24 September 2006

Trust the People Every Time

Common Sense
John Maxwell

We should be grateful to the Gleaner for last week's story on tourism development. Under the headline Too many rooms! Hotel growth pressuring infrastructure it painted a frightening picture of what I call berserker development.

The story was frightening, because it disclosed that what I had suspected was true many of those who are supposedly responsible for guiding and regulating development don't understand what they are doing, or, if they do, are not doing what they should be doing.

Winsome Townsend, director of strategic planning at NEPA, said while the agency stuck to the guidelines, it did not have the legal authority to stop development if the Parish Council permits it.

I have no idea where Miss Townsend got this idea. The local planning authority is and has always been subordinate to the national planning authority. The National Environmental and Planning Agency, NEPA which combines the Natural Resources Conservation Authority and the Town Planning Department has had for a very long time the authority to stop certain kinds of development if they chose to do so.

Thirty years ago when I was chairman of the NRCA we had much less legal authority than the NEPA/NRCA now possesses.

The NRCA can now issue Stop Orders for any development and require Environmental Impact Assessment Reports on a wide range of developments which includes the building of hotels. In the case of the old NRCA, we could stop any kind of development on any beach in Jamaica simply by withholding a licence. This meant we could prohibit wharves, dredging, land reclamation and use of the beaches for any purpose.

The NRCA was an amalgamation of the Beach Control Authority, the Wildlife Protection Authority, the Watersheds Protection Authority which meant we had other recourses should we have needed to fall back on them. We effectively stopped the mining of peat at Negril threatening to invoke the Watersheds Protection Law, among other things, but we campaigned against it so effectively that we did not need to invoke any sanctions.

It seems to me that the new NEPA, a super agency apparently suggested by the World Bank, has powers of which its members must be unaware. But even if it did not have the powers I think it has, the NRCA and the Town Planning Authority should have a great deal of moral weight which could be used to dissuade the more reckless of our development agencies.

The UDC managed in the 1960s to gain Mr Seaga's approval to be a local planning authority in areas over which it had sway, but this still did not allow them to do what they liked, and when we pressured them to install sewerage works to protect Negril's beaches, they at least pretended to obey until the government changed in 1980.

What they did after that can now be seen in the depleted, muddy beaches of Negril, acres of which have been lost because of sewerage and human interference with the seafloor.

The corals are dead, as well.

Part of the problem with Jamaican planning and development is that the people with power are these days, Jamaicans in name only. What they know of Jamaica is the immediate area round their houses and offices and the roads to the airports. But their hearts, minds and wallets are in Cayman, Miami and Lichtenstein.

This is why Jamaican food finds such a hard time getting onto the international menu, because so many Jamaican 'ginnigogs' either don't know the food or think it beneath them.


One of our major problems in Jamaica is carrying capacity. One of the Gleaner's guests at its editor's forum environmental engineer Chris Burgess said the concept of carrying capacity was often misunderstood in Jamaica.
"Carrying capacity is ill defined and there is no study in this country that can come forward and say that our way of determining carrying capacity is absolutely the best way or is well respected or is the way," He added: "I think that the idea that Runaway Bay can only facilitate safely 2000 (hotel room) is crazy and I believe the sustainable number is quite likely higher."
With all due respect to Mr Burgess there are several ways in which carrying capacity can be measured. For instance, the availability of water is clearly a limitation on any development. If Runaway Bay can support 2,000 rooms, as Mr Burgess says, there must be a source for at least eight million gallons of water per day. The Bahia Principe at Mammee Bay, planned to have 2,000 rooms in one place, would require a similar volume of water. Where is it to be found?

All along the North Coast the people who actually live there are in dire straits because they cannot get enough water.

In Duncans, for which my father helped secure the Dornock water supply (from the Rio Bueno) about 80 years ago, there are water problems today because of overdevelopment. At Silver Sands resort there are water shortages and if the crazy new Harmony Cove development is ever built Duncans will probably have to import water from somewhere.

Already, there is severe pressure on the North Coast water supplies from cruise ships and hotels. Some people fool themselves that cruise ships come to Jamaica for in-bond shopping and other gated attractions. I have the feeling they come mainly for fairly cheap water, which is not easily available either in Florida or in the rest of the Caribbean.

Yet the National Water Authority has in its wisdom privatised the water supplies of Ocho Rios and the Runaway Bay/Discovery Bay areas, knowing that there is a huge sellers market for water for cruise ships, hotels and golf courses. And with the NWA's religious principles apparently preventing it from making money, I believe that the prime minister should immediately take back into public ownership these water supplies.

The private owners have not and will never be responsible for the maintenance of the watersheds. It is our sweat and tears which maintain them. And since that is so, it seems to me only fair that when water is to be distributed the people of Jamaica, whose forefathers died for this land, should be entitled to first dibs.


The Prime Minister, Portia Simpson, is, in my view, in danger of being so surrounded by 'apparatchiks' from the previous regime that she will not be able to implement her own policies for some time to come.

In the meantime, the people of Jamaica have a pretty good idea of what Portia wants; they simply want to hear her summon them to action.

For a start, in her pre-election speeches, Portia made it clear that her version of development was based on people and not on concrete.

She spoke about mobilising volunteer effort and in helping people take charge of their own destinies. The berserker development now afoot in tourism is diametrically opposed to Portia's vision.

The same is true of developments in the bauxite industry. Jamaica is approximately half bauxite and half limestone with a smattering of volcanic and other rocks to sweeten the geological pie. If the Bauxite Institute and Marc Rich have their way we will be tearing down the entire country to get at bauxite an enterprise which has already disfigured the green face of Jamaica. At Marlborough in Manchester, birthplace of Norman Manley, the bauxite companies have created a moonscape out of what should be a tranquil national park.

The government of Mr Patterson approved plans to let these predators loose in the Cockpit Country, without any regard for the incredible beauty of that Land of Look Behind or the biological treasures contained therein.

We can't eat bauxite and what we get from it doesn't feed anyone. When it is gone it is gone, and when it is gone it will leave huge craters instead of land on which we could grow food and show off the beauty of our country to ourselves and our visitors for millennia to come.

The current berserker development is designed for one thing only to make sure that the coupon clippers who own the Jamaican debt will be repaid. It will contribute nothing to the development of our people and will ravage the landscape and destroy and foreclose all sorts of prospects for real, continuing and sustainable development.

In Anguilla, a tiny island about the size of Kingston Harbour, the government has decided to put a moratorium on development. The reason is that the people fear that Anguilla will become like Jamaica, an island completely surrounded by hotels, in which the locals are there only on sufferance and to provide cheap labour.

The UDC's programme of beach stealing must be stopped in the public interest, or else there will soon be war between the people and the tourism industry.

We need to devise, with the wisdom of the ordinary people, a plan to make Jamaica at least as attractive a place for its own citizens as it is for visitors. We need to decide what we mean by development.

Development cannot mean the continue exploitation of the people for the benefit of foreigners. Bauxite mining needs to be reined in before it destroys our country.

There is an island called Nauru in the South Pacific which was formed almost entirely out of the excrement of seabirds guano a complete fertiliser, mined profitably for more than a 100 years. The problem with once beautiful Nauru is that it has almost vanished.

Most of Nauru has been exported to fertilise gardens in Europe and America and the rest will soon be consumed by the rising tide which lifts all globally warmed economic jackasses.

We have seen some of the attempts of ignoramuses to develop Jamaica. The destruction of Long Mountain is a standing reproach to our planners and politicians. We saved Hope Gardens, but it has been placed in the hands of people who didn't give a damn about it when it was menaced by Messrs Cartade and Patterson.

And of course, a few years ago we frightened off the bozos who wanted to build a facility in Jamaica to burn PCBs imported from the US. By burning their toxic waste, we would earn lots of money so said the wise men of the Bauxite Institute that is, if any of us was alive and healthy enough to have survived this crazy experiment.

Over the last few weeks in the Ivory Coast, in West Africa, two senior French officials of a Dutch-based commodities company have been arrested and their passports confiscated in connection with a toxic waste scandal. More than 44,000 people have sought assistance at hospitals and clinics since the toxic waste was dumped from a Panamanian ship last month. Seven people have died but autopsies have not determined the cause of death.

What happened? Somebody had the bright idea that the Ivory Coast could earn some foreign exchange by accepting toxic waste from abroad for dumping. They were no doubt following the infamous reasoning of Mr Lawrence Summers, who, while a vice-president of the World Bank attempted to change the bank's thinking on the environment.

According to Summers, since the costs of pollution depend on the foregone earnings from increased morbidity and mortality.health impairing pollution should be done in the country with the lowest cost, which will be the country with the lowest wages. I think the economic logic behind dumping a load of toxic waste in the lowest wage country is impeccable and we should face up to that.

Summers wrote:
I've always thought those under-populated countries in Africa are vastly nuder-polluted; their air quality is probably vastly inefficiently low (sic) compared to Los Angeles or Mexico City. Only the lamentable facts that so much pollution is generated by non-tradable industries (transport, electrical generation) and that the unit transport costs of solid waste are so high prevent world welfare-enhancing trade in air pollution and waste.

The demand for a clean environment for aesthetic and health reasons is likely to have very high income elasticity. The concern over an agent that causes a one in a million change in the odds of prostrate (sic) cancer is obviously going to be much higher in a country where people survive to get prostrate cancer than in a country where under five mortality is 200 per thousand.

The problem with the arguments against all of these proposals for more pollution in LDCs (intrinsic rights to certain goods, moral reasons, social concerns, lack of adequate markets, etc.) could be turned around and used more or less effectively against every Bank proposal for liberalisation.
Our homegrown developers seem to think along the same lines as Dr Summers. After all, his last job was as President of Harvard where he behaved in a very Jamaican fashion; he couldn't get along with women or with black professors.

I, being an undereducated yahoo, prefer Michael Manley's words, Trust the people every time. We need to find out what we really want our country to mean to us and what we want to represent to the world.

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17 September 2006

Elephant in Musth

Common Sense
John Maxwell

It is apparent, looking at Florida, that the most perfect system can be subverted by determined saboteurs with enough money - as long as good people keep quiet. The real George Bush, if he is appointed president, will use his time to destroy the integrity of the country he rules, starting with the Supreme Court.

Then he can start on dealing with the rest of us. That's his job, and as the American Press has made plain, nothing needs to be known about him and his multifarious incapacities because Big Brother in the giant corporations will tell him what to do. We are all in a for a very rough ride.
"Democracy! Enough Already!" - Common Sense, Dec 10 2000.

The good people seem at last to be coming awake.
After six years of conspicuous slumber and inexplicable silence, influential actors in the United States are at last finding the courage to defy the miasma threatening all of us.

All over the world, it seems, people are beginning to realise that we are being led down the road to Armageddon by a US Administration lacking either moral sensibilities, strategic reasoning or elementary common sense.

The Republican Party in the US Senate has at last rebelled against Mr Bush's maleficient defiance of International Law and world opinion. They have been joined by the one-time designated adult in the Bush Administration, Colin Powell. They have rejected George Bush's attempt to circumvent his own Supreme Court in order to authorise the torture of foreigners in US custody and to backdate forgiveness for all those who obeyed his corrupt instructions to flout the Geneva Conventions.

Last week, as Carl Hulse says in the New York Times, "On one side are the Republican veterans of the uniformed services, arguing that the president's proposal would effectively gut the nearly 60-year-old Geneva Conventions, sending a dark signal to the rest of the world and leaving the United States military without adequate protection against torture and mistreatment."
On the other side are the dinosaurs of the Republican Party and the president and his White House cabal.

The British establishment has long been clear about what Mr Bush has been up to.

Lord Steyn, perhaps Britain's most respected judge, two years ago described the US concentration camp at Guantanamo Bay as a scandalous, "Law-free zone". A few months ago, the Lords of Appeal unequivocally denounced the US gulag system, declaring it an uncivilised affront to humanity and justice. And, a few days ago, the head of Britain's Judiciary, the Lord Chancellor, Lord Falconer, excoriated the American position in the following words:
"It is a part of the acceptance of the rule of law that the courts will be able to exercise jurisdiction over the executive.
"Otherwise the conduct of the executive is not defined and restrained by law.
"It is because of that principle that the USA, deliberately seeking to put the detainees beyond the reach of the law in Guantanamo Bay, is so shocking an affront to the principles of democracy.
"Without independent judicial control, we cannot give effect to the essential values of our society."
It was the second time Lord Falconer had spoken out about the controversial camp, where 450 terror suspects are thought to be detained. In June this year, the Lord Chancellor denounced Guantanamo Bay as a "recruiting agent" for terrorism, and described the existence of the base as "intolerable and wrong".

In Brussels, the European Parliament last week heard the Spanish foreign minister Miguel Moratinos report that "[Spanish] territory may have been used not to commit crimes as such but as a stopover on the way to commit crimes in other territories".

He added that 66 suspect flights had made stops in Spain. What is so shocking is that the president has boldly, flagrantly and contemptuously attempted to defy and make meaningless, the decisions of his country's Supreme Court.

It is a court most of whose members were appointed by Republican presidents wanting to castrate the power of the judiciary to exercise the constitutionally decreed checks and balances which were thought to guarantee democracy in the United States. The present Supreme Court is even more Republican than the one which sanctified George Bush in the presidency of the United States despite his losing the presidential election in 2000.

When I predicted that George Bush would use his time to destroy the integrity of his country many people told me that I was simply prejudiced against the man; but I had observed his behaviour and came to the conclusion that he was going to be a disaster for the United States and a catastrophe for the rest of us.

The starving, brutalised people of Palestine, Darfur and Haiti, the terrorised millions in Iraq and the opium growers of Afghanistan are eloquent testimony to the accuracy of my prediction.

In addition to the attempt to subvert the law, the Bush administration has openly attempted to samfi the world into believing all sorts of impossible things.

Last week the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) blasted the US Administration indirectly and Congress directly for a brazen attempt to sell a monumental lie as a pretext for their anticipated war against Iran.

In an unprecedented broadside from a UN agency, the IAEA denounced a US Congressional report as "outrageous and dishonest" including "serious distortions" and "erroneous, misleading and unsubstantiated statements".

The letter from the IAEA was addressed to Peter Hoekstra, the Republican chairman of the committee that issued the report. The IAEA said the report contained a litany of misleading statements, and falsely (and fantastically) suggested that the IAEA sidelined an inspector who believed that Iran was deceiving the IAEA about the character of its nuclear ambitions. The IAEA suggested that Congress should check its facts.

When the congressional report was released last month, Hoekstra said his intent was "to help increase the American public's understanding of Iran as a threat". As a substantial minority still understand Saddam to have been behind 9/11.

According to the Washington Post, "Privately, several [American] intelligence officials said the committee report included at least a dozen claims that were either demonstrably wrong or impossible to substantiate. Hoekstra's office said the report was reviewed by the office of John D Negroponte, the director of national intelligence.

The committee report entitled 'Recognising Iran as a Strategic Threat: An Intelligence Challenge for the United States', was published on August 23.

The report is a classic piece of Republican propaganda. It is reminiscent of the administration's attempts to con world opinion to believe that Saddam Hussein, against the odds and all his protestations, possessed weapons of mass destruction and was an accessory to 9/11. The report's author, Frederick Fleitz, was a senior adviser to the United States' UN ambassador, John Bolton, until 2005.

John Bolton in orbit

One of the most dangerous identified lying objects in the Bush firmament is a short, self-important man named John Bolton. Like many of the Bush neo-con brains trust, Bolton has a murky history. His most dangerous exploit up to now was his attempt to con the world into believing that the US would be justified in attacking Cuba. He falsely alleged, in official documents, that Cuba possessed biological weapons of mass destruction and was peddling them to terrorist organisations and regimes.

This outrageous lie was finally exploded by President Jimmy Carter and a consortium of experts who visited Cuba to disprove Bolton's fantasies.

If war is politics by other means, as Clausewitz said, the Bolton doctrine does not admit that war is failed politics, it holds rather that war is preferable to politics. Bolton has been the lead agitator in attempting to blackmail the Security Council into adopting sanctions against Iran, justifying an American attack on that country.

Bolton has a Napoleonic complex, some would say a Superman complex, believing that the rest of the world epitomised in the United Nations, is utterly useless except when it acts as the servant of, and cleaner-up for the United States. His appointment to the United Nations was not simply a studied insult by Bush and Cheney, it was a deliberate provocation.

Even in the Republican-dominated Congress the move was unacceptable, and a scheduled, second hearing to confirm his nomination as ambassador had to be postponed because at least one Republican senator was prepared to speak out and vote against this misguided messenger.

The hearing will now await the new Congress, and if my instincts are accurate, it will fail ignominiously in a Senate newly dominated by Democrats with the support of disenchanted Republicans.

Subverting democracy

The Republican Administration in the United States could easily pass as a creation of George Orwell. Democracy is spread by invasion and war and almost every statement of any importance conceals somewhere within it a lie.

Right now, a galaxy of Republican Congressmen is either under lock and key ('Duke' Cunningham) under indictment (Ney and Delay) or under investigation for criminal misfeasance and malfeasance. The Senate majority leader (Frist) is himself under investigation, and if the Democrats win in November, as I expect, bogus voting or no, even Mr Bush may find himself impeached.

In its last two tenancies of the White House the GOP contributed an impressive list of malefactors up to and including the national security adviser McFarlane and the secretary of defence Weinberger who were saved from jail only by presidential pardon. Lesser lights, starlets like Elliott Abrams, Otto Reich, and Roger Noriega have contributed more than their share to the brutalisation and suffering of Latin America. Those who contributed to the stealing of the 2000 election were handsomely rewarded and let loose to wreak more havoc. The emblem of the Republicans, the Grand Old Party (GOP) is, aptly, an elephant.

Male elephants over a certain age periodically go into a condition known as musth, characterised by a huge excess of testosterone. Elephants in musth are as eager to fight as to mate, and they are so aggressive that the normal tribe hierarchy is disrupted, because even the most senior and biggest bulls will avoid smaller, younger bulls in musth because they are so dangerous - like teenage gunmen.

Musth is the Hindi rendering of the Urdu word mast, meaning intoxicated, which comes from an earlier Persian expression, which means poisoned. An elephant in musth will kill anything in its way - humans, including its keepers, other elephants or any other animal. Musth elephants are sometimes known as rogue elephants.

The behaviour of the Bush administration is, in my view, similar to the behaviour of an elephant in musth. John Bolton expresses the metaphor perfectly. He is the United States' senior diplomat though he does not believe in diplomacy. He is US Ambassador to the UN - which he believes is an unnecessary nuisance.

He deals with problems not by dialogue, but by threats and aggressive behaviour. He is the frontman for Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld, as dangerous a group of human beings as a whole herd of elephants in musth. They will not take "Yes" for an answer. Nothing but total submission will do.

And in their mad career they are fortified by the support of the American media.

Last week, the giant media network ABC, broadcast what it claimed was a documentary, entitled The Road to 9/11.
Before the so-called documentary was broadcast, there were several complaints about the accuracy of the script and it was soon clear that the enterprise was an assault on history and the truth; it was the opening black propaganda broadside against the Democrats in advance of the crucial November elections. When the Clinton administration left office, they made sure to warn the Bush administration about the nature of al-Qaeda and the intentions of Bin Laden.

Bush was asleep at the wheel on September 11, 2001, but the documentary blames Clinton and his crew for 9/11 and claimed that its conclusions were based on the official 9/11 Report.

The ABC documentary is reminiscent of the Swift Boat affair of the last Presidential election, when the Vietnam war hero John Kerry was painted as an unworthy coward and Bush, who spent most of the war in 'undisclosed locations' in Texas and Alabama, was painted as the hero.

In the 1970s, we used to be blasted when we complained about the malign attentions paid us by the foreign - mostly American - Press.

When one sees what they will do to their own heroes and others, we must consider ourselves fortunate to have escaped without greater damage. The Haitians, the Palestinians, the Guatemalans and the Chileans were not so lucky.

Of course, we also forget that September 11 was the anniversary of the American-sponsored coup which killed Allende and thousands of Chileans and subjected Chile to two decades of terror and bloodshed. The current President of Chile, Mme Bachelet, was herself a victim of Mr Kissinger's surrogates.

10 September 2006

Five Years Later

Common Sense
John Maxwell

Five years ago tomorrow, 19 youngish men, middle-class Arabs, mostly from Saudi Arabia, commandeered four commercial airplanes and flew them into the World Trade Centre buildings in New York City, into the Pentagon in Washington and into the ground in Pennsylvania.

The twin towers of the World Trade Centre billow smoke after hijacked airliners crashed into them early September 11, 2001. The terrorist attack caused the collapse of both towers. (Photo: AFP)

I want to look back, however briefly, at my own reactions to that horrific event.

In my column that week I wrote:
'On Tuesday, I, like you, watched in fascinated horror as airliners slammed into the World Trade Centre, and desperate people threw themselves off the buildings to certain death, preferring to kill themselves than to await destruction by fire.

The catastrophe brought the United States of America face to face with a reality which had always existed, but which most Americans had never faced before: American behaviour has stimulated many people around the world to hate the USA to the point where they will sacrifice themselves to damage the nation and its interests.'
I thought at the time that those who were urging immediate violent reaction were wrong: 'On the day of the latest outrage, it was easy to understand the anger and bitterness of those who want to "declare war", those who spoke of a second Pearl Harbour, those who looked for identifiable enemies and found the usual suspects.'

In a column in Wednesday's New York Times, William Safire lashed out: "Waiting for absolute proof is dangerous...when we reasonably determine our attacker's bases and camps, we must pulverise them - minimising but accepting the risk of collateral damage".

Safire forgets that collateral damage is unlikely to be limited to one side.

Clyde Haberman, in the same edition of the New York Times, tried to explain to Americans the nature of the enemy in the "War against America". Haberman instanced the suicide bombers whose efforts have brought misery, terror and suffering to hundreds of Israelis. Haberman suggests that what has happened in Jerusalem will happen in America.

Five years later, a few days ago, Mr Bush was repeating the same mantra: If Americans don't fight the terrorists abroad, they will have to fight them in American cities.

The basic outlines of the war on terror were, it is hard to believe, established within days of 9/11, as if somehow, God had vouchsafed to certain people truths unfathomable by ordinary people. I thought at the time that the world needed to spend a little time trying to understand what had happened.

No matter how violent and horrific, the terrorist action on Tuesday remains an act of criminal violence, not an act of war. Various spokesmen and supporters of the US government, including Tony Blair, the British PM, speak of attacking and defeating terrorism as if there were some central directorate, a sort of Terror International, with identifiable officials and institutions. Retired Israeli General Efi Eitam said: "This is a declaration of war by a consortium of terrorism with an infrastructure from Sudan to Afghanistan, and this passes through Gaza, Lebanon and the West Bank."

Mr Bush, whose own legitimacy has been questioned, speaks, even more ominously, of "ending states" that support terror, as if politics were a video game in which the baddies can simply be zapped into non-existence. One of his spokesmen, a Mr Wolfowitz, is even scouting the possibility of targeted assassinations of foreign leaders. Dead terrorists, of course, can't be punished. Someone else must therefore pay.

Extremism was the order of the day. Erstwhile-civilised people like Jonathan Alter of Newsweek and the civil rights lawyer Alan Dershowitz, were publicly advocating torture as an investigative technique.

This week Mr Bush denied that the United States had used torture to get various Al-Qaeda biggies to spill the beans. He was announcing his intention to comply with the US Supreme Court ruling that all those held in secret CIA dungeons should be brought before the courts and tried. Mr Bush would not explain how the CIA had got these tough criminals to babble like babies. The method was classified, but it was clearly safe and humane!

At the time, I said that we really needed to find out why these horrific acts had been committed. For the past few weeks Mr Blair, Mr Bush and Mr Rumsfeld have been talking about 'Islamofascism', which apparently is dangerously contagious and is seen as the ultimate challenge to Western Civilisation.

Five years ago, I suggested another possibility.


"Much of the horror of last Tuesday is caused by the grisly fact that the most peaceful symbols of international trade, passenger aeroplanes, were turned into high explosive weapons of mass destruction against the most potent symbols and Crown Jewels of the very culture which produced them.

The system was turned against itself, a kind of political HIV/AIDS in which the body is made to self-destruct. Imperial arrogance has globalised desperation.

'In all the millions of words about Tuesday's horrific tragedy, few have been used to ask Why? to seek the real reasons. Blasting the visible manifestations of a cancer may achieve cosmetic improvement, but the concealed body of the parasitic tumour will not disappear.

'Injustice is the most eloquent recruiter for terrorism. Injustice breeds desperation. Suicidal behaviour is almost always a desperate call for help. People who are willing to destroy themselves along with randomly selected groups of innocents are speaking the language of violence, which they know their enemies understand. Unfortunately, while their enemies understand the language, they do not usually listen to the message.'
And finally, I said at the time that what was needed to deal with terrorism was not war, but good police work. Mr Bush's speech this week and the news from Scotland Yard over the last several weeks, suggest that I may have been right.


Now that Mr Bush has officially admitted the existence of an American-run international system of secret prisons, he may find it useful to disclose the existence of another gulag, even larger and even more oppressive than the system used to confine the Al-Qaeda suspects. And the disclosure may even lead to the closing down of the best known gulag in the Caribbean, at Guantanamo Bay. But there is another, much larger gulag in the Caribbean, also run by the United States, this one not by the CIA but by USAID and elements of the Republican Party's National Committee.

This gulag is called Haiti, and it has a long and often miserable history. It wasn't always so. Two hundred years ago, after a war of independence lasting nearly 20 years, the mainly African people of Haiti, most of them slaves, managed to free themselves from the bondage of the French.

In the process, they also had to beat back the armies of the British and Spanish and so, by the time they declared their independence they had driven off the three superpowers of the time. In modern terms, the closest parallel is with the Vietnamese who chased both the French and the Americans out of their country.

The French were more formidable in the 18th century than they were in the 20th and the Vietnamese had external support and arms supplies. The Haitians won their freedom on their own. If Vietnam were to equal the Haitian performance they would have to have beaten the Americans, the Russians and the Chinese.

The Americans have never been able to come to terms with the idea that the Caribbean archipelago is not an extension of the United States and they have been particularly irritated by the independence of Cuba, Haiti and Jamaica. Cuba and Haiti particularly offended them: Cuba, when it declared its political and economic independence of the US in 1959, and Haiti, when it elected a black, socialist Roman Catholic priest as its president in 1991.

The little black priest, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, has been twice elected and twice overthrown by surrogates of the United States. The first occasion was by the army. On the second occasion the coup was carried out by what the Americans hoped would be a more externally palatable combination of "civil society" organised by USAID and the CIA, and a bunch of cutthroats left over from the Duvalier dictatorship.

In an attempt to make the bondage of Haiti less visible and offensive to the civilised world, the corrupt puppets installed to replace Aristide two years ago were sent packing three months ago after arranging an election which was designed to elect a titular president owned by the United States. Unfortunately, the plan did not work as designed and the election was won by a onetime protégé of Aristide, René Préval.

Préval is the titular president, but it is clear that he is not the de facto president of Haiti.

During the American interregnum, the fledgling institutions intended to restore democracy in Haiti were destroyed by the US puppets.

And the same cutthroats who had supported the Duvaliers and the usurpers after them were allowed to return to Haiti and be ceremonially cleared of the horrific crimes for which they were responsible - rapes, torture and massacres.

The people of Haiti know they are not free and continue to try to express their dissatisfaction with the situation. They are inhibited by the presence of an imported force assembled by the UN Security Council and mandated to restore order and good government. The UN Force in Haiti, known by the (French) acronym MINUSTAH, has proved to be a force for repression rather than law and order.

There is considerable evidence that MINUSTAH, in the guise of restoring peace and dealing with bandits, have been attacking and killing the leaders of the poor Aristide supporters in the huge slums around Port-au-Prince.

The people of the slums fear the MINUSTAH, considering them to be an extension of the armed paramilitary gangs organised by the light-skinned elite. The slum-dwellers are continually libelled. They are accused of being lawless gangsters and their habitats are frequently free fire zones. The slum dwellers say that their so-called gang leaders are in fact political leaders targeted by the elite.

In addition to the persecution by MINUSTAH, during the La Tortue regime ordinary Haitians were mercilessly persecuted by the returned gang-leaders and their private armies.

A survey conducted by US social workers and published in the English medical journal, The Lancet two weeks ago, confirmed a massive campaign of repression against the poor who support President Aristide. According to the Lancet study, under La Tortue, more than 8,000 Haitians were murdered in and around the capital, Port-au-Prince, almost half them killed by government forces or "outside political actors" - mostly armed gangs opposed to Mr Aristide and his Lavalas political party.

When Aristide was first overthrown, the murder and rape of his supporters created such a stink in the United States that it provoked intervention by President Clinton. This time the terror was just as fierce, but provoked no reaction from the 'civilised world'.

The Lancet study estimated that 35,000 women and girls were sexually assaulted, more than half of them younger than 18 years old, mostly by criminals, by the Haitian National Police (14 per cent) and armed anti-Lavalas groups (11 per cent). Many of the victims were "restaveks" - unpaid child domestic servants from rural areas who work and live in the city.

The study reported that kidnappings and extra-judicial detentions, physical assaults and death threats and threats of sexual violence were also common. Fourteen per cent of the people interviewed accused foreign soldiers and police, including UN personnel, of all three types of threats.

Because President Preval is not in control of his country's administration a number of outrageous abuses committed under the La Tortue regime still remain unresolved. As Brian Concannon, director of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti reports, "Three months into constitutional President René Préval's term, most of the high-profile members of Haiti's Lavalas movement jailed by the brutal Interim Government of Haiti over two years have been released. But if the cases demonstrate the democratic transition's promise, they also illustrate its pitfalls.
"The high-profile cases were all easy calls from a legal standpoint. They were in some ways easy from a political standpoint as well, because President Préval comes from the same Lavalas movement. Nevertheless, the new government took three months to release the prisoners, because of strong resistance within both the justice system and Haitian civil society.

That resistance spells delays, and trouble, as Préval's government tackles the much harder and more numerous cases of low-profile political prisoners." (JURIST - Forum: Haiti's Political Prisoners: Not Preval's Fault, But His Problem).
The scandalous arrests and false imprisonment of the former prime minister and other Lavalas officials and of "Sister Anne" Auguste, (the Haitian Louise Bennett) and Fr Gérard Jean-Juste are fairly well known. But there are hundreds of others languishing for no good reason in Haitian hellholes. And massacres by elite-sponsored murderers such as Lame Timanchet (Small Machetes), continue.

There is more, much more to complain about, but I believe that what I have reported here should give Mr Bush something to get his teeth into, and a chance to make a really serious impression on one gulag situation about which he, perhaps, is less well informed.

03 September 2006

A Trap Door to Hell

Common Sense
John Maxwell

It was a real groin sniffers' week. The paladins of the US media were up to their armpits in emotional frottage and editorial voyeurism. It was not entirely inappropriate for a week which included the anniversary of the death-by-paparazzi of Princess Diana. There won't be another cannibal media banquet like hers for a long time.

In the meantime, we had to make do with the poor, deluded John Mark Karr, caught like a wounded deer in the headlights of a speeding press, accompanied on his long trip back from Thailand by newsmen - and newswomen I presume - all hanging on his every gesture, as if he were some prince, taking no one knows how many photographs of his weak, expressionless visage as he was triumphantly headed home to face the music.

Except, of course, there was no music to face. Karr's notes were quickly wiped from the score when his DNA came back innocent and his sad and mad delusions were exposed for what they were. A more careful media might have listened more intently to the father of JonBenet Ramsay, who, interviewed when Karr was located in Thailand, counselled the press not to jump to conclusions, having himself experienced the results of such media cannibalism.

All the usual suspects were out in force, with CNN's harpy eagle, Nancy Grace, thwarted as she came in for the kill, thrown back on wondering whether there was in fact an intruder in the Ramsay house the night of the murder, in effect pointing fingers back at Mr Ramsay, notwithstanding his prior clearance by DNA.

The harpy eagle and King would be back for another bite of the cherry, with the arrest of the serial polygamist and alleged child molester Warren Steed Jeffs. There was Larry King interviewing two of Jeffs' victims, and to my mind, just itching to ask whether there was group sex and so on. I say this knowing that it is not a nice thing to say, but because of a prior experience with this doyen of necrophiliac interviewers.

A couple of years ago, two young women were abducted by a man who was killed by police after a wild chase in the countryside of some western state. Larry King, knowing that the abductor was dead and could not be charged with any crime, nevertheless made it his business to ask a hospital administrator who had care of the two young women, whether they had been raped.

The hospital administrator, bless him, turned King down flat, explaining that it was no business of King's or the press. But King persisted; in another interview, this time with a sheriff, he pestered the man until he was informed that yes, at least one of the girls had been sexually assaulted.

I still cannot figure out what was the importance of this fact to the general public or to Larry King, but later that night, again on CNN, a then famous woman anchor, Connie Chung, did the same thing.

As a journalist two thousand miles away, I felt soiled.

Transcontinental frenzy

The week's media excitement went transcontinental with the story of the Austrian girl who had been abducted eight years ago as a child of 10 and kept prisoner by another sick soul. The Austrian authorities were more discreet, and did their best to protect the young woman's privacy against the long, quivering noses of the press who wanted details of her abuse. We must presume that the child was kidnapped to be sexually abused.

We don't know, but what on earth did the press want to know about her abuse? Did she enjoy it? How often did he do IT? Was her abductor into weird practices? S/M? witchcraft? fetishism perhaps? The mind boggles.

Some reports managed to convey the idea that the young woman was being churlish in not stripping herself naked for the delectation and entertainment of readers and viewers. Fortunately, if Miss Kampusch is as sensible as she seems, we will never know.

But reporters appeared to have been amazed by the fact that someone who had been solitarily confined for nearly half her life, whose attentions had been totally monopolised by one adult for that time, whose very life depended on that person, could have chosen to 'mourn' the death of her jailer. Where have they been?

During her time in that dungeon she must have prayed for her captor's safe return, because if anything happened to him she would have perished alone and miserably. Pavlov's dogs were luckier.

Various worthy people have been trying to get the press to focus on less important matters, like war and the brutalisation of large sections of the human race. Messrs Rumsfeld and Bush, having shed their Field Marshals' uniforms, have taken up lecturing. Mr Rumsfeld is pretending to be an historian, attempting to slander peacemakers as cowards.

The appeasers of Hitler were, in fact, people like Mr Rumsfeld and Mr Cheney and some of the more corrupt examples of the British and American capitalist classes. They thought they could do business with Hitler, as Rumsfeld and his cohorts did with Saddam Hussein when he was fighting Iran.

Mr Bush, who still cannot pronounce the word 'nuclear', is nevertheless lecturing the world on what he calls Islamofascism, and in a speech on Thursday seemed to link all Muslin militants to Al-Qaeda, despite the fact that at least two of the groups he named are reputedly bitter enemies of Bin Laden's movement.

Mr Bush has now managed to smear most of the population of Lebanon as terrorists because, according to him, the resistance movement Hezbollah are terrorists and whoever supports them is a terrorist too.

The fact which is ignored by almost all the American and British media is that the resistance movements are direct responses to Israel. They arose because of Israeli provocation and brutality and they are fuelled by Israeli provocation and brutality.

Israel is painted as being the helpless victim of swarming hordes of terrorists, killing and maiming Israelis by the minute. The fact is that while CNN reports that two primitive rockets were fired into Israel on Thursday, Israel has been firing rockets and cannon and destroying houses and public works in Gaza every day. While the highly publicised war was in train in Lebanon, 200 Palestinians died in Gaza as a result of Israeli action.

The Israeli/Palestinian kill ratio is nearly 10 to one in Israel's favour. And nearly half the Hamas government has been kidnapped and now languish in Israeli prisons.

Palestinian officials say more than half of those killed in the past two months have been civilians - among them 39 children killed in July alone. Even the UN secretary-general, Mr Kofi Annan, has noticed.

After a visit last week to Gaza where he met with Palestinian officials in the occupied West Bank, Mr Annan said: "Over 200 Palestinians have been killed since the end of June. This must stop immediately. I have made my feelings known in talks with Israeli officials. Beyond preserving life, we have to sustain life, the closure of Gaza must be lifted, the crossing points must be opened, not just to allow goods but to allow Palestinian exports out as well."

What he means is that Israel should open the gates of the Palestinian concentration camp.

As I have pointed out before, what is happening in Gaza is nothing less than genocide - a continuing, persistent. murderous persecution of the people by intimidation, kidnapping and killing with a background of psychological warfare against a largely defenceless population. In the West Bank, more than a million people are squeezed into an area slightly larger than the Jamaican parish of St Catherine, and more than half of them are children or youths.

'Completely immoral'

In Lebanon, on the other side of Israel, another UN official, the human rights co-ordinator, Mr Jan Egeland, was more forthright than Mr Annan.

Jan Egeland said civilians were facing "massive problems" returning home, because of as many as 100,000 unexploded cluster bombs, most of which were dropped in the last days of the war.

"What's shocking - and I would say to me completely immoral - is that 90 per cent of the cluster bomb strikes occurred in the last 72 hours of the conflict, when we knew there would be a resolution," Mr Egeland said. "Every day people are maimed, wounded and are killed by these ordinance."

It does seem to me that there is something dark in the Israeli spirit these days. Knowing that a ceasefire was imminent, the Israelis went and hauled out cluster bombs dating from the Vietnam era and showered them on southern Lebanon. Whoever ordered this cannot be described as civilised, although the Israeli government has claimed that the cluster bombs are legitimate tools of war.

They are legitimate, if used against soldiers and military positions. They are illegal if used against civilians or civilian targets. The Israelis want to get rid of Prime Minister Olmert. There can be no better reason than this.

In southern Lebanon there are cluster bomblets on the roofs of people's houses, in their gardens and inside the houses themselves, in shops, parks and schools. The bomblets are neat little canisters, just the sort of thing an inquisitive child will pick up and blow himself to kingdom come or maim himself and others.

The United Nations has counted nearly 300 sites contaminated by the cluster bombs. By last week Sunday, after the ceasefire, the cluster bombs had killed at least a dozen people and injured many more. They continue to explode and kill and maim.

The United States says it is investigating whether Israel violated US guidelines for the US-made cluster bombs. Their use is prohibited in residential areas. But that is exactly where the UN technicians and the Lebanese children are finding them. What action will the US take? Don't hold your breath.

Four years ago in my column, I compared then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to Rehoboam, the ancient king of Israel who threatened his enemies that while "my father has beaten you with whips I will chastise you with scorpions".

I said then: "In his perverse search for a final solution to the 'Palestinian Question', Sharon may not manage like Rehoboam, to destroy Israel, or like Samson to destroy himself, but he has certainly managed to damage Israel's reputation as one of the world's more civilised nations".

His successor, Mr Olmert, has gone even farther down that path. It is a very long way from Theodor Herzl's Zionist ideal that Israel should be a light unto the nations of the world.

When Iran's President Ahmadinejab engages in his virulent rodomontade, calling for Israel to be wiped off the map, I don't believe that there is anyone who really believes that he means literally what he says.

He is using classic negotiating techniques, demanding far more than he expects in the hope that his opponent will be quicker to make concessions. The Egyptians once did the same. No sane person believes that Israel either should be, or can be erased. Two of Israel's four closest neighbours - Egypt and Jordan - have already accepted Israel's right to exist. Only the most fanatical fundamentalist can believe that the rest of the Arab world is ready to fight to the death to destroy Israel.

What has happened is that the Arabs, having been defeated thrice already by Israel, are not eager for further bashing which would come from Israel and from the United States if Israel were really in trouble. The Arabs and their fellow Muslims are not fools, nor are most of them mad.

But, if cluster bombs can provoke the normally docile Lebanese prime minister, Mr Siniora, to declare that Lebanon will be the last Arab state to make peace with Israel, one can imagine that Israel's continuing insults seem almost designed to provoke the Armageddon so devoutly anticipated by the fundamentalist religious lunatics in the United States.

Last week, Israel bought two more nuclear submarines.

As I said immediately after 9/11, terrorism is not the weapon of the strong, it is the last, desperate resort of the weak, the defeated and demoralised.

The real danger to Israel is that it has trained the weak and defeated to organise, à la Hezbollah, until entire populations become militant. When Israel refused to deal with Arafat, what they got in his place was Hamas. When they tried to control Lebanon they got Hezbollah.

Time is running out for the forces of reason and peace.