring had been helping "to finance the contra rebels in Nicaragua." It even reported that the US government returned $36,020 seized as drug money in the Frogman case after "one of the defendants…submitted letters from Contra leaders claiming the funds were really their property."
The Senate Sub-Committee on Terrorism, Narcotics & International Operations—headed by Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry—also explored contra-coke connections, and met with official roadblocking.
Former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld (later blocked from becoming President Clinton’s Mexico ambassador by Sen. Jesse Helms for being "soft on drugs") had been an assistant attorney general in the Reagan Justice Department, and was charged by researchers with blocking the Kerry investigation. Weld "fought not to give us access to basic documents and witnesses under government protection," testified Jack Blum before the Senate in October 1996. Blum, who was a Kerry Subcommittee investigator in 1986, said: "The Justice Department did everything possible to block our investigation. Prisoners were moved so that they couldn’t be located, Justice employees were instructed not to talk to us…"
When the 1,166-page Kerry Report was finally released in 1989, it was buried in the back pages of the national dailies. Nor would Kerry’s probe be invoked by either side in the 2004 presidential debates.
Also in 1989, White House operative Oliver North, National Security Advisor John Poindexter, US Ambassador Lewis Tambs and CIA station chief Joe Fernandez were officially barred from Costa Rican territory after that country’s National Assembly issued a report finding that the contra re-supply outfit they operated south of the Nicaraguan border had doubled as a cocaine ring. This also failed to make stateside headlines.
There had been whole books written on the contra-cocaine connection, the best of which was Cocaine Politics: Drugs, Armies and the CIA in Central America by Peter Dale Scott and Jonathan Marshall, published by the University of California in 1991. Five years before Dark Alliance, Scott and Marshall cited an FBI teletype from the Frogman case procured by the Kerry Subcommittee, stating that the source for the ring’s cocaine was the exiled Nicaraguan Sanchez brothers, then based in Costa Rica. One Sanchez brother not mentioned in the teletype was high-ranking FDN leader Aristide Sanchez.
Gary Webb hardly "uncovered" the contra-coke connection. All he did was uncover the LA connection—a significant contribution, no doubt. But far more contra coke probably came in through the contras’ stateside stronghold of Miami. Dark Alliance acknowledged that some of the California coke came in through Miami. Webb traced Freeway Rick’s expansion of the trade to Midwest cities like Cincinnati, but failed to discover the Miami bosses’ other distribution networks.
Descent of the Culture-Vultures
In November 1996, The Washington Post quoted Webb—who was then reported to be seeking a movie deal with Disney’s Touchstone Pictures—as saying he wanted to "explore a theory" that "the contra war was not a real war at all. It was a charade, a smoke screen…to provide cover for a massive drug operation." This was the line of genuinely irresponsible conspiracy-mongers like Rev. Louis Farrakhan, whose Final Call paper was playing the Dark Alliance revelations for all they were worth, portraying not even a money-making enterprise but a sinister plot to destroy Black America.
There were undoubtedly those who did just see the contra war as a vehicle for their cocaine operations—like Freeway Rick and Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega. But for the people who were really running the show—like Oliver North, the Reagan/Bush pointman on clandestine contra ops—the reverse was true, of course. Overthrowing the Nicaraguan revolution was the aim of the contra-cocaine operation; the Black folks of crack-plagued Watts were the collateral damage.
The fact that Webb was conniving with Disney/Farrakhan exploitation of the issue merely played into the hands of those who sought to dismiss his own legitimate investigative work. As Hakim Bey has lamented: "every revelation finds its sponsor, its CEO, its monthly slick, its clone Judases & replacement people."
The movie never got made. In 1999, Webb’s full investigation was published as a book entitled Dark Alliance: The CIA, the Contras, and the Crack Cocaine Explosion, by New York’s Seven Stories Press. It received favorable reviews. But by then, Webb had left the Mercury News, and his reputation had been tarnished by endless trumpeting the of the flaws in his courageous work.
Webb, who is survived by two sons and a daughter, was among the last of an ancient breed—a real, gum-shoeing investigative reporter, an idealistic muckraker who believed that nothing is more indicting than the facts. His personal and professional failings were of the kind that all we human animals are susceptible to, and were exploited cynically and mercilessly by the power structure. If his ethic of fighting journalism is allowed to die along with him, this world will indeed be a poorer place.
Special to WORLD WAR 4 REPORT, Jan. 17, 2005
Reprinting permissible with attribution
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Indigenous Cultures "Wiped Off the Map" as Governments Exploit the Disaster
by Sarah Robbins
On December 26, 2004, the Indian Ocean tsunami wreaked unimaginable havoc, leaving devastation in its wake and a still-climbing death toll that’s already topped 160,000. But world media have taken little note that entire indigenous cultures–already battle-weary from generations of colonization, inappropriate tourism, war, and disease–may have been swallowed by the waves. And the national governments of some impacted countries are accused of actually exploiting the disaster against restive indigenous populations.
While government officials and aid workers toiled to assess damage and casualties on Thailand’s beaches and even Indonesia’s civil war battlegrounds, the gravest toll may be among small, already-threatened populations in places barely known to the outside world. "This disaster is really about indigenous populations who have been completely wiped off the map," says Rudolph Ryser, chairman of the Center for World Indigenous Studies, based in Olympia, WA. "We suspect that off the west coast of Sumatra, where a number of islands were completely obliterated, some of those populations have been wiped out."
Indonesia was hit the hardest—about 115,000 deaths in total–and the war-torn province of Aceh, on Sumatra, was the closest to the earthquake. Aceh’s coastline was shattered, villages were destroyed, and much of Banda Aceh, the capital, was obliterated. Relief efforts are complicated by the Indonesian government’s military campaign against the Free Aceh Movement (GAM), which has been engaged in a struggle for independence from Indonesia since 1976. Before the disaster, the Indonesian government had banned foreign journalists and observers from visiting the province, and now aid workers must register with officials before leaving. GAM’s international supporters accuse the Indonesian military of obstructing aid efforts.
"It’s important for people to realize that these countries have been engaged in battles against the indigenous population for the last generation," says Ryser. "Indonesia has been involved in a war against the West Paupuans, and of course the people of Aceh."
In Sri Lanka–where more than 30,000 people were killed and over a million displaced–questions arise over whether the government has given enough aid to the northeastern part of the country, which is controlled by Tamil rebels. The country’s aboriginal inhabitants, the Veddhas, may also be profoundly affected. "They’ll suffer enormously," Ryser says, "because they were very small, and are right in the middle of the target area."
The death toll in the Indian province of Tamil Nadu was 7,800, and indigenous peoples may be disproportionately affected there as well. "There’s been such substantial physical disruption, and I’m not sure the Indian government is going to be so friendly," Ryser says, noting that the Yenadi and Bondo indigenous peoples are particularly threatened.
Cascading down a the Bay of Bengal like a broken necklace, the 572 islands that constitute the Andaman and Nicobar archipelago–36 of which are inhabited–were also hit hard. The India-governed island chain–days’ sailing from the mainland–was a source of tension and speculation in the wake of the disaster, as the Indian government barred foreign aid from the archipelago. Fear mounted that those who survived the tsunami’s initial impact now faced starvation.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, most of the fatalities occurred in Katchal, once dubbed "Sunrise Island," in the Nicobar chain. Of its population of 8,300, over 300 have been confirmed dead, while up to 4,500 remain unaccounted for.
The archipelago has a history of displacement of its native population. After the 1857 Indian Mutiny, the British established prisons on the islands, though prisoners sent there often died of disease or were shot by natives unhappy with the encroachment onto their traditional lands. The Japanese occupied some of the islands during World War II, further displacing native communities. The penal colony was closed in 1945 and is now a tourist attraction. After independence, many Bengali and Bangladeshi settlers came to the islands, as did Tamils from Sri Lanka. Of the twelve indigenous tribes that once occupied the islands, six remain. For years, the islands have faced a situation of unsympathetic cohabitation between the native population and the settlers–with the latter facing a threat of actual extinction.
After settlers from the Indian mainland, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, the largest population in the archipelago is the Nicobarese tribe. These estimated 22,000 people have for the most part cordial relations with the settlers, and have even adopted some of their ways. The other tribes maintain greater distance, and their isolation from modern society has allowed them to preserve the hunter-gatherer ways of their ancestors. The Jarawas, who only came in contact with government authorities in 1996, remember bitter experience with violence and disease in World War II and still stay clear of outsiders. They live in six jungle settlements in the Andamans, surviving on wild pork and fish killed with arrows. On Jan. 6, seven Jarawa tribesmen, who had marched out of the forest armed with bows and arrows to establish contact with outsiders after the disaster, reported that all 250 of their people had escaped inland and were living on coconuts. The tribesmen, speaking through an interpreter, objected to an Associated Press photographer taking their picture, saying that they fall sick when photographed.
Only a few families of the indigenous Andamanese ethnicity remain, as 150 years ago missionaries, in their attempt to "civilize" the people, ended up exposing them to measles and mumps. The 40 remaining Sentinelese, another hunter-gatherer society that subsists largely on wild boar, have not been contacted directly by the government, as they are typically hostile, but they have been seen from the air.
The largest group on the Andaman Islands are the Onge, most of whom, according to a representative of the islands’ Tribal Welfare Department, were found safe in the forested highlands of the interior. "Development has been taking place all around these people," Ryser said. "There were 678 members of the Onge tribe in 1901. Now there are only 101." Their ability to survive the tsunami is likely attributed to their ancient wisdom. Sophie Grig, a campaign officer for Survival International, said that a member of the Onge tribe told rescue workers that they took the ocean’s suddenly receding waters–a signal of the oncoming tsunami not heeded elsewhere–as a sign to rush for higher ground.
The most threatened group in the archipelago are the Shom Pens, who are scattered across 17 villages on the Great Nicobar islands, situated at the closest point to the epicenter of the quake. Only 250 tribe members existed before the disaster, and the area around their remote villages has been devastated to the point that relief workers are forced to reach them by foot.
Ryser says that in order to preserve the remnants of these cultures, the relief effort must be focused and sustained. "When you have so many people in a society rubbed out in a day, you lose major parts of the cultural infrastructure," Ryser says. "The equivalent would be losing teachers, doctors, political leaders. It’s not about money, it’s about the restoration of a whole society in all its aspects. Clearly we need different policies all over the world, and India’s tribal policies are the worst."
The Indian government is the only affected nation to refuse outside help, and though the death toll in the Andaman and Nicobar islands may account for half of that in all of India, the government has denied humanitarian groups access. This is likely due to the archipelago’s strategic sensitivity. The Indian military uses Car Nicobar as a listening post, and other islands are used to monitor oil shipments through the Strait of Malacca between Sumatra and the Malay Penninsula.
But tourism may ultimately be a greater threat than military activities to indigenous cultural survival in the islands. The region is celebrated for its marine life and pristine beaches–Andaman’s Havelock Island beach was recently rated one of the best in the world by Time magazine–and the influx of tourists has increased almost tenfold since 1980. The Andaman Association, an NGO that supports indigenous peoples in the islands, has posted a letter on its website written by tribals who want protection from the illegal presence of non-tribals on traditional lands.
Ryser charges that state officials are using the disaster to integrate indigenous populations into the majority culture. Almost 10,000 people have been evacuated to the capital, Port Blair, and 21,000 or more are living in relief camps. Not all natives seem disappointed by this prospect. Washington Post reporter Rama Lakshimi met Patlo Ma, a tribal coconut farmer whose extended family traveled through the jungle for two days, surviving on bananas and coconuts. "We want to go to the city of Port Blair and lead a different kind of life from now on," he is quoted by Lakshimi.
Ryser notes that the brief media focus on tribal peoples in the archipelago represents a rare exception in a world where indigenous cultures are under daily attack. "This is interesting to us because CNN sent 38 reporters over there, and it’s pretty dramatic with all the water rushing around," he says. “But there are 100 people dying every day in the Congo, all of whom are indigenous people. There are 100 indigenous populations in Iraq, but we cover it up by calling them all Iraqis. I guess if there’s a message here, we need to notice that indigenous people are suffering enormously all over the world, not only because of natural disasters, but because of human disasters."
Special to WORLD WAR 4 REPORT, Jan. 17, 2005
Reprinting permissible with attribution
WW4Report.comContinue ReadingTHE TSUNAMI’S HIDDEN CASUALTIES
by Weekly News Update on the Americas
RESERVISTS SEIZE POLICE POST
Just after 4 AM on Jan. 1, Peruvian former army major Antauro Igor Humala Tasso and some 150 of his followers, mainly army reservists, seized a police station in the town of Andahuaylas in the southern Andean department of Apurimac. Despite having few weapons, the reservists quickly overpowered the 16 police agents guarding the post. Humala said the police agents had gotten drunk for New Year’s Eve and were caught off guard by the surprise attack. The reservists then took control of the police station and its arsenal: 80 FAL semiautomatic rifles, four shotguns, 29 grenades, 11 pistols, 800 tear gas grenades and 50,000 rounds of ammunition. Five police agents and two of Humala’s followers were wounded in the confrontation, according to a police statement. Interior Minister Javier Reategui denied the police agents were drunk when the assault took place, and praised their courage in resisting the attack.
"This is a military protest," Humala told Radioprogramas radio. "We are prepared to give up our weapons and surrender, when and if [President Alejandro] Toledo leaves his post." Toledo’s administration has been plagued by a series of corruption scandals involving relatives and members of his cabinet, and polls show his popularity at around 9%. Humala, a leader of the “Etnocacerista” movement–officially called the Peruvian Nationalist Movement (MNP)–accused Toledo of being a corrupt sellout to foreign investors, and demanded an end to inflows of capital from neighboring Chile. (AP, Jan. 1; La Republica, Lima, Jan. 2; Reuters, AFP, Jan 2)
Humala is the brother of Lt. Col. Ollanta Moises Humala Tasso, Peruvian military attache in South Korea, who was forced into early retirement from the army on Dec. 31. On Dec. 30, Ollanta Humala had protested his announced retirement as "unjust"; the same day, Antauro Humala said his brother was forced out of the army for having sent a Dec. 17 letter to new army general commander Luis Alberto Munoz, criticizing him for having links to former spy chief Vladimiro Montesinos Torres. Munoz replaced Jose Antonio Graham Ayllon as army general commander in a surprise shakeup of the military high command in mid-December following a power struggle between Graham and Defense Minister Roberto Chiabra over promotions in the ranks. (Chiabra has also been accused of links to Montesinos.)
On Dec. 31, Ollanta Humala announced he would run for president in 2006. In a communique released Jan. 1, Ollanta Humala demanded that Toledo immediately resign, that Vice President David Waisman take over as president in accordance with the Constitution, and that Toledo be put on trial. Ollanta Humala also called on reservists throughout Peru to organize in defense of the public and for the "recovery of our institutions." (LR, Dec. 14-8, Jan. 1, 2)
[On Oct. 29, 2000, the Humala brothers led some 50 followers in a brief military uprising against the government of then-president Alberto Fujimori in the town of Toquepala, in southern Moquegua department. The rebels escaped and went into hiding. Their rebellion was unsuccessful, but the regime was already near collapse; Fujimori fled the country, then resigned on Nov. 19. The Humala brothers and their followers surrendered to the transitional government a month later on Dec. 16 and were pardoned by Congress on Dec. 22.–WNU]
Antauro Humala said on Jan. 1 that his brother would soon return to Peru to resume leadership of the movement. As of Jan. 2, Ollanta Humala was still in Seoul; he told Radioprogramas the military was delaying his departure with administrative matters. (AP, AFP, Jan. 2)
"The Etnocacerista group took as hostages police major Miguel Angel Canga, three commissioned and six non-commissioned officers," the National Police said in a statement. Some 2,000 people gathered outside the Andahuaylas police station in a show of support for the military rebellion. Toledo responded by cutting short his holiday vacation to convene a cabinet meeting and declaring a 30-day state of emergency in Apurimac department. The state of emergency suspends basic constitutional rights such as freedom of assembly; permits authorities to enter homes without search warrants; and allows the president to assign the armed forces to police duties. Cabinet chief Carlos Ferrero claimed the Etnocaceristas are "closely linked" to drug traffickers, and that they had staged the assault on the police station after the police commander there refused to sell them weapons. Reategui, the interior minister, said there would be no dialogue between the government and Humala’s forces. (AP, AFP, LR, Jan. 2)
Before dawn on Jan. 2, the rebel reservists attacked a police vehicle heading to the airport on a bridge on the other side of Andahuaylas from the police station. A police captain, a police lieutenant and two police agents died from bullet wounds; three police agents and one Humala follower were wounded. Ollanta Humala said the deaths occurred when state security forces tried to retake a bridge held by the reservists. "They attacked the reservists with guns with silencers–there were four police deaths. We had one man injured–the Red Cross evacuated him," Humala said. Calm had returned to Andahuaylas, according to Humala, but some 800 police agents and 700 troops were massed there. Humala said the hostages were safe and that police had captured seven of his men. Humala claimed more supporters had joined him since the initial assault on the police station, and his group now numbered more than 200, including seven women. Humala said he had posted snipers on the police station roof and had taken over 25 police vehicles. Locals in Andahuaylas donated sacks of potatoes and fruit, and some blocked roads in support, Humala said. Andahuaylas Mayor Julio Huaraca said he had left the town "for safety reasons." (AP, Reuters, Jan. 2)
In a Jan. 1 interview with the Lima daily La Republica, attorney Isaac Humala Nunez, father of the Humala brothers (and president of the MNP in 2000), said the latest rebellion emerged from the results of the Etnocacerista Forum held last Oct. 29, where members discussed the need to confront the "strategic war" started by Chile. (LR, Jan. 2) The term "Etnocacerista" combines a prefix meaning "ethnic"–a reference to the group’s indigenous nationalist stance–with the name of Andres Avelino Caceres, a nationalist Peruvian army commander who served during the 1879 war with Chile and led a campaign of guerrilla warfare against Chile after Peru’s defeat. Caceres served as president of Peru from 1886 to 1890, and again briefly in 1894. (MNP website, Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia; LR, Jan. 2)
In its Nov. 20, 2003 edition, the weekly magazine Caretas implied that Antauro Humala had participated in the execution of campesinos while leading army patrols in Huaunco department in 1986 and 1987. From January 1986 to April 1987, Humala, then a second lieutenant, headed up the army’s Antisubversive Battalion 314, based in Acobamba, Huanuco. He later served on similar "anti-subversive" patrols in Santa Rosa, Cuzco and Moquegua.
From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Jan. 2
SIEGE IN ANDAHUAYLAS ENDS
The armed takeover in Andahuaylas ended early on Jan. 4 following the arrest of retired army major Antauro Humala Tasso, leader of the rebellion. Late on Jan. 2, after four police agents and one of his supporters were killed in a confrontation in Andahuaylas, Humala had announced that he would surrender at noon the next day in exchange for a guarantee of safety for his followers. But he later retracted his offer, saying the government had reneged on a deal to withdraw its troops from around the police post.
Instead of surrendering on Jan. 3, Humala walked out of the police post and told some 200 followers he would hold his ground. He also released a hostage police agent. Humala said he respected the wishes of his brother, Ollanta Humala, who had publicly urged a peaceful negotiated solution to the standoff, but that he preferred to listen to his followers, who had urged him not to surrender. Humala and his supporters marched to the town’s central plaza, then back to the occupied police station. The government responded by clearing out the streets around the police station and posting snipers on nearby roofs. As Humala’s supporters surrounded the police post to prevent an assault, the snipers shot and killed one Humala supporter, reservist David Ortiz, and wounded four others. Humala’s supporters responded by seizing five members of the government security forces and beating them up.
Later in the day, as the government enforced a curfew in the town, Humala went with some 50 followers–all unarmed–to negotiate with national police chief Gen. Felix Murazzo and other officials in the Andahuaylas municipal building. Humala and his top deputy, Jorge Villalba, were arrested around 10:30 PM; the government claimed it did not accept Humala’s conditions and simply ended the negotiations by arresting him, though sources consulted by the Lima daily La Republica say the arrest was negotiated.
While the negotiations were going on, police freed some 20 hostages who had been held at the police station. Humala will be charged on six counts, including terrorism, illicit association, illegal arms possession, kidnapping and homicide. The fact that Humala was charged under a terrorism statute means the case was transferred to the jurisdiction of anti-terrorism prosecutor Maria del Pilar Malpica Coronado in Lima, and Humala and Villalba were flown there for arraignment on Jan. 4. Public Ministry officials said Andahuaylas provincial prosecutor Edgar Chirinos Apaza, who had already begun an investigation into Humala, declined jurisdiction in the case. If Humala’s lawyers challenge the jurisdictional question–either on the grounds that the case should be tried in Andahuaylas or that it should not be tried as a terrorism case–it could take as long as a year before the Supreme Court makes a decision. (LR, Jan. 4, 5; Miami Herald, Jan. 5; BBC, Jan. 4)
Authorities also arrested about 100 of Humala’s followers. On Jan. 4 the Second Provincial Criminal Prosecutor’s office in Arequipa charged 15 military reservists and civilians, including union leaders, with the crime of attempted rebellion for allegedly participating in the three-day siege. Seven of those charged were arrested; eight remained at large. (MH, LR, Jan. 5)
Followers of Humala’s Peruvian Nationalist Movement (MNP) demonstrated on Jan. 2 in the departmental capitals of Tacna and Arequipa as well as in Ilave, in Puno department, all in southern Peru. On Jan. 3 in Arequipa, police used ample quantities of tear gas in an effort to stop some 3,000 MNP supporters from demonstrating in the Plaza de Armas; the chaos shut down the city center and led some 500 tourists to cut short their visits. Seven people were reported arrested. MNP supporters also marched on Jan. 4 in Puno and Tacna in support of Humala’s actions. (LR, Jan. 3-5)
From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Jan. 9
AMAZON RESIDENTS BLOCK PIPELINE
On Dec. 13, some 800 indigenous and mestizo residents of the Alto Maranon region of Loreto department in the Peruvian Amazon region blocked access to Petroperu’s #5 oil pipeline pumping station between the villages of Saramirisa and Santa Rosa and threatened to shut off the flow of oil to the coast in a protest seeking government attention to local demands. Residents also blocked traffic along the Maranon River. The indigenous residents are members of the Huambisa, Shapra, Cocama and Aguaruna ethnic groups. The protesters kept the pipeline facilities blockaded until Dec. 18, when they reached an agreement with Loreto regional president Robinson Rivadeneyra. Rivadeneyra agreed to facilitate the constitution of Alto Maranon as a province; the opening of a branch of the national bank, Banco de la Nacion, in San Lorenzo; and establishment of a radiophone system in 14 communities. Jose Valera, president of the Front of Defense and Integration of the Upper Amazon (FREDESAM) said he was satisfied with the accords. (LR, Dec. 19; El Nuevo Herald, Miami, Dec. 15)
From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Dec. 19
Reprinted by WORLD WAR 4 REPORT, Jan. 17, 2005
Reprinting permissible with attribution
Continue ReadingPERU: MILITARY REVOLT IN ANDES; PIPELINE PROTESTS IN AMAZON
With all eyes on the troops in Iraq, their families—a huge and growing segment of the population—are suffering largely in media silence
by Peter Gorman
Lynn Jeffries is a single mother from Lubbock, Texas, whose son Nathan was deployed to Iraq in late 2003. A registered nurse who worked for years in an emergency room at a Lubbock hospital, Jeffries says that shortly after her son was deployed, she found herself unable to take care of trauma patients and left the emergency room for work as a hospice nurse. "I just started crying at everything," she says. "I was so angry about this war, but at the same time I felt like I couldn’t fight against it without betraying my son. It just ate at me every day, more and more."
Jeffries’ depression grew until, she says "at one point I thought of taking my own life in order to get my son home. It’s just made me a little crazy. I’ve never felt so helpless in my life–there are days I could not even leave the house."
Jeffries’ son was home on leave when she spoke with this reporter, and she said she was feeling a little better–but having difficulty facing that her son is scheduled for redeployment to Iraq early in 2005. "What will happen the day I have to put him back on the plane to go back? I would do anything to have him go to Canada, but he says his friends need him and he can’t leave them."
Teri Wills Allison of Austin, is a mother of two boys–one of whom is deployed in Iraq. She says that the depressions she began to have after her son left for Iraq got so bad that "though I’d never taken pills before I’ve needed Xanax just to get through the day since my son’s deployment."
Jeffries and Wills Allison are not unique. They are part of a growing number of military families who find themselves dealing with what psychologists are beginning to recognize as Secondary Traumatic Stress Disorder. Like the better-known Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Secondary TSD can clearly be debilitating.
Says Wills Allison: "We, the mothers and fathers of the boys in Iraq–we’re getting by, but barely. Some of them tell me they need a six-pack before bed to fall asleep. Others can’t leave the house for fear they’ll come home to have that call from the military waiting on the machine. Some families are just torn apart by this."
Some more than others. In late November, Marine Lance Cpl. Charles Hanson Jr., was killed in a roadside bombing of his convoy in Iraq. One week later, on Nov. 30, his stepdad, 39-year-old Mike Barwick, entertained guests at his Crawfordville, FL, home with stories of the stepson he loved so much. Three days later, just hours before guests were coming for a viewing at the home Barwick shared with Hanson’s mother, Dana Hanson, Barwick shot and killed himself. Family members were quoted in the local newspapers as saying it was clear he simply couldn’t live with the pain.
Misha ben-David, a drug and trauma counsellor in Austin, says he remembers his family being torn apart when his father went to Vietnam, and is beginning to fear the same thing will happen now that his son is being deployed to Iraq. "The stress on the family is unbearable," he says. "I can already hear my ex-wife starting to freak out, retreating into a ‘rah-rah, do you love your son or not?’ frame of mind. We’ve got so much pressure on us from people like the Fox network to see this as a black-and-white issue–either you’re for the war and a patriot or you’re a no good, liberal, anti-American. Add to that stress that it’s your child that might be killed, or wounded, or permanently maimed and you’ve got a lot of family members going crazy out there."
"Every member of every family who has ever sent a loved one to war has suffered," says Nancy Lessin from Massachusetts, whose stepson, Joe Richardson, served in Iraq during the invasion and is expected to be called back for a second deployment there any day. "But this one is different. The stresses are different."
Lesson is a co-founder, with her husband, Charlie Richardson and a friend, Jeffrey McKenzie, of an organization called Military Families Speak Out. MFSO was started in November, 2002, after Joe Richardson and Jeffrey McKenzie’s son–who is scheduled for a second tour in Iraq in 2005–was initially deployed to Iraq. "We realized we had no place to turn, no one to talk to about our anger at this war, about the feeling of helplessness we had, about our outrage over our sons being used in this unjust war. So we started our own organization." Since its inception, MFSO has grown to over 2,000 members, most of whom are against the war in Iraq.
Lesson was asked why she thinks the suffering of families is different in this war than in other wars. "Because this is a war that didn’t have to happen. This is a war built on lies. We were told that this war was about weapons of mass destruction, about Iraq’s ties to al-Qaeda and the Twin Towers horror. But there were no weapons of mass destruction, no ties to al-Qaeda. We were told ‘Mission Accomplished’ when Saddam Hussein fell, but there was no mission accomplished.”
Lesson portrays a betrayal of the government’s most fundamental commitment to its soldiers. "All of our loved ones signed up to protect our country and our country’s constitution. They took a vow to give their lives, if necessary. But the assumption was that they would be fighting for a just cause. And if this were a just war–while Charlie and I would still have been terrified of that knock on the door or that telephone message telling us that Joe had died–we would have been able to move on. But in this war, a war for oil markets and corporate interests, a war in which every reason given for fighting it has proven to have been a lie, I don’t know that we would ever be able to move on if that knock on the door came. And what that has done to the families of the men and women fighting this war is horrible.”
There is also the added stress–not just on the soldiers, but on the family members as well–of involuntary tour extensions, multiple deployments, shortages of both body and vehicle armor. "Put it all together, and what you’ve created is an emotionally explosive situation," says ben-David.
This is also the first war in which soldiers have access to the internet, intended by the military to keep morale up by giving soldiers regular contact with their families. But there have been unintended consequences to such regular contact as well. Says Lessin: "It’s not a letter every couple of weeks, where parents can try to imagine that everything is OK. With the internet we’re learning that our loved ones don’t have enough food or water or weapon replacements or armored vests, things that leave us feeling helpless."
"Don’t even get me started on that," says Sharon Allen, a single mother from Fort Worth, whose son is in Germany preparing for a second deployment to Iraq. "While he was in Iraq the first time, my son wrote me that the Halliburton people who were hired to bring things like mail and water and parts for the troops said it was too dangerous to go where my son was, and that the company would have to send people to a safer place to get what they needed. They were in the middle of a war, and they couldn’t. My son said the only way he kept his tank going was to steal parts from another tank. Can you imagine giving that choice to a 22-year-old? I’m a wreck knowing he’s going back."
Wills Allison eloquently described her feelings of helplessness in an essay she wrote titled "A Mother’s View”, that initially appeared on the internet. "A just war there may be, but there is no such thing as a good war. And the burdens of an unjust war are insufferable. I know something about the costs of an unjust war, for my son, Nick–an infantryman in the US Army–is fighting one in Iraq… First, the minor stuff: my constant feelings of dread and despair; the sweeping rage that alternates with petrifying fear; the torrents of tears that accompany a maddening sense of helplessness and vulnerability… I feel like a mother lion in a cage, my grown cub in danger, and all I can do is throw myself furiously against the bars, impotent to protect him."
One of the worst aspects of this war, wrote Wills Allison, is the wedge it’s driven between her and much of her family. "They don’t see this war as one based on lies. They’ve become evangelical believers in a false faith, swallowing Bush’s fear-mongering, his chicken-hawk posturing and strutting, and cheering his ‘bring ’em on’ attitude as a sign of strength and resoluteness… These are the same people who have known my son since he was a baby, who have held him and loved him and played with him, who have bought him birthday presents and taken him fishing. I don’t know them anymore."
The military offers social services and family counseling for husbands, wives and children of servicemen and women deployed overseas. But the services are only available to those who live on base. As few parents do, they have almost nowhere to turn for support.
There are a couple of exceptions. In August, 2003, under the watch of Lt Col Anthony Baker, Sr., the National Guard began working with Guard families in crisis situations, sometimes in a one-to-one setting. The Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS)–a non-profit with strong ties to the Department of Defense and the Dept. of Veterans’Affairs–primarily provides services to those who have lost a loved one while serving in the armed forces. But director Bonnie Carroll says the people who staff the 24-hour hotline (1-800-959-8277) will try to help anyone in a crisis situation resulting from the stress of a loved one deployed in Iraq.
"We’ll try the best we can," Carroll says. But for most families, MFSO.org and a few other internet forums are the only places filling the void. "It’s the only place I can go at 4 AM when I can’t sleep, even with the Xanax, to talk with people who feel like I do," says Wills Allison. "One of my friends has a son who returned home with such PTSD that he had flashbacks of the smell of burning flesh, of the sight of dead people torn to bits on the side of the road." While home on leave, Allison says, he crawled to his mother’s bed every night to cry and fall asleep. "And then he was redeployed. His mother is barely holding on. There’s no-one in the military there for her."
Cathy Wiblemo, deputy director for health care at the American Legion, the veterans’ organization that serves as a watchdog on the Veteran’s Administration, says there is simply no funding to provide services for the families of deployed or returning soldiers. "We do have a hotline [1-800-5040-4098] referral service for family members where we try to find them the services they need in their local community, but in terms of paying for those, they’re on their own.
She takes a stark view of the situation. "The truth is that the VA is not ready to supply the services that are going to be needed for the returning vets. And if we can’t even provide those services for soldiers, how could they possibly be available to family members?"
Unfortunately, because the phenomenon of Secondary Traumatic Stress Disorder is just beginning to be recognized, there are no studies on the numbers of people severely affected to the point where they are functioning less well than normal. It might be thousands; it might be tens of thousands. It’s also unknown how long the stress will last even after the family members return home.
"We’ll find out as we go along," says ben-David. Until we do, they’re on their own–just incidental collateral damage.
Special to WORLD WAR 4 REPORT, Jan. 17, 2005
Reprinting permissible with attribution
WW4Report.comContinue ReadingTHE WAR’S TOLL AT HOME
Pipeline Politics Behind "Orange Revolution"
by Raven Healing
While blogs and alternative media in the US were still debating whether or not Bush had actually won the elections, representatives of the Bush administration were criticizing the accuracy of the presidential results in Ukraine. As reports of electoral irregularities mounted in Ohio, Secretary of State Colin Powell stated, "the Ukrainian people deserve fair elections." However, a peek behind the headlines indicates that neither candidate ever represented the needs of the Ukrainian people.
Ukraine was already a divided country, ethnically, linguistically and religiously. The western regions are inhabited mostly by Ukrainian-speaking Uniate Catholics who identify more strongly with Europe, while the east is predominantly Russian-speaking, Orthodox Christians who generally favor close ties to Moscow. The eastern provinces supported Russian-speaking Viktor Yanukovich, and the western provinces largely went for Viktor Yushchenko, the Ukrainian-speaking candidate.
However, the elections became more than just a contest over which candidate the Ukrainian people wanted, but rather which world power Ukraine should align itself with–and, given the country’s dire economic situation, potentially be dominated by. The Ukraine electoral crisis–which nearly led to a civil war, according to many analysts–was manipulated by rival outside powers, each with its own economic agenda. One of Ukraine’s most important economic interests is provided by its strategic location between the oil-rich Caspian Sea and western markets–and particularly the Odessa-Brody pipeline, recently built to carry Caspian oil from Ukraine’s Black Sea port of Odessa to Brody, near the Polish border. Controlled by Ukraine’s state pipeline company, the Odessa-Brody has ironically only been used to carry oil in the reverse direction–exporting Ural oil from a Russian company to Odessa for export via the Black Sea.
In November of 2004, Victor Yanukovych was declared the winner of the elections in the Ukraine. His opponent, Victor Yushchenko, along with some NGO’s, criticized the election as rigged; claiming votes had been added to mobile ballots. Colin Powell said that the US refused to accept the results of the elections, adding: "If the Ukrainian government does not act immediately and responsibly there will be consequences for our relationship." Groups of young protestors flooded Kiev, and the Ukrainian Supreme Court ruled the first election a fraud. This circumstance was coined the "Orange Revolution," evoking the "Rose Revolution" in Georgia a year earlier–in which Russian-backed President Eduard Shevardnadze was ousted by a protest wave following contested elections.
Before the revote, Yushchenko revisited a clinic in Vienna that he had been in twice before for a mysterious disfiguring illness–only this time the doctors rather quickly came to a conclusion that Yushchenko had been poisoned with dioxin. In an environment tainted with accusations of an attempted assassination, the re-vote was held Dec. 26. Yushchenko was found to be the winner by 52 percent. In both elections, the results were divided along the linguistic and cultural rift–Yushchenko winning in the west while Yanukovich won in the east.
Yanukovich was acting prime minister of Ukraine from November 2002 to December 7, 2004, when he resigned due to fallout from the assassination accusation. Yanukovich’s candidacy was supported by Leonid Kuchma, president of Ukraine for over ten years, as well as by Russian President Vladimir Putin, who often appeared alongside Yanukovich during his campaign. Just before the first election, Putin told the Ukrainian press that dual citizenship was a possibility, as well as an easier visa process–the unspoken condition, by strong implication, being the election of Yanukovich.
Yanukovich tried to present himself as a tough-guy populist, but the opposition saw him as a "business as usual" candidate representing the interests of the various oligarchs who had taken control of Ukrainian industries–as well as those of Russia, which is selling oil to western markets via Ukraine pipelines. He is connected to the "Donetsky clan," a powerful business and political group, and its leader Rinat Akhmetov, Ukraine’s richest tycoon. Yanukovich advocated closer relations with Russia and even favored some political integration with Russia. Furthermore, he represented the continuation of the authoritarian tendencies and suppression of media freedom that plagued Kuchma’s presidency. Some critics of Yanukovich feared that he has close ties to both the FSB (successor to the KGB) and to Bratva, the organized crime machine. He was said to have acted as a lobbyist for Bratva in national-level politics.
Yushchenko’s past is by no means clear of similar negative associations. He was the head of the National Bank of Ukraine (NBU) in 1997 when, according to some critics, millions of dollars in IMF loans were embezzled and laundered, profiting certain oligarchs, although apparently not Yushchenko personally. Some oligarchs, such as Yuliya Timoshenko, who has been publicly implicated in unethical economic practices, openly supported Yushchenko’s candidacy. While Yushchenko was acting as prime minister in 2000, the IMF audited the NBU, finding "irregularities" in accounting practices and suspended a loan. Yushchenko worked to mend fences with the IMF, as well as with US leaders. By the end of 2000, the IMF reinstated the loan under condition that Ukraine submit a list of enterprises subject to privatization. By this time, Ukraine had borrowed over $3 billion from the IMF, most of which was used to stabilize the national currency, an accomplishment for which Yushchenko is given credit. Bill Clinton praised Ukraine for its "progress" and encouraged "efforts to more fully integrate Ukraine into the West." Meanwhile, Clinton was also brokering plans for a Baku-Ceyan pipeline, a second artery to carry Caspian oil to western markets, through the Caucasus.
Western media portray the "Orange Revolution" as a movement of the people, and Yushchenko’s presidency as heralding a new era of freedom and prosperity for Ukraine. Yushchenko’s presidency may mean a revolution, but this revolution only changes which wealthy hands are grabbing the profits from oil transfers, while the people themselves remain in poverty. And the youthful protests were, at least, greatly aided by the US and Western financial interests.
The US State Department funded the exit poll in the first election that showed Yushchenko leading by 11 points. The State Department sent $65 million over the past two years to groups in support of democracy in Ukraine. One of these groups was the International Center for Policy Studies, on whose board Yushchenko sits. The US Agency for International Development (AID) sent millions to the Poland-America-Ukraine Cooperation Initiative, an NGO that in turn funded various other NGOs in support of Yushchenko. There are accusations that some of the NGOs which assessed the fairness of the elections are affiliates of the US National Endowment for Democracy, which is closely associated with US AID. The "Pora" youth movement responsible for many of the protests was funded by financier philanthropist George Soros and by Freedom House, a Washington-based proponent of "democracy" and "free markets" which is funded by such groups as the Soros Foundation, Whirlpool, US Steel, the Ford Foundation, the National Endowment for Democracy and US AID. Western media generally did not cover protests by supporters of Yanukovich.
With Yushchenko seeking membership to the EU, and potential membership in NATO; with his clearly pro-Western position; with the role the US has played in promoting a re-vote; with Ukraine so dependent on loans from the IMF, which insists that Ukraine’s oil trade be in US dollars–it was easy for Putin to accuse the US of playing "sphere of influence" politics. Of course Putin was himself playing "sphere of influence" politics.
The "Rose Revolution" in Georgia was also a funded "revolution." Again, George Soros funded the youth group (Kmara) responsible for most of the protests; a Russian-backed president was unseated and replaced with a more pro-Western one. This new pro-Western president, Mikhail Saakashvili, seeks membership into both the EU and NATO. President Saakashvili did not herald a new time of freedom for the people; there have been many concerns about his authoritarian tendencies, including heavy-handed use of the police to break up protests. However, he did lessen Russia’s traditional control over Georgian politics. After his meeting with Powell in January 2004, Powell called for the removal of all Russian troops from Georgia, and for opening the country to more US military advisors. Saakashvili also protects the interests of the US companies who want to pump their oil through Georgia in the Baku-Ceyan pipeline.
The Ukrainian people were caught between two imperialist powers vying for control of the world’s oil. They were essentially asked to vote for which world power they would rather have reaping the profits from the flow of Caspian oil through their country–for it is certainly not the impoverished Ukrainian people who will be making any money. To both Russia and the West, the countries on the precious route from the Caspian to insatiable western markets are important due to their geopolitical location–not their culture or people. As Russia has shown in Chechnya, and the US in Iraq, the rights of the people are of little consequence when control of oil resources are at stake.
Wall Street Journal on the Odessa-Brody pipeline
Special to WORLD WAR 4 REPORT, Jan. 17, 2005
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WW4Report.comContinue ReadingOIL, OLIGARCHS AND THE UKRAINE CRISIS
by Daniel Leal Diaz
The Bogota daily El Tiempo recently reported that the US military contractor Halliburton has recruited 25 retired Colombian police and army officers to provide security for oil infrastructure in Iraq. One of the men, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the officers met in Bogota on Dec. 2 with a Colombian colonel working on behalf of Halliburton Latin America, who offered them monthly salaries of $7,000 to provide security for oil workers and facilities in several Iraqi cities. The claim was confirmed by a Colombian government source, said El Tiempo, but denied by a Halliburton representative in Bogota. US media have reported that former soldiers from Chile, South Africa and Spain are being recruited to beef up Iraqi security forces. Halliburton, the oil services giant once run by US Vice President Dick Cheney, has won billions of dollars in Iraq contracts, but has been accused of overcharging and accounting irregularities. (Al-Jazeera, Dec. 13; AP, Dec. 17)
Colombia is a member of President Bush’s "coalition of the willing" in Iraq, but hasn’t sent troops because its army is battling a guerilla insurgency with US aid at home. The wars in Iraq and Colombia are coming to reflect each other more and more.
Rights abuses by the military continue in Colombia’s rural communities. On Dec. 29, in the self-declared "peace community" of San Jose de Apartado, Antioquia department, a 10-year-old girl, Flor Alba Nerio Usuaga, was shot in the back, while running with some campesinos that refused to stop when an army patrol told them to. According to a statement from the community leaders, the campesinos had seen guerillas in the area, and were afraid of getting caught in cross-fire. The girl survived, and is now in the hospital in nearby Apartado city.
On Dec. 22, in La Cristalina, one of San Jose’s outlying communities, three campesinos, including 70-year-old Miguel Arango, were forcibly detained by army troops in their own houses. Accused by the troops of being guerilla collaborators, Arango was tortured by having his head held under water repeatedly. The family was finally set free. (San Jose de Apartado statement, Jan. 2)
On Sept. 29, in the peace community of Cacarica in neighboring Choco department, three residents, including an 11-year-old boy, were detained by the military’s XVII Brigade after being accused of being members of the guerilla militia. In the course of a three-hour interrogation, they were threatened with death and humiliated. One soldier told an officer through his radio, "one of them has the face of gonorrhea." (Cacarica statement, Dec. 7)
Sadly, such rights violations are also taking their toll in Colombia’s mayor cities. An employee of a Coca-Cola plant, affiliated to the beverage workers union SINALTRAINAL, is the latest target. The events took place Nov. 25 in the city of Cucuta, Norte de Santander department. Gustavo Lindarte received a bullet in his right leg in what was apparently an attempted assassination. The president of SINALTRAINAL, Javier Correa, said that Lindarte’s life is "in serious risk." Cucuta’s government functionaries have been nationally and internationally denounced by rights groups for maintaining links with the right-wing paramilitaries. The mayor of the city, Ramiro Corzo, is currently in jail on charges of collaborating with outlawed paramilitaries. (ANNCOL, Dec. 9).
As in Iraq, designs on local oil resources are a major factor in the war. In the spring of 2001, Guimer Dominguez, president of Occidental Petroleum’s Colombian operations made a private visit to the fortress-like U.S. Embassy in Bogota to plead for help. A bombing campaign by leftist guerillas had nearly shut down Oxy’s Cano-Limon oil field in Arauca department. Dominguez threatened to permanently shut Oxy’s operations unless security improved. The pull-out would have been a harsh blow to Colombia’s government, which is heavily reliant on oil royalties. "Oxy will not resume production at the Cano-Limon field until the [Colombian government] addresses the security situation in Arauca significantly," then-US Ambassador Anne Patterson wrote in a confidential memo to the State Department after Dominguez visited the embassy. A subsequent Colombia aid package sent to Congress by the Bush administration included a provision to send US military advisors to train Colombian soldiers to protect oil infrastructure. Patterson worked closely with both Oxy and the Colombian government to draw up the plan. The US has now trained some 2,000 soldiers to protect the Cano-Limon pipeline. Attacks on the pipeline have dropped from 170 in 2001 to only 17 in 2004. Colombia’s government is receiving $500 million more from Oxy’s oil operations annually. (LAT, Dec. 29)
Finally, these abuses are taking place as Colombia’s fragile democracy appears to be degenerating into a US-backed authoritarian state. Colombia’s Congress approved on Nov. 30 an amendment to the constitution that permits President Alvaro Uribe, the Bush administration’s closest ally in South America, to run for re-election in 2006. Uribe signed the measure, making it official, Dec. 27. His term is to expire in August 2006, and the Colombian constitution has until now barred re-election. Wrote the New York Times: "The Bush administration has quietly but steadily supported a re-election drive by government supporters who argue that Mr. Uribe needs four more years to help extricate Colombia from its long, drug-fueled conflict with Marxist rebels. Since 2000, the United States has provided Bogota with 3.3 billion in mostly military assistance, and President Bush offered more when he visited Colombia on Nov 22." (NYT, Dec. 28)
The US has transformed Colombia’s soldiers into some of the best mercenaries in the world through decades of a mutating war that never seems to end: communism, drugs and–the latest version–terrorism. As Halliburton exploits this expertise for the Iraq campaign, Colombia becomes poorer in every dimension: violations of human rights, indiscriminate violence, loss of sovereignty and a crumbling democracy.
Special to WORLD WAR 4 REPORT, Jan. 17, 2005
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by Weekly News Update on the Americas
REBEL LEADER EXTRADITED TO U.S.
On Dec. 31 a leader of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), Juvenal Ricardo Ovidio Palmera Pineda (alias Simon Trinidad), was taken from a maximum security Colombian prison and flown to Washington on a US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) plane. In Washington, Palmera was taken to US District Court–kept open late on New Year’s Eve, just for him–where the Justice Department said he appeared before Magistrate Judge John Facciola; he was then driven to an undisclosed location. Palmera has been indicted in the US on charges of drug trafficking, kidnapping and supporting terrorists. The US government says Palmera shipped five kilos of cocaine to the US; the kidnapping charges stem from the FARC’s February 2003 capture of US military contractors Thomas Howes, Keith Stansell and Marc Gonsalves after their plane crashed in the southern department of Caqueta.
Palmera was serving a 35-year prison sentence in Colombia after courts there convicted him of aggravated kidnapping. Palmera was a negotiator for the FARC during peace talks with the government of Andres Pastrana Arango. He was arrested in Ecuador on Jan. 2, 2004. Palmera is the first FARC leader to be extradited to the US. Alleged FARC member Nelson Vargas Rueda was extradited to the US on May 28, 2003, to face charges for the March 1999 murder of three US activists, but he was returned to Colombia on July 1 of this year after the US government dropped its case against him for lack of evidence.
The US has made 270 extradition requests to Colombia. On Nov. 24, Colombia’s Supreme Court authorized the extradition of Palmera and two leaders of the rightwing paramilitary United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC): Salvatore Mancuso and Carlos Castano. On Dec. 16, the Colombian government agreed not to extradite Mancuso, who faces drug trafficking charges in the US, as long as he complies–and pushes other AUC members to comply–with the terms of a "peace accord." All arrest orders against Mancuso are suspended while the peace process proceeds, and he travels in Colombian government vehicles under state protection. Castano disappeared last April and rumors spread that he was killed in a factional fight within the AUC; other reports suggest he may be in Israel, or in the US, where his wife, Kenia Gomez, and their daughter were recently granted asylum.
On Dec. 17, Colombian president Alvaro Uribe Velez authorized Palmera’s extradition but issued an ultimatum giving the FARC until Dec. 30 to free 63 hostages in exchange for halting the extradition. The list of hostages includes the US military contractors–Howes, Stansell and Gonsalves–along with politicians, soldiers and a German businessperson. The FARC did not respond–and did not refer to the offer in three communiques issued on Dec. 27 and 29–but had made clear in the past that it would not accept such a deal, and would only free the hostages in exchange for the release of 500 jailed rebels.
(Miami Herald, Jan. 1, Nov. 26; El Nuevo Herald, Miami, Jan. 1, Nov. 26; AP, Jan. 1; El Mostrador, Chile, Dec. 31; FARC Communiques, Dec. 27, 29)
28 DEAD IN TWO MASSACRES
On Dec. 23, several contingents of the AUC’s "Northern Bloc"–headed by Salvatore Mancuso and currently engaged in "peace negotiations" with the Colombian government–came to the Middle Catatumbo region of Norte de Santander department from Ocana municipality and the southern area of neighboring Cesar department. The paramilitaries set up a roadblock on the road that links the town center of Convencion to the village of Cartagenita in Convencion municipality, where they abducted and murdered campesino Jesus Humberto Guerrero Jimenez and stole 10 million pesos ($4,147) from him. At the same site, the paramilitaries abducted and killed an unidentified young campesino who lived in Cartagenita.
Early on Dec. 25, the paramilitaries entered the village of Santa Ines, in El Carmen municipality, where they forced the community’s residents to gather before separating seven campesinos from the group and killing them. Four of the victims were identified as Leonel Bayona Cabrales, Samuel Perez Abril, Custodio Melo and William Montano. The paramilitaries also abducted, tortured and freed two other campesinos, and robbed the village residents of 15 head of cattle, money and other possessions.
Also on Dec. 25, the paramilitaries abducted two unidentified men near the border of Ocana and Convencion municipalities, and murdered them in the hamlet of Culebritas in Convencion. Some 1,000 residents of the villages of Cartagenita, Miraflores and La Trinidad in Convencion municipality have fled their homes in terror and are hiding in rural areas, unable to reach larger towns because of the paramilitary siege. They are running out of food and have no access to medical attention.
The paramilitaries remain in the area, divided into two groups: one stationed in the hamlet of Santa Maria, between Cartagenita and Miraflores in Convencion municipality, 12 kilometers from the base of the army’s Energy Road Plan Battalion #10; the other in the hamlet of Planadas, in El Carmen municipality. The residents of La Trinidad, Miraflores and Cartagenita had previously been displaced by paramilitary violence at the hands of the AUC’s "Catatumbo Bloc"–which was officially demobilized this past Dec. 10–and had returned to their homes on May 20, 2003 after being promised that the government would provide them with security.
Minga, a Colombian human rights group, is asking the government to protect the civilian population, neutralize the paramilitaries responsible for the violence, provide emergency humanitarian assistance to displaced communities and assist their safe return, and open criminal investigations into the killings. In addition, Minga wants Sergio Caramagna, head of the Organization of American States (OAS) accompaniment mission which is overseeing the negotiations with the paramilitaries, to verify these violations of the ceasefire. (Minga, Dec. 29, via Prensa Rural)
On the night of Dec. 31, at least 17 campesinos were shot to death in the rural community of Puerto San Salvador, Tame municipality, in the eastern Colombian department of Arauca. Another three campesinos were wounded in the attack. The victims had gathered in a public spot to celebrate New Year’s Eve. Tame mayor Alfredo Guzman said the victims included six women, seven men and four children. One of those injured in the attack said the perpetrators had accused the victims of being paramilitary supporters. That testimony led local authorities to blame the FARC for the massacre, though Arauca police commander Col. Rodrigo Palacio told the press that the police and military are still trying to determine who was responsible. (EFE, AFP, Jan. 1)
From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Jan. 2
ARAUCA: ARMY KILLS GIRL
At 3 AM on Nov. 28, the Colombian army’s Mobile Brigade 5 entered the village of El Botalon in Tame municipality, Arauca department. The uniformed troops were accompanied by individuals out of uniform who have been recognized as participating in past paramilitary actions. Later in the morning, as fighting broke out between troops and insurgents in the area, the soldiers set up a sniper post and fired at a busy intersection, badly wounding Karly Johana Suarez Torres, who was either nine or 11 years old. Wounded by a bullet to the head, Suarez died en route to a hospital in the city of Arauca. The army surrounded El Botalon, preventing any of the residents from leaving and blocking food and supplies from entering. (Humanidad Vigente, Comite Regional de Derechos Humanos Joel Sierra, Nov. 29, via Colombia Indymedia)
From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Dec. 19
BOGOTA: CAMPESINOS PROTEST TRADE PACT
On Nov. 29, Colombian campesinos marched in Bogota with their cows, oxen and tractors to protest a planned free trade treaty (TLC) between the US and three Andean nations. The protest was held a day before the sixth round of trade talks was set to begin in the US city of Tucson, AZ, between representatives of Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and the US. The talks were scheduled to close on Dec. 4. The previous round of talks was held Oct. 25-29 in Guayaquil, Ecuador. The four governments have been discussing the trade pact since last May, and hope to sign it by February 2005, despite opposition in all four countries. (Caracol Noticias, AP, Nov. 29) The talks come on the heels of a four-hour visit to Colombia on Nov. 22 by US president George W. Bush. Colombian president Alvaro Uribe Velez used the visit to press Bush for a "fair trade accord" with special consideration for the Colombian agricultural sector and more flexibility on intellectual property rights; Bush apparently did not respond to the request. (Red Colombiana de Accion frente al Libre Comercio y el ALCA [RECALCA], Nov. 29)
From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Dec. 5
Reprinted by WORLD WAR 4 REPORT, Jan. 17, 2005
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Continue ReadingCOLOMBIA: REBEL LEADER EXTRADITED, MASSACRES MOUNT
by Weekly News Update on the Americas
EL SALVADOR: MORE ANTI-CAFTA PROTESTS
On Dec. 22, thousands of Salvadorans blocked main highways in 10 of the country’s 14 departments to protest the Legislative Assembly’s Dec. 17 vote which ratified the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). The protests were called by the Grassroots Social Bloc (BPS) of El Salvador, a coalition of campesino, union, community, environmental, youth, religious, teachers’ and veterans’ groups. A day earlier, Dec. 21, parallel actions protesting the CAFTA ratification were held at Salvadoran consulates and embassies around the world. (Servicio Informativo Ecumenico y Popular [SIEP], Dec. 21, 22)
The Dec. 22 blockades in El Salvador began simultaneously at 9 AM and ended around midday. Police said demonstrators blocked traffic at nine sites around the country, and that there were no confrontations or arrests. Protesters say the legislature’s passage of CAFTA was unconstitutional, since treaties cannot be approved by a simple majority. (La Prensa Grafica, San Salvador, Dec. 23)
BPS campesino leader Guadalupe Erazo blasted governance minister Rene Figueroa and Enrique Viera Altamirano, director of the Diario de Hoy newspaper; he said they believe that "by waging a publicity campaign against our popular organizations they’re going to demobilize us, but they’re wrong, we’re here in the streets because there is hunger, there is repression, and this generates resistance."
In a televised interview on Dec. 21, Viera accused the Lutheran Church and other grassroots sectors supporting the anti-CAFTA protests of being instruments of the leftist Farabundo Marti Front for National Liberation (FMLN). Lutheran pastor Rev. Roberto Pineda responded that "in the past such accusations have served as an excuse for death squad actions; in the past repressive military officers faced trial, but people like Viera Altamirano were never tried, [though] from his pages he sentenced to death thousands of Salvadorans, including Msgr. [Oscar] Romero [archbishop of San Salvador, murdered by death squads on March 24, 1980]."
BPS community leader Gloria Rivas condemned "the military deployment carried out by the PNC [National Civilian Police] around the Hotel Presidente, which is a display of unnecessary and repressive force, and [President Antonio] Saca’s statements that he’s going to use force against us–let him do it and let him face the consequences of unleashing a new civil war in our country." (SIEP, Dec. 21, 22)
From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Dec. 26
HONDURAS: PROTESTS DELAY TRADE PACT?
Hundreds of members of the Coordinating Committee of Popular Resistance demonstrated in Tegucigalpa on Dec. 27, 28 and 29 to demand that the Honduran legislature not ratify the CAFTA, which is referred to in Central America as the Free Trade Treaty (TLC). The legislature was discussing budget issues and did not end up debating the TLC. "At least we have won a delay in the approval of the TLC, but the struggle continues; we are in permanent struggle and we aren’t going to give in as long as the treaty is still on the [agenda] of the legislative power," said Doris Gutierrez, a deputy for the Democratic Unification party, which participated in the protests. Legislative sources say the TLC will be debated in February 2005. (Tiempo, Honduras, Dec. 30)
From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Dec. 2
HONDURAS: 28 KILLED IN BUS ATTACK
On the evening of Dec. 23, in the Honduran city of San Pedro Sula, several heavily armed individuals opened fire at a public bus, then boarded the bus and shot the passengers at close range. At least 16 people died at the scene, and by Dec. 26, the death toll had reached 28–including seven children–with another 17 people wounded. Nearly all the dead were hit by between three and five bullets each, in the head, face and upper body. The assailants used AK-47 and M-16 semi-automatic rifles, and apparently a handgun.
Police arrested a suspect, an alleged member of the Mara Salvatrucha gang, armed with a pistol and traveling nearby in a vehicle where police found AK-47 and M-16 ammunition. As of Dec. 26, a total of three suspects had been arrested. Authorities suggest the attack was carried out by the Mara Salvatrucha gang, motivated by anger at the government’s anti-gang measures and by competition with another major gang, "La 18." (Tiempo, Dec. 24; Diario Hoy, La Plata, Argentina, Dec. 26; La Republica, Lima, Dec, 26)
Before fleeing the scene of the attack, the assailants left a message, written on pieces of red poster-board, resting on the hood of the bus, held in place by two rocks. The lengthy, slang-filled message railed against Congress president Porfirio Lobo Sosa, referred to as a "mafioso drug trafficker"; Security Minister Oscar Alvarez, a "homosexual"; and President Ricardo Maduro, who "steps in shit." The message threatened to kill anyone who supports Lobo, and to shoot at any vehicle which bears Lobo’s campaign posters or insignias, "as with this bus." Lobo is seeking the candidacy of the ruling National Party for the November 2005 presidential elections. The message also criticized Alvarez’s failed security measures, asking him: "Where are the chepos [police agents] you promised the people [you would put] on every bus?"
The message warned that "for those who don’t believe in us there are going to be more deaths before the end of the year, let’s see if Pepe [Lobo] or Oscar Alvarez can prevent all these massacres that are coming; now Pepe Lobo is going to come out again asking for the death penalty but who is going to be sentenced if he’s the guilty one. Honduran people that’s all for now, and eat tamales because you could be the next victims." The sign’s message, with spelling errors and lacking in punctuation, was reproduced–apparently verbatim –in the daily Tiempo newspaper, though no news outlet seemed to carry photographs of it.
The message was signed by the "Movimiento Popular de Liberacion Sinchonero," a misspelling of the Cinchonero Popular Liberation Movement, a leftist rebel group which has long been inactive. (Tiempo, Dec. 24) [The Cinchoneros’ last known armed action was a bomb attack on Apr. 18, 1991, against the headquarters of the National Party in San Pedro Sula, which caused damages but no injuries. The Cinchoneros were also blamed for the kidnapping in April 1994 of Jose Adolfo Alvarado Lara, a National Party deputy from Copan, who was freed unharmed (or rescued) within two days. Alvarado remains a deputy in Copan and is running for reelection in 2005.–WNU]
On Dec. 24, President Maduro said he did not believe the Cinchoneros were responsible for the bus attack. Alvarez also dismissed as "unlikely" that the Cinchoneros were to blame, since "those things remained in the past." (EFE, Dec. 12)
Late on Dec. 22 in San Pedro Sula, three men wearing police uniforms shot to death former National Party deputy Ricardo Antonio Pena in his home. Pena was a deputy for Ocotepeque department from 1998 to 2002; he was arrested in Panama in 2003 on heroin trafficking charges but escaped from prison and was sought by Interpol. (La Prensa, Panama, Dec. 24; EFE, Dec. 23)
From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Dec. 26
Reprinted by WORLD WAR 4 REPORT, Jan. 17, 2005
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WW4Report.comContinue ReadingCENTRAL AMERICA: ANTI-CAFTA PROTESTS, GANG TERROR
by Weekly News Update on the Americas
EL ALTO: PROTESTS OUST WATER COMPANY
On Jan. 10, members of more than 600 neighborhood organizations in the Bolivian city of El Alto mobilized in an open-ended peaceful civic strike to press a series of demands, including cancellation of the city’s water and sewer contract with the private consortium Aguas del Illimani. The Federation of Neighborhood Boards (FEJUVE), which organized the strike, says the water company charges rates that put water and sewer service out of reach for a majority of El Alto residents. The protesters were also demanding that the government reverse its Decree 27959 of Dec. 30, which instituted price increases of 10% for gasoline and 23% for diesel, causing the cost of basic goods to skyrocket.
The water and sewer system of El Alto and neighboring La Paz was privatized to Aguas del Illimani in July 1997 when the World Bank made water privatization a condition of a loan to the Bolivian government. The Aguas del Illimani consortium is owned jointly by the French water giant Suez (formerly Suez Lyonnaise des Eaux) and a set of minority shareholders which include an arm of the World Bank. Suez’s water and wastewater business, which is run through its subsidiary Ondeo, is the second largest in the world. El Alto residents say that by pegging rates to the dollar, the company raised water prices by 35%. A water and sewer hookup for a single household now costs over $445, while many Bolivians earn about $2.50 a day. The company has also failed to expand water service to the outlying areas of the municipality, residents complain. The latest population census showed that 52% of El Alto residents lack basic water and sewer services.
FEJUVE called the strike for Jan. 10 after five months of protests and negotiations failed to win a solution to El Alto’s water crisis. On Jan. 9, FEJUVE rejected a Jan. 6 government decree–a last-ditch effort to halt the strike–which called for "review" of the contract with Aguas del Illimani, de-dollarization of the company’s rates and expansion of its service. "The ‘Bolivianization’ of the rates is a promise from November of last year," complained FEJUVE president Abel Mamani Marca. "Now they want to talk about expansion of the service, but they don’t say anything about non-fulfillment of the contract terms or of irregularities in the bidding for the concession. Aguas del Illimani has not complied, they have to go," he said.
Later on Jan. 9, President Carlos Mesa Gisbert made a national television address in an attempt to stem the mobilizations in El Alto and a 48-hour civic strike planned for Jan. 11-12 in Santa Cruz department against the fuel price increase. Mesa urged Bolivians not to participate in strikes or protests, and threatened to resign if violence breaks out. He justified the fuel price increase by arguing that cheaper subsidized Bolivian fuel was being smuggled into neighboring countries, causing a national shortage.
On Jan. 10, thousands of El Alto residents hit the streets, setting up road blockades which cut off traffic in and out of La Paz, and shutting down El Alto’s international airport, which serves as the main airport for the capital. At the same time, in the city of Cochabamba, factory workers, students, campesinos, retirees, homemakers, unemployed workers and others joined in a march organized by the Departmental Labor Federation (COD) against the fuel price increase and to protest Mesa’s Jan. 9 speech, while truckers held a separate march against the fuel hike. The national Bolivian Workers Federation (COB) also coordinated marches on Jan. 10 in La Paz and Potosi.
Later on Jan. 10, the government tried to convince El Alto residents to halt their strike by announcing a new decree, 29745, which would institute a series of economic measures to encourage investment in El Alto. The decree would suspend the charging of utility taxes for 10 years and of the value-added tax and another tariff for two years in the municipality.
On Jan. 11, residents of the outlying El Alto neighborhoods of Ballivian and Alto Lima–which lack water and sewer hookups–seized several Aguas de Illimani facilities, including a water tank. That same day, Mesa sent FEJUVE a letter, saying he was beginning "the necessary actions for the termination of the concession contract" with Aguas del Illimani. The heads of the neighborhood associations met at FEJUVE headquarters to discuss the letter; after three hours, they decided to continue their strike. They gave Mesa’s government 24 hours to promulgate a decree immediately cancelling the contract with the water company; otherwise, protesters would seize the company’s facilities. Shortly afterwards, a government official called Mamani to tell him the decree would be ready the next morning.
On the morning of Jan. 12, as El Alto remained paralyzed and the civic strike in Santa Cruz entered its second day, the government gave FEJUVE an unsigned decree, prompting the neighborhood associations to convene another assembly. FEJUVE rejected the new decree, saying it needed to make clear that Aguas del Illimani would leave Bolivia "immediately." After 6 PM, the government presented Supreme Decree 27293–already promulgated–stating that the government would take the "necessary actions" to terminate the contract "immediately" and to guarantee water and sewer service for El Alto and La Paz. This time, after each neighborhood association had a chance to discuss the document with its members, FEJUVE called an end to the strike–but warned that its members would remain on alert to make sure the company does not remove any equipment from its facilities, and would continue pressing other demands. "Electropaz is next," activists warned, referring to the electricity company for El Alto and La Paz, operated by the Spanish transnational Iberdrola.
On Jan. 13, El Alto residents had already planned to march into La Paz; some 20,000 participated in what became a victory march, celebrating the cancellation of the contract with Aguas del Illimani. (La Jornada, Mexico, Jan. 13; Los Tiempos, Cochabamba, Jan. 10-3; Pacific News Service, Dec. 17; Servicio Informativo "Alai-amlatina," Jan. 10; La Prensa, La Paz, Jan. 7, 9)
The former Municipal Autonomous Drinking Water and Sewer Service (SAMAPA) will be revived to take over water and sewer service in La Paz and El Alto for a three-month period while a new entity is established. FEJUVE is working on proposals for the new company, possibly a cooperative or with partial worker control. "We have two proposals, but the objective is that it will be a company with majority citizen participation and with minimal municipal and state participation," said Mamani. Meanwhile, the Regional Workers Federation (COR) of El Alto plans a march on Jan. 17 to La Paz to demand repeal of the fuel price hike and passage of a new gas law that includes nationalization. (Bolpress, Jan. 16)
The Jan. 11-12 civic strike in Santa Cruz department was called by the Santa Cruz Civic Committee, which is dominated by regional agribusiness interests; the Santa Cruz Departmental Labor Federation (COD) also backed the protest, against the instructions of its national affiliate, the COB. Another 13 campesino and indigenous organizations in Santa Cruz department rejected the strike, accusing large-scale farmers of using it to try to destabilize the country’s democratic system. The Santa Cruz FEJUVE backed the civic strike, and FEJUVE members and factory workers began an open-ended hunger strike on Jan. 13, which the Civic Committee said it would join beginning on Jan. 17 unless the government reverses the fuel hike. Some sectors in Santa Cruz and other cities were also protesting public transport fare hikes instituted by drivers in response to the fuel increase.
On Jan. 11, in an unsuccessful attempt to halt the Santa Cruz strike, Mesa issued six new decrees supposedly designed to support agriculture, stimulate the economy and generate jobs. At least one of the decrees seems to reduce tariffs on imports; others extend rural debt forgiveness for small farmers and facilitate the importing and distribution of farm machinery. (LT, Jan. 11, 12, 14; LP, Jan. 9)
Bolivian campesinos are planning to mobilize against the government starting on Jan. 17. Campesino sectors led by Felipe Quispe Huanca are planning a national hunger strike to demand that Mesa step down, and sectors led by Roman Loayza plan to join indigenous people and colonists in blocking roads to demand reversal of the fuel hike or the calling of early elections. (Servicio Informativo "Alai-amlatina," Jan. 13) Sectors of the Only Union Confederation of Bolivian Campesino Workers (CSUTCB) led by Quispe have also threatened to seize military and police installations. (LJ, Jan. 13) Cocaleros in Los Yungas region of La Paz department are planning to block highways to protest construction of an anti-drug police base in the region. The COB, Quispe’s sectors of the CSUTCB, the Coca Producers Association (ADEPCOCA) and the Committee to Defend Coca Leaf of Traditional Origin signed a "revolutionary unity pact" on Jan. 10 in which they agreed to coordinate protest actions. Campesinos in Tarija, Oruro and Chuquisaca departments are not expected to participate in the national highway blockades because they don’t recognize Quispe’s leadership. (Bolpress, Jan. 16)
The "water war" that ended the Aguas del Illimani contract brought comparisons to a successful April 2000 revolt in Cochabamba that forced the cancellation of a water contract with a consortium led by the Bechtel corporation. Bechtel and its shareholders in the Aguas de Tunari consortium later filed a $25 million legal action against Bolivia in a secretive trade court operated by the World Bank. This past December, Deputy Minister of Basic Services Jose Barragan revealed that Bechtel now wants to drop the claim in exchange for a token payment equal to $0.30. According to Barragan, the resolution is being held up by another Aguas de Tunari partner, the Abengoa corporation of Spain. (PNS, Dec. 17)
From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Jan. 16
SANTA CRUZ: ONE DEAD IN LAND CLASH
On Dec. 20, Bolivian police surrounding the Paila estate in San Julian municipality, Santa Cruz department, fired their weapons at landless campesinos who were trying to reoccupy the site. The 150 landless families had been evicted from the estate the previous week after living there for two years. The eviction came after the Eastern Agricultural Chamber (CAO), a rural business group, began pressing the government to get tough on squatters in the region.
Landless resident Medrin Colque Mollo was killed by a bullet to the chest, 20 others were injured (including one wounded by gunfire) and two disappeared. Eight police agents were also injured, one by gunfire. Campesinos say it was the police commander who killed Colque. Some 115 police agents had been stationed at the property for a week when the conflict occurred; after the clash, police commander Freddy Soruco sent in another 120 agents. The landless residents insist they will not give up their struggle to obtain 50 hectares of productive land per family. (Los Tiempos, Cochabamba, Dec. 21-2; Bolpress, Dec. 25)
Authorities from La Paz arrived on Dec. 22 to begin talks with the landless residents at Paila. The same day, Presidency Minister Jose Galindo Nedder said the government planned to distribute 30,000 hectares of land starting in January to landless campesinos in the area of San Julian. The Bolivian Movement of Landless Rural Workers (MST) said it doubted the government’s offer and was urging its members to "take up arms" to defend themselves against forced evictions. (LT, Dec. 23)
From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Dec. 26
See also WW4 REPORT #104
Reprinted by WORLD WAR 4 REPORT, Jan. 17, 2005
Reprinting permissible with attribution
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