19 December 2004


Common Sense
John Maxwell

At least one of my readers is under the misapprehension that last week I was praising the Government's human rights record. I was doing no such thing.

When I reported Mr Nicholson's claims it was because I thought that most of us would have been vividly aware of the truth: when it comes to human rights, this Government is nowhere to be found.

The record is long and shameful. In 1994 when Haitians were (according to President Clinton) "having their faces chopped off," I was one of those who pleaded in vain for the Government of Mr Patterson to show some backbone and some mercy.

Backbone wasn't terribly necessary; the Clinton Administration would not, I believe, have been offended had the Jamaican Government decided to accept Haitian refugees as they were morally bound to do.Instead, the Government decided to fall in with the US plan to capture Haitians at sea, destroy their boats, bring them to Jamaica, "process" them and send them back to be murdered. It was a new birth of Caribbean piracy, if we go by the law.

The whole infamous process was not only brutal and wicked, it was doubly illegal, since no human being seeking refuge in Jamaican waters should, in law, be turned over to any other government unless it can be determined - by the courts - that he/she is a fleeing felon.

The Government of Jamaica allowed Haitians who 'landed' in Jamaica to be kidnapped and taken aboard the floating barracoons in Kingston Harbour, to languish under the hot sun while 22 per cent of them were selected for transport to the US and the possibility of asylum. The rest were interned, as if they were prisoners of war, at Guantanamo Bay, now famous for its American-run torture camp.

While Mr Nicholson boldly spoke about the Government's adherence to the Protocol on Fundamental Rights and Freedoms (part of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights), he forgot to mention that Jamaica, alone in the world except for North Korea, had resiled from its adherence to the Optional Protocol on Civil and Political Rights which forbids cruel and inhuman treatments, including capital punishment.

Not content with that, Mr Patterson declared his intention to denounce our membership in the InterAmerican Commission on Human Rights and was dumbfounded by the discovery that he could not weasel out of that one without giving up membership in the Organisation of American States. Rather like Seaga asking the Cuban doctors to stay behind when he had thrown out their embassy.

The whole bizarre and abject performance was in pursuit of Mr Patterson's and Mr Knight's desire to hang convicted murderers more expeditiously. There were several things wrong with this lust to resume state murder, as some of us pointed out at the time.

First, a major part of the delays in hearing appeals from convicted murderers is the fault of the Jamaican Government. The international commissions on human rights have complained for years that Jamaica did not fulfil its obligations, either at all or in a timely fashion, by providing the necessary documentation for the hearing of the appeals.

Second, police work in Jamaica is so threadbare that people who do commit murder have about a 66 per cent chance of getting away scot free. If you want to punish murderers, you first have to catch them.

Third, police evidence - as we have lately seen in several notorious cases - is not the most reliable in the world. Most convictions depend on the least trustworthy evidence of all - so-called 'eyewitness' evidence, which is open to purchase or hire. The conviction of Paul Gooden on forensic evidence is the first such conviction that I can remember for many moons.

Fourth, because of the police resistance to, and circumvention of the law, coroner's inquests are rarely if ever held - which means that the public interest is subverted at source by lack of transparency, particularly when policemen are accused of murder.

Finally, the courts are overcrowded, overburdened, under-equipped and understaffed, and the juries are still - three decades after the law was reformed - selected by the police. Judges' notes, often illegible, are often the only material for appeals because there is an acute shortage of shorthand writers and recording equipment in the courts.

When judges transcribe evidence, cross-examination becomes exponentially more difficult as witnesses are given minutes to consider their next lie while lawyers wait on the judge to laboriously write down questions and, hopefully, answers. Perhaps things have changed since I was last in court, but I doubt it.

I have been writing about all these questions for more than 40 years. I even assisted the police in solving a couple of murders they found too difficult. The first was the Headless Corpse case of 1953, the second the Milton Cassells murder in 1965.

In the second case the police found the investigation very arduous and it was left to my friend Rolly Simms and me, with a little forensic assistance from Dr Ken McNeill, to solve that one. The murderer in that case was a cop.

All those factors, coupled with the resistance of the police to change, compound the difficulty of achieving justice in Jamaica. The Government's wholehearted swallowing of the Globalisation gospel means that the dice are loaded against justice in any sector, at any time.

By stripping itself naked of revenue, by sweating blood to bribe the rich not to bet against the dollar, by borrowing to meet recurrent expenses, the Government is digging an ever deeper hole for the Jamaican society. Casinos to finance education! There is a diabolic sense of fitness in that. Justice is a lottery.

Having castrated our revenue services by recklessly and unfairly destroying the progressive taxation system, the Government has loaded the dice against the poorest in the society. In consequence, the police have abandoned the villages of the poor, as have the education and health systems. The community development programmes which were a model for the world in the 1950s have disappeared without a trace.

People who learned from people who learned from people who were taught by people like Tom Girvan, Eddie Burke and others, are now explaining to us what community development means. But unlike Eddie Burke and Tom Girvan, these new experts are paid by NGOs, paid by USAID or the European community.

With our Government now so far distanced from the people who elected it, it is no wonder that the travails and tribulations of our neighbours in Haiti go unnoticed. Mr KD Knight, MP QC minister of foreign affairs, can preen himself on his cosy chat with the American ambassador to the OAS, John Maisto. Maisto is outspokenly anti-Aristide and, judging by his speeches, not a terribly serious believer in democracy.

According to the Observer on Wednesday, Maisto said the United States wants all democratic institutions in Haiti, including Jean-Bertrand Aristide's Lavalas party, to participate in the country's political process but does not believe that Aristide himself should be part of Haiti's future. Maisto's predecessors are, from the available evidence, dedicated racists like their former boss, Jesse Helms, co-author of the Helms Burton Act.

Maisto describes President Bush as a "multilateralist". If you can believe Maisto, you should be in the market for a somewhat used Flat Bridge I have for sale in the Bog Walk gorge.

Mr Knight's conversation must have been extremely polite. He suggested that the US do a rethink on the Helms Burton Act. This Act is, in reality, an outrageous affront to all norms of international law and recognised as such by, among others, the Canadian and French governments.

Knight must have been even more polite and servile about Haiti than about Cuba, since he was in fact interfering in the internal affairs of that serially molested country. Speaking to a representative of Haiti's most consistent abuser, Mr Knight delivered himself of the thought "that Jamaica remained concerned about the situation in Haiti, pointing to the unstable security situation, arbitrary arrests, unlawful detentions, sham trials and the prominence of rebels who helped to destabilise the country.

Whilst calling for adherence to the election timetable, Minister Knight reiterated that the Lavalas Party must be a part of the process". What Mr Knight does not understand is that Lavalas will be a part of the process as soon as the goons now in charge murder enough, rape enough and imprison enough of the leaders of Lavalas to intimidate the population into believing that some Vichy style regime will satisfy their 200-year hunger for justice. Of course, they need to shorten Lavalas, as Procrustes did to his guests, perhaps to "Laval", which would concrete the whole obscene charade and fix it firmly where it belongs, in the annals of fascism.

The Haitians know who their leader is. They have elected him twice, which is more than the Americans did for George Bush. But the United States is no doubt following the Jeffersonian doctrine that blacks, especially Haitian blacks, should never get an even break.

Thomas Jefferson, that great democrat, averred that Toussaint's army were 'cannibals'. Jefferson led the campaign to blockade and embargo Haitian trade, an embargo that lasted 62 years - a 19th Century version of Helms Burton, and for the same reason: to forestall excitement among those still enslaved.

Jefferson's libel against Haiti and his racist attitude have poisoned American images and attitudes toward Haiti for 200 years. It is easy to despise a people who are 40 per cent less than human, as the US Supreme Court decided.

It is easy to mock them for behaving just as other 19th century people did. The Emperor Dessalines was far less ridiculous than Maximilian of Mexico, Dom Pedro of Brazil or for that matter, the Empress Victoria of India. Dessalines at least, was family to those he ruled.

Haiti has to defend itself against the weight of ignorant prejudice and racism, some of it assumed by the very people the Haitians helped to liberate in the United States, in Latin America and in the Caribbean. It is a heavy burden, and they have carried it for two centuries.

Their crime was simple: as slaves inhabiting the world's richest colony, they had no right to overthrow their masters, or to abolish slavery or, most impertinent of all, to defeat the armies of Napoleon, of Britain and of Spain sent to re-enslave them.

It does not take any knowledge of history to understand fundamental human rights or to understand that freedom is indivisible. The world cannot be half-slave and half-free. Toussaint and Dessalines and their comrades understood that, two centuries ago. Patterson and Knight should be able to understand it also. At the very least.

28 November 2004

The Abomination of Cowardice

Common Sense
John Maxwell

A decade ago, when Buju Banton electrified the dancehall community with his paean to murder - Boom! Bye-Bye - I was the replacement for Trevor Monroe at the Annual Awards of the Public Relations Society of Jamaica.

In my short address to them I questioned whether in tolerating 'songs' such as Banton's, we were not aligning ourselves on the side of violence and outlawry and on the way to creating classes of people entirely without human rights.

My message appeared to be well received; some people came up afterwards to thank me for speaking out and the television cameramen and reporters even asked for copies of my speech.
Nothing was reported anywhere, as far as I can remember.

And nobody, anywhere else, made any comment about this barbarous piece of incitement to the murder of homosexuals and police informers.

Since then, the prime minister and his then minister of national security both set themselves against any reform of the laws against "sodomy". According to Mr Patterson, a Queen's Counsel, he was not going to "legalise homosexuality".

Mr Seaga, the leader of the Opposition, has an even more squalid history. It was he who implied in a public speech that the prime minister was homosexual, which, as I have said before, is in this country, the most obvious incitement to murder that can be imagined. It was also a guarantee that our brave PM would do nothing to suggest that Mr Seaga could possibly be right.

Now, in answer to a report by Human Rights Watch, the Government has told them to mind their own business, stop bullying Jamaica and, effectively, not pay too much attention to our propensity for killing each other. Especially not if the murdered are homosexuals or suspected to be.

Which is why I am troubled by my friend Burchell Whiteman's agreeing to be the official spokesman for the Government's response to the Human Rights Watch report. "We find the approach of the organisation unacceptably insensitive," he said.

Meanwhile vigilante posses of gardeners are busy hunting down suspected gays in upscale Norbrook, no doubt with the approval of their employers.

Several years ago, various media outlets carried a rumour that homosexuals were planning a march on Jamaica House. I don't remember anyone believing the story, but the media ran with it anyway.

On the day appointed, dozens of idiots armed with cutlasses descended on Half-Way-Tree Square prepared to teach the homosexuals a lesson.

None, of course, appeared. As I have said in an earlier column, it was a uniquely Jamaican occasion, because I don't believe that anywhere else in the world would the press have been so willing to spread such a plainly ridiculous and dangerous story, given the homophobic environment; nor would there be, anywhere else in the world, people idle enough to assemble for a sporting massacre, as it were.

It was a low point in Jamaican civilisation and none of our leaders said a word.

Unfortunately, on the question of homophobia and homosexuality, the press is at least as backward as the majority of fundamentalist Jamaica. Reading the advice columns demonstrates just how ignorant and illiterate people - including some counsellors - are about anything concerning sex.

Betty Ann Blaine, a very nice lady who is also a well-known social worker, delivered herself of the dictum that homosexuality is 'learned behaviour', and my colleague Mark Wignall is as terrified of homosexuals as some Jamaicans are of lizards.

To deal with Ms Blaine first: there is no authority anywhere for anyone to say that homosexual behaviour is learned. On the contrary, controlled experiments with rats under environmental stress produced 'homosexual' intercourse - which surprised the investigators because that was not what they were looking for. And homosexual pairing is well established among certain birds.

There is also some evidence that there may be genetic predispositions which may or may not be reinforced by nurture. The fact is that no one really knows, which, I suppose, is as good a reason as any for murder.

Mark Wignall has never been shy to expose his super-macho side in his columns, and last week's column was vintage stuff. In it, Mark described how alarmed he became when some men he suspected were homosexuals began to take notice of him in a bank.

"It was very obvious from their style of dress and their effeminate gesticulations that they were homosexual. I could not help but be amazed at how open they were with their 'antics'.

"Other males in the line were either unconcerned or smiling, while a few of the women were staring at them open-mouthed. In my mind I named the talkative two Daisy and Buttercup."
[Strange that men were unconcerned! There must be something wrong here.]

"At one stage Daisy playfully slapped Buttercup on a forearm then did a quick pirouette. Buttercup responded by saying, 'Lorks, yu gwan yah, mind yu pap yu line'. They were touching each other but the body contacts were just short of being considered intimate."
Holy Cats! Dalliance in a BANK !!! This is depravity of the first order.

"As I watched them keenly, searching for a column (sic!), Buttercup grabbed Daisy's hand. Oh, my God, I thought, they are going to kiss. [Ever the dispassionate reporter] But it was even worse. Buttercup was staring at me and pointing."
Luckily, not panting.

At that stage, Mark did what any red-blooded Jamaican stud would do: he drew his cellphone and dialled his girlfriend, who was sitting a few yards away. Poor 'Chupski'! She was no help at all, laughing at Mark's embarrassment and teasing him: "'It's you he likes, baby,' she said in jest as I saw him alternating between staring at me and playfully touching his friend. Then horror of horrors, he locked his eyes on me, broke out of the line then came towards me smiling. 'Is you name Mark Wignall?' he asked.

"I was still on the phone and Chupski was straining to keep from exploding in uncontrolled laughter. I hung up the phone and half-turned to him. 'Yes,' I said. He turned away from me and said, 'Ah him, Sidney, ah him.'"

The idea of Mark hiding behind a cellphone is worthy of Groucho Marx imitating "September Morn".

" Everyone was now staring at us and my girlfriend was on the verge of hysterics. She was certainly enjoying herself."
[In a serious crisis like this, women are utterly undependable]
"Under my breath I was saying, make him go away, make him go away."

[When threatened by wasps, Jamaicans repeat at top speed 'Our Father, Our Father']
"Then, in a surprising language transformation he said, 'Mr Wignall, I buy the Observer just to read you.'"

[If you're looking for an anti-climax, look elsewhere.]
"Someone needed to have written a book titled 'How heterosexuals should respond kindly to homosexuals without making it seem that heterosexuals like them."

I obviously have a problem. Several of my friends are homosexual - or at least I believe they are - but none of them has ever made even the slightest pass at me. Or perhaps I wasn't looking hard enough.
What Mark really needs is the sexual equivalent of mosquito repellent.

He is obviously convinced that homosexuality is contagious. It is easy to laugh, but homophobia in Jamaica, and elsewhere, carries death in its wake.

Long, long ago, I was in a bar when somehow the topic of oral sex came up. One particular fossil, an otherwise likeable fellow, declared at the top of his voice that if he knew that anyone in the bar had ever engaged in such an 'act' he would cease to speak to or drink with him, forever. When one of my more adventurous friends confessed to this abomination, our fossil raised his glass on high, smashed it to the ground and stalked out.

Religion has become THE growth industry in Jamaica. Thirty years ago, returning from Montego Bay with David Coore in his car, one of us ventured the opinion that Jamaica seemed to have as many churches as bars; the other suggested that we submit an estimate to the Guinness Book of World Records.

Today, structural adjustment has drastically reduced the number of bars, but there has been an exponential growth in the number of churches. If you can't sell hairpins and shoe polish on the sidewalk it seems the next most popular enterprises are driving a taxi or renting a tent to start a church and sell damnation.

None of these takes any particular skill. And you need no licence to preach. The result has been a flood, some would say a plethora, of preachers, all up to speed with the Ten Commandments and the rest of the book of Leviticus. For these characters the Bible is - they say - the literal word of God.

Which makes me wonder how so many of them appear to survive sexual adventures with their parishioners when it says in Leviticus 22.22 that if a man be caught in bed with another's wife, both shall be put to death.

Death, usually by stoning, is decreed for all sorts of abominations, including homosexual behaviour, and for fornication when the woman is engaged to be married to someone else. A woman lacking a provable maidenhead should be stoned to death, regardless of the fact that even then it must have been known that maidenheads can be absent for any number of non-sexual reasons.

Some are born without. Bastards shall not be allowed into the priesthood, even unto the 10th generation, although some preachers clearly defy that rule. Re Wignall, it seems particularly hard that Chupski was obviously obeying the Biblical injunction that she should not aid her man in a fight by grabbing the testicles of his opponent. To do that would merit her losing her hand. And of course, "every one that curseth a father or mother shall surely be put to death" Lev. 20 v 9.

The problem with the Bible is that it was written by men and transcribed and translated by men and the language of King James is not the same as we use today, nor are our prejudices. Besides which, Leviticus is obviously a survival manual for nomads living off the land on which they were trespassers and subject to attack by the owners of that land.

A fierce and brutal discipline was necessary and an overwhelming esprit de corps, to persuade the people to ignore their own hardships and continue to travel for what must have seemed like eternity in pursuit of milk and honey. No one knows if its strictures were actually obeyed.

We are not faced with quite the same problems today. Instead, through the triumph of the free market, the disappearance of what used to be called the Public Interest and a general reversion to Survival of the Greediest, we will seek any authority to behave badly toward our neighbours. As Antonio, the Merchant of Venice said: the Devil can quote scripture to his purpose, obviously aware that in his temptation of Jesus in the wilderness, the Devil quoted the Psalms.

If Jamaicans were really serious, we would listen to the messengers before stoning them, just in case they made sense, and/or, as in this case, they spoke the truth. We know that. But most of us are too intimidated by the hooligans to say so.

And the hooligans have on their side the media, sections of the church and people like the prime minister, the leader of the opposition and the former minister of national security who have done nothing to lead their people out of the darkness into which they have latterly fallen. Norman Manley should be alive at this hour!

21 November 2004

Blood on Their Hands

Common Sense
John Maxwell

Sometimes I have the strange sensation that I can smell the blood of Haiti from here.

The Duvalierists, financed by the elite, protected by the United Nations 'peacekeeping" mission, are methodically murdering men, women and children thought to be supporters of President Aristide, butchering them in the streets and leaving the bodies, maimed and horrific, in the streets as an example to 'les autres'.

The others are the overwhelming multitude of Haitians who have somehow got it into their minds that Jean-Bertrand Aristide is their leader.

They want him back in Haiti; to lead them out of the mire of their despair, out of their slough of despond, out of the bottomless pit of nonentity into which they have been consigned by the civilised leaders of the world, the United States, France, Canada and the European Union. For a change the British and the Australians are not overtly involved.

But other pretenders to world class are there - the Brazilians, for instance, whose history, like Haiti's, has been blighted by US interference, dictatorship and abuse.

According to Kevin Pina (http://flashpoints.net) an American reporter living in Haiti:
After Bush's election the other night, fireworks went off in some of the wealthy areas of Petionville up in the hills.

The very next day, of course, the United Nations and the Haitian police were back at it again in slums like Bel Air and Cité Soleil, in Grand Ravine and Martissant. It's been almost daily now that they enter those communities;

I understand that in Bel Air now the majority of the population don't even dare venture from their homes, they're so afraid that they or one of their loved ones will be caught up in one of these sweeps, because most of them are Lavalas supporters and the police know that, so the sweeps are indiscriminate.

Anyone in the street can get picked up and caught up in these dragnets and put face first on the ground, and never knowing whether its going to be as it was last.

Tuesday, October 26th, when 13 young men were put face down on the ground and each one had a bullet pumped into the back of the head. if you saw any of these photos, you would see that one of those young men in Bel Air last Thursday, his head was completely blown off because they fired at him with a large automatic weapon at close range, and they left the bodies in the street for the community to see.

That kind of activity is clearly meant to terrorise people, it's clearly left as a calling card and a message. It's not just murders being done here, this is murder with the intent to terrorise.
According to Pina and other Haitian resistance sources, the Haitian elite, led by two implacable enemies of Aristide - Andy Apaid and Reginald Boulos - have been buying support in the slums, financing gang terror against Lavalas supporters. The result of this programme, says Pina, appears in stories in the North American press saying the violence is the result of inter-gang warfare in the slums.

In a letter from his jail cell, Father Gerard Jean Juste exhorts sympathisers around the world not to be intimidated by "Hooded men, intimidation, masked gunmen, massacre, masked men attacking the churches, forced entries in our rectories, arbitrary arrests, defamation, character assassination, prison, threats of death".

Meanwhile the world turns, imperturbably on, there are rumours of international consultations, investigations and other bureaucratic devices, designed, sometime next year, next decade or next millennium, to stanch the flow of Haitian blood. If there is any remaining.

Of course, it's all the fault of the Haitians. It is clear - and has been for 200 years, that these one-time slaves have too high an opinion of themselves and must be put in their places.

Having defeated the French, British and Spanish armies to achieve their freedom, they found themselves defeated by trade embargoes, diplomatic isolation, financial blackmail, the US Marines and their black surrogates the Haitian Army, by the Duvaliers - father and son - the Tonton Macoute and the CIA-sponsored FRAPH, not to mention the white death of the World Bank, the IMF and the Inter-American Development Bank and USAID.

The prime minister of Canada put it succinctly the other day. On a one-day visit to Haiti two Sundays ago, Mr Paul Martin "warned the island's feuding factions to stop the violence, disarm and make peace, or risk being written off by the rest of the world".

Most Haitians thought they had already been written off by The Countries That Count (TCTC) - France, Canada the United States and the European Union. Who are these "feuding factions"?

Almost to a man, experienced observers of the Haitian scene have said that whatever faults they have ascribed to Aristide, he still commands the overwhelming support of the Haitian people. So, are they feuding among themselves? It would not seem so.

It would seem that the present conflict was instigated by gangsters armed and supported by the United States via the Dominican Republic, whose so-called uprising faltered before they could enter Port-au-Prince, having murdered Haitian policemen and burned police stations to intimidate the countryside. But they couldn't enter Port-au-Prince, it appears, until they were escorted in by units of the US Marines.

These Marines, led by the US Ambassador Mr Foley, forced Aristide to sign what the ambassador thought was a letter of resignation. The Americans then spirited the president off (as "air cargo") to another continent whence he was not expected to be able to communicate with his people nor return to his country, or perhaps, not to return at all, except in a coffin.

The recent US elections have given the world a lesson in how adept the media is in covering up unpleasant facts, so most people are totally unaware of the roles of President George Bush, the French, the Canadians, the international financial institutions and the Haitian elite in the coup against Aristide.

Most people do not know about the financial blackmail by the Inter-American Development Bank, the IDB, which promised Haiti loans to reconstruct its health infrastructure and then refused to hand out the loans until Aristide's Government repaid earlier loans made to the dictators while Aristide was begging the US not to aid them in dismembering Haiti.

Aristide paid the usurious demand, but the IDB money never came. It was blocked by the American friends of the elite and their friends in the IDB, World Bank and IMF.

Then, they said, Aristide could not govern. He was unable to restore the health system or keep any of the promises he had made, forgetting, of course, that the fulfilment of these promises depended on the funding that Haiti had been promised. Aristide, slandered as a thief and tyrant, now lives on the charity of South Africa, working at a university there.

The Canadians, the Americans and the European Union promised to help Aristide rebuild the justice system and develop a new, trustworthy police force. They, too, reneged on their pledges, and said, triumphantly, that Aristide was unable to keep order.

They blamed him for the gangs which, as in Jamaica, develop when the forces of law and order disappear. A few days ago, the French president, Jacques Chirac, chided the United States for believing that it could Americanise the world by invading and occupying countries.

How convenient that he has forgotten France's initiative in orchestrating the charade which led to the ouster of Aristide in February. How convenient that he has forgotten how offended France is by Aristide's demand that France should repay the money it extorted from Haiti for over a century, in a blackmailer's deal which bled Haiti into destitution Professor Peter Hallward writes (New Left Review 27, May 2004)
France only re-established the trade and diplomatic relations essential to the new country's survival after Haiti agreed, in 1825, to pay its old colonial master a 'compensation' of some 150 million francs for the loss of its slaves - an amount roughly equal to the French annual budget at the time, or around 10 years' worth of total revenue in Haiti - and to grant punishing commercial discounts.

With its economy still shattered by the colonial wars, Haiti could only begin paying this debt by borrowing, at extortionate rates of interest, 24 million francs from private French banks. by the end of the 19th century Haiti's payments to France consumed around 80 per cent of the national budget; France received the last instalment in 1947.

Haitians have thus had to pay their original oppressors three times over - through the slaves' initial labour, through compensation for the French loss of this labour, and then in interest on the payment of this compensation.

No other single factor played so important a role in establishing Haiti as a systematically indebted country, the condition which in turn 'justified' a long and debilitating series of appropriations-by-gunboat.
Hallward discreetly doesn't mention the payment in blood. The French, always so civilised, decided earlier this year to intervene, as part compensation for their disobedience over Iraq. Hallward remarks that the French initiative guaranteed the US safe entry into, and painless withdrawal from this "Liberia at their gates" as the French investigatory commission put it, allowing the US a measure of protection from the rage of its black constituents. It has all been very civilised; everything is deniable.

It makes one wonder why the smell of blood is so strong. Strange, especially from a place Le Monde describes as "The country that doesn't quite exist..." It must be the obverse of the Cheshire Cat. The country disappears, only the sizzle of the branding iron remains, lingering in the air.

American scandal

More evidence is being uncovered of irregularities in the vote counting in the presidential elections in the US. In Ohio, the Ohio Election Protection Commission's hearings has revealed, among other things, a widespread and concerted effort to deny the opportunity of voting to black voters and young voters. The hearings have also called into question the validity of the vote counting process.

In Florida, some of the evidence is literally stinking, having been retrieved from garbage cans disposed at county elections offices. Bev Harris of www.blackboxvoting.org collected discarded "poll tapes" - the printouts of optical scan machines used to count votes. The whole affair is reported in the Daytona Beach News and commondreams.org. More disclosures are certain to follow.

CORRECTION: In my column on "A Lobotomy for Democracy" I made some errors which a reader in Texas wrote me to point out. I managed to lose his e-mail and since I wish to correct any mistakes I may make. I would ask him please, to resend his e-mail.

14 November 2004

Father of His Nation

Common Sense
John Maxwell

Watching the CNN early show, one gets the impression that Jack Cafferty, with his weathered, intelligent face, is there to lend an air of authority lacking in the two main presenters Bill Hemmer and Soledad O'Brien who are both young, beautiful and vapid. Cafferty's style reinforces the impression of serious, conservative and cranky.

On Wednesday morning, after the announcement of the death of Yasser Arafat, Cafferty suggested that a Palestinian monument to Arafat should say "here lies a thief who robbed us blind".

I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised, because most public Americans seem to take it for granted that anybody like Arafat is a murderer, terrorist and thief; the United Nations is a playground for bandits and the rest of the world are nuisances to be avoided as far as possible.

As they say, one man's fish is another man's poison, and while Jonas Savimbi was being feted at the White House as a freedom fighter, Nelson Mandela was being denounced in the same quarters as a terrorist.

According to British Secret Service (MI5) archives made public last year, two former Israeli prime ministers were notorious terrorists during the Zionist struggle to drive the British out of Palestine. Zionist terror groups planned to set up cells in London to assassinate the British foreign secretary, Ernest Bevin.

Present Trends in Palestine, an MI5 briefing paper written in August 1946, reported on the activities of the Stern Gang that had assassinated Lord Moyne, the British high commissioner. One leading member of Stern was Yitzhak Shamir, who became prime minister in 1983.

Another paper, Threatened Jewish Activity in the United Kingdom, Palestine and Elsewhere, focused on the activities of the Irgun, then led by Menachem Begin who became prime minister of Israel in 1977. In 1947/48, Begin had a 2,000 pounds price on his head, accused of murdering British soldiers and policemen.

The MI5 paper was written after Irgun bombed British headquarters in the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, killing 91 people - Britons, Arabs and Jews - and injuring scores.

The present prime minister of Israel, Ariel Sharon, made himself infamous in 1953 by his massacre of the village of Kibya, and by murderous assaults on the Al-Bureij refugee camp and the village of Nahalin. He has several more recent atrocities to his discredit.

His assaults on Jenin, Nazareth, Ramallah and other Palestinian targets have merely enhanced his reputation for sadistic brutality.

Sharon has said repeatedly that he regrets not having killed Arafat when he had the chance to do so in Lebanon.

He and Bush refused to have anything to do with Arafat for the last three years, claiming that Arafat was a terrorist. Two years ago, Sharon's troops came within a few yards of killing Arafat, invading Palestinian Authority headquarters, killing Palestinian policemen and civilians and reducing much of Ramallah to rubble.

I remember being copytaster in the BBC World Service newsroom one day in 1970 when Palestinian militants hijacked four planes over the Atlantic.

At first, we thought the news agencies had got it wrong, when wildly different reports came in about what we thought was one hijacking. Until then, hijackings were one-off exploits, usually done by lone gunmen. As the day went on it became clear that this was a military operation in scope and execution.

The purpose was to put the case of Palestine on the world agenda. The hijackings were carried out by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), an affiliate of the Palestine Liberation Organisation which Arafat headed.

Arafat was a small person, only 5' 4" tall, but his authority and charisma were immense. His political career began as the leader of the Union of Palestinian Students in Egypt in 1948, when he was 19, shortly after Israel had driven out the majority of Palestinians to establish the Zionist homeland.

With his engineering degree, Arafat served in the Egyptian army as a demolitions expert in the Suez War against Israel, Britain and France. In 1959, he formed a small secret organisation called the Palestine Liberation Movement - Fatah.

It was at first overshadowed by the umbrella Palestine Liberation Organisation until after the 1967 war when Fatah began commando raids into Israel. By 1969, Fatah had become the biggest component of the PLO, and Arafat had taken charge.

It was under his leadership that the PLO affiliates - the PFLP and Black September - began to carry out high-profile activities which earned Arafat and his fellows reputations as terrorists. The Black September murders of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics of 1972 did nothing to burnish Arafat's image, although he always claimed that he did not and could not control the terrorist groups.

Arafat was working behind the scenes to unify the Palestinians, getting a reputation for preferring compromise to confrontation. Under him, the PLO provided for the first time, a unified leadership for the Palestinians, all six or seven million of them, scattered to the four winds.

By 1975, with support from the Non-Aligned Movement, Arafat made his first appearance before the UN, bearing, he said, "An olive branch and a gun".

All this time, Arafat and the Palestinians were still scattered. Many were in Lebanon, where, as they had before in Jordan, they created a state within a state.

Jordan's King Hussein had forced them out in the bloody 'Black September' purge. They were attacked in Lebanon by the Israeli army under Sharon, Israel's defence minister. The Palestinian militants, out-gunned and outnumbered, held out for months while Arafat negotiated terms under which they would leave Lebanon.

While most of the militants left, hundreds of Palestinian civilians remained behind in refugee camps where, in 1982, the Lebanese Christian militia fell upon them and slaughtered perhaps as many as 3,000, under the eyes of the Israeli army. Sharon was found indirectly responsible for the massacre and forced to resign.

From exile in Tunis, Arafat continued his diplomatic efforts. But the Palestinians in Palestine, suddenly inspired, grew impatient and launched in 1987, their first intifada against the Israeli occupation. Arafat seemed to be losing his grip when in 1988 he was forced to agree, publicly, that Israel had the right to exist. It was a significant concession, and it lost him friends and supporters among Palestinians and in many Arab capitals.

Turning disaster to advantage, Arafat accepted a Norwegian offer of mediation and began negotiating secretly with Israel. The key to Israel's willingness to negotiate was Arafat's concession in Algiers. In 1993, the Oslo negotiation culminated in an agreement, signed in the presence of President Clinton - with Yitzhak Rabin, the Israeli premier, and Shimon Peres, Rabin's coalition partner and foreign minister.

Arafat recognised Israel's right to exist and Israel recognised the PLO as the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. "We are betting everything on the future," he said.

"Therefore we must condemn and forswear violence totally, not only because the use of violence is morally reprehensible, but because it undermines Palestinian aspirations to the realisation of peace."

The Oslo accords gave the Palestinians recognition as a proto-state, and gave Arafat entrée to the West Bank, where he established the Palestine Authority and began bargaining for greater justice in the sharing of Palestinian land.

He reckoned, however, without the Israeli right-wing. Rabin was assassinated. Netanyahu, a less moderate right-winger, had no enthusiasm for the peace process, and when President Clinton tried to extend the Oslo accords, Arafat refused to agree to a Palestinian state which would have been a collection of scattered Bantustans embedded in Israeli occupied territory.

Arafat has been roundly condemned in Israel and the West for not accepting the Netanyahu offer. According to its partisans, this offer would have given the Palestinians more than 90 per cent of what they sought. But the Palestinians don't want a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of Palestine.

Many people appear to believe that Palestine was unoccupied when the Jews began to settle there.

Palestine had been controlled by the Turks until the First World War when the British captured it and ran it as a mandate from the League of Nations. But the Balfour declaration of 1917 had declared Palestine the site of a homeland for the Jews - more suitable obviously than the British first choice, the Kenyan highlands.

Jews began to settle in Palestine, buying out Palestinian farmers and gradually establishing a substantial presence. After the war there was massive illegal emigration from Europe while the Zionists fought to take over Palestine forcibly and before the new United Nations Organisation could enforce a 'rational' partition of the country. Collusion between the wartime allies, inspired by guilt, fatigue and hypocrisy, allowed the Zionists to declare the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948. Arab states, weak, corrupt and disorganised, made an unsuccessful stab at intervention. It was no use.

The Palestinians were thrown off their land and into the laps of the Arab states around, orphans thrown among child molesters.

Ben Lynfield of Christian Science Monitor quotes Michael Tarazi, legal adviser to the PLO: "Israel's strategy was to disperse the Palestinians and make the problem go away - but Arafat made sure our rights were always on the agenda." Lynfield also quotes a rhetorical question from an Israeli, Uri Avnery, head of the Gush Shalom Peace group: "Who cared about Palestinians before [Arafat]?"

The neoCons of the Bush Administration adopted the Sharon pose that Arafat was the only stumbling block to peace in the Middle East. Israel's position has always been clear: it is to absorb all of Palestine and perhaps more of the neighbouring states to become in area what it is already in military power - a super state. Eretz Israel, fufilling its transcendental mandate from God.

Moshe Dayan said it: "Israel must be like a mad dog, too dangerous to bother. Our armed forces. are not the 30th strongest in the world, but rather the second or third. We have the capability to take the world down with us. And I can assure you that that will happen before Israel goes under."

The Israeli right-wing speaks of the "transfer" of the Palestinians - a euphemism for ethnic cleansing. Sharon lusted for Arafat's blood.

The Israeli nightmare of extinction is fuelled by a thousand years of European anti-Semitism, crowned by the Holocaust. The fundamentalist Christians and Islamists hate the Jews for their disparate reasons; the Christians yearning for an Armageddon which will cleanse the world of Jews and all other unbelievers.

The problem is that the victims of Israel's justified paranoia are not the Western Christians who watched idly as they were consigned to the gas chambers, but the Palestinians, who, above all others in the world, gave them sanctuary for more than a thousand years.

Injustice breeds terror because terrorism is the weapon of those who feel most helpless and downtrodden. The departure of Arafat challenges Israel and Sharon to find a way to peace. Arafat, they said, was the obstacle. His death makes Palestinians realise what he really meant to them and may in fact be a much bigger obstacle to the designs of Sharon and the neoCons.

When President Bush imprudently advised the Palestinians to go get themselves a new leader, he spoke as one who did not understand and could not have understood what Arafat represented, whatever his faults and alleged crimes.

Arafat was not simply the embodiment of modern Palestinian history; he was the real expression of his people's dignity and genius. He was the soul of Palestine.

07 November 2004

A Lobotomy for Democracy

John Maxwell

"The right of voting for representatives is the primary right by which all other rights are protected. To take away this right is to reduce a man to slavery."
- Tom Paine
In the 1940s, I remember reading an American magazine which was trumpeting a new cure for anti-social behaviour. This now discredited surgical operation was called prefrontal lobotomy or leukotomy, in which the nerves connecting the frontal lobe to the higher centres of the brain were cut. The procedure, invented by a Portuguese surgeon, won him a Nobel Prize. Lots of supposedly anti-social people were 'cured' by this operation.

As it turned out, the operation destroyed the personality and left the victims emotional zombies. One woman said that after the operation her daughter was present physically but her soul was somewhere else.

Troublemakers among the rich and famous were often subjected to the operation. Rosemary Kennedy, sister of JFK, was given a lobotomy on the orders of her dad, Joseph Kennedy. The result was so awful that she was confined to a mental institution for the rest of her life. Frances Farmer, a famously beautiful actress, was thought by her parents to be too unruly.

"She was a radical political activist, communist sympathiser and of a rebellious and aggressive nature. After several squabbles with the authorities, in 1942 she was wrongfully declared 'mentally incompetent' and was committed by her parents to various asylums where all therapies failed to tame her into "normalcy".

In 1948, her parents ordered a lobotomy. "She was released in 1953 from the hospital, no longer a threat to society." - Renato ME Sabbatini, PhD, The History of Psychosurgery, Brain & Mind magazine, June 1997.

Prefrontal lobotomy cured lots of troublesome ailments, including "nymphomania", socialism and the insatiable thirst for freedom.

For me, the defining moment of last week's US Presidential Election came about an hour before midnight. All night the CNN anchor, General Blitzer, had been refusing to reveal the results of the exit polls; CNN didn't want to mislead people. But it was nevertheless becoming clear that John Kerry was going to be the next president of the United States. Robert Novak was a panellist on Blitzer's show. Wan, demoralised, and apparently near to complete collapse, Novak told Blitzer that he had just been in touch with his GOP cronies in Ohio who told him that all appeared to be lost.

What Novak did not know was that help was on the way in the shape of the Diebold company, makers of electronic voting machines. Within hours, Kerry was no longer winning but on the road to conceding the election to Mr G W Bush.
The Republicans had stolen the presidency of the United States for the second time in a row.

The most significant thing about the state of US politics is the compliant posture of the national press. They seem ready to believe anything. They appear to have been lobotomised, physically present but missing their souls.

Mark Twain got it right: "Do not fear the enemy, for your enemy can only take your life. It is far better that you fear the press, for they will steal your Honour. That awful power, the public opinion of a nation, is created in America by a horde of ignorant, self-complacent simpletons who failed at ditching and shoemaking and fetched up in journalism on their way to the poorhouse"(Thanks to Tom at (http://www.informationclearinghouse).

Exit polls - asking people just after they voted who they voted for - are not precise indicators, because they are sample surveys. But they have always been more precise than the pre-election sampling. For years the networks have depended on them. Only in 2002, in Florida, was there any question of their reliability. And we soon found out why.

According to the US media on Tuesday night, the exit polls got it wrong. This, of course, can only mean that people who voted for Bush told the pollsters that they voted for Kerry. A most unlikely event.

And it would be interesting to discover why CNN and other news media changed their published exit poll data after Wednesday morning.

Jonathan Simon of Alliance for Democracy notes, "Statistical discrepancies were identified in key battleground states that exceeded the margin of error of the exit polls. In Ohio, for instance, a 'shift' of 3.1 per cent toward Bush converted a 52 per cent - 48 per cent exit poll "victory" for Kerry into a 51 per cent - 49 per cent electoral "victory" for Bush. In the group of 12 critical states selected for analysis, exit poll vs tabulated vote shifts exceeded the polls' margin of error in four cases, which, according to statistical analysis, [should] occur only 0.2 per cent (or one five-hundredth) of the time in the absence of significant mistabulation of votes."

Simon also notes that exit polling appears inexplicably to have been significantly more accurate in non-battleground states than in the states that were crucial to a Bush victory.

Citizens for a Legitimate Government (CLG) (www.legitgov.org) declares: "Rather than objectively exploring reasons for these identified discrepancies, the networks now glibly claim exit polling based on scientific methodology is completely unreliable, and have all but forgotten that there was a deep and widespread concern about the reliability and security of the vote tabulating apparatus leading up to this election."

CLG continues: "A statement by Wally O'Dell, the CEO of Diebold, providers of Ohio's electronic voting equipment in August 2003, may have foreshadowed the November 2 results, at least in Ohio. O'Dell, acting as a Republican fundraiser at the time wrote, "I am committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president" .George Bush seemed to take O'Dell's pledge at face value, hardly deigning to campaign in Ohio, which was a confusing strategy to many pundits given the state's cliffhanger closeness and critical importance."

One crucial statistic made me quite sure that the election was stolen. It is a well-recorded phenomenon that after an election result is known, more people will claim to have voted for the winner than actually did.

After this election, is a remarkable fact that only 51 per cent of the US electorate said they were happy Mr Bush had been elected. The post-election bandwagon effect is well documented.

"Response error tied to over-estimation of voting is one of the oldest and most persistent types of response error to be documented. [Stanley Presser] reports that such response errors tend to range between 12 and 16 per cent. with the error tending to be larger the closer a survey was done to the election". (Robert H Prisuta, A post-election Bandwagon Effect 1992 and Stanley Presser: Can Context Changes Reduce Vote Over-reporting?; Public Opinion Quarterly, Wier 1990)

In this case, and as far as I can discover, only in this case does the percentage claiming to have voted for the winner fall below the percentage actually voting for him.

The US press in its cocoon of fantasy, pretends to believe that this result is possible and accurate. No one can - without his consent - be deprived of his rights. It says so even in Third World constitutions.

Shortly after he returned from Venezuela in August, former President Carter warned that the voting arrangements in the United States for the Presidential Election could not be considered satisfactory, fair and above board. This was in contrast to Venezuela, where they also used voting machines, made in the USA, but those machines had a paper trail.

Many people foresaw the theft of the election. In an article for The Nation earlier in the year, ('How They Could Steal the Election This Time') Ronnie Dagger revealed that five out of every six US voters would be casting votes in machines which could easily be programmed to produce the wrong result. She predicted: "The result could be the failure of an American presidential election and its collapse into suspicions, accusations and a civic fury that will make Florida 2000 seem like a family spat in the kitchen."

Robert Reich, Bill Clinton's labour secretary, has written, "Automated voting machines will be easily rigged, with no paper trails to document abuses". Senator John Kerry told Florida Democrats last March, "I don't think we ought to have any vote cast in America that cannot be traced and properly recounted". Pointing out in a recent speech at the NAACP convention that "a million African-Americans were disenfranchised in the last election", Kerry says his campaign was readying 2,000 lawyers to "challenge any place in America where you cannot trace the vote and count the votes" [www.thenation.com/ Greg Palast, "Vanishing Votes", May 17, 2004].

The probability that the election was stolen becomes even more likely when it is recalled that GOP majority leader in the House, Tom DeLay, and the speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert, have for two years prevented a vote on a bill requiring that all electronic voting machines should have an auditable paper trail. Congressman Rush Holt introduced the bill requiring all electronic voting machines to produce a voter-verified paper ballot. The bill was co-sponsored by a majority of the members of the House of Representatives - GOP and Democrat.

There were serious anomalies in the reported Florida vote. According to the results, there were 1,392,639 new voters. There were 7,355,296 votes cast in this election as against 5,963,657 in 2000 when, according to the official results, Bush got 2,912,790 in 2004 to Gore's 2,912,253 a difference of less than 600.

The split in 2000 was approximately 50/50. In this election Kerry got 3,459,293 or 47 per cent, while 3,836,216 or 53 per cent voted for Bush. Despite the Democrats outperforming the GOP 60/40 in registering new voters, Kerry got half-a-million more, while Bush got twice as many. Unbelievable.

We must believe, contrary to all the known facts, that there was a swing to Bush of eight per cent! Bush got 32 per cent more in 2004 than four years before, while Kerry increased Bush's total by only 19 per cent.

But there was no swing. According to one exit pollster, both candidates retained 90 per cent of their party's 2000 voters. So the swing came in the computers. In Florida people complained that their votes were recorded for Bush although they had voted for Kerry.

Republicans were so worried about their failure in signing up new voters that they set out to intimidate and disqualify as many voters as possible. Can anyone, even including the US press, believe that these figures are anything but bogus?

The real problem is that many people cannot believe that the Republicans could be so arrogant and barefaced to do what it is obvious that they must have done. On KLAS-FM on Wednesday morning, the two presenters initially thought I was being funny when I said the election had been stolen. But it isn't funny, and forecasts horrendous consequences as we shall see in Fallujah shortly, and perhaps Haiti.

After the 2000 election I predicted that we were in for a hard time. I didn't think it was going to be this bad. I had no idea that democracy itself and its handmaiden, the press, were scheduled for prefrontal lobotomies.

The ultimate irony, of course, was provided by the American media which solemnly pronounced that Bush won the election on moral values, despite Enron, Halliburton, Iraq WMDs, Abu Ghraib, the Patriot Act and the host of other scandals.

If that represents morality, perhaps we should all get prefrontal lobotomies. We need to remember though, that nothing is ever over until we give up.

31 October 2004

River Come Down!

Common Sense
John Maxwell

IT will be 50 years ago next January 12. I remember standing with a huge crowd on Vineyard Road listening to Norman Manley, with everybody in the crowd, it seemed, waving a broom.

The PNP slogan was "Sweep Them Out", after a cartoon in Public Opinion which called on Jamaicans to get rid of the corrupt and scandal-ridden government of Alexander Bustamante.

Norman Manley couldn't be heard for minutes after he reported what he had seen all over Jamaica and ended with the line: "The river come down - from bank to bank!!!"It had indeed, as the next day's election results proved - a rout despite the fact that constituency demarcation favoured the JLP.

I am reminded of this by what is happening right now in the United States of America, where the ground is shifting under the feet of the Bush Administration which is displaying unmistakable signs of increasing desperation and panic. In Jamaica, we say "Bad luck wuss dan obeah" and Mr Bush's luck is running out. Why would Osama bin Laden choose this moment to resurface?

Mr Bush, I kid you not, has recently been talking about 'principle'. His declared principle after 9/11 was to hunt down and "smoke out from their holes" the authors of the outrage and murderers of 3,000 Americans.

Yet, here is bin Laden, as large as life, or larger, offering to talk with Bush about disengagement!!! For most of the last 12 months Bush's basic principle has been to attack the character and integrity of his opponent, to hit below the belt whenever possible, throwing pile-drivers at Kerry's gut, just as George Foreman threw them at Muhammad Ali in Zaire, 30 years ago.
And with the same result.

Bush and his campaign are now, as Foreman was then, tired and demoralised. After Tuesday, the Bush Administration will have loads of time to attend Grand Jury hearings and similar proceedings. Somebody else will have to deal with bin Laden.

For the river to come down - Lavalas, as they say in Haiti - there must be a lot of rain. And the rain-makers of the Bush Administration have made damn sure that the rain falls only on their Just Men. The trouble is that the water doesn't stop there. Injustice is a trickle-down process, and those at the bottom of the hill get lots of filthy, contaminated water. My expectation of a Kerry victory rests on several observations and some hunches.

A great many people are resolved not to take the cynical colour-coded manipulation of their fears any longer, and they have enthusiastically heeded the call of those who believe that Americans give away their rights when they don't vote.

They watched the process last time round, when George Bush was appointed president by the Supreme Court. Millions of people were disfranchised and they are paying for it in unemployment, deficient education, expensive health care, and record budget and trade deficits. Count in here a majority of the young, the new voters, the foreign-born, Hispanics, Haitians, Jamaicans, some of whom won't be nationally significant but crucial in local contests.

Over the last week, the Bush spinmeisters have been producing some of the most elaborate excuses and alternative theories to explain away the inexplicable loss of more than 377 tons of extremely high-explosive material from a sealed bunker at Al Qaqaa in Iraq. Casting a doubt here, scouting a rumour there, fiddling with the facts wherever possible was a game that lasted until Friday, when a Minnesota TV station unearthed footage taken by their news team 18 months ago.

The US chief weapons inspector, Dr David Kay, and most other people appear to believe that the video footage proves beyond reasonable doubt that the missing explosives had been found by American soldiers on April 18, three weeks after the war started and at least three weeks after Field Marshal von Rumsfeld thought the explosives might have been spirited away by Saddam Hussein. If not conclusive, the circumstantial evidence proves beyond doubt that the American soldiers in Iraq had not been properly prepared for the war, another major blunder by the Bush-Rumsfeld axis. Then, late Friday night, it turned out that a French journalist had reported a year ago exactly who had looted the munitions store and how and when it happened.

If 'Bad luck wuss dan obeah', an FBI investigation is probably even worse than bad luck, and Mr Bush's frightener-in-chief and left-hand man extraordinaire Dick Cheney may soon find himself before a grand jury to explain why his old company, Halliburton, was awarded, against the rules, a 'no-bid' five-year contract worth billions. He won't be able to claim executive privilege this time.

A complaint, filed on behalf of the Army Corps of Engineers Chief Contracting Officer, alleges that the $7-billion contract undermines the integrity of the federal contracts process. The complaint alleges that the award of contracts to KBR, the Halliburton subsidiary, to restore Iraq's oil industry and to supply and feed US troops in the Balkans puts at risk "the integrity of the federal contracting programme as it relates to a major defence contractor".

Bunnatine Greenhouse
The complaint also asks protection from retaliation for the whistle-blower, Bunnatine Greenhouse, an African-American woman with a strong resemblance to Portia Simpson Miller. African-Americans are expected to vote overwhelmingly (more than 90 per cent) for John Kerry. According to Internet journalist/editor Marc Ash, who is NOT an African-American, if American democracy is to be rescued, it will probably have to depend on African-Americans: "For whatever reason, African-Americans won't vote against their own best interests. No matter how much you try to convince them, it's like trying to get a cat to take a bath. We often hear that "our nation is deeply divided". Whose nation? Not the African-American nation - they know perfectly well who to vote for. They will vote for freedom and liberty and they'll kick down the door to do it if necessary."

The Republican party obviously understands this. The Internal Revenue Service is to investigate the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP) with a view to withdrawing its tax-exempt status, effectively bankrupting the NAACP. The reason? In July the NAACP president, Julian Bond, said: "The election this fall is a contest between two widely disparate views of who we are and what we believe. One view wants to march us backward through history - surrendering control of government to special interests, weakening democracy, giving religion veto power over science, curtailing civil liberties, despoiling the environment.

"The other view promises expanded democracy and giving the people, not plutocrats, control over their government." Count in Arab/Americans and most Muslims, Indians, non-Zionist Jews, and others, including some moderate Republicans and others who want to restore their country's reputation for decency.

Bush, like George Foreman, had his plan. Play the strong, silent, immovable John Wayne character and push the flip-flopping Kerry around until he collapsed like a rag doll. But, in the debates, Kerry wiped the floor with the president. While Kerry concentrated on the issues that burn Americans, in the background was always the injustice of a war in which hundreds of thousands of poor Americans are sent to a foreign country to kill hundreds of thousands of poor people with whom they had no quarrel.

Count here young people afraid of being drafted for Iraq but, more important, medicare recipients and the poor generally. Soldiers' feedback is powerful stuff, and as it percolates through the American consciousness, more and more people are reverting to their pre-war position, when a majority was anti-war. Abu Ghraib has done nothing to reassure them.

"Vote or Die" is one of the slogans used by an NGO supported by Sean "P Diddy" Coombs, and he happens to be on the same side as another of the world's richest men, George Soros. Both believe that George Bush is bad for America and the world. And the work of NGOs like MOVEON and Michael Moore's powerful documentary, Fahrenheit 9/11, have also changed many minds. The irruption of Osama bin Laden into the campaign will remind many that while the Iraqi city of Fallujah is being obliterated, bin Laden is somewhere else, home, dry and still rich.

The Bushies are trying to get Kerry to be a gentleman, to get him to avoid drawing attention to Osama's freedom and liberty while Americans labour under the Patriot Act and other disabilities. For the Bushies, Osama is the invisible 800-pound gorilla on the bow of a boat rapidly shipping water.

Americans know Bush lies when he says that his troops are "shrinking the space for terrorists to operate" when they know that even the super-fortified Green Zone in Baghdad is not immune to insurgent attack.

Meanwhile, the invasion has converted Iraq into what it emphatically was not before the war: a haven for terrorists as well as resistance fighters. Huge areas of Iraq are now no-go areas for the US troops, and an assault on Fallujah may be as much of a trap as Khe San was during General Giap's Tet offensive in 1968. Count in here all those who couldn't care less about Iraq, the unemployed, the single mothers with school-age children, soldiers' families.

No pollster has factored in the millions of new voters, nearly a million in Florida and more than half-a-million in Ohio alone. Bush was having things his own way early on, coasting on the publicity platform of the presidency until the debates, when, Surprise! Viewers rated John Kerry, the 'aloof patrician', as more likeable. That's a hard one to recover from.

Kerry has simply seemed more 'presidential' and certainly more mature than Bush and, however stupid Karl Rove thinks the US electorate is, I believe that they are more likely to go for someone who seems more level-headed and balanced than the grimacing, posturing 'Mission Accomplished' president. Count in surprising numbers of well-to-do Americans, who don't see the Bush fantasies or tax giveaways as everlasting and who may be scared of popular retribution, perhaps civil war, plus all those other scared voters who lie or conceal their intentions.

And then there are the men surrounding Bush: Ashcroft, the fundamentalist prude with an appetite for shutting up and locking down people outside of the law, the constitution and the country; Rumsfeld, the dashing fly boy on leave from a Douglas Fairbanks war film who thought looting was good clean fun; Colin Powell, the designated adult in the Cabinet, whose patina of credibility has corroded to grimy verdigris; Dick Cheney, who - I have on good authority - is definitely not related to Lon Chaney, the ghoul of early horror movies; (Lon Chaney needed LOTS of make-up to frighten people) and, of course, the Ayatollah, Karl Rove, a spoiled brat with Napoleonic fantasies, the man who brought you the George Bush show originally; the main architect of the electoral skulduggery, the gerrymandering in Texas, the vote-stealing and intimidation in Florida and elsewhere. Will Kerry win?

As Sherlock Holmes told Dr Watson: "When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, is likely to be the truth".

24 October 2004

The Man Eaters of Haiti

Common Sense
John Maxwell

Winston Churchill would be unpleasantly surprised and hugely disappointed. The United States, he said, represented mankind's ascent to the "uplands of history." Churchill seemed to imagine a demi-paradise, basking in the sunny benevolence of democracy, where every prospect pleased.

Today, those sunny uplands are in gloom, overshadowed by the dark deeds and malign intentions of a cabal representing greed, ignorance and a full-scale retreat from civilisation. There are now, in Florida alone, more than 25,000 (twentyfive thousand) lawyers and law students on the watch against an anticipated concerted assault on the human and civil rights of voters, to forestall those who intend to steal a Presidential election if they can manage it, for the second time.

Former President Jimmy Carter has said that the presidential election process in the United States of America as a whole, does not come up to democratic standards. It is as if the United States has suddenly become a Third World country of the Graham Greene genre, where dictators rule and no one is safe..

Serious, sober Americans have written me to say that many of their friends are afraid to speak out, to exercise their democratic rights, fearing some sort of retribution.

Counter-revolution comes home

The French Fourth Republic and Portugal discovered, after Churchill spoke, that it is impossible to employ repression abroad while quarantining it so that it does not come home to attack its host. The same instruments used to destabilise nascent democracies in Latin America over the last century have begun to flex their muscles and sharpen their claws in the home of democracy itself.

Next door, in Haiti, a similar but much more brutal process is in train; a fascist dictatorship has already been established and the regime is arresting priests, politicians and children and shooting children or anyone else who gets in their way.

The two processes depend on each other. It was anticipated by some that a quick decapitation of Haitian democracy would lead to the installation of a new, globalised version of government, run by the rich, for the rich and pacifying the underclass by handing out sweatshop jobs to all and sundry. All the Haitians needed, in this scenario, was a full belly.

As Mr Luigi Einaudi, Assistant Secretary general of the Organisation of United States said in January, the only thing wrong with Haiti was that it was being run by Haitians.

As former US Ambassador to Haiti, Timothy Carney said at the launching of the US government sponsored Haiti Democracy Project (HDP):
"The policies exist to realize the interests. Ambassador Roger Noriega mentioned that one of our interests is to defend human rights, but he didn't mention the fundamental interest, which is to defend Miami Beach. We don't want Haitians on Miami Beach and we have proven that very recently. That is a fundamental interest of the United States — no illegal immigrants. Now that you have realized that interest, you hopefully will have policies by which Haitians can realize their prosperity and their future at home. How do you do that? Well, we haven't figured that out yet, have we?"
Carney was speaking at the opening of the HDP in the august surroundings of the leading right-wing think-tank in the US, the Brookings Institution, on September 19, 2002.

The raw racism of Carney's speech seemed so innocuous to the Haitian Democracy Project that his speech was published in full on their website and may still be there.

The Ambassador Noriega of whom Carney speaks is one of the spawn of the racist US Senator Jesse Helms, father of the Helms Burton Act and intellectual sponsor of any number of bright young fascists, including Otto Reich, who preceded Noriega as the American Assistant Secretaryof State for hemispheric affairs. Reich and Noriega are credibly believed to have been the American point-men in last August-s Panamanian pardon of Luis Posada Carriles and three other notorious Cuban exile terrorists . They had been in jail in Panama for plotting to assassinate President Castro and others at a summit in Panama in 2000. The pardons breached international and Panamanian law, but were delivered by the outgoing President Mireya Moscoso as her parting presidential eructation.

Posada Carriles was exposed by the Miami Herald in 1997 in a news scoop which detailed the links between Posada and the Cuban American Foundation of Miami - stout supporters of Bush - and the bombings in Cuba which attempted to disrupt the tourist industry and killed an Italian tourist as well as damaging several tourist properties.

Racism and terrorism are a noxious mix. They are evil enough on their own. In Haiti, they are lethal.

The Brazilian general in charge of the so-called United Nations contingent in Haiti, one Augusto Heleno, has delivered himself of the profound thought that the trouble in Haiti is the fault of Democratic candidate John Kerry, who, shortly after the February coup, decried the affair and said that Haiti deserved better treatment. Heleno-s bizarre statement statement in my view, makes it patent that not only is the intervention racist and unfair, but that it is directly linked to the presumed prospects of certain candidates in the US general election next week.

In this past week I have been on two radio programmes with representatives of the Haitian private sector, following another two weeks ago. In the first programme, one Mr Wedemeyer, head honcho of Radio Metropole in Port au Prince,said he knew nothing about the arrest of Haiti's best known folklorist, the 69 year old ‘So Anne- August. This arrest happened in August, and was particularly brutal, because a hand grenade was used to blow in So Anne-s door at midnight and she and her family, including a six year old granddaughter and another child, were hooded, manacled and taken off to jail without a warrant. The children have been released. So Anne is still in jail. At the time of her arrest she was still recuperating from a serious surgical operation.

The President of the American Chamber of Commerce of Port au Prince, one M. Armand, exploded in fury when I asked him on the Breakfast Club what had happened to So Anne? Was she a violent person, as he had alleged about Father Guerarrd Jean-Juste? Armand shouted imprecations and hung up the telephone. That night we met again on RJR's Beyond the Headlines. Somebody must have told him that he had made a fool of himself earlier in the day. He was determined not to be rattled and tried to talk over every question. But he showed embarrassment and confusion when asked about So Anne and Father Jean Juste, declaring that the government was right to arrest So Anne and that she had been charged with an offence. This lie was quickly disproved when a very brave Haitian journalist came onto the programme.. After a few statements which contradicted M. Armand's version, M. Armand counselled the journalist to be very careful because I was entrapping him with my questions. The journalist paid no heed, and at the end of the programme, M. Armand was unable to provide any rational defence for the government which he supports.

Death on the Streets

There is on the Internet a great deal of information about the horror story that is Haiti. Mr Colin Powell can say there is genocide in Darfur, in the Sudan, but he either cannot or will not deign to say what he thinks the situation is in Haiti.

The US press is similarly discreet, unlike Mr La Tortue, the resident satrap. I confess that I judged him simply to be seeking publicity when he said last week that President Aristide fomented the violence in Haiti from his temporary residence in South Africa.

The outburst demonstrates some of the less intelligent features of the so-called "interim prime minister." La Tortue doesn't think that people are intelligent enough to figure out that it would take an enormous organisation for Aristide to carry out subversion in Haiti, or that people don't know that Aristide is a man of peace, despite the lies spread by his opponents.

The South African government gave La Tortue short shrift , while President Aristide responded as I expected he would, in character.

"October 1, 2004, one day following a lawful demonstration in Haiti, de facto prime minister Gerard LaTortue acknowledged that he is a killer. In a publicly broadcast radio interview about the demonstration he declared: "We fired on them. Some died others were wounded, and others fled."

"A shocking and appalling admission; all the more reprehensible when made by a so-called public official. The statement was confirmed the next day ... LaTortue crossed the line; he unleashed a new torrent of repression in Haiti and is now looking for a scapegoat. He is attempting to bury his self incriminating statements with lies. LaTortue-s lies come after his salute of convicted criminals as "freedom fighters"; his de facto government's exoneration of one in a hasty, overnight trial; his consent in allowing soldiers of the disbanded brutal army to take charge and remain in charge of entire areas of the country; and his sanctioning their use of violence."

President Aristide then appealed for a change of course towards peace:

"LaTortue, stop the lying, stop the killings. Start paving the way for a dialogue which we have unceasingly invoked these past three and a half years.
"True dialogue is the only solution. With the lives of millions at stake, public officials must act responsibly. As we have repeatedly declared: violence and murder are not the answer. During these past eight months thousands of Haitians have been killed in defense of democratic principles. The Haitian people clearly want peace and a return to a state of law. Let us work to bring a tumultuous bicentennial year to a close with a lasting political solution that is imperative to the future of our nation."

The world's press does not pay much attention to President Aristide.

He is out of Favour with the Lords of the Earth.

The world Press does not try to investigate what is happening in Haiti. Like William Jennings Bryan they seem to think that the Haitians are pretending to a position above their station "Imagine! Niggers speaking French!!!"

But it was these people who ushered in the modern age, who translated the Enlightenment into reality, by rising up, and by overthrowing and abolishing slavery. Two hundred years ago the Haitians spoke powerfully and decisively on behalf of humanity, on behaalf of all the wretched and enslaved of the earth.

It is long past time for us to speak for them.

But is Mr Patterson listening? Is Mr Annan paying attention? And where, on this planet, can we locate the conscience of Colin Powell?