30 April, 2007

History Lesson - TERRORISM attacks USA

Terrorism -- fear mongering -- corporate welfare

... is an old trick by the right-wing Pro-Private / Anti-Public political parties (like the repugnicans in the USA)

Look how ridiculous! Nicaragua! Hah!

===== read this OFFICIAL USA Government document, and laugh! =====

Notice of the Continuation of the National Emergency With Respect to Nicaragua

April 22, 1986

On May 1, 1985, by Executive Order No. 12513, I declared a national emergency to deal with the threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States constituted by the actions and policies of the Government of Nicaragua. Because those actions and policies continue to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States, the national emergency declared on May 1, 1985, must continue in effect beyond May 1, 1986. Therefore, in accordance with Section 202(d) of the National Emergencies Act (50 U.S.C. 1622(d)), I am continuing the national emergency with respect to Nicaragua. This notice shall be published in the Federal Register and transmitted to the Congress.

Ronald Reagan

The White House,

April 22, 1986.

[Filed with the Office of the Federal Register, 4:24 p.m., April 22, 1986]


Nicaragua, minuscule, impoverished and facing an invasion by the most powerful and richest nation, is indeed a threat. It is a threat to American foreign policy, not because its people and their leaders want to create 'another Cuba', isolated and with the Russians ensconced. It is a threat for the opposite reason: that Nicaragua offers an alternative model of development to anything the Soviet Union would want to impose. This is why American policy and propaganda are aimed at severing Nicaragua's ties with its neighbours and 'pushing' it towards the only available benefactor, Moscow. It is the same policy and propaganda employed against Cuba in 1960 and 1961 and against Vietnam since May 1975.


On Hegemony or Survival --Noam Chomsky
Delivered at Illinois State University, October 7, 2003

Let's start with a year ago, September, 2002, in the normal course of political life, academic life, September is usually an incipient month, a thing when important things begin to happen. September, 2002 was unusual in this respect. There were three very significant events closely related. One was the declaration of the National Securities Strategy, September 17. It announced very clearly and explicitly that the United States, at least this administration, intends to dominate the world permanently, if necessary, through the use of force. It's the one dimension in which the United States reigns completely supreme, probably now outspends the rest of the world combined or close to it in military expenditure, is far ahead in developing advanced and extremely dangerous technology. And it also announced that it will eliminate any potential challenge to that rule. So, it's to be permanent hegemony. That's the first event. That‚s not without precedent. There are interesting precedents. We don't have time to go into them unless you want to later, but this was unusual. It was correct for the reaction to be as extreme as it was, including the foreign policy elite here.

The second associated event was that in September, the war drums began to beat loudly about the planned invasion of Iraq. Early September, the National Security Adviser, Condoleezza Rice warned that the next evidence we were likely to have about Saddam Hussein will be a mushroom cloud, presumably over New York, no matter how much everyone else may have hated him outside the United States, no one feared him, including his neighbors who had been trying to reintegrate Iraq back into the region, who despised him, including the country he invaded but didn't fear him. That was unique to the United States, beginning last September. So, first there's going to be a mushroom cloud and then the propaganda campaign began very loud. The invasion of Iraq that was planned was understood to be what sometimes is called an exemplary action, that is, it's an action intended to demonstrate dramatically that the doctrine that had been announced is intended seriously. It's not enough to just promulgate a doctrine. If you want people to take you seriously, you have to do something to show that you mean it.

The invasion of Iraq was understood correctly to be a test case, a demonstration case of the doctrine that the U.S. government arrogates to itself the right to attack any country it wants without credible pretext or without any international authorization. In fact, the National Security Strategy is, as commentators quickly pointed out, doesn't even mention international law and the United Nations charter. In fact, the Bush administration proceeded to make it very clear to the Security Council of the United Nations that they had two choices. They could be irrelevant, that was the term that was used, by authorizing the United States to use force as it wished, or they could be a debating society, as Colin Powell, the administration moderate, pointed out.

He -- Powell was also delegated to address the World Economic Forum in Davos Switzerland the following January. This was -- you know what that is. that's the group that -- the business press only semi-ironically calls the masters of the universe. The people who own the world, the corporate executives who are spending $30,000 for the privilege of attending and other great and important figures. The mood in Davos was completely different than any of the earlier meets. It was very angry. The top issue was Iraq. They were strongly opposed to it, just like the rest of the world. Powell faced a very hostile audience, and he -- they were not eager to accept his message, which was, as he put it, that the United States has the sovereign right to use military force when we feel strongly about something. We will lead, even if nobody else is following. We will do it because we have the power to do it, and if you don't like it, too bad. The further comments for the -- from the administration to the Security Council and others were we're not going to ask for any authorization from you. You can catch up, is the term that was used, and authorize us to do what we are going to do anyway, or you're irrelevant.

That was reiterated very brazenly at the Azores summit, the Bush-Blair summit a couple of days before the actual invasion. They met at a military base on the Azores so they wouldn't have to face mass popular opposition, which would have happened anywhere else. They declared -- they issued an ultimatum not to Iraq, but to the United Nations. The ultimatum was, give us your stamp of approval for what we're going to do anyway, or else just go off and be a debating society. They also made it clear that it didn't matter whether Saddam Hussein and his cohorts stayed in Iraq or not, as Bush announced, even if Saddam and his family and associates leave, we're going to invade anyway. because the goal is to -- for us to control Iraq. That's my words, not his. The rest is his words. It's all very clear and explicit. You cannot miss it. It wasn't missed. I'll come back to that.

The third event, before I come back to it, in September closely related is that the congressional election campaign opened, the mid-term election campaign. The main sort of campaign adviser for the Republican Party, Karl Rove, one of the most important people in Washington, he had already the preceding summer, the summer of 2002, he had instructed party activists that in going into the electoral campaign, they're going to have to emphasize national security issues. They cannot expect to enter a political confrontation with -- if economic and social policies are prominent on the agenda because their policies are extremely unpopular, which is not surprising since they are designed to be extremely harmful to the general population, and people know that, and also to future generations. and you cannot go into a political campaign with that kind of a platform.

So, therefore, it had to be national security issues. on the assumption that people would shift their priorities and vote for the -- those who were going to protect them from imminent destruction. Well, for the elections it barely worked. By a few tens of thousands of votes, in fact, but enough to allow them a bare hold on political power. The voters preferences at the polls remained, as exit pole polls revealed, remained the same, but priorities shifted, and enough people huddled under the umbrella of power and fear of the demonic enemy so that they could maintain control, barely.

Well, that illustrates one of the dilemmas of dominance that I had in mind. one problem is how do you control the domestic population. The great beast, as Alexander Hamilton called the people. They're always a problem. The beast is always getting out of control. One of the main problems of governance, I'm sure you study this in all of your political science courses, is how do you keep the great beast in a cage?

That's particularly difficult when you're dedicated passionately to carrying out policies that are in fact going to be very harmful to the mass of the population, and to future generations. Then it's difficult, and only one effective way has ever been discovered by the people in office now, or anyone else under those conditions, and that is inspire fear. If you can do that, maybe you can get away with it. And for the people in office now, it's second nature. It's important to remember this.

It's kind of striking that it hasn't been discussed extensively, but if you think for a minute, the people -- the present incumbents in Washington are almost entirely recycled from the Reagan and first Bush administration. In fact, from their more reactionary sectors, or else their immediate teams, especially that administration. They're following pretty much the same script as the first 12 years they had in political power. In both domestically and internationally. You can learn a lot about what they're doing by just paying attention to what happened in those 12 years. They were in fact pursuing policies that were highly unpopular. Reagan's policies were strongly opposed by the population, but they did keep voting for him. Mainly out of fear. They continually pressed the panic button every year or two. I'll come back to that. Reagan in fact ended up in 1992 being the most unpopular living U.S. president next to Nixon. Ranked slightly above Nixon, well below Carter and even below the almost forgotten Ford. But they did manage to hang on for 12 years, and they're following essentially the same script. Well, except with much more arrogance and commitment and optimism, feeling they can do things that they couldn't get away with then for various reasons.

Well, let's go back to the other two major events of September, the national security strategy and the invasion of Iraq. It was understood that this is to be -- as The New York Times put it, after the war, though it was obvious it was before, that this was to be the first test of the national security strategy, not the last. The invasion of Iraq, they pointed out, is the petri dish for an experiment in preemptive attack. The term -- and that was understood around the world. There was huge protest around the world, in the United States, too, completely without any historical precedent, and it wasn't just over the invasion of Iraq.

That was the same in Davos, it's the same in the foreign Policy elite here. It was partly that, but more because of the general strategy of which Iraq is to be an exemplary action. It's supposed to create a new norm in international relations, which only those with the guns can implement, of course. And it struck plenty of fear in the world. That's mainly what the protest was about. Well, the phrase that the Times used -- preemptive strike, preemptive attack -- is conventional, but completely wrong.

Preemptive war has a meaning in international law. It's kind of on the border of legality. If you think about the UN charter, it authorizes the use of force under one condition -- two conditions, either the Security Council calls for it, or in self-defense against armed attack until the Security Council has a chance to act. And that has a sort of fringe of judgment. So, for example, if, say, Russian bombers were flying across the Atlantic with the obvious intent of bombing the United States it would be legitimate under -- it would be interpreted as legitimate under Article 51 to shoot them down before they bomb. Maybe even to attack the base they were coming from. That's a preemptive strike. It's a military action taken against an imminent attack when no other possibility is open, and there's enough time to notify the Security Council. That's preemptive war. But that's not what's being proposed.

Sometimes it's called more accurately, preventive war, or anticipatory self-defense. Well, that's at least not completely wrong, but it's also mostly wrong. There's nothing that has to be prevented. And there's no self-defense involved. The prevention is against an imagined or invented threat. There was no threat of attack from Iraq. That was farcical. What's called for is not even preventive war, as the more cautious commentators point out, or anticipatory self-defense. In fact, it's just straight, outright aggression. What was called the supreme crime at Nuremberg, the most serious of all crimes. That's what the doctrine announces. We have the right to carry out the supreme crime of Nuremberg and we'll count on international lawyers and respectable intellectuals to pretty it up and make it look like something else. But, essentially, that's what it comes down to and that's the way it was understood. It was understood here, too, by people who care about the country. The most extreme condemnation of the war that I came across was right from the middle of the mainstream when the U.S. bombed -- when the bombing began, Arthur Schlesinger, a very respectable senior American historian, highly respected, one of Kennedy's advisers, had an article in which he said that the bombing of Iraq resembles the actions of imperial Japan at Pearl Harbor on a date, which the President at the time said, the date that will live in infamy. And he said President Roosevelt was correct. It's a date that will live in infamy, except that now it's Americans who live in infamy, and the world knows it. That's the reason why the sympathy and solidarity with the United States that was evident after 9-11 has turned into a wave of revulsion and fear, and often hatred, which is horrible in itself and also an extreme danger.

Well, he was not alone. The national security strategy aroused many shudders worldwide. That included the foreign policy elite at home. Right away, within weeks, the main establishment journal, Foreign Affairs -- the Council on Foreign Relations, ran an article by a well-known international relations scholar, in which he warned that the imperial grand strategy, as he called it, posed great dangers to the world, and to the population of the United States. The United States was declaring itself, he said, to be a revisionist state that is tearing to shreds the framework of international law and institutions. And the effect of that is -- and hoping, expecting to be able to permanently dominate the world by force, but he said, it's not going to work. Aside from being wrong, it's going to lead to efforts on the part of potential victims to counter it. They're not going to sit there and wait to be destroyed. They can't compete with the United States in military force -- nobody can -- but there are weapons of the weak. Two primarily. One is weapons of mass destruction, which by now are becoming weapons of the weak, and the other is terror.

So, he and many other foreign policy analysts and intelligence agencies pointed out that the strategy is essentially calling for proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and increase in terror. And hence, a great danger to the world altogether, but to the United States in particular. The war in Iraq was understood exactly the same way. The U.S. and British intelligence agencies -- the British ones have just been exposed in the Hutton inquiry in London, but there were enough leaks before. Both the British and the U.S. intelligence agencies, and other intelligence agencies, and plenty of independent analysts, and any one you pick, predicted that one likely consequence of the Iraq invasion would be proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and terror.

Many commentators have pointed out that it's pretty likely that the Iranian and North Korean actions, since our response to the threat of the national security strategy and its implementation, are turning to the weapons that are available to them -- weapons of mass destruction. The U.S., indeed, made that very clear. There was a very clear and ugly lesson taught to the world last winter. North Korea is a far more vicious and ugly and dangerous state then Iraq, bad as Saddam Hussein was. But the U.S. wasn't going to attack North Korea. It was going to attack Iraq as the exemplary action. In part, that's because Iraq's just a lot more important. It's right in the center of the oil-producing region, but in part it's because Iraq was understood to be completely defenseless. If you have any brains, you don't attack anybody who can defend themselves. That's stupid. You want to attack somebody that's completely defenseless, and Iraq was known to be completely defenseless. That's why nobody was afraid of it, much as they might have hated it.

North Korea, on the other hand, had a deterrent. The deterrent was not nuclear weapons. It was conventional weapons -- massed artillery on the DMZ, the border with South Korea. Extensive massed artillery aimed at the capital, Seoul, South Korea, and at the U.S. troops in the south. Unless the Pentagon can figure out a way to get rid of that with precision weapons, or something or other, that is a deterrent to a U.S. attack. In fact, U.S. troops have since been withdrawn from the DMZ. And that's caused plenty of concern in both South and North Korea and the region, suggesting a very cynical strategy. You can figure it out. But what the U.S. was telling the world is if you don't want us to attack you and destroy you, you better have some kind of deterrent. And for most of the world, that's going to mean weapons of mass destruction. And terror.

The result of the war, as far as we know, verified that near-universal prediction of intelligence agencies and analysts. It's been pointed out since, that, to quote a few, that the Iraq war was a huge setback for the war on terror, led to a sharp spike in recruitment for Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups, and in fact Iraq itself was turned into a haven for terrorists for the first time. It wasn't before, but now it is.

That was expected and that's another dilemma of dominance. You have to control the great beast at home, and while violence is an effective device and may intimidate many people and countries, it's likely to incite others -- to incite them to revenge or simply to find means of deterrence. And since no one can think of competing with the United States in military power, well, that leaves the weapons of the weak, weapons of mass destruction, and terror, and those may sooner or later be united. That's been predicted for years with contemporary technology. It's not that hard for terrorist groups with a low level of financing and sophistication to gain access to even nuclear weapons, small nuclear weapons. The chances of -- the possibilities of smuggling them into the United States are overwhelming. If you are interested in having a sleepless night, you can read some of the high-level studies that have been coming out for the past six or seven years, well before 9-11, but increasingly, which are virtually cookbooks for terrorists. I mean, they're the kind of things that I suspect we could do if we wanted to.

And maybe impossible to stop for all kind of reasons. The Hart-Rudman report, which came out about a year ago, Gary Hart and Warren Rudman, two former senators, a high-level study of threats -- on threats of terror that gives one of many such examples. So, yeah, sooner or later, weapons of mass destruction and terror will be united. And the consequences could be quite horrific. Well, all of that is the likely consequence predicted, and, so far, happening of the security strategy in the test case, the dramatic test case to illustrate it.

Well, administration planners know all of this as well as everyone else. I mean, they're intelligent, literate. They read the same intelligence reports everyone else does. So, they know, yes, the policies they're carrying out are increasing the threat to the security of the American people, and the world and, of course, future generations. And they don't want that. They don't want that outcome. It just doesn't matter very much. If you look at the ranking of priorities, it just doesn't rank very high. Likely that it could happen, but other things are just more important. The things that are more important are establishing global hegemony and carrying out the highly regressive domestic policies of trying to roll back the New Deal and the progressive legislation of the past century, in fact. And creating a very different kind of domestic society, one that most of the public passionately opposes, but may accept under the threat of destruction, manufactured and some increasingly real.

Well, this, again, gets back to the first dilemma, how do you control the domestic public, the great beast? In particular, the problem now is winning the 2004 election. Remember that they have a very narrow hold on political power. You all know that the 2000 election was disputed. The 2002 election was barely -- barely managed to sneak through, and now we're up to 2004, and what do we do with that? Well, go back to last May. On the first of May, you remember, there was a carefully staged extravaganza which elicited ridicule and fear throughout the world, but was played pretty seriously here when the President landed on the Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier wearing combat gear and posing and so on and so forth. It was pretty frightening for the world. Here it played pretty straight. He gave a victory speech. We won a victory over in Iraq. Now, the front page story in The New York Times used a phrase that I'll come back to, and it's important. They said, "it was a powerful Reaganesque finale to the war in Iraq." We'll come back to that.

More astute observers pointed out that the extravaganza was the opening of the 2004 election campaign, which must be built on national security themes. That's The Wall Street Journal. Karl Rove, same guy, announced right away that the 2004 Election is -- the main theme is going to have to be what he called the battle of Iraq, and he emphasized battle. The battle of Iraq, not the war. It's an episode in the war on terror, which must continue. And, in fact, if you look at the President's declaration on the Abraham Lincoln, he said that we have won a victory in the war on terror by removing an ally of Al Qaeda. Notice that it's immaterial that there is not the slightest evidence of any connection between Saddam Hussein and his bitter enemy, Osama bin Laden, and the idea of a connection is dismissed by every competent authority, including the intelligence agencies, but it doesn't matter. It's a higher truth. All you have to do is repeat it loudly enough and often enough. Facts are irrelevant. In particular, the specific facts -- again, they didn't invent this formula. It's not pleasant to think about the antecedents, but they're there. It's also irrelevant, specifically, that there is actually a Connection between the war on terror and the invasion of Iraq, and namely, the invasion increased threat of terror, exactly as predicted. But it just doesn't make any difference and it continues.

A week or so ago, in his weekly presidential radio address, President Bush, September 28 said, "the world is safer today because our coalition ended a regime that cultivated ties to terror while it built weapons of mass destruction."

Well, his speechwriters and his minders and trainers know very well that every word there was an outrageous lie. But why should it matter? If you repeat it loudly enough, it will become the truth.

Well, how can Karl Rove hope to get away with it? Just have a look back at what just happened in September 2002: the last election campaign.

That, as I said, was the beginning of an onslaught of government media propaganda, which had a very substantial effect. By the end of the month, by the end of September, about 60% of the population regarded Iraq as a serious threat to the security of the United States.

Remember, the United States is alone in this respect. In Kuwait and Iran, which Saddam invaded, they're not afraid of him. They're not afraid of him because they know exactly what U.S. intelligence and everyone else knows - Iraq was the weakest country in the region. It had been devastated by the U.S. sanctions, which are called U.N. sanctions, but if it wasn't for U.S. pressure, they wouldn't exist. They wiped out the population. They happened to strengthen the tyrant, but devastated the economy. The country was virtually disarmed. It was under total surveillance. Its military budget was about a third that of Kuwait, which has 10% of its population, and far below the other states in the region, including, of course, the regional superpower, which we're not allowed to talk about, because there's an offshore U.S. military base, but outside the United States everyone knows there is one country in the region that has extensive weapons of mass destruction, and has military forces which according to its own analysts are more technically advanced and more powerful than those of any NATO country outside the United States, unmentionable here, but known everywhere else.

That's the -- and Iraq isn't even in the league of Kuwaits, let alone anything like that.

So it, wasn't -- certainly not a threat, but by the end of September, as a result of a propaganda campaign of quite impressive character, government campaign transmitted uncritically by the media, about 60% of the population believed there was a threat. Then -- pretty soon after that, the proportion of the population that believed that Iraq was involved in 9-11, maybe responsible for it, went up to 50% or higher, depended how you asked the question.

Also the belief that Iraq was -- had interrelations with al Qaeda and other gross misperceptions which are rejected by every intelligence agency, including the U.S.. But it did become -- it did work domestically, not anywhere else.

That's the media -- the media behavior was kind of -- let me quote a non-controversial source, the very respectable "Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists". The editor wrote recently, "the charges dangled in front of the media failed the laugh test, but the more ridiculous they were, the more the media strove to make whole-hearted swallowing of them a test of patriotism."

It's pretty accurate and it sort of worked, only domestically and -- and only in part, because it was because of part of the population. The rest of the population was overwhelmingly opposed to the war at a level that literally has no precedent, but it worked enough to sneak by the election and to build up a base of support for the war. Not surprisingly, a belief in these fantasies was highly correlated with support for the war, as you would expect. If you believe those things, they're right. Well, that's significant.

Congress, in October, right after the propaganda campaign began, passed a resolution authorizing the government to resort to force to defend the United States against the continuing threat of Iraq.

Again, remember, the United States is the only country that was under that threat, but congress passed it. The media and commentators and in the intellectual world were silent about the fact, I presume they were aware of, that the congressional resolution was a copy. They're still following the script.

In 1985, president Reagan declared a national emergency in the United States because of -- I'm quoting, “the usual and extraordinary threat to the security of the United States posed by the government of Nicaragua.” Which was two days' driving time from Arlington, Texas.

We had the quake and fear before that. Notice, that's much more severe than Iraq. That was an unusual and extraordinary threat.

In fact, Reagan went on to a press conference where he said that I know the enormous odds against me, but I remember a man named Churchill and he stood up against terrific odds, fought Hitler, and I'm not going to give up, never, never, never, despite the hoards of Nicaraguans invading us and about to conquer us.

That passed the laugh test in the United States. If you check back, just report it. People were afraid. The rest of the world could not believe it, but it happened, and it's another reason why they expect that they can do it again. That helps explain the confidence.

It and wasn't the only case. Through the 1980's, year after year there was one or another threat of that nature. Libyan hit-men were wandering the streets of Washington about to assassinate our leader, who was holed up in the White House, surrounded by tanks. The Russians were going to build an airbase in the nutmeg capital of the world, Grenada, if they could find it on a map, and they were going to bomb us.

That brings us back to the New York Times phrase, "powerful Reagan-esque finale."

What are they referring to? Well, they know what they're referring to. They're referring to Reagan's speech after the United States - after the brave cowboy barely saved us from destruction from the Grenadians by sending thousands of forces who were able to overcome a couple of middle aged construction workers and one -- but then there was a speech saying, "we're standing tall.”

That's the powerful Reagan-esque finale that The New York Times is referring to. Maybe the reporter is being ironic, I don't know, but what gets to the public is the message, not what's in the person's mind. The message is, “we're in constant danger.”

After Grenada, it was Libya again, and after that, it was domestic threats.

George Bush Sr. won his election by straight pulling the race card. Willie Horton, the black rapist is going to come after you, notice you put me in. Crime in the United States is like other industrial countries, but fear of crime is off the spectrum.

Same with drugs. Drugs - yeah - problem. In other countries it is about the same as here, but fear of drugs is far higher here and it's constantly manipulated by unscrupulous politicians and obedient media, and you get continual hysteria about drugs and Nicaraguans on the march, and Grenadians and the rest.

There's confidence. They were able to hold power for years, over and over, despite the fact that the population was harmed by the domestic policies and opposed them, but they stayed in office.

Now, they are much more confident. Well, there's quite a lot at stake for them. It's not just a matter of narrow political gain. What's at stake is world domination by force, and also control of the major energy resources in the world, which is not a small thing. [the incomplete transcript end here]



The Americas

excerpted from the book


by John Pilger

South End Press, 2001 (and 1986), paper

Occupying two floors of the Sheraton were teams from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the American Institute for Free Labour Development (AIFLD). Both organisations were instruments of US foreign policy and had played important parts in the invasion of Vietnam. In El Salvador, as in Vietnam, USAID had provided the means of sustaining an economic structure on the American model. At the same time its Office of Public Safety trained local police in methods of 'combating subversion' i.e. torture. AIFLD, which had worked closely with the CIA in Vietnam, established the Salvadorean Communal Union in 1968. In the guise of promoting 'land reform' the American-led UCS infiltrated and sought to control (sometimes successfully) genuine peasant organisations and trade unions and to stifle 'social unrest'.

According to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, between January 1980 and April 1981 20,000 civilians were murdered by 'death squads' related to or part of the 'security forces' of El Salvador. The death of people 'in industrial quantities', as one American reporter wrote, was therefore well known, yet the Reagan administration in its first year increased its initial $25 million in military aid to the El Salvador regime to $523 million without congressional approval and after 'laundering' it through the international banks. To give one example of this 'back-door' aid: the Inter-American Development Bank in 1981 gave the El Salvador regime $45 million out of a 'special operations fund' in which Washington held 62 per cent of the capital. The West Germans, Canadians and Danes strongly objected to the loan on the grounds that it violated the Bank's charter, because it could not be implemented properly. The Americans said it was for 'land reform'. The Europeans suspected it was for 'counter insurgency equipment'. 'We are giving away blood money,' a European representative at the Bank told me.

'Under the constitution of the United States,' said the chief security officer at the American embassy, 'the Stars and Stripes must be lowered every day at sunset. Only one place on this earth is excluded: our embassy right here in El Salvador. And that's by the executive order of President Reagan himself.'

The embassy has electronically-controlled doors every few yards, as m a maximum security prison, and US marines bunkered on the roof, as well as troops of the El Salvador National Guard in the courtyard and at roadblocks within a mile radius, and groups of thugs in reflecting glasses and running shoes and 'Rolls-Royce' T-shirts circling it. The thugs are called Operation Shark.

Howard Lane, the press attaché, sat in a windowless paneled office, the Stars and Stripes behind him, Ronald Reagan on the wall and a magnum in an open drawer. A grey, rumpled man in his forties, he spoke at first the Official Optimism. 'The guys in the bush', he said, 'have no more than 5,000 human assets and a comparative support structure.' Translated, that meant that there were only 5,000 guerrillas and 5,000 civilian supporters. But, surely, the previous year there had been more than 300,000 people crowding the centre of San Salvador in support of the opposition groups? That left 295,000 'support structure' unaccounted for, minus the twenty-one who died when the forces of law and order opened fire on the crowd.

The press attaché described himself as a leftover from the Carter administration's diplomatic appointments and said that he had been proud to serve the previous American Ambassador to El Salvador, Robert White, who had taken the courageous step that January of going before a congressional hearing to say that 'the chief killers of Salvadoreans are the government security forces. They are the ones responsible for the deaths of thousands upon thousands of young people who have been executed merely on the suspicion that they are leftists'. For saying that, White paid with his career. .

When President Reagan assumed office in 1981 nationalists fighting United States-sponsored tyrannies throughout Central America were described variously as Marxist-Leninists, communists,- leftists and terrorists. In El Salvador, where the American assault had been concentrated, the Frente Democratico Revolucionario, formed in April 1981, sprang entirely from popular resistance organisations which date back to the nineteenth century. It unites peasants, trade unionists, priests, teachers, students, businessmen, Christian Democrats, social democrats, socialists, Jesuits and communists. It includes groups such as the Union of Slum Dwellers and the Christian Peasants' Association. Only the Union Democratica Nacionalista, one of the smallest coalitions, is of communist inspiration. As in Vietnam, the aim of American propaganda is to cast El Salvador into the wider arena of the cold war and so deny the true nature of the resistance movement.

The Legal Aid Service, the Socorro Juridico, was established in 1977 by a group of lawyers as a means of defending the poor in the courts. Carrying their files they move constantly; I found them in a shed at the end of a vegetable allotment between the American embassy and the morgue. On the wall was a photograph of Maria Henriquez, director of the Human Rights Commission, who was kidnapped on October 3,1980, and tortured to death with razor blades. The administrator, Ramon Valledares, was taken three weeks later and nothing has been heard of him since. 'We have noticed,' a young woman said, 'since Reagan's election and the increase in US aid, new methods of torture have been introduced; previously people were simply shot.'

From 1980 to 1986 the United States sent more than $2 billion to;;: Salvador as 'aid'. Eighty-five per cent of this has paid for arms, planes, helicopters, incendiary bombs, oxygen-reduction bombs, phosphorous bombs, Napalm bombs, cluster bombs, 'anti-personnel' weapons and munitions, electrified wire, surveillance equipment, more conscripted troops, more black helmets, more black boots and 'the continued involvement', wrote Amnesty International in 1984, 'of all branches of the security and military forces in a systematic and widespread program of torture, mutilation, "disappearance" and the individual and mass extrajudicial execution of men, women and children from all sectors of Salvadorean society . . .'

During his presidency, Ronald Reagan more than once 'certified' that the El Salvador regime had satisfied the 'human rights criteria' required by the Congress for American military shipments to continue. In 1985 a report by the Congressional Arms Control and Foreign Policy Caucus said that a four-month investigation had shown that the Reagan administration had misled and lied to Congress about the situation in El Salvador, even claiming that most of the US 'aid' money had gone to improve social conditions when, in fact, it had gone to the military. The United States, the report concluded, was becoming more deeply involved in El Salvador, in a manner what was 'reminiscent of Vietnam'.

In 1989 Arena, the 'party of the death squads', took power in El Salvador and the number of random murders rose sharply. A State Department spokeswoman expressed 'horror' at these developments but said that US policy remained unchanged and US arms shipments would continue.

Only when disaster strikes does attention focus on ordinary people invariably of a short-lived kind, from which they emerge as victims, accepting passively their predicament as a precondition for Western charity. The Western perspective on the Ethiopian famine, that of people denied fundamental control over their lives, complied with the stereotype, and the 'consensus' was to give surplus food and cash to them. Their need was deemed 'above politics'. That their predicament had political causes, many of which were rooted in the 'developed' world, was not widely considered a central issue. Since 1979, against historically impossible odds, the Nicaraguans have smashed the stereotype.

The depth of what has happened in Nicaragua and its wider implications, in particular the very real threat posed to the United States and its global system of 'development', struck me when I stayed in a frontier community, El Regadio, in the far north of the country. Like everywhere in Nicaragua, it is very poor, and its isolation has made change all the more difficult. However, since the Sandinistas threw out the dictator Anastasio Somoza in 1979 a 'well baby clinic' has been established, including a rehydration unit which prevents infants dying from diarrhoea, the most virulent third world killer. When I was there no baby had died for a year, which was unprecedented. More than 90 per cent of the children have been vaccinated against polio and measles, with the result that polio has been wiped out. The production and consumption of basic foods has risen by as much as 100 per cent, which means that serious malnutrition has disappeared ...

Nicaragua, minuscule, impoverished and facing an invasion by the \ most powerful and richest nation, is indeed a threat. It is a threat to American foreign policy, not because its people and their leaders want to create 'another Cuba', isolated and with the Russians ensconced. It is a threat for the opposite reason: that Nicaragua offers an alternative model of development to anything the Soviet Union would want to impose. This is why American policy and propaganda are aimed at severing Nicaragua's ties with its neighbours and 'pushing' it towards the only available benefactor, Moscow. It is the same policy and propaganda employed against Cuba in 1960 and 1961 and against Vietnam since May 1975.

Of course, the gravest threat posed by Nicaragua to the United States is that it offers to those nations suffering under American-sponsored tyrannies, such as El Salvador and Guatemala, a clear demonstration of regional nationalism at last succeeding in the struggle against hunger, sickness, illiteracy and pobreterria. And when the Reagan administration and its 'New Right' supporters say that the United States is in danger of 'losing' Central America, they are right. It is no coincidence that since the Sandinistas came to power the nationalist guerrillas in Guatemala have enjoyed a dramatic increase in support among people in at least nineteen of the country's twenty-two provinces. The same is true of the resistance in El Salvador, which has grown in strength not because of some imaginary Ho Chi Minh Trail of arms supply masterminded by Russians and Cubans, but because one 'good example' in the region has survived against all odds. As Noam Chomsky has pointed out, 'The weaker the country, the greater the threat [to US policy], because the greater the adversity under which success is reached, the more significant the result." Unlike Vietnam, Nicaragua is neither isolated from its neighbours, nor has it felt obliged to embrace the Eastern bloc; more than 75 per cent of its foreign trade is with Western and nonaligned countries and only 11 per cent with the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.

For five years Nicaragua has fought an invasion directed by United States military officers and government officials in Honduras, where the full panoply of American 'small war' technology has been installed. In addition, Nicaraguan airspace is invaded almost every night by United States AC-130 attack aircraft, based in Panama, and every week by AWACS surveillance aircraft based in Oklahoma. American Naval task forces are on permanent station off both the Caribbean and Pacific coasts of Nicaragua. In 1983 the CIA mined Nicaragua's harbours and blew up its main oil storage depot at Puerot Corinto.

In the same year the United States successfully brought pressure on the Inter-American Development Bank to stop a loan of $34 million to Nicaragua. The loan, already agreed, would have revitalised the Nicaraguan fishing industry and provided a substantial and cheap source of nutrition. In 1985, just as the same international bank seemed ready to approve $58 million in agricultural credits to Nicaragua, the United States Secretary of State, George Schultz, warned the Bank's president that the loan risked complete withdrawal of American contributions. Despite its non-political charter, the Bank set aside the loan. A total American embargo now operates against everything Nicaraguan, denying its raw materials their most important market. The old Aeronica Boeing is no longer allowed to land in Miami.

Against this is ranged what President Reagan has called the Nicaraguan 'war machine' which, at the last count, centred upon forty-five old T-54 and T-55 Soviet-built tanks, designed for use on the North German plain and not in dense tropical terrain. In addition there are a few anti-aircraft batteries and the Nicaraguan Air Force's 'strike command', which consists of three American Korean war vintage T-28s, two of them flown by the same dapper Chilean pilot with a honed sense of humour. 'I am ready', he informed me at a party in Managua, 'to take on the entire US Air Force. Let us say I am the pigeon attacking the buckshot!' (The Sandinista revolution has its own Woody Allens. Tomas Borge, the only original Sandinista to survive, told Playboy magazine that the leadership had been seriously trying to get copies of Bedtime for Bonzo. 'The movie deals with a monkey', said Borge, 'and the monkey's master is Reagan. So this is a wonderful allegory . . . almost a premonition!'

The lines of Bertholt Brecht slip into mind in Nicaragua: 'By chance I was spared. If my luck leaves me I am lost.' What has happened in Nicaragua all seems so tenuous. How did they slip the leash and 'triumph', as they say, on July 19,1979, when the Sandinistas swept into Managua after Somoza had fled to Miami? For a brief moment American foreign policy had paused; Jimmy Carter's consuming obsession was the American hostages in Iran. And for once Washington found it difficult to contrive an intervention on behalf of a dynasty of banana Napoleons so outrageous their sponsors knew they could be relied upon to surpass their monstrous reputation and 'embarrass' a president who had sought to build his reputation as the guardian of 'human rights'.

The Somozas were handed Nicaragua in 1933 by the US marines who had occupied the country for twenty-one straight years. In 1934 Cesar Augusto Sandino, whose guerrilla army had forced the marines out, was invited to Managua for 'peace talks' with Anastasio Somoza, whom the Americans had put in command of their creation, the National Guard. When Sandino arrived in Managua he was murdered on Somoza's orders. Two years later Somoza appointed himself president for life. The Somozas went on to run Nicaragua like a family business. During the 1940s a calypso popular in American nightclubs began:

A guy asked the dictator if he had any farms. The dictator said he had only one . . . It was Nicaragua.

The Somozas owned almost half the arable land. They controlled the coffee, sugar and beef industries. They owned the national airline outright. If you bought a Mercedes car you bought it from a Somoza company. If you imported or exported, you did so through Somoza 'kickback' agencies. The first Somoza had begun his career as a sewerage inspector and went on to own the sewers of Managua, right up to the manhole covers. Even the paving stones in the street were made by a Somoza cement factory which got the contract from a ministry run by a Somoza and of course the profits ended up with El Presidente.

Nothing was overlooked; most Nicaraguans recall the 'House of Dracula', which was the name they gave to a blood plasma factory in Managua called Plasmaferesia. The poor would go to this place to sell their blood for as little as a dollar a litre and the company would export it to the United States for ten times that amount. In January 1978 the editor of the newspaper La Prensa, Pedro Joaquin Chamorro, was murdered while he was conducting a campaign against the blood traffic. The company was registered in the name of a Miami-based Cuban exile, but evidence published by La Prensa suggested that this was merely a front for Somoza. Certainly, most Nicaraguans would have been surprised had El Presidente not been selling his people's blood. During the anti-Somoza demonstrations which followed Chamorro's death, the 'House of Dracula' was burned to the ground.

The National Guard was Somoza's private 'death squad'. Paid and armed as part of America's 'aid' programme, the dreaded Guardia was the instrument of American policy in Nicaragua for almost half a century. Senior officers were trained at the 'School of the Americas' in the US-run Canal Zone in Panama (known throughout the Americas as 'escuela de golpes', the school of coups), where they were taught to equate social unrest with communist subversion. They were above the law. They could murder at will. Somoza called them 'his boys' and, if repetitive reports by human rights organisations are an indication, they tortured almost as a sport. For example, one of the delights of Somoza's 'boys' was to drop his political opponents from helicopters into the Masaya volcano. Said President Roosevelt of the first Somoza, 'That guy may be a son of a bitch, but he's our son of a bitch.' Said President Nixon of the second Somoza: 'Now that's the kind of anti-communist we like to see down there.'

In 1972 an earthquake struck Nicaragua, destroying Managua and killing an estimated 10,000 people. Officers and troops of the National Guard went on a looting spree, and one senior officer tried to blow up the national bank. When relief supplies arrived from all over the world, a National Emergency Committee was set up under Somoza's control and run by the National Guard. This, wrote Dianna Melrose in her book on Nicaragua for Oxfam, 'institutionalised the misappropriation of emergency relief':

. . . Realising that relief supplies were being syphoned off and sold by the National Guard, Oxfam's Field Director talked Mrs. Somoza into giving permission to bypass the official distribution system. This meant waiting in the air traffic control tower for the right plane to be spotted, then careering onto the tarmac to get the trucks loaded before the National Guard arrived on the scene.

Following the earthquake, the United States gave $57 million in emergency aid to Nicaragua; but the Nicaraguan Treasury reported receiving only $16 million. By April 1979, with Somoza near the end of his reign and now bombing his own people, he received a loan of S40 million from the International Monetary Fund. There were no binding conditions. A few weeks later the IMF, urged on by the Carter administration, gave him a further $25 million. After Somoza had fled to Miami, the Sandinistas found less than $2 million in the national treasury.

In 1984 Nicaragua held the first democratic elections in its history, and international observers agreed that the voting process and count were scrupulously honest. The Sandinistas won 66.7 per cent of the vote and 61 seats in the 96 seat National Assembly. On the right, the Democratic Conservatives, the Independent Liberal Party and the Popular Social Christian Party took 29.3 per cent of the vote and 29 seats, while the three left-wing parties won 4 per cent and 6 seats.

The Reagan administration, having campaigned to ensure that a coalition of three right-wing parties did not participate in the election, denounced the election as a farce. (The 75 per cent turnout of registered voters contrasted with the 1980 United States presidential election in which more than 48 per cent of the voters abstained and fewer than 27 per cent voted for the winning candidate, Ronald Reagan.) The US Ambassador, Harry Berghold, personally visited two opposition party leaders, one of whom later accused an embassy official of offering his campaign manager a bribe. Two days after the election the US administration accused the Sandinistas of importing MiG fighter aircraft from the Soviet Union. This had the effect of diminishing news and discussion of the election in the media. As journalists in Nicaragua soon discovered, the story of the Soviet planes was false.

Indeed, not since the Vietnam war has disinformation, or black propaganda, been used as a principal weapon, and perhaps no modern president has assumed outright the role of propagandist as has Reagan.

President Reagan has described the Contras as 'our brothers' and 'the moral equal of our Founding Fathers'. Documentation shows that between 1982 and 1985 Contra death squads have murdered 3,346 children and teenagers and killed one or both the parents of 6,236 children. During one year, 1984, the Contras caused an average of more than four deaths every day. At President Reagan's tireless urging - Nicaragua is said to be 'his' issue - the US Congress in October 1986 approved 100 million dollars in military aid to the Contras. Allegations emerging from the 'Irangate' scandal estimate that a further 30 million dollars were illegally diverted to the Contras from the sale of arms to Iran. With this money, US officials hope to persuade the Contras, reported Time magazine,

. . . to switch from the pressure-triggered mines they have been using to explosives that have to be detonated by remote control, thereby giving the rebels control over specific targets. 'Pressure mines kill too indiscriminately', says one. 'Pictures of dead children don't go down well in the US'.

When Reagan commands headlines around the world by describing Nicaragua as 'the new version of Murder Incorporated', a country which gives a 'haven to the IRA' and whose 'acts of war against the United States' justify US military action to defend itself, some may feel an uncomfortable urge to laugh at such apparent disingenuousness. But that would be to miss the point. 'So obsessed is the Reagan administration', wrote Charles Maechling from Washington,

. . . that it has not hesitated to twist through redefinition the meaning of human rights in order to downgrade the most basic right of all, the right of life. Its acquiescence in patterns of torture, murder and other forms of state terrorism . . . comes close to condoning the kind of crimes against humanity condemned at the Nuremberg war crimes trials.

British film director Ken Loach

Working people are allowed on television so long as they fit the stereotype that producers have of them. Workers can appear pathetic in their ignorance and poverty, apathetic to parliamentary politics, or aggressive on the picket line. But let them make a serious political analysis based on their own experiences and in their own language, then keep them off the air. That's the job of professional pundits, MPs and General Secretaries. They understand the rules of the game.

Television in Britain may still enjoy more credibility among the public than television in other countries. This is probably because in other countries bias in broadcasting is understood, if not always acknowledged. In Eastern Europe many people regard the bias of the state as implicit in all its media and a conscious or unconscious adjustment is made by the viewing (and reading) public. This is not so in Britain where the bias of the state operates through a 'consensus view' that is broadly acceptable to the established order. Perhaps in no other country has broadcasting held such a privileged position as an opinion leader. Possessing highly professional talent and the illusion of impartiality, as well as occasionally dissenting programmes, 'public service broadcasting' has become a finely crafted instrument of state propaganda.

British film director Ken Loach wrote in the Guardian

Censorship is not achieved by an outright ban, but by bureaucratic manoeuvres. No one has formally banned any one of the films. Yet, they remain unseen. [The films] touched the most sensitive nerve in the current political arena. [The government's strategy] means allowing unemployment to rise, legislating against trades unions and relying on union leaders to prevent any serious challenge to the government...

Margaret Thatcher government's Home Office study of subscription television.

Economic analysis ... tends to view broadcasting as an economic commodity - a service from which consumers derive satisfaction much as they might from a kitchen appliance. and whose value tends to view broadcasting as an economic society should be assessed accordingly.


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posted by u2r2h at Monday, April 30, 2007


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