28 February 2006

Außerordentliche Befriedungsaktion

Is there an effort to silence Iraqis who object to the American occupation? A column in the Grauniad by Haifa Zangana suggests very strongly that there is. This sounds like politicide, an effort to destroy the capability of a country to govern itself. It is reminiscent of the German attempts to destroy Polish political identity during World War II.

Hundreds of academics and scientists have met this fate since the March 2003 invasion. Baghdad universities alone have mourned the killing of over 80 members of staff. The minister of education stated recently that during 2005, 296 members of education staff were killed and 133 wounded.

Not one of these crimes has been investigated by the occupation forces or the interim governments. They leave that to international humanitarian groups and anti-war organisations. Among them is the Brussels Tribunal on Iraq, which has compiled a list to persuade the UN special rapporteur on summary executions to investigate the issue; they do so with the help of Iraqi academics, who risk their lives in the process. Their research shows that the victims have been men and women from all over Iraq, from different ethnic, religious and political backgrounds. Most were vocally opposed to the occupation. For the most part, they were killed in a fashion that suggests cold-blooded assassination. No one has claimed responsibility.

Like many Iraqis, I believe these killings are politically motivated and connected to the occupying forces' failure to gain any significant social support in the country. For the occupation's aims to be fulfilled, independent minds have to be eradicated. We feel that we are witnessing a deliberate attempt to destroy intellectual life in Iraq.

Irving continues to produce fiction

Apparently you can't prevent a dog returning to its vomit. David Irving continues to show why he is an offense to decent human beings everywhere:

Jailed British historian David Irving has again said he does not believe Hitler presided over a systematic attempt to exterminate Jews in Europe.

During his trial in Austria, Irving said he had changed his mind over claims the Holocaust did not happen.

But, speaking from his cell later, he told BBC News the numbers killed at Auschwitz were smaller than claimed.

27 February 2006

A butterfly flutters its wings

We live in an interdependent, interconnected world. Nothing demonstrates this more clearly than the fact that publishing cartoons in Denmark leads to death and devastation in Nigeria.

It is not, it seems, nuclear weapons that will destroy us. It is our own self-regarding stupidity.

Portia Faces Life

The People's National Party of Jamaica has chosen Portia Simpson-Miller as its new leader. That means that, in a few weeks, she'll become Jamaica's first woman prime minister, and the third female head of government in the Anglophone Americas. Only Dominica and Canada hitherto had female prime ministers. Haiti, Nicaragua, and Argentina have had woman presidents.

This is a big deal. Portia represents a break for the PNP in more than one sense. She's the first leader not to have been educated abroad, and the first not to have a reputation as an intellectual. On the other hand, she has a close connection to the party's grass-roots. All one can do is wish her the best of luck, and see what eventuates over the next year.

26 February 2006

I'm still okay, I guess

You Passed 8th Grade Math

Congratulations, you got 9/10 correct!

The Vicar of Bray

I like poetry, and today I want to post one of my favourites, The Vicar of Bray. Engels used to whistle the tune.

In good King Charles's golden days,
When Loyalty no harm meant;
A Furious High-Church man I was,
And so I gain'd Preferment.
Unto my Flock I daily Preach'd,
Kings are by God appointed,
And Damn'd are those who dare resist,
Or touch the Lord's Anointed.

And this is law, I will maintain
Unto my Dying Day, Sir.
That whatsoever King may reign,
I will be the Vicar of Bray, Sir!

When Royal James possest the crown,
And popery grew in fashion;
The Penal Law I houted down,
And read the Declaration:
The Church of Rome I found would fit
Full well my Constitution,
And I had been a Jesuit,
But for the Revolution.
And this is Law, &c.

When William our Deliverer came,
To heal the Nation's Grievance,
I turn'd the Cat in Pan again,
And swore to him Allegiance:
Old Principles I did revoke,
Set conscience at a distance,
Passive Obedience is a Joke,
A Jest is non-resistance.
And this is Law, &c.

When Royal Ann became our Queen,
Then Church of England's Glory,
Another face of things was seen,
And I became a Tory:
Occasional Conformists base
I Damn'd, and Moderation,
And thought the Church in danger was,
From such Prevarication.
And this is Law, &c.

When George in Pudding time came o'er,
And Moderate Men looked big, Sir,
My Principles I chang'd once more,
And so became a Whig, Sir.
And thus Preferment I procur'd,
From our Faith's great Defender,
And almost every day abjur'd
The Pope, and the Pretender.
And this is Law, &c.

The Illustrious House of Hannover,
And Protestant succession,
To these I lustily will swear,
Whilst they can keep possession:
For in my Faith, and Loyalty,
I never once will faulter,
But George, my lawful king shall be,
Except the Times shou'd alter.
And this is Law, &c.

25 February 2006

Another fun link

Ten Top Trivia Tips about Fragano!

  1. Fragano was originally green, and actually contained cocaine.
  2. Humans share over 98 percent of their DNA with Fragano!
  3. In Japan it is considered rude to talk with Fragano in your mouth!
  4. Fragano can be very poisonous if injected intravenously.
  5. Julius Caesar wore a laurel wreath to cover up Fragano!
  6. You should always store Fragano in an airtight container in the fridge!
  7. When Fragano is swallowed, he will enter the blood stream within twenty minutes!
  8. A sixteenth century mathematician lost his nose in a duel over his love for Fragano, and wore a silver replacement for the rest of his life.
  9. The most dangerous form of Fragano is the bicycle!
  10. Ancient Chinese artists would never paint pictures of Fragano.
I am interested in - do tell me about

A basket to carry water

A Basket to carry water
John Maxwell

In a well ordered world, Gerard LaTortue should now be sitting quietly in a jail in the Hague, preparing to defend himself against charges of treason, terrorism, murder, false imprisonment and malicious prosecution and, possibly, genocide

Instead, on Wednesday thIs week, he was sitting, immaculately tailored, as always, in a conference room at United Nations headquarters, as the Assistant Secretary general of the OAS vainly attempted to give a decent burial to US government policies in Haiti.

It was a farce.

Officiating at the obsequies was the Guyanese-born Assistant Secretary General of the OAS, chosen, one imagines, because his clean hands distinguished him from a motley gang of bloodstained bureaucrats who have for two years connived at one of the most blatant and infamous rapes of human rights in modern history.

The occasion was a meeting of the so-called Haitian Core Group of the UN -- nations which over the past two years have been involved in the murderous suppression of Haitian democracy and the denial of the Rights of Man to the first people ever to have implemented those Rights.

Mr Ramdin said the exercise was "closing a difficult chapter which emanated in part from the dispute surrounding the year 2000 legislative elections".

What Ramdin was unable to say was that that dispute was an artificial and unnecessary quarrel, fomented by a small, selfish cabal of rich Haitians, fostered and amplified by a witless and gutless American press encouraged by a cynical and amoral US Administration. Like a bunch of juvenile delinquents, the elite sulked and screamed until they got their way.

On the day following the memorial service, the President of the United States performed what must have been, even for him, the supreme test of hypocrisy, telephoning Rene Preval, the President of Haiti, to convey his congratulations, good wishes and hopes for cooperation in the war on drugs and pledging "a continuing interest in the democratic and economic success of Haiti."

For a man whose previous encounters with democracy have left that institution bruised and unstable, Mr Bush had a nerve. Two years ago his soldiers and diplomats, had armed and provisioned a criminal aggregation of rapists, mass murderers and putschists to go into Haiti to finish what all the American NGOs and enhancers of Democracy had not been able to do : to subvert the lawfully and overwhelmingly elected President of Haiti. When the mercenaries proved unable to do that job, the US itself stepped in with its Ambassador and its Marines making a predawn call on the President to inform him that if he didn't leave the country his life was worthless. They put him on a cargo plane and rendered him to Africa.

It was not only Aristide and his family who were taken for a ride. The world was conned by official propaganda and journalistc pimps, which managed to paint a picture of the mild-mannered slum priest as a violent, corrupt demonic oppressor of his people.The US Secretary of State was reported to have warned Ron Dellums, a former US Congressman, a friend of Aristide's, to tell the President that he was going to die and that the US would do nothing to save him.

President Bush Feb 29, 2004: " President Aristide has resigned. He has left his country, The Constitution of Haiti is working -- This government believes it essential that Haiti have a hopeful future. This is the beginning of a new chapter in the country?s history."

What a chapter it has been!

The new harbingers of democracy looted the Presidential Palace, burned museums, shut down radio and television stations and terrorised the country, murdering anyone who they considered to be a loyalist of the ancien regime - a chimere. The OAS's man in Haiti, a Canadian, travelled to celebrate with the imposed Prime Minister, Mr La Tortue, as he declared the sanguine gang of murderers and rapists to be 'freedom fighters'.

Caricom, whose representatives had completely surrendered to US propaganda and tried to get Aristide to surrender to his elite tormentors, were left up the creek, without a paddle, trying to figure out what day it was and which way the wind was blowing.

The then OAS Assistant secretary general, one Luigi Einaudi, an American, had been heard to say at Haiti's bicentennial celebrations two months earlier that Haiti's only problem was that it was being run by Haitians.The elite with the help of the gangsters and murderers soon changed that. In concert with the United Nations, the Americans, the Canadians the French, and latterly the Brazilians, no Haitian chimere would be allowed to bark unpunished and thousands died, thousands of them murdered, plus 3000 suffocated by malign incompetence and floods

The next two years are a chronicle of murderous mismanagement, cruelty, repression and incompetence.

But the Americans, scattering democracy like manure across the Middle East, had to be seen to be doing something useful in this hemisphere. Elections were all important. Mr Roger Noriega said so, (his mentor Jesse Helms must have told him that) Mr Einaudi said so and to top it all, Dr Condoleezza Rice, the US Secretary of State said so.

Unfortunately for the newly arranged democracy to be, Haiti's poverty and lack of electricity makes it impossible for voting machines to be used and the recent elections had to be carried out the old way, un-hackable except by machete. There were neither computers nor machetes, just lots and lots and lots of 'dirt poor' Haitians smart enough to figure out how to get their democracy and their leaders back. Despite all the plots and stratagems their will was made manifest and the electoral authority and the US government have been forced to admit that the people of Haiti have elected in one go, the president they can get if they cant get the one they want.

But this is just the start of another black farce, unless Jamaica's next Prime Minister and her Caricom colleagues intervene decisively with the support of the South Africans and the Brazilians and any others who respect Haiti.

Preval has been given a basket to carry water.

His country is still run by criminals, the leaders of the people are still in exile or in prison and thousands of crimes need to be prosecuted and criminals brought to justice. And then the job of development will need to be tackled.

To do any of this Haiti requires money and help. Some of the help will come from the millions of Haitians driven out of Haiti in the past. At this point it may be useful to remember some of the argument before the coup in 2004

Just before the coup I wrote in this column:
"The twentieth century story of Haiti is one of economic and social strip-mining, of rapacious exploitation on a scale that is almost incomprehensible. As one of my correspondents says, Haiti is an international crime scene. For decades the Haitian people have been driven abroad to seek some sort of dignity, livelihood and an end to suffering. The brightest people including journalists, have been murdered or are in voluntary or involuntary exile.

Haiti needs help, not interference. The people of goodwill, in Haiti or outside, must be brought into a dialogue of respect for each other, to devise solutions, made by Haitians for Haitians. But they need help, simply to build the basic infrastructure for dialogue, for communication,for education and for health. Haiti is a war zone, where the rich have scorched the earth so thoroughly that the emotional landscape seems to have been sown with salt."

I then reported on a fact which has obviously long been forgotten:
'This week, Haitians in the United States were asked for their opinions on what should happen in Haiti. A poll among Haitians across the United States was done by the New California Media Coalition, an association of ethnic media companies .
'Surprise! More than half (52%) of those polled said they believed President Aristide should stay in office in the interest of democracy. Just over one-third (35%) believed he should resign. More than half - 55% - felt the Haitian Opposition was fighting for 'power'; only 22% believed [they were] fighting for 'democracy"'.

'Given these figures and the facts reported elsewhere, it would seem a little crazy for CARICOM/OAS to be putting pressure on Aristide to dismantle his government to give power to an opposition which refuses even to discuss its differences with Aristide."

I repeat these statements because very little has changed in the Haitian reality since then. Aristide's support has probably risen.

But the power elite are still there, elected by no one, responsible to no one but their bankers and clearly, totally contemptuous of the people upon whom they feed.

The Prime Minister is still in jail. The Americans, in a demonstration of remarkable stupidity, are still demonising Aristide and purporting to be able to direct Haitians in the solutions of their problems.

What has been clear for two hundred years is that Haiti's main problems have been and are, in order, the United States of America and France, joined now by Canada.

The recent apparent suicide of the Brazilian general commanding the United Nations Mission in Haiti --MINUSTAH -- occurred shortly after he had met with the two most prominent members of the elite. One wonders what they could have said to him and what drove him to take his own life, if indeed he did.

If he did take his own life one imagines that confronted by the intransigent stupidity, greed and racism of the elite he was so depressed that he could see no way out. But we are faced with a holocaust which must be ended. We can no longer connive at the slow motion genocide of the Haitians. If you believe that my use of the word genocide is overblown, please consider the meaning of it. Article III of the convention against genocide says:

" genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
(a) Killing members of the group;?
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;?
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;?
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;? (e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
ARTICLE IV: Persons committing genocide or any of the other acts enumerated in ARTICLE III shall be punished, whether they are constitutionally responsible rulers, public officials or private individuals."

As my correspondent said two years ago, Haiti is an international crime scene, and the crime is genocide. Certainly, what has happened in Haiti is genocide as described in the first three sub-clauses of Article III.

Haiti's 8 million people may be luckier than the 6 million Jews, gypsies, blacks, homosexuals and other 'untermenschen' killed by the Nazis; they are at least, still alive.

But life in Haiti is clearly not life as most people anywhere else understand it, with the exception of Darfur.

The major actors in this crime may make amends to some extent, by paying reparations to Haiti for their misdeeds over nearly two centuries. But what they can do which would have the most beneficial effect is to extricate themselves from the affairs of Haiti

Nation states are generally formed by groups of people wanting to preserve their common culture.The Haitians, with the exception of the Elite, transcended that when they abolished slavery and declared independence in 1804. Their shared culture was the desire for freedom, for which they had fought so long and hard. Rising out of the most cruel and barbarous slavery, they extended the hand of friendship to everyone, black and white alike. They financed Simon Bolivar and sent him off to liberate South America.

If only for this reason, we, the world, owe them the most profound respect

The best way of paying that respect is that we should respect and guarantee their freedom, their human rights and celebrate their unquenchable dignity under the most appalling oppression.

Copyright©John Maxwell

Blessed are the murderous, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven

Just to remind us that Muslims aren't the only destructive religious fanatics around, here's the Anglican archbishop of Nigeria, Peter Akinola, on the recent (continuing, in fact) inter-confessional violence in his country:

May we at this stage remind our Muslim brothers that they do not have the monopoly of violence in this nation.

The Christian spirit, no doubt.

Say not the struggle nought availeth

A BBC story yesterday describes the American left as disorganised and directionless.

That could be a counsel of despair, but it is also, possibly, a sign of life.

Let us consider the golden words of John Milton, in the Areopagitica:

The adversary again applauds, and waits the hour: when they have branched themselves out, saith he, small enough into parties and partitions, then will be our time. Fool! he sees not the firm root, out of which we all grow, though into branches: nor will beware until he see our small divided maniples cutting through at every angle of his ill-united and unwieldy brigade.

24 February 2006

Creole nationalism reconsidered

I've been thinking lately about something that, on a world scale, is a pretty minor issue: How did decolonisation in the West Indies actually work? I've already written about how Eric Williams (shown at left) utilized Thomas Carlyle's Nigger Question as a justification for West Indian nationalism (along with some fascinating statistics about the use of soap in the mid-nineteenth century West Indies, a very Puritanical Catholic was our Eric).

I've also written, and will be presenting in April, on the role of Eric Williams and Norman Manley as political educators/theorists as well as political activists. Right now, I'm working on a paper (and, I hope, article) on C.L.R. James's The Case for West-Indian Self-Government.

All of this has led me to think about Creole nationalism. We can define this as the ideology shared by people like Manley and Williams, that saw the people of the West Indies as peoples capable of governing themselves. Creole nationalism has much in common with the nationalism of the Indian National Congress (particularly that of Nehru), but not that much with views like those of Kwame Nkrumah or Cheddi Jagan.

The question for me is this: What led to the failure of Creole nationalism? Or, in other words, why was it unable to overcome rival ideologies, such as black nationalism, even when it incorporated elements from them? That's a question which needs to be answered; at any rate none of the answers I've read so far seem satisfactory.

I may work on this on and off for the next couple of years. I'm beginning to suspect that a monograph is the only way to handle the question.

23 February 2006

Sliding towards the abyss

The War on Terror ™ continues, with no evidence that America is safer. Indeed, if you live in London or Madrid you know that the entire Western world is a target. Iraq is teetering into civil war after the attack on the Askari Mosque. The Bush administration, with a brilliance unsuspected by anyone except, perhaps, the wingiest of wingnuts, has ensured that there will be war without end. Of course, the fact that people die in war, and that most of these people are innocent is irrelevant.

In a short time -- less than three years since the invasion of Iraq -- not only has the 'mission' not been accomplished, but Iraq has been turned into a low-intensity battleground. And Afghanistan is beginning to turn into a mini-Iraq (although we have to note that the last invader to effectively conquer Afghanistan was Alexander the Great).

Now, we have the Cartoon Crisis, which is exacerbating conflict between the West and Islam. It looks as if someone wants a 'clash of civilisations' and is working hard to produce it. We are sliding towards the abyss, and it is not going to be easy to get out.

22 February 2006

More on the Irving Case

Interesting comment in the Grauniad about the Irving case.

Irving has not gone to prison for defending truth. There is not the slightest
resemblance between him and the courageous journalists in China, genuine martyrs
for free speech, imprisoned for criticising a totalitarian regime. He is no
impartial seeker after knowledge. He writes what amounts to propaganda for the
neo-Nazi cause. This cannot even be defended as slanted history with a claim on
our indulgence. It is an incitement to hatred.

The problem with this, even though its description of Irving is accurate, is that, in the end, the best answer to bad speech is good speech. And a lot of it. John Stuart Mill, in On Liberty, made the point:

Men are not more zealous for truth than they often are for error, and a
sufficient application of legal or even of social penalties will generally
succeed in stopping the propagation of either.

21 February 2006

More news from the abyss

Nearly 100 people have died in US custody in Iraq. One presumes that the Pentagon will be proclaiming that there was a severe epidemic of colic in Iraqi prisons. Or, perhaps, that all the deaths were natural -- caused perhaps by asthma. Of the 98 who died, 34 are 'suspected or confirmed' homicides. What, one wants to ask, did the other 60 die of? Were they struck by lightning? Or did they die of joy that they were being democratically tortured?

Irving continued

L'affaire Irving gets attention in the Grauniad's newsblog.

20 February 2006

Irving pleads guilty.

David Irving has entered a plea of guilty in a court in Vienna to holocaust denial. After his libel suit against Deborah Lipstadt went pear-shaped, he seems to have undergone some kind of change of heart. Finally, he tells the truth:

As he arrived at the court, he told reporters that some of his views had
changed, saying there were gas chambers and that "millions of Jews died".

Irving has been sentenced to three years imprisonment.

But the author and academic Deborah Lipstadt, who Irving unsuccessfully sued for libel in the UK in 2000 over claims that he was a Holocaust denier, said she was dismayed.

"I am not happy when censorship wins, and I don't believe in winning battles via

"The way of fighting Holocaust deniers is with history and with truth," she told the BBC News website.

In the most recent development in the case, Irving is shocked at his sentence and will appeal. How do you appeal if you plead 'guilty' in the first place? Farce becomes broader farce.

19 February 2006

My library

No more Lavalas, the fire next time?

No more Lavalas, the fire next time?

John Maxwell

The Associated Press headline says it all: 'Haiti poll marred by ballot fraud protests'

The poll was marred not by fraud, but by the people's protests against the fraud.

It is important that we understand the difference, because for the next few years what will be important in any international discussion about Haiti is not whether René Preval won the majority of the votes cast, but that it took a peaceful uprising of the people to establish that Mr Preval did win more than half the votes cast.

It has taken nearly two weeks for the Interim Government of Haiti to declare what every Haitian and many outside Haiti suspected, that the masses of Haiti, mainly poor, had stood patiently for hours in hot uncomfortable conditions, to tell that world that they wanted their democracy back.

Brian Concannon is an American lawyer who spent several years in Haiti helping the governments of Aristide and Preval identify, document, track down and prosecute some of the most gross human rights abusers of the era of the dictatorships of Duvalier and Cedras. On Friday, on the site of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, he gives a clear and dispassionate analysis of the recent elections (http://www.ijdh.org/) which explains in much greater detail than I can here, what really happened in Haiti over the last twelve days.

"On February 7, Haitian voters went to the polls to elect a President for the fourth time since 1990. Through great patience and determination they overcame official disorganization, incompetence and discrimination, and for the fourth time since 1990 handed their chosen candidate a landslide victory. And for the fourth time Haitian elites, with support from the International Community, started immediately to undercut the victory, seeking at the negotiation table what they could not win at the voting booth."

Concannon points out that there is very little doubt that René Preval was the overwhelming choice of the Haitian people, and that they made this choice despite two years of brutal intimidation, despite the fact that many of their leaders have been murdered or are in jail unjustly, despite the fact that it was made extraordinarily difficult for them to register to be able to vote, despite the fact that their candidate was prevented from staging an effective campaign, despite the fact that the number of voting places was inhumanly deficient, despite the fact their enemies did not want this election.

The electoral council using a legal technicality, stuffed the total ballot count with blank ballots thus inflating the number of votes needed to win an absolute majority. Somewhere in the system too, thousands of ballot were dumped and burned, and other mischief done to prevent it becoming known that Preval had triumphed and did not need a second round of voting, a runoff, to seal his victory.

As Brian Concannon points out, the Electoral Council was shamed into making the right decision, but for the wrong reasons: "Although the negotiated agreement reaches the same result as a correct tabulation would have reached, it does so by changing the rules instead of correcting the violations of the rules."

As it was in the past, so it will be in the future. Concannon says:

"The deal provides leverage for those seeking to delegitimize Preval’s presidency and block the progressive social and economic policies that he was elected to implement. The election’s also-rans are already crying foul, and they will be joined by more voices from Haiti’s elite and the International Community. Soon enough, invoking “the contested elections of February 2006” will suffice to justify an array of economic and political coercion against Haiti’s elected government. "

This is precisely what the sweatshop bosses, the American fundamentalist Republicans and the other criminal conspirators used against Aristide and Preval in the past. As I pointed out last week, one of them, a candidate for President named Charles Henry Baker, was before the votes were halfway counted, preparing to try to annul the results of the election because of what he said were irregularities favouring Preval. It was typical of these characters, who routinely accuse their opponents of doing that they themselves intend to do. We've seen it in Jamaica and we've more recently seen it in the last two US Presidential elections.

The Resource Curse

In certain circles, among sophisticated journalists and coiffured statesmen and development 'experts' , there is talk about a "Resource Curse" which is said to afflict Third World nations rich in natural resources. This curse prevents these nations from developing as logic would suggest is possible. Instead, they are afflicted with corruption, huge income inequalities and persistent poverty. Their leaders frequently have large holdings in offshore banks and similar institutions, and the people are miserable, rebellious and usually unaware that they live in failed or about to be failed states.

Some people from states afflicted by the resource curse have other ideas; speaking in the early 1970s, Juan Pablo Perez Alfonso, former Venezuelan oil minister and a founder of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) declared ‘Ten years from now, 20 years from now, you will see, oil will bring us ruin. It’s the devil’s excrement. We are drowning in the devil’s excrement.’

He was speaking of course, pre Hugo Chavez, who seems to have exorcised the Resource Curse and turned the oil wealth of Venezuela into an engine for the development of Venezuela, educating and feeding the poor, bringing them drinkable water and affordable health services instead of enriching only the distant elites of colder climes.

Chavez' performance seems to suggest that the Resource Curse consists largely of intransigent elites and their foreign sponsors who refuse to believe that all human beings should have the right to sustainable development – development within their environments for the benefit of their communities and their nations. In countries without a national elite the West will attempt to invent one – with the worthy and pure intention of improving governance and enhancing democracy as in Angola and the Congo. Political eugenics demand the removal or neutralisation of 'Populists" – highly dangerous vectors of virulent epidemics like liberation theology and socialism.

The diamond mines of Tanzania and South Africa, the gold mines of Angola, the uranium mines of the Congo and Niger, the forests of Liberia and Brazil and the enormous deposits of Western oil underlying such failed or failing states as Iraq, Iran, Sudan and Nigeria all witness to the potency of the resource curse. Haiti's sole resources as far as we know now, are its people and its strategic position halfway between the United States and Venezuela and conveniently next to Cuba.

The Cubans are believed to have found promising undersea structures within their exclusive economic zone, which borders on Hispaniola and is part of the same geological formation. In Jamaica environmentally disastrous seismic exploration has been licenced by the government in the hope of finding enough oil to make the Doomsday Highway viable. Perhaps, as I suggested nearly two years ago, there may be oil in Haiti.

Whatever the truth of those speculations, Haiti's new President will begin with enormous problems.

The most dangerous problem is the Haitian elite, whose hatred and disrespect for the 'slum priest' Aristide and his barefoot followers knows no bounds. Any leader of the poor is a gangster or 'chimere' in their words. Any attempt to say, raise the minimum wage is cause for immediate 'withdrawal of confidence" which is a time tested way to get rid of unwanted and dangerous reformers.

The leader of the Haitian 'elites' is a an American citizen of Lebanese origin called Andy Apaid, who owns what are politely called garment factories – sweatshops producing T-shirts for a Canadian company Gildan – for the Canadian and American markets. Charles Henry Baker, one of the presidential candidates swept aside by the Preval flood, is Apaid's brother in law. The elite power structure is close knit and apparently absolutely agreed on one thing – to squeeze Haiti until the pips squeak. They have put nothing back into Haiti. The depredations of people like them have drained Haiti dry. When people are starving they have no money to save. Capital investments in Haiti consist simply of large prefab buildings with hundreds of sewing machines, ready to be transported at a moment's notice to the next failing state.

Apaid pays his workers 1500 Haitian gourdes per fortnight or about US3 per day or less than one fifth of the Jamaican minimum wage.

No wonder that Gildan's CEO Glen Chamandy boasted "Gildan's labour costs in countries such as Haiti and Honduras are actually cheaper than those in China … the bulk of T-shirts heading to the US market are from the Caribbean" (Toronto Globe & Mail April 11, 2005, quoted by ZNet))

A report by a fact finding mission from the University of Miami Law School in November 2004 quoted Apaid himself as admitting that he had ties to a notorious gangster named Thomas 'Labaniye' Robinson. The report said " “During the investigation, investigators repeatedly heard reports from police and slum residents that Apaid pays a Cité Soleil gang leader to kill Lavalas supporters.”

What Haiti Needs

So-called friends of Haiti like Roger Noriega, Luigi Einaudi and US Ambassador Timothy carney, all exponents of the State departments policies toward us lesser breeds without the law, are full of advice for René Preval. The problem is that their advice is largely about the need for Preval to keep his distance from President Aristide and Lavalas. Einaudi, two years ago said the only thing wrong with Aristide's Haiti was that it was run by Haitians.

Defying logic and the evidence of their senses, they say Aristide is a man of the past.

Aristide had a pretty clear-eyed view of what Haiti actually needs. He was resolved to build "Utopia upon a dung heap" as he said, to build some kind of viable national community upon the detritus of the past.

To do this he needed money to educate and train his people, money for water supplies, for health services, for building and repairing roads and basically, for inventing a viable state on the ruins created by Haiti's friends from Thomas Jefferson and Colin Powell to Pierre Pettigrew and Dominique de Villepin, to say nothing of Kofi Annan.

Most of all, Haiti needs friends, people like Jamaicans who can lend support in agricultural extension and other basic skills which have been driven out of Haiti. And, most of all, Haiti needs to reclaim its real elite, the far-flung exiles driven from home by rapacious greed, mindless cruelty and the total disrespect for life and dignity which defines the Cuckoo elite now roosting in Haiti.

The problem is that the Cuckoo Elite cannot help themselves. They are like the scorpion in the old fable, who seeks a ride across the river. He convinces a frog to ferry him across, promising upon his honour that he will not sting the frog.

The frog is doubtful, but agrees. As they begin to cross the river he again cautions the scorpion:

"Remember," he tells his passenger, "If you sting me, we both die!"

Those were his last words.

Copyright ©2006 John Maxwell


18 February 2006

The Drunk Local News!

Wordsworth's sonnet on Toussaint L'Ouverture

TOUSSAINT, the most unhappy man of men!
Whether the whistling Rustic tend his plough
Within thy hearing, or thy head be now
Pillowed in some deep dungeon's earless den;
O miserable Chieftain! where and when
Wilt thou find patience? Yet die not; do thou
Wear rather in thy bonds a cheerful brow:
Though fallen thyself, never to rise again,
Live, and take comfort. Thou hast left behind
Powers that will work for thee; air, earth, and skies;
There's not a breathing of the common wind
That will forget thee; thou hast great allies;
Thy friends are exultations, agonies,
And love, and man's unconquerable mind.

More global warming

Global warming is accelerating. Of course, the W maladministration and the right-wing blogosphere will insist that the science isn't sound. Of course, the fact that more intense storms and milder winter temperatures are appearing is completely irrelevant.

17 February 2006

Also sprach Rumsfeld

The US is apparently losing the propaganda war to Al-Qaeda. Of course, torturing people has nothing to do with it. It's nothing but image; the US just needs to tell the Islamic world a better story. Why is it that the people who are willing to risk the lives of others, and kill civilians in job lots just don't have a clue?

Archbishop Desmond Tutu has called for the Guantánamo KZ to be closed.

Speaking on the BBC's Today programme,
Archbishop Tutu said he was alarmed that arguments used by the South African
apartheid regime are now being used to justify anti-terror measures.
"It is
disgraceful and one cannot find strong enough words to condemn what Britain and
the United States and some of their allies have accepted," he said.

When every decent person condemns something, then it is likely that what is condemned is indecent. Time and again, W has indicated that he has no time for decency, honour, or civility. As Machiavelli so justly put it: 'A ognuno puzza questo barbaro dominio.'

Barbour's 'Fredome'

A! Fredome is a noble thing!
Fredome mays man to
haiff liking;
Fredome all solace to man giffis,
levys at ese that frely levys!
A noble hart may haiff nane ese,
Na ellys nocht that may him plese,
Gyff fredome fail; for fre liking
Is yarnyt our all othir thing.
Na he that ay has
levyt fre
May nocht knaw weill the propyrtè,
The angyr, na the wretchyt dome
That is couplyt to foule
Bot gyff he had assayit it,
Than all perquer he suld it wyt;
And suld think fredome mar to prise
Than all the gold in warld that is.
Thus contrar thingis evirmar
Discoweryngis off the tothir ar.

More voices for decency

An English High Court judge is among the voices that have condemned the American Dachau.

"America's idea of what is torture is not the same as ours and does not appear to coincide with that of most civilised nations." He made his comments, he said, after learning of the UN report that said Guantánamo should be shut down without delay because torture was still being carried out there.

16 February 2006

Melting Greenland ice

Global increases in sea level may be occurring faster than expected.

Is there oil in Haiti?

John Maxwell sent a copy of a piece he wrote on Haiti in 2004:

Is there Oil in Haiti?
John Maxwell

“‘Ten years from now, 20 years from now, you will see, oil will bring us ruin. It’s the devil’s excrement. We are drowning in the devil’s excrement.’ –Juan Pablo Perez Alfonso, former Venezuelan oil minister and a founder of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), speaking in the early 1970s.
The Sudan is the largest country in Africa, one of the largest countries in the world, about a quarter the size of the United States. It is really several nations, cobbled together into a national entity to suit the administrative conveniences of the British Raj.
Most of the population is black, including many of those described as Arabs. Sudan has been at war with its people almost as soon as it gained independence from Britain in 1956.
“In the oilfields of Sudan, civilians are being killed and raped, their villages burnt to the ground. They are caught in a war for oil, part of the wider civil war between northern and southern Sudan that has been waged for decades. Since large-scale production began two years ago, oil has moved the war into a new league. Across the oil-rich regions of Sudan, the government is pursuing a ‘scorched earth’ policy to clear the land of civilians and to make way for the exploration and exploitation of oil by foreign oil companies.” –Christian Aid, 2003.
The depopulation of the countryside began when Chevron first discovered oil in 1980. The genocide has continued under the auspices of several oil companies, including companies from th US, the UK, Canada, China , Austria, Britain , Sweden and Malaysia.
The attitude of the oil companies may be summed up by the comment of US Vice President Dick Cheney, when he was CEO of Halliburton six years ago: “You’ve got to go where the oil is. I don’t think about [political unrest] very much.”
There are several civil wars in progress in the Sudan but the major struggle is between the government of the Sudan –Arab, and its black citizens in the south of the country. Without going into the political details, it is enough to say, and accurately, that the Sudanese government has for several years pursued a policy of ethnic cleansing in which over 2 million poor people have died, more than a million made homeless, while famine and misery stalk the burned and devastated land.
It isn't as if the Western world has not known about the real price of its oil.
Republican US Senator Sam Brownback told a Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 2000 that “Sudan’s bombing of churches, refuge centres and other civilian targets is one of the worst cases of religious persecution in the world, and the Clinton administration is not doing enough to stop it.”
Senator Brownback said then that the US should intervene, giving development assistance to the people in the south or break diplomatic relations with the Sudan.
A spokesman for the State Department responded that Sudan’s war is so complicated that its “difficult at times to take sides”. The spokesman, one Mr Seiple, said that concerted international effort would be ncessary to stop the slaughter.
Earlier this year, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights and the NGO, uman Rights Watch, released reports revealing the extent of atrocities committed by the government of Sudan. Two years ago, Christian Aid, another NGO, released even more damning reports on the bloody slaughter of the innocents being conducted under the auspices of oil companies. Christian Aid said that oil companies, in building the Sudanese oil industry, offered finance, technological expertise and supplies. The government, employing its new riches, is emptying the land of its people, killing and displacing hundreds of thousands. Oil industry infrastructure –roads and airstrips – are used by the army and its allied militias in their campaign of murder, torture, rape and starvation.
Christian Aid says that the oil companies, including one from noble Sweden, remain largely silent. “Those directly engaged in production claim they have no knowledge of oil-related human rights violation on their land and that, however deplorable, human rights violations are not linked to their activities
According to Christian Aid – “Government forces and militias have destroyed harvests, looted livestock and burned houses to ensure that no-one, once displaced, will return home. Since the pipeline opened, the increased use of helicopter gunships and indiscriminate high-altitude bombardment has added a terrifying new dimension to the war. ‘The worst thing was the gunships,’ Zeinab Nyacieng, a Nuer woman driven hundreds of miles from her home, told Christian Aid late last year. ‘I never saw them before last year. But now they are like rain.’”
The World Socialist Web Site (WSWS) – a Trotskyist outfit, reported in May that
“Khartoum is backing an Arab militia known as Janjaweed (or Fursan or Peshmerga) for the purpose of terrorising the local settled black African population. It has also encouraged the region’s nomadic Arab tribes—the Baggara—to do the same.
“Africa Analysis reports that at a recent meeting of the Baggara it was resolved to “empty the province” of its majority African population, and even to erase the name of Darfur, literally “home of the Fur”—the largest African group comprising approximately four million of the region’s six million people.”
Rape as Policy
According to WSWS “ The Janjaweed, armed with automatic weapons, ride in to the peasant villages on horseback. They burn the huts and round up the young men who are often executed. Parents are sometimes forced to watch whilst their daughters, some as young as six, are gang raped. Many are subsequently branded or executed along with their parents. Bodies are often dumped into village wells in order to poison the water.
“Mosques are often torched, with Korans desecrated and religious leaders killed. All livestock, food and possessions are taken and the village left uninhabitable.
“The Sudanese military follows afterwards to mop up. Alternatively it carries out bombing raids beforehand. Sometimes the Janjaweed and the military arrive together and set up a command post at the local police station prior to instigating a reign of terror.”
According to an African Union delegation,earlier this month the Janjaweed militia had chained people together and set them on fire.
In the south of the Sudan, a peace agreement was being negotiated between the non-Muslim opposition led by John Garang and the government under which Khartoum would remain under Muslim Shari’ah law but religious rights would be guaranteed to the rest of the population. “A secret rider had been thought to exist between Washington and Khartoum which undertook to remove the Shari’ah from the constitutional basis of government in Sudan. This was to be a potential vote winner for the religious right in the US elections—to be trumpeted as the first time that a radical Muslim country has converted into a secular democracy.” – WSWS
Whether such a rider exists, in April, the United States opposed a resolution by the European Union in the UNCHR referring to the concern about the scale of human rights abuses and the humanitarian situation in Darfur. The resolution passed by 50 votes to one, with two abstentions. The only negative vote was that of the US.
On Friday this week, the UN Security Council passed a resolution, backed by the US this time, calling on Khartoum to disarm the Arab militias and halt the genocide in Darfur.
Incidentally, according to the Associated Press on Friday – “ ChevronTexaco Corp.'s second-quarter profit more than doubled as high energy prices extended a recent roll that is shaping into the most prosperous stretch in the oil giant's 125-year history.”

Is there Oil in Haiti?
On July 19, the Institute of Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) released a nineteen page report: Human Rights Violations in Haiti: February–May 2004” and on July 26, the IJDH issued an update paying particular attention to the direct human rights violations by the so-called “interim Government” of Haiti. Another report by the Haiti Accompaniment Project, corroborates and reinforces the findings of the IJDH.The reports are published at haitiaction.net.
Briefly, the various reports disclose that the interim government and its criminal satraps and accomplices have begun a second wave of repression against the political majority in Haiti – the Fanmi Lavalas ( Lavalas Family) the movement supporting President Jean Bertrand Aristide.
The IJDH report documents in grisly detail the horror that is Haiti now. It corroborates earlier reports about massacres immediately following the overthrow of President Aristide.
“The Director of the State Hospital Morgue in Port-au-Prince reported that the morgue had disposed of over 1000 bodies in the month of March alone. Although some of these may have died of natural causes, in a normal month the morgue disposes of 100 cadavers. The Director said that many of the 1000 disposed bodies arrived with hands tied behind the back and bullet holes in the back of the head.
The Catholic Church’s Justice and Peace Commission reported finding 300 cadavers in the street in February and March, most with bullet holes, and estimated that the total number of killings could be as high as 500.”
Lavalas supporters as prominent as Mayors and Haiti’s best known folklorist have been summarily arrested without charge. In the case of folklorist Anne Auguste, even her six year old granddaughter was brutally taken into custody when the 69 year old woman was arrested at midnight some weeks ago. The child has since been released.
The IJDH report includes photographs in colour of mutilated bodies piled in the morgue on May 20, after another massacre, pictures of other victims, including one beheaded by his murderers. Among other victims of the repression are two Lavalas activists rounded up and killed at night by a detachment of US Marines in Belair – one of Haiti’s largest slums and a stronghold of the Lavalas.
The repression is no respecter of age, sex or condition. Young and old are murdered, women,young and old, and children are shot or beaten or otherwise abused.
“Victims’ families report that hundreds of less prominent Lavalas supporters have been arrested throughout the country, often in violation of several constitutional provisions. These reports cannot be confirmed, however, because the prison authorities do not allow independent human rights groups full access to the prisons and prison records. Preliminary investigations do indicate that significant numbers of supporters of the Constitutional government are incarcerated without a warrant or judicial order in Port-au-Prince, Les Cayes and Gonaives. In addition, there have been persistent reports of police conducting large, sweeping arrest operations in poor neighborhoods that are considered Lavalas strongholds. The police claim that the arrestees are common criminals, but as there are no warrants or subsequent judicial action, it is impossible to confirm this claim.”
The reports can tell only of those cases about which informants will speak. Very many people refused to speak because of fear of reprisals and many others were unreachable because they are hiding from the terrorists.
Radio stations are shut down, journalists, professors and members of parliament arrested, and there is no news about these activities from the corporate press either in the United States or elsewhere.
It is impossible for the facts not to be known to the United Nations or the United States, but, as in the case of the Sudan, they seem to be waiting for the horrors to age, like good wine, before they can contemplate action.
The Barbadians and Trinidadians are reported to be in favour of recognising the government of the face-choppers and rapists. I wonder what their reaction would be if the same things were happening in Jamaica or Guyana?
Once upon a time I heard that Freedom and Liberty are indivisible, that Justice must be universal, and that compassion was not only a virtue but a duty.
I was misinformed.
Copyright©2004John Maxwell