Thursday, June 28, 2007

Big Oil and Big Media V. Hugo Chavez

Big Oil and Big Media V. Hugo Chavez - by Stephen Lendman

On June 27, the New York Times and Wall Street Journal vied for attention with feature stories on oil giants ExxonMobil and ConocoPhillips "walking away from their multi-billion-dollar investments in Venezuela" as the Journal put it or standing "Defiant in Venezuela" as the Times headlined. Both papers can barely contain their displeasure over Hugo Chavez wanting Venezuela to have majority ownership of its own assets and no longer let Big (foreign) Oil investors plunder them. Those days are over. State oil company PDVSA is now majority shareholder with a 78% interest in four Orinoco joint ventures. That's up from previous stakes of from 30 to 49.9%. That's how it should be, but it can't stop the Journal and Times from whining about it.

What ExxonMobil and ConocoPhillips reject, oil giants Chevron, BP PLC, Total SA and Statoil ASA agreed to. They're willing to accept less of a huge profit they'll get by staying instead of none at all by pouting and walking away as their US counterparts did. Or did they? The Wall Street Journal reports "Conoco isn't throwing in the towel in Venezuela yet. By not signing a deal, the Houston company kept open the option of pursuing compensation through arbitration." Exxon, however, is mum on that option for now. Responding to Energy Minister Rafael Ramirez saying the two oil giants will lose their stakes in the Orinoco oil fields altogether, a company spokesperson expressed "disappoint(ment) that we have been unable to reach an agreement on the terms for migration to a mixed enterprise structure (but will) continue discussions with the Venezuelan government on a way forward."

So what's likely ahead as most Big Oil giants agree to Venezuela's terms while two outliers haven't yet but may in the end do so. The country's oil reserves are too lucrative to walk away from, especially with Russia now pressuring foreign investors the same way. It also wants majority stakes in its own resources with its giant oil and gas company Gazprom in control. It has a monopoly over the country's Sakhalin gas field exports and has taken over two of the largest energy projects in eastern Russia.

If these actions by Venezuela and Russia succeed as is likely, they may influence other oil producing nations to follow a similar course and pursue plans for larger stakes in their own resources as well. Why not? They own them and even with less ownership interests, Big Oil will still earn huge profits from their foreign investments. They just won't be quite as huge as they once were with one-sided deals benefitting them most. So the end of this story may not be its end according to Michael Goldbert, head of the international dispute resolution group at Baker Botts, an influential law firm representing major international oil companies. He said he didn't think the June 26 actions were "necessarily the end of the story (adding) The prospects of a deal are never over until a sale is made or an arbitrator reaches a decision."

The investments are large ranging from $2.5 - $4.5 billion for Conoco and $800 million for Exxon if Venezuela assumes ownership of its heavy oil projects. Conoco explained "Although the company is hopeful that the negotiations will be successful, it has preserved all legal rights, including international arbitration." Exxon also expressed its hope an agreement could be reached permitting it to continue operating in an ownership role.

It looks like Conoco and Exxon want one foot in and the other outside Venezuela to keep its interests in the country alive. It also looks like they're playing games and letting the Wall Street Journal and New York Times do their moaning about what they ought to be grateful for - the right to invest and earn huge profits the way other Big Oil investors are opting to do. Despite their June 26 decisions, Exxon and Conoco may, in the end, make the same choice. If they don't, the stakes they relinquish will shift to other producers according to James Cordier, president of Liberty Trading Group in Tampa, Florida. He said production won't halt, and "Before everyone walks out, a deal will be struck and production there will continue." Caracas-based petroleum economist Mazhar al-Shereidah agrees saying "Venezuela is now free to find other partners (and) this doesn't constitute a dramatic situation." There are plenty of capable and willing takers around.

Conoco and Exxon may in the end accept less of a good investment, stop whining about it, and continue operating in Venezuela. Why not? The country is more open than many other oil-producing nations with much of their world's proved reserves controlled by state monopolies barring private investment. Venezuela barred them from 1975 - 1992 when the nation's energy sector was completely nationalized. That changed with a series of partial privatizations in the 1990s, and Chavez said he has no plans to reinstitute a complete oil industry nationalization. Private investors can thus remain in the country and continue earning huge profits doing so. Conoco and Exxon may decide after all to share in them.

Venezuelan V. Iraqi Oil Policies - A Study in Contrasts

High-level US officials from the administration, Congress and Pentagon are pressuring the puppet Iraqi parliament to pass its new "Hydrocarbon Law" drafted in Washington and by Big US and UK oil companies. Its provisions are in stark contrast to Venezuela's oil management policies under Hugo Chavez. For Chavez, his nation and peoples' interests come first. In Iraq, however, Big Oil licensed plunder will become law if the parliament agrees to accept what its occupier and corporate interests demand. At this stage, it's nearly certain it will clearing the way for stealing part of what a US state department spokesperson in 1945 called "a stupendous source of strategic power, and one of the greatest material prizes in world history" - the vast (mostly Saudi) Middle East oil reserves.

In Venezuela, the nation and its people will benefit most from the country's oil wealth. In Iraq, their resources are earmarked mostly for Big US and UK Oil. The new "Hydrocarbon Law" is a shameless act of theft on the grandest of scale. It's a privatization blueprint for plunder giving foreign investors a bonanza of resources, leaving Iraqis a mere sliver for themselves. As now written, its complex provisions give the Iraqi National Oil Company exclusive control of just 17 of the country's 80 known oil fields with all yet-to-be-discovered deposits set aside for foreign investors.

Even worse, Big Oil is free to expropriate all earnings with no obligation to invest anything in Iraq's economy, partner with Iraqi companies, hire local workers, respect union rights, or share new technologies. Foreign investors will be granted long-term contracts up to 30 or more years, dispossessing Iraq and its people of their own resources in a naked scheme to steal them.

The Wall Street Journal, New York Times and rest of the dominant US media shamelessly denounce Hugo Chavez for his courage and honor doing the right thing. In contrast, their silence, and effective complicity, on what will be one of the greatest ever corporate crimes when implemented shows their gross hypocrisy. It'll be up to the people of Iraq to resist and reclaim what Venezuelan people already have from its social democratic leader serving their interests above all others.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at

Also visit his blog site at and listen to The Steve Lendman News and Information Hour on Saturdays at noon US central time.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Reviewing Linda McQuaig's Holding the Bully's Coat

Reviewing Linda McQuaig's "Holding the Bully's Coat" - by Stephen Lendman

Linda McQuaig is a prominent, award-winning Canadian journalist, sadly less well known in the US because she writes about her own country. She was a national reporter for the Toronto Globe and Mail before joining the Toronto Star where she now covers Canadian politics with her trademark combination of solid research, keen analysis, irreverence and passion. She's easy to read, never boring, and fearless. The National Post called her "Canada's Michael Moore."

McQuaig is also a prolific author with a well-deserved reputation for taking on the establishment. In her previous seven books, she challenged Canada's deficit reduction scheme to gut essential social services. She explained how the rich used the country's tax system for greater riches the way it happened in the US since Ronald Reagan, then exploded under George Bush. She exposed the fraud of "free trade" empowering giant corporations over sovereign states while exploiting working people everywhere.

She also showed how successive Canadian governments waged war on equality since the 1980s, and in her last book before her newest one she took aim at why the US invaded and occupied Iraq. It's catchy title is "It's the Crude, Dude: war, big oil, and the fight for the planet." It's no secret America's wars in the Middle East and Central Asia are to control what Franklin Roosevelt's State Department in 1945 called a "stupendous source of strategic power, and one of the greatest material prizes in world history - the huge amount of Middle East oil alone and veto power over how it's disbursed and to whom.

"Holding the Bully's Coat - Canada and the US Empire" is her eighth book. She writes about a country slightly larger than the US in geographic size with around one-tenth the population and one-twelfth the GDP. It also shares the world's longest relatively open, undefended border extending 3145 miles. In her book, McQuaig explains how corporate-Canada, its elitist "comprador class," the Department of National Defense (DND), and mainstream commentators want Canada to be Washington's subservient junior partner. The result is Ottawa abandoned its traditional role in peacekeeping, supporting internationalism, as a fair-minded mediator and conciliator, and it's continuing downhill from there.

Today Canada's allied with the Bush administration's belligerent lawlessness in its phony "war on terrorism." It's not part of the "coalition of the willing" in Iraq but joined Washington's war of aggression and illegal occupation in Afghanistan. In February, 2004, it partnered with the US and France ousting democratically elected Jean-Bertrand Aristide in Haiti, then became part of the repressive Blue Helmet MINUSTAH paramilitary force onslaught against his Lavalas movement and Haitian people under cover of "peacekeeping." More on that below.

In "Holding the Bully's Coat," McQuaig further explains how Canada lost its moorings. As an appendage of the US empire, it abandoned its traditional commitment to equality, inclusiveness, and rule of law. She wants her country to disgorge this virus plaguing it - its uncharacteristic culture of militarism, loss of sovereignty and one-sided support of privilege, returning to its roots to reclaim its once proud status now lost. Its leaders might recall former Mexican dictator Porfirio Diaz's lament saying: "Poor Mexico, so far from God, so close to the US." Closeness plagues Canada, too. It can't choose neighborhoods but can still go its own sovereign way.

This review covers McQuaig's important book in detail so readers can learn what afflicts America affects Canada as well. It's a cancerous disease, and all people everywhere suffer for it.

McQuaig starts off noting the "significant shift in how Canada (now) operates in the world (having) moved from being a nation that has championed internationalism, the United Nations and UN peacekeeping to being a key prop" in George Bush's "war on terrorism." It belies Canada's now sullied reputation "as a fair arbiter and promoter of just causes (and as a) decent sort of country." She laments how the conservative Harper government aids the beleaguered White House, joined its war of aggression in Afghanistan, and continues distancing itself from its European allies "with whom we have a great deal in common."

Canada and the continent have "compelling similarities" shown in stronger social programs, "aspirations for greater social equality," and wanting "a world of peaceful co-existence among nations." In contrast, America continues growing more unequal, focusing instead on achieving unchallengeable economic, political and military supremacy in line with its imperial aims for world dominance. Nations daring to step out of line, risk getting flattened the way it's now happening to Iraq and Afghanistan.

Canada's tilt to the right began in earnest in the 1980s under conservative prime minister Brian Mulroney and his relationship with Ronald Reagan. Corporate American elites fondly remember his December, 1984 appearance at the New York Economic Club where one writer said business heavyweights were "hanging from the rafters" to hear what he'd say. They weren't disappointed, and it's been mostly downhill since. Back then, the order of the day was mainly business, but it no longer would be as formerly usual with Mulroney delighting his listeners announcing "Canada is open for business." He meant US corporations were welcome up north, the two countries would work for greater economic integration, and America's sovereignty henceforth took precedence over its northern neighbor.

Before Stephen Harper took office in February, 2006, McQuaig notes Canada's foreign policies began tilting to the right under Liberal prime minister Paul Martin. He replaced Jean Chretien in December, 2003, stepping down after 10 years in office just ahead of the federal "sponsorship scandal" over improper use of tax dollars that doomed the Martin government after an explosive report about it was released in February, 2004. While still in office, Martin's April, 2005 defence policy review stressed the integration of Canada's military with the US. He also approved redeploying Canadian Afghan troops away from "peacekeeping" in Kabul to fighting Taliban forces in southeastern Helmand province. Based on Taliban gains, since its resurgence to control half the country, he and Harper may live to regret that decision.

McQuaig notes the absence of any evidence Canadians approve. In fact, polls consistently show they're "increasingly wary of our involvement in Afghanistan (and too close an alignment) with the United States." Their feeling may be heightened under Harper's "flag-pumping jingoism" aided by the country's dominant media championing the war effort much like their counterparts in the US. Public approval doesn't count in Canada any more than in the America. What George Bush wants he's mostly gotten so far, and Stephen Harper is quite willing to go along.

Anti-Canadians at Home and Abroad

Since taking office in February, 2006, Harper's been in lockstep with Washington, even abandoning Canada's traditional even-handedness on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. One of his first shameless acts was to cut off aid to the new democratically elected Hamas government. Showing his pro-Israeli bona fides, he failed to show concern for 50,000 Canadians in harm's way in Lebanon after Israel launched its summer war of aggression last year. Instead of calling for a ceasefire, Harper defended Israel calling their action "measured." In fact, it flattened half the country causing vast destruction, many hundreds of deaths, massive population displacement, and untold human misery and desperation still afflicting those in the conflict areas.

McQuaig notes Canadian internationalism evolved post-WW II. It showed in support for the UN, peacekeeping as opposed to militarism, the rule of law, distaste for imperialism, and by following a good neighbor policy toward all other countries. It was completely contrary to American belligerence, hardened under George Bush post-9/11, and now largely embraced by Stephen Harper just like Britain did it under Tony Blair. The UK leader is leaving office June 27 at the end of his prime ministership with an approval rating lower than George Bush's (at 26% in latest Newsweek poll nearly matching Richard Nixon's record low of 23%), maybe signaling what's ahead for Mr. Harper.

His government, Canada's elite, and its military support policies distinct from the public's. They want tax cuts for the rich, cuts in social spending, more privatizations and less regulation, increased military spending and closer ties to the US and its belligerent imperial agenda. That includes its policy of torture Canada's now complicit with as a partner in Bush's "war on terrorism" and how it's being waged. In contrast, the public "favours a more egalitarian agenda of public investment, universal social programs," and maintaining Canada's identity distinct from its southern neighbor. Most Canadians don't wish to emulate it, nor would they tolerate living under a system denying them the kinds of essential social benefits they now have even though they're eroding.

Their feelings are especially strong regarding their cherished national health medicare system. It's "founded on the principle that everyone should have access to health care (and) be treated equally," unlike in the US where everyone can get the best health care possible as long as they can pay for it. If not, too bad, and for 47 million Americans without health insurance it's really bad along with around another 40 million who are without it some portion of every year. For Canadians, that's unthinkable and wouldn't be tolerated.

It should be as unthinkable that the Harper government's so-called Clean Air Act of October, 2006 meant Ottawa's effective abandonment of the Kyoto Protocol on climate change. The Chretien government accepted and ratified it even though little was done under Liberal rule, making it easier to do less under Conservative leadership. That's in spite of near-universal agreement global warming is real and threatening the planet with an Armageddon future too grim to ignore. Canada's doing it under Harper just like Washington ignores it under George Bush.

A large part of the problem is both parties' support for industry efforts to triple oil sands production by 2015 to three million barrels daily. At that level, it's impossible meeting Kyoto targets, but Washington approves as most production is earmarked for US markets. It will feed America's insatiable energy appetite meaning planet earth's fate is someone else's problem, and maybe it will go away if we stop talking about it. And maybe not after we learn it's too late to matter. Canada's record is already disgraceful with one of the world's highest levels of greenhouse gas emissions per person. Unless it acts to change current policy, it risks being called an international scofflaw, no different than its southern neighbor, except in degree.

The Harper government is also massively ramping up Canada's military spending he plans to increase over 50% above 2005 levels to $21.5 billion annually by 2010. That's in spite of the nation facing no threats and a public consensus favoring social spending. It's also contrary to Canada's traditionally eschewing militarism unlike the US with its long history of it since the nation's founding. It intensified post-WW II after it emerged preeminent and chose to pursue an imperial agenda for new markets, resources and exploitable cheap labor now endangering all planetary life by its recklessness. That's what Canada chose to partner with making it complicit with whatever happens henceforth.

Unsurprisingly, the Bush-Harper "war on terrorism" partnership now focuses on the Middle East where two-thirds of the world's proved oil reserves are located (around 675 billion barrels) and the Central Asian Caspian basin with an estimated 270 billion barrels more plus one-eighth of the world's natural gas reserves. It doesn't matter that claimed "terrorism" is phony and "war" on it against "Islamofascists" threatening our freedoms unjustified. It only matters that people of both countries believe enough of the daily media-fed fiction so their governments can pursue what enough popular outrage never would allow. Anger and disillusionment in both countries are growing but haven't reached critical mass.

It's the job of the dominant media to prevent it getting there. So the beat goes on daily keeping it in check in both countries suppressing ugly truths and preaching notions of American exceptionalism. We're told it's unique in the world giving the US special moral authority to make its own rules, irrespective of long-standing international laws and norms it openly flouts as "quaint and obsolete." Because of its privileged status, it reigns as a self-styled "beacon of freedom" defending "democracy-US style," empowered to wage imperial wars using humanitarian intervention as cover for them. In the made-in-Washinton New World Order, America answers only to itself, the law is what the administration says it is, and, the message to all countries is "Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists." Thus, Spaketh a modern-day Zarathustra, aka George Bush.

McQuaig continues explaining how Canadians are used to their own media, academic and corporate elites pandering to Washington rather than taking pride mostly in their own country. She notes the National Post and C.D. Howe Institute serve as "spiritual home(s) for neoconservatism" favoring the same kinds of policies as the US-based bastions of conservative extremism like the Heritage Foundation, Hoover Institution and Wall Street Journal editorial page that's hard right enough to make a Nazi blush. She mentioned C.D. Howe's sponsored lecture in late 2004 by former Canadian ambassador to the US, Allan Gotlieb.

He stressed Canada is a faded world power needing to accept the "transcendant (reality of) US power" and align with it. He said Canadians have a choice between "realism" and "romanticism." The former means accepting US preeminence, even when it violates international law. Further, Canadians must "liberate themselves from the belief that the UN is the sacred foundation of our foreign policy." According to Gotlieb, international law, embodied in the UN Charter, is obsolete and irrelevant including what constitutes legitimate armed intervention.

The "romantic" approach respecting international law and treaties, that are law for signatories, are "narcissistic" and "sanctimonious." Following this course will marginalize Canada reducing its influence. It can only be enhanced by aligning with Washington so as its power grows, so will Canada's opportunity to benefit from it. Advancing this kind of tortured logic guarantees Canada only trouble in light of George Bush's failed adventurism and US status as a world-class pariah mass public opinion condemns nearly everywhere. McQuaig says "it's hard (imagining) we'd be viewed with anything but contempt (for having chosen to "hold the bully's coat" as its) unctuous little sidekick." Not according to Gotlieb who scoffs at the idea of "remain(ing) committed to the values we hold....advance them to the world" regardless of what direction the US takes.

McQuaig compares her country's government, business and military elite to the 19th century notion of a "comprador class" serving foreign business class interests. Modern-day Canadian compradors serve as intermediary junior partners for corporate American giants especially as so much of Canada's economy is foreign owned or controlled - 28% of non-financial sectors with 20% by US companies in 2004. It's much higher in the key oil and gas sector at 45% overall and 33% in US hands. Further, of the 150 most powerful CEOs on the Canadian Council of Chief Executives (CCCE), about one-fourth of them are with subsidiaries of foreign-owned companies and 18% of them are American.

McQuaig stresses these numbers are significant but not overwhelming. What's astonishing and overwhelming is Canada's growing dependence on the US market now accounting for 87% of all exports. It explains why Canadian business championed its Free Trade Agreement (FTA) "leap of faith" in 1988, NAFTA in 1994, and the new Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America (SPP) founded in March, 2005 by the US, Canada and Mexico. SPP aims to advance a common security strategy veiling a scheme to destroy Canadian and Mexican sovereignty under a broader plan for a North American Union under US control.

The plan is to create a borderless North America removing barriers to trade and capital flows for corporate giants, mainly US ones. It also wants to guarantee America free and unlimited access to Canadian and Mexican resources, mainly oil, of course. That will assure US energy security while denying Canada and Mexico preferential access to their own resources henceforth earmarked for US markets. Finally, it wants to create a fortress-North American security zone encompassing the whole continent under US control. The scheme, in short, is NAFTA on steroids combined with Pox Americana homeland security enforcement. It's the Bush administration's notion of "deep integration" or the "Big Idea" meaning we're boss, what we say goes, and no outliers will be tolerated.

Stephen Harper and Canadian business leaders endorse the plan. Canadian businesses will profit hugely leaving the country's energy needs ahead for future leaders to worry about. Today, it's only next quarter's earnings and political opportunism that matters. McQuaig notes how Canada's elites want to push the envelope further by giving more tax breaks to business and the rich while cutting social spending for greater global competitive opportunities. It's heading for the way it is in the US with a growing disparity between rich and poor economist Paul Krugman calls "unprecedented."

It led to a Citigroup Global Markets 2005 report describing the developed world divided in two blocs - an "egalitarian" one made up of Europe and Japan and "plutonomies" in the other one. There the US, UK and Canada are cited as members where wealthy elites get most of the benefits and the disparity between rich and poor keeps getting more extreme. McQuaig mentions journalists like Murray Dobbin saying resistance to the US empire is futile and promotes "pre-emptive surrender(ing)" to it. McQuaig thinks Canadians in their roots have other ideas being "neither anti-American nor self-adoring - just resistant to bullies, on both sides of the border." But given the state of the world and how Canada today is closely aligned with Washington, ordinary Canadians have their work cut out for themselves standing up for their rights.

How they've been cheated shows in a study released in March backing up Citigroup Global Markets 2005 findings. It was conducted by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) titled "The rich and the rest of us - The changing face of Canada's growing gap." It documented how Canada, like the US, is growing progressively more unequal with income and wealth gaps between the richest Canadians and all others widening dramatically. It's happening because all segments of Canada's political elite, even the New Democratic Party, have been complicit since the 1980s in reducing social services, attacking worker rights, cutting corporate taxes and supporting corporate interests, and redistributing wealth from the public to the privileged so that real, inflation adjusted, incomes for most Canadians have stagnated or fallen even while they work longer hours for it.

No More Girlie-Man Peacekeeping

Canada sunk from "peacekeeper" to partners in illegal aggression as McQuaig explains in this section. US General Thomas Metz stated it his way sounding the alarm that Islam was "hijacked by thugs" that could number in the millions posing the greatest of all threats the West faces - radical Islamic terrorism. It doesn't matter the threat is a hoax, and it's easy inventing this or any other one out of whole cloth by just repeating it enough.

Why now? The general explains that, too, noting America's energy security for its huge appetite. It needs one-fourth of world oil production for 5% of its population. And, by chance, two-thirds of proved oil reserves are in the Muslim Middle East and three-fourths of it in all Muslim states combined worldwide. How best to control it? McQuaig explains: by "old-style imperialism - plundering the resources of another country" using wars of aggression claimed for self-defense against "the scourge of (Islamic) terrorism."

McQuaig calls Canada's new Chief of Defence Staff, General Rick Hillier, a "whole new kind of general - tough, brash, straight-talking....exuding a (new) kind of bravado." He eschews Canada's traditional "girlie-man peacekeeping" role opting instead for a "warrior ethic" and partnering with Washington to do it. Stephen Harper feels the same way, and so does defence minister Gordon O'Connor. They're on board together for ramping up military spending and getting knee-deep in America's "war on terrorism." All they needed was getting the Canadian public to go along that over the years showed a 90% enthusiastic endorsement for peacekeeping, not war-making.

McQuaig notes "Canada (for decades) was a star international (peacekeeping) performer, participating in virtually every UN mission (with) substantial numbers of troops." In recent years, however, "Canada has virtually disappeared from the UN peacekeeping scene" along with the West's declining involvement overall, preferring aggressive intervention instead through NATO or concocted "coalitions of the (coerced and/or bribed) willing."

Enter the dominant Western media functioning the way they do best. Michael Parenti calls it "inventing reality" while Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky call it "manufacturing consent." It means manipulating public opinion to go along with state and corporate policy, nearly always counter to the public interest. So we've had a warrior agenda post-9/11 invented out of whole cloth against "Islamic terrorism" threatening Western civilization unless stopped. It turns reality on its head portraying innocent Arab victims as victimizers and Western aggressors as targets acting only in self-defense.

Using CIA asset Osama bin Ladin as "Enemy Number One," illegal wars of aggression are portrayed as liberating ones. McQuaig calls the "arrogance of this notion stupefying" including Western indifference to the "collateral damage" of huge numbers of innocent lives lost. Most go unreported, while the few getting attention are dismissively called "unfortunate mistakes." Noted Canadian law professor Michael Mandel disagrees saying every death constitutes a grave international crime because the Iraq and Afghan wars are illegal aggression under international law.

No connection exists between 9/11 and those wars or that Saddam Hussein or the Taliban posed a threat to US or western security. Mandel also points out that prior to the October, 2001 and March, 2003 invasions, the Taliban and Saddam preferred negotiating with Washington but were rebuffed. Mandel stresses nations have an obligation to respect Article 33 in the UN Charter stating "the parties to any dispute shall, first of all, seek a solution by....peaceful means (through) negotiation, enquiry, mediation, conciliation, arbitration (or) judicial settlement."

America flouts international law choosing imperial wars of aggression Canada chose to partner with. Mandel explains nations doing this are guilty of "very serious crimes, in fact, supreme international crimes." But unlike at Nuremberg, he notes the "great big hole in the modern practice of international criminal law: its refusal to distinguish between legal and illegal war-making, between aggression and self-defence." It's "How America Gets Away With Murder" (the title of Mandel's important 2004 book) with the developed world barely blinking an eye. But then, who's brave enough to challenge the world's only superpower ready to lash out against any nation that dares. It's lots easier partnering in aggression, sharing in the spoils, or just staying silently complicit in the face of overwhelming criminality.

Canada chose the easier route, its dominant media's on board selling it, and it's no small factor that 87% of the country's exports go to US markets. That means Canada's economic well-being and security depends on America's willingness to accept them. McQuaig argues if long-standing trade and security ties obligate Canada to partner in Washington's wars, it's a "compelling argument for loosening (them), for developing more independent economic and military policies...." Otherwise, it amounts to committing war crimes "to protect our trade balance."

McQuaig wants Canada to renounce its warrior status and return to its traditional role of internationalism and peacekeeping as a member in good standing in the world community of nations. Her book touches on peacekeeping without going into what this writer covered in detail in a February, 2007 article called "UN Peacekeeping Paramilitarism." It documented how often Blue Helmet peacekeepers end up creating more conflict than resolution or became counterproductive or ineffective. In the first instance, they became paramilitary enforcers or occupiers for an outside authority. In the second, they end up causing harm because they fail to ameliorate conditions on the ground ending up more a hindrance than a help. The record post-WW II makes the case.

The UN's first ever peacekeeping operation in 1948 was and still is its greatest failure and outlandish disgrace. It's the UNTSO one undertaken during Israel's so-called "War of Independence." The operation is still ongoing, peace was never achieved, the UN is still there playing no active role, and Israel gets away with mass murder with world approval by its complicity and silence.

Over five dozen peacekeeping operations have been undertaken since the first one with far too little or nothing to show for at least most of them, including where peacekeeping was most needed. The article couldn't cover them all so chose five other examples:

-- UNAMIR IN Rwanda

-- UNIMIK in Kosovo

-- MONUC in the Democratic Republic of Congo

-- UNMIS in Sudan, and

-- MINUSTAH in Haiti the article focused mainly on.

They all were and are dismal failures or worse.

No country on earth suffered more than Haiti from its unparalleled legacy of 500 years of colonial occupation, violence and exploitation. It's still ongoing today horrifically with Canada having an active role to its discredit and disgrace based on the facts on the ground. It was complicit along with France and the US in the February, 2004 coup d'etat ousting democratically elected President Jean-Betrand Aristide. His "crime" was wishing to serve his people, not the imperial master in Washington who engineered his forcible removal for the second time.

The UN Security Council voted in April, 2004 to establish MINUSTAH peacekeepers with Canada in an active role. From inception, its mission was flawed as it had no right being there in the first place. In principle, peacekeepers are deployed to keep peace and stability though seldom ever achieve it, in fact. In the case of Haiti, Blue Helmets were deployed for the first time in UN history enforcing a coup d'etat against a democratically-elected leader instead of staying out of it or backing his right to return to office. Today, Haitians are still afflicted by its US neighbor and world indifference to its suffering. Canada shares the guilt acting as a complicit agent in America's crimes of war and against the humanity of the Haitian people.

McQuaig stresses how Canadian elites want to move the country away from its traditional peacekeeping role opting instead for supporting American exceptionalism and its right to "impose a Pax Americana on the world" that's, in fact, a "Pox." As Washington flouts international laws and norms, "they want us to stand by, helpfully, holding the bully's coat."

All Opposed to Nuclear Disarmament, Please Stand Up

McQuaig highlights the difficulty of achieving nuclear disarmament by showing how hard it is eliminating land mines. They're mostly used as terror weapons inflicting most of their damage after conflicts end. So in spite of a Canada-led Ottawa Process agreement in 1997, it failed because the Clinton administration refused to sign it. It acceded to Pentagon obstructionism in spite of most of the world backing it including Nobel Peace Prize winner Jody Williams and Princess Diana before her death. They both spearheaded the effort without success.

Canada was on the right side of this issue exercising what its lead proponent, Lloyd Axworthy, called "soft power." His efforts led to a December, 1997 signing ceremony accepted by two-thirds of the world's nations, an extraordinary achievement by any measure. And as Axworthy noted: "No one was threatened with bombing. No economic sanctions were imposed. No diplomatic muscles were flexed....Yet a significant change was achieved in the face of stiff opposition."

Using "soft power," Canada initially played a small role, Washington opposed, on nuclear disarmament. The Bush administration was so determined to thwart any efforts in this direction it refused even to allow any resolutions being placed on the agenda for discussion at the May, 2005 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) review conference in Geneva. As a result, nothing was accomplished, and NPT was left in shambles with nuclear disarmament derailed.

Canada then led an effort circumventing the failed Geneva talks by going to the UN General Assembly with voting rights but no enforcement authority. Washington's opposition was intense enough, however, to get Ottawa to back down just hours ahead of the October 12 deadline. The Martin government acceded to Bush administration demands it do so, and "the moment had been lost." But it likely didn't matter as America under George Bush claims no need to ask permission from other nations to do whatever it wishes in the name of "national security" that can mean anything.

For many years, Canada was more even-handed than Washington on matters concerning Israel and Palestine. While fully supportive initially of a Jewish homeland and the rights of Israelis thereafter, Canadian leaders also respected Arab peoples and their interests. McQuaig noted by 1987, Canada had tilted heavily toward Israel, refused to support Arab UN resolutions condemning its crimes, and was ranked by observers as "second only to the US in support for Israel."

Now, under Stephen Harper, Canada's Middle East stance is as hard line as Washington's. It views everything in the region from the perspective of "Islamic terrorism" while ignoring the plight of Palestinians and the illegal occupation of their land. Harper also joined western nations cutting off all aid to the democratically elected Hamas government in 2006 and supported Israel's summer illegal aggression against Lebanon last year. He also supports the US-Israeli coup against the democratically elected Hamas government co-opting Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to shamelessly participate in it. Ottawa and Washington approve of his defying Palestinian Basic Law and international law. He dissolved a duly constituted legitimate government, and replaced it with his own headed by illegitimate new prime minister Salam Fayyad, the pro-Western former IMF and World Bank official chosen by Washington and Jerusalem.

The Most Dangerous Man in the English-Speaking World

It's not George Bush, at least not in this section of McQuaig's book. It's former Canadian statesman, diplomat and prime minister (from 1963 - 1968) Lester Pearson, but not because he was a menace. After being elected to Parliament, Liberal Prime Minister St. Laurent appointed him minister of external affairs. In that capacity, he supported an internationalist approach to foreign policy highlighted by his determination to reduce Cold War tensions with Moscow and Peking. That stance so irritated American cold warriors, it got Chicago Tribune owner Colonel Robert McCormick to denounce him in 1953 as "the most dangerous man in the English-speaking world." It was because Pearson refused to cooperate with Senator Joe McCarthy's witch-hunt communist hearings. They produced nothing but destroyed lives and ruined careers, all to serve his own corrupted political agenda.

Pearson also thought NATO should be more than a military alliance to be able to deal with economic and social issues as well as defense. He wanted the alliance to encourage western ideas and free market alternatives to communism. Pearson was bold in ways unimaginable today in Ottawa or nearly anywhere in the West. He spoke out against Truman's threat to use nuclear weapons in Korea and challenged Washington when he thought its positions were dangerous and provocative.

In 1955, he became the first western prime minister to visit Moscow. He spoke out against colonialism and the rights of Third World nations to their own sovereignty. Overall, he supported internationalism, conciliation and peace including helping in 1956 create the UN Emergency Force (UNEF) following the Suez crisis that year. It was formed after Israel, Britain and France's war of aggression in October, 1956 against Egypt following President Nasser's decision to nationalize the Suez Canal. For his efforts, Pearson won the Nobel Peace Prize the following year. In his Nobel lecture, he stressed nations faced a choice - "peace or extinction." He continued saying nations cannot "be conditioned by the force and will of a unit, however powerful, but by the consensus of a group, which must one day include all states" and that predatory ones can't be tolerated.

McQuaig notes Pearson's "trickiest" relationship was with the US, even at a time Washington's footprint was less obtrusive and aggressive than now. He supported sitting administrations and their aim to contain communism. He even stood with Lyndon Johnson's military aggression in Vietnam "aiding South Vietnam....resist aggression." For that, he shares Canada's complicity in Washington's illegal war effort that had less to do with containing communism and more about America's imperial ambitions ramping up in those Cold War years following the Korean stalemate. For his actions, Pearson exhibited an "early example of Canada holding the bully's coat" even though he later publicly challenged the US role in Vietnam in a Temple University address.

Pearson supported peace and peacekeeping. His Nobel lecture cited "four faces of peace" - prosperity, power, diplomacy and people. As prime minister, peacekeeping was one of his four top priorities that later began to erode when pitted against the powerful Department of National Defence (DND) bureaucracy. By the early 1980s (long after Pearson's tenure), peacekeeping amounted to less than 0.5% of Canada's defense budget.

Earlier in the late 1970s, DND's aim to regain a war-fighting orientation got a boost from NATO that Canada participates in as one of its founding members. At its 1978 summit, member nations agreed to increase their military budgets 3% annually to offset a supposed Soviet threat. The real aim was to accede to defense contractors wanting bigger profits.

In the 1980s, Reagan administration militarism helped Canada's defence lobby "emerge as a potent force in Canadian politics." Most important in it is the Conference on Defence Associations (CDA) functioning as an "umbrella group representing military and retired military personnel as well as business, academic and professional types with military interests." CDA has enormous influence at the highest levels of government and key to it is the involvement of corporate Canada, including the nation's multi-billion dollar arms industry. CDA and weapons makers are closely tied to the Pentagon and America's defense industry. It's a natural fit as many large Canadian companies are US-owned including half of Canada's top 10 military contractors.

This assures Canadian government support for and involvement in America's war agenda that keeps profits flowing. Conservative prime minister Brian Mulroney's election in 1984 provided and "energizing tonic for....Canada's defence lobby" as he supported a strong military, wanted Canada to be "open for business," and "accepted Canada's branch plant role in the US military-industrial complex...."

McQuaig noted the danger then that's now even greater. A stronger Canadian defense industry and military establishment favors not just diverting "the country's resources towards the military but ultimately" pressuring the country to use it for war-making. In the 1980s, the phony "Soviet menace" was portrayed as the threat while today it's "Islamic terrorists" involving Canada in Washington's imperial agenda of reckless foreign wars and occupation.

The Threat of Peace

The thought of it chills the marrow of the defense establishment in both countries. It happened in November, 1989 when East German authorities announced entering the West would be permitted, and the rest is history. The "wall" came down paving the way for German reunification, and peace broke out. Keeping it depended on a strong UN that wouldn't take long to prove mission impossible, but for a short interregnum, anything was possible. In 1992, UN Secretary-General Boutras Boutras-Ghali, at the behest of the Security Council, prepared an Agenda for Peace. It was an ambitious plan promoting diplomacy, peacekeeping, peace-making and peace-building.

In the early years of the nuclear arms race, there were various efforts to achieve disarmament and promote peace, some far-reaching and anchored by strong UN enforcement mechanisms. Despite the best efforts of peace visionaries with good intentions, it was all for naught. Distrust and a prevailing culture of militarism, especially in the US, trumped reason and sanity. But with the dissolution of the Soviet empire, there was never a better time to achieve what always failed earlier, if only the moment could be seized.

It wasn't, as McQuaig explains because "the opportunity (for peace) two men who....viewed the concept of 'disarmament' through world law' with ferocious contempt." They represented Republican extremist thinking resenting the notion of internationalism the UN represented. That body was to be rendered impotent under US control, even more than in the past, especially its agenda for social progress and peace-making.

With George HW Bush president, Defense Secretary Dick Cheney and his undersecretary Paul Wolfowitz were tasked to shape America's post-Cold War strategy. Boutras-Ghali's Agenda for Peace was doomed with two hard line US high officials committed to America's imperial supremacy enforced by unchallengeable military power from the world's sole superpower. In George HW Bush's final year in office, Paul Wolfowitz and convicted Richard Cheney aide Lewis Libby drafted the scheme in their Defense Planning Guidance some call the Wolfowitz doctrine. It was so extreme, it was to be kept under wraps, but got leaked to the New York Times causing uproar enough for the elder Bush to shelve it until his son revived it in 2001.

In the early 1990s, public sentiment and high officials in Canada's Senate and House of Commons supported Boutros-Ghali's agenda embracing diplomacy, peacekeeping, peace-making and peace-building. The country's DND felt otherwise fearing promoting peace meant marginalizing the nation's military establishment. Wanting to remain a fighting force, the military was threatened with good reason. Strengthened by international support, Canadian NGOs established the Citizens' Inquiry into Peace and Security. They travelled the country holding public hearings. They drew large supportive crowds influential enough to get the Liberal Party to highlight peacekeeping in its Foreign Policy Handbook in May, 1993. Liberals were backed by some prominent academics, enlightened business leaders, and even some media commentators in the Canada 21 Council they formed to direct Canada's defence policy toward peace efforts.

It was a threatening time for the military establishment closing ranks to resist change harmful to its interests and vision of what a fighting force is for. DND fought back with a Canadian Institute of Strategic Studies (CSIS) watered-down counter-proposal, the Liberals bought it, and the party's 1994 defence review ensured no meaningful change from the status quo. The defence interests were served meaning public sentiment for peace efforts lost out to militarism. They were reinforced by a Committee of 13, composed of generals, hawkish academics and defense industry officials, countering the Canada 21 Council ending up on the losing side.

McQuaig speculates whether wars are an expression of human nature and inevitable consequence of human aggressiveness. She used an analogy to dueling, once considered a proper way to settle disputes. No longer, and anyone in civilized society trying it will end up afoul of the law. So why might not wars one day also be seen as an anachronism no longer practiced? She cites political philosopher Anatol Rapoport and political scientist John Mueller who think so, believing this practice only exists because we give it legitimacy. They point to other once widely accepted practices failing to survive over time - slavery (illegal everywhere but still widely practiced sub rosa even in the West), absolute hereditary monarchy, gladiatorial combat to the death, human sacrifice, burning heretics, segregation and Jim Crow laws, and public flogging among many others. Over time, customs changed and these practices ended, or mostly did.

So why not wars, and Europe post-WW II shows it's possible. The horror of two world wars on the continent combined with the emergence of super-weapons underscored what Einstein said half a century ago on future wars: "I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones." European leaders apparently feel likewise as the continent was relatively peaceful for the past 62 years, with the Balkan wars a major exception, yet a localized one. In lieu of more wars, the European Union was formed and continues expanding. McQuaig strikes a hopeful note: Maybe "war among European nations lost its legitimacy."

For that to be true, however, requires these nations renounce wars everywhere, not just in their backyard or on their soil. With today's super-weapons, nations have the capacity to end what Noam Chomsky calls "biology's only experiment with higher intelligence." It can happen and once almost did during the Cuban Missile Crisis in October, 1962. Forty years later, we learned only a miracle saved us because a Soviet submarine captain, Vasily Arkhipov, countermanded his order to fire nuclear-tipped torpedos when Russian submarines were attacked near Kennedy's "quarantine" line. Imagine the consequences if he'd done it.

Today, we're back to square one with a group of American rogue leaders usurping the right to unilaterally use first strike nuclear weapons. They claim it's part of the nation's "imperial grand strategy" threatening everyone with extinction if they follow through - and don't bet they won't.

Back From the Abyss

McQuaig highlights the secret September 13, 2006 American, Canadian and Mexican elitist meeting in Banff, Alberta, Canada held to discuss the Bush administration's scheme for a North American Union. Such an eventuality would mean US North American hegemonic control. It would have enormous consequences on matters of political, economic, social and national security issues adversely affecting everyone on the continent except the privileged plotters benefitting at everyone else's expense.

McQuaig called the meeting "the ultimate expression of treachery" as two key themes were North American energy security and Canada-US military and security cooperation. These are US priorities, not Canadian ones, so Ottawa's acceding to American demands amounts to a national betrayal of the public trust. The fact that the meeting was secret only underscores the threat. That it was held at all shows the Harper government placed "holding the bully's coat (above) Canadian public interest in energy, military and security matters (crying) out for an independent Canadian course...."

Even worse, McQuaig notes, is that the centerpiece Alberta oil sands development part of a North American energy strategy undermines responsible Canadian global warming efforts. By fall, 2006, the Harper government proved no better than the Bush administration as a leading climate change obstructionist. Unlike European nations cutting greenhouse gas emissions, Canada's are rising and are now among the highest levels in the world per person. In the age of George Bush, Canada, under conservative leadership, is heading in the wrong direction on this and most other vital national and world issues. Included among them is being "complicit in some of the worst aspects of the US 'war on terrorism.' "

Torture is one of them, even of Canadian citizens, like the outrageous case of Maher Arar. He was detained at JFK Airport in September, 2002 on his way home, based on false Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) information about him US authorities had. It was the beginning of "delivering an innocent Canadian man into hell" because of Canada's role in Washington's "war on terrorism."

Arar was initially held in solitary confinement in the US for nearly two weeks, interrogated and denied access to legal help. He was falsely labeled an Al Queda member, "renditioned" to Syria where he was born, ignored by his government, held under appalling conditions, brutally tortured for a year before being released in October, 2003 and allowed to return home. A subsequent thorough investigation proved his innocence provoking outrage across the country. Canadian authorities treated him with contempt, even leaking false information to the media suggesting he was a terrorist and his claims about being tortured were untrue. That underscores Canada's moral depravity under Stephen Harper's leadership umbilically linked to the roguish Bush regime in Washington.

McQuaig stresses Harper's cooperation with Washington's "war on terrorism" "lies at the very heart of (his) agenda." Maintaining that close relationship with America on all matters important to Canada depends on it. Defiling the rights of its citizens and ignoring international law are minor matters by comparison and easily ignored as Canada sinks into the same moral swamp as America. It's partnered with Washington's war on the world, now directed at Islam, but pointing in all directions against any nation unwilling to become a subservient client state. Washington demands no less from all nations, and those refusing risk the Marines showing up followed by regime change. The lord and master of the universe tolerates no outliers.

Canada's on board under Stephen Harper, so it needn't worry. McQuaig's book, however, sounds the alarm all Canadians and Americans need to hear. At book's end, she stresses how "Powerful forces in this country are encouraging us to accept the notion of American exceptionalism and a role for Canada as adjunct to the US empire." She then quotes Rudyard Griffiths, Dominion Institute's executive director, saying "the country's most cherished myths seem to be melting away. If we are not what we were, what now defines us as a nation?"

McQuaig asks if Canadians will allow war-making to replace peacekeeping and will sacrifice its social state to pay for it. Her answer is no, that Canadians want none of neoconservatism, and instead want its political leaders returning to the nation's traditional values now abandoned. Her own views likely mirror public sentiment: "a vision committed to fair treatment and equality, to decency and to the rule of law." That's what being Canadian means for her. It's not serving "a helpmate's role, with a lucrative perch inside the US empire, obligingly assisting the bully as he goes about trying to subdue the world." She can take comfort knowing most Americans likely share her views and don't want that either.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at

Also visit his blog site at and listen to The Steve Lendman News and Information Hour on Saturdays at noon US central time.

Monday, June 25, 2007

"Demonstration" Government in Palestine

"Demonstration" Government in Palestine - by Stephen Lendman

In 1984 (a year of Orwellian significance), activist and media and social critic Edward Herman wrote one of his many important books titled "Demonstration Elections." In it, he analyzed the US-staged elections in the 1960s in the Dominican Republic and Vietnam and the 1982 one in El Salvador. In the book's Orwellian glossary of terms, he defined the process as "A circus held in a client state to assure the population of the home country that their intrusion is well received. The results are guaranteed by an adequate supply of bullets provided in advance (and freely used as necessary to achieve the desired outcome)."

This writer calls this ugly business "democracy-engineering, American-style" backed by force to win approval of a rigged process people would never accept another way. Noam Chomsky refers to the notion of "Keeping the Rabble in Line," the title of one of his many books. It can be through soft or hard methods to assure the public goes along with what governments want imposed.

Herman's main theme was that "elections held under conditions of military occupation and extensive pre-election 'pacification' " aren't free at all but aim to get an occupying force's puppet choice accepted by the people it's installed to rule with influence wielded more by bullets than ballots to create "stability." Herman defines that term, too, as "a political arrangement free of open warfare and satisfactory to our interests." By that he means the "rabble" is cowed, induced or pummelled into submission.

Enter the dominant media stepping up to support the effort as lead cheerleader for a process hard to sell without heavy lifting convincing that what government is doing is for the common good. Never mind it isn't and that destroying democracy and the will of the people to resist are the real aims. Herman's theme works the same way today, and it's in play now in occupied Palestine. The difference discussed below is that the US and Israel tried running a "demonstration election" there in January, 2006, but it failed. The people didn't cooperate and the "wrong" party won.

Imperial powers never accept defeat and attempted to subvert and crush the democratically elected Hamas government ever since because it's too democratic and refuses to be Israel's enforcer. So anti-Hamas efforts started off by labeling it a "terrorist" organization. That was followed by political and economic isolation, cutting off all essential aid, open conflict, and on June 17 brazenly installing an illegitimate "demonstration government" with Palestinian quisling President Mahmoud Abbas illegally dismissing the elected government and appointing an "emergency" one. All this is discussed in detail below.

Imposed Illegitimate "Demonstration" Government in Palestine

The beleaguered Palestinians are one of the world's most victimized peoples of justice delayed because it's been so long denied them. Long under the Ottomans, they then had to endure imperial British mandate rule after WW I until it ended in May, 1948. Ever since, they've suffered intolerable hardships under brutal Israeli oppression and illegal occupation with little outside support to end it.

The Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) was founded in 1964 as a result and Yasser Arafat became its leader in 1969 to try. At first, it was militantly, then later through negotiation and international consensus. Nothing worked because a hard line Israeli - US nexus with Western and Arab state complicity prevented it. The predictable result was festering anger in the Palestinian Territories. They've been occupied since June, 1967 after Israel seized them in its long-planned six day war of aggression. The illegal occupation continues and Palestinian anger boiled over in two Intifadas, first in 1987, and ever since after Ariel Sharon's provocative visit to the sacred Al Aqsa Mosque in September, 2000.

By January 25, 2006, Palestinians had enough of Fatah's institutionalized corruption and willingness to be Israel's enforcer under the quisling governments of Yasser Arafat and his successor Mahmoud Abbas. They elected a dominant majority of Hamas members to Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) seats because they promised change and its candidates were untainted by corruption or willingness to serve as puppets of Israeli interests at the expense of their own people. They meant what they promised and proved it once in office, even offering to partner with Fatah at the outset in a spirit of unity. Under orders not to, Fatah refused. It guaranteed Israeli and Washington antagonism that erupted immediately once Hamas assumed office.

Palestinians endured a life and death survival struggle before the election and especially ever since, and they've been on their own doing it. After Hamas' election victory, all desperately needed outside aid was cut off, and they've been mercilessly persecuted under repressive Israeli rule. They've also been attacked viciously and relentlessly by the world's fourth most powerful military IDF forces and enlisted Fatah-led paramilitary death squads with only light and crude weapons and their spirit to endure and fight back.

Hamas - From Its Charter and How It Governs

Hamas in Arabic means courage and bravery. It's also an abbreviation of the Arabic words meaning Islamic Resistance Movement. It was formed in 1987 during the first Intifada and early on was supported by Israel to counter Arafat's PLO the Jewish state opposed at the time. Ever since, it's been an effective resistance movement against repression and occupation providing essential social services like medical clinics; education, including centers for women; free meals for children; financial and technical help to those whose homes Israelis destroyed; aid to refugees in the camps; and setting up youth and sports clubs.

It also has the Izz Al-Din Al-Qassam Brigades, an elite military wing, headed by Abu Abieda and other forces it needs for self-defense and law enforcement. Included among them is the "special operational force" known as the Executive Force (Tanfithya) used on the streets for policing and security.

Israel, Washington and the West call Hamas' political and social activities and its legitimate right to self-defense "terrorism" and tried to isolate and destroy its democratically elected government from birth. So far, they haven't succeeded, or are likely to, because Hamas' strongest assets are its will, readiness, and majority support from its people.

Hamas is a heterogenous democratic Islamic Resistance Movement allied with all resistance fighters for the purpose of liberating Palestine from Israeli oppression and occupation. Its method of choice is through negotiation and international consensus, not war or terrorism as falsely portrayed through the dominant media. But it states in its charter it will fight for its rights if they can't be gotten peacefully and rightfully blames Zionist Israel for its plight. They have plenty of evidence to prove it.

In its founding charter, it states it "draws its guidelines from Islam; derives from it its thinking, interpretations and views about existence, life and humanity; refers back to it for its conduct....adopts Islam as its way of life....Its ultimate goal is Islam, the Prophet its model, the Qur'an its Constitution....In the absence of Islam, conflict arises, oppression reigns, corruption is rampant and struggles and wars prevail....(The Movement) will do its utmost weak, (and defend) all the oppressed.

(It) regards Nationalism (Wataniyya) as part....of the religious faith." Peace initiatives and international conferences are rejected if their intention is renunciation of Palestinian land. It rejects Zionist intentions to destroy Palestinian society, its values and "wipe out Islam." It describes itself as "a humane movement, which cares for human rights and is committed to the tolerance inherent in Islam as regards attitudes towards other religions. It is only hostile to those who are hostile towards it....(Under Islam) it is possible for the members of the three religions: Islam, Christianity and Judaism to coexist in safety and security" as long as other religions "desist from struggling against Islam over sovereignty in this region."

It believes "World Zionism and Imperial forces have been push the Arab countries" to end conflict with Zionism "to isolate the Palestinian people." It states its members don't seek "fame....nor material gains, or social status....It will never set out against any Muslims....or non-Muslims who make peace with it." Overall, Hamas has moderate political and religious views in contrast to militant hard line ones by ruling Israeli governments and the current one in Washington and other past ones.

It wants peace, equity and justice for all Palestinians while Israel and the Bush administration pursue an agenda of conflict, imperial domination and firm intention to deny Palestinians all rights they're entitled to and the UN General Assembly adopted in December, 1948 in its Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This historic (non-binding) document guarantees them to everyone regardless of "race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status (including) the right to life, liberty and security of person."

Hamas has always called for peace with Israel and is willing to negotiate on the basis of "hudnah" or temporary truce. It's founder, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, said Hamas was willing to end its struggle for the legitimate rights of Palestinian people "if the Zionists ended its occupation of Palestinian territories and stopped killing Palestinian women, children and innocent civilians." As the elected Palestinian government, it declared a unilateral cease-fire with Israel, ended all suicide bombings, wants to negotiate, and is willing to recognize the Jewish state if Israel accepts and recognizes a Palestinian one. After being elected, it governed in good faith and agreed to a national unity government with Fatah to share power it democratically won to have alone. Israel, the US and West rejected all good faith efforts opting instead for a divide and conquer strategy.

A New Stage of Occupation for Palestinians

Israel, Washington and the West, pursued an aggressive agenda for months through armed conflict causing many deaths. From the start, Washington's point man has been Iran-Contra criminal and now deputy national security adviser, Elliot Abrams. Documents have surfaced in Middle East capitals with evidence of Abrams' role in an anti-Hamas "hard coup" strategy of violence and armed insurrection. They call for "maintain(ing) President Abbas and Fatah as the centre of (Palestinian) gravity....avoid accommodating (Hamas), undermine Hamas' political status (and) strengthen the Palestinian president's authority to be able to call and conduct early elections by autumn 2007."

The document also called for Mahmoud Abbas to reject Saudi Arabia's Mecca agreement leaving Hamas in charge. It further indicated $1.27 billion would be allocated to Abbas to add seven special battalions of 4700 new security forces to his 15,000 in place for "safeguard(ing) decisions such as dismissing the cabinet and forming an emergency government."

This all played out violently on Gaza streets leading up to Hamas' defeating opposition insurgent forces and seizing control of the Territory to establish law and order. As planned in Washington and Jerusalem, Palestinian Authority (PA) President Abbas then conspiratorially declared a "state of emergency." He dismissed Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniyeh and his national unity government replacing it with his own illegitimate "emergency" one.

It's illegally headed by newly appointed prime minister Salam Fayyad whose electoral list posted a 2.4% showing in the January, 2006 PLC elections Hamas won overwhelmingly. Fayyad's a pro-Western former IMF and World Bank official chosen by Washington and Jerusalem. His job is to do their bidding the way he served capital interests during his tenure at the international lending agencies. There he did it by forcing borrowers into debt slavery and their people into extreme poverty and deprivation for the sake of profit. That made him a western darling now promoted to enforce imperial domination on his people who want freedom and won't likely tolerate his portfolio to deny it to them.

Abbas, Fayyad and others in the "emergency" government are shamelessly partnered with Israel and Washington as their coup d'etat-installed puppets working against the interests of their own people. They control the West Bank alone with Hamas firmly in charge of Gaza unless or until Israel intervenes which now seems likely. It suggests a repeat of last summer's mass assault on the Territory and its sure to follow dreadful consequences for its near-defenseless people.

Plans to weaken and oust Hamas have been in place for months with Washington supplying the Abbas leadership tens of millions of dollars in aid and weapons. It's gone to paramilitary militia death squad groups like Gaza-based Fatah warlord and another Israeli-Western darling Mohammed Dahlan (Fatah's security chief now in the West Bank) and his "Preventative Security Force." It's part of a conspiratorial coup d'etat effort headed by traitorous Palestinians on the take for their own gain. Abbas is their nominal leader. Dahlan has the muscle and real power as it chief enforcer. All newly appointed members of Abbas' sham "emergency government" share equal guilt. They're junior quislings serving their puppet-masters in Jerusalem and Washington, but events are just beginning, the struggle is far from over, and its outcome very much uncertain.

Money and weapons will continue flowing into the West Bank, and from what Hamas already seized in a Gaza stash it found, it should be plenty. Unncovered were huge amounts of mounted machine guns, assault rifles, ammunition, armored personnel carriers, jeeps, armored cars and trucks, military-sized bulldozers, water cannon-dispersing trucks, large quantities of munitions including rocket-propelled grenades and launchers, explosives and various other supplies and equipment.

In total, it appears enough to equip a small army of fighters and may be worth as much as $400 million. It's sure to be replaced so Fatah traitors are heavily armed to continue fighting Israel's proxy war and acting as its West Bank enforcer against their own people. They almost certainly will resist with Hamas leading them courageously. It means Fatah's hold on power is tenuous at best and Abbas' fate equally shaky. His shameless act may in the end cost him all credibility, his job, and eventually make him liable to be held to account for his open betrayal of his own people.

Hamas prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh, has no intention stepping down and responded at length live on Al-Jazeera rejecting Abbas' "hasty" moves saying 96% of Palestinians support a unity government as the best chance for peace and security. He affirmed his democratically elected government would continue functioning and maintain law and order. He also called for an end to conflict and a general amnesty. He stressed his fight is not with Fatah, but only with rogue traitorous elements in it like the dominant one headed by warlord Dahlan firmly doing Israel and Washington's bidding.

He explained Hamas' takeover was no coup and only a last resort attempt to end lawlessness, conflict and a Dahlan-led conspiracy against all Palestinians. He spoke of conciliation, unity, and conflict resolution to heal divisions in contrast to Abbas' traitorous behavior as Israel and Washington's pawn. He followed Israeli and Washington-dictated orders responding by denouncing Hamas as terrorists, refusing to negotiate, and saying he'll (illegally as explained below) order new elections that will exclude Hamas.

At this stage, Hamas' task is daunting as Haaretz reports Israeli Labor Party Chairman, former prime minister, and new Olmert government defense minister Ehud Barak, plans to launch a large-scale military operation on Gaza in weeks. It will include 20,000 troops and an air assault aimed at destroying Hamas' military capabilities quickly. Haaretz cited a close Barak aide saying Israel won't allow a "Hamastan" in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) and an attack on it is certain. Air attacks are now ongoing daily, border crossings are closed, and Israel cancelled Gaza's commercial customs code. That cuts off essential supplies like food and medicines from entering the territory. Israel is now increasing its collective punishment against 1.4 million Palestinians already enduring unbearable hardships in what's considered the world's largest open-air prison with a population density three times that of Manhattan.

Israeli-Washington-Directed Fatah Declared Coup Illegal Under Palestinian Law

Virginia Tilley is a South African-based political science professor. On June 18, her article appeared on The Electronic Intifada titled "Whose Coup, Exactly?" It documented in detail that according to the Basic Law of Palestine, serving as the PA's constitution, "Abbas has violated a whole stream of Articles as well as the spirit of its checks and balances" limiting the power of the presidency. He "badly trashed numerous provisions" in it "with full US and Israeli support." The Basic Law states:

-- Under Article 45, the President can remove a Prime Minister but can only appoint a new one from the majority party - Hamas.

-- Under Article 83, if the Prime Minister is removed, the serving (Hamas-led) Cabinet is to govern until the (Hamas-led) Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) appoints a new one.

-- Only the PLC has authority to confirm a new Prime Minister and Cabinet.

-- Under Article 43, in emergencies, the President can rule by decree subject to all decrees approved by the PLC.

-- Under Article 113, in emergencies, the President cannot suspend the PLC.

-- The Basic Law gives the President no power to call for early elections.

-- No provision in the Basic Law authorizes an "emergency government."

Conclusion: Abbas' actions constitute a lawless coup d'etat usurpation of power, or as Tilley puts it: "The (Fatah) Fayyad government is the step-child of an extra-legal process with no democratic mandate. The whole manoeuvre is not precisely a palace coup," but enough like one, in fact, to be one. She also notes "the diplomatic landscape is now in utter disarray" with the extra-legal Fayyad government only a "facsimile" of the real thing.

So far, its illegitimate creation hardly seems to matter to Israel, the US and European Union shamelessly flouting Palestinian and international law. They're ending their political and economic PA West Bank (only) embargo to bolster Fatah and Abbas while continuing to isolate Hamas in Gaza. It's an outrageous effort rewarding lawlessness and continuing to crush democratic movements when they become too democratic as Hamas did. Hamas spokesperson Sami Abu Zuhri denounced it accusing the West of hypocrisy. He noted Hamas was democratically elected and added "This confirms the falseness of the international community's support for democracy."

From Dublin, Ireland at a human rights conference, former President Jimmy Carter denounced it as well. He accused the US, EU and Israel of harming and seeking to divide the Palestinian people by aiding Abbas in the West Bank while withholding similar help to Hamas in Gaza. Carter stressed Hamas is entitled to be the ruling Palestinian government because it was democratically elected. Representatives from his Carter Center observed the election and judged it free, open and fair. He urged the international community to work toward reconciliation of Hamas and Fatah but sees nothing being done to do it.

He condemned US, EU and Israeli efforts to undermine Hamas as "criminal." He continued saying "The United States and Israel decided to punish all the people of Palestine and did everything they could to deter a compromise between Hamas and Fatah." He then added Washington and others supplied Fatah security forces with superior weapons aimed at "conquer(ing) Hamas in Gaza, but the plan failed because of Hamas' "superior skills and discipline."

A Hopeful Look Ahead

Everything happening in the Middle East in Iraq, Palestine, Lebanon and Afghanistan in Central Asia is interconnected. In all of it, Washington is partnered with Israel and the EU aiming to subdue the people in both regions, control their resources, and rule over this vast area in colonial-occupier fashion directly on the ground or ideally with puppet-installed governments. Washington leads the effort and intends taking the lion share of what it can plunder provided things go as planned. The EU is tagging along led by Britain and Israel in key roles with the Jewish state getting huge amounts of funding to do it. According to a James Tucker American Free Press May, 2003 report it was at a level of $10 billion a year then with Israel wanting it upped to $12 billion.

This figure came from a Library of Congress "briefing paper" titled "Israel: US Foreign Assistance." It listed categories including direct funding aid, huge amounts in loans and loan guarantees, military aid, R & D help, and considerably more that noted academic and author James Petras documented in his important 2006 book "The Power of Israel in the United States." In total, Israel, with 5.2 million people in 2005, about the size of a large US or other city, receives more in total aid in all forms than all other nations in the world combined. It uses it to seize Palestinian lands for Jewish resettlement, build separation/apartheid walls, and wage illegal wars of aggression in pursuit of its own imperial agenda for regional dominance as an adjunct to its US partner and very generous funder.

Despite considerable effort and huge amounts of financial and other resources employed, US and Israeli imperial adventurism hasn't fared too well giving reason to hope more of it will turn out as badly for both nations. Palestinians have endured everything Israel's thrown at it for six repressive decades. In spite of it, they're still holding up maintaining their courageous struggle for equity, justice and a free and independent state they intend one day to have and likely will regardless of Israel's determination to prevent it. History is on their side.

In just the last century, nations around the world struggled for the same rights and prevailed, though for many it took decades or longer and what was gained was far from perfect or even unacceptable too often like in South Africa. The end of apartheid there was replaced by neoliberal "Thatcherism" resulting in greater poverty and hardship for the poor majority than in the earlier era. However, progress usually comes slowly and rarely without setbacks or disappointments. The point is it can come when people seeking it never stop believing it will or working for it until it does. Palestinians have been doing it since 1948, and one day they'll have what they and all others deserve everywhere, their own state in which to live free from foreign occupation secure at last on their own land.

An early hopeful sign was reported in Haaretz by correspondent Shlomo Shamir June 22. He noted in spite of US, British and French pressure (with new UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's shameless backing) for a Security Council declaration of confidence in the Abbas government, it was withdrawn before its drafting stage because of strong protests against it by Russia, South Africa, Indonesia and Qatar. These countries objected to anti-Hamas policies and attempts to characterize it as a terror organization and isolate it. In addition, Russia and South Africa questioned the emergency government's legitimacy arguing instead for a unity government as the solution to the conflict in occupied Palestine.

It's a small, maybe temporary victory, but important one nonetheless. It shows mighty America, Israel and the EU can be challenged and forced to back down giving Palestinian people hope more victories will follow and in time the one they want above all others. With faith, courage, patience and redoubtable will, one day they'll prevail, their Nakba will have ended, and their right to live freely on their own land will be affirmed and recognized.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at

Also visit his blog site at and listen to The Steve Lendman News and Information Hour on Saturdays at noon US central time.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The Record of the Newspaper of Record

The Record of the Newspaper of Record - by Stephen Lendman

Dictionaries define "yellow journalism" variously as irresponsible and sensationalist reporting that distorts, exaggerates or misstates the truth. It's misinformation or agitprop disinformation masquerading as fact to boost circulation and readership or serve a larger purpose like lying for state and corporate interests. The dominant US media excel in it, producing a daily diet of fiction portrayed as real news and information in their role as our national thought-control police gatekeepers. In the lead among the print and electronic corporate-controlled media is the New York Times publishing "All The News That's Fit To Print" by its standards. Others wanting real journalism won't find it on their pages allowing only the fake kind. It's because this paper's primary mission is to be the lead instrument of state propaganda making it the closest thing we have in the country to an official ministry of information and propaganda.

Singlehandedly, the Times destroys "The Myth of the Liberal Media" that's also the title of Edward Herman's 1999 book on "the illiberal media," the market system, and what passes for democracy in America Michael Parenti calls "Democracy For the Few," in his book with that title out earlier this year in its 8th edition.

In his book, Herman writes about the "propaganda model" he and Noam Chomsky introduced and developed 11 years earlier in their landmark book titled "Manufacturing Consent." They explained how the dominant media use this technique to program the public mind to go along with whatever agenda best serves wealth and power interests. So imperial wars of aggression are portrayed as liberating ones, humanitarian intervention, and spreading democracy to nations without any. Never mind they're really for new markets, resources like oil, and cheap exploitable labor paid for with public tax dollars diverted from essential social needs.

In "The Myth of the Liberal Media," Herman explains the "propaganda model" focuses on "the inequality of wealth and power" and how those with most of it can "filter out the news to print, marginalize dissent (and assure) government and dominant private interests" control the message and get it to the public. It's done through a set of "filters" removing what's to be suppressed and "leaving only the cleansed (acceptable) residue fit to print" or broadcast electronically. Parenti's "Democracy For the Few" is democracy-US style the rest of us are stuck with.

Books have been written on how, going back decades, the New York Times betrayed the public trust serving elitist interests alone. It plays the lead and most influential media role disseminating state and corporate propaganda to the nation and world. In terms of media clout, the Times is unmatched with its prominent front page being what media critic Norman Solomon calls "the most valuable square inches of media real estate in the USA" - more accurately, anywhere.

Examples of Times duplicity are endless showing up every day on its pages. The shameless Judith Miller saga is just the latest episode of how bad they can get, but she had her predecessors, and the beat goes on since she left in disgrace. Through the years, the Times never met a US war of aggression it didn't love and support. It was never bothered by CIA's functioning as a global Mafia-style hit squad/training headquarters ousting democratically elected governments, assassinating foreign heads of state and key officials, propping up friendly dictators, funding and training secret paramilitary armies and death squads, and now snatching individuals for "extraordinary rendition" to torture-prison hellholes, some run by the agency and all taking orders from it.

CIA, as Chalmers Johnson notes, is a state within a state functioning as the president's unaccountable private army with unchecked powers and a near-limitless off-the-books secret budget we now know tops $44 billion annually. It menaces democratic rule, threatens the Republic's survival and makes any notion of a free society impossible as long as this agency exists. Not a problem at New York Times. It worked closely with CIA since the 1950s allowing some of its foreign correspondents to be Agency assets or agents. It no doubt still does.

The Times is also unbothered by social decay at home, an unprecedented wealth disparity, an administration mocking the rule of law, a de facto one party state with two wings and a president usurping "unitary executive" powers claiming the law is what he says it is making him a dictator. It practically reveres the cesspool of corrupted incestuous ties between government and business, mocking any notion of democracy of, for, or by the people. That's the state of the nation's "liberal media" headquartered in the Times building in New York.

The New York Times v. Hugo Chavez

This article focuses on one example of Times duplicity among many other prominent ones equally sinister and disturbing - its venomous agitprop targeting Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez this writer calls the leading model democratic leader on the planet even though he's not perfect, nor is anyone else. That's why after "Islamofascist terrorists" he's practically "enemy number one" on the Times hit list and Washington's. Besides Venezuela being oil rich, Chavez is the greatest of all threats the US faces - a good example that's spreading. His governance shows how real social democracy works exposing the fake American kind.

That's intolerable to the masters of the universe and their leading media proponent, the New York Times. It always plays the lead media role keeping the world safe for wealth and power. So on June 6, it hauled out former Peruvian president and first ever indigenous Andean one in the country's history - Alejandro Toledo (2001 - 2006). His electoral campaign promised a populist vision for Peruvians, to create new jobs, address dire social needs of the country's poor, and end years of corruption and hard line rule under Alberto Fujimori, now a wanted man on charges of corruption and human rights abuses.

Toledo was little better, failing on all counts pushing the same repressive neoliberal policies he was elected to end. He was in tow with Washington's agenda of privatizations, deregulation, IMF/World Bank diktats, debt service, and overall contempt for the essential social needs of his people. He was also tainted with corruption, and during his tenure violence was used against protest demonstrators, criminal suspects in prisons were beaten and tortured, and dozens of journalists were threatened or attacked for criticizing local politicians or him.

No problem for the New York Times that published his June 6 op ed piece titled "Silence = Despotism." In it, he said "Political democracy will take root in Latin America only when it is accompanied by economic and social democracy (under) political and fair for all." As Peru's president, he thwarted efforts to do what he now says he champions. Toledo continued saying "our citizens" must be heard, and if free speech is silenced in one country, "silence could spread to other nations" pointing his hypocritical finger squarely at Hugo Chavez.

Venezuelans, he says, "are in the streets (today) confronting repressions. Courageous students raise the flags of freedom, refusing to mortgage their future by remaining silent." He quickly gets to the point citing Hugo Chavez's refusal to renew RCTV's Channel 2 VHF license saying "This is about more than one TV station. President Chavez has become a destabilizing figure throughout the hemisphere because he feels he can silence anyone with opposing thoughts (by) silencing them through repression or government decrees." He then called on other Latin American leaders to confront "authoritarianism" and "stand up for continent-wide solidarity" citing his own presidency and how "it never occurred to (him) to silence (critical) media outlets (or) nationalize them."

Toledo's tainted record as president belies his shameless pieties on the Times op ed page. He did more than try silencing critics. He stayed mute when they were attacked or when two or more of them were killed. The New York Times knows his record even though it suppressed the worst of it while he was in office. Yet it gave him prominent space to denounce Hugo Chavez's social democracy and legal right not to renew the operating license of a TV channel for its repeated illegal seditious acts. RCTV was a serial abuser of its right to use the public airwaves. It was then guilty of supporting and being complicit with efforts to foment insurrection to overthrow Venezuela's democratically elected government.

Toledo ignored this saying, as Peru's president, he was "always....respectful of opinions" differing from his own. He would "never agree with those who prefer silence instead of dissonant voices. Those....who embrace liberty and democracy must stand ready to work in solidarity with the Venezuelan people." He failed to say which ones he meant, surely not the 70% or more backing Chavez. And by failing to denounce RCTV's lawlessness, he showed he condoned it. He also forgot his successor as president, Alan Garcia, lawlessly silenced two Peruvian TV stations and three radio stations, apparently for supporting a lawful strike Garcia opposes.

The New York Times has an ugly record bashing Hugo Chavez since he was elected with a mandate to make participatory social democracy the cornerstone of his presidency. That's anathema to Washington and its chief media ally, the New York Times. Since 1999 when he took office, it hammered Chavez with accusations of opposing the US-sponsored Free Trade of the Americas (FTAA) without explaining it would sell out to big capital at the expense of his people if adopted.

Following his election in December, 1998, Times Latin American reporter Larry Roher wrote: (Latin American) presidents and party leaders are looking over their shoulders (worried about the) specter....the region's ruling elite thought they had safely interred: that of the populist demagogue, the authoritarian man on horseback known as the caudillo (strongman)."

The Times later denounced him for using petrodollars for foreign aid to neighbors, equating promoting solidarity, cooperation and respecting other nations' sovereignty with subversion and buying influence. It criticized his raising royalties and taxes on foreign investors, never explaining it was to end their longtime preferential treatment making them pay their fair share as they should. It bashed him for wanting his own people to benefit most from their own resources, not predatory oil and other foreign investors the way it was before Chavez took office. No longer, and that can't be tolerated in Washington or on the pages of the New York Times.

When state oil company PDVSA became majority shareholder with foreign investors May 1 with a minimum 60% ownership in four Orinoco River basin oil projects, the Times savaged Chavez. It condemned his "revolutionary flourish (and his) ambitious (plan to) wrest control of several major oil projects from American and European companies (with a) showdown (ahead for these) coveted energy resources...." Unmentioned was these resources belong to the Venezuelan people. The Times also accuses Chavez of allowing "politics and ideology" to drive US-Venezuelan confrontation "to limit American influence around the world, starting in Venezuela's oil fields."

It calls him "divisive, a ruinous demagogue, provocative (and) the next Fidel Castro." It savored the 2002 aborted two day coup ousting him calling it a "resignation" and that Venezuela "no longer (would be) threatened by a would-be dictator." It reported he "stepped down (and was replaced by (a) respected business leader" (Pedro Carmona - president of Fedecamaras, the Venezuelan Federation of Chambers of Commerce).

Unmentioned was that Carmona was hand-picked in Washington and by Venezuelan oligarchs to do their bidding at the expense of the people. He proved his bona fides by suspending the democratically elected members of the National Assembly and crushing Bolivarian Revolutionary Constitutional reforms, quickly restored once Chavez was reinstated in office. Carmona fled to Colombia seeking political asylum from where Venezuela's Supreme Court now wants him extradited on charges of civil rebellion. Unmentioned also was that the Times had to dismiss one of its Venezuelan reporters, Francisco Toro, in January, 2003 when Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) revealed he was an anti-Chavista activist masquerading as an objective journalist.

Back to the present, the Times claims Chavez is moving to consolidate his dictatorial powers by shuttering RCTV's Channel 2 and silencing his critics. It portrays him as a Latin American strongman waging class warfare with socialist rhetoric. It asks how long Venezuelans will put up with the destruction of their democratic freedoms? It points to "evidence Mr. Chavez's definition of the enemy has been enlarged to include news media outlets....critical of his government....extending his control beyond political institutions (alone)." This marks a "shift from the early years of his presidency, when he (also) faced vitriolic criticism" from the media.

The Times speculates how brutal he'll become silencing critics and quelling protests wondering if he'll use proxies to do it. It then questions whether Chavez overstepped enough to marshall large-scale opposition to him to push him past the tipping point that will inevitably lead to his loss of credibility and power. Might this be a thinly disguished Times effort to create the reality it supports by wishing for it through the power of suggestion.

Times business columnist Roger Lowenstein is on board to make it happen. He claims, with no substantiation, Chavez "militarized the government, emasculated the country's courts, intimidated the media, eroded confidence in the economy and hollowed out Venezuela's once-democratic institutions." Turn this on its head to know the truth Lowenstein won't report - that Chavez militarized nothing. He put his underutilized military to work implementing Venezuela's Plan Bolivar 2000 constructing housing for the poor, building roads, conducting mass vaccinations, and overall serving people needs, not invading and occupying other countries and threatening to flatten other "uncooperative" ones.

Venezuela's courts function independently of the democratically elected President and National Assembly. The media is the freest and most open in the region and the world with most of it corporate owned as it is nearly everywhere. Further, business is booming enough to get the Financial Times to say bankers were having "a party," and the country never had a functioning democracy until Hugo Chavez made it flourish there.

Times Venezuelan reporter Simon Romero is little better than Lowenstein or others sending back agitprop disguised as real journalism in his Venezuelan coverage, including RCTV closure street protests. He made events on Caracas streets sound almost like a one-sided uprising of protesters against Chavez with "images of policemen with guns drawn" intimidating them. He highlighted Chavez's critics claiming "the move to allow RCTV's license to expire amounts to a stifling of dissent in the news media." He quoted Elisa Parejo, one of RCTV's first soap opera stars, saying "What we're living in Venezuela is a monstrosity. It is a dictatorship."

He quoted right wing daily newspaper El Nacional as well portraying the RCTV decision as "the end of pluralism" in the country. Gonzalo Marroquin, president of the corporate media-controlled Inter-American Press Association (IAPA), was also cited saying Chavez wants to "standardize the right to information (indicating) a very bleak outlook for the whole hemisphere." He invented corporate-cooked polling numbers showing "most Venezuelans oppose Mr. Chavez's decision not to renew RCTV's license." In fact, the opposite is true and street demonstrators for and against RCTV's shuttering proved it. Venezuelans supporting Chavez dwarfed the opposition many times over. But you won't find Romero or any other Times correspondent reporting that. If any try doing it, they'll end up doing obits as their future beat.

Back in February, Romero was at it earlier. Then, he hyped Venezuela's arms spending making it sound like Chavez threatened regional stability and was preparing to bomb or invade Miami. Romero's incendiary headline read "Venezuela Spending on Arms Soars to World's Top Ranks." It began saying "Venezuela's arms spending has climbed to more than $4 billion in the past two years, transforming the nation into Latin America's largest weapons buyer" with suggestive comparisons to Iran. The report revealed this information came from the US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) making that unreliable source alone reason to question its accuracy and what's behind it.

The figure quoted refers only to what Venezuela spends on arms, not its total military spending. Unmentioned was that the country's total military spending is half of Agentina's, less than one-third of Colombia's, and one-twelfth of Brazil's according to Center for Arms Control and Nonproliferation figures ranking Venezuela 63rd in the world in military spending. The Center also reported Venezuela's 2004 military budget at $1.1 billion making Romero's $4 billion DIA figure phony and a spurious attempt to portray Chavez as a regional threat needing to be counteracted. At that level, he's also outspent by the Pentagon 500 to one, or lots more depending on how US military spending and homeland security readiness are calculated, including all their unreported or hidden costs.

On June 12, Venezuela reported, in an article by "Oil Wars," the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) indicated Venezuela's military spending for 2006 was $1.9 billion. The report's author voiced skepticism so compared this number to Venezuela's Ministry of Defense expenditures for that year in its "Memoria y Cuenta." It's figure was $1,977,179,179 thousand Bolivars that converted to US dollars comes to $919,618,000. To that must be added another $1.09 billion the Ministry of Defense got from Venezuela's FONDEN, or development fund. Adding both numbers together, of course, shows the country's 2006 military spending at $2 billion.

Based on The Independent Institute's Senior Fellow Robert Higgs' calculation of US defense spending for FY 2006 of $934.9 billion, it still means the Pentagon outspends Venezuela's military by around 500 to one. Higgs includes the separate budgets for the Department of Defense, Energy, State, Veterans Affairs, Homeland Security, Treasury's Military Retirement Fund, other smaller defense-related budgets plus net interest paid attributable to past debt-financed defense outlays. Even then, he omitted off-the-books budgets and secret intelligence ones for CIA and NSA.

Back to the Times' Romero and it's clear his reporting smells the same as Iraq's WMDs and Iran's legal commercial nuclear program being threat enough to warrant sanctions and a US military response. Romero is right in step with Bush administration World Bank president neocon nominee Robert Zoellick. He took aim at Hugo Chavez from Mexico City June 16 with warnings Venezuela is "a country where economic problems are mounting, and as we're seeing on the political side it's not moving in a healthy direction."

Romero reports similar agitprop and did it May 17 in his article titled "Clash of Hope and Fear as Venezuela Seizes Land." He began saying "The squatters arrive before dawn with machetes and rifles, surround the well-ordered rows of sugar cane and threaten to kill anyone who interferes. Then they light a match to the crops and declare the land their own." He continued saying "Mr. Chavez is carrying out what may become the largest forced land redistribution in Venezuela's history, building utopian farming villages for squatters, lavishing money on new cooperatives and sending army commando units to supervise seized estates in six states."

Violence has accompanied seizures, says Romero, "with more than 160 peasants killed by hired gunmen in Venezuela (and) Eight landowners have also been killed...." Since Chavez took office, there have been peasant and other violent deaths, but most of them have been at the hands of US-Colombian government financed paramilitary death squads operating in Venezuela.

Romero stays clear of this while making his rhetoric sound like an armed insurrection is underway in Venezuela forcibly and illegally seizing land from its rightful owners. What's going on, in fact, is quite different that can only be touched on briefly to explain. Hugo Chavez first announced his "Return to the Countryside" plan under the Law on Land and Agricultural Development in November, 2001. The law set limits on landholding size; taxed unused property; aimed to redistribute unused, mainly government-owned land to peasant families and cooperatives; and expropriate uncultivated, unused land from large private owners compensating them at fair market value. So, in fact, the government seizes nothing. It buys unused land from large estates and pays for it so landless peasants can have and use it productively for the first time ever benefitting everyone equitably.

Nowhere in his article did Romero explain this although he did acknowledge prior to 2002, "an estimated 5 per cent of the population owned 80 per cent of the country's private land." By omitting what was most important to include, Romero's report distorted the truth enough to assure his readers never get it from him. Nor do they from any other Times correspondent when facts conflict with imperial interests. That's what we've come to expect from the "newspaper of record" never letting truth interfere with serving wealth and power interests that includes lying for them. Shameless reporting on Venezuela under Hugo Chavez is one of many dozens of examples of Times duplicity and disservice to its readers going back decades.

Former Times journalist John Hess denounced it his way: I "never saw a foreign intervention that the Times did not support, never saw a utility increase that it did not endorse, never saw it take the side of labor in a strike or lockout, or advocate a raise for underpaid workers. And don't get me started on universal health care and Social Security. So why do people think the Times is liberal?" And why should anyone think its so-called news and information is anything more than propaganda for the imperial interests it serves?

Robert McChesney and Mark Weisbrot explained it well in their June 1 article on "Venezuela and the Media" saying: "the US media coverage (with NYT in the lead) of Venezuela's RCTV controversy (and most everything else) says more about the deficiencies of our own news media than it does about Venezuela. It demonstrates again (it's more) willing to carry water for Washington (and the corporate interests it serves) than to ascertain and report the truth of the matter." At the Times, truth is always the first casualty, but especially when the nation's at war.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at

Also visit his blog site at and listen to The Steve Lendman News and Information Hour on Saturdays at noon US central time.