Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

NYT calls Rwanda’s Paul Kagame ‘Darling Dictator of the Day’

May 30, 2012 1 comment
Most opposition political parties were barred from registering for Rwanda’s 2010 presidential election, in which Paul Kagame won 93 percent of the vote. Photo: Finbarr O’Reilly/Reuters

That the New York Times published an op-ed by Marc Sommers calling Rwanda’s Paul Kagame “The Darling Dictator of the Day” is significant. As is the comment that “he does not merit his reputation as a visionary modernizer” because, “The reason is simple: his state is all about force.”

Sommers, a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, wastes no time in pointing out that, “There’s no question who’s in charge in Rwanda.” Sommers stresses that, “The government’s commanding presence in Rwandan lives is aggressively maintained by Kagame and a clique of other former Tutsi refugees from Uganda.” He even notes that, Kagame’s government asserted its power in the run-up to the 2010 presidential elections, when authorities barred most opposition political parties from registering for elections, closed down many independent newspapers, and witnessed the flight into exile of several prominent government officials who said they “feared for their lives.”

There were also three suspicious pre-election shootings. One of the exiled officials, Kagame’s former chief of staff, Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa, was shot in the stomach in South Africa after openly criticizing the Rwandan government. A Rwandan journalist, Jean Léonard Rugambage, was killed shortly after his article, which pointed to government complicity, was published. The deputy leader of the Green Party, which was among those unable to register, was found not only dead but with his head partly severed.

Probably most important is the comment that, “Soon after the election [where “Kagame garnered 93 percent of the vote”], an exhaustively researched United Nations ‘mapping exercise’ report led the veteran Rwanda expert Filip Reyntjens to state that ‘there is overwhelming evidence of responsibility for war crimes and crimes against humanity’ against Kagame. A foreign expert (who asked not to be named) also reported the disappearance of ‘a large number’ of Rwandan civil society members in 2007.” That the Times published a piece which referenced not only the UN mapping report and Kagame’s complicity is significant. The conflicts in Democratic Republic of Congo, which have been steadily going on for nearly twenty years, have been the most bloody since World War Two—with around ten million killed. Noting Kagame’s “overwhelming evidence of responsibility” is an important fact to publish.

This could well signal the end of Paul Kagame’s love affair with America. Like Saddam Hussen, Suharto, Mobutu Sese Seko, and other dictators who lost favor with the American Empire, the media did not begin to acknowledge the skeletons in their closets until after they had become the boogeyman—which was often long after the worst of their crimes and human rights abuses had been committed, and which often had Western complicity in their tyranny sanitized from the record.

Thus, it was common to condemn former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein for “gassing his own people,” but references to how the U.S. government supplied the dictator with chemical weapons, or initially blamed Iran for the Halabja massacre, and so on were not facts the media was prone to point out. In the preface to After the Cataclysm: Postwar Indochina and the the Reconstruction of Imperial Ideology, the second volume of “The Political Economy of Human Rights” series, writers Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman wrote that, “The Free Press has fulfilled its primary obligations to the state by averting Western eyes from the carnage of the war and effacing U.S. responsibility.”

For now, the New York Times continues to avert “Western eyes from the carnage of the war and effacing U.S. responsibility” in regards to Rwanda. Sommers continues to reinforce certain lies. Chief among them deal with the Rwandan war and genocide. Sommers writes that Kagame led “a remarkable recovery from war and genocide in the heart of Africa,” and that his “government is renowned for reducing corruption, expanding security, addressing genocidal crimes and increasing women’s rights.” Sommers even says that, “Kagame is no Idi Amin or Charles G. Taylor.” But neither of the two men ever amassed the record for murder and genocide like Paul Kagame.

The truth of the matter is that Kagame is the instigator of the war and genocide in Rwandan and Democratic Republic of Congo. It was the army he led, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) that invaded Rwanda in 1990 and carried out extensive acts of terrorism and sabotage; who routinely violated ceasefire agreements; and who assassinated President Habyarimana in 1994 and within two hours conducted a massive military offensive that swept across the country in one hundreds days of genocidal violence. Not to mention the “overwhelming evidence of responsibility” of Kagame’s crimes in Congo, where, again, an estimated ten million have died.

As Sommers notes, “The government’s commanding presence in Rwandan lives is aggressively maintained by Kagame and a clique of other former Tutsi refugees from Uganda.” Here, Sommers is referring to the political and military leaders of the RPF. These men were part of the Ugandan national army, and the RPF was an arm of the Ugandan military. They wore Ugandan military uniforms. And it was this event, the 1990 invasion, that is integral to understanding all of what is transpiring. That, and the subordination to the U.S.—who is not only the main backer of the Museveni regime in Uganda, but Kagame in Rwanda.

When Uganda invaded Rwanda, its goal was to destabilize the government, and then overthrow it. This is what Museveni did in Uganda. And from October 1990 to April 1994 that is precisely what happened in Rwanda via the RPF. This is also what happened in Democratic Republic of Congo, when Museveni and Kagame invaded and overthrew President Mobutu, and conducted some of the most brutal crimes that were committed.

The second-in-command for United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda, Col. Luc Marchal told the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR): “From my experience, my conclusion is that the RPF had one goal, seizing power by force and keeping it to themselves.” Marchal also stated that, “Not once, never have I sensed the desire to make concessions, to smooth rough edges, to reach a consensus.” He told the court that, “It was almost a daily struggle, and I received remarks because of the violations of the agreement”, and that, “All these elements led me to the conclusion that their goal was certainly not to concretize the peace process.” Marchal believes it was Kagame who assassinated President Habyarimana.
He is not alone in this regards.

There is also James Lyons, an FBI agent who came to the same conclusion.

Another UN investigation headed by Michael Hourigan, came to the conclusion as well. It’s report buried.

And former Rwandan genocide prosecutor, Carla del Ponte, who was removed from her ICTR duties after she insisted on prosecuting Kagame for the assassination and various other war crimes.

Robert Gersony, an American consultant hired by the UN, concluded that Kagame’s RPF committed genocide. He reported a “scene of systematic and sustained killing and persecution of civilian Hutu populations” by Kagame’s forces. Like Hourigan, his report was buried.

It was during this time, and acting on Gersony’s report, that UN forces were blocking refugees from returning. This was reported in the New York Times in late September of 1994:

the United Nations has stopped encouraging Rwandan refugees to return and is refusing even to assist those who wish to go home because of a report that the new, Tutsi-dominated Government in Rwanda has killed thousands of members of the Hutu ethnic group.

The timing of this is important because earlier that month George Moose, a State Department official, sent a memo to Secretary of State Christopher Warren in which it was noted that the “RPA and Tutsi civilian surrogates had killed 10,000 or more Hutu civilians per month, with the RPA accounting for 95% of the killing.”

Spanish and French courts have even ruled on various matters related to the Rwandan and Congo conflicts (more so for the Spanish court), and both found the RPF responsible for the assassination of President Habyarimana, and the genocide that followed. And issued warrants.

It is for these reasons, and more, that it is unfathomable for Sommers to claim that Kagame is “addressing genocidal crimes” when Kagame’s crimes, and that of the RPF he commands, have gone unpunished. And it is cynical beyond belief for Sommers to imply that punishing the victims of the RPF—the government Kagame overthrew and those accused of “genocide”—makes the case. But not once has any RPF soldier been indicted at the ICTR or ICC. As noted, Carla del Ponte made an attempt to do so, but was systematically removed.

The ICTR has yet to find a plan to commit genocide in Rwanda. After nearly twenty years they have not uncovered a conspiracy to commit genocide. They have also refused to consider a RPF conspiracy, which there is significant evidence of.

And if you look at their biggest trial of top military personnel—Bagosora, et al—the ruling is revealing. For one, all were acquitted on conspiracy to commit genocide, the gravest charge.

The court acknowledged that “a cycle of ethnic violence against Tutsi civilians has often followed attacks by the RPF,” and that “[f]ollowing the October 1990 RPF invasion, there were mass arrests as well as localised killings at the time and in subsequent years in several northern communes,” and the court ruled that “the alternative explanations for the events have added relevant context to a few allegations against the Accused.”

The ICTR judges admit that the military preparations by the Rwandan government were “consistent with preparations for a political or military power struggle,” and that “in the context of the ongoing war with the RPF, this evidence does not invariably show that the purpose of arming and training these civilians or the preparation of lists was to kill Tutsi civilians,” and that “in the context of the immediate aftermath of the RPF’s violation of the cease fire agreement, it does not necessarily show an intention to use the forces to commit genocide.” What it shows is an intention to use the forces to stop the RPF’s efforts of overthrowing the government by military force—i.e. defend Rwanda against RPF aggression.

This is backed by what a couple of American analysts who closely studied the conflict found. In their piece “What Really Happened in Rwanda?” Christian Davenport and Allan Stam write that,

Perhaps the most shocking result of our combination of information on troop locations involved the invasion itself: The killings in the zone controlled by the FAR seemed to escalate as the RPF moved into the country and acquired more territory. When the RPF advanced, large-scale killings escalated. When the RPF stopped, large-scale killings largely decreased. The data revealed in our maps was consistent with FAR claims that it would have stopped much of the killing if the RPF had simply called a halt to its invasion. This conclusion runs counter to the Kagame administration’s claims that the RPF continued its invasion to bring a halt to the killings.

Furthermore, the statement that Kagame is “increasing women’s rights” is disputable in one name: Victoire Ingabire. Here is a Rwandan woman who ended her exile by coming back to be a political opponent and fight for national reconciliation and democracy. A mother, she now sits in jail awaiting the conclusion of a kangaroo court trial that will surely convict her of Rwanda’s so-called “genocide ideology laws” that Human Rights Watch has warned is “a broad and ill-defined offense [which is used] as a tool to silence independent opinion and criticism.”

While there is a lot of important details missing from Sommers op-ed, and not all of his comments pan out, it still is an extraordinary development at the “paper of record” that Paul Kagame would be called the “Darling Dictator of the Day” who is clamping down on dissent at home while committing serious crimes in Democratic Republic of Congo. But again it could be a sign of the Darling’s day having ended, and if this is indeed the case, it is important to not only hold Kagame to account, but also U.S. officials who have facilitated him, backed him, and quite possibly directed him.


When it comes to "genocide," Guardian UK’s George Monbiot has pulled a Hitchens

May 22, 2012 7 comments
George Monbiot having a fit

There is just something about British left intellectuals.

Christopher Hitchens fell from grace when he allowed his atheism to become a tool for Western imperialism.

Now The Guardian UK’s George Monbiot has pulled a Hitchens by allowing his outrage of “genocide” to become a tool for Western imperialism.

It started last year with his tirade against writers David Peterson and Edward Herman over their book The Politics of Genocide. George just couldn’t believe they wrote what they did. By challenging the popular narrative of what happened in Rwanda and Srebrenica they were guilty of being “genocide deniers.” (See “George Monbiot and the Guardian on ‘Genocide Denial’ and ‘Revisionism’ ” for Peterson’s and Herman’s rebuttal)

Monbiot still buys the propaganda narrative put out by the West, and has been foaming at the mouth like a rabid dog ever since. His obsession has infected him like a virus, and now Monbiot has even published an email exchange he had with Noam Chomsky, who wrote the foreword for The Politics of Genocide. (Really bad form, George.) Monbiot tries and tries to get Chomsky to turn on Herman and Peterson, to which Noam says he will not because to do so “would be sheer cowardice.”

As someone who has read The Politics of Genocide (a few times), and who has checked the notes, I see nothing controversial. In fact, I highly recommend the book—especially the second edition because it has a new introduction with the compare and contrast of the conflicts in Libya and Sri Lanka.

I have also read The Srebrenica Massacre: Evidence, Context, Politics, the book on Srebrenica that Herman contributed to. Again, I don’t see what the fuss is about.

In regards to Srebrenica, Herman, Peterson and the others who contributed to The Srebrenica Massacre: Evidence, Context, Politics point out a few important facts.

In The Politics of Genocide, Herman and Peterson write that,

The case for eight thousand “men and boys” being executed at Srebrenica is extremely thin, resting in good part on the difficulty in separating executions from battle killings (of which there were many in the July 1995 Srebrenica actions), partly on highly contestable witness evidence (much under coercive plea bargaining), and an interest and passionate will-to-believe the worst of the thoroughly demonized Serbs.

This is why Herman, Peterson, et al. challenge the narrative. With such incomplete information it makes perfect sense to challenge the narrative that they were 8,000 Bosniaks who were the victims of “genocide” by Serb forces.

This is also quite possibly why Chomsky wrote to Monbiot that,

A second point raised in my letter to you (and in the article) is the vulgarization of the phrase “genocide,” so extreme as to amount to virtual Holocaust denial, and the reason why I rarely use the term. Take a concrete case: the murder of thousands of men and boys after women and children are allowed to flee if they can get away.

I’m referring to Fallujah, different from Srebrenica in many ways, among them that in the latter case the women and children were trucked out, and in the former case the destruction and slaughter was so extreme that current studies in medical journals estimate the scale of radiation-related deaths and diseases at beyond the level of Hiroshima. I would not however call it “genocide,” nor would you, and if the word were used, the more extreme apologists for western crimes, like Kamm, would go utterly berserk. Another of many illustrations of the two basic facts.

And of course, the information available on Rwanda is so overwhelming it’s astounding. There are just too many holes in the popular narrative which claims there was a genocide of Tutsi’s at the hands of “Hutu extremists” who planned the assassination of President Habyarimana and the violence that followed. Which is why I seriously doubt George Monbiot has read The Politics of Genocide, followed up with the notes, or anything. If he has, then I can only conclude that he is being intentionally dishonest.

Because had he read the Gersony report, he would have read about a “scene of systematic and sustained killing and persecution of civilian Hutu populations” by Kagame’s forces.

Had Monbiot read the U.S. State Department Memo to Secretary of State Warren Christopher he would know that “RPA and Tutsi civilian surrogates had killed 10,000 or more Hutu civilians per month, with the RPA accounting for 95% of the killing.”

George also could have read the affidavit of U.N investigator Michael Hourigan which notes that he found “considerable detail about information implicating President Kagame” in the assassination of former President Habyarimana. This was the event that kicked off the genocide, and which was quickly followed by a massive, organized RPF invasion within two hours.

This was confirmed by an FBI investigator, James Lyons.

And it also happens to compliment what UNAMIR official Col. Luc Marchal told the ICTR in his testimony to the court: “From my experience, my conclusion is that the RPF had one goal, seizing power by force and keeping it to themselves.” Marchal also stated that, “Not once, never have I sensed the desire to make concessions, to smooth rough edges, to reach a consensus.” He told the court that, “It was almost a daily struggle, and I received remarks because of the violations of the agreement,” and that, “All these elements led me to the conclusion that their goal was certainly not to concretize the peace process.”

As well as former ICTR prosecutor Carla del Ponte, who insisted on prosecuting Kagame and RPF officials for the assassination and their war crimes.

And I have yet to see Monbiot deal with any of this, or the Davenport-Stam work that shows the majority of deaths were Hutu. This is something Monbiot often refers to. But rather than address Christian Davenport’s study “Rwandan Political Violence in Space and Time,” which is the basis of Herman’s and Peterson’s comment, he just shoots the messengers. In their piece “What Really Happened in Rwanda?” Davenport and Stam write that,

According to the census, there were approximately 600,000 Tutsi in the country in 1991; according to the survival organization Ibuka, about 300,000 survived the 1994 slaughter. This suggested that out of the 800,000 to 1 million believed to have been killed then, more than half were Hutu. The finding was significant; it suggested that the majority of the victims of 1994 were of the same ethnicity as the government in power.

They also noted that,

Perhaps the most shocking result of our combination of information on troop locations involved the invasion itself: The killings in the zone controlled by the FAR seemed to escalate as the RPF moved into the country and acquired more territory. When the RPF advanced, large-scale killings escalated. When the RPF stopped, large-scale killings largely decreased. The data revealed in our maps was consistent with FAR claims that it would have stopped much of the killing if the RPF had simply called a halt to its invasion. This conclusion runs counter to the Kagame administration’s claims that the RPF continued its invasion to bring a halt to the killings.

In the summer of 1994, the RPF killings were so widespread and devastating that UN peacekeepers were blocking refugees from returning, citing the RPF killings and their fear for their safety.

Going back to the Gersony report, we know that the RPF carried out “large-scale indiscriminate killings of men, women, children, including the sick and the elderly,” and they did so with tactics like,

Local residents, including entire families, were called to community meetings, invited to receive information about “peace,” “security,” or “food distribution” issues. Once a crowd had assembled, it was assaulted through sudden sustained gunfire; or locked in buildings into which hand-grenades were thrown; systematically killed with manual instruments; or killed in large numbers other means.

What readers have got to understand is that the RPF were an official arm of the Ugandan military, and consisted largely of Rwandan exiles that were a part of the National Resistance Army, which was led by now Ugandan Dictator Yoweri Museveni. The NRA was an armed militia whose goal was to seize power. After they successfully did so in Uganda in the mid-1980s, the RPF was created to carry out the same plan in Rwanda. And on October 1, 1990 the RPF invaded Rwanda from Uganda. And for nearly four years the RPF conducted a plan to destabilize and overthrow the government, which came to a crescendo on April 6, 1994 when the RPF assassinated President Habyarimana, and carried out massive military offensive.

And this pattern, which occurred in Uganda, and repeated in Rwanda, was again carried out in Democratic Republic of Congo when Uganda and Rwanda invaded, overthrew the government and began butchering people. According to the UN Mapping report, which describes “The systematic attacks, in particular killings and massacres perpetrated against members of the Hutu ethnic group”:

These attacks resulted in a very large number of victims, probably tens of thousands of members of the Hutu ethnic group, all nationalities combined. In the vast majority of cases reported, it was not a question of people killed unintentionally in the course of combat, but people targeted primarily by AFDL/APR/FAB forces and executed in their hundreds, often with edged weapons. The majority of the victims were children, women, elderly people and the sick, who posed no threat to the attacking forces. Numerous serious attacks on the physical or pyschological integrity of members of the group were also committed, with a very high number of Hutus shot, raped, burnt or beaten. Very large numbers of victims were forced to flee and travel long distances to escape their pursuers, who were trying to kill them. The hunt lasted for months, resulting in the deaths of an unknown number of people subjected to cruel, inhuman and degrading living conditions, without access to food or medication. On several occasions, the humanitarian aid intended for them was deliberately blocked …

Now, considering all of the above, and how the ICTR has yet to uncover a plan to commit genocide in Rwanda, or how not one RPF official has been prosecuted for well-documented crimes (del Ponte was actually fired for her insistence in prosecuting the RPF) there is a considerable basis for Herman and Peterson to challenge the official narrative on the genocide that occurred in Rwanda.

And nearly all of the above is mentioned in The Politics of Genocide, which, again, leads me to conclude that either George Monbiot didn’t read the material, or he is being intentionally dishonest in his smear campaign, which now not only includes Herman and Peterson, but Noam Chomsky as well. var _gaq = _gaq || []; _gaq.push([‘_setAccount’, ‘UA-32113110-1’]); _gaq.push([‘_trackPageview’]); (function() { var ga = document.createElement(‘script’); ga.type = ‘text/javascript’; ga.async = true; ga.src = (‘https:’ == document.location.protocol ? ‘https://ssl’ : ‘http://www’) + ‘’; var s = document.getElementsByTagName(‘script’)[0]; s.parentNode.insertBefore(ga, s); })();

President Obama on Gay Marriage: It’s Called Electioneering, Stupid!

It didn’t take long for sensible people to fall all over themselves with praise for President Obama today.

According to the New York Times: “Obama Says Same-Sex Marriage Should Be Legal.”

Naturally, Mitt Romney, his Republican “opponent,” has to contrast himself by taking an opposite stand. According to the Times, “Hours before the president’s announcement, Mr. Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, restated his opposition to same-sex marriage in an interview with KDVR-TV, a Fox News affiliate in Colorado.”

Such silliness.

When it comes to politicians and electoral politics we have decades of experience to draw from. And when a politician makes a comment like saying he supports same-sex marriage, it should be taken with a grain of salt.

Even limited to Obama himself we have enough to judge for ourselves.

Remember back in November 2007 when Barack Obama said that, “If American workers are being denied their right to organize and collectively bargain when I’m in the White House, I will put on a comfortable pair of shoes myself, I’ll will walk on that picket line with you as President of the United States of America”?

In Madison, Wisconsin the only sound you can hear are crickets chirping.

Remember back in the summer of 2008 when presidential candidate Barack Obama said, “It is time to pass Employee Free Choice Act in the Senate, and I will make it a law of the land when I am President of the United States of America”?

Well, he was elected, and Democrats controlled both houses of Congress and the White House, and there was not one attempt “make it a law of the land.” Whoops!

Remember during that same period when Obama said, “I happen to be a proponent of a single-payer universal health care program,” and that, “I see no reason why the United States of America, the wealthiest country in the history of the world, spending 14 percent of its gross national product on health care, cannot provide basic health insurance to everybody”?

Oh wait, that’s right. After he was elected he sung an entirely different tune:

What are not legitimate concerns are those being put forward claiming a public option is somehow a Trojan horse for a single-payer system. I’ll be honest. There are countries where a single-payer system may be working. But I believe — and I’ve even taken some flak from members of my own party for this belief — that it is important for us to build on our traditions here in the United States. So, when you hear the naysayers claim that I’m trying to bring about government-run health care, know this – they are not telling the truth.

Remember on January 22, 2009 when President Obama issued an executive order which stated that, “The detention facilities at Guantánamo for individuals covered by this order shall be closed as soon as practicable, and no later than 1 year from the date of this order,” and that, “If any individuals covered by this order remain in detention at Guantánamo at the time of closure of those detention facilities, they shall be returned to their home country, released, transferred to a third country, or transferred to another United States detention facility in a manner consistent with law and the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States”?

Not only are the detention facilities at Guantánamo still open and active, but detainees, like Inayatullah, are killing themselves to stop the torture that is still going on a year after Obama had ordered the torture center to close. Inayatullah wasn’t returned home, or released, or transferred to a third country, or to the U.S. in compliance with law. He remained at Guantánamo, enduring God knows what, until he finally freed himself by taking his own life.

Even more recently, within the last month, and in regards to President Obama and the LGBT community, the New York Times published Jackie Calmes’ article “Obama Won’t Order Ban on Gay Bias by Employers,” where readers are told that, “President Obama disappointed and vexed gay supporters on Wednesday with his decision, conveyed to activists by a senior adviser, not to sign an executive order banning discrimination by employers with federal contracts.”

It goes on and on and on like the song that never ends.

It is no secret that politicians say one thing and do another. And it’s no big secret as to why that is. Campaigns are costly. For his column at Salon, Glenn Greenwald wrote in his latest article—”Obama ‘evolves’ on marriage“—that, “It may very well be true that Obama took this step not out of any genuine conviction, but because he perceives that high levels of enthusiasm among the Democratic base generally and gay donors specifically are necessary for his re-election.”

Consider Obama’s pro-rhetoric on Labor above, or his executive order on closing Guantánamo. Politicians are constantly responding to power, which generally comes in two forms: the power of money and the power in numbers. They are professionals, and know how to pick their battles. In the absence of an organized national movement mobilized around working class, or environmental, or LGBT issues, or whatever, it should come as no surprise that shrewd, calculating politicians, like President Obama, don’t bite the hands that feed them. The Military Industrial Complex is stronger and better organized than human rights activists. Therefore, Guantánamo remains open. Capital is stronger and better organized than Labor. Therefore, Obama didn’t dare put on his comfortable shoes and occupy Wisconsin’s capitol. The power and influence of “employers” is greater than the LGBT movement. Therefore, President Obama didn’t sign an executive order on gay bias last month.

Besides, there is a caveat that folks are forgetting to consider. President Obama himself kept emphasizing the words “for me personally,” and as CNN reports: “The president said he still supports the concept of states deciding the issue on their own.”

Translation: President Obama will not lift a finger to actually give LGBT people the rights he “personally” supports them to have.

Because of the political implications of his comment during a presidential election, and because there is no organized social movement to counter the influence of the religious right, President Obama has determined that it is only safe enough to say what he “personally” feels is right, but that it’s up to the states to decide.
And considering that fourty-two states outlaw same-sex marriage, with thirty states now having a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage thanks to North Carolina’s recent amendment, President Obama’s “support” for states to decide makes his “support” for same-sex marriage a rather meaningless, empty gesture—which will probably secure a few more votes from kind-hearted folks who didn’t take the time to read the fine print.

Furthermore, it should be noted, so as to pull things into perspective a bit, that Obama’s views has only “evolved” to what was former Vice President Dick Cheney’s view just a few weeks shy of three years ago.

It’s also worth noting that Obama’s historical comparison is Stephen A. Douglas, who personally disapproved of slavery but said that the institution or abolition of slavery should be decided by the state. That position weakened him in the eyes of abolitionists, and cost him the 1860 election—and rightly so. It’s a typical fairweathered response we would expect from a politician; it’s refusal to take stand; a go along with popularity, not morality. And that’s how I feel about President Stephen A. Doubama.

The Betrayal of Labor by Labor: On cynicism and deceit

April 26, 2012 Leave a comment

What you are about to read is typical of 99.99% of labor unions in this country.

It’s also a classic tragedy.

Labor unions have a special place in history, not just here in the U.S., but all over the world. Workers organizing institutions to defend themselves and advance their own agenda—i.e., protect themselves from the exploits of Capital and, for some, abolish it—is a noble story of the weak standing up to the powerful.

But for a while now, unions have become tools of exploitation of the working class.

The United Food & Commercial Workers union spends $350,000 a year on the salary and benefits of their labor boss, Joseph Hansen, who doesn’t have a real job. What Hansen apparently does for a living is spend $2-4 million of UFCW dues on election campaigns for the Democratic Party each election cycle. On their website Americans are told to vote for President Obama because he has the workers “interest at heart.”

At a time when workers are under attack by big corporations, special interests, and their cronies in government, President Obama has been an unyielding friend to working men and women. He has stayed true to the vision he outlined to the UFCW nearly four years ago. He is the only candidate for President in 2012 that has our interests at heart.

Not only has President Obama signed three free trade agreements and recently signed the JOBS Act—which Matt Taibbi of Rollingstone magazine writes “is not just a sweeping piece of deregulation that will have an increase in securities fraud as an accidental, ancillary consequence,” but that “this law actually appears to have been specifically written to encourage fraud in the stock markets”—but for two years the Democrats controlled the White House and Congress, and made not one attempt to pass Employee Free Choice Act. Then there is President Obama’s bail out of the American auto industry which weakened workers and sent more jobs overseas, while at the same time contracting Spanish workers to build a rail system for us.

How the UFCW can keep a straight face when saying “President Obama has been an unyielding friend to working men and women” who “has stayed true to the vision he outlined to the UFCW nearly four years ago,” leaving him to be “the only candidate for President in 2012 that has our interests at heart” is remarkable. This is cynicism and deceit at its finest.

The reality is that unions are not democratically-controlled by their workers. More and more they are used to control workers, as witnessed in Wisconsin two years ago when labor bosses pushed workers away from direct action.

How can Labor defend itself when it is led by lawyers and crooks who are not even a part of the working class? Labor bosses are looking after their own interests, which is separate from that of the workers they claim to represent, and which is to maintain their CEO salaries.

Labor writer Steve Early recently wrote on the “survival strategies” of modern unions. In highlighting the prevailing conditions, Early quoted sociologist Stanley Aronowitzs as stating, “In short, the [worker] is now generally a client of the union rather than its owner” because for labor leaders “to call upon their members to conduct collective political fights — including direct actions that might disturb the comfortable relationship that the leadership enjoys with the employer — is well beyond the perspective, and therefore, the capacity, of the union.” According to Early, workers “must take ownership of their own organizations and return them to their workplace roots.”

That is absolutely right. Labor bosses have more in common with employers than the workers they claim to represent. Which is why labor bosses often act like bosses by keeping workers under control.

Again, the occurence in Wisconsin is a perfect example. Governor Walker’s bill contained numerous provisions that were harmful to the working class. But it was only the provision on collective bargaining rights that upset some Democrats and labor bosses like AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, the latter being the one who wrote in the Wall Street Journal: “So here’s working America’s message to governors like Scott Walker and New Jersey’s Chris Christie: We believe in shared sacrifice.”

Translating gobbledygook: By “shared sacrifice” Trumka means “we will accept everything else in the bill but the provision on collective bargaining rights because that would in effect put me out of a job, and I rather enjoy my salary, hooking for the Democrats, and keeping the workers under control.”

Trumka, a lawyer with a CEO salary, claims to know “working America’s message.” The man couldn’t be anymore out of tune with the working class if he were a Republican.

Trumka then went on Meet the Press and the argument he used to prove that Walker’s bill was not about the “budget crisis” was because Trumka said “the employees said, or the members out there said, his workers said, ‘We’ll accept your cuts.’ ”

Again, Richard Trumka speaks for the working class.

And when Wisconsin workers started making moves towards a real general strike the labor bosses quickly shut them down and moved them into the political sphere via the “recall” effort where they were leading the effort, not the workers.

It is because of madness like this that workers must do as Early noted: “take ownership of their own organizations and return them to their workplace roots.”

And there is a labor organization structured to do that: the Industrial Workers of the World. If workers from other unions ever make such an effort they would have a model to learn from. The IWW is made up of various branches who retain autonomy. There is no President of the union making a CEO salary while spending millions more on a political party that constantly targets the working class for assault. The goal of the IWW is to abolish not only wage slavery, but bosses as well. It makes no sense to struggle with bosses at work, yet accept a boss in the union. For Wobblies, one boss is one boss too many.

The class divisions that have taken shape in labor unions—between the working class and the coordinator class—has allowed for a massive betrayal, and just like what is true for the economy, the same holds true for unions. Only by putting them under democratic control by the workers themselves can unions return to their “workplace roots.”


NYT Admits Ahmadinejad Never Threatend to Wipe Israel Off the Map but . . .

April 19, 2012 Leave a comment
Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

After seven long years of warmongering fanatics in Israel and the U.S. claiming that Iran’s President Ahmadinejad threatened to exterminate Israel, the New York Times finally decided to investigate.

In Robert Mackey’s blog, “Israeli Minister Agrees Ahmadinejad Never Said Israel ‘Must Be Wiped Off the Map’,” readers are told how Israel’s minister of intelligence and atomic energy, Dan Meridor, recently sat down with Al Jazeera’s Teymoor Nabili, where the latter said,

This idea that Iran wants to wipe Israel out, now that’s a common trope that is put about by a lot of people in Israel, a lot of people in the United States, but as we know Ahmadinejad didn’t say that he plans to exterminate Israel, nor did he say that Iran’s policy is to exterminate Israel.

—to which Meridor replied, “You’re right.”

Elsewhere on the fringe of the media it was widely known that Ahmadinejad never said Iran wanted to exterminate Israel, and that a more accurate interpretation was that the current regime will not last; that history will eventually see the nightmare pass. It was more a prophetic statement about what Ahmadinejad saw as inevitable. The Zionist government in Israel, that is stealing and occupying Palestinian land, abusing non-Jews, and waging wars against its neighbors will not last forever.

And while it’s still a bomb-shell of an admission there is a “but.” Despite the fact that Mackey finally lets the cat out of the bag, Iran’s negative view of Israel is still harped on as some sign that they are the bad guy. It is never considered that the myth has been exploited for seven years by those who want war, and how such warmongering from the U.S. and Israel might be behind Iran’s negative views. You see, we can be frothing at the mouth with eagerness to attack another country—while running for President back in 2008 Hillary Clinton can say she would “totally obliterate,” and President Obama can smile while saying “all options are on the table” when referring to a military attack against Iran—but our press will ignore that and focus on those who are declared an “enemy” of the state.

For example, Mackey writes that, “Mr. Meridor also pointed out that Iran’s leaders have continued to deny Israel’s right to exist and used highly inflammatory terms to describe the state.” The blog continues with numerous examples of this, even accompanied with pictures that are supposed to show the depth of Iranian depravity.

Mackey, however, does not deal with the grim realities of Israel’s polices in the region, and towards its own non-Jewish minorities. In other words, the context of why Iran, and many others, hold such negative views of Israel is never explored. The word “Palestine” or “Palestinian” is not mentioned at all, nor are the settlements and massive wars of aggression like the attack on Gaza in 2008/2009. Decades of expanding settlements, kidnappings, Mossad terrorist attacks against Iranian scientists, Israeli invasions, torture, murder, and more are completely expunged—leaving nothing but the horrible things Iran says about Israel.

In the middle of all this talk about not recognizing Israel’s right to exist, or wiping Israel off the map, there is no talk about Israel not recognizing Palestine’s right to exist, or there very real policies of slowly wiping Palestine off the map.

Notice this map ends at 1999; a lot more land has been gobbled up over the last 13 years

It was also very disconcerting to read where Mackey wrote that Ahmadinejad has “made so little effort to explain that he was misquoted,” but he never questions why Western media made so little effort to ask him.

And that brings up another thing that I have always found revealing about the journalistic integrity of the New York Times, and other Western media sources.

In May 2003 it was revealed by investigative journalist Gareth Porter that Iran made a peace offer to the U.S. and Israel, and that President Bush punished the messenger for delivering the offer.

We also know that Iran has supported FISSBAN, an international program that would put nuclear facilities under strict control and supervision of a team of international inspectors.

This begs a few questions: Why, in the middle of the drums to war, has the NYT, and other mainstream sources of the so-called “free press,” not explicitly asked Ahmadinejad: “Mr. President, does your 2003 peace offer still stand?,” and, “Does your government still support FISSBAN?” These two questions could go a long way to easing tensions and making peace. Readers of the Times should be inquiring as to why the “paper of record” has “made so little effort” to use their prominence, and simply ask.