#. 117. January 2006

IRAQ: THE CASE FOR IMMEDIATE WITHDRAWAL
An Interview with Gilbert Achcar
by Bill Weinberg

YES, THE PENTAGON MURDERS JOURNALISTS
Part Three in a Troubling Series
by Michael I. Niman

BOLIVIA: “GAS WAR” IMPUNITY AGGRAVATES TENSIONS
by Kathryn Ledebur and Julia Dietz

BOLIVIA: THE AGRARIAN REFORM THAT WASN’T
by Leila Lu

From Weekly News Update on the Americas:

BOLIVIA: EVO MORALES VICTORY CONFIRMED
VENEZUELA: CHAVISTAS SWEEP ELECTIONS
COLOMBIA: “DEMOBILIZED” PARAS IN NEW MASSACRE
ECUADOR: MOVES TOWARDS NEW CONSTITUTION
PERU: INDIGENOUS PEOPLES PROTEST GAS SPILLS
BRAZIL: INDIGENOUS EVICTED FROM LANDS
ARGENTINA: AUTONOMOUS WORKERS UNDER ATTACK
CENTRAL AMERICA: CAMPESINOS BLOCK HIGHWAYS

SYRIANA: REAL-TIME DYSTOPIA
Is Apocalyptic Fiction Now Redundant?
by Shlomo Svesnik

SPECIAL MESSAGE TO OUR READERS

“I’m sick and tired of hearing things
From uptight, short-sighted, narrow-minded hypocrites
All I want is the truth
Just gimme some truth

I’ve had enough of reading things
By neurotic, psychotic, pig-headed politicians
All I want is the truth
Just gimme some truth.”

—John Lennon, 1940-1980

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Continue Reading#. 117. January 2006 

WW4 REPORT fund drive failing miserably

IRAQ: THE CASE FOR IMMEDIATE WITHDRAWAL
An Interview with Gilbert Achcar
by Bill Weinberg

YES, WE MURDER JOURNALISTS
Part Three in a Troubling Series
by Michael I. Niman

BOLIVIA: “GAS WAR” IMPUNITY AGGRAVATES TENSIONS
by Kathryn Ledebur and Julia Dietz

BOLIVIA: THE AGRARIAN REFORM THAT WASN’T
by Leila Lu

From Weekly News Update on the Americas:

BOLIVIA: EVO MORALES VICTORY CONFIRMED
COLOMBIA: “DEMOBILIZED” PARAS IN NEW MASSACRE

VENEZUELA: CHAVISTAS SWEEP ELECTIONS
ECUADOR: MOVES TOWARDS NEW CONSTITUTION
PERU: INDIGENOUS PEOPLES PROTEST GAS SPILLS
BRAZIL: INDIGENOUS EVICTED FROM LANDS
ARGENTINA: EVO MORALES VICTORY CONFIRMED AUTONOMOUS WORKERS UNDER ATTACK
CENTRAL AMERICA: CAMPESINOS BLOCK HIGHWAYS


Is Apocalyptic Fiction Now Redundant?

by Shlomo Svesnik

SPECIAL MESSAGE TO OUR READERS

“I’m sick and tired of hearing things
From uptight, short-sighted, narrow-minded hypocrites
All I want is the truth
Just gimme some truth

I’ve had enough of reading things
By neurotic, psychotic, pig-headed politicians
All I want is the truth
Just gimme some truth.”

–John Lennon, 1940-1980

WEBLOG: /blog

Exit Poll: Were you anticipating a New Years Eve nuclear terror attack on
New York City? C’mon, tell the truth.

PLEASE EITHER SEND US A DONATION OR ANSWER THE EXIT POLL.

REMEMBER, WW4 REPORT RECEIVES NO FOUNDATION SPONSORSHIP!

WE DEPEND ON YOU!!!

WORLD WAR 4 REPORT
89 Fifth Ave. #172
Brooklyn NY 11217

Or donate by credit card:

Subscribe to WORLD WAR 4 REPORT


PUBLISHED EVERY MONTH TILL PEACE
Reprinting permissible with attribution.
Subscriptions free but donations needed!!!

Continue ReadingWW4 REPORT fund drive failing miserably 

WW4 REPORT fund drive failing miserably

IRAQ: THE CASE FOR IMMEDIATE WITHDRAWAL
An Interview with Gilbert Achcar
by Bill Weinberg

YES, WE MURDER JOURNALISTS
Part Three in a Troubling Series
by Michael I. Niman

BOLIVIA: “GAS WAR” IMPUNITY AGGRAVATES TENSIONS
by Kathryn Ledebur and Julia Dietz

BOLIVIA: THE AGRARIAN REFORM THAT WASN’T
by Leila Lu

From Weekly News Update on the Americas:

BOLIVIA: EVO MORALES VICTORY CONFIRMED
COLOMBIA: “DEMOBILIZED” PARAS IN NEW MASSACRE

VENEZUELA: CHAVISTAS SWEEP ELECTIONS
ECUADOR: MOVES TOWARDS NEW CONSTITUTION
PERU: INDIGENOUS PEOPLES PROTEST GAS SPILLS
BRAZIL: INDIGENOUS EVICTED FROM LANDS
ARGENTINA: EVO MORALES VICTORY CONFIRMED AUTONOMOUS WORKERS UNDER ATTACK
CENTRAL AMERICA: CAMPESINOS BLOCK HIGHWAYS


Is Apocalyptic Fiction Now Redundant?

by Shlomo Svesnik

SPECIAL MESSAGE TO OUR READERS

“I’m sick and tired of hearing things
From uptight, short-sighted, narrow-minded hypocrites
All I want is the truth
Just gimme some truth

I’ve had enough of reading things
By neurotic, psychotic, pig-headed politicians
All I want is the truth
Just gimme some truth.”

–John Lennon, 1940-1980

WEBLOG: /blog

Exit Poll: Were you anticipating a New Years Eve nuclear terror attack on
New York City? C’mon, tell the truth.

PLEASE EITHER SEND US A DONATION OR ANSWER THE EXIT POLL.

REMEMBER, WW4 REPORT RECEIVES NO FOUNDATION SPONSORSHIP!

WE DEPEND ON YOU!!!

WORLD WAR 4 REPORT
89 Fifth Ave. #172
Brooklyn NY 11217

Or donate by credit card:

Subscribe to WORLD WAR 4 REPORT


PUBLISHED EVERY MONTH TILL PEACE
Reprinting permissible with attribution.
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Continue ReadingWW4 REPORT fund drive failing miserably 

BOLIVIA: THE AGRARIAN REFORM THAT WASN’T

Following his victory in the Dec. 17 presidential elections, the radical populist Evo Morales of the Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) will on Jan. 22 become the Bolivia’s first indigenous president—in a country where 62% of the population identified as indigenous in the 2002 census. Leila Lu of Upside Down World provides some historical context on the economic and ecological roots of Bolivia’s historic indigenous upsurge.

by Leila Lu

According to the United Nations, as of October 2005, 100 families control over 25 million hectares of land in Bolivia while 2 million campesino (farmer/peasant) families have, combined, access to 5 million hectares of land. In other words, the wealthiest 100 landowners possess five times more land then 2 million small landowners. (These figures do not include the at least 250,000 campesinos without land.)

The UN Development Report goes on to state that it is precisely this inequality that is the principal cause of Bolivia’s political and social instability, fuelling constant conflicts between a tiny elite and the general population.

According to the World Bank, in Latin America the average discrepancy between the wealth of the richest fifth of the population and the poorest fifth of the population is 30:1. In Bolivia it is 90:1. If cities are excluded from the measurement, it is 170:1.


But What About Agrarian Reform?

After 52 years of agrarian reform, Bolivian agriculture is divided into two distinct tendencies: enormous latifundios (estates), vast territories in which only a small part is used for productive agriculture; and hundreds of thousands of tiny, over-cultivated properties owned by indigenous and/or campesino farmers. Despite the fact that campesino farmers occupy a much smaller portion of land, they have higher agricultural productivity and supply more food to the local economy than the latifundios, which overwhelmingly cultivate plantation-style agriculture—vast expanses of a single crop such as soya, sugar, rice or cotton destined for export and dependant on the use of large quantities of pesticides and fertilizers.

So how is it that after a peasant revolution in 1952 and more then fifty years of agrarian reform, today the average campesino family from the west or center of the country has less land then they started with?

Technically, the agrarian reform laws are still on the books. All land must complete a social/economic function, or else it reverts back to the state. The state engaged in an intensive process of land grants and agricultural development financing throughout the ’50s, ’60 s, ’70 s and ’80s. On paper, Bolivia should be a reformed country. However…

The more things change…

Since colonization by the Spanish, the territory known since independence as Bolivia has been marked by political and economic domination of a small elite and a near-feudal economic system. Independence did not result in a full break of the social structures set in place by Spain. In effect, feudal structures such as haciendas and latifundios (large landholdings worked by indigenous labor without pay) remained practically unchanged throughout the first epoch of the Republic’s history, especially in the eastern departments of Santa Cruz, Beni and Pando (collectively known as the Oriente or Tierras Bajas). According to Carlos Ramiro Bonifaz, director of the Center of Judicial Studies and Social Investigation in Santa Cruz, the dominant land-owning classes of the region developed systems of wealth accumulation based on the exploitation of the indigenous labor force (i.e. charging workers exorbitant prices for basic necessities, resulting in the creation of debt and subsequent servitude), rather then the re-investment of capital or technological development. Instead, the wealth of elites went towards the purchase of imported status symbols.

After the Revolution of 1952, a land reform program was implemented which aimed to change these tendencies. The program was directly influenced by the US-authored Plan Bohan, with the goal of state-led capitalization and industrialization of agriculture (hopefully diffusing peasant unrest while simultaneously providing a new market for US produced agro-chemicals and machinery.) Large properties were designated the social function of “agricultural enterprises,” lent prodigious amounts of money with which to obtain modern technology, and informed that they were now obliged to pay salaries (food and clothing also considered acceptable currency) to the influx of workers and settlers arriving from the western part of the country. Interestingly enough, of these loans, $24.7 million went to 114 debtors, while a further $24.8 million went to a clearly needy 27 individuals.

Land Grants

This process was accompanied by an extensive program of land grants. From 1953 to 1993, more than 26 million hectares of land were granted in the Oriente. However, of this land, more then 87.5% was given to the wealthiest (in terms of property ownership) half of recipients, while the remaining half received 12.5% of grants. Today, 55% of farm properties are squeezed into less the one percent of cultivated land.

It is important to remember that almost all of the “unowned” land that was granted was in fact inhabited by indigenous populations. In effect, the land reform program was used by the dominant classes to extend their holdings and develop interests in commercial agriculture and modern ranching. In the years of the Banzer dictatorship (1971-1978), this cronyism reached staggering proportions—116, 647 hectares granted to the Antelo family, 96,874 hectares granted to the Gutierrez family, 115,646 hectares granted to the Elsner family (plus 73,690 hectares given individually to Guillermo Bauer Elsner), etc…

Debt Forgiveness

All this, however, apparently was not enough to ensure the success of the Agricultural Enterprises. Due to the persistent habit of loans remaining unpaid, the Agricultural Bank was forced to close in the 1980´s—this after a state-ordered forgiveness of 44.5 million dollars in loans belonging to some 726 cotton-enterprise owners and some 188 soy enterprise-owners. Not to mention absorption of some 5.8 million dollars in private debts with the Bank of Brasil and 1.8 million dollars in private debts with CitiBank. The combined effect of these pardons was one of the major causes of the hyperinflation that Bolivia experienced in the 1980s, resulting in the further impoverishment of the general population and an IMF-imposed stabilization program that gutted useless public services such as health and education and privatized the profitable ones.

The Drug Problem

And thus, suffering from such arduous financial difficulties, many members of the Santa Cruz elite had no alternative but to turn to the trafficking of cocaine to feed their families. Luckily, writes Romero Bonifaz, “control of the political apparatus had allowed narco-traffickers to gain control over large expanses of land in Santa Cruz and Beni,” and they “received direct political protection from government forces, especially from the Ministry of the Interior and the President of the Republic himself during the years of military regimes, making up an alliance between sections of the armed forces and the trafficking mafia.”

Significant sections of the agro-industrialist landowning class were involved in narco-trafficking. To quote a friend, waving his hand towards the walled mansions of the neighborhood Las Palmas: “…all this is drug money from the eighties. All the money here is, even if it’s indirectly, like through building the mansions for dealers.”

Impunity

When control of the political apparatus is not sufficient to gain desired results, large landowners often turn to violence.

Writes Bonifaz: “Between November 2001 and the end of 2002, 10 campesinos were murdered in the Oriente due to conflicts over land, and many social leaders, institutional representatives, human rights defenders, etc. have been victims of criminal aggression from those who would prefer that the situation of agrarian rights is not clarified.”

The current situation in the eastern lowlands of Bolivia is one in which a small elite dominates the political process, with the result that the primary function of government has been to oversee their interests and protect the existing status quo from turbulence. In the western part of the country (Occidente/Tierras Altas), well-organized movements demanding a redistribution of power have achieved a situation where they are capable of shutting down business-as-usual and changing state policies detrimental to the majority of the population (reversing water privatization, gas exports, etc) and have a clearly articulated program for change (nationalization and industrialization of gas, real land reform, creation of a directly democratic Constituent Assembly, reconstitution of indigenous territory and sovereignty, an end to the disastrous neoliberal experiment, and the creation of a pluri-national state). But the balance of power in the Oriente is still in the hands of the oligarchy.

This is not to say that people are not organizing in the Oriente–there is an active Landless Movement (MST), and indigenous and campesino organizations and confederations–but the process is nascent in comparison with the Occidente.

Autonomia Ya!

A response to the shift in power in the Occidente and the very real possibility of the December election bringing to power a populist government promising to nationalize the country’s gas reserves and enact land reform has been the emergence of a nationalist separatist/autonomy movement in the Oriente, financed by the Santa Cruz political elite (in particular the Comite Pro-Santa Cruz), playing on existing themes of the central government in La Paz taking an unfair share of the province’s revenues, and regionalist pride in the cultural identity of “Camba,” the proposed new nation made up of Santa Cruz and four neighboring departments.

Green and white flags flutter and stickers reading “Nacion Camba: Mi Unica Patria” (Camba Nation: My Only Fatherland) adorn walls. Political parties vie to undo each other in their passionate declarations of desire for Autonomia.

However, Bolivia is not neatly divided into two distinct halves. A direct result of land scarcity has been migration to urban centers, and migration from the Occidente to the Oriente. In Santa Cruz one overhears Quechua and Ayamara being spoken, and many inhabitants of the city have origins in other areas of the country. The story of a single homogenous identity is, as always, little but a useful tool.

The real frustration that people feel with the central government in La Paz, with all government, will not be resolved by this “autonomy,” or any other measure that does not deal with the reality of the state serving as a direct instrument of class oppression and protector of the interests of the privileged elite. What is needed is redistribution—of land and of decision-making power. The way to peace in Bolivia is very simple: justice.

——

This story originally appeared in Upside Down World, Dec. 7 http://upsidedownworld.org/main/content/view/131/1/

SOURCES:

“Cien Clanes Familiares Son Dueñoes de 25 Milliones de Hectareas en Bolivia”, Conosur Nawpaqman No. 115, Oct. 2005, published by Centro de Comunicación y Desarrollo Andino, Cochabamba, Bolivia. http://www.cenda.org

Carlos Romero Bonifaz: “La Reforma Agraria en las tierras bajas de Bolivia”, Articulo Primero No. 14, Oct. 2003, published by Centro de Estudios Jurídicos e Investigación Social, Santa Cruz, Bolivia

Ferrant,/Perri,/Ferreira/Walton: Desigualidades en America Latina y el Caribe ¿Ruptura con la Historia? Banco Mundial 2004, cited in Alvaro Garcia Linera: “La Lucha por el Poder en Bolivia”, in “Horizontes y Limites del Estado y el Poder”. Ediciones Muella del Diablo, 2005.

———————–

Reprinted by WORLD WAR 4 REPORT, Jan. 1, 2006
Reprinting permissible with attribution

Continue ReadingBOLIVIA: THE AGRARIAN REFORM THAT WASN’T 

SYRIANA: REAL-TIME DYSTOPIA

Is Apocalyptic Fiction Now Redundant?

by Shlomo Svesnik

The new political thriller Syriana mirrors real life so closely that it becomes a part of the very reality it depicts. There are famous cases of life imitating Hollywood: The Manchurian Candidate predicting the JFK assassination, China Syndrome foreshadowing Three Mile Island, even Wag the Dog anticipating Monica Lewinsky and US intervention in Kosovo. But Syriana is less predictive of a near-future dystopia than reflective of an actually-existing dystopia. The obvious climax has already happened: 9-11 (which is referenced in the movie, although not in a heavy-handed way). The film is Hollywood’s first real critical view of the interlocking shadow worlds of big oil and international terrorism—the struggle which has come to define the world since 2001 in the same way that the Cold War dominated the world of (the original) Manchurian Candidate. It portrays not a post-apocalyptic future, but our arguably post-apocalyptic present.

If there are any doubts that Syriana is openly partisan, these are dispelled by a visit to Participate.net—a blog for progressive popcorn-heads (plugged in the movie’s closing credits), where the film is used as a peg for “Oil Change: A campaign to reduce our dependence on oil.” Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council endorse the campaign with their logos, while the page features debates on the viability of biofuels as well as links to interviews with Syriana’s actors and producers. This is a film that argues a thesis: that oil addiction is ensnaring the US in a ruthless contest for dominance over the Middle East that breeds both domestic corruption and a terrorist backlash.

Director Stephen Gaghan was script-writer for 2000’s Traffic, and that movie’s director Steven Soderbergh reportedly introduced Gaghan to the CIA memoir See No Evil by ex-agent Robert Baer, who provides the inspiration for Syriana’s lead character Bob Barnes (George Clooney, also a co-producer). But See No Evil largely analyzes the pre-9-11 world, arguing that the CIA’s de-emphasis of field agents rendered the country vulnerable. The New Yorker’s film reviewer David Denby suggests the movie also draws on Baer’s later book Sleeping With the Devil, which complains that oil companies are subverting the national interest. This seems likely.

Syriana famously follows Traffic‘s unusual format of intersecting stories of people from distinct nationalities and social strata to reveal the inner workings of (in the prior case) the drug trade or (in the latter) the politics of oil and terrorism. But Syriana does it with much more complexity and subtlety.

Traffic had only three story lines; here there are several. Critics have made much of the resultant plot confusion, but the basics are pretty clear. Before going any further, we offer a spoiler alert: a comprehensive synopsis follows, for purposes of latter dissection, both of the film itself and its relation to actual reality.

Agent Barnes is dispatched to Beirut to arrange the assassination of the visiting prince of an unnamed Persian Gulf emirate who has angered Washington by signing an oil deal with a Chinese company, elbowing out an American competitor. Instead, Barnes himself winds up getting kidnapped by Islamic militants. Meanwhile, the Justice Department is probing a dirty merger involving the firm bounced from the strategic emirate which will (conveniently) recoup US losses by gaining Caspian Basin drilling rights in Kazakhstan. Matt Damon plays an idealistic energy analyst who is contracted by yet another firm seeking interest in the emirate, and gets caught up in a succession struggle between the prince who invited in the Chinese (a modernizer who wants to give women the vote and stand up to the Americans) and his younger brother (a subservient little playboy pisher). As lawyers, lobbyists and executives play an intricate shadow game in the Beltway to allow the sleazy but geo-strategically necessary merger while keeping a facade of legality, the aging emir (under at least implicit pressure from the Pentagon, which has thousands of troops stationed in his country) decides that the imbecilic pisher prince will succeed him to the throne—guaranteeing a return to easy access for US companies. The rival prince and the energy analyst plot a coup. As they go into action, the CIA decides to take the rebel prince out with a remote-controlled missile, presumably fired from a drone. Barnes, now freed from captivity but cut loose by the Agency for blowing it in Beirut, betrays his former masters, racing with time to warn the rebel prince—too late. The former agent and his former target die together in the missile strike.

There is one more story line—possibly the most gripping, but insufficiently integrated into the general plot. This concerns the foreign workers at the emirate’s oil fields. Living in abysmal conditions, denied citizenship, divided from their families back home in South Asia and routinely brutalized by the security forces, they provide ripe fodder for the jihadi terror networks. One young Pakistani boy is groomed by a charismatic mullah and finally sent on a suicide mission against the oil installation. This attack provides a sort of postscript climax to the drone missile attack.

The film gets big creds for cutting through the nonsense of al-Qaeda as an elite, hardened, strictly hierarchical organization. The jihadi terrorists here are not cliches from a James Bond movie. They have no high-tech communications gadgets or secret hand-shakes. They are portrayed as painfully naive, even idealistic; people who have been exposed to no possibilities other than a brutalizing modernity or a purifying fundamentalism. It is all too believable.

There is a minimum of the usual stupid Hollywood tricks. The most egregious is the gratuitous death of the Matt Damon character’s blue-eyed, blond, six-year-old son. As soon as the kid is introduced you know he will be shortly dispatched for reasons of cheap sentiment (although he is done in by an accident, not terrorism, making it even more senseless). Otherwise, the movie keeps its eye on the ball relentlessly.

There is little in the film that doesn’t have some rough analogue in reality. Few liberties are taken. It is true that discrete assassinations of foreign leaders like Clooney’s Lebanon caper supposedly aren’t done anymore by the “new” CIA. The more clinical and antiseptic drone attacks such as that depicted at film’s climax are openly admitted—but supposedly only against “enemy combatants.” History, however, amply demonstrates that cynics should be given the benefit of the doubt when it comes to CIA adventurism.

The Matt Damon character is fluent in the current “peak oil” debate, and gives his friend the prince a lecture on the subject (although not by name). The scales fall from the prince’s eyes—he realizes he could have the West by the balls, and starts planning his coup. The controversy over the merger and the fears of China elbowing in on “our” oil recall recent headlines about the attempted take-over of Unocal (with its strategic Caspian Basin investments) by a Chinese company (which Congress intervened to halt), and its subsequent buy-out by Chevron. The kidnapping of Barnes recalls the 1984 abduction of the CIA’s Beirut station chief Bill Buckley (who the real-life Baer was assigned to hunt down). The frequent terror attacks on oil installations in Saudi Arabia are another obvious parallel to the silver screen action.

The neocons who have supposedly seized control of US foreign policy are here as well—in the form of a “Committee to Liberate Iran,” private-sector wonks who are granted access to high-level CIA meetings to peddle their plans for “regime change.” This is a none-too-subtle reference to the real-life Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, spun off by the notorious Project for a New American Century (PNAC) to push for the invasion in 2002.

This notion of an imperialist design to remake the political order of the Middle East is close to the film’s dystopian vision, and is apparently the origin of its obscure name (never actually explained). The immediate assumption that “Syriana” is the name of the unnamed emirate rings false—it evokes Syria, which is not on the Persian Gulf, not an emirate and has no oil to speak of. The fictional kingdom is clearly based on Kuwait or Abu Dhabi (where the scenes set in the emirate were filmed). Instead, Syriana refers to a zeitgeist—even a conspiracy—and was an actual code word in elite Beltway circles. Said Gaghan in an interview with the Washington Post:

“‘Syriana’ was a term that I heard in think tanks in Washington… [I]n the fall of ’02 it seemed to stand for a hypothetical redrawing of the boundaries in the Middle East. For my purposes, I thought it was just a great word that could stand for man’s perpetual hope of remaking any geographic region to suit his own needs, a dream that in the case of the Middle East has been going on at least since the time of Caesar in 80 B.C.”

Given this, it is a surprising weakness that Syriana hardly mentions Israel—whose interests the neocons supposedly have closer at heart than those of the United States itself. Then again, maybe it isn’t so surprising—this omission is itself testimony to the vast powers of the Jews, it will surely be argued. Robert Fisk leads the charge. After praising the makers of Syriana for taking on the neocon agenda, he grouses in The Independent:

“Yet still they avoid the ‘Israel’ question. The Arab princes in Syriana—who in real life would be obsessed with the occupation of the West Bank—do not murmur a word about Israel. The Arab al-Qa’ida operative who persuades the young Pakistani to attack an oil tanker makes no reference to Israel—as every one of bin Laden’s acolytes assuredly would. It was instructive that Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11 did not mention Israel once.”

Syriana‘s producers have created more problems than they have avoided by chickening out on this point. The question of Palestine is indeed central to understanding anything about the Middle East. Failure to address it means failure to place it within their paradigm, thus undermining their own thesis. As someone once said, “base determines superstructure.” The current ascendant posture of the ultra-Zionist neocons in the US Administration is a product of the dictates of empire and control of oil. A particular strategy and ideology of control over the Middle East has been afforded a privileged position. The imperative to control the Middle East at all has to do with a global economy and industrial leviathan predicated on endless oil consumption. Syriana‘s assumption is correct that an imperial contest with China for access to oil has more to do with the root causes of the current US hyper-interventionism than the mandate to protect Israel. (Indeed, the chairman of the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq is Bruce Jackson, former vice president of Lockheed-Martin, who might have had reasons baser than Zionist indoctrination to be rooting for war in the Persian Gulf.) But by failing to mention Israel at all, the producers come across like they are hiding something—and play into all the worst assumptions of the Judeophobes.

The prince’s attempted nationalist coup d’etat is the least plausible part of the story. The Matt Damon character refers to his ally the rebel prince as “the new Mossadeq,” a reference to the nationalist leader of Iran who was toppled in a CIA coup after seizing the oilfields from the British back in ’52. This unaccustomed (for Hollywood) glance in the rearview mirror affords a reflection on how much the world has changed. Mossadeq was an elected prime minister, not a monarch (and was, in fact, opposed and finally replaced by the Shah). The secular radical nationalist regimes in the Middle East have nearly all been either overthrown, like Mossadeq, or domesticated, like Nasser’s successors in Egypt. The only ones which still hang on are Qadaffi in Libya and Assad in Syria—and these have been largely defanged. Worse, in the maximalist neocon fantasies (which the White House has hopefully backed off from following the quagmire in Iraq) even longtime US client states like Saudi Arabia are to be destabilized for their perceived insufficient subservience. The best that can be hoped for in the world of Syriana (or of “Syriana,” the zeitgeist) is a benevolent and progressive-minded monarch with some chutzpah and a sense of noblesse oblige.

Ironically, a key pawn of imperial strategy against the secular nationalists was Islamic militancy. The CIA was widely reported to have secretly aided the Muslim Brotherhood to destabilize Nasser’s Egypt, and Israeli intelligence certainly groomed Hamas to undermine the PLO. This strategy reached its climax in Afghanistan in the ’80s. The regime the CIA-backed Mujahedeen were fighting there was a pretty ugly one, and too subservient to Moscow to be termed “nationalist.” But this was the matrix of the new global conflict—which is in many ways even more frightening and depressing than the Cold War.

A generation ago, the disaffected in the Middle East were being recruited by Marxists, Nasserists, Ba’athists—not just Islamists. These ran a spectrum from genuinely heroic to fairly evil. But even the worst of them didn’t produce suicide bombers and equate women’s liberation with imperialist conspiracy and corruption. CIA cultivation of Islamic extremism is another element the film largely dodges.

This history is hinted at in the Beirut episode: the militant who kidnaps Barnes is a former CIA asset. And there is a glimmer of it in the suicide-bomber story: the explosive used in the attack originated from the CIA (although it is slipped through to the mullah inadvertently). This relationship could have been illustrated by having the charismatic mullah call a superior in the terror network (an Osama or Zarqawi type), who, in turn, has got someone on the other line from the Agency. But I guess Gaghan figured Michael Moore already beat that one to death.

Syriana takes the portrayal just about as far as Hollywood can realistically take it. The problem is precisely that it can be dismissed by the right-wing pundits as propaganda from the liberal Hollywood elite—and by the uninformed as “only” a movie, mere entertainment. Which is part of the mechanism by which the system recuperates any critique to emerge from within itself.

RESOURCES:

Oil Change, Participate.net
http://participate.net/oilchange

Stephen Gaghan interview, Washington Post, Nov. 15, 2005
http://www.washingtonpost.com/

“America Slowly Confronts the Truth,” Robert Fisk , The Independent, Dec. 3, 2005 http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article11204.htm

Excerpt from See No Evil, The Guardian, Jan. 12, 2002
http://books.guardian.co.uk/extracts/story/0,6761,631433,00.html

——

See Shlomo Svesnik’s last piece:

IS GEORGE BUSH A SITH LORD? And Does Ice Cube Save America from Donald Rumsfeld? Well, Duh!
/node/575

——————-

Special to WORLD WAR 4 REPORT, Jan. 1, 2006
Reprinting permissible with attribution

Continue ReadingSYRIANA: REAL-TIME DYSTOPIA 

CENTRAL AMERICA: CAMPESINOS BLOCK HIGHWAYS

from Weekly News Update on the Americas

EL SALVADOR: FMLN BACKS ANTI-CAFTA PROTESTS

Thousands of Salvadorans participated in a nationwide day of protest on Nov. 30 against the neoliberal economic policies of President Antonio Saca. The demonstrations, organized by the Popular Social Bloc (BPS) and backed by the leftist Farabundo Marti Front for National Liberation (FMLN), consisted of 17 different actions, including the blocking of major highways, rallies in front of government offices and the distribution of literature on the Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement (DR-CAFTA), a trade pact set to go into effect on Jan. 1 between five Central American countries, the Dominican Republic and the US.

The protesters used what they called “leaking blockades” on the highways. This consists of “closing and opening, letting a line pass slowly, talking, handing out literature, closing again, and so on,” explained BPS director Roberto Pineda. Blockades were set up on highways in at least eight of the country’s 14 departments: Morazan, Usulutan, La Libertad, San Miguel, San Vicente, Santa Ana, San Salvador and Ahuachapan. There were also protests in front of the Labor Ministry and a gas station belonging to ESSO, the local affiliate of the US-based multinational ExxonMobil. The Movement for the Self-Determination of Peoples (MAP) held a protest outside the building of the Legislative Assembly, which voted that day to allow the US to run a regional police training school, the International Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA), in El Salvador.

The protesters had five demands: aid for communities hurt by Hurricane Stan, rejection of a new law on land leases, reduction of gasoline prices, rejection of the privatization of water services, and a return to the national currency, the colon [replaced by the US dollar in 2001]. (Adital, Dec. 1; Upside Down World, Nov. 30)

Weekly News Update on the Americas, Dec. 4


HONDURAS: WINNER FINALLY DECLARED

On the evening of Dec. 6, Honduras’ Supreme Electoral Council (TSE) announced that Manuel Zelaya of the right-wing Liberal Party (PL) had won the Nov. 27 presidential election with 49.9% of the votes to 46.16% for Porfirio Lobo of the ruling [even more] right-wing National Party (PN). On Dec. 7 Lobo conceded defeat, 10 days after the vote. Also at stake were the 128 deputies’ seats in the National Congress and the 398 municipal governments. (El Diario-La Prensa, NY, Dec. 8 from AFP)

The PL is projected to have won 63 of the deputies’ seats, two seats short of a majority. The PN followed with 54, the leftist Democratic Unification Party (UD) with five, the Christian Democrats (DC) with five and the social democratic Innovation and Unity Party (PINU) with two. Zelaya is now seeking an alliance with one of the smaller parties in order to get a majority in the Congress. (El Nuevo Herald, Miami, Dec. 11 from AFP)

Weekly News Update on the Americas, Dec. 11

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Weekly News Update on the Americas
http://home.earthlink.net/~nicadlw/wnuhome.html

See also WW4 REPORT #116:
http://www.ww3report.com/node/1346

See also our last update on Central America:
/node/1333

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Reprinted by WORLD WAR 4 REPORT, Jan. 1, 2006
Reprinting permissible with attribution

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