Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Imperial Demon Watch: Evo Morales

"I don't go so far as to think that the only good Indians are the dead Indians, but I believe nine out of every ten are and I shouldn't like to inquire too closely into the case of the tenth."

-----Theodore Roosevelt, 26th President of the U.S.

"We're here to change our history . . . We're taking over . . . ."

-----Evo Morales, first Indian president of Bolivia, 2006

Things have changed considerably in the century since Teddy Roosevelt's brand of Nordic supremacy unblushingly held center stage. These days Indians don't need to drop dead to establish their virtue; all they need do is stand submissively on the political sidelines while neo-liberalism picks their pockets and sells them their wallets.

Somehow Indians in Bolivia weren't supposed to mind two decades of neo-liberal policies promising the moon while delivering lower per capita incomes than they started off with. Or being the poorest country in South America but holding the second largest natural gas reserves in the hemisphere. Or having no access to heat, clean water, or medical care while a light-skinned elite enjoyed a Texas-sized luxury life at their expense. In other words, in the 21st century "good" Indians aren't cadavers, they're unprotesting victims of a savagely lopsided distribution of wealth. It's not massacre, it's just death on the installment plan.

Unfortunately for the elite that dominates the economy, submissive Indians are in short supply these days in Bolivia, which elected Evo Morales on the novel platform of reversing 500 years of colonialism and genocide against the indigenous majority. Infused with a gentle charisma and a refreshing ethical sensibility, Morales is apparently determined to see that the nearly six million Amerindian Aymara and Quechua (out of nine million total inhabitants) are treated with at least minimal justice for the first time ever. This in itself is more than enough to put the Pentagon and C.I.A. on red alert, but Morales also condemns the IMF-administered neo-liberalism that was hailed as the proverbial free market "miracle" until privatization of the water supply provoked uncontrolled rioting among those who couldn't afford the required ransom. Stubbornly adhering to World Bank orthodoxy, Washington's Bolivian client government insisted that "no subsidies should be given to ameliorate the increase in water tariffs." All users, including the poorest of the poor, had to pay full cost, which entailed a doubling of rates for many.

Not surprisingly, Morales' rise to power coincides with escalating popular resentments against such neo-liberal austerity. In 1989, Bolivia, a recipient of U.S. military aid, found that Washington was quite unconcerned when its president declared a state of emergency and jailed hundreds of union leaders and teachers who stood accused of threatening the government's anti-inflation policies with their wage demands. Since the denial of human rights did not involve an eclipse of investor privileges, no issue was made of them.

Then in the 1990s, Jeffrey Sachs, a leading Harvard economist, carried out what was regarded by experts as a highly successful program of aggressive privatization and "free trade" in Bolivia. The country had accumulated a huge debt under a series of brutal dictators who dished out the usual ugly repression to maintain their hold on power. Bolstered by its IMF prescriptions and Sachs as its star advisor, the West went in with a template of stabilizing the currency, increasing agro-exports, and slashing production for domestic needs and subsistence agriculture. It worked. Growth rates rose from negative numbers to between four and five percent annually, the currency stabilized, debt declined, and foreign investment more than doubled. Unfortunately, the dazzling statistics obscured an increase in poverty and malnutrition and the collapse of the educational system. Not to mention that what stabilized the economy was coca exports, not coffee, which made later complaints about Morales undermining Washington's "war on drugs" more than slightly hypocritical, if not outright farcical.

In fact, some specialists in Latin American economics estimated that coca accounted for two-thirds of Bolivia's much praised exports. Plenty of the money involved went to U.S. chemical companies that were exporting chemicals to Latin America far beyond its industrial needs - chemicals used in cocaine production. Drug processing requires ether and acetone, which are imported into Latin America, often in drums displaying U.S. corporate logos. The fact that U.S. companies were helping fuel an international drug epidemic didn't get much attention in the corporate media. It wasn't until Evo Morales assumed the presidency and defended the many uses of the coca leaf that do not eventuate in cocaine production that the media began to evince a tender sympathy for cocaine addicts.

As the era of wholesale privatization staggered to its ignominious end, Morales demanded President Sanchez de Lozada's resignation over the issue of allowing natural gas to enrich foreign corporations and domestic elites while the Indian majority suffered in abysmal poverty. Describing demonstrations against his government as an Indian uprising against white minority rule, Morales narrowly missed winning the presidency in 2002, when U.S. ambassador Manuel Rocha warned Bolivians that they shouldn't vote for him. But three years later, on the strength of rising indigenous, campesino, and other popular forces, Morales won 53.7% of the vote in an eight-candidate race, amassing the largest Bolivian electoral advantage in almost three decades while becoming the first indigenous president in the country's history. Roman Loayza, head of Morales's party, the Movement Towards Socialism, later summed up his program: "We want to finish off the neoliberal economic model."

Such developments show that Latin America is falling out of the U.S. orbit of control. For the first time Indians are entering the political arena, and in substantial numbers. This may have effects on the large indigenous populations in Ecuador and Peru, which are also large energy producers. Some groups in Latin America, eager to recover their natural resources from foreign control, are even calling for an Indian nation. Some of them don't want their resources to be developed at all, preferring to maintain their own traditions and culture, rather than allow their resources to be siphoned off to subsidize traffic jams in the U.S. Naturally, such developments are a big threat to U.S. elites, who have no intention of seeing the "American Dream" curtailed by a bunch of upstart Indians who somehow got it into their heads that democracy means majority rule.

The problem for the business class, however, is that Morales may be just the curl on an indigenous tidal wave. Arriving in power with a 74% approval rating - unprecedented in Bolivian history - he promised to return the natural resources of the country to the people via nationalization of the energy sector. After delivering on the promise four months later, Mitofsky International found his approval rating had risen to 81%. Meanwhile, his party, the Movement Towards Socialism, holds 60% of the seats in the Bolivian Constituent Assembly while his supporters are eager to see him stay in power 50 years or more. On the other hand, hardly anyone expects good to come of U.S. influence in the region. According to a 2005 poll, 61% of Latin Americans have little or no confidence in the U.S..

Upon assuming office, Morales quickly attracted attention with his distinct approach to governance. He met world leaders dressed in jeans and a striped jumper ("Majorities never wear ties," he says), banned corruption, and cut his salary in half, so he could hire more teachers (he makes the equivalent of $1,875 a month - George Bush makes over $33,000.) Foreign diplomats in La Paz confirmed that he was that most oxymoronic of oxymorons: an honest, incorruptible politician. Who can ever forgive him?

Morales's arrival on the scene poses a direct threat to the U.S.'s "drug war." He will not bow to Washington's demands for oversight over Bolivia's army and domestic policies, which the U.S. seeks as part of its soaring ambitions for "full spectrum dominance," nor will he ban the coca leaf, which has played a central role in indigenous culture for millenia. While opposing cocaine for the world's addicts, he says he cannot reject the coca leaf, or at least not until the U.S. agrees to bulldoze its tobacco fields in order to save the vastly more numerous cigarette addicts from lung cancer. Such insolence.

While the U.S. has established a Department of "Homeland" Security that is rapidly converting the Constitution to a museum piece, Morales has established something akin to a Department of Decolonization to make institutional racism obsolete. He has also established a water ministry to provide clean water to millions of Bolivians who don't have it, arguing that the water privatization that took place in the mid-90s was not constitutional, since the contracts with the water companies were never approved by the Bolivian congress.

In May, 2006 Morales nationalized Bolivia's natural gas, requiring some 25 natural gas companies to renegotiate their contracts within six months or face expulsion. The new decree called for them to sell at least 51% of their holdings to the Bolivian state, but still allowed them to make a profit. Nevertheless, Morales was condemned for his "dictatorial" and "authoritarian" attacks on "democracy." Some democracy. Citing the prestigious Financial Times of London, M.I.T. professor Noam Chomsky reports that nationalization was supported by 95% of Bolivians. But serving this overwhelming majority is mere demagoguery, while fulfilling the greedy dreams of a 5% investor minority is "democracy." Perhaps this is why Morales says that "capitalism is the worst enemy of humanity."

That same year Morales also carried out an agrarian reform, which allowed for the redistribution of idle lands in order to correct a grossly lopsided distribution that favored a few dozen super-rich families at the expense of the impoverished majority. Under the new law the Bolivian government can seize unused and unproductive land from private landowners and give it to poor farmers and indigenous communities, so long as it first pays them just compensation.

In May 2007 the Morales government announced it would withdraw from the World Bank's International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes, since it is a vehicle for U.S. and European corporations to undermine efforts by Third World countries to nationalize their natural resources and public services like water. During his talks, Morales calls on the international community to join "an ongoing global campaign against this type of investor rule."

This kind of stance makes relations with the U.S. touch and go, and Washington refuses to grant visas to Morales's cabinet members. In September, 2007 Morales complained of mistreatment when he arrived in New York for the meeting of the General Assembly of the United Nations. U.S. Ambassador to Bolivia Philip Goldberg mocked his call for the UN to be transferred to another host country, saying he wouldn't be surprised if Bolivia also wanted to change "the site of Disney." Bolivian Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca, who, like Morales, is an Aymara, responded that what Goldberg said "is an offense to the country," and also to the "campesino and indigenous movement of the continent," and reflects "a racist attitude." "We hope that the Ambassador retracts these declarations of his," said Choquehuanca, who also declared that Goldberg was "not a valid partner for us." According to Univision, the largest Spanish language T.V. network in the U.S., prior to the remarks about the U.N. and Disney, there had not been a single month without friction, polemics, denunciations and mutual accusations between the two governments since Morales took power in January 2006.

The Social Summit in Sucre in September 2007 pointed up a showdown between the indigenous majority and Bolivian commercial elites. The summit established various principles that the new Bolivian Magna Carta should protect, among them that racism for linguistic, ethnic or cultural reasons be punished as a "grave crime against society and the state," and that all public officials learn an indigenous language. It also spoke of taxing great private fortunes, expropriation without compensation of large estates, re-election and revocation of terms in office, election of judicial authorities, recognition of indigenous justice, and the elimination of the (light-skinned-majority) Senate in order to have a legislative power with only one branch.

Morales' opposition in Sucre, violently resisting the indigenous-dominated Constituent Assembly, took over all the major public buildings using dynamite and Molotov cocktails, demanding the resignation of "the shitty Indian Morales." Parts of the city were in flames as the members of the Assembly fled the castle where the body was meeting, and soon rioting mobs controlled the city, leading to the deaths of three people and injuries to hundreds. This was the prelude to right wing and business interests in Santa Cruz declaring their autonomy from La Paz.

The traditional U.S.-sponsored coup d'etat may not be capable of coming to their rescue. Honoring Che Guevara on the fortieth anniversary of his death on October 8, Morales declared that Bolivia's new Constitution would not permit the installation of U.S. military bases, and he requested that the rest of Latin America impose a similar ban. Inflaming his enemies further, he declared the same month that a retirement pension equal to the minimum wage would be granted to all Bolivians, to be paid out of a special hydrocarbon fund. This was Communist heresy to Morales's wealthy opposition in four eastern provinces, who see no reason to have their privileges reduced to provide old age security for all. Theirs is a particularly stingy attitude, since conditions in Bolivia don't permit much lingering on the public dole: Bolivian miners die in their mid-forties.

These elites boycotted passage of a new Constitution aiming at strengthening indigenous rights in early December 2007. A national referendum will be needed to determine whether the Constitution is to take effect. The four eastern provinces have declared their autonomy from the Bolivian government, demanding local authority over natural gas royalties, agricultural policies, and police forces. Officials in La Paz characterize these efforts as racist moves to resist attempts to redistribute the wealth to the country's poor. Morales describes them as flatly illegal. In response, the pro-business groups assert that the real racism is against the non-indigenous and that Morales's policies are driving away private investment from Bolivia. The four provinces have "thriving export-oriented agricultural and energy industries" according to the New York Times. However, the issue is not their dynamism, but their narrowly distributed gains and the ongoing destruction of indigenous cultures.

Is a new day dawning in Bolivia? Only time will tell, but for now consider MAS (Movement Towards Socialism) Senator Gaston Conejo Bacope's description of the December 14 celebration of the new Bolivian constitution:

"The doors of the National Palace were opened to the people, musical bands, and native groups. President Evo and Vice-President Alvaro, the constitutionalists, the leaders of the Armed Forces, and the ministers, all danced, danced cheerfully inside the Great Hall. In a playful, childlike circle, to the strains of folk songs and Indian flutes, drums and whistles, the commanders of the three Armed Forces, the civic security police, and assembly members, danced hand in hand with indigenous women in beautiful native attire; female ministers and deputies danced with men representing 36 different communities and nationalities. The true people of the country - soldiers and Indians, the racially mixed and the middle class, intellectuals and workers, unpretentious society members and humble peasants, patriots of all stripes - danced joyfully together, celebrating the political and legislative change that Bolivia has begun."

If this is not yet a new day, at least it's a new crowd, and an authentic diversity in the halls of power. That is certainly worth celebrating.

Happy New Year.


"Bolivian President Evo Morales on Latin America, U.S. Foreign Policy and the Role of the Indigenous People in Bolivia," Democracy Now Online, September 22, 2006

"Bolivian President Evo Morales on Indigenous Rights, Climate Change, Iraq, Establishing Relations with Iran, Che Guevara's Legacy and More," Democracy Now Online, September 26, 2007

"Bolivians Now Hear Ominous Tones in the Calls to Arms," New York Times, December 15, 2007

"Bolivia Moves to Nationalize Oil and Gas Industries," PBS Online, May 2, 2006

"The Final Battle in Bolivia," Z Magazine Online, December 2, 2007

"The Real Reason People Fear Evo Morales," Alternet, October 3, 2007

"Bolivian Horizons: an Interview with Historian Sinclair Thomson," Z Magazine Online, November 7, 2007

"Bolivia's Evo Morales Wins Hearts and Minds in U.S." Common Dreams, October 1, 2007

"New Politics in Old Bolivia: Public Opinion and Evo Morales," Benjamin Dangl, Upside Down World, November 29, 2007

"Bolivia: 'A Project For The Liberation of the Poor,' Federico Fuentes, Green Left Weekly, November 7, 2007

"Bolivia's Leader Says States' Dispute Can Be Resolved," New York Times, December 20, 2007

"Bolivia's new leader vows change," BBC News Online, January 22, 2006

"Coca is a way of life," The Guardian Online, February 9, 2006

"Profile: Evo Morales," BBC News Online, December 14, 2005

"NS Profile - Evo Morales," New Statesman Online, January 23, 2006

"Protesters in Bolivia Seek More Autonomy," New York Times Online, December 16, 2007

"Bolivia: Guarayo Indians Struggle To Hold Onto Their Land," Upside Down World, December 28, 2007

"Evo Morales juro como presidente," Univision En Linea, 6 de septiembre de 2007

"Morales anuncia que nueva Constitucion no permitira bases de EEUU en Bolivia," Univision En Linea, 8 de octubre de 2007

"Relacion de EE.UU. con Morales se agrio esta semana con tintes de culebron," Univision En Linea, 5 de octubre de 2007

"La gira mundial de Evo Morales," Univision En Linea, 10 de enero de 2006

"Estrategia electoral de Evo Morales," Univision En Linea, 2 de abril de 2007

"Morales defiende nacionalizacion y explica que no puede expropriar petroleras," Univision En Linea, 1 de mayo de 2007

"Evo, el Mandela latinoamericano," Prensa En Linea, December 22, 2007

Amy Chua, "World on Fire - How Exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred and Global Instability," Anchor Books, 2003 (See Chapter 2)

Noam Chomsky, "What We Say Goes - Conversations on U.S. Power in a Changing World," Metropolitan Books, 2007, pp. 5-6, 47, 81-2

Noam Chomsky, "Deterring Democracy," Hill and Wang, 1991, p. 117

Noam Chomsky, "Interventions," City Lights, 2007, p. 199

Noam Chomsky, "Keeping the Rabble in Line," Common Courage Press, 1994, pp. 50-2

Noam Chomsky, "Rogue States - The Rule of Force in World Affairs," South End Press, 2000, pp. 77-8

--------Michael K. Smith is the author of "The Madness of King George (illustrations by Matt Wuerker) and "Portraits of Empire," with Common Courage Press. He can be reached at proheresy@yahoo.com

Friday, December 21, 2007

2008: So What's New?

by Frank Scott

The horrible Iraq war continues, with official opposition meekly calling for a responsible redeployment of troops. That’s like stopping crime by asking rapists to responsibly redeploy their genitals. And the credit bubble has become a deflating balloon whose escaping gas promises far more lethal contamination before it is totally empty. While global awareness of environmental problems has advanced, our theocrats still preach the economic fundamentalism at the root of the problem, with only murmured complaints from Democrats more beholden to capital than Republicans. And now the bad news.

After the November vote, no matter who moves into the subsidized housing at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue , slavish support for Israel’s endless assault on Palestine will continue. While there may be small differences on running the crippled economy , they amount to simply employing different decorators to rearrange deck chairs on the Titanic. In the Middle East, the metaphor might better be hiring consultants to improve elevator service at the Twin Towers .

When dealing with the Jewish state, at the root of present war and threatening more, there is no difference between Huckabee and Clinton, or Romney and Obama, or Edwards and McCain. And that may be the worst news , since that policy has already caused so much devastation elsewhere that we forget, or more honestly deny, its impact on the 911 disaster and those which followed in Europe. For the agents of continued race war against Islam, the fire next time is to be in Iran, and if the fanatic christian regime and its biblical brothers of the zionist bloc have their way, hell may have its day.

Could an independent presidential candidacy make a difference? Too soon to tell. Though pure libertarianism is nothing more than demented individualism, some think it makes more sense to support an honest conservative who wants to end war, than a dishonest liberal who'll continue all wars. The crackpot realism which had many suppress their ideals and support the warrior candidate last time will see them lose again if they submissively line up behind the corporate shill with enough money to buy the nomination. It remains to be seen if those who oppose the war, but are without a party or a candidate, can be organized in support of an alternative with some hope of even minimal success in the short term.
What’s needed is a long term focus that doesn’t reelect servants of the creators of our problems, and foolishly expect them to bring about the radical changes needed to solve them . Neither of the ruling party factions will stop warfare or start health care for every one of us, as long as they remain dedicated to maintaining corporate welfare for only some of us. The serious concern about climate change is already being guided into feel good , cosmetic proposals having more to do with capital’s plan to green the market with advertising rhetoric, while avoiding the economic system’s role at the core of the problem.

The increasing turmoil in our credit scheme to finance war and waste while denying just about everything else will only become more widespread. Our corporadoes work through their federal outlet store, the government , to produce immaterial finances for capital, while increasing material layoffs for what once called labor and has been relabeled a middle class. It is that shrinking population sector which joins the poor in being subjected to both economic assault and media perversion . We are constantly told, for example, that the president of Iran, holder of a doctoral degree, is an ignorant , hard line threat to one and all, while hearing uncritical repetition of the idiocies that spout from the menacingly empty head which rules the USA.

Intelligence leaks that showed Iran was not developing nuclear weapons were met with hyperventilating anger and hysterical disbelief by those who insist that nation is an enemy of all mankind . The fanatic Christian regime was exceeded in passion by the rabid zionist machine , as both screeched about lies , plots and coverups. Although Iran has as much right as any nation to create nuclear weapons, especially given the nuclear arsenal in Israel , which is pledged to destroy Iran - contrary to the reverse propaganda believed by many here - the leak indicates dissension in the establishment. This is good news for those who seek an end to the slaughters in Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine , but it also shows how powerless the antiwar opposition has become.

We must rely on factions which serve the empire, to get us out of a dreadful situation created by ; other factions which serve the empire! And the really bad news? They may be our only immediate hope.

It seems the only way to stop a war with Iran, which could bring more tragedy than has yet been experienced or imagined, is to support the ruling class servants who are aligned against the idiots in power . Since the officially sanctioned opposition is no such thing , and alternative candidacies are not yet operational, our only hope is to back those factions within the CIA, the Pentagon and the Intelligence bureaucracy who believe the empire must be maintained, but not under its present controllers. These establishment forces will probably support the official opposition provided in the presidential election, though we don't have to go that far. But for the present, don’t hang by your lip waiting for the supposed liberal left to challenge the unholy alliance with Israel and pending war with Iran. In order to achieve those ends, we need the internal opposition, and much more external clamor for impeachment, and economic change that means no war, anywhere. Always hope and work for the best, but always be prepared for the worst. Happy 2008? Let’s see.

Copyright (c) 2008 by Frank Scott. All rights reserved.

This text may be used and shared in accordance with the
fair-use provisions of U.S. copyright law, and it may be
archived and redistributed in electronic form, provided that
the author is notified and no fee is charged for access.
Archiving, redistribution, or republication of this text on
other terms, in any medium, requires the consent of the author

frank scott
email: frankscott@comcast.net

Tuesday, December 4, 2007


Hundreds Die at Christmas Sale:

Consumers, shoplifters, sales clerks, children and pederasts were caught in a swarm of frenzied marketers rushing to a sale at the Mall in Disneyland. The scene of trampled bodies, bloody children and wailing parents brought a very bad day to the bottom line.

The Mall promised a new sale to begin as soon as the debris was cleaned up. “We’ll have carolers and clowns and hopefully everyone will forget this tragedy and just think about spreading joy and buying stuff”, said a Mall spokesperson wearing a Mickey Mouse hat.

Homeless Drowning in Bay Area Oil Slick : Thousands Stay Home Playing with their pets,um,companions.

Bay Area homeless people, seeing the outpouring of help for drenched birds after a recent oil spill, doused themselves with raw petroleum and laid down at local beaches, hoping they would be taken home and cleaned up by good Samaritans and other less biblically inspired souls.

After two of them drowned in particularly rough surf and three days went by without them receiving any help, they decided to continue loitering in downtown areas where they harass people and their pets, um, companions, by flaunting their anti-upscale looks, smells and habits.

Important Debate over Water Boarding Continues: Many still being tortured while liberals decide if it is merely a form of extreme surfing

Concerned civil libertarians continued their heated debate over water boarding, while prisoners and other critical people screamed “ what about torture itself, you ninnies” as the discussions went into their third year.

Coincidentally, the third millennium of debate over how to properly conduct war continued, while tens of millions of past war dead called out from the beyond "schmucks, how about not making war in the first place”. The ADL charged anti-Semitism was being practiced by the dead in use of a yiddish term never meant to be addressed to mixed audiences . Alan Dershowitz threatened to bring hate crime charges against the disrespectful dead, and was in turn threatened with a law suit by fans of the Grateful Dead for possibly defaming their good name.

Capital Punishment Controversy threatens to continue until thousands more are capitally punished

Heated discussions over which forms of murder to use in humanely murdering murderers almost led to violence as nonviolent supporters of wrist slapping opposed supporters of electrocution who opposed supporters of the gas chamber who opposed lethal injection . Quakers and Liberals argued that having prisoners participate in the discussions would bore them to death and that would be a more civil way of killing killers.

Crowds outside the forum meeting at the Center for the Study of Centers could be heard chanting “ end capital punishment” and “those without capital suffer its punishment” and “while you’re at it, end capitalism” , but the arguments inside grew so heated and passionate that the outside chanting could not be heard over the endless filling of water pitchers and crunching of munchies supplied by the caterers.

“This is shocking” said executive director Leopold Loeb,” we’ve never had raised voices like this. Our discussions have always been mature, moderate and middling enough to assure that we’d get continued funding from our benefactors at the foundation”. A foundation spokeswoman said “ Our desire has always been to keep people talking and not doing anything that might cause serious change , so that we might keep sending checks”. The future of the center is at stake, Loeb remorsefully murmured, in a subdued and moderate tone.

The ACLU is pondering whether it should represent a rock show which has been banned for its alleged threat to civility. The Extreme Alienation Heaviest Metal tour features bands called “Hate Crimez” , “Extermination” and “Genocide”, and offers to impregnate the first three rows of ticket buyers with the HIV virus and have band members spit, vomit and urinate into the mosh pit.

Promoters boast that all lyrics are certified as hate speech and claim their ability to participate in the free market economy is being denied by communist terrorists refusing them a venue for their performances. The show has successfully played major arenas in Israel and Germany, but sensitivity to hate crimes, harsh language, identity groups , family values , law suits and sanitation issues have led to problems in the USA.

Iran Still Labeled Nuclear Threat Despite Lack Of Any Evidence

Administration and Democratic opposition both warn: “They may not have a program to make nuclear weapons, but they could steal nukes from Israel, and then where would we be?”
Plans continued to start the genocide in Iran, and stop the genocide in Darfur.

stay tuned.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Annapolis: Gall on Steroids

The recently completed Middle East "peace" talks at Annapolis and Washington were the usual carefully orchestrated USraeli farce with the dismal outcome well known in advance. In keeping with longstanding Jewish supremacist tradition, the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people - democratically elected Hamas - was not invited to the talks. (Hamas committed the unpardonable sin of developing strong resistance to military occupation and combining it with grassroots organizing in service to the poor. Such are the actions of unredeemably bloodthirsty terrorists.) The preferred submissive negotiating partner - Mahmoud Abbas - helped invest the proceedings with the required illusory dignity, before they eventuated in yet another postponement of engaging with the issues - borders, the fate of 4.5 million Palestinian refugees, Jewish settlements, water rights, the apartheid wall, closures, checkpoints, Gaza, Lebanon, the Syrian Golan Heights, and the complex network of racist laws and administrative arrangements that have imprisoned the Palestinian people for decades. Facts on the ground favor Israel, so why negotiate the issues? After all, the world is quite accustomed to the horrifying violence that is inseparable from such evasive dawdling. Ho hum.

President Bush professed interest in someday seeing an "independent, democratic, viable" Palestinian state established in whatever fragments of Palestine Israel ultimately decides it can do without, hailing this as a great prospective victory for Jews and Palestinians alike. He added that Israelis' just aspirations are "to be recognized and welcomed in the region where they live," neglecting to note that the exercise of Jewish sovereignty over Arab lands is precisely what has drenched the region in so much blood, not to mention repeatedly brought the world to the brink of nuclear war. No matter. Partition and a Bantustan statelet will insure that liberty takes root "in the rocky soil of the West Bank and Gaza," he promised, which, in turn, will "inspire millions across the Middle East" to imitate the "hopeful vision" that makes such blessings possible. Apparently, only cynics can doubt that this is so, given how well the president's liberty project has turned out in neighboring Iraq.

Like his predecessors in the Oval Office, Bush explains improbably that the principal obstacle to peace is the "terror and violence preached by Palestinian extremists" - mere preaching, mind you - not actual mass murder carried out by Israeli tanks, fighter jets, and helicopter gunships, which slaughter defenseless Palestinian civilians with nightmarish regularity. Bush insists that the Palestinian Authority become once again the security police for Israel, so that they can "dismantle the infrastructure of terror," which does not, of course, refer to the vast apparatus of torture and destruction commanded by Israel, but rather, to the efforts of suicide bombers to fight back against it. Naturally, President Bush sees Palestinian resistance to occupation as a crime, including self-defense against Israeli soldiers shooting at unarmed children, and demands that it stop. How fortunate for Jonathan Swift that he never had to learn what an amateur he was at satire.

In his official statement on Annapolis Bush went on to feebly state that Israel must remove "unauthorized outposts" - perhaps a rusty tower or two - and terminate "settlement expansion," without mentioning that all of the settlements in the Occupied Territories are illegal, and that Israel ignores this while continuing to expand the size of the existing 100+ settlements in the West Bank and Gaza, which behavior it regards as perfectly consistent with a settlement freeze. And why shouldn't it? As Moshe Dayan observed over thirty years ago, all of the territory of Israel is built over former Palestinian villages, which makes it difficult to refrain from continuing the theft, especially in "Judea and Samaria" (the West Bank and Gaza), which we know belongs to the Jews because the Bible tells us so.

Meanwhile, while Hizbollah, Hamas, and Iran call for the wishes of the Palestinian people to be respected whatever they may be (including, if they want it, a two-state settlement), Israel denounces them all as vile terrorists while continuing to annex and dismember dwindling Palestinian lands, hold thousands of captives in jail (including 46 members of the Palestinian parliament), and bar use of over 90% of Palestine to its indigenous people in perpetuity. Such is the behavior of "the Middle East's only democracy," as Israel and Washington never tire of telling us Israel is.

Some democracy. Amnesty International revealed in its 2003 report Combatting Torture, that since "1967 the Israeli security forces have routinely tortured Palestinian political suspects in the Occupied Territories." Eitan Felner, executive director of the Israel human rights group B'Tselem, told Le Monde in 1998 that "Israel is the only country in the world that has legitimated torture both juridically and rhetorically." (It's not hard to believe reports that Abu Ghraib derived at least in part from Israeli interrogation practices). B'Tselem states that Israel doesn't compare well with other democratic states on this score: "The normative difference between Israel and other democratic countries is reflected in the scope of the use of torture in interrogations. While Israel uses it routinely and against thousands of interrogees, in other liberal democracies, torture is exceptional and rare."

Israel, of course, complains of being held to a double standard which overlooks the exceptional circumstance of being surrounded by "terrorists." But looking at the years leading up to the new intifada, what is remarkable is not how much Palestinian terror there was, but how little retaliation there was from within the Occupied Territories, where shocking Israeli brutality had been manifest for decades. Even after the new intifada exploded, the relative death tolls were roughly 20 Palestinians for every Israeli in the early weeks, only gradually reaching 3 to 1, at which point Jewish indignation knew no bounds. Three dead Palestinians for every dead Israeli is an outrage, but only to Israel. Palestinian lives don't count.

Another unique feature of Israel is its separation wall, which is slated to vastly exceed the former Berlin Wall in length. The wall is locking entire Palestinian communities within its confines, with their livelihoods on the other side of the wall. According to Noam Chomsky (agreeing with Israeli sociologist Baruch Kimmerling), who has for years criticized applying the word "apartheid" to the behavior of Israel on the grounds that it's inflammatory, the separation wall is turning Palestinian communities into "dungeons, next to which the Bantustans of South Africa look like symbols of freedom, sovereignty, and self-determination." Progress is a remarkable thing.

At his 1969 trial Sirhan Sirhan stated what the problem in Palestine is well enough to have spared us the awesome crime of 911, if anyone had bothered to take him seriously: "Well, sir, when you move - when you move a whole country, sir, a whole people, bodily from their own homes, from their own land, from their businesses, sir, outside their country, and introduce an alien people, sir, into Palestine - the Jews and the Zionists - that is completely wrong, sir, and it is unjust and the Palestinian Arabs didn't do a thing, sir, to justify the way they were treated by the West.

"It affected me, sir, very deeply. I didn't like it. Where is the justice involved, sir? Where is the love, sir, for fighting for the underdog? Israel is no underdog in the Middle East, sir. It's those refugees that are underdogs. And because they have no way of fighting back, sir, the Jews, sir, the Zionists, just keep beating away at them. That burned the hell out of me."

Thirty-eight years later the United States is still pretending this problem doesn't exist. The obtuseness in this attitude is difficult to capture in words. Call it gall - on steroids.


B'Tselem, quoted in Norman Finkelstein's "Beyond Chutzpah - On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History," pp. 155-7

Sirhan Sirhan quoted in Godfrey Jansen's "Why Robert Kennedy Was Killed," frontispiece

Noam Chomsky, "Hegemony or Survival - America's Quest For Global Dominance"

Noam Chomsky, "Interventions"

Osamah Khalil, "Mission Accomplished," 11/29/07, The Electronic Intifada

Stephen Lendman, "Tragedy and Travesty at Annapolis," 11/26/07, Counterpunch.org

Col. Dan Smith, "Two Ships Passing in the Dark? - The Meaning of Annapolis," 11/29/07, Counterpunch.org

"Starting From Annapolis," New York Times editorial, 11/28/07

"Israelis, Palestinians Open U.S.-Backed Conference With Vague Statement on Timeline, Goals," 11/28/07, Democracy Now.org

"Mr. Palestine," Economist, November 24, 2007

"Big Turnout, Small Result," Economist, December 1, 2007

Michael K. Smith is the author of "Portraits of Empire" and "The Madness of King George" (illustrations by Matt Wuerker) from Common Courage Press. He can be reached at proheresy@yahoo.com