Mourning For Pinochet

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Mourning For Pinochet

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Dec 21 2006, 04:36 PM #1

Mourning for Pinochet — US establishment shows its affinity for fascism

By Bill Van Auken
13 December 2006

If the political events of the past six years have demonstrated anything, it is that there exists within America’s ruling establishment no genuine commitment to democratic rights or democratic forms of rule. In the relatively short period since 2000, the US ruling elite has overseen the theft of a national election, the launching of an illegal war, the abrogation of the most basic constitutional rights and the legalization of torture.

This week’s death of the aged former US-backed Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet has provided one more verification of this general political trend.

While in Chile itself, the death of an individual who exercised a reign of terror for 17 years sparked spontaneous celebrations—tinged by deep regret that he was allowed to die in a military hospital rather than in the prison cell he so richly deserved—within the most influential layers of America’s corporate and financial elite, his demise was the occasion for both mourning and tributes.

The editorial board of the Wall Street Journal, for example, carried an editorial Tuesday entitled “The Pinochet Paradox.” The paper’s editorial board, which generally reflects the right-wing views within the Bush White House itself, cautioned its readers that Pinochet’s “real story is more complicated” than that of a military dictator who abolished liberties.

The editorial is laced with gross distortions and outright lies. It claims, for example, “The popular notion that the US sanctioned the coup or condoned Pinochet’s torture hasn’t held up under historical scrutiny.” On the contrary, documents released by the Clinton administration (though the most incriminating evidence from the CIA and Pentagon still remains classified) make quite clear that the US government was fully informed of plans for the September 11, 1973 coup—as well as the killings and torture that followed—and fully supported it. Moreover, they confirmed the role of the Nixon and Ford administrations in seeking to quell international criticism of the barbaric regime established by Pinochet.

The Journal goes on to advance a back-handed argument that the coup was justified in any case. “Contrary to mythology [Chile’s Socialist Party President Salvador] Allende was never a popular figure in Chile.”

By 1972, the Journal claims, the Allende government had itself become repressive, threatening “to jail journalists,” a false charge that was first floated by the CIA as part of its destabilization campaign. In fact, the right-wing press, which the CIA helped fund and write, remained free to carry out provocations up until the coup itself.

The editorial also condemns Allende for “shortages and spiraling inflation” under his government, conditions that were due in large measure to the Nixon administration’s stated intention to “make the economy scream” in order to facilitate Allende’s ouster. Credit and exports were cut off, while money was poured in to provide covert aid to business-organized strikes that crippled sectors of the economy.

“The official death toll of the Pinochet dictatorship is some 3,197,” the Journal states. “An estimated 2,796 of those died in the first two weeks of fighting between the army and Allende-armed militias.”

Really? How many army personnel died in this “fighting”? According to most credible estimates, a total of 33 people died on the day of the coup itself, less than half of them military or police personnel, some of whom were shot for refusing to support the army’s action. The thousands upon thousands who died afterwards—and most credible estimates put the number killed at anywhere between three and ten times the official count—were abducted, tortured and murdered in concentration camps and secret prisons without ever being charged, much less tried.

There was no “fighting” beyond the most scattered and unequal acts of resistance precisely because Allende had rejected demands by the most militant sections of Chilean workers for arms.

By willfully distorting these facts, the Journal’s editors justify and sanction mass murder and torture. Of course, the editorial acknowledges that “Civil liberties were lost and opponents tortured.” However, the Journal continues, “over time, with the return of private property, the rule of law and a freer economy, democratic institutions also returned.”

There may have been “dark times,” but today, “What remains is a Chile that has the healthiest economy in Latin America...” In other words, the bloodbath and barbarism unleashed upon the Chilean people was well worth the effort.

Similarly, the Washington Post carried a Tuesday editorial headlined “A Dictator’s Double Standard,” with the subtitle, “Augusto Pinochet tortured and murdered. His legacy is Latin America’s most successful country.”

This piece likewise seeks a “balanced” approach, while deriding the ex-dictator’s critics. “For some he was the epitome of an evil dictator,” the editorial states. “That was partly because he helped to overthrow, with US support, an elected president considered saintly by the international left: socialist Salvador Allende, whose responsibility for creating the conditions for the 1973 coup is usually overlooked.”

While acknowledging that thousands were killed, tens of thousands tortured and hundreds of thousands exiled, the Post quickly adds, “It’s hard not to notice, however, that the evil dictator leaves behind the most successful country in Latin America.” It credits Pinochet for “free market policies” that produced “the Chilean economic miracle.”

What is the nature of this “miracle” that they all celebrate? For the likes of the well-heeled and self-satisfied publishers and editors at the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post, Chile is a miracle because they can stay at five-star hotels, eat at gourmet restaurants and visit upscale shopping malls in Santiago, while earning handsome returns on investments in Chilean stocks.

Conditions of life for the masses of workers and poor who inhabit the slums outside the circle of skyscrapers and luxury housing reserved for Chile’s rich and their foreign counterparts, as far as they are concerned, are beside the point.

This myth of the “Chilean miracle” and the supposed credit due Pinochet for laying foundations—built with the blood and bones of his tens of thousands of victims—for a free-market renaissance are repeated ad nauseam by virtually every section of the mass media.

According to government statistics, over 20 percent of Chile’s population lives in poverty. But this official count does not include retired workers and the disabled subsisting on woefully inadequate pensions; many think the real poverty rate is closer to 40 percent.

The country ranks as one of the most socially unequal in the world. This is the real legacy of the Pinochet regime and the reign of terror it unleashed against the Chilean working class. Between 1980 and 1989, the wealthiest 10 percent of the population saw its share of the national income climb from 36.5 percent to 46.8 percent. During the same period, the 50 percent of the population at the bottom of the income ladder saw their share plummet from 20.4 to 16.8 percent.

In the aftermath of the coup, Chile saw the steepest fall in real wages and sharpest increase in unemployment ever recorded in Latin America. The dictatorship ushered in social conditions for working people that can only be compared with those that prevailed during the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Between 1974 and 1975, the unemployment rate more than doubled from 9.1 to 18.7 percent. By 1983, the country was plunged into economic freefall, with nearly 35 percent of the workforce jobless and manufacturing down by 28 percent. These desperate conditions sparked a new wave of working class struggles that were ruthlessly repressed, with tens of thousands rounded up again.

The vast transfer of social wealth from the working class to a financial and corporate oligarchy affected by the dictatorship took the most brutal forms. By the time Pinochet surrendered the presidency, the average diet for the poorest 40 percent of the population had fallen from 2,019 calories a day to just 1,629. Meanwhile the percentage of Chileans left without adequate housing had risen from 27 to 40 percent.

The “miracle” was granted to the wealthiest layers of society along with the military and its political cronies. They enriched themselves through the plundering of the working class and state property. Wholesale privatizations were carried out without any rules or scrutiny, in what amounted to a vast robbery of social resources. Pinochet’s personal participation in this corrupt process has come to light in the form of some $27 million squirreled away in secret overseas bank accounts.

Under the constitution dictated by Pinochet, the government has been barred from even investigating this orgy of corporate criminality—what the Wall Street Journal sanctimoniously refers to as “the return of private property, the rule of law and a freer economy.”

High unemployment, low wages, high interest rates and a workforce compelled to labor at the point of a gun meant super profits for both domestic and foreign capital, at the price of hunger and poverty for millions. This is the “miracle’s” material substance.

Those who pen editorials using such end results to justify rounding up tens of thousands of workers, intellectuals, students—men, women and children—subjecting them to unspeakable torture and summarily executing them in soccer stadiums are themselves fascists in all but name only.

The defense of Pinochet and the “balanced” approach to torture chambers and military firing squads taken by the US establishment media constitutes an unmistakable political warning.

The emergence of a mass movement of the American working class capable of challenging the monopoly over wealth and political power exercised by the financial oligarchy will be met with similar methods. If the corporate and financial interests that rule America were to see themselves losing power to a socialist party committed to ending the subordination of society to private profit and the accumulation of vast personal wealth, they too would search for a fascist general prepared to carry out slaughter on a far greater scale than in Chile.

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Feb 1 2007, 07:03 PM #2

The politics of the January 27 rally in Washington
Organizers channel antiwar protest behind Democrats

By Barry Grey in Washington DC
29 January 2007

Tens of thousands rallied in Washington DC on Saturday to protest the Bush administration’s military escalation in Iraq and demand an end to the war and withdrawal of US troops. Students and youth from many parts of the country attended. There was also a significant representation of Iraq war veterans as well as families of soldiers who have been killed or wounded in Iraq and of men and women presently deployed in Iraq or Afghanistan. Several dozen active duty soldiers participated.

However, all those who came to Washington out of a sincere desire to bring an end to the war were deprived of any serious or honest political perspective by the organizers of the demonstration, who deliberately subordinated it to the maneuvers of the Democrats in Congress and the electoral ambitions of the Democratic Party in the 2008 presidential race.

United for Peace and Justice, the coalition that organized the Washington rally as well as smaller protests in Los Angeles, San Francisco and other cities, brought an array of Democratic politicians onto the stage at the National Mall, including Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich, who is running for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, Representatives Maxine Waters and Lynn Woolsey of California, Rep. John Conyers of Michigan and Jesse Jackson.

A statement issued Saturday by United for Peace and Justice, entitled “Why We Are Marching,” made clear the political alliance between the rally organizers and the Democratic Party. It praised a bill introduced by congresswomen Woolsey, Waters and Barbara Lee to withdraw US troops from Iraq within six months and declared, “We stand with this growing Congressional group. Now is the time for Congress to take the actions within its legal power, to make history, use the power of the purse to stop the funding of the war.”

In fact, this bill and a similar measure to be introduced in the Senate by Russ Feingold have no chance of being passed or even winning significant support from legislators. The Democratic leadership in the House of Representatives—Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer—and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid have made it clear they are opposed to blocking funding for Bush’s “surge” of 21,500 additional troops, let alone moving to cut off funding for the war as a whole.

Instead they are cynically attempting, by means of nonbinding resolutions against Bush’s military escalation, to appease and defuse mass antiwar sentiment, while fashioning a new bipartisan strategy to salvage the US colonial adventure in Iraq.

The purpose of legislative gestures such as those introduced by Waters and company in the House and Feingold in the Senate is to give the Democrats a measure of credibility and boost illusions that this imperialist party can be pressured to adopt a pacifist foreign policy.

With the Bush administration brazenly flouting public opinion on Iraq, and losing support in Congress even among Republicans for its reckless policy of escalation in Iraq and war threats against Iran, the entire political establishment is careening toward a political and constitutional crisis of potentially historic proportions. Both parties are terrified at the prospect of the mass opposition to the war linking up with other social concerns of working people and sparking a social movement outside of the control of either party or any institution of the US ruling elite.

That fear is shared by those who organized the January 27 demonstrations. The United for Peace and Justice coalition includes the liberal Democratic and is headed by such “left” defenders of the Democratic Party as the Communist Party Stalinist leader Judith LeBlanc and veteran protest organizer Leslie Cagan.

They quite consciously set out to present the Democratic Party as the only legitimate focus for antiwar activity and block the emergence of a movement against imperialist war from the left, i.e., one that is independent of the two-party system and advances a socialist program articulating the interests of the American and international working class.

Speakers at the January 27 rally repeatedly told the crowd that the way to bring an end to the war was to lobby the new, Democratic Congress. The call to pressure the Democratic Congress was combined with thinly veiled calls to elect a Democrat as president in 2008. (Little mention was made of the absence from the demonstration of any of the leading contenders for the Democratic nomination: Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, John Edwards or Joseph Biden.)

Eleanor Smeal, head of Feminist Majority, proclaimed, “We will return even bigger majorities in 2008 ... Keep your lobbying shoes on.”

Susan Schaer of Women’s Action for New Directions declared, referring to the Democratic Congress, “They are the deciders, not [Bush]. They are the commanders. Now, it is up to them to make the change... We have to be there behind them, every step of the way. Some nonbinding resolution is good, but it’s not enough.... We can do it. We did it in November, we can do it next year.”

The demonstration was in large part organized as a backdrop to a new effort to lobby Congress, entitled Americans Against Escalation in Iraq, which was recently launched by a coalition of unions and

The complicity of the Democrats in the war, from its origin to the present, was largely ignored, and there was no explanation of the root causes of the eruption of US militarism in the crisis of American and world capitalism.

The Washington demonstration had, in fact, a semi-official character. In the days leading up to the rally, the Washington Post published articles predicting a mass turnout, providing a map of the rally site, and advertising the scheduled appearance, complete with head shots, of such Hollywood celebrities as Jane Fonda, Susan Sarandon, Tim Robbins and Danny Glover. The Friday edition went so far as to report a relatively balmy and sunny weather forecast for the next day’s march. Sunday’s Post featured a front-page report on the demonstration with a large photo of the marchers—a marked departure from the newspaper’s negligible coverage of previous antiwar marches.

A certain indication of the quasi-official character of the demonstration and the coordination between the organizers and the Democratic Party leadership was the stamp of approval given by the AFL-CIO bureaucracy. The union federation, which initially supported the war and remained silent for months on end as the carnage increased, sent Fred Mason, the president of the Maryland-DC AFL-CIO, to present greetings to the rally in behalf of AFL-CIO President John Sweeney.

An event organized on the basis of such a bankrupt perspective could not possibly give serious expression to the intense hatred of working people and youth for the war and the Bush administration, and the deep social and economic concerns of the broad masses of the population.

Among the more odious aspects of the event was a demagogic rant from Dennis Kucinich, a political imposter and scoundrel of the first order. The Ohio congressman is seeking to reprise his role in the 2004 presidential race, when he ran for the Democratic nomination as supposedly the most resolute antiwar candidate, only to throw his support at the Democratic convention to the party’s pro-war nominee, John Kerry.

Prior to subjecting the crowd to yet one more “keep hope alive” sermon from Jesse Jackson, United for Peace and Justice National Coordinator Cagan reverently introduced the veteran political dissembler as “someone who has been a part of this movement and every movement for social and economic justice.”

When this reporter interviewed Jackson prior to his speech, however, the unprincipled and two-faced character of his position became clear. Asked whether he favored a cutoff of funding for the war, Jackson replied, “Yes. You can’t have it both ways.”

When I then asked, “All funding, or just for the escalation?” Jackson evaded the question, replying: “A, stop the escalation and B, begin to put together an authentic coalition of the willing to begin to transition us out of there...”

When I asked whether he favored the impeachment of Bush, he similarly hedged, saying, “I favor hearings and investigations. Let’s at least begin to engage in the process to determine what went wrong and who did what when.”

Behind such evasions and doubletalk stand the politics of a party which, whatever its criticisms of Bush’s policy in Iraq, fully defends the interests of the US corporate-financial elite both at home and abroad, and has no principled opposition either to continuing the bloodbath in Iraq or launching new imperialist wars.

Definite political lessons must be drawn from the complicity of the Democratic Party in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, not to mention last summer’s US-backed Israeli war against Lebanon. Lessons must similarly be drawn about the politics of nominally left, opportunist allies of the Democratic Party, such as those who organized last Saturday’s demonstrations.

The only genuine basis for developing a mass movement against militarism and war is the mobilization of working people on an international scale independently of and against the parties of the capitalist ruling elite. This means an irrevocable break with the Democratic Party and the building of a mass, independent socialist movement.

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Feb 1 2007, 08:01 PM #3

There's a few things off with speculations on the wealthiest 10 percent of the United States. Assuming the rich globalists would make money of a socialist revolution anywhere on the globe, the best means for them to make money is war. If a coup happens in the U.S. the socialists faction would either fall into one of two categories. The first category is to start and control a rebellion from within and lead the effort while it gives the illusion of hope aka continuous war. The second is to crush the rebellion so soundly which doesn't make money, but can open up the opportunity to use those new fangled weapons, rail cars, and FEMA camps under martial law. There's money to be made off the deaths of people in another civil war in the U.S., but the globalists who run the show behind the curtains are the ones we need to stop. The globalists behind the curtain have no lack of supporters of people willing to die and carry out the causes of corporate fascism and socialism. Either way the people must choose walk away from corporate structures and re-accept tight regulations otherwise the world will end up worse than today's Chile. Thank you for posting the criticism about these articles about Chile, which many of us haven't read or don't understand.
"I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. ... The means of defense against foreign danger historically have become the instruments of tyranny at home." -- James Madison
"Crito, I owe a cock to Asclepius; will you remember to pay the debt?" -- last words of Socrates, recorded by Plato (Phaedo 118a, tr. B. Jowett)
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Mar 14 2007, 07:56 PM #4

New York Times promotes &#8220;escape&#8221; to Israel

By Bill Van Auken
10 March 2007

While it portrays itself as the &#8220;newspaper of record,&#8221; dedicated to reporting &#8220;all the news that&#8217;s fit to print,&#8221; the New York Times as a media institution is in the most fundamental sense maintained of, for and by wealthy financial elite that dominates the economic, political and social life of New York City and the entire United States.

This class orientation and bias often come through most blatantly in the non-news sections of the paper, from advertisements for jewelry that costs more than the annual income of the average New Yorker to a real estate section that presents million-dollar apartments as a bargain and a travel section that treats &#036;500-a-night hotel rooms as the norm.

Then there is the &#8220;Escape&#8221; section published every Friday largely to give the wealthy hints on how to spend their money, much of it oriented to the purchase of multimillion-dollar &#8220;second homes.&#8221;

This Friday, the intersection of the personal, or more precisely, class interests of this financial elite to which the Times caters and the politics of the paper&#8217;s editorial board came through most clearly in the Escape section in an article entitled &#8220;Choosing Israel, Not the Hamptons.&#8221;

The Hamptons is the Long Island seaside watering hole where homes sell for tens of millions and sections of New York&#8217;s financial aristocracy spend as much as &#036;100,000 a month on rentals.

&#8220;From downtown Tel Aviv to the heart of Jerusalem, foreigners&#8212;especially Americans&#8212; searching for second homes are redefining Israel&#8217;s high-end real estate market,&#8221; the paper declares breathlessly.

The article cites &#8220;deals like the &#036;13 million purchase of a Tel Aviv triplex by Shari Arison, the Carnival Cruise Lines heiress,&#8221; and gushes about a new &#8220;gated community&#8221; of multimillion-dollar Tuscan-style mansions just a half-hour outside of Jerusalem called Eden Hills.

&#8220;Eden Hills is priced to appeal to buyers accustomed to living among the parks, tennis courts, artificial lakes, bike trails and tree-lined pedestrian malls typical of high-end American subdivisions,&#8221; according to the Times. &#8220;Such attributes, along with numerous synagogues, are designed to lure Eden Hills&#8217;s wealthy, Orthodox American target audience&#8212;and keep them there.&#8221;

&#8220;I hate sounding like an ugly American,&#8221; Dr. Allen Josephs, a 56-year-old New Jersey neurologist and future Eden Hills resident, told the Times. &#8220;But I want my creature comforts while still being in Israel.&#8221;

Eden Hill&#8217;s developer, Jake Leibowitz, a recent transplant from Flatbush, Brooklyn, apparently has no such qualms about how he sounds. &#8220;American Jews...can&#8217;t just be plucked down in the middle of nowhere,&#8221; he told the Jerusalem Post. &#8220;They are entitled to the best and are willing to pay for it. And this is what our project offers.&#8221; He accused Israeli opponents of his project of having a &#8220;socialist mentality.&#8221; &#8220;They don&#8217;t want to see successful Americans,&#8221; he said. &#8220;They resent us.&#8221;

Foreign buyers of Israeli real estate, the Times notes, are &#8220;taking advantage of a decrease in terrorism and property prices still far below Western levels&#8221; to scoop up their luxury vacation homes.

The &#8220;decrease in terrorism&#8221; is factored in as one might list beach erosion in the Hamptons. The word &#8220;Palestinians&#8221; is nowhere to be found in the article, though the expensive real estate deals and &#8220;gated communities&#8221; it touts are all founded upon land seized from a people who were violently dispossessed and turned into refugees nearly six decades ago.

The human suffering caused by the mass confiscation of Palestinian land that began in 1948 has only been intensified by the policies of the Israeli government, backed by Washington.

While the Times promotes lavish second homes in Israel to America&#8217;s wealthy, tens of thousands of Palestinians lack even a single roof of their own, while millions remain refugees, denied the right to live in their own land. Since 1967, the Israeli authorities have demolished tens of thousands of Palestinian homes in the occupied territories. According to the Palestinian Bureau of Statistics, between 2000 and 2005 alone, 30,000 families were made homeless by demolitions carried out by Israeli forces.

Until 2005, it was a common practice to demolish the homes of those accused of terrorist acts, a form of collective punishment banned by international law. For the most part, these houses are destroyed on the pretext that they were built without first obtaining a permit, something that the bureaucracy of the Zionist state makes virtually impossible for Palestinian Arabs.

The demolitions have been accompanied by the building and expansion of illegal Zionist settlements in the occupied West Bank, the construction of the so-called separation wall, seizing large new tracts of Palestinian territory, while turning what is left into non-contiguous and unviable ghettoes, and the enforcing of an oppressive system of checkpoints and roadblocks that effectively make the occupied territories into a massive open-air prison.

Underlying these brutal actions is an apartheid-style policy of population transfers and segregation aimed at carving out exclusively Jewish territories and annexing even more land.

While trampling on the rights of the Palestinians, the Israeli state has also presided over the deepening impoverishment of large sections of the population within Israel itself, including both Jewish immigrants and Arabs born within Israel&#8217;s boundaries. According to Israeli government statistics released last September, fully 1.6 million people&#8212;a quarter of the population&#8212;live below the poverty line. Long gone are the egalitarian and even &#8220;socialist&#8221; pretenses of Labour Zionism of an early epoch. The present state and all major parties have abandoned any serious attempt to ameliorate poverty, instead embracing free market policies and imposing continuous rounds of budget cuts.

The result has been mounting social polarization, of which the real estate deals highlighted by the Times are a direct expression. The gobbling up of ever-more-expensive properties by wealthy Americans in Israel has placed increasing pressure on Israeli working people, driving up housing prices beyond what they can afford.

Under these conditions, the Times promotion of Israeli real estate as an attractive alternative to a house in the Hamptons is indecent to say the least. It reflects the world view and mores of a social layer that has enriched itself off of the protracted redistribution of the national wealth from the masses of working people to those at the top of the economic ladder. Alienated from concerns and problems of the general population, it is generally contemptuous of issues of democratic and human rights.

In this case, this layer&#8217;s self-obsessed pursuit of ever-more-grandiose real estate deals intersects with the right-wing nationalist and capitalist ideology of Zionism and the criminal policies of occupation and ethnic cleansing.

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Apr 16 2007, 04:00 PM #5

John McCain at VMI: A blunt statement of US imperialism&#8217;s stake in Iraq

By Patrick Martin
13 April 2007

The speech delivered by Senator John McCain Wednesday at the Virginia Military Institute sheds light on the deepening crisis of the entire US political establishment over the worsening position of the US occupation regime and the growth of mass popular opposition to the war.

While McCain&#8217;s speech was portrayed by the media as an attempt to revive his faltering presidential campaign by appealing to the hard core of Republican Party supporters of the war, the event had a broader significance. McCain&#8217;s remarks encapsulated the contradictions wracking the US ruling elite.

The speech was a string of lies and distortions, in its depiction of the causes of the war and the current conditions in Iraq, combined with the assertion of a brutal truth: that American imperialism cannot and will not accept defeat in this war, regardless of the sentiments of the great majority of the Iraqi and American people.

McCain embraced wholeheartedly the ideological framework of the Iraq war as it is currently presented by the Bush administration: The United States invaded Iraq to &#8220;liberate&#8221; its people from the tyranny of Saddam Hussein. As a result, Iraq has become the focal point of the worldwide &#8220;war on terror&#8221; launched by the United States after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.

This is a version of history that bears no relation to reality. The Bush administration invaded Iraq claiming that Saddam Hussein controlled stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction that he was prepared to share with his supposed allies, the terrorists of Al Qaeda, for use against the United States. It was on this basis that the war was sold to the American people, with the assistance of the Democratic Party leadership and the corporate-controlled media.

It was only after the conquest and occupation of Iraq turned up not a single weapon of mass destruction, and produced no evidence of ties between Al Qaeda and Hussein, who were, in fact, political enemies, that the Bush administration shifted its propaganda. It now claimed, notwithstanding its longstanding and continuing alliances with such despots as the Saudi and Gulf oil sheiks and Egyptian President Mubarak, that its real goal was to liberate the Iraqi people from the tyranny of the Baathist regime and spread democracy throughout the Middle East.

McCain obediently followed the White House script. There was no mention in his speech of WMD, nor any effort to explain why this pretext for war had been discarded in favor of one equally phony. &#8220;America has a vital interest in preventing the emergence of Iraq as a Wild West for terrorists, similar to Afghanistan before 9/11,&#8221; he declared. &#8220;By leaving Iraq before there is a stable Iraqi governing authority we risk precisely this, and the potential consequence of allowing terrorists sanctuary in Iraq is another 9/11 or worse.&#8221;

McCain claimed the US government had a moral responsibility to stay in Iraq to prevent &#8220;genocide and ethnic cleansing,&#8221; warning that a premature withdrawal could lead to a bloodbath worse than Rwanda. He naturally ignored estimates, such as that produced by a public health survey conducted under the auspices of Johns Hopkins University, that the death toll produced by the American intervention in Iraq already rivals that in Rwanda. The casualties will rise even more rapidly under conditions of American military escalation.

In describing conditions today in Iraq, McCain retreated only slightly from the gushing enthusiasm he voiced during last week&#8217;s much-criticized visit to a Baghdad market. While verbally deploring false optimism, he gave an account of &#8220;progress&#8221; in Iraq that was far rosier than anything emanating from the US military in recent weeks.

He touched on, in passing, the real material interests underlying the war, Iraq&#8217;s vast oil resources, noting, &#8220;A plan to share oil revenues equitably among all Iraqis has been approved by Iraqi ministers and is pending approval by the parliament.&#8221; This was a reference to the agreement of the Maliki government, under enormous US pressure, to pass legislation that would turn over control of Iraq&#8217;s oilfields to private (i.e., American) corporations.

It was when he turned to the consequences of a US defeat in Iraq, however, that McCain reached full stride, giving a grim but essentially realistic appreciation of the scale of the strategic disaster now confronting American imperialism. &#8220;A power vacuum in Iraq would invite further interference from Iran,&#8221; he said. &#8220;If the government collapses in Iraq, which it surely will if we leave prematurely, Iraq&#8217;s neighbors, from Saudi Arabia, to Jordan, Syria, Turkey and Egypt, will feel pressure to intervene on the side of their favored factions ... We could face a terrible choice: watch the region burn, the price of oil escalate dramatically and our economy decline, watch the terrorists establish new base camps or send American troops back to Iraq, with the odds against our success much worse than they are today.&#8221;

This is a clear and blunt statement of the consequences of defeat, to which it could be added that the failure of the Bush administration to accomplish its goal of gaining control of the oil resources of the Persian Gulf and Central Asia will embolden rival capitalist powers, from Western Europe to Russia and China, and severely undermine the drive by US imperialism to establish its hegemony in every corner of the globe.

There is no question that virtually the entire US political establishment, both Democrats and Republicans, agree with this assessment of the consequences of defeat in Iraq. The bitter divisions within the ruling elite revolve around how to avoid such a defeat or minimize its impact, and who will pay the price for the debacle.

McCain represents that faction of the ruling elite that is the most ruthless and single-minded in its refusal to admit or accept defeat, and which regards redoubled efforts at the military subjugation of Iraq&#8212;including the extermination of a large portion of the Iraqi population&#8212;as the only viable option.

&#8220;America should never undertake a war unless we are prepared to do everything necessary to succeed,&#8221; he declared. The logic of this position&#8212;clearly derived from the bitter experience of the US defeat in Vietnam&#8212;is that all methods, including mass murder and possibly the use of nuclear weapons, are permissible and legitimate in pursuit of &#8220;success.&#8221;

This ruthlessness and determination to escalate the bloodbath in Iraq have cost McCain considerable popular support. In the opinion polls, his standing has fallen sharply. Last year he was the presumptive Republican frontrunner, but the most recent poll shows him trailing not only former New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani, but also former senator and current television actor Fred Thompson, who has not even announced his candidacy.

Even more decisive than the &#8220;money primary,&#8221; where McCain has fallen to third place among Republicans, is the effort to win backing in key decision-making circles in Washington and in the corporate and financial oligarchy. Here McCain possesses a definite following, signaled by the extraordinary endorsement of his campaign this week by four former Republican secretaries of state: Henry Kissinger, George Shultz, Lawrence Eagleburger and Alexander Haig.

All four are deeply implicated in past crimes of American imperialism, and, despite occasional criticisms of the Bush administration&#8217;s ineptness in Iraq, they fully support efforts to win a military victory and crush the resistance of the Iraqi people to foreign occupation. Their support is a signal that, whatever his current standing in the polls, McCain may well emerge as the choice of the ruling elite for the Republican presidential nomination.

It is the very unpopularity of McCain&#8217;s views on the war that recommends him to the financial oligarchy. The Wall Street Journal, in an editorial Wednesday declaring the forthcoming speech &#8220;McCain&#8217;s Finest Hour,&#8221; called attention to an exchange between Scott Pelley of CBS and McCain on Sunday&#8217;s &#8220;60 Minutes&#8221; program.

Pelley asked, referring to the growth of opposition to the Iraq war, &#8220;At what point do you stop doing what you think is right and you start doing what the majority of the American people want?&#8221; McCain responded, &#8220;I disagree with what the majority of the American people want.&#8221; The Journal hailed this response&#8212;which essentially rejects popular sovereignty as the basis of democracy&#8212;as a courageous stand on principle.

New York Times columnist David Brooks articulated the view of considerable sections of the ruling elite in an op-ed piece published Thursday. &#8220;In the long run&#8221; he wrote, &#8220;his [McCain&#8217;s] embrace of Iraq may not hurt him as much as now appears. In 10 months, this election won&#8217;t be about the surge, it will be about the hydra-headed crisis roiling the Middle East. The candidate who is the most substantive, most mature and most consistent will begin to look more attractive and more necessary.&#8221;

The anti-democratic implications of McCain&#8217;s defense of the war became evident in the closing portion of his speech, where he seemingly echoed the red-baiting senator Joseph McCarthy, denouncing congressional Democrats as defeatists and allies of terrorists. Citing the applause by House Democrats after the passage, by a narrow 218-212 vote, of a resolution setting a deadline for withdrawal of US combat troops from Iraq, McCain asked, &#8220;What were they celebrating? Defeat? Surrender?&#8221;

Actually, the Democrats were celebrating their success at squaring the circle: passing a nominally &#8220;antiwar&#8221; resolution that would do nothing to restrict US military operations in Iraq. The major goal of the congressional Democrats is to provide the semblance of opposition to the war without the substance.

To do this, they have flatly rejected the only two mechanisms provided under the US constitution to restrain presidential military action: impeachment or the cutting off of military appropriations. They adopted this straitjacket quite deliberately, as part of their dual purpose of sustaining the war while keeping antiwar voters within the confines of the two-party system.

McCain, of course, is well aware that the Democratic leaders in Congress are just as committed to the defense of American imperialism as he is. When he was not a candidate, in the 2004 presidential campaign, he defended Democratic nominee John Kerry against Republican attacks that all but accused Kerry of treason and giving aid and comfort to the terrorists. But now, for his own purposes, he waves the bloody shirt of 9/11, suggesting that opposition to the war in Iraq constitutes a capitulation to terrorism.

His &#8220;terrorist-baiting&#8221; of the Democrats is more than just an effort to curry favor with the fascistic right-wing base of the Republican Party, which has yet to rally behind any of the announced Republican candidates. It is an effort to smear and de-legitimize the genuine mass popular opposition to the war. It represents an assurance to the US ruling elite that in McCain they have a candidate who is prepared to ride roughshod over public opinion and, if he enters the White House, continue the Bush administration&#8217;s policy of military aggression indefinitely.

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Jun 7 2007, 02:19 PM #7

Anti-G8 demonstration violence in Rostock: questions and contradictions

By Marius Heuser and Ulrich Rippert
7 June 2007

The acts of violence that occurred during the mass demonstration against the G8 summit last Saturday in Rostock have led to noisy appeals from the German political and media establishment for tougher police measures. Many commentators have chosen to blame the mass of demonstrators and the organisers of the protest for the excesses, and then sought retroactively to justify the attacks on the right to demonstrate and freedom of assembly that preceded the demonstration.

Reinhard Mohr writes in Spiegel-Online that, as far as he is concerned, the demonstrators as a group were responsible for the riots because they did not distinguish themselves clearly enough from violent anarchist elements (so-called &#8220;autonomes&#8221;). Anyone who labels the elected heads of government and other G8 summit participants &#8220;gangsters and criminals&#8221; should not be surprised at the outbreak of violence, Mohr concludes. The author began his journalistic career as an editor of the Frankfurt anarchist pamphlet &#8220;Pavement Beach,&#8221; which justified the street battles fought in the 1970s by his colleagues Joschka Fischer and Daniel Cohn-Bendit.

Michael Bauchmüller from the Süddeutschen Zeitung draws a link between the burning of cars and masked stone-throwers and a political perspective that questions the existing social order. &#8220;All those, however, who together with the G8 want to consign the whole system to history [... ] should remain at home for the next few days. They are the bearers of discord in a world that is struggling for a better future.&#8221;

While the photos of street battles and reports of a thousand injured, including 430 policemen (it turns out that of the reported total of 400 injured and 30 severely injured policemen just two visited a hospital and these two were not so badly injured that they had to be kept in overnight), are being eagerly used to criminalise any fundamental criticism of capitalism, there is a decided lack of interest on the part of politicians and the media in determining precisely what took place in Rostock.

In fact, the demonstration began peacefully and proceeded for many hours before marchers arrived at the final rallying place at the city&#8217;s docks. At this point the protest had a decidedly festive character with theatre and cultural groups at the forefront. Demonstrators and organisers were shocked by the sudden outbreak of violence, with participants making a number of attempts to pacify both the stone throwers and the police.

In addition, it should be borne in mind that hard-liners in the German interior ministry&#8212;in particular Interior Minister Wolfgang Schäuble (Christian Democratic Union-CDU)&#8212;had announced the probability of outbreaks of violence weeks before, and then on the evening of the demonstration, with news stations showing burning cars and road barricades, called for a further arming of the police. Meanwhile CDU politicians are proposing the deployment of the notorious anti-terror GSG9 commando force at demonstrations and the equipping of police with rubber bullets. The next step can be predicted: a call from Schäuble for the use of the German army to suppress domestic opposition.

If, however, one begins considering the Rostock events by posing the question, &#8220;Who benefited from the riots?&#8221; then it is clear that the demonstrators lose out on all fronts. The interior ministry, on the other hand, is using the riots to justify both those attacks already carried out against freedom of assembly (as well as the assault carried out against left-wing organizations and globalization opponents, whose offices and dwellings were raided in the middle of May) and to prepare new and even more far-reaching attacks and police measures.

In this respect it is necessary to examine a number of obvious contradictions in the behaviour of the police and the security forces.

How is one to account for the fact that the police had warned weeks before of &#8220;autonomous rioters,&#8221; but then allowed a closed formation of &#8220;black bloc&#8221; anarchists to parade unmonitored on one of the two demonstrations? Why wasn&#8217;t this &#8220;black bloc&#8221; accompanied by experienced police units, as is usually the case? Why was a police vehicle then parked provocatively in the middle of the area leading up to the final rallying point? According to several eye-witness reports, the attacks carried out by some members of the &#8220;black bloc&#8221; on this vehicle were the trigger for the intervention by police. Why was no attention paid to repeated calls by the organisers of the rally for the removal of the vehicle by the large numbers of police escorting the demonstration?

Who gave the order to obstruct photo journalists from taking pictures during the peaceful phase of the demonstration? Why were the authorities so keen that photos not be taken?

It is well-known that at the start of the year the German authorities intensified the infiltration of undercover agents into the &#8220;violent autonomous movement.&#8221; In its May 14 edition, Der Spiegel magazine wrote, &#8220;At the beginning of the year the Federal Intelligence Service (BND) declared globalization critics to be an &#8216;operational focal point.&#8217; All preparatory meetings are observed, the groups involved are infiltrated&#8221; by undercover agents.

Just one week before the demonstration, on 29 May, the Bild newspaper reported on &#8220;secret police plans&#8221; in preparation for the G8 summit. According to Bild, the first point of a three-point plan reads, &#8220;Undercover agents who were infiltrated a long time ago by the intelligence services are to provide early evidence of planned disruptive actions.&#8221;

The question therefore arises: how many undercover agents were operating in the &#8220;black bloc&#8221;? What information about acts of violence were communicated to the police command by these undercover agents, and why was nothing undertaken to prevent these acts of violence? Moreover, were undercover agents involved in the outbreak of violence, and to what extent?

These are urgent questions that need to be investigated. In view of the large number of casualties, it is necessary to clarify the role played by undercover agents. Until this information is made available, it is impossible to rule out the use of undercover agents as agents provocateurs on the demonstration.

Genoa 2001

The events of the G8 summit in Genoa in June 2001 took place just a few years ago and are still fresh in the memory. During the course of the protest, young demonstrator Carlo Giuliani (23) was killed. His family and other victims of police violence fought for years to clarify the circumstances leading up to his death. Finally, the Italian public prosecutor&#8217;s office declared that the violence at the Genoa demonstration had been initiated by a hard core of approximately 200 persons, a considerable number of whom were either undercover policemen or right-wing extremists hired by the police. The provocateurs discussed their tactics with police, disguised themselves as anarchists and mixed with peaceful demonstrators before undertaking their criminal operations.

While the rioters were left largely undisturbed, their violence in Genoa became the pretext for the police to move with extreme brutality against the rest of the demonstrators. A good deal of evidence has emerged about the police provocation. There are numerous reports of the use of massive force on their part. Guiliani was shot by a cop. At the same time a particularly savage assault took place on the Pascoli school, where hundreds of demonstrators were surprised in their sleep and savagely beaten. Afterwards a number had to receive treatment in intensive care units.

The pretexts given by Italian police to justify its raid on the school were completely disproved by the public prosecutor&#8217;s office. Police even brought along their own Molotov cocktails to plant on the young people sleeping at the school.

Anyone who believes that similar things could not happen in Germany is simply ignorant of history.

At the end of the 1960s the undercover agent Peter Urbach supplied bombs and weapons to members of the Berlin APO (Extra-Parliamentary Opposition), which later constituted one of the initial elements of the Red Army Faction (RAF). Ten years later a member of the BND blew a hole in the wall of the prison in the town of Celle in an attempt to stage a prison outbreak by RAF member Sigurd Debus and thereby enable the police to infiltrate the organization.

There have been numerous reports in Germany of the use of police provocateurs in more recent years. In May 1993 when East German miners from Bischofferode protested in front of government buildings to oppose the closure of their pit, policemen garbed as anarchists smuggled themselves into the demonstration and then threw bottles and stones at their colleagues in uniform. When some workers intervened to stop the rioters and hand them over to the police, the latter showed a complete lack of interest. Instead the police officers arbitrarily seized a number of workers and beat them brutally.

There have also been a number of reports of the role of deliberate police provocations in connection with the Gorleben anti-nuclear protests.

Eye-witness reports

In this connection it is necessary to take eye-witness reports by demonstrators in Rostock very seriously. On the Indymedia web site, a number of demonstrators have described their experiences. Almost all of the reports stress that for most of the day the demonstration had proceeded in a very calm and peaceful manner. At the same time, several demonstrators observed&#8212;independently of each other&#8212;that some members of the &#8220;black bloc&#8221; functioned independently of the main body of anarchists and seemed to be in contact with the police.

Thus Rainer Zwanzleitner reports on Indymedia, &#8220;We were part of the demo, which came from the direction of Hamburg Street, quite near the front. When we reached the city&#8217;s docks we observed how a group of police (approx. 10-20) positioned in front of a building site fence began, as if by command, to calmly commence putting on their helmets, i.e. to prepare for action. There had been no incidents up until that point.&#8221;

Fearful of a police intervention, Zwanzleitner removed himself with his group from this police cordon and continued to move towards the stage set up for the planned final rally. &#8220;From there we could observe that the police had set off towards the head of the demo point. At about the same time several police units from the direction of the city centre piled into the demonstration, which had come from the railway station.&#8221; The final rally had already begun and after approximately 10 to 15 minutes a member of the organising committee appealed by microphone for the police to withdraw and desist with their provocative deployments.

Instead the opposite took place. A police helicopter circled directly over the stage and flew so low that its noise dominated the entire area near the public-address system, making communication from the stage impossible.

&#8220;When it became calmer we left the site of the rally at the docks and proceeded towards the pedestrian zone. What we saw on the way was nothing less than a police camp. There were police vehicles everywhere.&#8221; Meanwhile another threatening situation was brewing at the university square.

&#8220;A group of perhaps between 20 and 30 demonstrators dressed in black entered the square followed by police units. Some of these demonstrators remained at the square, some continued on to the city hall. Then we saw another 3 or 4 figures dressed in black, who differed considerably, however, from the usual picture of an &#8216;autonome&#8217;: They were notably broadly built, identically dressed (thin nylon anoraks, identical trousers and their faces were masked). Under the thin clothing it was possible to identify body armour. And even more remarkably: they left the square, fully masked, in the opposite direction to the others, i.e. directly towards the police, who were moving in. We were then unable to ascertain where they went to next.&#8221; (

Other participants on the demonstration report that they noticed that members of the &#8220;black bloc&#8221; brusquely rejected political material in the form of leaflets and flyers. &#8220;This is new for me with regard to the autonomous left ... I had the impression that something was not right with these people, they did not appear to behave like lefts, nor like left anarchists, &#8220; was the report by a participant, Anna U.

&#8220;Organisational stupidity&#8221;

It is not only demonstrators who have criticized the provocative behaviour of the police. In Deutschlandradio Kultur Munich police psychologist George Sieber described the actions taken by police in Rostock as &#8220;operational stupidity.&#8221; The police were following outdated tactics and reacted with disproportionate force, Sieber said.

When asked how the violence came about, he answered, &#8220;It was like this: an escalation had already taken place, long before it really heated up in Rostock. What everybody could see was how police officers appeared with very unusual body armour, at first glance one might have confused them with marines in Iraq.&#8221;

When asked by a reporter whether he thought the escalation had been caused by the police, Sieber said the escalation had already taken place: &#8220;They proceeded on the basis of extreme danger or actually felt such a danger, and then resorted to security precautions that represented a severe violation of human rights. This is what I call escalation&#8212;that was in fact the highest level of escalation.&#8221;

The demonstration was initially peaceful. &#8220;We had two observers on the spot, who notified us by telephone, &#8216;there is an atmosphere here which resembles the Love Parade [an annual musical event in Berlin],&#8217;&#8221; Sieber reported. &#8220;Things first really got going when a police car was damaged and then a great deal happened, which one would describe as disproportionate reaction on the part of police officers.&#8221;

Sieber criticized the fact that the security forces had proceeded almost exclusively &#8220;in fixed formation.&#8221; Such deployments, &#8220;in fixed formation, in the form of a chain, as a combat patrol,&#8221; are completely outdated and have been described since &#8220;approximately the 1970s as simply operational stupidity.&#8221; In Rostock &#8220;everything actually took place in opposition to what is taught in the textbook. And the officials naturally learn at the police academy that one should not do it such a way.&#8221; Therefore &#8220;this deployment was from the start completely inappropriate.&#8221;

Following repeated demands by the surprised reporter, who asked whether he was really accusing the police command, Sieber replied, &#8220;No, this is not a reproach; it is possibly even what was politically intended.&#8221;

This is precisely the question: Were events set in motion with the knowledge that photos of burning autos and stone-throwing rioters could be used to justify the attacks on the right to demonstrate that had already taken place and to prepare for a new assault on democratic rights? Was this what was &#8220;politically intended&#8221;?

An investigation is necessary to determine whether the riots were the result of a planned manoeuvre, in which undercover police operated as agents provocateurs in the &#8220;black bloc,&#8221; while the police reacted with closed formations and the police command prepared to carry out a deployment which resulted in several hundred injured demonstrators.

We appeal to readers who took part in the demonstration and possess any important information about what took place to send us their material and establish contact with the editorial board.

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Jun 23 2007, 12:26 PM #8

Bush administration rushes to Pakistani dictator&#8217;s aid

By Keith Jones and Vilani Peiris
22 June 2007

Top Bush administration and Pentagon officials have held intensive consultations with Pakistan&#8217;s embattled military regime during the past two weeks with the aim of bolstering the autocratic rule of General Pervez Musharraf and securing increased Pakistani military support in staunching the insurgency against Afghanistan&#8217;s US-installed government.

US Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte, US assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asia, Richard Boucher, and Admiral William Fallon, head of the Pentagon&#8217;s Central Command, all visited Pakistan last week. On Monday, Pakistan&#8217;s Foreign Affairs Minister Khurshid Mahmood Kasuri began a five-day US visit.

Speaking to reporters shortly before a meeting Monday with Kasuri, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice reiterated the Bush administration&#8217;s strong support for Musharraf. &#8220;I think,&#8221; said Rice, &#8220;you have to look at the last five years and say that President Musharraf has been a good ally in the war on terror. He has undertaken some important reforms in Pakistan.&#8221;

Two days earlier, Negroponte had made clear that Musharraf is under no pressure from the US to give up his post as head of Pakistan&#8217;s armed forces&#8212;a post he has clung to despite the Pakistani constitution&#8217;s specific prohibition on a military officer serving as president. Said Negroponte, &#8220;It&#8217;s up to him (General Musharraf) to decide when to take off his uniform.&#8221;

When pressed as to whether the US will endorse Musharraf&#8217;s scheme to have himself &#8220;reelected&#8221; president this fall by national and provincial legislatures chosen five years ago in elections stage-managed by the military, Bush administration officials say that it is up to the Pakistani people to decide &#8220;when those elections are held, how they are held and all that goes on around them.&#8221;

In other words, if Musharraf, who seized power in a military coup eight years ago, can manipulate his &#8220;reelection&#8221; without provoking mass unrest, he has Washington&#8217;s blessing.

Important sections of the US political and geo-political establishment have, in recent weeks, taken to counseling the Bush administration to step back from its unqualified support for Musharraf and this for two reasons.

First, they don&#8217;t think that the Musharraf regime has been sufficiently aggressive in preventing Afghan insurgents from finding refuge in Pakistan and in otherwise stamping out support for the Taliban and Al Qaeda in tribal regions bordering Afghanistan. A Pakistani government that has received at least &#036;10 billion in aid and payments from the US since September 2001 should, they contend, be more pliant to US wishes.

Second, they fear that Musharraf is losing his grip on power, that the autocratic character of his regime and its corruption have stripped it of any popular legitimacy. These fears have grown substantially since Musharraf&#8217;s attempt to sack the chief justice of the Supreme Court, whom he feared might not rubber stamp his phony reelection, backfired, precipitating an escalating campaign of anti-government rallies and demonstrations.

The New York Times, Washington Post and various think tanks are urging the Bush administration to begin actively planning for a &#8220;post-Musharraf&#8221; Pakistan and to reach out to the traditional political elite that has been sidelined by Musharraf and the military, especially Benazir Bhutto and her Pakistan People&#8217;s Party (PPP). Support for the PPP, which postures as a progressive, even socialist party, has declined precipitously since two spells in office during the 1980s and 1990s when it imposed the neo-liberal policy prescriptions of the International Monetary Fund. But, according to most observers, the PPP alone among the various parties has a significant nationwide base of support.

The Bush administration is not averse to Musharraf striking a deal with the PPP under which the general remains president and Bhutto or her nominee becomes prime minister and would be prepared to help broker such an arrangement. But it has signaled that any deal should be on the general&#8217;s terms and those of the military brass on whose support he depends.

Musharraf is loath to cede to Bhutto&#8217;s demand that he respect the constitution and give up his post as commander of Pakistan armed services for he recognizes he has no popular constituency. An added complication is the pro-military Pakistan Muslim League (Q)&#8217;s bitter opposition to any deal with Bhutto. The PML (Q) leaders, who currently hold most of the key cabinet posts and political appointments, would invariably lose most if not all their perks and privileges in the event of a PPP-Musharraf partnership.

Both Boucher and Negroponte met with opposition leaders while in Pakistan. Boucher also met with the head of the Pakistani election commission. The opposition has complained that tens of millions of names have been left off the recently published electoral list. The opposition parties have also denounced the commission for refusing to publish the list on the Internet, which would greatly facilitate its verification during the relatively brief period voters have to ask that their names be added to the electoral rolls.

Negroponte was evasive when asked if he had discussed with Musharraf or other government officials the possibility of the military forging an alliance with the PPP. &#8220;Only in general was this issue discussed during my meetings with various people,&#8221; said Negroponte.

The Musharraf regime has been groping for a strategy to contain the opposition protests that erupted following Musharraf&#8217;s March 9 suspension of Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhmmad Chaudhry.

As the protest grew in strength in April, there were suggestions from persons in and around the government that Musharraf might try to cut his losses and allow the chief justice to be reinstated by his Supreme Court colleagues, while making the former Citibank vice-president who serves as his prime minister take the fall for Chaudhry&#8217;s botched removal.

But on May 12-13, the Musharraf regime unleashed bloody violence in Karachi, Pakistan&#8217;s largest city. With the connivance of the security forces, thugs organized by the pro-Musharraf MQM mounted attacks on opposition supporters that left more than 40 people dead. Musharraf subsequently defended the MQM violence, saying that the opposition was responsible for the violence because it had failed to cede to government pressure it cancel a rally in support of Chief Justice Chaudhry.

Earlier this month, the government announced draconian new restrictions on the broadcasting of live events and talk shows, only to back down the following week in the face of an outcry from the press and public.

Rifts, meanwhile, have opened up within the government camp. The PML (Q) has tried to disassociate itself from the Karachi violence. The MQM&#8212;whose base of support is among the mohajirs, Urdu-speakers who fled to Pakistan from north India between 1947 and the 1950s and who are concentrated in the Sindhi cities of Karachi and Hyderabad&#8212;is pressing for a devolution of powers to the provinces. As for the general-president, he has denounced the PML (Q) leadership for leaving him in the lurch.

The government is claiming that its pro-investor policies have led to increased economic growth and a reduction in poverty, but not even the World Bank considers the government&#8217;s poverty claims credible and inflation of close to 8 percent and more than 10 percent for food is causing increasing popular hardship. In recent weeks riots have erupted repeatedly in Karachi due to power cuts carried out by the Karachi Electric Supply Corporation, one of many companies privatized under the Musharraf regime.

While Karachis unquestionably are outraged over the power cuts, that sometime last as long as 12 to 16 hours, the protests are also being fueled by anger over the events of last month and by the perception that the government is in crisis.

Musharraf and his officials have repeatedly had to deny that they are planning to impose martial law. But even without it, opposition activists are routinely arrested in the hundreds and journalists have increasingly become the targets of threats and violence.

Last month&#8217;s bloody events in Karachi underscore that the Musharraf regime stands ready to try to drown the opposition in blood. It certainly has not passed unnoticed in Karachi that the Bush administration has never breathed a single word of criticism of the Pakistani authorities for the Karachi violence and that the most recent US envoy to Islamabad, John Negroponte, is a man with a foul and bloody record as a point man for US imperialism, including stints as US ambassador to Honduras under Ronald Reagan and US ambassador to Iraq in 2004-2005.

Apart from the support of the Bush administration, the chief reason the Musharraf regime remains in power is the cowardice and complicity of the bourgeois opposition. All its various strands are tied to the military and ultimately see it as the chief bulwark of their class privileges and of the Pakistani state.

The mass protests against Justice Chaudhry&#8217;s dismissal and the violent attacks perpetrated by the MQM in Karachi have disrupted the backroom negotiations Bhutto and the PPP leadership were conducting with Musharraf. But the PPP&#8217;s chairperson for life has continued to make clear her willingness to work with Musharraf if he sheds his presidential uniform and the PPP&#8217;s readiness to help validate Musharraf&#8217;s phony reelection as president. Bhutto has indicated that should Musharraf try to have himself declared reelected president by the current legislatures the PPP will not join the other opposition parties in resigning from the legislatures en masse.

In keeping with this orientation, the PPP is pursuing close ties with the US political establishment, including the Republican right. PPP leaders have held several meetings with representatives of the International Republican Institute and the PPP web site currently features an article written by one Lisa Curtis. Currently a Heritage Foundation senior research fellow, Curtis has previously worked for Republican Senator Richard Lugar and the US State Department and is a decorated former CIA analyst.

Nawaz Sharif, the head of the PML (Nawaz) and a wealthy industrialist, leads a party that was founded with military support and for many years himself benefited in his business and political careers from the military&#8217;s patronage.

The Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal, the six-party alliance of Islamic fundamentalist parties, benefited from the military&#8217;s support in the 2002 elections and returned the favor by providing the votes needed to pass a series of constitutional amendments that gave post facto legality to Musharraf&#8217;s 1999 coup, expanded his power as president, and gave the military a dominant constitutional role in shaping key areas of government policy. To this day, the MMA rules the North-West Frontier Province under Musharraf and governs Baluchistan in a coalition with the pro-military PML (Q).

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Jun 27 2007, 02:21 AM #9

The New York Times has to correct itself again, this time on Iran

By David Walsh
26 June 2007

On Monday, June 25 the New York Times published an &#8220;Editor&#8217;s Note&#8221; correcting an article in its Sunday edition. The note hardly answers the questions raised by the &#8220;corrected&#8221; article.

Sunday&#8217;s front-page story, &#8220;Iran Cracks Down on Dissent, Parading Examples in the Streets,&#8221; is accompanied on page 9, where the story continues, by a large, rather sensational photograph taking up five columns. The Times&#8217; caption reads, &#8220;A police officer forced a young man whose clothes were deemed un-Islamic to suck on a plastic container Iranians use to wash their bottoms.&#8221;

The ninth paragraph of the piece, by Neil MacFarquhar, asserts, &#8220;Young men wearing T-shirts deemed too tight or haircuts seen as too Western have been paraded through Tehran&#8217;s streets by uniformed police officers who forced them to suck on plastic jerrycans, a toilet item Iranians use to wash their bottoms. In case anyone misses the point, it is the official news agency Fars distributing the pictures of what it calls &#8216;riffraff.&#8217; Far bloodier photographs are circulating on blogs and on the Internet.&#8221; The image on page 9 is presumably one of the Fars photographs in question.

The modest correction Monday explains that &#8220;the man in the photograph, according to widespread Iranian news reports, was one of more than 100 people arrested recently on charges of being part of a gang that had committed rapes, robberies, forgeries and other crimes. The caption published on the web site of the news agency, Fars, had said only that the man was being punished as part of a roundup of &#8216;thugs&#8217; in a Tehran neighborhood.&#8221;

On the Times&#8217; web site, the article&#8217;s headline has been amended simply to &#8220;Iran Cracks Down on Dissent,&#8221; and the paragraph about the youth guilty of wearing &#8220;too tight&#8221; T-shirts and Western haircuts being paraded through the streets of Tehran has been eliminated.

In its defense, the newspaper&#8217;s editors complain that the &#8220;current repression has made reporting in Iran difficult. In this case, the Times relied on an interview with a researcher for a nongovernment agency that no longer operates within Iran, who said the photograph was evidence of a more visible police role in public crackdowns on what the authorities consider immoral behavior. The reporter then wrongly interpreted what the researcher said as applying to a crackdown on dress, and incorporated the erroneous interpretation into the body of the article, without giving any indication of the source for it.

&#8220;These errors could have been avoided with more rigorous editing. The article should not have said that young men had been paraded through the streets for wearing un-Islamic dress, and the headline over it should not have said that dissenters were being paraded as part of the crackdown.&#8221;

A strange business, especially as this involved a leading story in the Sunday edition of the newspaper, its most widely and carefully read edition. (The Times&#8217; circulation on Sundays is 1.6 million, as opposed to its daily total of 1.1 million, nearly a 50 percent difference).

Who, precisely, was MacFarquhar speaking to? &#8220;A researcher for a nongovernment agency that no longer operates in Iran.&#8221; Have we not heard from this type of individual before?

In advance of the US invasion of Iraq, a variety of stories appeared in the American media, a number of the most important in the New York Times (more on that below), detailing Iraq&#8217;s alleged stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction and links to terrorism. The sources were often &#8220;unnamed&#8221; Iraqi exiles. All of the claims proved to be fiction.

MacFarquhar&#8217;s June 24 article describes a &#8220;ferocious&#8221; campaign of repression in Iran, &#8220;with the government focusing on labor leaders, universities, the press, women&#8217;s rights advocates, a former nuclear negotiator and Iranian-Americans, three of whom have been in prison for more than six weeks.&#8221;

The lengthy piece is written in an incendiary tone and intended to push a number of &#8220;hot buttons&#8221; with the Times&#8217; US readers. MacFarquhar cites the comments of (also unnamed) analysts who suggest that a &#8220;cultural revolution&#8221; might be taking place in Iran, &#8220;an attempt to roll back the clock to the time of the 1979 revolution, when the newly formed Islamic Republic combined religious zeal and anti-imperialist rhetoric to try to assert itself as a regional leader.&#8221;

The period in question witnessed the sharpest confrontation between Iran and the US. Nine months after the overthrow of Washington-backed Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi in early 1979, university students in Tehran took over the American embassy and held 63 US diplomats hostage for some 14 months. In April 1980, the American military attempted a rescue, which resulted in the deaths of five US Air Force airmen and three Marines.

The Times piece goes on to note the controversy surrounding former president Mohammad Khatami, &#8220;the lost hope of Iran&#8217;s reform movement,&#8221; over his alleged violation of Islamic morals by shaking hands with an unfamiliar woman in Rome. It points to the arrest of 30 women&#8217;s rights advocates &#8220;charged with endangering national security for organizing an Internet campaign to collect more than a million signatures supporting the removal of all laws that discriminate against women.&#8221;

MacFarquhar refers several times to US-Iranian relations. He observes that Iran&#8217;s National Security Council sent a three-page letter to newspaper editors recently outlining banned topics, including negotiations with Washington &#8220;over the future of Iraq.&#8221; The article suggests that thousands of Iran&#8217;s nongovernmental organizations are in legal jeopardy, &#8220;basically because the government suspects all of them of being potential conduits for some &#036;75 million the United States has earmarked to promote a change in government.&#8221;

Abbas Milani, the director of the Iranian studies program at Stanford University, comments, &#8220;The regime has created an atmosphere of absolute terror.&#8221;

MacFarquhar&#8217;s piece is one of those items planted in the media that are intended to inflame public opinion and strengthen the case, ultimately, for US military action against Iran. It is not necessary to lend the bourgeois nationalist Ahmadinejad regime one ounce of political support to see through the sordid role now performed by the Times, the liberal newspaper of record. It is functioning here, directly or indirectly, as the propaganda arm of the Bush administration.

As noted above, the Times&#8217; record in this regard is reprehensible. During the buildup to the invasion of Iraq and its immediate aftermath, its reporter Judith Miller served as a conduit for misinformation and lies about Iraqi &#8220;weapons of mass destruction.&#8221; These articles, in one of the country&#8217;s leading newspapers, served to legitimize the Bush administration&#8217;s &#8220;pre-emptive&#8221; war of aggression. They helped make possible the current catastrophe in Iraq.

It turned out that Miller&#8217;s &#8220;exclusives&#8221; were based on information provided by Ahmed Chalabi, a convicted embezzler and Iraqi exile leader with close ties to the offices of Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney.

After the invasion of Iraq, Miller got herself embedded with a US military unit charged with the futile task of turning up the phantom WMD. Military officials accused Miller of &#8220;hijacking&#8221; the unit for her own purposes and intimidating officers in the field. Further stories emerged about &#8220;mobile weapons laboratories,&#8221; which also had no basis in fact.

Miller&#8217;s role as a conduit for the Bush administration was further exposed in the course of the investigation by Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald into the administration&#8217;s leak of the CIA identity of Valerie Plame Wilson, the wife of former ambassador and Iraq war critic Joseph Wilson. It emerged that Miller was one of the reporters chosen by I. Lewis Libby, then the chief of staff of Vice President Dick Cheney, to expose Plame Wilson&#8217;s CIA position in order to punish her husband and intimidate opponents of the administration&#8217;s war policy.

Miller, in the event, did not publish a story on the matter, but she sought to cover for Libby&#8217;s role in the government witch-hunt of a war critic by refusing to divulge the identity of her source when questioned by Fitzgerald&#8217;s investigators, citing the confidentiality of journalists&#8217; sources.

The author of Sunday&#8217;s article on Iran, Neil MacFarquhar, is not a novice, lacking experience in the complicated political affairs of the Middle East or knowledge of journalistic standards. He was formerly the Times&#8217; Cairo bureau chief.

This makes all the more remarkable the sloppiness, or worse, involved in the misidentified photograph. As the newspaper&#8217;s own &#8220;Editor&#8217;s note&#8221; acknowledges, the correct identification of the individual in the photo was &#8220;widespread&#8221; in Iran.

There was clearly no conscientious checking of the facts&#8212;something that would seem all the more obligatory in a front-page article that could only serve to inflame public opinion both in the US and internationally against a country that has been denounced by Washington as part of the &#8220;Axis of Evil&#8221; and targeted for subversion or military attack. Is this fact-checking failure not connected to the political purpose of the piece? Journalists and editors can make mistakes, but some are more revealing than others.

Despite its misgivings about the Iraq disaster, the Times supports the American ruling elite&#8217;s drive for world hegemony, including its belligerent and threatening policy toward Iran. At the very least, this renders the newspaper predisposed, in its eagerness to make a case against Tehran, to committing this type of blunder.

The Times eventually sacked Judith Miller and published explanatory columns casting her reporting as an aberrant black mark on the newspaper&#8217;s otherwise scrupulously objective and conscientious approach to the news. The MacFarquhar article demonstrates, however, that the Times continues to lend its prestige to the promotion of the reactionary and militaristic aims of the US government, publishing in the guise of news articles pieces of dubious veracity which promote a definite but unspoken agenda.

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Joined: Oct 27 2006, 02:02 PM

Jul 12 2007, 07:52 PM #10

World Wealth Report: a census of the global oligarchy

By Alex Lantier
12 July 2007

The 2007 World Wealth Report, released last month by European consulting firm Cap Gemini and Wall Street firm Merrill Lynch, documents the numerical and financial growth of &#8220;high net worth individuals&#8221; (HNWIs)&#8212;individuals with over &#036;1 million in financial assets&#8212;over the past year. The report provides a picture not only of growing wealth among the richest layers of society, but also an increasing concentration of wealth at the very top.

In 2006, the HNWI population grew by 8.3 percent to a total of 9.5 million worldwide (0.14 percent of the world&#8217;s population). Their financial holdings grew 11.4 percent to &#036;37.2 trillion dollars&#8212;roughly one quarter of global household wealth. The top layer of &#8220;ultra-high net worth individuals&#8221; (UNWIs), with over &#036;30 million in financial assets each, grew 11.3 percent to 94,740, and their total holdings increased 16.8 percent to &#036;13.1 trillion.

Thus, even within the wealthy, resources are highly concentrated: the top 1 percent of the HNWIs (.0014 percent of the world&#8217;s population) control over one third of HNWI wealth.

To give a sense of the enormity of this wealth, the individuals that fall under the UNWI category control wealth approximately equal to the gross domestic product of the United States (about &#036;13.13 trillion in 2006). That is, their wealth is approximately equal in value to all the goods and services produced in the United States in the entire year. World GDP&#8212;the value of all goods and services produced in the entire world&#8212;is about &#036;48 trillion, or about &#036;10 trillion more than the financial holdings of high net worth individuals.

As the London-based Financial Times pointed out, the UNWIs do better than HNWIs largely thanks to high-risk, high-return investments. It quoted Nick Tucker, head of Merrill Lynch&#8217;s private client group in the UK and Ireland, as noting, &#8220;Ultra-high net worth individuals are very aggressive investors. If things are good, they will do better than the high net worth individuals, who are more cautious.&#8221;

The world&#8217;s HNWIs are concentrated in the US (over 3 million), Europe (just under 3 million), and Asia (over 2.5 million)&#8212;especially, as the report notes, in Asia&#8217;s &#8220;wealthier countries.&#8221; The report also makes clear, however, that the newly developing countries are seeing a faster growth in the number of HNWIs than the developed economies: 20.5 percent in India and 16.8 percent in Indonesia, for example.

While the HNWI population in China grew by 7.9 percent, it grew by 12.2 percent in Hong Kong. This is a reflection of the paramount importance of export trade and financial and merchant capital in China&#8217;s rise as a capitalist power. Much the same is true of Southeast Asia, where Singapore, the region&#8217;s top trading center, topped the world&#8217;s HNWI population growth rate, at 21.2 percent.

Several former Warsaw Pact nations also saw explosive growth in the HNWI population, a continuation of the process that began with the privatization and looting of the state-owned enterprises of the USSR and Eastern Europe in the early 1990s. This included Russia (15.5 percent growth), boosted by high oil prices and successful initial public offerings (IPO) of key stocks, and the Czech Republic (12.6 percent).

The number of HNWIs in Latin America grew by 10.2 percent and their holdings grew by 23.2 percent, outpacing world averages in both cases. Latin American HNWIs were concentrated in Argentina, Brazil, Peru and Chile. The report cited the increasing prices paid for Latin American raw materials by Chinese manufacturers as the main motor of the region&#8217;s economic growth.

The Middle Eastern growth in HNWI population was due to high oil prices. The report noted that regional wealth was concentrated in the Persian Gulf monarchies. Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates &#8220;continued to drive wealth creation in the region.&#8221; The African HNWI population grew by 12.5 percent and its holdings by 14 percent, boosted as in Latin America by high raw materials prices, notably in mining.

The growth in the population of wealth individuals in underdeveloped countries highlights the fact that wealth reaching these countries generally is accumulated by a tiny layer of the population. According to inequality figures, the bottom half of the world&#8217;s adult population owns collectively only 1 percent of the world&#8217;s assets.

The cultivation of a minute layer of ultra-wealthy in these countries indicates, however, a certain limited redistribution of power within the global economy as industrial activity increasingly takes places outside the traditional imperialist powers, under cheap-labor conditions. Along these lines, the British Guardian announced on July 3 that Mexican telecom tycoon Carlos Slim Helú recently overtook Microsoft founder Bill Gates to become the world&#8217;s richest man. As Helú&#8217;s massive Mexican telecom stock holdings surged forward in value, his fortune grew to an estimated &#036;67.8 billion, surpassing Bill Gates&#8217;s &#036;59.2 billion fortune largely built on Microsoft stock.

The World Wealth Report did not give precise statistics on the source of HNWIs&#8217; wealth. However, it is clear that much&#8212;in all probability most&#8212;comes from speculative investment in stocks and other financial assets.

The global 11.4 percent rate of return on HNWIs&#8217; investments far outpaced global real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth of 5.4 percent. This confirms that their financial gains did not come only from the growth of global production; they did not simply receive the same portion of a growing economic pie. To the extent that their gains are not purely speculative, they come from the ruthless reduction of the portion of global economic production allocated to the working class.

As stock prices are bid ever higher by the literally astronomical sums of money at the disposal of the HNWIs, the world&#8217;s major stock markets all significantly outperformed real GDP in 2006. In the US, the report cited &#8220;strong corporate profits&#8221;&#8212;the result of relentless downward pressure on wages&#8212;and various psychological factors as reasons for growth of 16.3, 13.6 and 9.5 percent in the Dow Jones Industrial Average, S&P 500 and NASDAQ stock indices respectively.

The European markets all outperformed the US markets in 2006, with the German, French and British markets posting 22, 17.5 and 10.7 percent returns respectively. Some developing-country markets saw spectacular growth, with 62 percent in Indonesia, 49 percent in the Philippines, and a whopping 131 percent in the Shanghai stock market. Even Japan, the laggard at a 6.9 percent yearly return, outpaced real GDP growth.

The report also points out how HNWIs and especially UNWIs increasingly treat art and luxury items (private planes, yachts, sports memorabilia, etc.) as speculative financial instruments: &#8220;Once viewed almost exclusively as the pastime of connoisseurs, art collecting is increasingly seen as an investment,&#8221; the report notes. &#8220;The art market has drawn such wide interest that today many wealthy investors, even those without a particular passion for collecting, now see paintings, drawings and sculpture as viable vehicles for diversifying their portfolios given the low correlation between art prices and the market cyclicality of stock, bonds, and real estate.&#8221;

This reason for investing in the art market is telling. The immense pools of fictitious financial capital created in stocks, bonds and real estate are threatened by the next capitalist crisis since they are tied, albeit in an extremely distant and distorted way, to the crisis of the material economy. Top collectible art is appreciated because it is so exclusively the preserve of the ultra-rich that it is, to a significant extent, insulated from &#8220;market cyclicality,&#8221; that is, fluctuations in value. Those bidding on it will always have mountains of cash.

There are signs that HNWIs are increasingly concerned about the danger posed to their immensely inflated holdings by a catastrophic financial collapse. As Wall Street Journal commentator Robert Frank pointed out in an article on the World Wealth Report (tellingly titled &#8220;Why the Rich are Bailing Out of Hedge Funds&#8221;), &#8220;the rich have cut their exposure markedly to &#8216;alternative investments&#8217;&#8212;a class that includes hedge funds, private equity, structured products, venture capitals, and currencies.... Merrill and Cap Gemini say this is a &#8216;temporary tactical move,&#8217; driven by 2006&#8217;s low volatility in financial markets. The Wealth Report [the section of the Wall Street Journal in which the article appeared] isn&#8217;t so sure. With credit markets going through daily spasms, the days of big leverage and big returns in hedge funds and private equity may be numbered. Perhaps the rich saw it coming in 2006.&#8221;

This diseased mixture of inordinate wealth and increasing uncertainty, even perhaps paranoia, as to its foundations gives a certain insight into the psychology and the politics of this tiny layer of humanity. It is around their needs that the ruling political elites shape their policies today&#8212;the massive tax cuts, the growth of militarism, the elimination of public services and the cultivation of a political and moral atmosphere in which obscene levels of wealth can be openly worshiped.

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