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.