Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Ron Paul Doesn't Like Black People ?

"Indeed, it is shocking to consider the uniformity of opinion among blacks in this country. Opinion polls consistently show that only about 5% of blacks have sensible political opinions, i.e. support the free market, individual liberty, and the end of welfare and affirmative action.... Given the inefficiencies of what D.C. laughingly calls the "criminal justice system," I think we can safely assume that 95% of the black males in that city are semi-criminal or entirely criminal."

And who made that wonderful comment? Was it (a) David Duke (b) Dick Cheney or (c) Bull Connor? Nope. Those statements were made--or endorsed depending on who you believe--by none other than Presidential hopeful and Republican Congressman (D-TX) Ron Paul. Yes, the same Ron Paul that comes off so sensible and good-natured on television. The one the media has told you to "watch out for" as a dark-horse candidate. The Ron Paul who seems like a good guy cuz, gosh, he's anti-war and doesn't want to bomb Iran. Problem is, Ron Paul may agree with alot of things many on the Progressive Left do, but for entirely different reasons. He's a self-declared Libertarian, which has so many sub-sets its hard to define the term. In Ron Paul's case, he sees most things that deal with big government as infringing on natural liberty. So naturally, he's anti-military spending and would not have invaded Iraq. Yet in his view of libertarianism, he'd probably also not lift a finger to stop genocide in Darfur--no foreign involvement means no involvement. Sure he's anti-NAFTA, but not because like activist Ralph Nader he is concerned about the plight of the global worker, but because he's an "America First" type who wants to free the American worker (usually white) from corporate slavery. He'd do away with the Patriot Act, certainly...right after he does away with Affirmative Action, Social Security and a host of other "government" enforced items.

That his notions on black people is so dismal should not be surprising, as libertarians tend to enforce their views on limited government by denying things like racism or sexism exist--and therefore do not need to be regulated by government with pesky notions like Civil Rights or Equal Opportunity laws--which again may infringe on the natural liberty of others. Of course, Ron Paul's campaign denies he ever made these statements. Rather they were taken out of context or attributed to him in a newsletter that he sanctioned. While Paul says he takes "moral responsibility" for the publication, he thus far has not condemned or repudiated the statements "attributed" to him. Go figure. But hey, why take my word for it? Thanks to the nice people at the Daily KOS, let Ron Paul--or his doppelganger--speak for himself. Quite illuminating...

from a 1992 peice titled: "LOS ANGELES RACIAL TERRORISM," following the Rodney King riots in 1991:

Regardless of what the media tell us, most white Americans are not going to believe that they are at fault for what blacks have done to cities across America. The professional blacks may have cowed the elites, but good sense survives at the grass roots. Many more are going to have difficultly avoiding the belief that our country is being destroyed by a group of actual and potential terrorists -- and they can be identified by the color of their skin. This conclusion may not be entirely fair, but it is, for many, entirely unavoidable.

Indeed, it is shocking to consider the uniformity of opinion among blacks in this country. Opinion polls consistently show that only about 5% of blacks have sensible political opinions, i.e. support the free market, individual liberty, and the end of welfare and affirmative action.... Given the inefficiencies of what D.C. laughingly calls the "criminal justice system," I think we can safely assume that 95% of the black males in that city are semi-criminal or entirely criminal.
If similar in-depth studies were conducted in other major cities, who doubts that similar results would be produced? We are constantly told that it is evil to be afraid of black men, but it is hardly irrational. Black men commit murders, rapes, robberies, muggings, and burglaries all out of proportion to their numbers.

Perhaps the L.A. experience should not be surprising. The riots, burning, looting, and murders are only a continuation of 30 years of racial politics.The looting in L.A. was the welfare state without the voting booth. The elite have sent one message to black America for 30 years: you are entitled to something for nothing. That's what blacks got on the streets of L.A. for three days in April. Only they didn't ask their Congressmen to arrange the transfer.

from a Houston Chronicle report from 1996:

Texas congressional candidate Ron Paul's 1992 political newsletter highlighted portrayals of blacks as inclined toward crime and lacking sense about top political issues.

Under the headline of "Terrorist Update," for instance, Paul reported on gang crime in Los Angeles and commented, "If you have ever been robbed by a black teen-aged male, you know how unbelievably fleet-footed they can be."

Paul, a Republican obstetrician from Surfside, said Wednesday he opposes racism and that his written commentaries about blacks came in the context of "current events and statistical reports of the time."

... [I]n the same 1992 edition ... [Paul wrote], "We don't think a child of 13 should be held responsible as a man of 23. That's true for most people, but black males age 13 who have been raised on the streets and who have joined criminal gangs are as big, strong, tough, scary and culpable as any adult and should be treated as such."

Paul also asserted that "complex embezzling" is conducted exclusively by non-blacks.

"What else do we need to know about the political establishment than that it refuses to discuss the crimes that terrify Americans on grounds that doing so is racist? Why isn't that true of complex embezzling, which is 100 percent white and Asian?" he wrote.

Ron Paul on Congresswoman Barbara Jordan, D-TX:

"University of Texas affirmative action law professor Barbara Jordan is a fraud. Everything from her imitation British accent, to her supposed expertise in law, to her distinguished career in public service, is made up. If there were ever a modern case of the empress without clothes, this is it. She is the archetypical half-educated victimologist, yet her race and sex protect her from criticism."

Excerpts: Daily Kos, May 15th, 2007


Monday, December 10, 2007

H.R. 1955 = Orwell's 1984 ?

H.R. 1955. Heard of it? Chances are, with our mainstream corporate media engaged in every bit of news except what is most important, you haven't. As Robert Weitzel writing for TRUTHOUT notes, "H.R 1955: the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of barely one sentence old before its Orwellian moment: It begins, 'AN ACT - To prevent homegrown terrorism, and for other purposes.'" The document itself reads as so vague--with its concern for "ideologically based violence" and its desire to "disrupt" radical groups--that it leaves open a wide net. Some have likened it to COINTELPRO, the Counter Intelligence Program of J. Edgar Hoover's FBI that ended up spying on peace activists, infiltrating the Black Panthers and wiretapping Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.--all in the name of securing the homeland. Others are calling it, the "Thought Crime" bill, as seemingly simply having an ideology like anarchism or the like could be deemed potentially dangerous and akin to terrorism. Most appalling is that H.R. 1955--that resembles a refined stepchild of the troubling Patriot Act--was proposed by a Democrat (Rep. Jane Harman [D-CA]) and won overwhelming support in the Democratic controlled Congress when it was passed on Oct. 23 by a vote of 404-6. It's companion now rests in the Senate. And despite calls for a reexamination of the bill by civil liberties lawyers, Constitutional scholars, activists and more, it seems to be going full steam ahead.

As noted by Jessica Lee on Indypendent Media, who has confirmed that presidential candidate Barak Obama will also endorse the bill, H.R. 1955 is troubling in its appeal to fear and the never-ending, always-expanding "war on terrorism." She quotes Alejandro Queral, executive director of the Northwest Constitutional Rights Center, who has expressed concern over the bill’s vague definitions of “violent radicalization,” “homegrown terrorism,” and the terms within the definitions including “extremist belief system,” “violence” and “force.”

“This bill fits the pattern we are seeing coming out of Congress – both Republican and Democratic –," Queral said, "of a continued campaign of fear, which gets into heads of Americans that we now need to start criminalizing ideology.”

Since the corporate media has been negligent on this story now for well over a month, some stories relating to H.R. 1955 are posted below.

Bringing the War on Terrorism Home: Congress Considers How to ‘Disrupt’ Radical Movements in the United States

From the November 16, 2007 issue | Posted in National |

By Jessica Lee

Under the guise of a bill that calls for the study of “homegrown terrorism,” Congress is apparently trying to broaden the definition of terrorism to encompass both First Amendment political activity and traditional forms of protest such as nonviolent civil disobedience, according to civil liberties advocates, scholars and historians.

The proposed law, The Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007 (H.R. 1955), was passed by the House of Representative in a 404-6 vote Oct. 23. (The Senate is currently considering a companion bill, S. 1959.) The act would establish a “National Commission on the prevention of violent radicalization and ideologically based violence” and a university-based “Center for Excellence” to “examine and report upon the facts and causes of violent radicalization, homegrown terrorism and ideologically based violence in the United States” in order to develop policy for “prevention, disruption and mitigation.”

full article:

The House of Reps Vote 404 to 6 to Pass the Bill that Legalizes COINTELPRO?

by Justin Ponkow and Troy Nkrumah

November 28, 2007

One month ago a bill passed almost unanimously in the House. This bill has received no mainstream news coverage. So it must not be that big of a deal, right? It's just a bill that will soon to go to Capitol Hill and since the Democrats are in control we are all safe from further infringements up on our civil rights, right? Well, maybe that is not totally correct since this bill is a lot more than meets the eye. But indicator number one should be the title, and indicator number two should be how fast it is moving through Congress.

On October 23rd of this year, the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007 passed 404 to 6 in the House. This bill is proposing an expansion of Homeland Security with the objective of spying on citizens whose political or religious beliefs might lead them to commit violent acts. And we are not referring to the attack of Megan Williams or the numerous police murders of non threatening civilians. No this is solely about spying on political dissidents whose politics were shaped through a critical analysis of US Foreign or Domestic policies.

full article:

Obama Supports Homegrown Terrorism Bill

December 10, 2007 | Posted in IndyBlog |

By Jessica Lee, The Indypendent

Democratic presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama says that he will support the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act (S. 1959). According to the automatic email responses constituents are receiving from his office, Obama appears to be straddling the fence between preserving civil liberties and being tough on terrorism.

“The American people understand that new threats require flexible responses to keep them safe. They also insist that our responses to threats respect the constitution and do not violate the basic tenets of our democracy,” Obama’s email said. Several people who have written to Obama have posted his response on various blogs, including “Justin” who’s personal blog was picked up on

full article:

Read Copy of Bill (several versions) yourself:


Saturday, December 8, 2007

Why Chavez Won by Losing

This week in Venezuela President Hugo Chavez's referendum, which had received international attention in the past weeks, failed to pass by a slim margin of 51% (against) to 49% in favor. Newspaper headlines by the opposition, and their global allies in places like the US, have trumpeted this defeat as a grand loss for Chavez. His detractors have seized on it as evidence that the socialist revolution in Venezuela is now in decline. However, contrary to such gleeful wishes, Chavez may emerge from this setback more popular than ever. And here's why...

Term Limits

Read any newspaper or listen to a news story in the US, and all you learned about the referendum put forth by Hugo Chavez was that it would do away with term-limits. The opposition in Caracas--wealthy white elites who despise Chavez's appeal to the poor classes, mostly of color--howled this would mean the man they so villified, and once overthrew in a briefly aborted 2002 coup, would be able to retain power forever. While the issue of doing away with term limits is no doubt problematic, and worthy of debate by the citizens of Venezuela, it was greatly over-blown both by the opposition and their foreign allies. First off, the referendum did not mean Chavez would be president for life. What it would have done is allow him to run more than the current two term limit provides. He would therefore have the option to seek the presidency again, but could lose to a worthy candidate. Thus it was doing away with term limits without doing away with democratic principles. Now the whole issue of how long any politician should be allowed to run for office is certainly up to debate. But before anyone engages in it, let's keep some things in perspective. There are many stable democracies in the world that do not have strict term limits like Venezuela. Margaret Thatcher of Great Britian served three terms (one more than Chavez will ever be able) as Prime Minister; John Howard of Australia served four terms as Australia's president. Last I checked, though I abhor boh Thatcher and Howard's politics, neither were the authoritarian dictators that Chavez, in his bid to expand his terms, has been demonised as. In the greatest irony, the most vocal international critics of Chavez have been none other than the current occupants of the White House--whose own electoral authenticity remains deeply convuluted and controversial. Yet it was not until the 22nd amendment in 1944 that the idea of a two-term limit presidency came into existence. Before that, a U.S. presidential candidate could run for the office as many times as he could get elected. Franklin D. Roosevelt would serve a total of four times between 1932 and 1944. Many have even questioned whether Roosevelt's New Deal policies, that so drastically altered America for the better, would have been possible were he limited to only two terms.

Beyond Term Limits- the Rest of the Referendum

Contrary to media reports, there was much more to the referendum posed by Chavez than simply term limits. In fact, the referendum in full dealt with over sixty changes to the nation's constitutions. Some of these included everything from creating forms of communal ownership to allow landless farmers to acquire property, to cutting the workday from eight hours to six. There was a bid at universal social security coverage for much of the informal sector (street vendors, domestic servants, etc.) who make up at least 40% of the labor force. There were even civl rights guarantees for homosexuals and Venezuelans of color, especially those of African descent. Other reforms hoped to stem the long-standing institutional corruption and obstructionism which Chavez has blamed for stalling his reforms. All of these important matters took a back seat to talk of term limits, which Chavez's detractors at home and abroad seized upon in a well-funded propaganda campaign.

The Opposition- Democratic Idealists or Elitists

While news media reports often speak of Chavez's opposition as mere college students or concerned citizens, the truth is a bit more complex. Those opposing the referendum were an amalgam of everyone from Trotskyites to extreme rightists. The main thrust behind the opposition, that has long villified Hugo Chavez, remains the upper and middle-class Venezuelan elite. Owning most of the media and many businesses, Chavez's appeals to the poor and his socialist principles threaten their power. And they constantly paint him in newspapers and other outlets as a mad dictator. With American backing, these forces managed to carry out a coup in 2002 that pushed Chavez from power--until his supporters (the poor majority of color) took to the streets to defy the coup leaders and place their elected president back in power. Contrary to their cries of dictatorship, Chavez did the unthinkable and never rounded up or arrested many of the leaders of the coup. And except for refusing to renew the license of a TV station that participated in the coup and regularly calls for overthrowing the government, for the most part Chavez has allowed his critics to voice their opinions--which they have done quite often, and at times violently. Thus far, there are no Guantanamo prisons for the opposition in Venezuela. And what of those much touted college students who the NY Times portrayed as fighting for their liberties? Most are upper class and elite, and receive direct money from groups tied to the Bush administration in the U.S.---hardly a grassroots wellspring of democracy. There is also an element of racism in the opposition which many observers within and without Venezuela have noted, including Chavez himself. On more than one occassion, they have portrayed Chavez as a caricature of a primate--and made derogatory remarks to his multi-racial African and indigenous heritage.

Chavez the "Dictator" Accepted Democracy

Though the opposition in Caracas is putting on a face of joy, beneath they must be seething. Their entire premise, as that of the US, has been that Chavez is a dictator and strongman. Yet after only narrowly losing the referendum, Chavez accepted defeat, congratulated his opponents and said that even had he won, with such a narrow margin, it would have been a pyrrhic victory. Hardly the words and actions of a dictator. The many t-shirts the opposition had printed to begin a mass propaganda campaign against the Venezuelan "dictator" had to be shelved, when Chavez showed them how a democracy actually works. Perhaps those lovers of democracy among the opposition will once again show their respect for the rule of law with another coup attempt.

Beyond Chavez: Mistakes, Lessons and the Future

The hard reality here is that in many ways, even taking into account the propaganda of the opposition, Chavez overreached. The term limit issue was easy fodder for his opponents to grab onto. And placing over sixty sweeping changes on one referendum was probably too much for his base to comfortably engage with. By accepting defeat, this does not mean Chavez socialist revolution has come to an end. Rather the lesson here is to play the political game more carefully. What's more, all such revolutions, even when they mean well, can easily fall into the trap of a cult-of-personality. Chavez, no matter his desire to create change, did not rise to power by himself and cannot complete the changes he'd like to see come about by himself. Rather than attempting to retain the seat of power, new institutions that can create new leadership for the future is needed. As noted by Mark Weisbrot in Alternatives International:

"The popular presentation of this contest as between pro-Chavez and anti-Chavez forces is misleading. It is a struggle of left versus right, with the two sides divided and polarized along the lines of class, democracy, national sovereignty, and race."

And long after Chavez has exited the political stage, that battle will need to be fought.


Joe Klein, TIME & GOP Lies

Reason #8975 why I STOPPED reading TIME, Newseek and other so-called popular political mags several years back. Enter the Joe Klein fiasco, which started about two weeks ago, as it goes to the heart of how these printed materials can cause more confusion, and disinformation, rather than enhance the public good. First Joe Klein (so-called "liberal" writer) prints a lie in TIME about the Democrats and the FISA bill. When Glen Greenwald of Salon takes him to task, Klein refuses to backdown. When the pressure (and the accompanying truth that can't be dismissed) gets too heavy, Klein then begins to backtrack without ever really taking responsibility. When it gets too hot to handle, Klein simply walks away from the matter and tells his readers its too hard to figure out. Meanwhile it comes out, that Peter Hokstra (right wing Republican wack-job, the one who crazily claimed to find WMDs in Iraq long AFTER it was apparent there were none) was the person who gave Klein his information. So what we have is a well known journalist who took the words of an obviously partisan political figure as fact without bothering to do his own checking, and then had it printed in his magazine. Finally, after so much criticism, TIME finally issued a retraction. However, it was about as half-a*sed, as Klein's, giving its 4 million readers no real clear cut information. So you have a so-called liberal writer, TIME and a right-wing Republican in bed together, all protecting each other. And this is supposed to be our source of "objective" news....

A timeline of articles detailing the Klein, FISA, TIME, Fiasco.

Nov. 21 2007
Joe Klein: Both factually false and stuck in the 1980s The Time pundit spouts pro-capitulation advice to Democrats that is as obsolete as it is grounded in falsehoods.

Nov. 25 2007
Time magazine's FISA fiasco shows how Beltway reporters mislead the country Joe Klein passed on outright GOP lies about the House Democratic FISA bill to 4 million Time readers and now obscures what happened.

Nov. 26 2007
Joe Klein digs Time's hole deeper still The still-uncorrected errors in the Time article are made far worse by Klein's ongoing deceit.

Nov. 27 2007
Demand answers from Time magazine The Time editors responsible for Joe Klein's "Shameful Journalism" arrogantly refuse to account for what they did.

Nov. 27 2007
Everything that is rancid and corrupt with modern journalism: The Nutshell Time's "correction" reads like satire.

Nov. 29 2007
The Chicago Tribune vs. Time magazine The newspaper clearly and unequivocally states that Joe Klein's statements were false. UPDATE: GOP Rep. Pete Hoekstra outs himself as Klein's source.

Dec. 4 2007
Time magazine refused to publish responses to Klein's false smears Both Sen. Feingold and Rep. Holt asked to respond to Joe Klein's falsehoods. Both were blocked from doing so. UPDATE: Chairmen Conyers and Reyes, and Sen. Dodd, add their protests.

Dec. 7 2007
Rep. John Conyers: Setting the Record Straight on FISA Contrary to GOP and media spin, the RESTORE Act does not grant "terrorists the same rights as Americans," as Klein alleged. The bill explicitly provides that warrants are not needed to intercept overseas communications.


Friday, December 7, 2007

Look Ma', No Nukes- The NIE Report on Iran

So in the midst of saber-rattling about the threat posed by Iran's "alleged" nuclear weapons program (President Bush has warned Iranian nukes could ignite World War III), the US National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) was released this week. And what do 16 different U.S. intelligence agencies conclude? That Iran stopped its nuclear weapons program back in 2003, and has not restarted it since. The news has sent the neocon war hawks, the White House and their allies into a frenzy. President Bush, in a series of bizarre speeches, has claimed the report doesn't change anything and that Iran is still dangerous. Neocons and warhawks have spent a great deal of print and air time attempting to spin the report to their liking, or questioning its validity. We've seen this story before, during the lead up to the Iraq war. Only that time, it was behind the scenes, and the intelligence community was pressured to cherry-pick information to come out with bogus claims. After getting blamed for that fiasco in the end (as the hawks and the White House sought to cover their role in pushing for war), the intelligence community has decided they aren't getting burned twice. An awkward looking National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley, released the NIE this past Monday in full spin mode--probably only because he knew leaks were inevitable if they tried to bury it. In fact, looks as if President Bush knew the direction the NIE was going since at least August, but STILL continued its saber-rattling. And this guy still isn't impeachable?

So here we are, at an interesting place, where the main drumbeating for war has been interrupted by intelligence reports that come (ironically enough) from the very country that has been doing the most saber-rattling. What do with this pause? The hawks and neo-cons have been busily shoring up support from the Europeans and others. Iran has declared the NIE a victory. World bodies like the UN are moving cautiously. And the White House is still into spin, spin, spin. Three articles below that attempt to shed some light on the meaning of the NIE and where things can, and should, go from here, from three of my favorite writers: an earlier Nov piece by author Trita Parsi, Robert Scheer at the Nation and Juan Cole at

The Iranian Challenge
by Trita Parsi

Iran will be the top foreign policy challenge for the United States in the coming years. The Bush Administration's policy (insistence on zero enrichment of uranium, regime change and isolation of Iran) and the policy of the radicals around President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (unlimited civilian nuclear capability, selective inspections and replacing the United States as the region's dominant power) have set the two countries on a collision course. Yet the mere retirement of George W. Bush's neocons or Ahmadinejad's radicals may not be sufficient to avoid the disaster of war.

The ill-informed foreign policy debate on Iran contributes to a paradigm of enmity between the United States and Iran, which limits the foreign policy options of future US administrations to various forms of confrontation while excluding more constructive approaches. These policies of collision are in no small part born of the erroneous assumptions we adopted about Iran back in the days when we could afford to ignore that country. But as America sinks deeper into the Iraqi quicksand, remaining in the dark about the realities of Iran and the actual policies of its decision-makers is no longer an option.

full article:

Bush on Iran: Fool Me Twice
by Robert Scheer

Bush is such a liar. Or is he just out to lunch on the most important issue that he faces? In October, he charged that Iran's nuclear weapons program was bringing the world to the precipice of World War III, even though the White House had been informed at least a month earlier that Iran had no such program and had stopped efforts to develop one back in 2003

full article:

The GOP's Iran Option is Off the Table

Rudy Giuliani was counting on Iran as a weapon of mass distraction in the '08 race. But the flailing Republican right has just been disarmed.

By Juan Cole

Dec. 11, 2007 | The conclusions of the latest National Intelligence Estimate regarding Iran's lack of a nuclear weapons program will have a profound impact on the 2008 presidential campaign. The report may well prove a key element in throwing the election to the Democrats. Republicans have used the alleged nuclear threat posed by Iran to scare the American public and to turn attention away from Iraq, economic troubles and Republican scandals. But the NIE findings have pulled the rug out from under the Grand Old Party.

full article:


Monday, November 26, 2007

Peace in the Mideast...via Annapolis?

So President Bush--after butchering the name of Palestinian authority president Mahmoud Abbas--inaugurated his bid for a Mid East peace plan in Annapolis, Maryland this week. For the record, I'm all for peace--the world could certainly use more of it. But the notion that this administration, which has engaged in a pre-emptive unjust war in Iraq, supported repression at home and abroad, backed violent military take-overs to sow renewed chaos in Somalia and is now saber-rattling daily at Iran, is now trying to promote peace seems beyond bizarre. Is this some bid for Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice to recapture her tarnished image, when just little over a year ago she allowed Israel to bomb Lebanon with near impunity--actually blocking any chance for an early end to the conflict? Does the Bush Junta think the world will suddenly have a change of heart and nominate them for a Nobel Peace Prize?

Sorry, call me a cynic, but I see little in the way of "peace" that will come out of this--not when major regional players like Iran and Hamas (you know, the entire *other half* of the Palestinians!) are completely shut out and ignored. And if this summit goes as most others, the Palestinians I'm sure will be asked to give up everything but the clothes on their backs, while the Israelis offer feeble gestures (we'll stop occupying your land, but retain the right to invade whenever we see fit) and hide behind their need for security--because goodness knows the most powerful military in the mid-East, equipped with several hundred nuclear bombs, can't protect itself. Again, call me a cynic. But I don't appear to be alone.

The following story by Eric Margolis in the Toronto Star I thought summed it up nicely.


November 26, 2007

After the disasters in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Somalia, the misery and bloodshed in Palestine, looming war against Iran, the mess in Pakistan, and worldwide anger against America, President George Bush desperately needs a foreign policy success in the final year of his ill-starred term.

So a group of US Mideast Arab allies and Israel have been dragooned into reluctantly appearing at a hastily-arranged meeting at Annapolis, Maryland this week that Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice actually claims will lead to a final Palestinian-Israeli settlement over the next year.

The attendees includes Israel’s Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Palestinian semi-leader Mahmoud Abbas, and delegations from US Arab allies. Syria, which fears a joint US-Israeli invasion, finally decided to send a junior minister. To no surprise, Great Satan Iran was not invited to Bush’s Maryland clambake.

Israel’s strategy has long been to talk about talks about peace while steadily continuing to expand by building settlements on the West Bank and the former Syrian Golan Heights. According to Israeli human rights groups, Israeli settlements and military bases now occupy over half the entire West Bank and its best farmland and water resources –in violation of international law and numerous UN resolutions.

To make sure nothing substantial is achieved at Annapolis, Israel’s rightwing parties in parliament rammed through a resolution that any change in the status of Jerusalem would require a two-thirds vote instead of a simple majority, an impossibility under the Knesset’s fragmented party system. Next, Olmert issued a new demand that the Palestinian leadership and other Arab nations recognize Israel not just as a state but as `a Jewish state.’ This means the 20% of Israeli’s who are Muslim or Christian would become non-people. Olmert knew perfectly well that this insertion would make it extremely difficult for the Arab states to recognize Israel. That, of course, was his objective: a diplomatic poison pill.

West Bank Palestinians have been squeezed into arid land and squalid towns forming a giant outdoor gulag, reminiscent of the science fiction film `Escape from New York,’ filled with misery, crime, 50% unemployment and malnutrition, all surrounded by Israeli `security walls,’ checkpoints and hilltop settlements.

Mahmoud Abbas can’t even control his own extreme factions within Fatah who launch attacks on Israelis, never mind militant Hamas Islamists who stupidly lob rockets at Israel from that other open air prison, Gaza. Israel responds to each pinprick attack with massive force, killing ten Arabs for every dead Israeli. Palestinian infighting and bitter divisions provide Israel’s government with a perfect excuse not to deal with them.

Meanwhile, Washington and Israel are trying to starve Hamas and Gaza into submission while building up the ineffectual but obedient Abbas, whom they engineered into power after PLO leader Yasser Arafat’s mysterious death. The US and Israel have been arming Abbas’ Fatah faction in hopes they will go after Hamas – which, however unloved in the west, remains a legitimate government that won power through a democratic vote.

The Bush Administration’s goal is to get Israeli PM Olmert to agree to a feeble Palestinian mini-state made up of tiny cantons – call them Arabistans - isolated by Israeli-only roads, led by US and Israeli appointed yes-men who will keep their more volatile compatriots in line. This was also the goal of former Israeli PM Ariel Sharon, who is now in deep coma. Had his health held up, Sharon might have pulled it off.

But even this political Potemkin Village faces fierce opposition in Israel. Olmert, still reeling from the bloody disaster he created last year in Lebanon, is under heavy fire from Israel’s powerful right wingers and their US neoconservative supporters not to cede an inch of Biblical Greater Israel.

Equally important, as election year nears, US Republicans and Democrats are vying to support the ultra-hardline positions of Israel’s expansionist right, ignoring the 50% of Israeli voters who support a real land for peace deal. They are doing Israel a grave disservice by pandering to its most extreme parties while ignoring its mainstream.

As one of Israel’s finest thinkers, Uri Avnery notes about US elections, `the Jewish and Evangelistic lobbies, together with the neo-cons, will not allow one critical word about Israel to be uttered unpunished.’

In North America, anything that is not fulsome praise of Israel is deemed criticism. Failure to fully support Israel means political or professional suicide . Every politician remembers Democrat Howard Dean. His campaign for the presidency was quickly destroyed by the US media after Dean called for an `evenhanded’ approach to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

This means Bush and whoever succeeds him, whether Republican or Democrat, will be most unlikely to put any pressure on Israel to create a viable Palestinian state.

The only peace plan that would work is being ignored: the 2002 Saudi proposal calling for a return to Israel’s pre-1967 borders with some rectifications; sharing Jerusalem; dealing with millions of homeless Palestinian refugees; and normalized relations between the Muslim World and Israel.

Nothing will happen without US pressure. But Bush won’t seize the last chance to do some good for the world though, as a lame duck president, he could at least try without jeopardizing his political future. Israel is happy with the status quo. The Palestinians and other Arab states are too weak and divided to achieve a solution to the world’s biggest international headache.


Tuesday, November 20, 2007

What's Hardcore? Cry Somalia

So the news is reporting that the UN has named Somalia the most pressing humanitarian disaster in the world at the moment, overshadowing both more popular places of discussion like Iraq or Darfur. To date, some 1 million Somalis have been displaced as their country goes through another round of upheavals. What's most tragic about this, is that just a little over a year ago, Somalia was showing promise. An Islamist group calling itself the Islamic Courts had routed the dreaded warlords and brought peace and stability. While there were differences and controversies amongst the Islamists in their rule (some factions wanted to introduce Sharia law), for the most part they were welcomed by Somalis who had seen decades of chaos and were thankful for peace. Enter however the Bush administration. Deciding that anything with the word "Islam" in it must inherently be dangerous, the US declared the Islamic Courts "terrorists" in league with al-Qaeda. The Bush administration in fact backed the warlords--the very ones they had fought a decade ago--with money and weapons against the Islamist fighters. That gamble failed, as the Somali people chose the Islamic Courts who routed the warlords. Unable to deal with the reality on the ground, the Bush regime decided to change it.

They found a willing and eager ally in the despotic Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, who when not oppressing his own citizens always has time to be a US lackey. In short time, American trained, American supplied and American backed Ethiopian troops, supported by US military gunships and intelligence, overran Somalia, pushed out the Islamic Courts and helped install the UN picked transitional government--made up, naturally enough, of former warlords. Since then, Somalia has deteriorated to a state of anarchy and war unseen in decades. The death toll mounts, a million refugees have been created, Islamic insurgents fight against America's proxy Ethiopian occupiers, and a weak propped up government sits in Mogadishu with no popular support. All we're missing to make this Iraq II are the car bombs. Somehow all of this--including the US machinations that have led to this latest set of tragedies--glided beneath the radar of the mainstream press.

Below are several articles or discussions on the issue, some dating back a year to give perspective. The song above is by Somali artist K'naan, who is trying as best he can to talk about the plight of his country. Question is, who's listening?

Destabilizing the Horn Jan. 07 The Nation

Somalia Victimized by U.S., Ethiopia and Their Warlord Allies - Jan. 07 Black Agenda Report

Bush's Somalia Strategy Enables an Ethiopian Despot - Feb. 07 The Nation

U.S. Made Mess in Somalia - Apr. 07 The Independent Institute

The Bush Doctrine in Somalia: Yet Another Success - Nov. 07

Former UN Spokesperson Salim Lone: International Community Turning Blind Eye to Worsening Somalia Crisis - Nov. 07 DemocracyNow


Thursday, November 8, 2007

Water Torture and Slaves

Since we still seem to be having a debate on whether waterboarding is actually "torture," the following excerpt of the water torture of a female slave in antebellum Georgia deserves mentioning. Notice that this act was not done to gain information (so-called "enhanced interrogation"), but merely to punish. This was the intended effect of waterboarding and other forms of water torture--whether it was used during the Spanish Inquisition on "heretic" Jews, by American troops on insurgent Philippinos, on dissenters in Pinochet controlled Chile and elsewhere. It does not extract confessions; it induces terror, plain and simple. Perhaps some of this should have been read to those Senators, Republican *and* Democrat, who voted to confirm the new Attorney General Michael Mukasey, who has yet to define waterboarding as torture.

Narrative of Charles Ball, an American slave, on water torture used on a female slave by a Georgian slave owner.

Excerpt taken from:

Charles Ball. Fifty Years in Chains, or, The Life of an American Slave. (New York: H. Dayton, 1859), 409-412.


When I had been here about a week, my master came into the field one day, and, in passing near me, stopped and told me, that I had now fallen into good hands, as it was his practice not to whip his people much. That he, in truth, never whipped them, nor suffered his overseer to whip them, except in flagrant cases. That he had discovered a mode of punishment much more mild, and, at the same time, much more effectual, than flogging; and that he governed his negroes exclusively under this mode of discipline. He then told me, that when I came home in the evening, I must come to the house; and that he would then make me acquainted with the principles upon which he chastised his slaves.

Going to the house in the evening, according to orders, my master showed me a pump, set in a well in which the water rose within ten feet of the surface of the ground. The spout of this pump, was elevated at least thirteen feet above the earth, and when the water was to be drawn from it, the person who worked the handle ascended by a ladder to the proper station. The water in this well, although so near the surface, was very cold; and the pump discharged it in a large stream. One of the women employed in the house, had committed some offence for which she was to be punished; and the opportunity was embraced of exhibiting to me, the effect of this novel mode of torture upon the human frame. The woman was stripped quite naked, and tied to a post that stood just under the stream of water, as it fell from the spout of the pump. A lad was then ordered to ascend the ladder, and pump water upon the head and shoulders of the victim; who had not been under the waterfall more than a minute, before she began to cry and scream in a most lamentable manner. In a short time, she exerted her strength, in the most convulsive throes, in trying to escape from the post; but as the cords were strong, this was impossible. After another minute or a little more, her cries became weaker, and soon afterwards her head fell forward upon her breast; and then the boy was ordered to cease pumping the water. The woman was removed in a state of insensibility; but recovered her faculties in about an hour. The next morning she complained of lightness of head; but was able to go to work.

This punishment of the pump, as it is called, was never inflicted on me; and I am only able to describe it, as it has been described to me, by those who have endured it. When the water first strikes the head and arm, it is not at all painful; but in a very short time, it produces the sensation that is felt when heavy blows are inflicted with large rods, of the size of a man’s finger. This perception becomes more and more painful, until the skull bone and shoulder blades appear to be broken in pieces. Finally, all the faculties become oppressed; breathing becomes more and more difficult; until the eye-sight becomes dim, and animation ceases. This punishment is in fact a temporary murder; as all the pains are endured, that can be felt by a person who is deprived of life by being beaten with bludgeons;–but after the punishment of the pump, the sufferer is restored to existence by being laid in a bed, and covered with warm clothes. A giddiness of the head, and oppression of the breast, follows this operation, for a day or two, and sometimes longer. The object of calling me to be a witness of this new mode of torture, doubtlessly, was was to intimidate me from running away; but like medicines administered by empirics, the spectacle had precisely the opposite effect, from that which it was expected to produce.

After my arrival on this estate, my intention had been to defer my elopement until the next year, before I had seen the torture inflicted on this unfortunate woman; but from that moment my resolution was unalterably fixed, to escape as quickly as possible. Such was my desperation of feeling, at this time, that I deliberated seriously upon the project of endeavouring to make my way southward, for the purpose of joining the Indians in Florida. Fortune reserved a more agreeable fate for me.



Thursday, October 25, 2007

The War on Women

Maria Shuluba, 53, was raped by armed men near Bukavu, Congo, in South Kivu Province, the epicenter of a rape epidemic--one of the aftershocks of a war that ravaged the central African nation.

"With women I have no problem. With women, one threw a clog at me and I kicked her here [pointing to the crotch], I broke everything there. She can't have children. Next time she won't throw clogs at me. When one of them [a woman] spat at me, I gave her the rifle butt in the face. She doesn't have what to spit with any more.'"--Israeli soldier, describing his treatment of Palestinian women during the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.

“We don’t know why these rapes are happening, but one thing is clear, they are done to destroy women.”-- Dr. Denis Mukwege, Gynecologist in South Kivu Province, Eastern Congo.

...kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him. But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves.-- Numbers 31:17-18 (King James Version)

This week two UN officials spoke out on the prevalence of gender-violence as a tactic of warfare. “The woman’s body has become a battleground and it seems to be taken for granted that this should continue,” Rachel Mayanja, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women, said at a press briefing at UN Headquarters. Mayanja stresed that member states needed to take up the issue of rape and war and address it head-on.

A recent NY Times article documented the rape epidemic that has gripped the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, where women are "being systematically attacked on a scale never before seen" in that war-torn region. According to the United Nations, 27,000 sexual assaults were reported in 2006 in the South Kivu Province alone. Some think this may be "just a fraction" of the total amount across that vast and troubled country. The main perpetrators are thought to be roving gangs of young men, mainly Hutu refugees who themselves had participated in the genocide in neighboring Rwanda. The victims say their attackers come at night, often killing men and dragging women off to be gang-raped or held for weeks, or months, as sex slaves. The sheer brutality of these attacks, in which foreign objects may be forced into the victim's bodies, has left thousands of women both physically mutilated and psychologically scarred. Congolese activist Christine Schuler Deschryver has termed this sexual terrorism and torture that has gripped her homeland as Femicide. "They are destroying the female species in Congo," she warns.

The women of the Democratic Republic of Congo are no strangers to suffering, having endured a war that raged on from 1997-2004. Women and girls were often attacked by soldiers under varied flags, seeking to pillage or demoralise the communities that happened to get in their way. Some 4 million Congolese would die in what some called 'Africas First World War.' The majority of those victims would again be women, and children, who did not die from wounds inflicted by soldiers but rather starvation and disease--yet another way war seems to unfairly persecute along gendered lines.

This disproportionate toll on women thru war extends beyond Congo. In Darfur mass rape has become a common tool of conquest for Janjaweed militias. Women there have to either go out in large groups, or under the protection of African Union peacekeepers. In Rwanda, the rape of Tutsi women was a tactic of genocide endorsed by the Hutu militia. In the last conflict that ravaged Bosnia, Serbian military and paramilitary used systematic rape to terrorize Bosnian and Albanian Muslim women as a form of "ethnic cleansing."

And while such attacks on women during war are usually blamed on more undisciplined armies of poor nations, they not without their counterparts in the more "developed" world. The rape of girls and women was used as an unofficial tactic by numerous American soldiers in Vietnam. During WWII, the Germans carried out systematic rape in regions they conquered, and the Russians would seek retribution through the rape of masses of German women when they took Berlin. The Japanese kidnapped perhaps hundreds of thousands of Korean, Chinese and other Asian women to be held as sexual concubines for their soldiers. Today, even among what some consider the most sophisticated army in the world, incidents of rape are not uncommon. In 2006, 5 US GIs stalked, gang-raped, murdered and then burned the body of a 14-yr-old Iraqi girl. Other charges of rape made by Iraqi girls and women against US occupation soldiers date back to 2004. In the midst of war, even US female soldiers find themselves at risk, forced to travel in groups to the latrines or not go out at night for fear of rape by fellow soldiers.

Documenting the history and landscape of sexual violence in warfare isn't hard. It can be found in the Old Testament, where women could be promised as victories of war. Much of the ancient world--from the Egyptians to the Romans--saw this as the normal course of warfare. From the Crusades to the Conquistadors to colonization, rape and the abuse of women have remained a facet of warfare. Why it happens however, is much harder to answer. Is it the existing patriarchal norms that pervade much of the world, to some degree or another, that make women just another commodity--a species of property to be destroyed and/or humiliated in order to further injure one's enemies? Is it the chilling spectre of genocide, where the very reproductive rights of women and the communities they belong to can be savaged with an impunity that scars far longer than napalm or cluster bombs? Or perhaps, is it that war itself is a violent enterprise that cannot be made more humane with policies and restrictions, and will always result in the most horrific expressions of brutality in the quest for power and dominance?

I'ts never easy trying to find sense in the seemingly insensible, to find reason for man's inhumanity towards man--and woman. So instead we try to find ways to control the chaos that war produces.

As reported in the International Herald Tribune, this past week UN secretary general Ban Ki Moon warned that violence against women in the wake of war had reached "hideous and pandemic proportions." The UN Security council has taken up the matter, and has demanded an end to the use of rape and sexual abuse in warfare. The council issued a statement following a meeting on the implementation of a resolution adopted in 2000 that called for the prosecution of crimes against women and increased protection of women and girls during war. It also demanded that women be included in decision-making positions at every level of peacemaking.

Commendable, but troubling when one recalls that the UN's own peacekeeping troops have been charged with sexual abuse and exploitation in the past--most notably in Liberia and Haiti. Addressing this, the UN undersecretary general for peacekeeping, Jean-Marie Guéhenno, stressed that the UN had taken a "zero tolerance" policy for sexual exploitation and abuse by its more than 80,000 peacekeeping troops.

"While rape is used as a weapon of war in situations" like Congo and Darfur, Guéhenno said, "addressing this war crime requires going beyond political compromise, power and resource sharing agreements....combating rape and other forms of sexual violence calls for concerted, robust and ongoing action on the part of both national actors and also the international community at every level of engagement."

With the focus on the issue--for the moment--let's hope action follows up all these meetings, resolutions and words. For if as the saying goes, "War is Hell," then for women it a torment that no word aptly describes. As Rachel Mayanja put it, "Sexual violence in conflict, particularly rape, should be named for what it is: not a private act or the unfortunate misbehavior of a renegade soldier, but aggression, torture, war crime and genocide."


Friday, October 19, 2007

The Pervasive Nature of Scientific Racism

Today the TimesOnline is stating that the 79-year-old scientist James Watson who won the Nobel prize for his part in discovering the structure of DNA, is back-pedaling from an interview in which he asserted that black African and Caribbean workers were inferior in ability and intelligence to whites. Watson, who has offered his apology, claims he is "mortified by the public response," and that the Sunday Times who performed the interview somehow misconstrued his words. The newspaper however says the interview was recorded, and is sticking by their story. While outrage and apologies now fill the air, what the Watson controversey has brought to the surface is the sometimes forgotten and neglected stepchild of white supremacy: "scientific racism."

The Pervasive Nature of Scientific Racism

by Morpheus

This week the London's Science Museum canceled a lecture by Nobel Prize-winning geneticist James Watson—part of the two-man team that first constructed the model of the DNA double helix—after the scientist told a newspaper that Africans and Europeans had different levels of intelligence. Watson provoked widespread outrage when his comments were released in a Sunday Times interview, which quoted the 79-year-old American as saying he was "inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa" because "all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours — whereas all the testing says not really." Watson would add, "people who have to deal with black employees find this not true."

This isn't the first time Watson's comments have stirred controversey. As the UK Independent catalogued, the Nobel prize-winner has had a series of controversial statements. In one instance, he suggested women should have the right to abortions if tests could determine their children would be homosexual. In 2000 at a speech at the University of California, Berkeley, he claimed a link between skin color and sex drive, showing slides of bikini-clad women and asserting that higher doses of melanin was responsible for the stereotype of the "Latin Lover."

Most news reports state that people are "shocked" by Watson's comments. Outrage comes next, along with his dismissal as a "crazed." More often than not, he is described as "controversial." Even with a repeated history of such rhetoric however, Watson's historical standing assures that he is invited to speak to large audiences, and still sought out for interviews. As a 1990 article in the journal Science noted: "To many in the scientific community, Watson has long been something of a wild man, and his colleagues tend to hold their collective breath whenever he veers from the script." Translated: Many fear that Watson may dredge up the often closeted stain on the discipline of "rationality and reason"—scientific racism.

Today mostly thought of as debunked, "race science" was once taken as a normal part of academic and scientific discourse. One of its early progenitors in the modern era was probably none other than American founding father Thomas Jefferson, who in his Notes on the State of Virginia deduced from his "observations" that blacks exhibited a childlike simplicity, a wild imagination, an incapacity to reason and an inability to create artistry comparable to whites—for which he would single out black poet Phyllis Wheatley for particular criticism. Jefferson would go on to make reference to the "disagreeable odour" of blacks and claim that "the Oran-ootan (Orangutan)" had a preference "for the black women over those of his own species." Around the same time the naturalist Edward Long in his work A History of Jamaica, would compare black Africans to "dogs" and make the claim that black women sought out monkeys and baboons to "embrace" to gratify their raging sexual passions. Racism was not out of ordinary in the era of Jefferson and Long, during which time the slave trade in African bodies was booming and building up the wealth of the Western world. Yet both men were some of the early few who were beginning to assert that black inferiority was a "natural" state, that could be backed up by scientific observation. In a methodology fraught with irony, the same naturalism that would allow Jefferson to deduce the "natural rights" of man, was used to assert that some men, and women, were "naturally" inferior. Blacks were no longer simply "barbarous" due to a degradation of civilization in a jungle climate, or because they had not been introduced to the "light of Christianity." Rather blacks were inferior to whites and distinctly different on a "natural" biological level that could not be overcome, and that could be backed up by what Long would assert was "matter endued with thought and reason!"

Modern scientific racism was being given birth.

Nurtured within the developing scientific disciplines of its day, it would come to typify European notions towards blacks and those deemed as inferior "others." By the late 19th century it had ascended to the top of the white supremacy rationale ladder, churning out myriad theories that claimed a scientific basis as to the inferiority of non-whites, and blacks in particular. As far back as the early 1800s, black bodies would be cut open and studied as exotic specimens, to be passed around and examined for scientific inquiry by the likes of George Cuvier—regarded as the founder of modern day comparative anatomy. Such was the fate of 'Sara' Baartman—the Khoi woman dubbed the “Hottentot Venus” who was paraded through London and Paris on a leash. Upon her death—following a descent into prostitution through which she contracted syphillis—Cuvier made a plaster cast of her body, dissected her and preserved her organs, including her genitals and brain, in bottles of formaldehyde. Her skeleton and bottled remains were displayed at the Musée de l’Homme in Paris until 1974, until public pressure sent them to a back room away from sight. The museum did not return her remains until 2002.

And Baartman's case was hardly unique.

From 1845 to 1849, scientific racism allowed Dr. Marion Sims, the father of modern gynecology, to carry out horrific medical experiments on the genitals of unwilling and un-anesthetized slave women. Scientific racism would allow numerous such ethical violations in the name of medicine upon black bodies—from the U.S. government’s Tuskegee experiment to other notorious acts carried out by slave owners, the armed forces, the CIA, prisons, and private institutions. The sheer scope of these atrocities is only now becoming understood, through groundbreaking studies such as Dr. Harriet A. Washington's work, Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present.

And scientific racism was not confined to medicine. It seemed to find a place in any field dedicated to the study of humanity. Proto-anthropologist and naturalist Samuel G. Morton would create an entire field by which human skulls were measured for racial markers of intelligence, ushering what many see as the definitive modern age of scientific racism. In none other than the pages of the now well-respected Scientific American, was an article in the early 1900s on "Congo pygmies," who were described as "small, apelike, elfish creatures, furtive and mischievous." It went on to state that these smallish Africans "closely parallel the brownies and goblins of our fairy tales.." and "live in the dense tangled forests in absolute savagery while they exhibit many ape-like features in their bodies...." Little surprise then that in 1906 Ota Benga, a so-called "pygmie" duped into leaving his African homeland with claims of payment and fortune, would be locked into a cage at the Bronx zoo, to be displayed as a type of ape.

Scientific racism would eventually merge with the related and now rogue—but at one time en vogue—branch of biology known as eugenics. Postulated by Sir Francis Galton in 1865, eugenics proposed that human behavioral traits—and talents—could be discerned through hereditary analysis. Eugenics would assert that certain undesirable traits could be eliminated from the human species. At times seemingly concerned with general matters as height and illness, eugenics also had a more sinister side—asserting that some humans needed to be eliminated (or sterilized) in order to better the species. The targets for sterilization included the mentally challenged, the physically deformed, the poor, the ill and—naturally—the more "undesirable races." In the U.S. this would result in everything from stricter immigration laws to limit more "inferior whites" (normally the Irish or Eastern Europeans), and the tightening of anti-miscegnation laws that became tied to black lynching. Some 60,000 people in the U.S. alone may have been coercively sterilized in a campaign author Edwin Black termed, the War Against the Weak.

While not all scientists were hardcore eugenecists who believed in mass sterilization or extermination, for many race science and the belief in "weaker humans" was taken as a matter of fact. Scientific racism, even in its least malign form, thus permeated the discipline not as a fringe element but as part of the mainstream discourse. From President Woodrow Wilson to women's reproductive activist Margaret Sanger, all stratum of society embraced elements of eugenics (to varying degrees) as a way to strengthen the human race—most especially, the white Nordic variant. Sanger for instance may have believed that some humans were "the defective progeny resulting from irresponsible and unintelligent breeding," but strongly condemned any attempts at forced sterilization. Ironically the pinnacle of eugenecist theory and scientific racism coincided with its demise. One of its biggest admirers was none other than Adolf Hitler, who endorsed the theories and applications of eugenecists in Europe and America for his Nazi ideology. After the world witnessed the use of scientific racism in the Third Reich to create an Aryan master race and to justify the extermination of millions, race science and eugenics saw a precipitous decline. Sanger herself was so horrified by the Nazi excesses she backed away from earlier endorsements of eugenics, but would still advocate it as an individual and voluntary decision.

But, as Dr. Watson reminds us, race science and eugenics never truly died out. Nobel Prize winner Hank Shockley in the 1970s, converting to eugenics later in life, became a staunch advocate for the belief that the less intelligent (which in his mind, by default, included blacks) should be given incentives to not breed with other humans. Mimicking scientific racism and eugenics, 60 Minutes commentator Andy Rooney in 1990 would assert that, "blacks have watered down genes because the less intelligent ones are the ones that have the most children." In 1995 scientific racism's boldest modern public salvo was launched with Richard J. Hernstein and Charles Murray'sThe Bell Curve,which linked IQ to race with blacks being deemed as naturally inferior. Though sparking controversy and condemnation, the book was also widely touted in the mainstream media as at the least a legitimate topic of discussion. Malcolm Browne of the New York Times would be so deferential in his review of the book, many took it as an endorsement. Today foundations like the well-monied Pioneer Fund openly advocate for race science, and advocate for changes in public policy based on scientific understandings of race.

What Dr. Watson and the history of scientific racism does is put a lie to the myth that racism is the domain of the uneducated, the ignorant and misinformed. The sad but hard reality is that racism is bigger than a disgruntled white underclass in hoods and sheets or nooses that proliferate as warnings and "pranks." Racism has a much more permeable, lasting and influential presence in the institutions, structures and culture of our society—where true power resides. And it has a long history of infecting even those among us who 'claim' to have the biggest and best of brains.


Thursday, October 18, 2007

Waterboarding: Torture or Not?

Waterboarding. We've all heard it now for several years, as part of sanctioned U.S. policy of "enhanced interrogation techniques"--where someone is force fed water to make them feel as if they are drowning. Yet at the same time, American military and administration officials state that it is not torture. Or, as the recent Attorney General nominee put forth by the white house--Mike Mukasey--has stated slyly, he doesn't know if waterboarding is torture, but "If it amounts to torture, it is not constitutional." Much of this double-speak is based on the fact that most people have never seen waterboarding. Thankfully (and sadly necessary), there have been more than a few demonstrations of it by individuals who want the public to see this first hand for themselves. The video above shows a few seconds of waterboarding. Look at it, place yourself or someone close to you in the position of the man in the orange jumpsuit, and ask yourself--is this torture?


Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Acting White? Myths & Realities on Black Anti-Intellectualism

Since we're on Cosby... one of the key tenets of his argument, and those used by the "black apologetics" is the "acting white hypothesis." Chances are, all of us have heard some semblance of it before, which asserts that black school children do poorly because they undervalue education and perceive those who achieve academically as "acting white." Thus the argument is made: black kids equate "intelligence" with being "white." This idea was first floated by two researchers, Fordham and Ogbu, who in their study of black school children claimed to find an "oppositional culture" that emerged as a backlash to white societal oppression. Hence if dominant white society claimed scholastics was positive, black kids would deem it negative. Since the Cosby rant especially, the "acting white hypothesis" put forth by Fordham and Ogbu has been cited repeatedly, becoming a popular American catch-phrase, uttered by conservatives and liberals alike. Media pundits take it matter-of-factly as accurate, and some educators--seeking to cash in--have written entire tropes on it. Even presidential hopeful Barak Obama has joined in the chorus, denouncing "acting white" at the 2004 Democratic National Convention--to much applause, from black and white delegates alike. The problem however is that Fordham and Ogbu's thesis, which came out in 1986, has been deconstructed and critiqued for almost two decades. It turned out that Fordham and Ogbu had wrongly interpreted their data and there were much more complex understandings that numerous other researchers have pointed out. Even their basic facts were wrong, making absolutely false assertions that the oppositional culture had its rise during slavery, in which blacks shunned education. Any historian worth his or her degree will tell you that not only did slaves and freed blacks value education and intellect, but risked their lives--literally--to get it. But you wouldn't know that, given the reckless way in which the "acting white thesis" is bantered about. It's as if merely repeating it over and over again has given it legitimacy it never really earned, even among those who should know better. Fordham and Ogbu's misguided thesis has become an easy "blame-the-victim" route that posits black academic failings not on an under-funded public school system, but back on the children themselves. The following is by a school administrator who for several years has critiqued the "acting white" argument, using prior studies and his own hands-on observations. As he points out, the notion of some distinct culture of anti-intellectualism among black children is more myth than reality.

Acting White? Deconstructing the Myth of Anti-Intellectualism in Black Youth

By Cleo Wadley

Tues. Oct 9th 2007

As we observe the 50th anniversary of the Little Rock 9, predictably, a discussion of Black student achievement rises to the surface.

Now, we all have heard the dire statements of how poorly Black children perform on standardized tests or their poor completion rate from high school. The expert and layman alike won’t hesitate to dispense their take on the issue. However, I thought it might be interesting to separate myth from reality in regards to Black student achievement.

One common belief is that Black students are not successful in school because they equate high achievement with being White. This dangerous and insidious thought didn’t just materialize in our consciousness; its roots are deep in American history.

It’s curious to me how we often hear of Black children being labeled as anti-intellectual. I would argue that Black children are no more or no less anti-intellectual than any other segment of American society. In fact, anti-intellectualism is an American characteristic that goes back almost two centuries. Just take a look at the 1828 presidential election in which Andrew Jackson defeated John Quincy Adams. Presidential historians often tout this election as one of the first mud slinging elections. Jackson framed the election by setting up Adams as an elitist intellectual with loose morals and values who could not relate to the conservative values of the “common man.” He also instilled a distrust of intellectuals as tricksters who use language and rhetoric to deceive ordinary people. At the same time, Jackson framed himself as “the people’s candidate.”

Jackson’s tactic worked well in 1828, just as it served George Bush well in the 2000 election against Al Gore. Gore was portrayed as a boring, monotonous intellectual who jabbered to such a point that he couldn’t be understood or trusted. He was a classic stereotype of an arrogant intellectual out of touch with the “common man.”

But anti-intellectualism doesn’t stop with politics in American society. Just think of all the icons in popular culture that America adores. Forrest Gump, Homer Simpson, Jessica Simpson, and even the current president typify the stereotype of the dim witted rube with a heart of gold.

Just look at a few of the current television programs in prime time. Such shows as “Beauty and the Geek” and “The Big Bang Theory” display buxom blondes with “common” sense outwitting brainiacs who are dysfunctional in social arenas tinged with sexual tension.

This is no accident. Corporate America has worked diligently to keep us enamored by these classic stereotypes. PBS’s Frontline did a special several years ago titled “Merchants of Cool” detailing how much effort is put in place to create an anti-intellectual, commodity obsessed generation of consumers through advertising.

The average American spends about 50 minutes a day just watching commercials; that is equivalent to 1 ½ years in a lifetime. And of course this has an effect on children, particularly Black children who watch an average of 7 hours a day of television compared to their White counterparts who watch 4 ½ hours a day of television.

So once we accept that anti-intellectualism is not just a problem plaguing Black children, we can delve deeper into this folk theory that Black children equate high academic achievement with whiteness.

This folk theory got a huge push from a much touted 1986 paper by John Ogbu and Signithia Fordham that asserts that Black children function out of an oppositional culture model. That is, after years of oppression in society, Black children have adopted opposition to anything they identify as part of White culture, including education.

Nevertheless, there have been numerous studies to debunk the findings of Ogbu and Fordham. In 2005, Ericka Fisher, the author of “Black Student Achievement and the Oppositional Cultural Model,” concluded that the experience in success or failure of Black students who are high achievers and Black students who are low achievers has nothing to do with the oppositional culture model.

As a matter of fact, high achievers and low achievers function out of different paradigms. According to Fisher, high achievers are successful due to the following factors:

Solid time management skills
High self-concepts
Parental support
A desire to prove negative stereotypes wrong
A sense of personal responsibility
A need to control one’s own destiny

This was different from low achievers who:

See themselves as smart but lazy
Resent treatment and stereotypes by White teachers
Receive little or no individual support or encouragement
Lack support or connection to the school
Experience an acceptance of mediocre grades at home

Many students in this study, which included the high and low achievers, stated, “It’s cool to be Black and smart.”

In another study titled “Beyond Acting White: Reframing the Debate on Black Student Achievement,” researcher and author Erin McNamara Horvat stated that the reiterance of the oppositional culture model “…reifies folk theories about black inferiority and invites discussion about what is fundamentally an absurd question.”

In 1998, educational researchers James Ainsworth-Darnell and Douglas B. Downey lambasted Ogbu and concluded that Black students perceive education as key to getting employment at a higher percentage than Whites. They also condemned Ogbu by saying that it is more of a teacher perception that Black students put forth less effort than White students.

Ainsworth-Darnell and Downey also see a positive correlation between being Black and being a good student. Both high achievers and low achievers in their study reported that education can be an important tool for success.

These powerful studies then beg the question of what is the real cause of a very real and evident achievement gap between Black students and their White counterparts. It is stated and implied by these studies that Black students lack resources due to inequalities, and this in turn hinders their success in school. School districts need to work harder to differentiate instruction and adapt the learning environments to fit the individual needs and interests of students. Many underachieving students in these studies claim that they are motivated in other areas, and that schools don’t cater to their interests. Furthermore, schools need to work more on fostering better relationships between students and teachers, parents and the school, and the school and the community. Finally, Black parents and educators need to stop buying into folk theories about Black inferiority and look deeper into the true causes of low student achievement among Black students, and then we must collaboratively come up with real solutions.

Hopefully, when we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Little Rock 9 in 2057, we still won’t be distracted by absurd questions that cloud our minds and keep Black children intellectually segregated. Only then will no child be left behind.

Cleo Wadley is an educator and tireless advocate for urban youth in the southwest Houston area. Cleo is currently an assistant principal at Hastings High School in Alief Independent School District and works as an adjunct instructor of English for Houston Community College.


Let's Do it Again- The Cos is Back!

It's been a while since America's favorite father turned "denouncer of black morality" has been in the headlines. But have no fear the Cos is back, touting a new book called Come on People: On the Path from Victims to Victors. The work marks a new salvo in the one-time comedian's bitter old man routine, in which he chastises the black poor, single black mothers and black youth killed while allegedly stealing pastries. When Cosby first made his tirade a few years back, there were a few of us who found his hate speech distasteful. Many other black people however seemed to give in. Deciding that Cosby's "blame-the-victim" classist rant was spot on, they applauded his Colbert type "truthiness." Thankfully to sane minds everywhere, the past few years have seen a debunking of the "Cosby Thesis." Historians like Jelani Cobb would point out the fallacies in Cosby's claims, and others like Michael Eric Dyson questioned his sanity. Even academic studies have deconstructed Cosby's claims. But this didn't stop white America--and the mass media--from applauding the former comedian and philanthropist, that seemed to say everything they'd always believed and wanted to hear. Not surprisingly, with the release of this new book, Cosby is getting alot of airtime to explain why the black poor and black people in general are to blame for their own problems. Thankfully, once again, saner black minds are speaking out in criticism. A few of their articles are posted here.

In this article at the Black Agenda Report, Glen Ford gives both review and criticism of Cosby's new book. According to Ford, the book's co-author, noted psychiatrist Dr. Alvin Pouissant, helps soften the Cosby thesis by offering much needed caveats. I'm a bit suspect about that claim, as the Dr. Pouissant I am used to hearing from--long-time friend of Cosby and advisor to his television show--seems to uphold much of the ideologies of the Afro-stocracy. In any case, Ford still pulls no punches, and points out that in the end--even with Pouissant's assistance--the book itself remains misguided.

Black Psychiatrist's ‘Intervention' Calms Cosby
by BAR executive editor Glen Ford

"When presented as a substitute for political action, books like Come On People are great diversions from the tasks at hand, and weapons to bludgeon Black people."

Bill Cosby is sounding (almost) calm and reasonable, these days, under the influence of Dr. Alvin Poussaint, respected Harvard psychiatrist and co-author with Cosby in a new book. Despite his improved demeanor, Cosby's blame-the-victim worldview remains compatible with the most rightwing foes of African Americans. The no-longer-funny comedian's hectoring and "burnished anecdotes of times past are near-useless as a guide to either personal behavior in the present, or organized community action." But the corporate media gorges itself on the red-meat of Cosby's Black-bashing - and that's all that matters for book sales. Dr. Poussaint can only do so much to fix a 70-year meanness.

full article:

Black Psychiatrist's 'Intervention' Calms Cosby"

In this article, Earl Ofari Hutchinson takes on the Cosby Thesis and his new book. Given what has been Hutchinson's seeming tilt to black conservatism in the past few years (see my own criticism of his articles during the Don Imus affair), I was pleasantly surprised to see that on this issue we are in general agreement. Hutchinson points out that Cosby's book serves as little more than a way to attack black people without giving due consideration to the 800 lb gorilla of white supremacy racism.

Bill Cosby's New Book Full of Racial Stereotypes

By Earl Ofari Hutchinson, AlterNet.

Posted October 15, 2007

Cosby's new book continues to tar black communities and the black poor as dysfunctional, chronic whiners, and eternally searching for a government hand-out.

Comedian Bill Cosby is the walking and now writing proof of the ancient adage that good intentions can go terribly awry. That's never been more painfully true than in Cosby's latest tome, Come on People.

Cosby and his publisher boast that the book is a big, brash, and provocative challenge to black folk to get their act together. That's got him ga ga raves, and an unprecedented one hour spin job on Meet the Press.

In the book, Cosby harangues and lectures, cobbles together a mesh of his trademark anecdotes, homilies, and personal tales of woe and success, juggles and massages facts to bolster his self-designated black morals crusade. Stripped away it's the same stock claim that blacks can't read, write or speak coherent English, and are social and educational cripples and failures.

full article:

Bill Cosby's New Book Full of Racial Stereotypes


Saturday, October 13, 2007

Che: Ode to a Revolutionary Saint

This Oct 9th marked the anniversary of one of the last century's most culturally influential figures--Che Guevara. The revolutionary theorist and fighter who carried on struggle from Cuba to the Congo, was captured in his last fight somewhere in Bolivia in 1967. One day later, he would be executed. Rumor had it his final words were to his very executioner: "Shoot, coward, you're only going to kill a man." Since his death Che has achieved a type of revoutionary sainthood on a global scale, his image appearing on struggles against varied oppressors in far-flung locales. Today the daunting face of this Argentinian one-time medical student turned world revolutionary can be found nearly everywhere. His imperfections smoothed over, or selectively omitted, wearing him on a t-shirt has come to symbolise everything from the rebelliousness of suburban white teens in designer jeans (whom comedian Bill Maher sarcastically calls merely "ironic"), to the struggle against neoliberalism to anarchism and more. In death, Che has come to stand for much more than he himself probably ever endorsed in life. The following from Democracy Now! includes an early 1960s interview with Che and a modern interview with a Latin Americanist, on the legacy of a man who died and was reborn an icon.

Read transcript of Democracy Now! Oct 9th show on Che Guevara


Listen Here

Tuesday, October 9th, 2007

The Life & Legacy of Latin American Revolutionary Ernesto "Che" Guevara: Forty Years After His Death

Today marks the 40th anniversary of the death of one of the most influential figures of the last century -- Latin American revolutionary Ernesto Che Guevara. On October 8, 1967, Che was captured by Bolivian troops working with the CIA. He was executed one day later. Today we broadcast Che in his own words and speak with Latin American historian Greg Grandin.

Today marks the 40th anniversary of the death of one of the most influential figures of the last century -- Latin American revolutionary Ernesto Che Guevara. Born in Argentina in 1928, Che rose to international prominence as one of the key leaders of the 1959 Cuban Revolution that overthrew dictator Fulgencio Batista.

After a period in the new Cuban government leadership, Che aimed to spark revolutionary activity internationally. In 1965, he led a secret Cuban operation aiding and training rebels in the Congo. One year later, Che was in Bolivia, helping to lead an uprising against the U.S.-backed government. On October 8, 1967, Che was captured by Bolivian troops working with the CIA. He was executed one day later.

Commemorations are underway today in Cuba, Bolivia and around the world. Some ten thousand people turned out Monday for a ceremony in Santa Clara, Cuba. Che's daughter Aleida Guevara addressed the crowd.

Aleida Guevara

Aleida Guevara, daugther of Che Guevara, speaking Monday in Santa Clara. In a moment, we'll be joined by Latin American historian Greg Grandin, but first, Che Guevara in his own words. This is an excerpt of Che's address to the United Nations in December 1964.

Ernesto "Che" Guevara, speaking to the UN General Assembly on December 11 1964.
Just days later, a group of journalists interviewed Che at the Cuban mission in New York. The legendary reporter Chris Koch was among that group of reporters. This is a rare excerpt of that interview, beginning with Koch's introduction.

Chris Koch and Ernesto "Che" Guevara

An excerpt of a rare interview with Che Guevara, December 11th 1964 from the Pacifica Radio Archives. Greg Grandin is here in the firehouse studio. He is a professor of Latin American history at NYU and author of "Empire's Workshop: Latin America, the United States, and the Rise of the New Imperialism."

Greg Grandin, professor of Latin American history at NYU and author of Empire's Workshop: Latin America, the United States, and the Rise of the New Imperialism.


JUAN GONZALEZ: Today marks the fortieth anniversary of the death of one of the most influential figures of the last century: Latin American revolutionary Ernesto “Che” Guevara. Born in Argentina in 1928, Che rose to international prominence as one of the key leaders of the 1959 Cuban Revolution that overthrew dictator Fulgencio Batista.

After a period in the new Cuban government leadership, Che aimed to spark revolutionary activity internationally. In 1965, he led a secret Cuban operation aiding and training rebels in the Congo. One year later, Che was in Bolivia, helping to lead an uprising against the US-backed government. On October 8, 1967, he was captured by Bolivian troops working with the CIA. He was executed one day later.

Commemorations are underway today in Cuba, Bolivia and around the world. Some 10,000 people turned out Monday for a ceremony in Santa Clara, Cuba. Che's daughter Aleida Guevara addressed the crowd.

ALEIDA GUEVARA: [translated] I want to remember the commitment we all have in order to make our society stronger. Today, Latin America is starting to wake up and make all of our dreams come true. We have to be present and firmer than ever. That is the greatest homage we can make to our fathers and our loved ones.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Aleida Guevara, daughter of Che Guevara, speaking Monday in Havana. In a moment, we'll be joined by Latin American historian Greg Grandin, but first Che in his own words. This is an excerpt of Che’s address to the United Nations in December 1964.

CHE GUEVARA: [translated] The bestiality of imperialism, a bestiality that knows no limits, that has no national frontiers. The bestiality of Hitler’s armies is like the North American bestiality, like that of Belgian paratroopers and that of French imperialists in Algeria, for it is the very essence of imperialism to turn men into wild, bloodthirsty animals determined to slaughter, kill, murder and destroy the very last vestige of the image of the revolutionary or the partisan in any regime that they crush under their boots because it fights for freedom. The statue of Lumumba, destroyed today, but rebuilt tomorrow, reminds us of this tragic story of this martyr of the world revolution and makes sure that we will never trust imperialism, in no way at all, not an iota.

AMY GOODMAN: Che Guevara, speaking to the UN General Assembly, December 11, 1964. Just days later, a group of journalists interviewed Che at the Cuban mission in New York. The legendary reporter from Pacifica, Chris Koch, was among that group. This is a rare excerpt of the press conference, beginning with Koch's introduction.

CHRIS KOCH: This is Chris Koch. On Wednesday night, December 16th, a group of American Socialist journalists and writers spent about an hour talking with Comandante Che Guevara at the Cuban mission here in New York. I was there with a microphone and tape recorder, and this program will be a report of that meeting with the Cuban Minister of Industry.

East 67th Street between Madison and Fifth Avenue was blocked off by barricades and a handful of policemen. The group of writers, who had met at a restaurant in the neighborhood, were stopped by police at the corner. We waited until clearance came from the Cuban mission building near the center of the block, then walked into a large townhouse through a tight line of New York's finest making comments and nudging us as we tried to get through the door.

We waited in a storeroom for about a half an hour and then went upstairs into a large room with a high ceiling, a desk, a marble fireplace, chandeliers, and three sofas partially surrounding a large coffee table. The writers arranged themselves on the sofa, and Comandante Guevara knelt on the floor in front of the table. Those standing soon settled down on the floor around the table next to him.

Comandante Guevara was dressed in pressed military fatigues and polished black boots. During the conversation, he was in constant motion, lying on his side, shifting to a squatting position, back to his side, resting his head on his hands, and puffing constantly on a cigar. Constant motion. Guevara was relaxed, joked much, smiled always.

One area of the discussion dealt with his own revolutionary past and his analysis of the Cuban guerrilla struggle.

CHRIS KOCH: You are Argentinean by birth, and rather than make a revolution in the Argentine, you went out and, as I understand it, traveled and stayed in several countries before coming into conjunction with Fidel Castro in Mexico. I would like to ask how you look back upon this and see it as some kind of lucky juncture, or that somehow you were searching until a revolutionary situation coalesced, or…

CHE GUEVARA: [translated] It seems to be a question to be answered after three or four drinks in a more intimate atmosphere. In general, we could say there are some moments in our revolution that are things completely mad, crazy: the attack against the Moncada Barracks, the expedition of the Granma, the struggle with the handful of men that remained, the defense against the last great attack by the dictatorship in Sierra Maestra, the invasion of the province of Las Villas, the seizure of the principal towns. If you analyze each one of those things, you will reach the conclusion that there was something mad in the middle, something crazy in the middle. And as all of them, as a chain, led to the seizure of power, you may have to reach a conclusion that in order to seize power you have to be a little crazy.

AMY GOODMAN: An excerpt of a rare interview with Che Guevara, December 11, 1964, from the Pacifica Radio Archive.

Greg Grandin joins us now, professor of Latin American history at New York University, author of Empire’s Workshop: Latin America, the United States, and the Rise of the New Imperialism, just out in paperback.

Talk about how Che Guevara, an Argentine, ends up leading, with Fidel Castro, the Cuban Revolution.

GREG GRANDIN: Well, it's an interesting story, and before I -- what makes Che so iconic is that his life embodies the revolutionary century of Latin America. And a lot of your listeners may know what -- viewers may be aware of Che's motorcycle diary trip, where he toured around Latin America, and through that he developed a consciousness, a Pan-American consciousness. Well, right after that trip, he wound up in Guatemala, which was undergoing a profound democratic revolution between 1944 and 1954.

Guatemala was one of the most ambitious social democratic revolutions that emerged throughout Latin America after World War II. And what's important about Guatemala is that by 1948, 1950, most democratic revolutions in Latin America had been rolled back, or there was a wave of reaction throughout the continent. But in Guatemala the revolution actually deepened. And Che spent 1953 -- wound up in Guatemala -- he landed in Guatemala in 1953, and he lived through the counterrevolution. This was the United States’s first CIA-orchestrated coup in Latin America.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Against Arbenz.

GREG GRANDIN: Against Jacobo Arbenz -- United Fruit Company -- defending the interests of the United Fruit company.

AMY GOODMAN: So, first, the US CIA had overthrown Iran in 1953.


AMY GOODMAN: Then, trying to use the same model, goes --

GREG GRANDIN: Well, it was actually even more ambitious. Iran was a pretty fast operation, a couple of weeks. Guatemala was the most extensive and ambitious CIA operation to date. It utilized every aspect of US power, not just military and economic and political, but a whole broad array of psychological destabilization campaigns. Pretty much --

JUAN GONZALEZ: There was quite a bit of penetration of the Guatemalan press, as well, beforehand to prepare the way for the coup, as well.

GREG GRANDIN: The press, exactly. That's what I mean. It was really -- it became the model for other coups, in which the United States would destabilize the civil society organizations, the press and the --

AMY GOODMAN: John Foster Dulles was the head of the State Department at the time. Formerly he was the corporate lawyer for United Fruit --


AMY GOODMAN: -- on behalf of whom Guatemala was overthrown.

GREG GRANDIN: Yes. The United Fruit Company had some land expropriated, and the United States was concerned about the legalization of the Communist Party. And what's important, in terms of Che, is that he witnessed this. He was -- in Guatemala, he developed more of a revolutionary consciousness. He worked as a socially committed doctor administering to the country’s poor in a clinic, and he saw the overthrow of what was the most -- the longest-lasting post-war democracy in Latin America firsthand.

He had to flee to the -- he took asylum in the Argentine embassy. It was in the embassy, he spent a few months, and he met a number of future revolutionaries, Guatemalan new left armed revolutionaries. And then he managed to flee and receive exile in Mexico, and that's where he met -- that's where he met Fidel Castro and joined the Cuban Revolution and went on to make history.

But Guatemala had a deep impact on him. He would go on to justify the closing down -- the suppressing of civil liberties in Cuba and the radicalization of the revolution in Cuba, by saying that Cuba will not be another Guatemala. In many ways, Guatemala, much more than Cuba -- diplomatic historians love to focus on Cuba. They think the Cold War began and end in Cuba, but it was really Guatemala that was much more of a turning point, not just in Che's life, but for a whole generation of Latin American reformists and nationalists and democrats. It led to a deep radicalization and a sense that democracy and reform would not come about through an alliance with the national bourgeoisie and national progressive capitalist class. It was witnessing the downfall of the Guatemalan democracy, in which elites did ally with the CIA and the US, that led to a much more radical understanding of how to bring about social change and the Cuban Revolution.

What’s also important about the overthrow of Arbenz is that it became a model, as Juan mentioned, for the Bay of Pigs operation. And because of the success or the easy success, the seemingly easy success, of the overthrow of Arbenz, CIA got a bit confident, and a lot of -- many of the assumptions that they -- the lessons that they thought they learned from Guatemala they applied in the Bay of Pigs. Of course, the Bay of Pigs was a complete disaster, that went on to have a much more radicalizing influence throughout the Americas.

AMY GOODMAN: Explain the Bay of Pigs, but even how once Fidel and Che had linked up in Mexico, how they actually launched the Revolution, came into Cuba.

GREG GRANDIN: Well, they had a yacht, the Granma. It’s a ship in which they set out on an expedition. There was a -- I can't remember the number, but it became -- it has become myth that there were twelve -- that once they landed, Batista's army was waiting for them, and they ambushed them, and the number of the people on the expedition, which I think started with eighty men, or something like that, around eighty-something, it's become myth that twelve survived. Obviously, that has a certain resonance with the New Testament. And twelve made it into the Sierra Maestra and began to organize, and among them were Che and Fidel. And Che developed a reputation, a well-deserved reputation, as a military strategist, and he took the -- he won a number of key battles against Batista's army.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Once the Revolution triumphed against Batista -- and obviously Cuba was very different in that it had a very large existing labor movement that provided eventually some mass base for the guerrillas, as well as those in the countryside -- Che then begins to -- doesn't spend very much time actually constructing the Revolution, does he?

GREG GRANDIN: No. He's not really a policymaker. He is more of a -- what could be understood as an action intellectual. He was the head of the -- speaking of Alan Greenspan, he was the head of the central bank, Cuban central bank, and minister of the economy of industry.

He wanted to go fast. His plan for Cuba was to centralize authority and industrialize as quick as possible. In an island of eight million people at the time, it didn’t -- six million people at the time, that was not a very practical plan. As Cuba became closer to the Soviet Union, it became clear that they weren't going to industrialize.

And there were some divisions. Historians debate just to what degree there was rivalry within the Cuban Revolution between Fidel and Che. But Che’s giving up his formal position within the Cuban government, and he toured the United States, and then he went to Africa to join a guerrilla movement in the Congo, and that was a failure. And then, from there he went to Bolivia.

AMY GOODMAN: There, he met Laurent Kabila --


AMY GOODMAN: -- who became the head of the Congo. But I wanted to go to Bolivian President Evo Morales. Juan and I interviewed him on Democracy Now! just a few weeks ago when he came to New York for the UN General Assembly. President Morales spoke about Che's legacy forty years after his death.

PRESIDENT EVO MORALES: [translated] First of all, in the ’40s, in the ’50s, in the ’60s -- of course, when I hadn’t been born yet -- my first perception was that people rose up in arms to struggle against the empire. Now, I see quite the opposite, that it’s the empire that’s raising up arms against the peoples. What I think is that back then, that the peoples, they got organized and struggled, looking for justice, for equality. And now I think that these transformations, these structural transformations, are being forged through democracies.

And from these two points of view, Che Guevara continues to be a symbol of someone who gave his life for the peoples, when in Bolivia and in other countries around the world reigned military dictatorships. So that's why it's amazing to see that all over the world Che Guevara is still there, forty years later. But now, we're living in other times. But to value and recognize that thinking, that struggle, and if we recognize and we value it, that doesn't mean it means to mechanically follow the steps that he took in terms of military uprising.

AMY GOODMAN: That is the Bolivian President Evo Morales, particularly significant because that is where Che Guevara died forty years ago today. GREG GRANDIN: Well, there’s debate about who ordered his killing. Who was there was Felix Rodriguez, a CIA agent. In many ways, if Che embodied the hopes and aspirations of the revolutionary left of Latin America, Felix Rodriguez embodied -- he was the anti-Che in many ways. He embodied the hopes of the counterrevolutionary Latin Americans a half-century. He was a Cuban from a wealthy Cuban family, who fled the Revolution, went to Miami, participated in an invasion of Cuba prior to the Bay of Pigs and was picked up by the CIA, and he did advance work for the Bay of Pigs invasion, and he managed to -- he got the nickname “Lazarus,” because he managed to survive the Bay of Pigs somehow and get out of Cuba.

He went on to participate in almost every counter-insurgent scandal that we know of. He was deeply involved in Iran-Contra, and the drugs for -- running drugs into the US to fund the Contras. He was involved in the Phoenix program in Vietnam, which was basically a CIA-run death squad operation. And he was put in charge in 1967 of hunting Che in Bolivia.

And there's some debate. Che entered Bolivia in late 1966, and after having -- meeting some success with a small band of guerrillas, they began to run into problems, and they became increasingly isolated in the highlands of Bolivia. And Felix Rodriguez was working closely with Bolivian military and security personnel, and they captured him in October, October 8, 1967, and executed him on October 9th.

Rodriguez claims that he wanted Che alive, and there's some debate about this, and it's perfectly feasible that the US did want to interrogate Che. But what's interesting and ironic about the execution of Che is that Rodriguez claims that even though he had orders from the US to keep Che alive, that the Bolivian government and the Bolivian military on the ground had direct orders from the Bolivian high command that they had to execute him. And Rodriguez claims that since they were on foreign territory, they had to honor Bolivian sovereignty. Now, this must have been one of the -- one time in US history where they actually honored Latin American sovereignty, in the case of executing somebody who’s fighting for Latin American sovereignty.

AMY GOODMAN: He went on to be close to President George H.W. Bush’s National Security Adviser Donald Gregg, when he was vice president -- pictures of him at the White House --


AMY GOODMAN: -- together with him, is now doing interviews in Miami, proudly talking about taking down Che and the final picture when Che thought he was going to live, but Felix Rodriguez, they took the picture and then said, “Now you will die.”

GREG GRANDIN: Yeah, and he did go on to be close with Bush, and this was the involvement in Iran-Contra. Bush, obviously, was the head of the CIA, and that’s when he had developed close contacts with Bush and Gregg, Iran-Contra. He was involved in, along with Luis Posada, another Cuban terrorist, they were in charge of running military supplies to the Contras illegally. The Cuban Revolution produced -- radicalized both sides in many ways and produced generations of revolutionaries and counterrevolutionaries.

AMY GOODMAN: We're going to go to break, then come back tot his discussion. Our guest is Professor Greg Grandin, professor of Latin American history at NYU, his book, Empire’s Workshop. This is Democracy Now! Back in a minute.


AMY GOODMAN: Greg Grandin, our guest, author of Empire’s Workshop: Latin America, the United States, and the Rise of the New Imperialism. Che Guevara, his legacy and what it means for all of Latin America right now.

GREG GRANDIN: Well, as your report suggested, there’s celebrations and commemorations all over Latin America, indeed, all over the world. And Che Guevara has become an icon of the Latin American left. In many ways, he's much more celebrated and honored today than he was while he was alive. While he was alive, the Cuban Revolution symbolized something of a break between the old Communist-based Latin American left, with its emphasis on reform and compromise, and the new revolutionary armed left. And there were many divisions and controversies and fights and sectarian fights while he was alive, but now he's become a universal symbol of the Latin American left.

And if you look at his legacy, his legacy has produced the Latin American left, which is profoundly democratic, profoundly humanist. You look at the -- going back to Felix Rodriguez, you look at the legacy of Rodriguez, and the legacy of counterinsurgency in Latin America leads straight to the torture rooms of Abu Ghraib. So you just compare those two, and you have a sense of what Che's legacy is in Latin America.

Che is a symbol. And, again, he's become more of a universal symbol of certain different kinds of values than what he represented while he was alive. Those values are anti-imperialism, standing up to the United States, defense of Latin American sovereignty, a certain kind of revolutionary purity, a search for values that aren't rooted in the marketplace and aren't quite as commodified as the neoliberal world that has been imposed on Latin America in the last twenty years. So this is why I think Che has become such an enduring icon of Latin American democrats.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, I have questions about the iconic stature to the degree that -- I mean, it's very much like Malcolm. Suddenly everyone was wearing Malcolm t-shirts after the Spike Lee movie. But to what degree the young people who see him as an icon really understand the struggles, the real struggles that he represented, rather than just sort of the fashionable rebellion.

GREG GRANDIN: Yeah. The New York Times today had an article about even in Cuba his image is being commodified to some degree on key chains and t-shirts and raising revenue for the state. But, again, I think they may not understand the specifics of the struggle or the specifics of the strategy and different currents within Marxism that he represented, but I think that beyond just a commodified image of revolutionary chic, particularly in Latin America, he does represent a certain kind of non-commodified value, of standing up to the US.

And, you know, I was in Guatemala when the war ended in 1996, officially, and all of a sudden his image was everywhere in Guatemala. This is a country, probably one of the most repressed countries, arguably still is, in Latin America. And here Che was, who was no fan of free speech in Cuba, becomes an icon of exactly that in Guatemala.

JUAN GONZALEZ: The other concern is also -- that I have is in terms of how that legacy is analyzed. I think President Morales said something very interesting in the interview we had with him. When he had a meeting with Fidel Castro a few years before he was elected president, and Fidel told -- he says Fidel told him, “Don't do what I did. Do what Chavez did.” In essence, don’t -- see how you can mobilize the people to achieve constitutional change and transform the society through democratic methods.

GREG GRANDIN: Yeah. And I think that's a great example of how adaptable and evolutionary the legacy is in the Latin American left. I mean, Che is held up by those always on the hunt for any kind of residual sympathy of the militant new left as the person, or the Cuban Revolution as the event, which inflamed the continent. But that inflammation actually started with the Guatemalan overthrow of -- with the CIA overthrow of Guatemalan democracy. That's what inflamed the continent.

And there’s many reasons why the Latin American left embraced armed revolution in the 1960s. But the fact that it's managed to evolve into the kind of democratic -- again, it's one of the few bright spots in not just Latin America, but in geopolitical landscape, a landscape racked by wars and fundamentalism. The Latin American left is one of the -- and the fact that they've adopted a talisman of insurrection, it shows just how adaptable that icon has become.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, let's talk about where Latin America is today. At the break, we played Victor Jara, the song “Zamba del Che.” Victor Hara, killed right after September 11, 1973, when Pinochet rose to power. Now, Michelle Bachelet was in New York, the Chilean president, who herself was tortured with her mother, her father killed under Pinochet. He died of a heart attack. He was a general. Where is Latin America, based on what it's come out of? ’67, he dies. ’73, Pinochet rises to power. You’ve got the brutality in El Salvador and Guatemala through the ’70s.

GREG GRANDIN: Yeah, well, Latin America right now is -- and then, beyond the brutality of Reagan’s Central American crusade in the 1980s, 1990s, you see the imposition of neoliberalism, free-market radicalism, on Latin America, which produced staggering levels of inequality and economic stagnation. And what you're seeing is an attempt to break free of that.

There’s a lot of divisions among the Latin American left, between the reformists, the moderate reformists like Bachelet, or somebody like Chavez, more willing to mobilize the populist base in order to confront capital. But I think they all share a common agenda, and that is breaking free, at least to the degree possible, of US influence, through diversifying markets, deepening integration among Latin American nations, looking for other sources of credit and capital.

All of this is a far cry from Che and Fidel urging the youth of the world to throw off the shackles of imperialism, but I think you can trace a connection between what Che was trying to do and what this new generation of reformers are doing.

JUAN GONZALEZ: They also share a common sense that the government and the state have a responsibility to affect the social life of the populations.

GREG GRANDIN: Yeah, and that's the most profound, I think, rejection of neoliberalism and the Washington Consensus. In many ways, neoliberalism is not dead in Latin America. There’s still -- you can make the case that it's as strong as ever. But there is a return -- a kind of attempt to re-broaden the definition of “democracy” to mean not just a narrow version of political liberties and freedoms, but include some kind of social component. In some ways, that goes back to Che's youth, Che coming out of growing up in the 1940s, ’30s and ’40s. The definition of “democracy” was much broader in Latin America than it is now. It included not just individual liberties and political freedoms, but some form of social equality and wealth redistribution. And in some ways that’s -- and the Washington Consensus -- and the terror of the Cold War followed by the Washington Consensus was an attempt to redefine the notion of democracy and narrow it down, make it much more restrictive, a kind of free market version of democracy. And what you're seeing now is an attempt, a fight, to broaden that definition of democracy to include social rights, some form of wealth redistribution. And that's what I think is shared even among the most reformist, and even, frankly, even some of the more conservative Latin American leaders share that vision.

AMY GOODMAN: Back to this day forty years ago in Bolivia, Che Guevara is killed. His reported last words, “I know you've come to kill me. Shoot. You are only going to kill a man.” It took some thirty more years or more to even find his bones and then have his corpse returned to Cuba. Talk about the significance of that. Jon Lee Anderson, the author who wrote about Che, interviewing the general who just, in an offhand way, happened to say, “Oh, yes, we buried him under the airport here.”

GREG GRANDIN: Yeah. And in many ways, the current -- Che never -- the celebration and honor of Che never went away, but in some ways this current revival really did start with that repatriation of his remains back to Cuba, and that also corresponded with the resurrection and reemergence of a Latin American left. Those two things marked each other. In some ways, one inaugurated the other. So it's interesting.

You know, but there’s another legacy that was reported on in the Latin American press -- I don’t know, it that didn't get much attention here -- is that the person who actually did the -- who killed Che, who actually pulled the trigger, he's a Bolivian, and he's still alive, and he just recently received a cataract operation in a clinic that was built by Cuban doctors, that was staffed by Cuban doctors. So that, I think, is -- that captures the legacy of Che right there rather nicely.

AMY GOODMAN: We will leave it there. I want to thank you very much, Greg Grandin, for joining us. His book is called Empire’s Workshop: Latin America, United States, and the Rise of the New Imperialism.