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Terry Crawford-Browne: To End the Occupation of Palestine, Target Israeli Banks

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A logical strategy for boycotting Israel is to begin with Israeli banks. Worth a read

Terry Crawford-Browne, The Electronic Intifada, 30 June 2010

Targeting Israeli banks will help bring an end to the occupation. (Oren Ziv/ActiveStills)

The international banking sanctions campaign in New York against apartheid South Africa during the 1980s is regarded as the most effective strategy in bringing about a nonviolent end to the country’s apartheid system. The campaign culminated in President FW de Klerk’s announcement in February 1990, releasing Nelson Mandela and other political prisoners, and the beginning of constitutional negotiations towards a non-racial and democratic society.

If international civil society is serious about urgently ending Israel’s violations of Palestinian rights, including ending the occupation, then suspension of SWIFT transactions to and from Israeli banks offers an instrument to help bring about a peaceful resolution of an intractable conflict. With computerization, international banking technology has advanced dramatically in the subsequent 20 years since the South African anti-apartheid campaign.

Although access to New York banks remains essential for foreign exchange transactions because of the role of the dollar, interbank transfer instructions are conducted through the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT), which is based in Belgium. So, instead of New York — as in the period when sanctions were applied on South Africa– Belgium is now the pressure point.

SWIFT links 8,740 financial institutions in 209 countries. Without access to SWIFT and its interbank payment network, countries are unable either to pay for imports or to receive payment for exports. In short, no payment — no trade. Should it come to a point where trade sanctions are imposed on Israel, it may be able to evade them. Instead of chasing trade sanctions-busters and plugging loopholes, it is both faster and much more effective to suspend the payment system.

The Israeli government may consider itself to be militarily and diplomatically invincible, given support from the United States, and other governments, but Israel’s economy is exceptionally dependent upon international trade. It is thus very vulnerable to financial retaliation. South Africa’s apartheid government had also believed itself to be immune from foreign pressure.

Without SWIFT, Israel’s access to the international banking system would be crippled. Banking is the lifeblood of any economy. Without payment for imports or exports, the Israeli economy would quickly collapse. The matter has gained additional urgency with the bill now before the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, to penalize any person who promotes the imposition of boycotts against Israel. Another important political factor is that SWIFT is not only outside American jurisdiction, it is also beyond the reach of Israeli military retaliation.

Israel has long experience in sanctions-busting since the 1948 Arab boycotts. Apartheid South Africa was also well experienced in sanctions-busting — breaking oil embargoes was almost a “national sport.” Trade sanctions are invariably full of loopholes. Profiteering opportunities abound, as illustrated by Iraq, Cuba and numerous countries against which for many years the United States unsuccessfully has applied trade sanctions. Iran conducts its trade through Dubai, which happily profits from the political impasse.

Suspension of bank payments plugs such loopholes, and also alters the balance of power so that meaningful negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians become even possible. This is because banking sanctions impact quickly upon financial elites who have the clout to pressure governments to concede political change. Trade sanctions, by contrast, impact hardest on the poor or lower-paid workers, who have virtually no political influence.

SWIFT will, however, only take action against Israeli banks if ordered to do so by a Belgian court, and then only in very exceptional circumstances. Such very exceptional circumstances are now well-documented by the UN-commissioned Goldstone report into Israel’s winter 2008-09 invasion and massacre in Gaza and by the attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla on 31 May 2010. There is also a huge body of literature from Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and other organizations detailing Israeli war crimes and violations of humanitarian law.

The Israeli government, like that of apartheid South Africa, has become a menace to the international community. Corruption and abuses of human rights are invariably interconnected. Israel’s long military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, for example, has corrupted almost every aspect of Israeli society, most especially its economy. The Organization For Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) reported in December 2009 that the Israeli government lacks commitment in tackling international corruption and money laundering.

The international financial system is exceedingly sensitive about allegations of money laundering, but also to any associations with human rights abuses. Organized crime and money laundering are major international security threats, as illustrated by the United States subpoena after the 11 September 2001 attacks of SWIFT data to track terrorist financing. The website Who Profits? (www.whoprofits.org) lists hundreds of international and Israeli companies that illegally profiteer from the occupation.

Their operations range from construction of the “apartheid wall” and settlements to agricultural produce grown on confiscated Palestinian land. As examples, Caterpillar, Volvo and Hyundai supply bulldozing equipment to demolish Palestinian homes. British supermarkets sell fresh produce grown in the West Bank, but illegally labelled as Israeli. Ahava markets Dead Sea mud and cosmetics.

The notorious Lev Leviev claims in Dubai that Leviev diamonds are of African origin, and are cut and polished in the United States rather than Israel. They are sourced from Angola, Namibia and also allegedly Zimbabwe, and can rightly be described as “blood diamonds.” Israeli diamond exports in 2008 were worth $19.4 billion, and accounted for almost 35 percent of Israeli exports. Industrial grade diamonds are essential to Israel’s armaments industry, and its provision of surveillance equipment to the world’s most unsavory dictatorships. Such profiteering depends on foreign exchange and access to the international payments system. Hence interbank transfers are essential, and SWIFT — willingly or unwillingly — has become complicit, as were the New York banks with apartheid South Africa.

Accordingly, a credible civil society organization amongst the Palestinian diaspora should lead the SWIFT sanctions campaign against Israeli banks. And, per the South African experience, it should be led by civil society rather than rely on governments.

Each bank has an eight letter SWIFT code that identifies both the bank and its country of domicile. “IL” are the fifth and sixth letters in SWIFT codes that identify Israel. The four major Israeli banks and their SWIFT codes are Israel Discount Bank (IDBILIT), Bank Hapoalim (POALILIT), Bank Leumi (LUMIILIT) and Bank of Israel (ISRAILIJ).

Such a suspension would not affect domestic banking transactions within Israel and the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip — or international transfers to Palestinian banks that have separate “PS” identities. The campaign can be reversed as soon as the objectives have been achieved, and without long-term economic damage.

What is required is an urgent application in a Belgian court ordering SWIFT to reprogram its computers to suspend all transactions to and from Israeli banks until the Israeli government agrees to end the occupation of the West Bank including East Jerusalem, and that it will dismantle the “apartheid wall;” the Israeli government recognizes the fundamental rights of Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and Israel recognizes, respects and promotes the rights of Palestinian refugees.

The writer is a retired banker, who advised the South African Council of Churches on the banking sanctions campaign against apartheid South Africa. He spent October 2009 to January 2010 in East Jerusalem monitoring checkpoints, house demolitions and evictions, and liaising with Israeli peace groups. He lives in Cape Town.

ei: To end the occupation, cripple Israeli banks

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The Ruling Class’ Murder-Suicide of the Human Race

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Does the Ruling Class Really Want to Commit Suicide?

by Charles M Young, This Can’t Be Happening

BP’s Slimy and Infamous History as the forefront of British Imperialism

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Arm of the British Empire British Petroleum’s Assault on America
June 15, 2010 by JackBlood

by John Hoefle

June 12–British Petroleum is not a corporation, at least not in the way that many Americans think of corporations. What British Petroleum {really} is, is an instrument of the British Empire’s unrelenting war upon the vast majority of the people of the world. British Petroleum is part of a network of giant imperial cartels, created with the aim of replacing sovereign nation-states as the ruling entities of the planet. Under this system, an imperial financier oligarchy runs the cartels, which in turn control the world. This system, marketed as “globalization,” is actually a return to the methods of the evil and corrupt British East India Company.

The drama now playing out in the Gulf of Mexico, in the halls of government in Washington and London, and in the boardrooms of Wall Street and Threadneedle Street, reflect both the astonishing success of this British assault upon humanity, and the necessity for the people of the United States to defeat this attack. If we are to survive, the British Empire and its instrumentalities must be destroyed.

No one should be surprised at the breathtaking arrogance of BP, which has a sordid history of disregard for human life, an imperious disdain for the environment, and a demonstrated unwillingness to pay for anything that cuts into its profits, such as safety equipment, basic maintenance, and oil-spill clean-up capability. The company has been convicted of felonies, one arising from the 2005 explosion of its Texas City, Texas, refinery, in which 15 people were killed, another involving the illegal dumping of hazardous materials in Alaska. It was still on probation for the latter offense, when its Gulf of Mexico well blew out in April. BP was also the company responsible for handling the Exxon Valdez oil spill, but proved so unwilling to meet its obligations that Exxon stepped in to handle the mess. It is, literally, a criminal operation.

That criminality is by design. British Petroleum was formed in 1909, as Anglo-Persian Oil Company, as a monopoly on the oilfields of what is now Iran. The British Monarchy was determined to convert its naval vessels from coal to oil, to maintain the empire’s supremacy on the seas. It was also determined to deny its rivals access to the oil, for the same purpose. This drive to lock up oil supplies led to the creation of an imperial oil cartel–a cartel of giant oil companies–which controls the global production, distribution, and processing of oil today, and controls the mechanisms by which prices are set. This corporate oil cartel does not control all of the world’s oil, but it controls enough to make it a significant factor in the empire’s dominion over nations. To this day, British Petroleum remains an asset of the British Monarchy.

British Petroleum’s sibling in this operation, is the Anglo-Dutch giant Royal Dutch Shell, the result of a 1907 merger between Royal Dutch Petroleum of the Netherlands and Shell Transport and Trading of the United Kingdom. One of the founders of Royal Dutch Petroleum was Sir Henri Deterding, who ran the company for 36 years, and was later notorious for his support of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party.

Royal Dutch Shell also provided a cover for the intelligence operations of Lord Victor Rothschild, whose family played a major role in the company. Lord Victor’s son, Jacob, the current Baron Rothschild, today runs the Inter-Alpha Group of imperial financiers, which, as we shall see, is joined at the hip with British Petroleum and Goldman Sachs.

– Fascism –

Support for the Nazis runs deep in these companies and their controllers. The late, but not lamented, Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands was a card-carrying member of the Nazi Party, and part of the industrial espionage unit of the notorious I.G. Farben, of concentration-camp infamy. Prince Bernhard was a founder of the Bilberberg Group, and with Britain’s Prince Philip, of the World Wildlife Fund, two organizations dedicated to pushing imperial fascism. Philip is the creature who has dedicated his life to reducing the world’s population by two-thirds (including you), and has expressed his desire to be reincarnated as a deadly virus so that he may continue to play an active role in that genocide.

These two oil giants are an essential component of the British Empire’s control over raw materials, along with mining companies such as Rio Tinto, Anglo-American, Cargill, and others, which exert significant control over the minerals, metals, petroleum products, food supplies, communications facilities, and finance, necessary to run the modern world. The project to create these cartels was officially launched at the Bilderberg annual meeting in 1968, although this was merely the repackaging of a much older idea.

The plan, as introduced by Lehman Brothers banker and U.S. Anglophile George W. Ball, was for the creation of a “world company” as a replacement for the nation-state. The plan was explicitly Malthusian, based upon the idea that corporations were much better suited to managing the world’s scarce resources than were nations and their governments. Governments, the Bilderbergers complained, had an unfortunate tendency to place the welfare of their people–or at least some of them–above the welfare of the imperial fatcats of the Anglo-Dutch Liberal empire. Far better, the oligarchs insisted, to let bloodless corporations–answerable only to the empire–run the show. It was an explicitly corporatist conception, corporatism being the method by which Benito Mussolini ran his Venetian-dominated fascist state. Under corporatism, the state becomes an appendage of the corporations.

Which brings us back to the case of British Petroleum.

– Corporatism –

What is the U.S. Government under President Barack Obama, if not a corporatist state protecting an imperial cartel-company? At every step of the Gulf crisis, the Obama Administration has acted to protect British Petroleum. The same British Petroleum which has lied at every step, downplaying the volume of oil shooting out of the seabed, denying the existence of underwater plumes, pointing accusing fingers at its partners on the Deepwater Horizon rig, and wasting resources on public relations campaigns, when it needs to be fixing the problem. Through it all, the Obama camp is right there with the company, helping it spread its lies, while taking none of the obvious measures to stop the spill, launch the clean-up, and protect the nation from this attack.

Belatedly, as a sop to public fury, President Mustache has been talking tough, looking for, as he put it, some “ass to kick.” The British, for their part, have begun publicly complaining about Obama’s “anti-British” rhetoric, and wringing hands against the “bloodlust” directed at Britain. Others complain about calling the firm British at all, asserting that it is now a “global” (read, “imperial”) company without nationality. (Thanks for confirming our thesis.)

This “war of words” is a play staged for public consumption. The British Empire is accustomed to working in areas where the local populations hate it, and have developed their psychological operations accordingly. The colonial office learned long ago that, often the best way to protect your local political assets, is to publicly criticize them–sometimes the most vociferous anti-British voice is actually a British agent! So Obama, a British agent, talks tough, the British complain, and the spin machine paints a phony picture of trouble in a relationship that is actually quite cozy.

Obama may indeed be getting angry at the beating his reputation is taking, but his anger is irrelevant, as he remains fully under British control. He is a prisoner of his own Nero-like fantasies. He, and his Administration, remain servants of the Brutish Empire which controls both him and British Petroleum. As long as Obama remains President, the U.S. will remain a corporatist state.

– Behind the Lies –

And, as long as British Petroleum continues to control the crime scene in the Gulf, it remains impossible for outsiders to know exactly what went wrong in the well and on the rig, as well as what the real situation is with the well and its environs today. It has been shown that we cannot believe a word the company says. Neither can we believe the statements of our own government, which has already been forced by events to back off on earlier lies. What we can say, with a fair amount of certainty, is that the situation is far more dire than either party will admit, that much of what we are being spoon-fed is disinformation, and that the clean-up operations are far short of what is required.

British Petroleum has consistently treated this as if it were a public relations problem, rather than a physical disaster. CEO Tony Hayward publicly lamented that he wanted “his life back.” As if anyone gives a damn about his inconvenience, when 11 people died on his rig, a large section of the American economy and way of life has been destroyed, and the oil flows relentlessly into the Gulf, into the marshes and beaches, and out into the Atlantic.

The British are arguing that punishing the company for this “accident” is unfair, because of the amount of British pension-fund investment in the company. Just as we have seen in the financial crisis, the empire is demanding that its assets be rescued, to save the “little people.” How shameless can they get, and how stupid do they think we are, to push such blatant lies?

However, with this lying line of argument, they do bring us closer to the truth. For British Petroleum, it is largely about the money. In fact, one can make a strong case that British Petroleum is more like a hedge fund that controls oil assets, than an industrial corporation. It outsources much of its operations to contractors. In the case of the well in question, it leased the drilling rig from Transocean, and hired Halliburton to perform some of the well maintenance; British Petroleum’s main role seems to have been stopping safety measures and improperly pushing for premature completion of the well.

We will not speculate in this article about what actually may have happened to this rig, and what is now occurring beneath the waters of the Gulf, but we will say that there are serious questions about British Petroleum’s version of events, and of the authenticity of some of the photographs and videos the company is providing. Given the consistent lying from these weasels, they are not entitled to the benefit of the doubt.

– Spooks –

On the night of June 7, 2010, according to a {Bloomberg} report, “a group including Vittorio Colao, head of telecom company Vodafone Plc, Martin Sorrell, chief of advertising for WPP Plc, and John Sawer, director-general of the [British] intelligence agency MI6,” gathered at British Petroleum’s headquarters in London “to show support for Tony Hayward.”

Just what, we wonder, is MI6’s involvement in this affair? MI6 is the British Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), which works, incidentally, for the Crown, not the government. Oil companies are, after all, known for providing cover for the intelligence services’ operations all over the world. Could the SIS be involved in any way?

We also note with interest the intelligence connections of Halliburton and Transocean–the latter of which is registered in Rothschild-dominated Zug, Switzerland. Halliburton not only is the company of former Vice President Dick Cheney, but has long-standing connections to the U.S. intelligence community, notably through the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board. Transocean is the result of a series of mergers, including the offshore drilling operations of Schlumberger, which, at least in part, is an intelligence agency operating inside an oil-services company. Schlumberger had a hand in the assassination of John F. Kennedy, through the person of Jean de Menil, husband of a Schlumberger heiress, a Schlumberger executive, and a member of Permindex, the Synarchist assassination bureau.

Could the presence of all these spook-related outfits on the Deepwater Horizon rig be related in ways which remain hidden? We don’t know at this point, but we do know that the official story is full of holes, and the whole affair cries out for investigation.

Finally, we note with interest the incestuous relationship between British Petroleum, Goldman Sachs, and the Inter-Alpha Group. Take the case of Sir Peter Sutherland, a Knight Commander of the British Monarchy’s Order of St. Michael and St. George. Sir Petey was, at the same time (2001-09), chairman of British Petroleum; chairman of Goldman Sachs International, the bank’s London branch; and a director of the Inter-Alpha Group’s Royal Bank of Scotland. Sutherland was previously chairman of AIB, the Irish member of Inter-Alpha, and is a former director-general of General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and its successor, the World Trade Organization, which plays an important role in promoting globalization. Sutherland, still at Goldman Sucks, is the chairman of the Fabian Society’s London School of Economics, which trained many of the jerks who blew up the world…

Chris Hedges on Americans’ Yearning for Fascism

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Hedges: Is America Yearning for Fascism? | News & Politics | AlterNet.

This article first appeared on TruthDig.

The language of violence always presages violence. I watched it in war after war from Latin America to the Balkans. The impoverishment of a working class and the snuffing out of hope and opportunity always produce angry mobs ready to kill and be killed. A bankrupt, liberal elite, which proves ineffectual against the rich and the criminal, always gets swept aside, in times of economic collapse, before thugs and demagogues emerge to play to the passions of the crowd. I have seen this drama. I know each act. I know how it ends. I have heard it in other tongues in other lands. I recognize the same stock characters, the buffoons, charlatans and fools, the same confused crowds and the same impotent and despised liberal class that deserves the hatred it engenders.

“We are ruled not by two parties but one party,” Cynthia McKinney, who ran for president on the Green Party ticket, told me. “It is the party of money and war. Our country has been hijacked. And we have to take the country away from those who have hijacked it. The only question now is whose revolution gets funded.”

The Democrats and their liberal apologists are so oblivious to the profound personal and economic despair sweeping through this country that they think offering unemployed people the right to keep their unemployed children on their nonexistent health care policies is a step forward. They think that passing a jobs bill that will give tax credits to corporations is a rational response to an unemployment rate that is, in real terms, close to 20 percent. They think that making ordinary Americans, one in eight of whom depends on food stamps to eat, fork over trillions in taxpayer dollars to pay for the crimes of Wall Street and war is acceptable. They think that the refusal to save the estimated 2.4 million people who will be forced out of their homes by foreclosure this year is justified by the bloodless language of fiscal austerity. The message is clear. Laws do not apply to the power elite. Our government does not work. And the longer we stand by and do nothing, the longer we refuse to embrace and recognize the legitimate rage of the working class, the faster we will see our anemic democracy die.

The unraveling of America mirrors the unraveling of Yugoslavia. The Balkan war was not caused by ancient ethnic hatreds. It was caused by the economic collapse of Yugoslavia. The petty criminals and goons who took power harnessed the anger and despair of the unemployed and the desperate. They singled out convenient scapegoats from ethnic Croats to Muslims to Albanians to Gypsies. They set in motion movements that unleashed a feeding frenzy leading to war and self-immolation. There is little difference between the ludicrous would-be poet Radovan Karadzic, who was a figure of ridicule in Sarajevo before the war, and the moronic Glenn Beck or Sarah Palin. There is little difference between the Oath Keepers and the Serbian militias. We can laugh at these people, but they are not the fools. We are.

The longer we appeal to the Democrats, who are servants of corporate interests, the more stupid and ineffectual we become. Sixty-one percent of Americans believe the country is in decline, according to a recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, and they are right. Only 25 percent of those polled said the government can be trusted to protect the interests of the American people. If we do not embrace this outrage and distrust as our own it will be expressed through a terrifying right-wing backlash.

“It is time for us to stop talking about right and left,” McKinney told me. “The old political paradigm that serves the interests of the people who put us in this predicament will not be the paradigm that gets us out of this. I am a child of the South. Janet Napolitano tells me I need to be afraid of people who are labeled white supremacists but I was raised around white supremacists. I am not afraid of white supremacists. I am concerned about my own government. The Patriot Act did not come from the white supremacists, it came from the White House and Congress. Citizens United did not come from white supremacists, it came from the Supreme Court. Our problem is a problem of governance. I am willing to reach across traditional barriers that have been skillfully constructed by people who benefit from the way the system is organized.”

We are bound to a party that has betrayed every principle we claim to espouse, from universal health care to an end to our permanent war economy, to a demand for quality and affordable public education, to a concern for the jobs of the working class. And the hatred expressed within right-wing movements for the college-educated elite, who created or at least did nothing to halt the financial debacle, is not misplaced. Our educated elite, wallowing in self-righteousness, wasted its time in the boutique activism of political correctness as tens of millions of workers lost their jobs. The shouting of racist and bigoted words at black and gay members of Congress, the spitting on a black member of the House, the tossing of bricks through the windows of legislators’ offices, are part of the language of rebellion. It is as much a revolt against the educated elite as it is against the government. The blame lies with us. We created the monster.

When someone like Palin posts a map with cross hairs on the districts of Democrats, when she says “Don’t Retreat, Instead — RELOAD!” there are desperate people cleaning their weapons who listen. When Christian fascists stand in the pulpits of megachurches and denounce Barack Obama as the Antichrist, there are messianic believers who listen. When a Republican lawmaker shouts “baby killer” at Michigan Democrat Bart Stupak, there are violent extremists who see the mission of saving the unborn as a sacred duty. They have little left to lose. We made sure of that. And the violence they inflict is an expression of the violence they endure.

These movements are not yet full-blown fascist movements. They do not openly call for the extermination of ethnic or religious groups. They do not openly advocate violence. But, as I was told by Fritz Stern, a scholar of fascism who has written about the origins of Nazism, “In Germany there was a yearning for fascism before fascism was invented.” It is the yearning that we now see, and it is dangerous. If we do not immediately reincorporate the unemployed and the poor back into the economy, giving them jobs and relief from crippling debt, then the nascent racism and violence that are leaping up around the edges of American society will become a full-blown conflagration.

Left unchecked, the hatred for radical Islam will transform itself into a hatred for Muslims. The hatred for undocumented workers will become a hatred for Mexicans and Central Americans. The hatred for those not defined by this largely white movement as American patriots will become a hatred for African-Americans. The hatred for liberals will morph into a hatred for all democratic institutions, from universities to government agencies to the press. Our continued impotence and cowardice, our refusal to articulate this anger and stand up in open defiance to the Democrats and the Republicans, will see us swept aside for an age of terror and blood.

Chris Hedges, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter, is a senior fellow at the Nation Institute. He writes a regular column for TruthDig every Monday. His latest book is Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle.

© 2010 Truthdig All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/146226/

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US Imperialist Hubris – Asking Bush & Clinton to “Help Haiti” is Cruel Mockery

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Bush, Clinton and the crimes of US imperialism in Haiti

18 January 2010

The Obama administration has announced that former presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush will head the fundraising for relief efforts in the wake of the Haiti earthquake. In his radio speech Saturday, Obama declared: “These two leaders send an unmistakable message to the people of Haiti and the world. In a moment of need, the United States stands united.”

The message of the Clinton-Bush appointment is indeed significant, but hardly what the White House and the American media have suggested. In selecting his two immediate predecessors, those who have set US policy in the Caribbean since 1993, Obama demonstrates that the devastating human tragedy in Haiti will not bring any alteration in the rapacious role of US imperialism in that impoverished semi-colonial country.

For eight years apiece, Clinton and Bush were directly and deeply involved in a series of political machinations and military interventions that have played a major role in perpetuating the poverty, backwardness and repression in Haiti that have vastly compounded by the disaster that struck that country last Tuesday. Both men have the blood of Haitian workers and peasants on their hands.

Clinton took office in the immediate aftermath of the military coup which ousted Haiti’s first democratically elected president, the populist cleric Jean-Bertrand Aristide. That coup was backed by the administration of Bush’s father, who saw Aristide as an unwanted and potentially dangerous radical.

The new Democratic Party administration undertook a tactical shift in policy. Clinton imposed economic sanctions on the Haitian junta, which destroyed Haiti’s fledgling export industries, then dispatched the Marines to Haiti—for the third time in the 20th century—to compel Gen. Raoul Cedras, the junta leader, to depart. The US restored Aristide to the presidency, after he had given assurances that he would do nothing to challenge the domination of either Washington or the native Haitian elite, and that he would leave office in 1996 without seeking reelection.

After Aristide obediently left office on schedule, he was succeeded by René Préval, who served the first of his two terms as president from 1996 to 2001, carrying out the dictates of an International Monetary Fund “structural adjustment” program that slashed employment, cut public services, and ruined domestic rice farmers.

When Aristide’s Fanmi Lavalas party won a clear victory in May 2000 legislative elections, the Clinton administration and the Republican-controlled Congress refused to accept the election and cut off US aid. Aristide himself returned to the presidency after winning a landslide election victory in November 2000, only to face an implacable enemy in the incoming Bush administration.

For three years, Haiti was systematically starved by the US aid cutoff and measures taken by the Bush administration to block international aid and isolate the Aristide government. Finally, in February 2004, amid protests fomented by the Haitian ruling elite with covert American backing, the US military again intervened in the country, seizing Aristide and shipping him out of the country to exile.

The Marines turned over effective control of the country to a United Nations peacekeeping force, with Brazil providing the biggest troop contingent, propping up a series of unelected Haitian prime ministers until elections in 2006, from which candidates of Fanmi Lavalas were largely excluded. René Préval was elected president for the second time, in a term scheduled to end late this year. Once a supporter and professed political “twin” of Aristide, Préval has long since made his peace with both Washington and the Haitian ruling elite, and his second term has been characterized by slavish subservience to the economic prescriptions of Wall Street and the International Monetary Fund.

Throughout the Clinton and Bush administrations, US demands for adherence to IMF austerity policies were combined with a vicious program of repression against Haitians fleeing the country of their birth to seek refuge and a better life in the United States. In his first campaign for the presidency, in 1992, Clinton criticized the persecution and forced repatriation of Haitian refugees, only to reverse himself and continue those policies unaltered. For the next 17 years—and continuing with no change from Obama—hundreds of refugees have died in small boats seeking to evade the US Coast Guard blockade.

Most recently, Clinton has been the official UN envoy for Haiti, backing the corrupt Préval regime and seeking to develop Haiti as a base for a profitable US-run garment industry founded on near-starvation wages. Food riots swept the country in April 2008, but that did not stop Préval from blocking legislation that would have raised the minimum wage of $1.72 a day for workers in the garment factories.

As for George W. Bush, his selection as co-leader of a supposed humanitarian campaign is an insult to the people of both Haiti and the United States. His appointment by Obama is in keeping with the Democratic president’s unflagging efforts since his election, the result of popular hatred of Bush and his party, to rehabilitate the Republicans.

An unapologetic war criminal who is responsible for the slaughter of a million Iraqis, Bush’s signature domestic “achievement” was the abject failure of the US government either to prevent the devastation of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast in Hurricane Katrina, or to mount an effective relief and recovery effort afterwards.

This is the record of the two men whom Barack Obama has selected as the public face of the latest US initiative in Haiti. Bush and Clinton made a series of media appearances over the weekend, including interviews on all five Sunday television news programs, during which they emphasized the need to restore “stability” to Haiti, and the important role that the United States would have to play in that effort.

Bush and Clinton personify the pernicious and reactionary role that American imperialism has played in Haiti for the last century. It is no exaggeration to say that the policies of their administrations have caused as much death and devastation in that country as last Tuesday’s earthquake.

Patrick Martin

Turning King’s Dream into a Nightmare (Garnishing the Sepulchers of the Righteous)

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from Truthdig

Turning King’s Dream Into a Nightmare

Posted on Jan 17, 2010

By Chris Hedges

Martin Luther King Day has become a yearly ritual to turn a black radical into a red-white-and-blue icon. It has become a day to celebrate ourselves for “overcoming” racism and “fulfilling” King’s dream. It is a day filled with old sound bites about little black children and little white children that, given the state of America, would enrage King. Most of our great social reformers, once they are dead, are kidnapped by the power elite and turned into harmless props of American glory. King, after all, was not only a socialist but fiercely opposed to American militarism and acutely aware, especially at the end of his life, that racial justice without economic justice was a farce.

“King’s words have been appropriated by the people who rejected him in the 1960s,” said Professor James Cone, who teaches at Union Theological Seminary in New York and who wrote the book “Martin & Malcolm & America.” “So by making his birthday a national holiday, everybody claims him, even though they opposed him while he was alive. They have frozen King in 1963 with his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech. That is the one that can best be manipulated and misinterpreted. King also said, shortly after the Selma march and the riots in Watts, ‘They have turned my dream into a nightmare.’ ”

“Mainstream culture appeals to King’s accent on love, as if it can be separated from justice,” Cone said. “For King, justice defines love. It can’t be separated. They are intricately locked together. This is why he talked about agape love and not some sentimental love. For King, love was militant. He saw direct action and civil disobedience in the face of injustice as a political expression of love because it was healing the society. It exposed its wounds and its hurt. This accent on justice for the poor is what mainstream society wants to separate from King’s understanding of love. But for King, justice and love belong together.”

Malcolm X, whose refusal to appeal to the white ruling class makes it impossible to turn him into an establishment icon, converged with King in the last months of his life.  But it would be wrong to look at this convergence as a domestication of Malcolm X.  Malcolm influenced King as deeply as King influenced Malcolm. These men each grasped at the end of their lives that the face of racism comes in many forms and that the issue was not simply sitting at a lunch counter with whites—blacks in the North could in theory do this—but being able to afford the lunch. King and Malcolm were deeply informed by their faith. They adhered to a belief system, one Christian and the other Muslim, which demanded strict moral imperatives and justice. And because neither man sold out or compromised with the power elite, they were killed. Should King and Malcolm have lived, they would have become pariahs.

King, when he began his calls for integration, argued that hard work and perseverance could make the American dream available for rich and poor, white and black. King grew up in the black middle class, was well educated and culturally refined.  He admitted that until his early 20s, life had been wrapped up for him like “a Christmas present.” He naively thought that integration was the answer. He trusted, ultimately, in the white power structure to recognize the need for justice for all of its citizens. He shared, as most in his college-educated black class did, the same value system and preoccupation with success as the whites with whom he sought to integrate.

But this was not Malcolm’s America. Malcolm grew up in urban poverty, dropped out of school in eighth grade, was shuttled between foster homes, abused, hustled on city streets and ended up in prison. There was no evidence in his hard life of a political order that acknowledged his humanity or dignity. The white people he knew did not exhibit a conscience or compassion. And in the ghetto, where survival was a daily battle, nonviolence was not a credible option.

“No, I’m not an American,” Malcolm said. “I’m one of 22 million black people who are the victims of Americanism. One of the … victims of democracy, nothing but disguised hypocrisy. So I’m not standing here speaking to you as an American, or a patriot, or a flag-saluter, or a flag-waver—no, not I! I’m speaking as a victim of this American system. And I see America through the eyes of the victim. I don’t see any American dream; I see an American nightmare!”

King, especially after he confronted the insidious racism in Chicago, came to appreciate Malcolm’s insights. He soon began telling Christians that “any religion that professes to be concerned with the souls of men and is not concerned with the slums that damn them, the economic conditions that cripple them, is a spiritually moribund religion in need of new blood.”

“King began to see that Malcolm was right in what he was saying about white people,” Cone told me. “Malcolm saw that white people did not have a conscience that could be appealed to to bring justice for African-Americans. King realized that near the end of his life. He began to call most whites ‘unconscious racists.’ ”

The crude racist rhetoric of the past is now considered impolite. We pretend there is equality and equal opportunity while ignoring the institutional and economic racism that infects our inner cities and fills our prisons, where a staggering one in nine black men between the ages of 20 and 34 are incarcerated. There are more African-American men behind bars than in college. “The cell block has replaced the auction block,” the poet Yusef Komunyakaa writes.

The fact that prison and urban ghettos are populated primarily with people of color is not an accident. It is a calculated decision by those who wield economic and political control. For the bottom third of African-Americans, many of whom live in these segregated enclaves of misery and deprivation, little has changed over the past few decades; indeed, life has often gotten worse.

In the last months of his life, King began to appropriate Malcolm’s language, reminding listeners that the ghetto was a “system of internal colonialism.” “The purpose of the slum,” King said in a speech at the Chicago Freedom Festival, “is to confine those who have no power and perpetuate their powerlessness. … The slum is little more than a domestic colony which leaves its inhabitants dominated politically, exploited economically, segregated and humiliated at every turn.” The chief problem is economic, King concluded, and the solution is to restructure the whole society.

Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness were, as King and Malcolm knew, meaningless slogans if there was no possibility of a decent education, a safe neighborhood, a job or a living wage. King and Malcolm were also acutely aware that the permanent war economy was directly linked to the perpetuation of racism and poverty at home and often abroad.

In a speech titled “Beyond Vietnam” he gave at Riverside Church a year before his assassination, King called America the “greatest purveyor of violence in the world today,” a quote that won’t make it into many Martin Luther King Day celebrations. King’s strident denunciation of the Vietnam War and economic injustice at the end of his life saw many white liberals, members of his own staff, as well as allies within the political power structure, turn against him. King and Malcolm, in the final days of their lives, were lonely men.

“There are many ways in which Malcolm’s message is more relevant today,” said Cone, who also wrote “A Black Theology of Liberation.” “King’s message is almost entirely dependent on white people responding to his appeals for nonviolence, love and integration. He depends on a positive response. Malcolm spoke to black people empowering themselves. He said to black people, ‘You may not be responsible for getting yourself into the situation you are in, but if want to get out you will have to get yourself out. The people who put you in there are not going to get you out.’ King was appealing to whites to help get black people out. But King gradually began to realize that African-Americans could not depend on whites as much as he had thought.

“King did not speak to black self-hate and Malcolm did,” Cone said. “King was a political revolutionary. He transformed the social and political life of America. You would not have Barack Obama today if it had not been for King. Malcolm was a cultural revolutionary. He did not change the social or political structures, but he changed how black people thought about themselves. He transformed black thinking. He made blacks love themselves at a time when they hated themselves. The movement from being Negro and colored to being black, that’s Malcolm. Black studies in the universities and black caucuses, that’s Malcolm. King never would have done black studies. He taught a course at Morehouse on social and political philosophers and did not include a black person. He didn’t have W. E. B. Du Bois or Frederick Douglass. None of them. He had all the white figures like Plato and Aristotle. Malcolm helped black people to love themselves.”

King and Malcolm would have excoriated a nation that spends $3 trillion waging imperial wars in the Middle East and trillions more to fill the accounts of Wall Street banks while abandoning its poor. They would have denounced the liberals who mouth platitudes about justice for the poor while supporting a party that slavishly serves the interests of the moneyed elite. These American prophets spoke on behalf of people who had nothing left with which to compromise. And for this reason they did not compromise.

“You can’t drive a knife into a man’s back nine inches, pull it out six inches, and call it progress,” Malcolm said.

“I’ve decided what I’m going to do,” King preached at one of his last sermons at Ebenezer Baptist Church. “I ain’t going to kill nobody in Mississippi … [and] in Vietnam. I ain’t going to study war no more. And you know what? I don’t care who doesn’t like what I say about it. I don’t care who criticizes me in an editorial. I don’t care what white person or Negro criticizes me. I’m going to stick with the best. On some positions, cowardice asks the question, ‘Is it safe?’ Expediency asks the question, ‘Is it politic?’ Vanity asks the question, ‘Is it popular?’ But conscience asks the question, ‘Is it right?’ And there comes a time when a true follower of Jesus Christ must take a stand that’s neither safe nor politic nor popular but he must take that stand because it is right. Every now and then we sing about it, ‘If you are right, God will fight your battle.’ I’m going to stick by the best during these evil times.”

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