“BIONOIA”

Did U.S. Use Germ Warfare Against DC Peace March?
Or Are We Just Being Bionoid…?

by Mark Sanborne

“Bionoia… Catch It!”

There’s something uniquely scary about germs. Along with making us sick, they’re the things that put the “B” in ABC (Atomic, Biological, and Chemical) warfare. Sure, there’s been some stiff competition on the fear-o-meter: Cheney warning that a WMD attack on a U.S. city was inevitable, ongoing chatter about dirty bombs, a government report that an attack on chemical plants in New Jersey could send a “lung-melting” cloud over New York, killing over a million. Still, the prospect of lab-bred bacteria and viruses causing mass indiscriminate sickness and death holds a special horrid fascination for many people.

This is not surprising. Fortunately, exposure to atomic blast, radiation, and poison gas are hypotheticals for most of us, but we all have personal experience fighting infections and disease, and our species has a long genetic and cultural memory of such ills. And unlike the relatively site-specific nature of nuke and chemical attacks, biological pandemics—be they man-made or “natural”—have the potential to spread their devastation across the country and globe in a matter of weeks or months.

With the latest “regular” flu season and its attendant vaccine shortages upon us, and the specter of deadly bird flu suddenly being trumpeted by the media-medical establishment, it’s no wonder that public paranoia has been whipped up. These fears follow a well-worn groove dating back decades: AIDS, of course, and the emergence of other frightening “hot zone” diseases like the Ebola and Marburg viruses from the jungles of Africa, and their potential dissemination via globalization and worldwide air travel: the “revenge of nature” scenario. Domestically, there have also been “outbreaks” like Lyme’s and Legionnaire’s disease, West Nile virus, and more recently SARS, which supposedly was spawned in the unsanitary condition of China’s exotic cuisine market. Then there’s the talk of flesh-eating bacteria in our hospitals and other scary diseases-of-the-week.

Fear of “bioterrorism” has been a parallel track running in the public consciousness. For decades there have been warnings from “experts” about the looming threat of biowarfare attacks by terrorists, a menace that became the staple of countless mass-market books, TV shows, and Hollywood thrillers. But who, exactly, are the “bioterrorists?”

A common motif—and still a current favorite—involves terrorists buying black-market plague weapons from disaffected and/or mercenary ex-Soviet or Third World scientists. (Of course, the main real-life example of this trade was the transfer of U.S. bio-agents to Iraq in the 1980s.) This cliched script point found a real-life echo in reports from Afghanistan, after the U.S. invasion in 2001, of documents in a supposed al-Qaeda safe house indicating elaborate if not fantastical plans for aerial anthrax attacks against unnamed targets.

That presumably is the kind of bioterrorism that we’re supposed to fear, and for which billions of new homeland-security dollars are currently being spent. But it also raises what should be an obvious question: if the Russians and certain Third World dictators have dangerous biowar programs—what about the U.S.?

TREATY DODGING

Many Americans, sadly, would probably be surprised to discover that the U.S. does indeed have a very robust biological warfare capability, despite the fact that President Nixon ordered a halt to the U.S. biowar program in 1969 and signed the 1972 International Biological Weapons Convention banning their production and use. The BWC was ratified by the Senate in 1974 and to date has been ratified by 143 other nations. Unfortunately the landmark treaty had no enforcement protocol whereby suspicious sites could be inspected, and the U.S. has endeavored mightily ever since to keep it that way.

Most recently, the task fell to that most belligerent of necons, John R. Bolton, who was shoehorned into his U.N. ambassadorship in an Aug. 1 recess appointment by Bush. (The appointment technically lasts until a new Congress convenes in January 2007.) Back in December 2001, when he was undersecretary of state for arms control and international security (!), Bolton single-handedly scuttled an international conference in Geneva aimed at finally implementing a BWC enforcement protocol, saying it was “dead is not going to be resurrected.”

The U.S. was the only signatory to object to the protocol, claiming countries like Iraq and Iran were cheaters, and that inspections could reveal biowar trade secrets of the U.S. military and its partners in the private sector—research with potentially huge commercial value in the pharmaceutical and vaccine industries. Presumably, the fear is that international inspection teams could be infiltrated by foreign intelligence agents—as the U.S. and Britain did in the case of Iraq from the 1990s up until the recent war.

But the larger reason for Washington’s adamant if lonely opposition may have more to do with the treaty’s other fatal loophole: the “defensive” research exception. The convention’s signatories pledge not to develop, produce, stockpile, or acquire biological agents or toxins “of types and in quantities that have no justification for prophylactic, protective, and other peaceful purposes.” Unfortunately, that has been interpreted as allowing countries to continue developing ever-more-deadly pathogens, as long as it’s done in small amounts and only for the purpose of developing countermeasures, like drugs and vaccines.

That exception allowed the U.S. and others—principally Britain and the Soviets—to continue business as usual by labeling their biowar programs as now being defensive in nature. The U.S. junked its germ stockpiles from the early Cold War period and launched a new generation of biowar research, using cutting-edge advances in recombinant DNA to devise new versions of already virulent diseases. Over the years more and more of that work has been farmed out to spooky “defense” contractors like Science Applications International Corp. (SAIC) and the Battelle Memorial Institute. Never mind international inspectors, it’s not clear that anyone—and certainly not Congress—is overseeing this sprawling bio-industrial complex to ensure it’s in compliance with international treaty and domestic law.

Here is a vast underground empire, hiding in various government and private labs around the country, sucking up billions of dollars in secret funding, dedicated to creating the very things we fear most, and marred with a long, well-documented history of covert biowar experiments on U.S. citizens and attacks on foreign enemies. Yet those facts and that history are verboten in polite media discourse; instead the talking heads work overtime to keep our post-9-11 fears focused on “terrorists” and “rogue states.”

Thus various commentators have had no difficulty speculating that North Korea may be “weaponizing” avian flu for sale to al-Qaeda, that SARS might have been a bioengineered virus that escaped from a Chinese weapons lab, or that the introduction of West Nile virus into the U.S. in 1999 was a dirty trick from Saddam. But it’s apparently impossible for our intelligentsia to conceive the possibility that “rogue elements” (whatever that means in today’s context) in the U.S. biowarfare community could be responsible for those or other such horrors, whether by clumsy accident or nefarious design. Except, of course, for the 2001 anthrax attacks, which is perhaps why that highly suspicious case has dropped down the memory hole.

But maybe I’m just being…bionoid.

RABBIT FEVER GOES TO WASHINGTON

Or am I? On Sept. 24, 2005, I joined at least 100,000 other people from across the country on the National Mall in Washington D.C. to protest the Iraq war. It didn’t get much press, but here’s something that got even less: on Sept. 30, the federal Centers for Disease Control warned public health authorities that a low concentration of the Francisella tularensis bacteria that causes Tularemia—commonly known as rabbit fever—had been detected by six different bioweapons sensors around Washington that day.

The sensors, run by the Department of Homeland Security’s Bio Watch program, are designed to detect six bio-agents deemed by the government most likely to be used as biological weapons. The little-known rabbit fever is one of them; it takes only 10 of the microscopic bacteria to cause Tularemia, which if left untreated can kill 50% of those infected. (The other favorites include anthrax, smallpox, and plague.) DHS waited three days before informing the CDC, which took another three days to do its own tests before sending out a low-profile alert.

“It is alarming that health officials…were only notified six days after the bacteria was first detected,” House Government Reform chairman Tom Davis (R-VA) wrote in an Oct. 3 letter to Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. “Have DHS and CDC analysts been able to determine if the pathogen detected was naturally occurring or the result of a terrorist attack?”

“There is no known nexus to terror or criminal behavior,” a DHS spokesman told the Washington Post. “We believe this to be environmental.” A CDC spokesman concurred, saying: “It is not unreasonable that this is a natural occurrence. There are still no cases of Tularemia.”

There are two problems with this bizarrely placid official reaction. One, there are indeed people who say they came down with unknown infections shortly after returning from the protest, though there is as yet no proof that rabbit fever was the culprit. A number of personal accounts of sickness by named individuals were cited on the ProgressiveSociety.com blog for Oct. 8 and on Salon.com Oct. 18.

One person wrote on Progressive Society: “Hi, I wanted to let people know that many people got sick after the march, including myself. Initially, it seemed like the flu, but wasn’t responding to flu treatment. Then I thought to switch to a treatment for bacteria infection, and then started to feel a little better… The incubation time for this bacteria is 3 to 24 days. There are people who came with me from Southern states who are just getting sick now.”

Salon cited four people who said they got sick after attending the anti-war rally. One was Mike Phelps, 45, who traveled there from Raleigh, NC, and said he began getting sick three days after returning home. “It was gross,” he said. “I literally vomited out cup loads of phlegm. Most of it was dark-colored. I’ve never had anything like this before.” His doctor diagnosed pneumonia and prescribed antibiotics. When Phelps informed him about the Tularemia scare a few days later, the doctor said he would’ve have prescribed the same antibiotics for rabbit fever.

Salon also interviewed independent experts who scoffed at the idea that a “natural” source of the rabbit fever bacteria somehow ended up in the soil on the Mall and was kicked up into the air by all the protesters. They noted that the six sensors that detected the germs were located miles apart, indicating that a more likely explanation was dispersal from the air. (As at most such protests, there were various helicopters flying overhead all day.)

William Stanhope of the St. Louis University School of Public Health’s Institute for Biosecurity told Salon he was convinced it was a botched terrorist attack. “I think we were lucky and the terrorists were not good,” he said. “I am stunned that this has not been more of a story.”

As for the CDC’s “nature did it” explanation, Stanhope says: “One sensor, I’d say maybe. Two sensors is a stretch. Six sensors? I’m sorry, you don’t have enough money to buy enough martinis to make me believe that it is naturally occurring at six different sites.”

Dr. Steven Hinrichs of the University of Nebraska Center for Biosecurity agreed, telling Salon: “The fact that it happened in six locations would have supported an attack scenario… It could be a failed attack.”

An attack, yes. But perhaps also a devious test that, far from failing, did exactly what it was supposed to do. Which again brings us back to the question: precisely who are the “bioterrorists”?

NEXT MONTH: Anthrax, bird flu, SARS and U.S. biological terrorism

SOURCES:

US Mission to the EU, press release on Bolton’s position on the BWC
http://www.use.be/Categories/Defense/Nov1901BoltonBiologicalWeapons.html

“Biological alarm in Washington,” by Mark Benjamin, Salon, Oct. 18, 2005
http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2005/10/18/tularemia/index_np.html

“Tularemia at DC March,” Progressive Society Blog, Nov. 5, 2005
http://www.progressivesociety.com/blog/?postid=284

The Sunshine Project
Research and facts about biological weapons and biotechnology
http://www.sunshine-project.org

WW4 REPORT #15 on Bolton scuttling the Biological Weapons Convention
/15.html#shadows10

WW4 REPORT #15 on the supposed al-Qaeda anthrax threat
/15.html#shadows6

WW4 REPORT #45 on infiltration of UN Iraq inspections by U.S. spies
/45.html#iraq17

WW4 REPORT #4 on U.S. sale of biological agents to Saddam Hussein
/4.html#shadows2

WW4 REPORT #15 on U.S. Army origins of anthrax in the 2001 attacks
/15.html#shadows1

WW4 REPORT #24 on FBI probe of U.S. Army facilities in anthrax attacks
/24.html#1anthrax

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Special to WORLD WAR 4 REPORT, Dec. 1, 2005
Reprinting permissible with attribution

Continue Reading“BIONOIA” 

AVIAN FASCISM

The Ecology of Pandemic and the Impending Bio-Police State

by Michael I. Niman

If there’s any good to come out of the Gulf Coast tragedy, it’s that Katrina is a harbinger warning of what the Bush junta has in store for us should an avian flu pandemic hit America. Katrina, like the tsunami that hit Asia nine months earlier, also demonstrates how greed, political priorities and development priorities compounded the killing power of otherwise “natural” disasters.

A Perfect Biological Storm

In the case of the Avian flu, it’s Third World urban poverty combined with the corporate model for factory-farming chickens that has created the perfect environment to incubate a superflu. It goes like this: anti viral drugs are expensive and their production is limited due to patents held by large multinational pharmaceutical corporations. Tamiflu, the most effective anti-flu medication on the market today, for example, sells for at least $40 per treatment, making it cost-prohibitive in a world where over one billion people subsist on under one dollar per day. The French-owned Roche corporation owns the patent for the US-developed drug, manufacturing a limited supply in one plant in Switzerland. When South Africa and Thailand asked the World Health Organization to secure permission for the two countries to manufacture the drug generically at their own plants, France and the United States halted discussion on the question, effectively blocking the large scale production of affordable Tamiflu and guaranteeing an acute worldwide shortage. Prevailing market conditions guarantee that the world’s poorest countries will be the least likely to afford whatever limited amount of Tamiflu is on the global market.

Compound this drug shortage with the reality that structural adjustment regimes imposed on “debtor nations” over the last generation by the World Bank and IMF have decimated public health systems around the world. Most countries don’t have adequate supplies of anti-viral drugs or vaccines, nor do they have an adequate health care infrastructure to monitor the spread of diseases. Urban poverty has exacerbated this situation by concentrating billions of people in crowded unsanitary conditions without safe drinking water or sewage facilities—effectively creating super-incubators for all communicable diseases. When a disease like influenza spreads quickly in a dense population, it maintains its virulence. Once a flu epidemic sweeps through any ill-prepared country, it will almost inevitably spread across the globe.

University of California professor Michael Davis, author of The Monster at Our Door: The Global Threat of Avian Flu, also points out that the global chicken industry has created, over the past fifteen years, an environment in which new strains of influenza can quickly germinate. Davis singles out Tyson Foods (on whose board of directors Hillary Clinton formerly served) as creating the model in which unprecedented concentrations of chickens are raised in enormous warehouses, speeding up the “evolution of influenza” as the virus quickly passes through huge chicken populations. Abhorrent working conditions can put chicken industry workers in dangerous contact with infected chickens. Davis argues that we’ve “changed the nature of the disease by changing its ecology,” creating the conditions for stronger strains of flu to emerge and new vectors for it to jump from birds to other populations.

The combination of industrialized chicken production, urban poverty, high population density, poor sanitary infrastructure and decimated public health care systems has created the conditions for a deadly flu pandemic—with the current H5N1 strain posing a serious threat to quickly mutate into a super-toxic virus with the ability to easily spread among human populations.

The U.S. Response

Epidemiologists, to no avail, have been sounding the alarm about H5N1 since 1997 to both the Clinton and Bush administrations. Rather than respond to the alarm, both administrations continued to support the very policies that were setting the conditions for a pandemic—using the WTO to open markets to chicken industrialization, and pushing further “structural adjustment” regimes defunding public health and sanitation infrastructure in the Third World. In the U.S., we only have enough Tamiflu to treat two percent of the population. If the New Orleans evacuation has taught us anything—it’s who that two percent won’t be.

The situation at home is compounded further by the fact that the U.S. healthcare system, in a quest to be “cost effective,” has decimated its “surge capacity.” This means that we don’t have a ready supply of empty hospital beds, emergency rooms and intensive care units to deal with a large-scale emergency. Our healthcare stratagem seems to be based on the airline model, which seeks to keep all planes operating as close to capacity as possible. This thinking is now being applied to hospitals. While this model works for the airlines—where empty seats flying in the sky equal lost revenue—it bodes disaster for our healthcare system, where we’d rather the rooms stay empty but ready. If a flu pandemic hits, or any other pandemic for that matter, our bare-bones healthcare system will be overwhelmed. Once that happens, people will not only die from the flu—they’ll die from a plethora of accidents and other diseases because there won’t be medical facilities to accommodate them.

Avian Fascism

Only now, at the eleventh hour, with the devil knocking (or perhaps kicking) at the door, has the Bush administration responded with a strategy—developing a plan for a militarized response that’s more frightening than the pandemic itself. Bush is currently requesting authority to mobilize the military against civilian populations in an attempt to quarantine cities where an infection occurs. If the flu pandemic hits and we get sick, there won’t be medicine or hospital beds for us, but there’ll be plenty of soldiers ready to shoot us, it seems.

Militarism is the Bush administration’s one-thought solution to all problems. Of course, with trillions of dollars going to the military while our life-saving infrastructure is decimated with budget cuts, the Bushistas really left themselves no other choices but to use the only tool they have, horrifically inappropriate for most situations as it may be.

It’s also horrifically ineffective in this case. If avian flu hits a human population in the U.S., it clearly won’t be the first or the only population to be affected—and cordoning off cities and trying to shoot people as they leave won’t stop the disease’s spread. Immediately nullifying Roche’s exclusive patent rights to Tamiflu and marshalling global resources for mass-scale production of the drug, as well as other anti-viral medications, would be a much more rational and effective move.

Now let’s put all of this into the context of recent events. Bush’s top lieutenants seem to be either under criminal investigation or under indictment. Republican House Majority Leader Tom Delay was arrested. Republican Senate Majority Leader Bill First is being investigated by the SEC for insider trading on a family-connected firm previously busted for ripping off Medicaid. Bush consigliere Karl Rove, along with Vice President
Dick Cheney and his Chief of Staff, Scooter Libby, are all under investigation in the Valerie Plame affair. Bush opponents are calling for his impeachment and prosecution on seventeen different counts. All it will take is one alleged case of communicable human avian influenza, and all of this will be a moot point as we slip into martial law.
——

Michael I. Niman’s previous columns are archived at:
http://www.mediastudy.com

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Reprinted by WORLD WAR 4 REPORT, Dec. 1, 2005
Reprinting permissible with attribution

Continue ReadingAVIAN FASCISM 

PARAGUAY: THE PENTAGON’S NEW LATIN BEACHHEAD

Is the Real Enemy Islamic Terrorism, or Bolivia’s Indigenous Revolution?

by Benjamin Dangl

The recent shift to the left among Latin American governments has been a cause for concern in the Bush administration. The White House has tried in vain to put this shift in check. Presidential elections in Bolivia on December 18 are likely to further challenge US hegemony. Evo Morales, an indigenous, socialist congressman, is expected to win the election. How far will the US go to prevent a leftist victory in Bolivia? Some Bolivians fear the worst.

In the past year, US military operations in neighboring Paraguay, Bolivia’s neighbor on the southeast, have complicated the already tumultuous political climate in the region. White House officials claim the operations are part of humanitarian aid efforts. However, political analysts in both Paraguay and Bolivia say the activity is aimed at securing the region’s gas and water reserves—and intervening in Bolivia if Morales wins.

Five hundred US troops arrived in Paraguay on July 1 with planes, weapons and ammunition. Reports from a journalist with the Argentine newspaper Clarin corroborate that an airbase exists in Mariscal Estigarribia, Paraguay, which is 200 kilometers from the border with Bolivia and may be utilized by the US military.

Earlier this year, Paraguayan lawmakers granted US troops total immunity and have given the Pentagon access to the Estigarribia base, which was built by US technicians in the 1980s and is larger than Paraguay’s international airport in Asunción, the country’s capital.

In addition to the military activity, the FBI also has plans for Paraguay. On October 26, FBI Director Robert Mueller arrived in the country to “check on preparations for the installation of a permanent FBI office in Asunción…to cooperate with security organizations to fight international crime, drug traffic and kidnapping.”

Bruce Kleiner, US press attaché in Asunción, quoted in In These Times, said that joint exercises between the US and Paraguayan military have been going on since 1943. He said the current exercises usually involve less than 50 personnel, and last for two weeks at a time. According to Kleiner, there are no US military personnel at Estigarribia.

“I don’t believe in the arguments being put forth by the Secretary of Defense or the Embassy in Asuncion,” responded Jorge Ramon de la Quintana, a former Bolivian military officer and current political analyst. “The military presence in Paraguay reflects a series of perceived threats by US Southern Command… this is the return of the Domino Theory.”

Orlando Castillo, a Paraguayan activist involved in the struggle against the US military presence in his country through the human rights group Service, Peace and Justice, said the goal of the US military in Paraguay is to secure the region’s vast water reserves, “debilitate the southern bloc, to set up offices of US security agencies primarily to monitor the region, and from Paraguay be able to destabilize the region’s governments, especially if Evo Morales wins the elections in Bolivia.”

Paraguayan and US officials contend that much of the recent military collaborations focus on health and humanitarian efforts. However, a recent Washington Times article reported that “of the 13 military exercises at the base in Mariscal, only two involved medical training.”

State Department reports do not mention any funding for health works in Paraguay. They do mention that funding for the Counterterrorism Fellowship Program (CTFP) in the country doubled for 2005. The report explained that “bilateral relations between the US and Paraguay are strong, with Paraguay providing excellent cooperation in the fight against terrorism… CTFP provided funds for Paraguayans to attend courses on the dynamics of international terrorism, and the importance and application of intelligence in combating terrorism.”

Terrorists in the Triple Border Region?

Milda Rivarola, a Paraguayan political analyst, told AlterNet the US operations in Paraguay are focused on “getting closer to the Triple Border, which the U.S. believes is involved in terrorism.”

Allegations of terrorist activity in the region were backed up on November 19, when prosecutors identified Ibrahim Hussein Berro, a member of the Islamic militant group Hezbollah, as being the suicide bomber who blew up a Jewish community centre in Argentina in 1994, killing 85 people. Alberto Nisman, a prosecutor in the case, said investigators believe the attacker entered Argentina via the Triple Border area. The announcement came after years of investigations by Argentine intelligence and the FBI. Hezbollah has denied the charges.

In the aftermath of the 9-11 attacks, US-backed police operations swept up roughly 20 terrorist suspects in Ciudad del Este, Paraguay, a city on the Triple Border. They also investigated $22 million in over 40 accounts suspected of links to terrorist groups, according to a report from the Washington Post.

Gustavo Moussa, a spokesperson for the Islamic Organization of Argentina in Buenos Aires, said that many South American Muslims feel Washington has unfairly labeled the Triple Border as a terrorist haven. “They made those claims without evidence,” he was quoted by AlterNet.

Luiz Moniz Bandeira, a Brazilian-US foreign affairs analyst, told the Washington Times: “I wouldn’t dismiss the hypothesis that US agents plant stories in the media about Arab terrorists in the Triple Frontier to provoke terrorism and justify their military presence.”

In an interview with Brazilian television, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said the Bush administration is using its war on terrorism as a pretext to suppress popular movements in the region.

Bolivian Elections

US military operations in Paraguay have raised controversy in the Bolivian presidential race. Bolivian Workers’ Union leader Jaime Solares has warned of US plans for a military coup to frustrate the elections. Solares told Prensa Latina the US Embassy backs right-wing Jorge Quiroga in his bid for office, and will go as far as necessary to prevent any other candidate’s victory.

Jim Shultz, the director of the Democracy Center, and activist organization in the Bolivian city of Cochabamba, reports on the group’s website that a “source of mine here claims that the US government has been carefully cultivating relationships with ‘anti-Evo’ forces in the Bolivian military, presumably for some sort of U.S.-backed coup down the road.”

The top two contenders in the presidential race are Evo Morales and Jorge Quiroga, a conservative businessman with close ties to the former Hugo Banzer dictatorship, and whose platform includes the privatization of the country’s gas reserves and a hard line against leftist protestors.

There are eight candidates in the race, and Morales is currently in the lead with 32% support in the polls, and Quiroga trailing behind with 27%. The Bolivian constitution requires that the winner receive more than 50% of the votes in order to secure the presidency. If not, congress decides between the top two contenders.

If Quiroga doesn’t win a majority he said he’ll drop out. If Morales wins a majority by even one vote, he’s said he’s prepared to lead protests demanding that congress ratify his victory. Even if Quiroga wins outright, protests against his presidency and subsequent policies are expected to ensue.

The socialist Morales is unpopular among international investors, and when he ran for president in 2002, the US ambassador to Bolivia warned that Washington might cut economic ties if he won. The result was a sharp increase in support among voters which drove him to second place, just 1.5% behind the winner, Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada.

Morales has referred to the US-backed Free Trade Area of the Americas as “an agreement to legalize the colonization of the Americas.” He’s not interested in protecting US interests, because he believes that “they have failed to resolve the problems of the majority in our country.” Morales says the US war on drugs in Bolivia is a pretext, and that what the U.S. really wants is Bolivia’s gas reserves, which are the second largest in Latin America. As president, he would work to decriminalize the cultivation of coca and move to nationalize the country’s gas.

If he wins, Morales will join the growing ranks of left-of-center Latin American leaders who, instead of bowing to the interests of foreign corporations, the International Monetary Fund and the Bush administration, have a priority of addressing the needs of the people with social programs in education, agrarian reform and health care.

During an interview with Morales, this reporter asked him about the pressure he may receive from the US government if he is elected president. “We, the indigenous people, after 500 years of resistance, are retaking the power,” he said. “We are changing presidents, economic models and politics. We are convinced that capitalism is the enemy of the earth, of humanity and of culture. The US government does not understand our way of life and our philosophy. But we will defend our proposals, our way of life and our demands with the participation of the Bolivian people.”
——

Benjamin Dangl has traveled and worked as a journalist in Bolivia and Paraguay and is the editor of Upside Down World, an online magazine covering activism and politics in Latin America.

This story originally appeared in Upside Down World, Nov. 16
http://upsidedownworld.org/main/content/view/116/1/

SOURCES:

“US Military in Paraguay Prepares to Spread Democracy,” by Benjamin Dang, Upside Down World, Sept. 15, 2005
http://upsidedownworld.org/main/content/view/47/44/

“Patrolling America’s Backyard?” by Kelly Hearn, AlterNet.org, Nov. 4, 2005
http://www.alternet.org/story/27775/

“FBI Sets Up Permanent Office in Paraguay, 8th in Latin America,” Prensa Latina, Oct. 26, 2005
http://www.plenglish.com/Article.asp?ID=%7B8A45F3E0-4BC7-
4CDE-87E4-92F824C355DD%7D&language=EN

“US Military Eyes Paraguay,” by Adam Saytanides, In These Times, Nov. 10, 2005
http://www.inthesetimes.com/site/main/print/2381/

Interview with Orlando Castillo, by Benjamin Dangl, Upside Down World, Oct. 16
http://upsidedownworld.org/main/content/view/48/1/

“U.S. Inroads Raise Alarm,” by Kenneth Rapoza, Washington Times, Oct. 25, 2005
http://www.washingtontimes.com/world/20051024-103422-6510r.htm

“Foreign Military Training,” Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, US Department of State, May 2005
http://www.state.gov/t/pm/rls/rpt/fmtrpt/2005/45677.htm

“Hezbollah ID’d in 1994 Argentina attack, CNN, Nov. 9, 2005
http://www.cnn.com/2005/WORLD/americas/11/09/argentina.bombing.ap/

“Buenos Aires bomber ‘identified’,” BBC, Nov. 10, 2005
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/4423612.stm

“US Encouraging Military Coup in Bolivia,” Prensa Latina Sept. 13, 2005
http://www.plenglish.com.mx/article.asp?ID={5FC4E7C4-49A3
-4BCD-A796-08441FD72BEE}&language=EN

Jim Shultz, Democracy Center’s Blog From Bolivia, Oct. 22, 2005
http://www.democracyctr.org/blog/2005/10/rumors.html

See also our last update:

Paraguay: indigenous march
/node/1169

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Reprinted by WORLD WAR 4 REPORT, Dec. 1, 2005
Reprinting permissible with attribution

Continue ReadingPARAGUAY: THE PENTAGON’S NEW LATIN BEACHHEAD 

WAR ON TRUTH AT GUANTANAMO

Detainees Launch Non-Violent Resistance Behind Pentagon’s Iron Veil

by Tanya Theriault

The veil of secrecy at the US Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, when tugged at, continues to reveal the inhumane treatment of detainees held there. Since January 2002, the US has been imprisoning men (at present 505) from some 30 to 40 countries—but primarily Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and Yemen—indefinitely, without legal process, as “enemy combatants,” so as to dodge the requirements of the Geneva Conventions on torture. Reports of torture and abuse of prisoners at Guantanamo continue to come from a variety of sources. Amnesty International has called the detention of the inmates “unlawful and arbitrary,” and found conditions at the prison to be “cruel, inhumane and degrading.” The International Committee of the Red Cross took the rare, bold step of making public the abuse and mental deterioration of inmates as a result of their indefinite and often solitary imprisonment, calling interminable detention of prisoners “tantamount to torture.” What is hidden about the detention camp at Guantanamo should terrify us, as what we know now to be true makes us tremble in shame.

In a mounting effort to address their abusive treatment and detention without charge or trial, many of the prisoners have engaged in hunger strikes. The Department of Defense (DOD) has maintained sole control of who can enter the camps and under what conditions—including restricting legal access—and what those who do enter can hear or say about it. For this reason, the existence of such protests by prisoners has been little known. With the recent release of internal DOD memos and FBI interviews with detainees (obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union under freedom of information legislation), as well as statements from former detainees and accounts from prisoners’ counsel, it is now evident that detainees have been protesting their detention by hunger strikes and in other ways since 2002.

Using these resources, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) issued a report in September, “The Guantanamo Prisoner Hunger Strikes and Protests,” detailing the history of prisoners’ acts of protest. CCR is a New York-based, non-profit legal organization representing 40 of the prisoners. Over a year and a half has passed since the US Supreme Court, in Rasul vs. Bush (argued by CCR), decided that detainees can challenge their detention and the conditions of their imprisonment in federal court. It is evident by the increasing intensity of the hunger strikes, that prisoners’ frustrations and despair has grown as the government has stalled any legal progress.

According to the report, one or more hunger strikes occurred in early 2002 over the desecration of the Qu’ran by a military police officer (MP). For Catholics, the analogous act is mistreatment of the Eucharist. British citizen and released detainee, Rhuhel Ahmed recalled one incident, “I saw a guard walked into a detainee’s cell, searched through the Koran and dropped it on the floor. The detainee told him to pick it up and put it in its holder. I remember the guard looked at the Koran on the floor and said ‘this’ and then kicked it. Everyone started shouting and banging the doors. The guard ran out of the cell and the entire camp was on lockdown for half a day. On that day there was a hunger strike [that lasted] for three days.”

The report states, “A former interrogator at Guantanamo also confirmed the released detainees’ accounts of such hunger strike and the military’s public apology over the handling of the Qu’ran.”

Later that year, up to 194 detainees were participating in rolling hunger strikes over a two-month period to protest what military officials acknowledged as “their murky future.” Three detainees were given IV fluids forcibly. Beginning a pattern, the military downplayed the significance and gravity of the hunger strikes. In a prepared statement for the Guantanamo Joint Task Force, Marine Maj. Steve Cox asserted that “by no means is this an organized, concerted effort by the camp’s detainee population but merely a demonstration of some of the detainees’ displeasure over the uncertainty of their future.”

A June/July 2005 hunger strike was made public on July 20th by two former Afghan prisoners. According to attorneys from the DC-based law firm Sherman and Sterling, which represents forty prisoners, in addition “to starvation until death,” the protesters planned to boycott showers, recreation time, and called for “no violence, by hand or even words, to anyone, including the guards.” The military acknowledges 52 men were involved in the strike, but lawyers put the number closer to 200. While US Senators were getting summer show tours of the camp, CCR reports that close to 50 men were on IV hydration and that, overwhelmed, medics ceased regular medical visits.

The strike ended on July 28 after the prisoners were promised better access to books, bottled drinking water and a prisoner grievance committee. The committee was soon after dissolved. In a statement given to his lawyer, Binyam Mohammed, a British prisoner, said: “The administration promised that if we gave them ten days, they would bring the prison into compliance with the Geneva Conventions… It is now August 11. They have betrayed our trust (again). Hisham from Tunisia was savagely beaten in his interrogation and they publicly desecrated the Qu’ran (again). Saad from Kuwait was ERF’d (visited by the Extreme Reaction Force) for refusing to go to interrogation because the female interrogator had sexually humiliated him… Therefore, the strike must go on.”

By mid-September of this year, lawyers for the prisoners reported that as many as 210 prisoners, nearly half, were involved in a hunger strike that began in early August. At that point, the Washington Post (Sept. 13) reported that eighteen were hospitalized; thirteen were being force-fed by nasal tubes and five by IV hydration. The strike had spread throughout all five camps within the detention center. Initially, the Army responded with the claim that only 76 prisoners were on a hunger strike, then increased that number to 130 the following week. A Reuters report issued on Sept. 21 relayed that the US military’s count of hunger strikers dropped to 36 from 130 the following week; prisoners’ lawyers found that hard to believe.

The World Medical Association (WMA), of which the American Medical Association is a member, declared in 1991 that hunger strikers, mentally competent as determined by the attending physician, and informed of all medical consequences regarding long-term withdrawal from food and hydration, cannot be force-fed. The physician is morally obligated to interview the hunger striker daily and to inform the striker’s family. According to The Guardian of Sept. 9, a military spokesperson stated: “They are being held in the same standards as US prison standards… [T]hey don’t allow people to kill themselves via starvation.” A military spokesperson claimed that prisoners are monitored 24 hours a day. If that is true, the military has been aware of these life-threatening strikes and has failed to inform the families of detainees or their lawyers.

Hunger strikers are refusing to sign refusal-of-food/water waiver forms. There have been reports of prisoners pulling out their IVs and nasal tubes—and consequently restrained beyond leg shackles and handcuffs. In a statement given to his lawyer (quoted in The Guardian), Binyam Mohammed said, “I do not plan to stop until I either die or we are respected. People will definitely die. Bobby Sands petitioned the British government to stop the illegitimate internment of Irishmen without trial. He had the courage of his convictions and he starved himself to death. Nobody should believe for one moment that my brothers here have less courage.” The NY Times reported Sept. 17: “A senior military official…speaking on the condition of anonymity, described the situation as greatly troublesome for the camp’s authorities and said they had tried several ways to end the hunger strike, without success.”

The detention camp at Guantanamo is the jewel of the US military’s semantic effort to distort the truth. There had been 350 reported suicide attempts in the first year and a half of its operation. That number slowed remarkably when the US began distinguishing between what is a “suicide attempt” and what they call “manipulative, self-injurious behavior.” The military’s definition of a hunger striker is one who has refused to take at least nine consecutive meals in 72 hours, which is one reason why the lawyers’ count of hunger strikers and the military’s differ so dramatically. The term “force-feeding” has been replaced by “assisted feeding.” By narrowing definitions, potential problems no longer exist.

Clive Stafford-Smith, a British human rights lawyer, offered a statement from his client, a British refugee and Guantanamo prisoner, in an Oct. 1 article in The Nation. “I am dying a slow death in this solitary prison cell,” said his client Omar Deghayes, “I have no rights, no hope. So why not take my destiny into my own hands, and die for a principle?”

In the face of this torture and the prisoners’ desperation, the silence of US citizens, especially that of the US clergy and other moral leaders, is shocking. As people of faith, we are called to witness to the truth, and the truth is that the people held in Guantanamo Bay are being tortured by our military, and our government is trying to hide it. Do we have the strength and courage to make this end?
——

This story originally appeared in the December 2005 issue The Catholic Worker, newspaper of the New York City branch of the Catholic Worker movement, 36 East 1st St., New York, NY 10003

RESOURCES:

CCR Guantanamo Action Center
http://www.ccr-ny.org/v2/gac

CCR report, “The Guantanamo Prisoner Hunger Strikes and Protests,” Setember 2005
http://64.233.161.104/search?q=cache:9eoNDN08S3MJ:www.ccr-ny.org/v2/legal/septem
ber_11th/docs/Gitmo_Hunger_Strike_Report_Sept_2005.pdf+%22prisoner+hunger+strike
s+and+protests%22&hl=en

From our weblog:

Hunger strikers pledge to die in Gitmo
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Pentagon admits Koran desecration
/node/524

Minors held, beaten at Gitmo?
/node/618

Gonzales may face war crimes charges in Germany
/node/167

Rasul v Bush: one year later
/node/625

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Reprinted by WORLD WAR 4 REPORT, Dec. 1, 2005
Reprinting permissible with attribution

Continue ReadingWAR ON TRUTH AT GUANTANAMO 

THE POLITICS OF THE ANTI-WAR MOVEMENT

And the Intractable Dilemma of International ANSWER

by Bill Weinberg

The Sept. 24 anti-war protest in Washington DC was hailed as a revival of a movement which had become somewhat moribund even as the quagmire in Iraq deepens with horrifying rapidity. The march brought out 300,000, by organizers’ estimates—making it the largest since the start of the US invasion in March 2003. After a summer in which Cindy Sheehan’s campaign to demand personal accountability from the vacationing George Bush had riveted the nation, the march brought out record numbers of military veterans and grieving families—giving the movement an unassailable moral credibility.

But it is significant that this credibility arose from the rank-and-file marchers—while that very credibility may have been actually undermined by elements of the organizational leadership.

Since the prelude to the March 2003 invasion of Iraq, the large, visible anti-war protests in the US—especially the marches in Washington, New York and San Francisco—have been led by two organizations, which have at times cooperated but have frequently been at odds: United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ) and International ANSWER (for Act Now to Stop War and End Racism). In the Sept. 24 march, they agreed to cooperate; they divided the stage time equally, with different speakers and different banners, although ANSWER actually held the permit.

Both UFPJ and ANSWER have been criticized by some activists as top-down and insufficiently democratic. But concerns are growing over ANSWER’s links to a doctrinaire neo-Stalinist organization called the Workers World Party (WWP), which has a history of seeking to dominate coalitions, and has some embarrassing ultra-hardline positions.

Steve Ault, a gay activist in New York City since 1970, served as UFPJ’s logistics coordinator for the historic pre-war mobilization of Feb. 15, 2003, last summer’s Republican National Convention protests and the May 1, 2005 march for nuclear disarmament. He charges that ANSWER is a front group for the WWP. Speaking as an individual—not on behalf of UFPJ—he decries what he sees as an imbalance between the two major anti-war formations: “One small sectarian group has equal power with a genuine coalition. We aren’t going to be able to have a real movement until they are called out on the carpet for it.”

Ault says he has for 20 years witnessed WWP use “stacking meetings and undemocratic tactics” to control left coalitions. “When Workers World forms a so-called coalition, its not a coalition at all, its a vehicle to attempt to amplify their power and control. Its not a genuine coalition like UFPJ which has no controlling faction—it has communists, Greens, pacifists, anarchists.”

International ANSWER formed after 9-11 around the core of the International Action Center (IAC), itself formed by the WWP after former US attorney general Ramsey Clark joined with the party’s leaders to oppose the 1991 attack on Iraq in a surprising alliance. ANSWER’s most visible spokespersons have almost invariably been longtime IAC/WWP adherents. WWP is so orthodox that it supported the 1956 Soviet invasion of Hungary, the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre and—more recently—former Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic in his battle against war crimes charges at The Hague. And its current stance on Iraq’s armed insurgents has been a key source of tension with UFPJ and other groups in the movement.

Many in the movement are unaware of WWP’s past problematic positions. On the seventh anniversary of the Tiananmen Square events in 1996, the Workers World newspaper ran an article charging that the protesters had launched “violent attacks on the soldiers,” prompting the Chinese government to declare the movement “a counter-revolutionary rebellion.” It protested that “There was immediately a worldwide media campaign condemning China and characterizing the events as a massacre.”

In April 2002, the Workers World paper covered the celebrations of the 90th birthday of the late North Korean dictator Kim Il Sung in glorifying terms. And repeatedly, throughout the Bosnian war in the 1990s, Workers World portrayed reports of atrocities and mass rape by the Serb forces as “imperialist lies.” Ramsey Clark, the visible leader of the International Action Center, is a founder of the International Committee to Defend Slobodan Milosevic, and has also provided legal representation for some accused of participating in the 1994 Rwanda genocide. He has more recently volunteered for Saddam Hussein’s legal team.

Merely providing legal representation, even for mass murders, is legitimate. But Clark has gone beyond legal work to political advocacy, and has consistently followed the Workers World party line in both. In the ’90s, he repeatedly traveled to Bosnia to meet with Serb rebel leader Radovan Karadzic, today a fugitive from war crimes charges. In September 2002, in Baghdad for meetings with high-level figures in Saddam’s regime, he was interviewed by CNN’s Wolf Blitzer about his public support for Iraq’s refusal to allow UN inspectors back in. When Blitzer noted that Saddam used chemical weapons against his own people at the 1988 attack on the Kurdish city of Halabja, Clark responded dismissively: “Wolf, that’s pretty tired, you know. People have worked that for years and years…”

Workers World itself has undergone a recent factional split, with a breakaway group apparently taking most of ANSWER with it. This has led the IAC and the faction that still calls itself Workers World to help found a new coalition, Troops Out Now! Both Troops Out Now! and ANSWER continue to take positions many activists feel uncomfortable with.

On May 1, 2005, both UFPJ and Troops Out Now! held separate marches in New York City, with Troops Out Now! rejecting UFPJ’s pro-disarmament theme. Dustin Langley, a spokesperson for Troops Out Now! and member of the IAC, told journalist Sarah Ferguson of the Village Voice: “Personally I think to talk about global disarmament misses the point of who has weapons and who they are being used against. We say Iran and North Korea have a right to get any kind of weapon they need to defend themselves against the largest military machine on the planet. Considering that Bush has listed them as two potential targets, they have as much right to nuclear weapons as any other country.”

This division was also evident during the March 2004 rally in New York commemorating the one-year anniversary of the Iraq invasion, which ANSWER and UFPJ co-organized in an uneasy alliance. As in the recent Washington rally, they divided the stage time. During ANSWER’s half of the rally, someone taped a photo to the speakers’ platform of Abdul Qadeer Khan, the Pakistani scientist who was accused of peddling nuclear materials to North Korea and Libya. No move was made to remove it.

History of Dissension

For some veteran activists, the persistent division brings back bad memories of the movement to oppose the first attack on Iraq in 1991, when WWP provoked a split by refusing to condemn Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait. This resulted in two separate national marches on Washington, just days apart—one by the WWP-led National Coalition Against US Intervention in the Middle East, the other by the Campaign for Peace in the Middle East, a coalition consisting of War Resisters League, Fellowship of Reconciliation, Women’s International League for Peace & Freedom, and other traditional peace groups.

This division even goes back to the 1960s, when the WWP-led Youth Against War & Fascism (YAWF) was posed against the more mainstream National Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam.

WWP’s origins actually trace to a split in the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) over the Soviet invasion of Hungary to put down a workers’ insurrection in 1956. The Trotskyist SWP opposed the invasion; a breakaway faction around Sam Marcy supported it, arguing that the Hungarian workers were “counter-revolutionary” (the same line WWP would take on the Tiananmen Square protesters a generation later). Breaking from the SWP, the Marcy group founded Workers World, which moved in a more Stalinist direction. Marcy remained the ideological leader of the party until his death in 1998.

The recent split doesn’t seem to have been about anything substantive, but the tactical question of whether to support WWP’s presidential ticket last year or to acquiesce to the left’s “anybody but Bush” (meaning pro-Kerry) position. Behind this question seems to be a turf war between WPP cadre in New York and San Francisco, the party’s two principal power bases. The breakaway faction, based mostly in San Francisco, is calling itself the Party for Socialism and Liberation.

Brian Becker, a longtime IAC/WWP leader who is national coordinator of ANSWER, is now with the breakaway party. Troops Out Now!, which endorsed the Sept. 24 march despite the split, remains based at the International Action Center’s New York address (39 West 14th St. #206). Its visible leaders such as Larry Holmes are also longtime IAC/WWP figures.

The fundamental issue which has led to tensions with UFPJ was not a factor in the split: WWP’s refusal to countenance any criticism of the Iraqi “resistance.” Troops Out Now! comes closest to taking an open stance in support of the armed insurgents, calling in their literature for the anti-war movement to “acknowledge the absolute and unconditional right of the Iraqi people to resist the occupation of their country without passing judgement on their methods of resistance.”

This seems to ignore the reality that the armed insurgents in Iraq are increasingly blowing up civilians—not US troops. The targets of their attacks are more and more perceived ethnic and religious enemies, and in their areas of control they are enforcing harsh shariah law and radically repealing women’s basic rights.

These inconsistencies provide easy ammo for those who wish to dismiss the anti-war movement as deluded and hypocritical. For instance, they allowed the born-again interventionist Christopher Hitchens to write for Slate magazine after the Sept. 24 march a piece entitled “Anti-War, My Foot: The phony peaceniks who protested in Washington.” Hitchens decried the central position of “‘International ANSWER,’ the group run by the ‘Worker’s World’ party and fronted by Ramsey Clark, which openly supports Kim Jong-il, Fidel Castro, Slobodan Milosevic, and the ‘resistance’ in Afghanistan and Iraq, with Clark himself finding extra time to volunteer as attorney for the genocidaires in Rwanda… ‘International ANSWER’ [is] a front for (depending on the day of the week) fascism, Stalinism, and jihadism.”

Palestine: the New “Wedge Issue”

But Steve Ault argues that some controversial positions have actually been useful to ANSWER. “They come up with a wedge issue to use against the other coalition, and they scream ‘racism,'” he says. “And they do it very well.”

The question of Palestine is currently ANSWER’s principal “wedge issue.” UFPJ’s own hedging on “linkage” of the struggles in Palestine and Iraq has served ANSWER well. In the prelude to the March 2004 rally in New York, ANSWER insisted on making an end to the occupation of Palestine a central demand of the demonstration. UFPJ balked, stating that while they agreed it was important to address Palestine, the main purpose of the march was to express broad opposition to the war in Iraq. ANSWER responded by circulating a letter on-line, signed by numerous Arab and Muslim groups, charging that it was “racist” of the anti-war movement not to give the Palestinian cause equal footing.

UFPJ’s member groups have “agreed to disagree” on how to achieve peace in the Middle East, taking no stance, for instance, on a right of return for Palestinian refugees—a demand embraced by ANSWER. And unlike ANSWER, UFPJ has put out a position criticizing all attacks on civilians—whether by the Israeli military or Palestinian militants.

Some have perceived UFPJ’s “agree-to-disagree” position as an equivocation which has rendered the coalition vulnerable on this “wedge issue.” In any case, ANSWER has proved itself adept at building coalitions with Arab and Muslim groups.

Ibrahim Ramey, national disarmament coordinator for the faith-based pacifist organization Fellowship of Reconciliation, says: “ANSWER has done much more organizing in pro-Palestinian Islamic communities. Activists need to have a debate over this difficult issue: the question of Zionism, and I use the term deliberately. There is no principled discussion on it.”

Ramey recognizes the contradiction that some of the same figures now pushing the Palestine question in the movement are also sympathetic to Milosevic, who is accused of genocide against Muslims. “I don’t believe despots and mass murderers need to be lauded because they occasionally wave the banner of opposition to the United States. Milosevic was not a great hero because he happened to bombed by NATO war planes.”

And Ramey admits that IAC’s “position on Milosevic isn’t something there is a lot of awareness of in the Muslim communities where ANSWER has been successful in organizing.”

Mahdi Bray, executive director of the Muslim American Society Freedom Foundation, which works with ANSWER while not being an official member of the coalition, is aware of it, and makes no bones about his disagreement. “I don’t support that line. I think Milosevic was a genocidal butcher. But we can work with people we have disagreements with.”

Bray credits ANSWER with “forcing the debate on Palestine within the movement. That was healthy and necessary. You cannot discuss peace in the Middle East region without discussing the occupation of Palestine.” And he sees the question of which issues get prioritized as linked to the broader tendency of “a paternalistic and elitist attitude within the movement.”

“Why is it that we can mobilize thousands of people and you don’t see many African Americans?” he asks. “You’ve got myself and few others onstage, but you don’t see that many in the crowd. Is it that African Americans aren’t concerned about their sons over in Iraq? Or does it have to do with our organizing methods? Neither UFPJ or ANSWER has addressed this issue well, and it is a bigger issue than the factional splits within the movement.”

Liberal versus Radical Critique

Complicating the situation is that many of the commentators speaking out against ANSWER’s problematic role in the anti-war movement have offered a liberal rather than radical critique. In addition to the Palestine question, ANSWER has been repeatedly criticized for espousing the cause of Mumia Abu-Jamal, the journalist and former Black Panther on Death Row in Pennsylvania after an evidently wrongful conviction. In the October issue of Rolling Stone, writer Tim Dickinson quotes Paul Rieckhoff, director of the Iraq veterans group Operation Truth, which boycotted the Sept. 24 march. “When some guy gets up there and rails about Palestine, Karl Rove is kicking back in his chair, saying, ‘Please continue,'” said Rieckhoff. “It’s not about Palestine, it’s not about Mumia—it’s about one focused message: Let’s find a way to end this war. If you really want to push back against the administration, you’ve got to get your shit together. Right now they don’t.”

Similarly, Marc Cooper warned in the LA Weekly in 2002 that “the new anti-war movement would be…doomed if the shrill rhetoric of the Workers World…loonies would dominate. Fronting for Saddam Hussein (and Slobodan Milosevic) as self-appointed peace leader Ramsey Clark has and exhorting the peace protesters to defend convicted cop killers like Mumia Abu-Jamal and H. Rap Brown as Workers World does…was hardly the way to win over the millions we need to stop Bush.”

From a purely tactical standpoint, there may be some logic to de-emphasizing unpopular issues in the interests of building a broad front around a single issue (Iraq). But from a moral standpoint, attacking ANSWER’s positions on Palestine and Mumia rather than (or even in addition to) Milosevic and Tiananmen Square dangerously muddies the water. The prior two causes may be unpopular, but they are perfectly legitimate; in contrast, the Workers World positions on Bosnia and Tiananmen Square constitute defense of the indefensible.

Christopher Hitchens (who can no longer be said to be on the left) commits a similar error, in his list of foreign strongmen WWP supports: he indiscriminately lumps Fidel Castro in with the far more sinister Milosevic and Kim Jong Il.

Writer Todd Gitlin also “fumed” to Rolling Stone’s Dickinson against the inclusion of “US out of the Philippines!” among ANSWER’s demands at the Sept. 24 rally. Shortly after 9-11, the Pentagon dispatched hundreds of Special Forces troops to the Philippines to help oversee the counter-insurgency war on the Muslim-majority island of Mindanao. US forces in Mindanao have already engaged in direct combat with Islamic guerillas. Why is this not a legitimate issue?

Such rhetoric allows ANSWER to assume a lefter-than-thou high ground, and plays into the liberal-baiting strategy. Steve Ault recognizes this danger. “I work with communists, and I have no problem doing so,” he says. “My real problem with ANSWER is their process, or lack of it. Workers World gives communism a bad name. They use the charge of red-baiting to silence criticism in an unprincipled way. And much of the criticism against them comes from people arguably further to the left than they are.”

One person who might fall into this category is Mahmood Ketabchi, an exiled follower of the Worker Communist Party of Iran now living in New Jersey and active in support work for workers’ and women’s movements in Iraq. “ANSWER is part of a long tradition of supporting anyone who picks up a gun and shoots at an American soldier, regardless of their politics,” he says.

Ketabchi sees this as a paradoxical “nationalist leftist position that puts the US at the center of the world. That’s a bogus position. What is the Iraqi quote-unquote resistance fighting for? What kind of future do they envision? Do these groups defend women’s rights? Are they socialist? This is a position the left in Iran took 25 years ago, when we thought we could have a united front with Khomeini against the Shah. So the American left is 25 years behind us.”

Which Way Forward?

Even among activists who see ANSWER as problematic, there is little consensus on how to address the issue.

Joanne Sheehan, who chairs the New England office of War Resisters League in Norwich, CT, says “ANSWER does not foster grassroots activism. It is totally hierarchical, and I don’t think it empowers people. ANSWER is not the answer.”

Speaking on WWP’s controversial positions, she says, “They do what the Administration they criticize does—here are the ‘good guys’ and here are the ‘bad guys.’ They have this view left over from the Cold War that my-enemy-of-my-enemy-is-my-friend, and that’s a very narrow way of thinking.”

But she also feels the intrigues of national movement leadership have drained vital energies. “We put too much emphasis on these big demonstrations and not enough on grassroots strategy, which is where we should emphasize. After the big demo, there is always a sense of ‘now what?’ Do we just wait for the next big demo? I guess we have to have them to be visible, but there has to be a bigger strategy.”

Sheehan explicitly does not fault ANSWER for emphasizing issues such as Palestine and Mumia Abu-Jamal. “My criticism is not that they toss too many issues together. I think it is important to help people understand how the issues are connected. But we need to do that in our grassroots work—not from a podium.”

Ibrahim Ramey says that while “ANSWER is problematic in areas of both politics and organizing style for some organizations in the broad anti-war movement,” he still believes that “principled cooperation in a united front that understands its political differences is possible. That is my hope, that we can do that.” But he also stresses that this can only happen if there is “broad democratic debate, and I recognize that there are major obstacles.”

Steve Ault takes the hardest line on the question: “Everyone says unity, unity, unity. Sure, making the argument for not working with ANSWER is problematic. But I think they need to be exposed for what they are. There needs to be a full-blown discussion on this if we are going to build an effective movement.”
——

This story, in abridged form, first appeared in the December issue of The Nonviolent Activist, magazine of the War Resisters League.

RESOURCES:

United for Peace & Justice
http://www.unitedforpeace.org/

International ANSWER
http://www.internationalanswer.org/

Troops Out Now!
http://www.troopsoutnow.org/

Workers World Party
http://www.workers.org/

Party for Socialism and Liberation
http://socialismandliberation.org/

International Committee to Defend Slobodan Milosevic
http://www.icdsm.org/

“China’s Tiananmen Square: History Clarifies What Happened in 1989,” Workers World, June 20, 1989
http://www.workers.org/ww/tienanmen.html

“North Korea: Celebrations display popular unity against Bush’s threats,” Workers World, April 25, 2002
http://www.workers.org/ww/2002/korea0425.php

Ramsey Clark quoted on the Halabja massacre, WW4 REPORT #49
http://www.ww3report.com/49.html#iraq7

“Anti-War, My Foot: The phony peaceniks who protested in Washington,” by Christopher Hitchens, Slate, Sept. 26
http://slate.msn.com/id/2126913/?nav=navoa

“Give Peace a Chance: Is the anti-war movement too fractured to be effective?” by Tim Dickinson, Rolling Stone, October 2005
http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/story/_/id/7683877?rnd=1128836489849&has-pl
ayer=true&version=6.0.12.1059

“Our Peace Movement, Not Theirs,” by Marc Cooper, LA Weekly, Dec. 13-19, 2002
http://laweekly.com/ink/03/04/dissonance-cooper.php

“What you should know about ANSWER, the Workers World Party and the International Action Center,” an exposé from Infoshop.org
http://www.infoshop.org/texts/wwp.html

“The Mysterious Ramsey Clark: Stalinist Dupe or Ruling-Class Spook?” by Manny Goldstein, The Shadow, 2001
http://extra.shadowpress.org/sin001/clark.htm

“Bombs Away: Global Activists Gather in New York to Revive Nuclear Disarmament Call,” by Sarah Ferguson, WW4 REPORT, May 2005
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Special to WORLD WAR 4 REPORT, Dec. 1, 2005
Reprinting permissible with attribution

Continue ReadingTHE POLITICS OF THE ANTI-WAR MOVEMENT