This book is a MUST READ. Of course it is old now and the 911 inside job has uncovered a much deeper level of a criminal empire. BUT IT IS CRITICALLY IMPORTANT for us to have an understanding of the ways that our democracy is undermined by the ILLEGITEMATE OWNERS of this world. The book is freely availabe from zmag.org website. Blogspot adaptation by u2rh2.
Entitled "Terrorists Working for Western Countries" (24.11.08), it even gives a country-by-country summary breakdown complete with a handy geopolitical world map of the wide arc of these operations. It's a very useful piece from a mainstream national European paper that very effectively summarises the thrust of my research into this unpalatable subject. A shame that the British press is so reticient about such issues.
There are some caveats. Kristin sometimes oversimplifies my geopolitical explanations, and this can lead to serious misinterpretations, such as her rendition of my examination of Pentagon sponsorship of al-Qaeda fighters in the Balkans - she says that the US and NATO helped the Bosnian Muslims against the Serbs, provoking them, and thus preventing peace. This is caricature of my argument, which is more fully fleshed out in The London Bombings: An Independent Inquiry. The Serbs were, in fact, encouraged to act with impunity, and the US Defense Intelligence Agency's influx of mujahideen fighters into the Bosnia predictably aggravated the crisis. Ensuing NATO airstrikes were thoroughly ineffective, and indeed the US, UN and NATO, having accelerated the disintegration of Yugoslavia, acted in concert to do nothing when the Serbs committed genocide against Bosnian Muslims in Srebrencia and beyond.
Anyway. What follows is a basic translation of the piece;
Terrorists working for western countries
We have been told that Western countries would do everything they could to eradicate Al-Qaeda in the "war on terror". But Western intelligence has from the 1990s, used terrorists to do dirty work in a number of countries.
By Kirstin Aalen 24th November 2008
During the Cold War, the United States was concerned to break the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. The CIA cooperated with Saudi Arabian and Pakistani intelligence to support Muslim guerrilla soldiers - mujahedin - in the fight against the communists.
Thousands of Islamic jihadists (holy warriors) were trained in Osama bin Laden's training camps until the late 1980s. They came from Arab countries in the Middle East and North Africa and was called Arab Afghans. In 1988, Al-Qaida was founded.
The Soviets gave up Afghanistan in 1989. Bin Laden's men fought in a couple of years of civil war that followed. So against whom should the jihadists now fight their holy war ? The regimes they came from would not tolerate fundamentalist guerrilla fighters in their own backyard.
Western intelligence services saw an opportunity. Documentation proves that British and American players in particular exploited the brutality of Al-Qaeda. "The goal has been to destabilize regions where Anglo-American power wanted to secure control over oil and gas resources," said the British terrorism analyst Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed. He has written several books on the subject.
In 1991 came three US military agents arrived in Azerbaijan. They arranged to fly in over 2,000 mujahedin soldiers. The job was to create rebellion and remove Russian influence. Bin Laden established an Al-Qaida's office in Baku. It was a base for terrorist actions in the Muslim neighborhood near Russia. After two years of unrest the democratically elected president was overthrown in June 1993. The corrupt Alijev took power. Now western and Saudi oil companies could secure a lucrative contract. Construction of the pipeline oil Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan could begin - bypassing Russia.
In 1992 the war in Bosnia began. An official Dutch report authored in 2002 by Professor Cees Wiebes from the University of Amsterdam shows that the Pentagon secretly flew thousands of Al-Qaida soldiers into Bosnia, ostensibly in support of Bosnian Muslims. But these brutal thugs provoked the Serbs so that a peaceful solution was impossible. Nato and the United States supported the Bosnian Muslims with the air strikes.
In 1996, the Kosovo Liberation Army was trained by a high-ranking Al-Qaeda-operative across the border to Albania. But simultaneously, British and US military experts helped.
In 2001, jihadists turned up in Macedonia, now in the guise of the nationalist sister faction, the National Liberation Army (NLA), which was secretly sponsored by Nato and the United States for years as revealed in the Dutch and German media.
Yet Macedonian intelligence reported that Al-Qaeda was also training the NLA in the Kumanovo-Lipkovo region. This information was sent to the CIA and National Security Council in the United States.
In 1997, the British MI5 anti-terror agent David Shayler revealed that British intelligence in 1995-96 gave 100,000 pounds to Al-Qaida's network in Libya, to plan and complete an assassination of the head of state Col. Mohammar Gaddafi.
Ahmed points out that the other areas where Western covert operations have used al-Qaeda terrorists include Algeria, Egypt, Chechnya (see Graph) and even the Philippines. These case studies show how the activities of Islamic terrorist groups linked to Al-Qaeda through training, money, weapons and fighters have been sponsored by the Anglo-American alliance. "Either by direct or indirect support through state intermediaries. The overall purpose has been to secure control over raw materials, especially oil and gas," said Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed.
=== translation of text in Graph:
Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) was financed by the heroin trade from Afghanistan and from Osama bin Laden. Many soldier-mercenaries were trained in terrorist camps in Afghanistan. According to Interpol, a KLA unit led by one of bin Laden's senior men, probably Mohammed Al-Zawahiri, was a brother of bin Laden's right hand, Ayman al-Zawahiri.
TRAIN: From 1998 the KLA also trained and armed by NATO. British and U.S. experts helped in the training of Tropoje in Albania.
PURPOSE: The British and the Americans used the KLA to destabilize Kosovo and the increase ethnic animosity. They would gain control of the land areas that could open the way for an oil pipeline via Bulgaria, Macedonia and Albania, except Russia and Iran.
LISTED: This happened despite the fact that the KLA in 1998 was put on the U.S. list of terrorist organizations.
GIA: Early in the 90s emerged the Armed Islamic Group (GIA) - strong in Algeria and with close ties to Osama bin Laden in Sudan. Throughout the 90s committed a series of atrocities in Algeria, which led to 150,000 civilians killed.
REVELATIONS: In 1997 it was revealed that the massacres took place in cooperation between the GIA and the Algerian etterret-business service and military. Western regimes denied the connection, but several whistleblowers claimed that they have known about this connection.
SALE: Sunday Times and Reuter reported in 2000 that Britain sold a large batch weapons to Algeria. U.S. and Algerian military increased their cooperation in 1999.
SHOCK: Brutal mujahedin / Al-Qaida fighters were used to fight for Bosnian Muslims against Bosnian Serbs. 10,000 participated.
PENTAGON: A Dutch official report revealed in 2002 how the Pentagon leased Islamic jihadists to fight for Bosnian Muslims.
BOSNIAN PASS: Osama bin Laden had Bosnian passports in 1993. He held meetings in Zagreb in Croatia for Arab-Afghan leaders who were Al-Qaida-emissaries in Bosnia.
WEST: the United States and Britain supported the right nationalist President Alija Izetbegovic to sideline and defeat the multi-ethnic policies of popular rival Bosnian Muslim leader Fikret Adbic. This gave the green light to the fragmentation of Yugoslavia. U.S. and NATO bombers contributed to this.
RUSSIA: Key Chechen cooperation in 1999 with high-ranking Al-Qaida operatives about attacks in the Caucasus.
USA: By the summer of 2000 American private security firms armed al-Qaeda-infiltrated Chechens and their Islamist allies to make rebellion in the region and lead holy war against Russia. The U.S. intention was to destroy a Russian pipeline.
AGENTS: Three agents from the U.S. military flew in at least 2,000 al-Qaeda fighters from Afghanistan to Baku in Azerbaijan. Bin Laden's Al-Qaeda established an office in the city, as a base for terrorism in several areas.
USED TO: Hired fighters made rebellion to reduce Russian influence in the country. Elected president Albufas Eltsjibej fled in June -93. In came Heidar Alijev. Several major oil companies supported the coup.
GOALS: Britain's BP led a consortium of Western and Saudi oil companies that would secure a major contract. In the signed to build an oil pipeline from Baku through Georgia to Ceyhan in Turkey, free from Russian control.
In 1997, MI5 anti-terror agent David Shayler revealed that the British MI6 intelligence agency in 1995-96 paid 100,000 pounds to Al-Qaida's network in Libya so that the terrorists would assasinate country's head of state. The operation failed, ended up under the wrong car, killing six innocent Libyans. The British government denied that it was involved, but two French intelligence experts documented that MI6 in the murder plot had hired bin Laden's highly trusted man, Anas al-Libya. He is on the FBI's "Most Wanted" list for the attack on the U.S. embassies in Africa in 1998.
GUERRILLAS: KLA soldiers went on to form the NLA in Macedonia. At one time, the insurgents were surrounded by the Macedonian security forces, but were rescued by NATO and the United States, though their spokesmen denied this. The news was leaked in Dutch and German media in June 2002.
REPORT: Macedonians reported to the CIA and National Security Council that Al-Qaida had trained the NLA in the region. Received only a polite response from U.S. intelligence.
In the first half of November 1997 the CIA sent a man called Abu-Umar Al-Amriki to Osama bin Laden's close allies, Ayman al-Zawahiri, in Peshawar, Pakistan. There was a deal made between the Egyptian terrorist leader and the CIA. It was that al-Zawahiri would get 50 million U.S. dollars to ensure that U.S. forces in Bosnia-Herzegovina were not attacked by Islamic mujahedin. Egypt would in turn be able to use the money to "to rule over Egypt." Some weeks later, in December 1997, the al-Zawahiris organization, Al-Jihad, the terrorist attack in Luxor.
Was a double agent for Al-Qaida and the CIA / FBI. He was sent in 1984 by al-Zawahiri to infiltrate the CIA. He joined the U.S. Army and worked at the Special Warfare Center in Fort Bragg, where he stole a manual-fighting techniques. He was among other terrorists who attacked the World Trade Center in New York in 1993, but was not sentenced himself. Also under the name of Abu-Umar Al-Amriki (American). Sent by the CIA in 1997 to broker deal with Al-Zawahiri.
Osama bin Laden:
Lived in Afghanistan in 1984-89 and was one of Al-Qaida's leading theoreticians.
1989-91: In Saudi Arabia, but his harsh criticism of the authorities meant he had to go into exile.
1992-96: Ran Al-Qaida from Khartoum in Sudan.
From 1996: Back in Afghanistan. Established a close cooperation with the ruling Taliban government until the US-led invasion in October 2001.
FINANCING: Bin Laden-financed Al-Qaida in part with money from their own family wealth, and partly from funds collected. But in 1994 when he lost his Saudi citizenship and had all their accounts frozen by the bin Laden family dynasty, he lost the ability to generously support his jihadists.
MUJAHEDIN: Different groups of mujahedin - Muslim guerrilla fighters - were supported by among others the United States, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan to fight against the USSR in Afghanistan (1979-89). Saudi Arabian Osama bin Laden built the Tora Bora plant with support from Pakistani intelligence (ISI). Here he could - inspired by Palestinian jihadist theoretician Abdullah Azzam and supported by Egyptian aid Ayman Al-Zawahiri - recruit and train fighters in the jihad (holy war). They also ran an al-Kifah Center (aid office) for jihadists in Peshawar in Pakistan. A number of similar assistance centers were created in the U.S. and Europe.
In Arabic, short-hand for "database". Was founded 17 May 1988 by Osama bin Laden and his closest colleagues.
LEARNING: Al-Qaida offered in their first year training to 10,000 to 20,000 volunteers in several camps in Afghanistan and Pakistan. They were Arab Afghans, given lessons in fighting techniques, weapons handling and use of explosives in addition to ideological training.
"Azerbaijan throws raw recruits Into Battle" by Steve Levine, Washington Post 21/4-1994; "Fortune hunters Lured U.S. into volatile Region "by Dan Morgan and David B. Ottaway, Washington Post, 4/10-1998;" U.S. Supported al-Qaeda cells during Balkan Wars "; Isabel Vincent, National Post, 16/3-2002. "Bin Laden linked to Albanian drug gangs" by Colin Brown, Independent, 21/10-2001; "America Used Islamist two Arm the Bosnian Muslims: The Screbenica Report Reveals the Pentagon's Role in a Dirty War," Richard J. Aldrich, Guardian , 22/4-2002. "The Kosovo Liberation Army: Does Clinton Policy Support Group with Terror, Drug Ties? From "Terrorists" two "partners" by Larry E. Craig, United States Senate Rebublican Policy Committee 31/3-1999. "European Intelligence: The U.S. betrayed us in Macedonia" by Christopher Deliso, Randolph Bourne Institute, 22/6-2002. "Do not Shoot the Messenger" by David Shayler, the Observer 27/8-2000.
The United States has the highest documented incarceration rate, and total documented prison population in the world. As of year-end 2007, a record 7.2 million people were behind bars, on probation or on parole. Of the total, 2.3 million were incarcerated. More than 1 in 100 American adults were incarcerated at the start of 2008.
Obama - free our sisters and brothers!
The prison-industrial complex is an interest groups that represent organizations that do business in correctional facilities, such as prison guard unions, construction companies, and surveillance technology vendors, and to the belief that these actors may be more concerned with making profits than actually rehabilitating criminals or reducing crime rates.
This desire for monetary gain has led to the rise of the Prison industry. Writing for The Atlantic Monthly in December 1998, Eric Schlosser said that "The 'prison-industrial complex' is not only a set of interest groups and institutions; it is also a state of mind. The lure of big money is corrupting the nation's criminal-justice system, replacing notions of safety and public service with a drive for higher profits. The eagerness of elected officials to pass tough-on-crime legislation — combined with their unwillingness to disclose the external and social costs of these laws — has encouraged all sorts of financial improprieties."
Critical Resistance, a political interest group that seeks to abolish the prison industrial complex, states that, "The prison industrial complex (PIC) is a complicated system situated at the intersection of governmental and private interests that uses prisons as a solution to social, political, and economic problems. The PIC depends upon the oppressive systems of racism, classism, sexism, and homophobia. It includes human rights violations, the death penalty, industry and labor issues, policing, courts, media, community powerlessness, the imprisonment of political prisoners, and the elimination of dissent."
These views are shared widely by critics of the carceral state, retributive justice, military-industrial complex, the War on Terrorism, the War on Drugs, militarism and Homeland Security.
Big Bucks from the Big House: the prison industrial complex and beyond excerpted from the book Lockdown America Police and Prisons in the Age of Crisis by Christian Parenti
What business enterprise could conceivably succeed with the rate of recall of its products that we see in the "products" of our prisons?
Chief Justice Warren E. Burger, 1985
In 1989 another tsunami hit - and this time the tidal wave was political. The California Department of Corrections rolled in, and with little opposition built the sprawling $277.5 million Pelican Bay State Prison, one of the newest, meanest super-max lockups in the system. Pelican Bay, an international model of sensory deprivation and isolation, deems half its inmates incorrigible and locks them away in the SHU, twenty-three hours a day. The prison is also Crescent City and Del Norte County's largest employer-and in many ways the region's new colonial master. The new prison's political and economic clout is all-the-more exaggerated due to Crescent City's extreme isolation and poverty. Only four of the area's seventeen sawmills are still in operation, commercial salmon fishing is dead, and during the mid eighties 164 businesses went under. By the time the CDC came scouting for a new prison site, unemployment had breached 20 percent. Del Norte County, with Crescent City at its heart, was in a seemingly terminal economic torpor. Prison was its only hope.
To clinch a deal with the CDC local boosters found a piece of cheap unincorporated land, fed water, sewer, and power lines to it, and otherwise soothed local anxieties about hosting several thousand criminals. Today in Crescent City the emerging American police state means economic survival; Pelican Bay provides I,500 jobs, an annual payroll of $50 million, and a budget of over $90 million. Indirectly, the prison has created work in everything from construction and pumping gas to domestic violence counseling. Just the contract for hauling away the prison's garbage is worth $ 130,000 a year - big money in California's poorest county. Following the employment boom came almost 6,000 new residents: Del Norte's population (including 4,000 prisoners) is now 28,000. In the last ten years the average rate of housing starts has doubled, as has the value of local real estate.' Also cashing in on the action is a huge Ace Hardware, a private hospital, and a 90,000-square-foot K-mart, selling everything from toothpaste to Spice Girl paraphernalia. Across from K-mart is an equally mammoth Safeway. "In 1986 the county collected $73 million in sales tax; last year it was $ 142 million," says County Assessor Jerry Cochran.
On top of that, local government is saving money by using low-security "level one" prisoners in place of public works crews. Between January 1990 and December 1996, Pelican Bay inmates worked almost 150,000 hours on everything from school grounds to public buildings. According to one report, the prison labor, billed at the meager sum of $7 per hour, would have cost the county at least $766,300. "Without the prison we wouldn't exist," says Cochran.
The prison industrial complex Little town and big prison: it is a marriage that has been replicated scores of times in recent years. From Bowling Green, Missouri, to rural Florida, economically battered towns are rolling over for new prisons. Nationally, the tab for building penitentiaries has averaged about $7 billion annually over the last decade; in 1996 alone contractors broke ground on twenty-six federal and ninety-six state prisons. Estimates for the yearly expenses of incarceration run between $ 20 and $ 35 billion annually, and one report has more than 523,000 full-time employees working in American corrections-more than in any Fortune 500 company except General Motors. In the American countryside punishment is such a big industry that, according to the National Criminal Justice Commission, 5 percent of the growth in rural population between 1980 and 1990 was accounted for by prisoners, captured in cities and exiled to the new carceral arcadia. Is prison building the current delivery system for Keynesian stimulus in a post Cold War, demilitarized America? Is the emerging prison industrial complex replacing or augmenting that behemoth constellation of civilian government, military power, and private capital that Eisenhower dubbed the "military industrial complex" and which for two generations has been America's defacto industrial policy? This is the line argued by a few on the left and, to some extent, by writers in the Wall Street Journal and Atlantic Monthly. But this analysis begs several questions. First, is the military industrial complex - driven by the Pentagon budget withering and being transformed piece by piece into a domestic war machine? A glance at the facts suggests not. The 1999 Pentagon budget topped $297 billion, the greatest in real terms ever, and six to ten times the total annual tab for incarceration. So while Heckler and Koch and other arms dealers may be pushing their wares on America's cops and fomenting a paramilitary culture, and Wackenhut sinks more capital into private prisons, these expansions are not forced by a peace-driven Pentagon downswing.
Nonetheless, we might ask: are specific corporate interests driving criminal justice policy, as is often the case with military policy? This "prison as Pentagon" argument generally cites three ways in which incarceration bolsters capitalism: broad Keynesian stimulus (as in the case of Crescent City), the privatization of prisons and prison-related services, and the exploitation of prison labor by private firms. All of these features of the prison industrial complex are important, but none of them-alone or together-explains why we are headed for what Jerome Miller calls a "gulag state." The rest of this chapter will explore each of the crucial points on the prison-business nexus, and then turn to another explanation for the lockdown economy, one based not on direct and specific corporate interests, but rather on an analysis of punishment and terror as class struggle from above. Carceral keynesianism As with Pelican Bay and Crescent City, new prisons seem to gravitate towards the terrain of economic devastation. For example in 1994, Rome, New York, lost 5,000 jobs when Griffiss Air Force Base shut down. Exacerbating the crisis was Lockheed Martin's slow withdrawal of almost 1,000 well-paid jobs from nearby Utica. Chicago Pneumatic Tool Company also decamped to the sunny non-union climes of North Carolina, taking 430 more well-paid manufacturing jobs. But as this industrial base slipped away, new prospects emerged on the economic horizon: some of the best jobs in the region belonged to the 2,612 people employed at four nearby state prisons. And so the local boosters at the Rome Chamber of Commerce started lobbying for new dungeons in the hope of capturing a few more of those $36,000-a-year jobs. In this case, prison was clearly a local solution to military and defense contractor restructuring; other areas of the country offer similar examples.
Victorville, in southern California's dry "Inland Empire," spent most of the nineties in an economic tailspin after George Air Force Base was shuttered in 1992, taking more than 5,000 military and civilian jobs with it. By late 1998 town leaders were aggressively courting the Federal Bureau of Prisons in an attempt to win the right to host a new 1,900-bed, $60 million prison just outside town. The new lockup promised to deliver anywhere from 250 to 800 jobs and a $1 to $2 million annual payroll.
Not far from Victorville is the hamlet of Blythe, the victim of nearly two decades under the yoke of the chronically low price of its agricultural produce. Blythe's first move toward economic resuscitation was the 1988 arrival of a big new penitentiary. Civic boosters liked the first joint so much they won themselves a second in 1995.7 Other agricultural areas are also trying to make the switch from produce to prison. For example, South Bay, Florida, "the town that lettuce built," is prime incarceration country. Less than sixty miles from moneyed and manicured Palm Beach, South Bay is nestled on the southern edge of Lake Okeechobee. Economically speaking the town is light years away from Florida's tourist simulacrum: with 3,500 residents, South Bay is the land of trailer parks, cane fields, and unemployment. When there was talk of building a $32 million prison in the area, the town fathers jumped. Even before South Bay Growers, one of the nation's largest producers of winter vegetables, fired 1,336 workers and switched from labor-intensive row crops to highly automated sugarcane production, the surrounding area had an unemployment rate of 22 percent. The planned South Bay Correctional Facility a piece of Wackenhut's transnational private prison empire - promised up to 400 jobs and an $ 11 million annual payroll. To cement the deal the Palm Beach County Commission donated a plot of land worth $300,000. "This is one of those win win propositions . . . We're determined to see that bad people stay in prison a lot longer," reassured the economically practical Governor Lawton Chiles. While the multiplier effect of prison salaries will staunch some of the economic damage in and around South Bay, it will not create prosperity.
One of the saddest attempts at prison-based growth was a case in northern Missouri, where local boosters offered to retrofit the defunct Tarkio College into a minimum security pen. Such schemes to convert bases, factories, or schools rarely come to fruition because contractors prefer building from scratch. After all, most prison builders can get land for free from desperate local governments. In 1989, Florence, Colorado, bought 600 acres of ranch land for $ 100,000 and gave it to the Bureau of Prisons, which proceeded to build four major lockups there. In the early nineties this sort of prison-courting-by-way-of-subsidy reached absurd proportions. In 1991, recession-ravaged Appleton, Minnesota, population 1,552, sold $28.5 million in municipal bonds and built a city-owned, state-of-the-art, medium security prison on a fallow soybean field. "The world has written us off," explained a city bureaucrat. "It's up to us and us alone. Nobody is going to help bail us out." " Fueled by desperate optimism and little else, the Appleton prison found itself unable to fill a single cell nor meet its debt obligation until mid 1993. Even in the best of situations prison stimulus is often overestimated. In Florence, Colorado, home of those four Bureau of Prisons penitentiaries, the economic payback and linkages have been less than expected. About 30 percent of the prison's employees live outside the county, commute huge distances, and end up spending and paying taxes elsewhere. While a local firm has the garbage contract, most prison purchasing is done on a regional and national level, thus bypassing local retailers. To top it all off the pens pay no property taxes. Prison stimulus can also mean economic distortion. In oil-busted Fort Stockton, Texas, two big prisons meant an influx of relatively well-paid construction workers and then guards, all of which triggered a mini real estate bubble and skyrocketing rents. Crescent City, California, suffered a similar housing crunch. In Fort Stockton, even the optimists saw the town's new economic function as bringing only a short-term reprieve: "Growth," said one, "will probably continue for the next two to three years." '4 In the southern end of California's Central Valley, near the prisons of Avenal, Corcoran North Kern, Pleasant Valley, and Wasco, the incarceration industry has put such a strain on the local schools, sewers, roads, and medical services that the state was recently forced to dole out $2 million in mitigation funds.
And what of prison building's spin-off effects? After all, the economic magic of military Keynesianism is worked not through the wages of soldiers as much as it is through bomb building's concatenated forms of technological and industrial spin-off. Cold War pork spending and government incubation of defense industries has helped develop the US interstate highway system, state universities, commercial jets, most of telecommunications including the Internet, the microprocessor, fiber optics, and laser surgery. All of these institutions and technologies were hatched with government money in government-subsidized universities; and all were directly, or indirectly, part of the technological race against Soviet socialism. In short, the American high-tech sector is a byproduct of Pentagon spending. No such economic linkages can be attributed to the prison boom. Rather, the best it can offer is the occasional example, such the growth at Pueblo Community College: thanks to the high number of penitentiaries located in the Pueblo to Canon City corridor, the college's criminal justice program has gone from several dozen students in 1985 to a current enrollment of about 600 '6 In fact, criminal justice and justice administration programs are on the rise nationwide P7 But this cottage industry, in what amounts to vocational training in the arts of repression and file keeping, hardly compares to the Cold War-inspired high-tech revolution.
Besides the quantitative question of growth, prison stimulus has disturbing qualitative implications. Like prison itself, the incarceration business often advances racist agendas. In the prison economy, people of color are the fodder: two-thirds of all prison admissions are Black or Latino people. Meanwhile, downwardly mobile white working class men are most often the keepers. In most states well over half of all guards are white men. As the guarding profession grows, the demographics of public employment tend to skew towards the profile of the white male turnkey. Due to the rise of rural prisons, white men in Illinois still get more than half of all newly created public sector jobs, while the percentage of white women and people of color employed by the state has declined throughout the 1990s. Former Illinois governor Jim Edgar explained the increasingly pallid complexion of public employment thus: "One of the few areas we've hired people in the last two years has been for prisons in down-state Illinois and, unfortunately, that isn't where you necessarily recruit a lot of minorities." Thus cleavages of race, class, and geography are enlisted to reproduce and manage an unfair economic system. In conclusion, it is safe to say that incarceration is a small-scale form of Keynesian, public-works-style stimulus. New penitentiaries can revive economically moribund regions and, acting as anchor industries, can bring in other employers such as medical services and retail chains. But these pockets of pork-driven prosperity remain tiny islands in a vast sea of stagnant agriculture, deindustrialization, and what we might call post-organized, downgraded manufacturing. The gulag provides opportunities for localized growth but it does not and will not assume the mantle of defacto industrial policy, because it cannot and will not replace the economic role of military and aerospace spending. Private prisons Another player in the matrix of interests referred to as the prison industrial complex is the fast-growing and powerful private prison industry. Through assiduous cultivation of state officials the private prison industry is increasingly active in shaping criminal justice policy, but its partnership with the state also faces problems: recent events have unveiled private jailers as cheats, liars, and liabilities.
For-profit lockups currently control some 5 percent of all US prison beds; they make huge profits and spend amply to sway politicians and public opinion. The current round of private incarceration began with a Reagan-sponsored experiment to house INS detainees at private detention centers in Houston and Laredo, Texas. The architect of the plan was Attorney General Meese (who now works at a for-profit, pro-privatization think-tank). In response to the federal government's broad invitation to capital, a pair of Tennessee entrepreneurs, using money from Kentucky Fried Chicken and the know-how of several public sector corrections veterans, set up the first private prison company, Corrections Corporation of America. At the apex of this fast-growing empire is a troika of well-connected good old boys: Doctor Crants, CCA's president and visionary; his old West Point roommate, CCA co-founder Tom Beasley, who quite conveniently served a stint as chairman of the Tennessee Republican Party; and finally, providing the technical expertise, is T. Don Hutto, former commissioner of the Virginia and Arkansas Departments of Corrections. l9 Others board members include corrections veterans such as Michael Quinlan, former director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
For most of the eighties and early nineties, CCA, like its competitors, concerned itself with cherry-picking: seeking easy-to-handle contracts for minimum security prisons. This was a prudent attempt to prove that private capital could handle society's cast-off populations without any major explosions. But CCA and the others soon set out for bigger prizes. Fifteen years after the first "experimental" incarceration of immigrants, corporate jailers now control roughly 100,000 prison beds nationwide in over a hundred different facilities in twenty-seven different states. CCA's market share is approximately 52 percent of all privatized American prison beds. Globally, its empire includes seventy-eight prisons holding more than 63,000 beds in twenty-five states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Australia, and the United Kingdom. However, the company's political and geographic stronghold remains Tennessee, where it dumps inmates from Wisconsin, Hawaii, Montana, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico into a sprawling, barely regulated private prison system.
Financially CCA has performed handsomely. One investment firm dubbed it "a theme stock for the nineties." In 1995 the company went public at $8 a share: by the year's end the price had soared 462.5 percent to $37. However, recent scandals and increasing disenchantment among state legislators have brought CCA stock down to roughly half its peak value. But the company, capitalized at $3.5 billion, is still a "secure" investment and growth remains strong. To maintain market dominance CCA does things the old fashioned way: giving generously to politicians and buttering up the press. In recent years Doctor Crants has distributed more campaign money to Tennessee politicians than any other individual. The company also operates a robust lobbying operation in D.C. and in several states where it has investments.
The next largest private jailer is Wackenhut Corrections, with about 17,000 beds at twenty-four facilities. Named after its founder, former FBI agent George Wackenhut, the firm is a subsidiary of Wackenhut's private security service, which made it big more than forty years ago by scooping up contracts to guard America's nuclear waste dumps and testing installations. Wackenhut also did some freelance spooking: by the late sixties the corporation had dossiers on three million American "potential subversives." This was the largest collection of private surveillance files in American history and was later handed over to the FBI. By the 1970s and 1980s the company had expanded into strike-breaking and guarding US embassies. George Wackenhut still runs the business from his castle-like mansion in Florida and from the deck of his yacht, Top Secret. Since going public in 1994, Wackenhut's stock price has soared 800 percent and split once 26 The company's board of directors is, like CCA's, a juice-laden den of far-right political mucketymucks, including Frank Carlucci, former NSA advisor to President Reagan; Bobby Inman, formerly deputy director of the CIA; and for a long time, the now deceased Jorge Mas Conosa of the Miami-Cuban lunatic fringe and the Clinton inner circle. Behind CCA and Wackenhut is a hungry pack of some sixteen other firms that run local jails, private prisons, and INS detention centers. Underwriting the growth of both public and private prisons are a battery of mainstream financial houses. It is estimated that giant Wall Street firms such as Goldman Sachs, and Merrill Lynch write between $2 and 3 billion in prison construction bonds every year. And like any self-preserving "industrial complex," the private prison sector is cultivating a coterie of paid opinion makers. Most notable is the Private Prisons Project at the University of Florida, Gainesville, which receives over $60,000 in grants every year from private jailers. The project's staff of researchers focuses on tutoring journalists and churning out predigested policy briefs which are spoon-fed to state and federal lawmakers. The center's director, Charles W. Thomas, has been quoted literally hundreds of times as a non-partisan expert, despite the fact that he personally owns stock in CCA, Wackenhut, and a slew of other for profit dungeons. Private prison firms have also flown journalists to plush overseas hotels with limousines on call. Swimming alongside the big fish of incarceration are schools of for-profit caterers, prison HMOs, private transport companies, architecture firms, and other subcontractors that feed at the margins of the prison industrial complex. So clearly we have the formation of an "industrial complex" in the original sense of the word, a government-backed juggernaut of mutually reinforcing corporate interests. These companies are led by people-powerfully connected men with sophisticated political agendas and who are positioning for long-term growth and political influence.
Gaza is the biggest prison in the world
Mumia Abu-Jamal (born Wesley Cook on April 24, 1954) is an American who was convicted and sentenced to death for the 1981 murder of police officer Daniel Faulkner. Prior to his arrest he was a Black Panther Party activist, cab driver, and journalist. Since his conviction, his case has received international attention and he has become a controversial cultural icon. Supporters and opponents disagree on the appropriateness of the death penalty, whether he is guilty, or whether he received a fair trial. During his imprisonment he has published several books and other commentaries, notably Live from Death Row. As of 2008, his legal appeals are still unsettled and he is a prisoner at State Correctional Institution Greene near Waynesburg, Pennsylvania.
Election-appeals and by-elections expected in Hesse state elections due to severe problems with voting computers
January 27, 2008 (presse)
Severe problems and irregularities occurred during Sunday's election for the state government in the German state of Hesse, where NEDAP voting computers were operated.
CEO of voting machine manufacturer NEDAP says: Dear CCC. Break-in impossible because this sticker takes care of security.
(Sticker says: hacking futile - results are already fixed)
In addition to massive obstructions of the election observers in several communities, a number of incidents have clearly disproved the claims of Hesse's ministry of the interior about the security and reliability of the voting computers.
In at least one community the voting computers were stored in the private homes of political party members over night. This is an "established practice", members of the regulating authority confirmed towards the election observers. All nine voting computers had been stored privately in this community.
"The storing of voting computers over night at the homes of local politicians is the nightmare scenario for insider manipulation, even according to the logic of the Hesse ministry of the interior. This is something even we couldn't have imagined", said Dirk Engling speaking for Chaos Computer Club (CCC).
Election observers of the CCC were left alone for a long time in two polling stations, before the voting executive arrived. Manipulation of the election could have been easily accomplished by anyone left alone with the voting computers.
In at least one polling station the NEDAP technology failed; a voting computer in Viernheim showed an error message shortly after the startup a few minutes before 8 o'clock. A normal vote was therefore impossible. It took over an hour until a replacement computer arrived at the polling station. During this time many voters were not able to vote and effectively disenfranchised.
In Obertshausen interested citizens were refused admittance to the polling station by an employee of the regulating authority and election observers were even threatened with arrest.
"The election supervisor in Obertshausen obviously hasn't heard anything of things such as openness and the legally warranted publicity of an election", CCC speaker Dirk Engling commented. Some election supervisors actively tried to prevent an observation of the election in its operation.
Observations from over 50 interested citizens showed that a large number of older voters had problems casting their ballot on the computers, contrary to the claims in the run-up to the election. Many were so overwhelmed, that election helpers had to assist them with the casting of their ballot.
The CCC also visited the people in charge of voting in the hessian communities which had decided against using voting computers after a testing phase. CCC activists brought biscuits to the election volunteers in the polling stations during the counting. In the process they got interesting insights into the reasons for the rejection of the NEDAP voting computers.
In previous elections, the town of Weiterstadt has used voting computers. "We were among the first who introduced voting computers. But after the first election we experienced that the effort in preparing the election was too large", Mr. Gerald Eberlein, voting supervisor of Weiterstadt, said. "I just had the feeling it was insecure", he said justifying the move away from the disputed computers.
In Erzhausen the ballots were also casted on paper in the traditional manner. "We had rented the computers due to the counting and vote-splitting during our local elections, but the promised saving of time didn't happen, it just got more expensive. That's why we changed back to paper", Dieter Karl, Mayor of Erzhausen, told the CCC. The advantages promised by the commercial supplier of NEDAP voting computers simply did not materialise.
The discussion about the practical issues around voting computers shows that they not save labor, but also mean more costs and time for the communities, allow unnoticed manipulation of the result and cause major problems for senior citizens potentially disenfranchising a segment of the population.
Many violations of procedures were noticed by the election observers, and the reliability problems of the NEDAP systems make it clear once more, that the basic problems of voting computers: the inability to verify the correct operation and transparency of the election. Neither voters nor election helpers were able to validate the correctness of the ballot-casting and counting. A subsequent recounting is therefore simply not possible.
"The observation of the election in Hesse shows that the time has definitely come to withdraw the voting computers also in Germany", said Dirk Engling. "Especially in the light of the tight outcome of the election in Hesse the unacceptable risks of computer mediated voting become very clear."
The CCC would like to thank all election observers for their commitment to upholding the democratic process!
With the embedded press refusing to investigate and refusing to J'accuse... who needs it?
Black President - huge change race relations but will Obama prosecute 9/11 inside job?
Black Washington looks to Obama
but will Obama prosecute the perpetrators of the 9/11 inside job?
By Kevin Connolly BBC News, Washington
On his desk beside the nameboard that tells you he is director of marching bands at Howard University in Washington DC, John Newson keeps a miniature bale of cotton.
Washington DC - a ruling elite, within a mainly African-American population
When he lifts it and turns it in his hands his eyes take on a curiously distant quality and stories of this country's divided past come tumbling out.
He is a dignified, professorial figure these days, but he can remember the old times in rural Louisiana when he was put out of school three hours before the local white kids and sent to the local plantation fields to chop cotton - back-breaking work for a little boy in the boiling heat of the Southern summer.
He remembers too the local laws about "eye-balling" - no black man or woman dared to risk making eye contact with any of the white folks in the streets of their little town.
You looked down, or looked away, or you got a ticket and a fine.
Mr Newson's band, from the college they call "The Black Harvard", will be marching in the inaugural parade in the heart of their home city - Howard is just a few blocks across town from the White House.
It is a small story of change in a country which has changed enormously since little John Newson was sent out into the cottonfields of Louisiana all those years ago.
He is moved at the idea of a black man taking power in the White House, and not just for what it says about the long road African-Americans have travelled since he baled cotton when he should have been sitting in class or playing with his friends.
Washington DC is sometimes called Chocolate City, and it is a curiously divided place.
America's not exactly accepting us with open arms now just by the election of a black man as president
Corey Crane Tour operator
The tiny governing elite - which tends to live and work in the glittering centre - is surrounded by seas of largely black streets.
Mr Newson wonders if Barack Obama might be the man to bring together those two disparate identities sharing the same space.
After all, he commands the ruling elite now, and yet he can still talk comfortably with the black street.
Not that Mr Newson believes the election of Mr Obama means an end to the African-American journey. To illustrate his point he told me this story about what happened when he and his wife took three of their grandchildren back to a four-star hotel in Louisiana a few years ago to show them the Old South in which they had grown up.
"My wife and the three grandkids went to the swimming pool and on two occasions when they got in, all the white folks who were swimming got out and left," he told me.
"My wife even stayed in the water for nearly two hours to see if they would come back - and they didn't."
As Mr Newson said, Barack Obama's election is a moment of symbolism and he will have huge powers - but he cannot make people stay in swimming pools together.
America - and the South in particular - still have some changing to do.
James Kilby is another African-American who will be watching the inaugural parade with particular pride.
In the Lyndon Johnson White House in the mid-1960s he was a young messenger boy - probably one of the few ways a black man could get into the building back then.
He lives in Virginia, near Washington, and he too is bruised by the past.
He was in the first group of black students to be enrolled at his local whites-only high school in the town of Front Royal after his father fought a celebrated court case against the local school board.
Many of Washington's landmarks were built using slave labour
He remembers the wave of intimidation that was unleashed on the family when his father, with the support of the civil-liberties group the NAACP, filed his court papers.
"We had three cows poisoned, a bloody sheet hung over our mail box and night riders driving past the house firing shots at it... even, years later, a burning cross planted in the lawn," he told me.
"But my father wouldn't give up - in the end he bought a shotgun. They were some hard times."
Mr Wilby, a preacher these days, is an optimist and sometimes his optimism pays off.
He always thought that one day he would get an invitation to his high school reunions and eventually, so he did - although he says it was not until 45 years after he had graduated.
He campaigned for Barack Obama and believes the new president really will deliver the change he promises.
But not all African-Americans here in DC are so sure.
For another point of view I turned to Corey Crane, who runs a tour company called Chocolate City.
It takes visitors around all the familiar city landmarks like the White House and the Capitol, and then talks about them from the point of view not of the powerful men who occupied them, but of the enslaved craftsmen who built them.
He believes that black Americans made a great historical error in the 1960s when they relaxed their campaign for civil rights and integration at the first sign of progress, turning their back in many cases on the "blacks only" hotels and restaurants which had sustained them during segregation in favour of the businesses which were newly opening to them.
"We thought America was accepting us with open arms as equals, so a lot of what we had and what we owned went by the wayside," he says.
"And that's why I say America's not exactly accepting us with open arms now just by the election of a black man as president."
Having said that, Mr Crane does also believe that the Obama presidency might help inspire black youngsters to aim high in life and work for more change - and he will be watching the inauguration.
The wider world, and white America, have seized on the election of Barack Obama as a moment of catharsis which somehow lays to rest all the wrongs of the past; talk to African-Americans around Washington DC and a different picture emerges.
They are fiercely proud of the present, and hopeful for the future, but are mindful of the past too.
This is still a divided country and to some extent DC remains a divided capital, or at least a capital with a split identity.
But none of this is meant to detract from the powerful symbolism of the moment when this country's first black president takes office.
Not for the first time, when the Howard University Band strikes up on Tuesday, the ruling elite and the black street will rub shoulders together in the crowds around the White House.
In the euphoria of the moment at least, we can expect that diverse crowd to be marching in step.
Nowhere in the world is mainstream discourse less critical of Israel than in the United States, and that includes Israel.
Only in the United States could a mild representation of events inside the Occupied Territories get a former president openly labeled an anti-Semite. Only in the United States could a Jewish scholar of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict who had family (some surviving, some perishing) in the Holocaust be called a Holocaust denier. Only in the United States could a reporter be gambling his or her career writing a piece that comes anywhere near the tone or depiction of state critiques published within Israel’s own Haaretz newspaper.
So what should I write about? If I possessed any breaking news or shocking information coming out of Gaza, would it even matter?
I worry that we are so saddled with the assumptions of American (and thus its allies’) exceptionalism, a mere challenge to the official story would be futile.
So instead, I will offer an exercise in context and a few questions helpful to digest this official line.
First of all, discount the relevance of all so-called “official sources.” Such sources are allowed a voice for one purpose, and that is to preserve an acceptable public image. Can you even imagine an official spokesperson (on any side) consciously saying anything harmful to the interests of his or her government?
Aside from deciphering such interests, these “official sources” are best used for counting. And by that, I mean counting how many official sources (including political pundits) are represented on one side (remember, allies count as well) in contrast to those represented on the other, not to mention the order in which these sources appear and the space they are allowed. Throw these findings on a seesaw, and we get a picture of who’s got a better shot at writing history.
Such results are no surprise. As long as Israel remains one of our greatest allies, its version of events will always be given, at very least, the benefit of the doubt.
This is evident not only in the space given “official” accounts, but in the language used to characterize those accounts.
For instance, on December 29th the Associated Press lead off a story by describing the targets of the Israeli assault on Gaza as “symbols of Hamas Power.” As the story was picked up throughout the mainstream media, so was this description. Some even used it in the headline.
Attributed to no one, such descriptions are offered as assumptions. And assumptions imply a certain amount of truth or legitimacy. When Israel tells the world it is in a “war to the bitter end” against Hamas (and the U.S. publicly offers its blessing), characterizing these bombing targets as “symbols of Hamas power” implies that all such targets are justified.
This of course leaves the burden to prove otherwise on the Palestinians and anyone else who challenges such assumptions.
So for the sake of this piece, let’s just take a minute and challenge one such assumption.
One of these “symbols of Hamas power” was a university. One of the areas hit was a women’s building. Do we accept this as being a legitimate target?
Israel says this university was responsible for research and development of Hamas weapons. Maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t. The bigger question is, “Does it matter?”
If the Israeli government is telling us the truth, does this justify the bombing? If it does, then we must ask whether this makes universities in Israel that conduct weapons-related research legitimate targets for bombing. For that matter, what about MIT and other major universities within the United States? Would we accept these being described as symbols of government power and thus justified for targeting in war?
Furthermore, when have “symbols” of power ever been legitimate targets in the first place? One way Hamas rose to power was in offering social welfare services. Does that make their clinics and food distribution centers “symbols” of power? Are they also fair game?
What about police stations? Early on, these were some of the heaviest hit. Characterized as security forces, many police officers (some of whom had literally just been sworn in) were thrown into the rhetorical pile of legitimate dead.
Do we not distinguish between military and civil service? Would we see our own non-military “symbols of power” as legitimate targets?
What about Mosques? Do we consider our places of worship “symbols of power” justified as military targets? Israel says that they were used to store munitions. Maybe they were, maybe they weren’t. I guess we’ll just have to assume they were telling us the truth.
It’s obviously not serious enough for the United States to demand an investigation. It’s merely enough that the “official source” says it.
In the 2006 Lebanon War, the United States didn’t demand an independent investigation when Israel killed over 1,000 people (mostly civilians), over three hundred of which were children. Nor did the United States demand an independent investigation when Israel knowingly struck a UN compound. This list of “official” oops’s goes on and on. Yet never do we demand an independent investigation.
And why, one might ask, should the United States be demanding anything? Well, for starters, our Arms Export Control Act sets narrowly defined circumstances for use of U.S. arms. Since we supply both military aid to Israel as well as the actual weaponry being used in its current operation, it’s our responsibility under law to strictly monitor such use.
One can only wonder how different events might be if Israel believed the United States might actually enforce the Arms Export Control Act. Of course, Israel knows that if the official version of events gets a bit too hard to stomach, they can always fall back on their intentions.
As another perk of being a U.S. ally, it is assumed Israel (as do we) always has the noblest of intentions. And, luckily, intentions are not that easy to prove.
Or are they? As Noam Chomsky points out, intentions can and should be measured by anticipated consequences.
Is it enough for Israel to say that it is doing everything in its power to minimize civilian casualties but Hamas has military installations among residential neighborhoods? Or do we apply the burden of anticipated consequences?
For the sake of argument, let’s assume that Israel’s official version on this one is fully accurate. Does it matter that Gaza is one of the most densely populated areas in the world and that bombing almost anywhere assures civilian casualties? Does it matter that we would never allow police in our own country to shoot hundreds of bullets into a crowd in order to take down a dangerous suspect? One of the things that makes drive-by shootings that much more heinous is their anticipated consequences.
Furthermore, the location of Hamas military installations is not the least bit unique. Civilian areas in the United States are littered with military related buildings and infrastructure. I personally used to live within a few hundred feet of the War College in Pennsylvania.
Would Israel characterize Tel Aviv as a more appropriate target than Sderot for rocket fire simply because of its military installations?
These questions are very basic ways of offering context, something that is often quite lacking in such reports and analysis.
Certainly human life deserves such context. Certainly the lives of our own children would warrant such questions, if not full-fledged investigations. Certainly the lives of our innocent would be worth more than just assumptions, more than being casually dismissed by “official sources.”
Israel and the United States both say that Hamas is the problem. Does it matter that Israel had an early hand in allowing Hamas to court power? Does it matter that the United States forced the elections that brought Hamas to head the government? Does it even matter that Hamas was democratically elected?
Israel says that it was Hamas that broke the truce. Does it matter if the rocket fire started after six Palestinians were killed on November 4th? Does it matter that Hamas offered to extend the truce, including a proposed ten-year truce? Does it matter that during the truce, Israel increased its eighteen-month stranglehold on Gaza, bringing aid organizations to call it a humanitarian crisis?
Israel says that it hasn’t occupied Gaza since 2005. Does it matter that it has rigidly controlled its land, sea, and airspace effectively making it one big open-air prison? Does it matter that it withheld hundreds of millions of dollars in tax and customs revenue due the Palestinians from Israel’s control over the ports? Does it matter that Israel has denied fuel, food, and medicine to the collective Gaza population during its blockade?
Does it matter that Israel will not allow foreign journalists in to report what is happening? Does it matter that, like in Lebanon, Israel may have had such attacks planned for over six months? Does it matter that the targets in Gaza hit as of the time I will have submitted this piece, just to name a few, include (according to the International Middle East Media Center) police stations, a greenhouse, a charity office, municipal buildings, a fuel station, a medical storage facility, a medical clinic, a hospital, refugee camps, a TV station, mosques, a university, a fisherman’s dock, apartment buildings, personal homes, a sports club, a dairy, a fuel truck, an ambulance, a picnic park, and different schools (including a UN school).
Certainly, many will suggest my own bias in that I have focused on Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians and not Hamas rocket fire into Israel. Such rocket fire, however, does not suffer from a lack of coverage. Nor is anyone in the mainstream justifying rocket fire into Israel.
Instead, both language and omission are skillfully used to either excuse or gloss over the actions of our ally.
Like all teams, we portray our guys as the good guys and their guys as the bad guys. The world, however, is not as simple as good and evil. Humanity is more than just us and them.
The golden rule teaches us to put ourselves in the shoes of others. This forces us to ask, “If this situation were reversed, would we stand for such?”
If we swapped out Israel’s name with Iran and the Palestinians with any of our strategic allies, is there any doubt that this very minute we would be beating our chests and calling for war (if not already committed to it)?
Moreover, the golden rule teaches us not just to put ourselves in the shoes of the Palestinians, but to imagine them wearing ours. In other words, what example are the Palestinians left with? How do we expect a generation to grow up under the brutal violence of an illegal occupation and embrace non-violence? It’s as hypocritical as encouraging African-Americans during the civil rights movement to be non-violent in the face of not just physical violence, but the mental and spiritual violence of Jim Crow.
I, myself, support Palestinian non-violent resistance. Of course no one just shot a missile into my living room, killing my children. Whatever principles we expect from those who challenge us, we must also abide by such standards.
Now does this mean that I believe Hamas is a virgin in all of this? Absolutely not. While the Palestinians possess the legal right to resist occupation under international law, such right is not without moral or legal limits. The taking of an Israeli civilian’s life is a crime, as is the attempt to take such a life. Israeli children are no less precious than Palestinian children.
But they are also no more precious.
And even if you are immoral enough to differ, you must still see the irony in supporting such attacks.
Bombs do not explode peace dust. They explode revenge. Israel’s “war to the bitter end” will no more bring safety to Israelis than the so-called war on terror has reduced terrorism. This is not the least bit controversial. So why do it?
Does it matter that elections in Israel are right around the corner? Does it matter that Barack Obama will come into office inheriting government approval of such attacks? Does it matter that Israel has longed to redeem itself from the failed military ground offensives of the 2006 Lebanon War?
Does any of this matter? Seriously. Do any of the questions I am asking matter at all? Are they not even worthy of consideration?
If not, then ask yourself, “What would it take for us to say that Israel has gone too far? When the ratio of dead is a hundred to one? A thousand to one? Ten thousand to one? When every human rights organization in the world says it’s a massacre, a crime against humanity, a genocide? When a nuke is dropped?”
Many may think I have gone too far in my questions. I think it’s quite the contrary. The questions and examples in this piece have been mild, very mild.
And yet I admit, in this current media climate I have struggled with how to approach this issue. When I spoke out against Israel’s actions in Lebanon while co-hosting a local radio program in 2006, I was scared that I might be viewed as anti-Semitic or anti-American or pro-terrorist. When I sat down to write this piece, I experienced some of the same feelings.
And yet what am I calling for? I am merely calling for questions. And why am I calling for them? Because I sincerely care about the future of Palestinian and Israeli children. Because I know that they will never be truly safe until a resolution to the occupation is agreed upon, one that is not shot through with violence and soaked in blood.
Now, maybe it’s true that some of my own questions are charged with certain assumptions. Maybe time will offer me facts that contradict my own understanding and portrayal of events. If that becomes the case, I will welcome this greater understanding.
In the meantime I’m in the same boat as you, waiting for new information. My hope is that, as we wade through the mainstream discourse, we will not automatically steer clear from information that rocks the boat, that we will not be afraid to look outside the usual suspects for competent and courageous voices, that we will not shy away from asking questions.
For helpful examples of such courageous voices and a far more eloquent and knowledgeable balance to our exceptionalist news norm, I encourage anyone to read the statements of the UN Special Rapporteur to the Palestinian territories Richard Falk or the Institute for Policy Studies’ Phyllis Bennis. Read the perspectives of Palestinian and Palestinian-American author/activists like Mustafa Barghouti, Omar Barghouti, Ramzy Baroud, and Ali Abunimah. Read the reporting of Haaretz journalists Gideon Levy and Amira Hass. Read the analysis of scholars like Ilan Pappe and Norman Finkelstein (as well as the late Edward Said). Read the accounts of international journalists like Robert Fisk and John Pilger. Read the commentary of Salon.com’s Glenn Greenwald or Ben-Gurion University’s Neve Gordon. Listen to Dennis Kucinich’s appeal for a UN investigation into Israel’s attack on Gaza. Check out the Free Gaza Movement or Gush Shalom. Check out the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights or Israel’s B’tselem. Check out any recommendation from the Institute for Public Accuracy.
I guess the question you really have to ask is, “Does it matter?”
The Moslem Brotherhood was created by the British in Egypt in 1928. The British created it with the help of the feudal land oweners as counter-balance to a nationalist movement that might go in a leftist direction. It was a typical British “divide and rule”. Hamas was created and nutured by Israel to counter-balance the PLO and Yassir Arafat knowing that there will be conflict between the two groups. Again it is the classic “divide and rule.”
Democrats and the Bloodbath in Gaza: In Sync with the Bush Administration
by Greg Burris / January 15th, 2009
Support for Israel in her time of need, from both Democrats and Republicans, is not just the logical choice. It is both a strategic and moral imperative.
– Congressman Steny Hoyer (D-MD)
I want to commend the Bush administration for its support of Israel during this difficult period.
– Congressman Brad Sherman (D-CA)
Since Israel launched its massive, deadly, and completely asymmetric blitzkrieg against the impoverished population of the Gaza Strip, an operation that represents a continuation of Zionist policy since the British mandate period and has so far left over 900 Palestinians dead including some 400 women and children, Ohio Congressman and two-time presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich has carried on his practice of consistently speaking truth to power, reprimanding both Israel for its criminal behavior and the United States government for enabling it. In addition to sending letters of protest to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Kucinich has also made numerous public statements about the massacre, and on January 7, he rose to his feet on the House floor to deliver the following words:
Wake up America. We have trillions for a war machine and banks while our government stands by and sniffs at the slaughter of innocents in Gaza, where Israel is blocking aid for wounded Palestinians. […] Today U.S. tax dollars, U.S. jets and U.S. helicopters provided to Israel are enabling the slaughter in Gaza. The [Bush] Administration enables Israel to press forward with the attack against defenseless civilians; blocks efforts promoting a cease-fire at the UN; and refuses to make Israel comply with conditions that arms shipments not be used for aggression. Israel is going to receive $30 billion in a ten-year period for military assistance, without having to abide by any humanitarian principles, international laws or standards of basic human decency. Wake up America.
While Kucinich’s urgent pleas seem to have fallen mostly on deaf ears, he has managed to arouse the ire of at least one pro-Israel organization. Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, founder of the Washington-based NGO The Israel Project, chastised the Ohio Congressman saying, “He is not a friend of Israel; he doesn’t understand the security concerns of the Israeli people; he doesn’t understand what it’s like to live under rockets that are coming down constantly. If Dennis Kucinich were at all consistent with what voters wanted, he would be the president-elect as opposed to one of many people who tried to be the president-elect.”
But what exactly is it that American voters want? Do they, as Ms. Mizrahi insinuates, fully support Israel’s wanton destruction of the defenseless in Gaza? Do the American people truly stand behind the butchery of innocents including police school graduates, ambulance drivers, and sleeping children?
Despite the entirely slanted and dishonest coverage the calamity has hitherto received by mainstream media outlets in the United States, it turns out that, contrary to what Ms. Mizrahi would have us believe, a substantial segment of the American population does not actually support Israel’s criminal actions. A recent Rasmussen poll has found that Americans are almost evenly split on the issue with 41 percent against the operation compared to 44 percent in favor.
The divide, of course, is even starker when examined along party lines; while some 62 percent of Republicans polled support Israel’s actions, a clear majority of Democrats oppose them by a 24 percent margin. One can only assume that, were the treatment of the ongoing calamity by the mainstream US media not so horribly skewed against the Palestinian victims, these numbers would reveal an even stronger rejection of Israel’s iron-fisted militancy by the American people.
Unfortunately, opposition to Israel’s shock and awe campaign by a majority of Democratic voters does not translate into action or even rhetoric by Democratic leaders. In this respect, Kucinich stands virtually alone amongst a party of Democrats — or, for Denis Perrin, a party of “Savage Mules” — who seem to be vying with their Republican colleagues to see who can best cater to the demands of Washington’s pro-Israel lobby.
President-elect Barack Obama, whose entire campaign hinged on the vague notions of hope and change, has refused to weigh in on the subject, claiming that he is not in any position to take a stand until after taking office on January 20. Anyone with any degree of influence or power who remains silent while masses are slaughtered is a coward, and indeed, Obama’s shirking of responsibility in this time of upheaval and gross injustice is cowardly in the extreme. Moreover, the fact that he felt free during the primaries to ponder invading Pakistan and did not hesitate to condemn the recent attacks in Mumbai only reveals the extent of his hypocrisy.
In recent days, both houses of Congress have passed resolutions expressing the utmost approval for Israel’s aggressive acts with overwhelming bi-partisan support. These shameful resolutions represent two of the first acts of the new Congress. The contentiously worded resolution passed by the House of Representatives expresses “vigorous support and unwavering commitment to the welfare, security, and survival of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state with secure borders, and recognizes its right to act in self-defense to protect its citizens against Hamas’s unceasing aggression” and calls on all countries “to lay blame both for the breaking of the ‘calm’ and for subsequent civilian casualties in Gaza precisely where blame belongs, that is, on Hamas.” Only five congressmen voted against the measure: one Republican (Ron Paul) and four Democrats (Kucinich, Gwen Moore, Nick Rahall, and Maxine Waters).
The powerful American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) has celebrated both of these legislative victories by posting on its website a 104-page pdf file containing quotes from over one hundred American politicians — including such leaders as Representatives Steny Hoyer and Barney Frank and Senators Evan Bayh, Bob Casey Jr., Christopher Dodd, Dick Durbin, and Bill Nelson — who support Israel’s “right to self-defense” against the downtrodden and dispossessed in Gaza. The voices gathered together on this document are almost identical in the intensity of both their boisterousness and their ignorance, and one can be forgiven for being unable to distinguish between Republicans and Democrats. Once again, it seems that AIPAC has provided further evidence to Jack London’s disparaging characterization of lobbies as “peculiar institution[s] for bribing, bulldozing, and corrupting the legislators who were supposed to represent the people’s interests.”
Speaker Nancy Pelosi — once so feared and vilified by the right — has proven herself to be lockstep behind the Israeli occupiers, saying that the Gaza Strip “cannot be allowed to be a sanctuary for attacks on Israel” and that “[t]he United States must continue to stand strongly with its friend and democratic ally.” Similarly, California Congressman Henry Waxman proclaimed that “Israel’s operation in Gaza is an act of self defense. It is a blatant double standard for those who criticize Israel to expect any nation to stand idle as its cities and citizens are indiscriminately shelled.”
By placing the blame for the current escalation of violence squarely at the feet of Hamas and the Palestinians, our elected Democratic representatives are repeating that old charade of blaming the victim for the actions of the victimizer. In the words of New York Congressman Joseph Crowley, “Hamas had a choice this past December: extend the cease-fire or continue hostilities. They chose war over peace.” Illinois Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. too has weighed in on the conflict saying, “We in the United States must continue to stand shoulder-to-shoulder in support of our friend and ally Israel as it defends itself against Hamas’ unrelenting rocket attacks from Gaza.”
Can our Congressmen be any further removed from reality? Unfortunately, it appears that they can. In one of the more revealing statements of support, New York Congressman Eliot Engel points to cultural affinity between the United States and Israel as a justification for his pro-Israeli sympathies. On the House floor, he declared, “I rise this afternoon in support of the beleaguered people of the State of Israel. I rise in support of the only democracy in the Middle East. I rise in support of the country in the Middle East that has the same values that our great country, the United States of America, has: principles of democracy and principles that are so important to every man, woman and child.” Apparently for Mr. Engel, the people of Gaza living under Israel’s iron heel do not share such values, and his callous dismissal of them only goes to prove Howard Zinn’s assertion that “[i]t is easier to explain atrocities if they are committed against infidels, or people of an inferior race.” The late Samuel Huntington would be proud.
Not to be outdone by their colleagues in the House, our country’s Democratic Senators have likewise risen up to express their solidarity with the occupational forces. New York Senator Charles Schumer finds it “naïve and unrealistic that some say Israel should ’sit down and talk’ to Hamas, a group sworn to Israel’s annihilation, that broke the recent ceasefire by flinging missiles at Israeli cities.” Similarly, New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez communicated his support for Israel’s bombardment of Gaza by way of an analogy: “If I am sitting in New Jersey, and rockets are landing around my house, near my children, and near our schools, my number one goal, my immediate goal, is to stop the rockets. So in December of 2008, Israel sent its military to Gaza to achieve a direct goal: stop the rockets.”
One cannot look to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for any courageous leadership on the issue. Reid, who cosponsored last week’s Senate resolution condemning Hamas, was recently featured as a guest on NBC’s Meet the Press. During the course of his interview, he expressed his solidarity with Israel saying that the Israelis “gave it [Gaza] to the Palestinians as a gesture of peace, and all they got are a bunch of rockets in return.” When asked if he was “in sync with the Bush administration” regarding the conflict, Reid responded succinctly: “Yes, I am.”
In his classic text The Wretched of the Earth, Franz Fanon wrote that “the European masses must first of all decide to wake up, put on their thinking caps, and stop playing the irresponsible game of Sleeping Beauty” if the criminal and racist practice of colonialism were ever to end. The same can also be said today of those in the United States who seem to believe that the answer to today’s problems lies in the triumph of one establishment party over the other on election day. The shameful Democratic response to the ongoing bloodbath in Gaza illustrates this point; it is a tragic reminder that the two-party political system of the United States is fundamentally flawed. In the words of Congressman Kucinich, perhaps the sole voice of reason and integrity remaining the Democratic Party, “Wake up America.”
Gregory A. Burris is a former Fulbright recipient who holds degrees in Hebrew, Jewish studies, and Middle Eastern studies. His other articles have appeared in such publications as the Journal of Popular Film and Television and Middle Eastern Studies. Originally hailing from the East Texas town of Texarkana, he currently resides in Istanbul, Turkey.
Sun Jan 11, 1:55 PM
The arrival of Samuel J. Wurzelbacher, a.k.a. Joe the Plumber, at the Israeli border town of Sderot on Sunday caused a minor sensation among the members of the foreign press who were camped out there. Wurzelbacher, who got his first 15 minutes of fame as a prop for John McCain during last year's U.S. election campaign, has swapped his plunger for a reporter's notebook on a mission to cover the Gaza war for the conservative website Pajamas TV. Unable to see much of the fighting himself, Wurzelbacher - who during the election campaign warned that a vote for Barack Obama was a vote for the destruction of Israel - picked a fight of his own. Turning on his new colleagues in the foreign press corps, he groused, "You should be ashamed of yourself. You should be patriotic, protect your family and children, not report like you have been doing for the past two weeks since this war has started." His complaint, it seemed, was that he was seeing too many reports of civilian casualties inside Gaza.
A Palestinian relative of four members of the Abu Eita family, carries one of those killed in an Israeli Army operation past a destroyed building during their funeral in Beit Lahiya, northern Gaza Strip, Saturday, Jan. 17, 2009.