mardi, août 07, 2007

Actualité -Michael Moore exposes Bush's "Sicko" system

Sicko is Michael Moore’s long-awaited follow-up to his phenomenal 2004 documentary Fahrenheit 9/11, in which his cinematic guns blazed at the twin targets of US President George Bush’s illegitimate presidency and the US invasion of Iraq. The refusal of either villain to lie down and die, despite the heavy battering they took, prompted some commentators to speculate that Moore’s days were over and he’d shrunk into obscurity.

The custodians of the Academy Awards declined to bestow an Oscar on Fahrenheit. They’d learned their lesson after Moore famously used his Bowling for Columbine victory as a prestigious stage from which to denounce the US president and his “fictitious war”. Far from “going into hiding”, as some detractors might have hoped, Moore has been working on Sicko, a compelling and alarming examination of the disastrous US health-care system.

The project actually began in 1999, but the Columbine High School massacre and the US-led invasion of Iraq waylaid Moore for several years before he could see it through to completion. Lacking the ready-made drama of a high school massacre or the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the film seems to start somewhat shakily, and we’re unsure of where it’s going. But Moore’s trademark satire and archival revelations soon emerge, creating a profound and surprising film, leading us to question the fundamental principles on which an entire society functions.

Sicko is probably Moore’s most radical production to date and one which will make you hate Grey’s Anatomy with all its “glamorous” but totally phoney representations of health care in the US.

The US health-care system — the word “care” seems far too generous after seeing this film — is so exclusive that 45 million US residents are today highly vulnerable, completely without medical insurance. “But this movie’s not about them,” says Moore. Rather, the film reveals how the private health insurance companies shatter so many lives among the “quarter billion Americans who do have insurance”.

The personal tragedies revealed here are saddening and maddening. The push to turn a private profit out of every person’s health management leads to 18,000 avoidable deaths annually in the US. Sicko’s revelation of such alarming statistics and case histories has raised the usual chorus of anti-Moore indignation following its release in the US. But, as before, Moore has managed to comprehensively rebut all his critics by publishing on his website supporting evidence from reputable sources for every one of the film’s claims.

But then again, the careful presentation of a well-researched factual history has never been Mike Moore’s raison d’etre. His films are hard-hitting, emotive polemics, using satire and stunts as clarion calls to his fellow US citizens to wake up and start talking about social change.

We endure a distressing scene in which a hospital forcibly discharges an elderly woman who is clearly still in need of medical care. A taxi driver is instructed to shove her out into the street, disoriented and afraid outside a homeless shelter.

“Who are we? Is this what we’ve become?”, Moore pleads.

Having climbed over the other side of the fence of privilege in his own country, Moore sets off to see what happens abroad. The universal health-care systems that he discovers in Canada, France and Britain contrast with the grotesquely unequal US system. Moore’s heart is in the right place here, but astute viewers might question the rosy glow that he brings to the modest remnants of Western social democracy.

We’re only introduced to comfortable, middle-class professionals abroad. A young doctor in Britain tells us that his job in the public hospital system has made him well-off, but he would have to look elsewhere if he was the type of person who wanted medicine to make him obscenely rich.

But even among this rosy glow we can discern some valuable political lessons.

A French doctor echoes the powerful motto of the recent film V for Vendetta when he tells us that what prevents the French government from getting away with introducing a US-style health system is their fear of the power of mass political protest.

Moore does a gloss-job on the US Democratic Party, which is unfortunately altogether predictable from him. He revisits the early years of the Clinton presidency, during which first lady Hilary Rodham Clinton headed a health care reform task force. It’s a valuable lesson to see the way the giants of the health industry put up almost hysterical resistance to any suggestion of reform, but Moore’s unquestioning approach gives us the false impression that the Democrats wanted to usher in a grand new era of universal health care in the US.

According to Barbara Ehrenreich, writing in the Nation, “the bottom line is that despite [right wing] charges of ‘socialised medicine’, Hilary Clinton’s plan would have maintained the nation’s largest private insurance companies’ death-grip on American health care”. Indeed, as a declared candidate seeking the Democratic Party’s nomination for the 2008 presidential elections, Hilary Clinton now leads the field in terms of political donations from the health industry.

For all his radicalism and bravado on behalf of the working class, Moore remains thoroughly tunnel-visioned on the question of party politics in the US. When questioned about the supposedly “controversial” nature of his work, Moore begged to differ:

“These days, I get a lot of Republicans stopping me on the street and apologising to me. They now see that [Fahrenheit 9/11] was trying to warn them the Emperor has no clothes. At this point, I’m very squarely in the middle of the mainstream majority.”

But those Republicans won’t be so enamoured with the overriding message of Sicko, which is that the people of the US should take inspiration from alternative social systems abroad.

The final stop on Moore’s worldwide tour of health care systems is an inspiring visit to revolutionary Cuba, where free health care is provided as a basic human right to every citizen at a fraction of the cost in other countries. It’s no exaggeration to say that the final part of Sicko showcases the moral power of socialism, by highlighting the progressive gains of the Cuban revolution. That sort of conclusion sits strikingly outside the “mainstream majority” of US political opinion and is the most surprising aspect of the film

Cuba is a small and relatively impoverished nation. Yet today it sends over 25,000 doctors annually to provide humanitarian medical aid in no less than 68 of the world’s neediest countries. Struggling under a US economic embargo for over 40 years, Cuba’s revolutionary system shames its rich and powerful neighbour with an infant mortality rate and life expectancy at birth equal to the US.

It would be spoiling the experience of seeing the film to reveal why Moore decides to go to Cuba, how he gets there and exactly what happens. Suffice to say Sicko’s Cuban finale manages to link together the “war on terror” with the struggle for social alternatives to the ravages of US capitalism. Moore also manages to pull off some unexpected, humbling diplomacy between the two supposed enemy nations.

And there’s no-one else other than Michael Moore who can do all that in the one film, while making you laugh and cry at the same time.

(Green Left weekly)

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Actualité - Oaxaca is Not Over

The New APPO, Elections, a Questionable Guerrilla Groups and the Threat of Forgetfulness

"Don't let another six months go by before the world turns around and sees Oaxaca again."
-APPO representative Eric.

Has the world forgotten about Oaxaca?

Political activity, from repression to organizing, is still just as present as when the Oaxaca uprising was visible in the streets, but with the appearance of normalcy in Oaxaca City it seems that many of us have begun the process of forgetting or assuming that the Oaxaca struggle is over.

Walking on the streets of Oaxaca it is indeed hard for the untrained eye to see the continuing struggle for autonomy.

The tourists have returned, the graffiti has been painted over, and the barricades are a burning memory. And perhaps it is a failure that on the left we need dramatic events and repression in order to recognize important political transformation, and in this sense we become part of the dangerous process of forgetting. But the Oaxaca movement was never defined by the presence of the barricades, by media takeovers, by occupations and sit-ins. Within and without the popular assemblies and the political bodies of the movement the Oaxaca popular rebellion has always been a spirit -- something that lives in the conscience of everyone who passes through or has sucked in a breath in Oaxaca. Some think that the Oaxaca movement grew sick from repression and died, when in fact it continues to live and struggle. Just like the Zapatistas had a long period of silence so has the Oaxaca struggle taken its time to reflect and understand itself, and within the apparent quiet is a storm of organizing and transformation.

Oaxaca is bracing itself for the upcoming state legislative elections on Sunday August 5, which are surrounded by tension. The recent heavy activity of a questionable guerrilla group has only added to the mood. All the while, the APPO continues to change its profile, and the Oaxaca uprising a year later is continues to development into a political force.

The APPO Then, the Many APPOs of Now

This weekend, the 3rd and 4th of July, a large section of the APPO (the Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaca) is in Mexico City enacting the Popular Political Judgment, bringing forth documentation of repression by the Mexican state to demand punishment for Oaxaca governor Ulises Ruiz and others responsible for the grave human rights abuses in Oaxaca and throughout Mexico.

Meanwhile, the APPO as a political body is split in many directions, and out of this split the process of moving towards autonomy while dissenting with the status quo of the organization of the movement continues. In fact the movement is morphing and turning itself inside out. The Oaxaca movement from the beginning acted without the direction of the provisional APPO leadership, and many actions, such as the construction of the thousands of barricades in the state capital, Oaxaca City, the radio and television takeovers, and the occupations of public spaces were taken by the people themselves and did not reflect a decision of the APPO.

Until mid-November the APPO was officially defined as a body with representatives from 350 social organizations, many of which were vertical organizations that in of themselves only represented a small section of the Oaxacan people.

The APPO congress in November bought together over 200 representatives from all over the state and the provisional APPO leadership was more or less dissolved. Yet due to the repression in the aftermath of the November 25 street battle between protesters and Preventive Federal Police that led to a siege by federal and state forces on the capital and forced much of the movement to go into hiding, the APPO representatives to the APPO from all over the state have been unable to meet.

Yet the movement has not stopped. The movement has grown and began to spread out, and instead of becoming dispersed it has become more organized within it's own decentralization.Although the centralized, almost "formal" APPO of representatives and social organizations still exist, another phenomenon is visible-the ever-increasing number of popular assemblies throughout the capital city and throughout the state. In Oaxaca City there are 71 neighborhood assemblies, calling themselves the APCO (Popular Assemblies of the Colonias de Oaxaca).

Throughout the state the number of local and regional popular assemblies is on the rise, and there have been many new collectives formed everywhere.

Criticisms towards the APPO consejal (the central directed body of representatives) have contributed largely to the decentralized aspect of the movement and have played a large role in the form in which people are reorganizing.

Many sectors of the movement, such as the students, women, youth, neighborhood groups, and even some NGOs, distrust a democratic centralism and became disillusioned with the representative system and demand a collective process. The under representation of many sectors of the APPO has led to the formation of new organizations and collectives who as well as self organizing demand representation and more horizontalism within the APPO consejal.

The localized element of the political formation of the Oaxaca movement has furthered the struggle for autonomy in many senses. Groups who had tactical differences with the provisional leadership of the APPO before are now more self empowered to apply their forms of struggle.

Communities are discussing their own needs in the local assemblies and searching for ways to become more self-sufficient. For instance, some of the neighborhood assemblies are discussing how to begin to have control over means of production to become less reliant on imports, and the discussion over control over agriculture and food production is common.

Given the plurality of the movement there are many debates within the APPO at the moment. Different sectors are split over non-violence vs. direct confrontation with the police, and strategies for getting rid of Governor Ulises Ruiz once and for all and for real social change.

Evaluations and criticisms over the best process in which the APPO should have in terms of function and organization continues to have influence in the year-old movement. The conflict over electoral participation within the APPO has existed for a very long time and created many splits, such as the division in the section 22 teachers union. However it was visible in the APPO congress in November that many people within the movement have no trust in political parties and do not want to enter in the electoral process. There is a side of the APPO that doesn't seek out a political solution through the electoral process and instead puts its energies into forming assemblies and collectives to work towards autonomy in itsown way.

Elections, The APPO, and a Guerilla Group made by the Government?

The elections for the state legislature have historically caused more violence between disputing parts of the population in Oaxaca than any other elections. This time around the elections are especially tense for two reasons: one is that Governor Ulises Ruiz is more desperate than ever to keep a strong representation in the legislature from his party, the PRI (the Revolutionary Institutional Party) which has ruled in Oaxaca for more than seven decades, because of this year's popular movement to oust him.

The other element adding to the tension is the shadowy EPR (Revolutionary Popular Army). It is feared that an electoral fraud will occur and that the PRI will win the elections and that subsequently severe repression will follow. This is how Ulises Ruiz came to power in 2004.

Many of the APPO sympathizers don't believe in political parties or the electoral process.

Nevertheless the elections this weekend are expected to have a big turn out from the movement in which many will vote for the PRD in order to carry through the "punishment vote" against the PRI to further destabilize Ulises Ruiz's government.There has also been the worry that the EPR will be used by the state as a reason to postpone the elections.The guerilla group's activity has become so heavy in the weeks preceding the elections that many people inside the APPO wonder if the group isn't a convenient, if not obvious, creation of the state government itself to secure a place in the elections and to justify the further militarization of a turbulent Oaxaca, thus later securing the necessary conditions for corporate investments and the smooth operation of Plan Puebla Panama in the state. Eight different explosions occurring over the course of five days heavily damaged the Mexican state- oil Pemex's pipeline and infrastructure in the northern state of Queretaro, far way from Oaxaca, where the EPR is based.

In a communiqué released on July 10th the EPR took responsibility, demanding the physical appearance of Edumundo Reyes Amaya and Gabriel Alberto Cruz. The group claims that the two men, disappeared from Oaxaca City on May 25, are EPR militants being held in a clandestine military prison.

"This is another intention that the state government has-to scare people so that they wont want to change the conditions of the mano duro (hard hand) of the PRI," said a member of the APPO consejal who wished to remain anonymous. " This is a typical strategy of the repressive state. I think that the EPR is a creation of the government. They tried it before with an armed group that came out in the north of Oaxaca with new watches and clothes and military haircuts, not at all like guerillas. "

The communiqués are written at times with language similar to the autonomist movement of Oaxaca. Those who believe that the EPR is a government creation also fear that the EPR is being used to finger anarchists and other autonomist sectors within the movement. "It sounds like the discussion that autonomists could have. They want to insert the idea in people heads that with autonomy comes violence."

On August 1 two more smaller explosions occurred in the entrance of a Sears store and in front of a bank in Oaxaca City. At first the government accused the APPO, saying the bombs were not typical of the EPR. The EPR later took credit however. Coincidently, the Sears where one of the bombs was placed is also located very close to the Soriana barricade, one of the barricades protecting the university radio, part of the last set of barricades remaining in Oaxaca defended by the neighborhood, anarchists, and the students, all part of the autonomous sector believed to be heavily targeted by the state.

The Real Communist Threat

Throughout the APPO Stalinists from the FPR (Popular Revolutionary Front) party have attempted to appropriate many groups and have deployed themselves strategically throughout the diversity of organizations within the APPO. Again and again the FPR has used the tactic of creating crisis in order to open a space to insert their vanguardism, both in the streets and within APPO organizations. The FPR has fanned so much conflict within the teachers section 22 union that the union has nearly fallen apart and has not been able to meet for months.COMO, the Oaxaca's women organization created after the historical takeover of Canal 9 television station on August 1, 2006, has been criticized by many large groups of women who have split off to form their own collectives because of the power that the FPR has sought within COMO.To Not ForgetThe process of forgetting and the appearance of normalcy is exactly what the government wants, both for corporate investments, tourism, and to fight the movement -- not only in terms of solidarity and attention, but in terms of creating a perilous psychological space for the movement, where it can be difficult at times to identify with one’s own memories of the movement in the streets, and to deal with the collective trauma of the repression.

With the apparent "normalcy", from the government to independent media there is a denial of what what continues to be a state-wid rebellion. The protesters have been dispersed, businesses have re-opened, and Oaxaca City has returned to the status of a party enclave for Europeans and Americans.

Indeed, the government continues to block the signal of Radio Planton, one of the last remaining Oaxaca radios, and sabotage the Oaxaca Libre independent media page, attempting to do away forever with the voices of the Oaxacan people.

But despite finding itself in this challenging place, the rebellion continues and Oaxaca is still not the same place it was before June of last year. The desperate tactics of the government to hold onto control and militarize the state are signs that the power structures are under grave stress and neo-liberal investments in the state of Oaxaca threatened by a movement that can’t be easily done away with.

(CounterPunch, par Barucha Calamity Peller)

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Actualité - The Little Girl of Hiroshima

She Stands at Every Door

At a small, informal school in the basement of a church in Amman, many strings of colorful paper cranes bedeck walls and windows. The school serves children whose families have fled Iraq. Older children who come to the school understand the significance of the crane birds. Claudia Lefko, of Northampton, MA, who helped initiate the school, told them Sadako’s story.

The Japanese child survived the bombing of Hiroshima, but suffered from radiation sickness. In a Japanese hospital, she wanted to fold 1,000 origami crane birds, believing that by doing so she could be granted a special wish: hers was that no other child would ever suffer as she did.

Sadako died before completing the task she’d set for herself, but Japanese children then folded many thousands more cranes, and the story has been told for decades in innumerable places, making the delicate paper cranes a symbol for peace throughout the world.

Today, August 6, children who’ve recently joined the informal school in Ammam will learn Sadako’s story.

Having survived war, death threats, and displacement, they may be particularly aware of the enormous challenge represented by Sadako’s wish.

Words to the song “Little Girl of Hiroshima” are on my mind today, thinking of the Iraqi children who have not survived:

I come and stand at every doorBut none shall hear my silent treadI knock and yet remain unseenFor I am dead, for I am dead.

The song goes on to tell of a child who needs no bread, nor even wheat, needs no milk, or water, for she is dead.

She only asks for peace,So that the children of the worldCan run and dance and laugh and play.

A year ago, the space where the Iraqi children gather was grim and decrepit. The Jordanian parish priest invited volunteers from the community of Iraqis living in the area to help create a place where their children could meet for lessons and games. Several families responded and set about hauling debris out of the rooms, long unused, that had once housed monks in the Eastern Orthodox Church.

Walls were sanded and painted, windows installed, and a garden they planted is now in full bloom. Thirty five children gather, for two hours a day, five days a week, under careful supervision of a few adults in the community. It’s a hopeful spot

When I visited the school several times a week, earlier this year, two of the children, Carom and Carla, were listless and withdrawn. In the past few weeks, I’ve loved watching little Carla run to join a team playing tug-o-war, proudly accept a marker and solve simple math problems in front of the class, and actively engage in cooperative games. Her brother races faster than any of the other children his age, and he fills his notebook with careful writing.

How fortunate that these two children escaped the fate of so many Iraqi children now represented by the little girl of Hiroshima, those whose silent tread will never be heard. Claudia Lefko, ( works to raise money for the school. For every $35 dollars she raises, we might guess the Pentagon raises $35 million. Billions, perhaps trillions will be spent to send weapons, weapon systems, fighter jets, ammunition and military support to the region, fueling new arms races and raising the profits of U.S. weapon makers.

August 6th, Hiroshima Day, marks the time when the United States ushered the world into an age threatened by weapons of horrific mass destruction, spawning the terrible arms race that marked the cold war between the United States and the Soviet Union. Now, as the nightmare of war in Iraq steadily worsens, August 6th also marks a new round of Occupation Project activities. The Occupation Project is a campaign called for by Voices for Creative Nonviolence and endorsed by Veterans for Peace, Code Pink, Declaration of Peace, and the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance, among others.

The action involved is simple. Activists assemble in the offices of elected representatives, prepared to read aloud or to chant the names of Iraqis and Americans who have been killed since the U.S. invaded Iraq. They bring with them articles which help analyze how U.S. wealth and U.S. lives are being used to protect war profiteers and extend the arm of U.S. military might.

We can never reverse the decisions to drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, nor can we ever adequately explain to children the vicious patterns of our ongoing wars.

The song about “The Little Girl of Hiroshima” imagines a child who comes and stands at every door, unheard and unseen. In reality, we can go to the doors of elected representatives; - we can be heard and seen. We can learn from past experiences and, as we commemorate the loss of innocent lives, bolster efforts to stop war makers from constantly gaining the upper hand in our lives. I can think of no better place to announce our determination than inside the offices of those who, as elected lawmakers, can affect future military spending.

Please, if you have not already done so, visit the website and consider ways to participate in the Occupation Project during these crucial weeks before the Senate and House of Representatives vote on more spending for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

(CounterPunch, par Kathy Kelly)

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Actualité - The New York Times évoquele cas des Cinq

WASHINGTON, 5 août.- Le journal The New York Times a évoqué le cas des Cinq anti-terroristes cubains prisonniers aux Etats-Unis, et condamnés à de lourdes peines de prison, dans le cadre d’un processus judiciaire trouble, ayant eu lieu à Miami. Le journal fait référence à des aspects importants de l’affaire, parmi lesquels l’audience orale au cours de laquelle ils ont été condamnés, les procédures d’appel, l’audience du 20 août prochain, et souligne que les Cinq jouissent d’un grand prestige dans l’île, où ils sont considérés comme des Héros de la République de Cuba. Fernando Gonzalez, Antonio Guerrero, Gerardo Hernandez, Ramon Labañino et René Gonzalez sont emprisonnés dans les geôles étasuniennes depuis le 12 septembre 1998, pour avoir informé leur pays des actions terroristes préparées en Floride.

The New York Times fait également état de l’hostilité nord-américaine, en effet les autorités ont empêché Adriana Perez et Olga Salanueva, les épouses de Hernandez et Gonzalez, de rendre visite à leur mari en ne leur accordant pas de visa.

Le journal oppose la longue incarcération des Cinq à la libération récente du terroriste international Luis Posada Carriles, qui met en évidence la fausseté du discours anti-terroriste de Washington.

(Granma International)

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Actualité - Le sommet de PETROCARIBE : vers l’intégration énergétique

CARACAS, le 6 août.- Le troisième sommet PETROCARIBE, initiative de coopération énergétique appuyée par le Venezuela, apparaît aujourd’hui comme un grand pas vers l’intégration régionale face au renchérissement du pétrole et de la spéculation sur les marchés.

Selon un communiqué de l’entreprise étatique Petroleos de Venezuela S.A (PDVSA), le sommet –réalisé à Caracas- comprendra une rencontre d’experts et une conférence des ministres de l’énergie, afin d’évaluer l’avancée des projets communs et les activités qu’il reste à exécuter.

En outre, les bâtiments du ministère de l’Energie et de PDVSA accueilleront le 11 août prochain une réunion plénière des plus haut représentants des 14 pays liés à cet accord, a fait savoir PL.

La réunion est considérée par les experts comme un cadre idéal pour analyser la situation actuelle sur les marchés énergétiques et ses conséquences sur les pays importateurs d’hydrocarbures.

L’un des objectifs de PETROCARIBE est d’apporter une solution aux asymétries dans l’accès aux ressources énergétiques afin de s’acheminer vers un schéma d’échange favorable, équitable et juste.

Actuellement, cet accord lie entre eux les pays suivants : Antigua et Barbuda, les Bahamas, le Belize, Cuba, la Dominique, la Grenade, le Guyana, la Jamaïque, la République Dominicaine, Saint Christophe et Nevis, Sainte-Lucie, le Surinam, Saint Vincent et les Grenadines et le Venezuela.

Depuis sa constitution, PETROCARIBE a permis la création d’associations mixtes dans plusieurs Etats membres, afin de concrétiser la coopération. Cet accord a également favorisé l’augmentation des capacités de stockage et de distribution du brut et de ses dérivés en promouvant le développement d’infrastructures adéquates.

(Granma international)

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Actualité - La décolonisation se poursuit en Bolivie

LA PAZ, le 6 août. – Le président Evo Morales a souligné ce lundi que son gouvernement avait travaillé pour établir les bases d’un processus de décolonisation intérieure politique et économique, lors d’un discours pour le 182e anniversaire de la fondation de la Bolivie.

Le dirigeant a fait un bilan de sa gestion 2006----2007 lors d’une séance du Congrès dans la ville de Sucre, dans l’historique et coloniale Casa de la Libertad, où le 6 août 1825 a été signé l’acte d’indépendance de la République de Bolivie.

« Nous poursuivons la décolonisation intérieure et extérieure », a affirmé le dirigeant, premier indigène à gouverner ce pays dans toute son histoire républicaine, lors d’une allocution qui a duré trois heures et 40 minutes.

Selon le chef d’Etat, les politiques publiques ne sont plus aujourd’hui imposées par les organismes internationaux ou « certaines ambassades », a annoncé l’AFP.

Il a aussi examiné le Plan national de développement et ses différents programmes pour garantir « une Bolivie digne, productive et démocratique ».

Selon le dirigeant, le processus actuel de changement s’efforce de diminuer les écarts actuels des revenus entre les familles, d’en finir avec la pauvreté et de faire en sorte que le pays ,e soit plus un simple exportateur de matières premières.

En ce sens, a-t-il affirmé, la nationalisation des hydrocarbures, décrétée en mai 2006, a été déterminante, car elle rapporte dans les caisses de l’Etat actuellement plus d’un 1 milliard 200 millions de dollars. Morales a aussi indiqué que la démocratie se renforçait dans le pays, et qu’il fallait respecter les institutions, en premier lieu l’Assemblée constituante, installée en août 2006 et auteur de la rédaction du projet d’une nouvelle Constitution pour refonder la Bolivie.

(Granma International)

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samedi, août 04, 2007

Actualité - La conférence internationale de Bush pour la paix : un complot contre le peuple palestinien

L’annonce faite par le président Bush d’une relance du processus de paix au Proche-Orient par la tenue d’une conférence internationale à New York est une tentative d’utiliser le régime fantoche de Mahmoud Abbas pour approuver sans discussion un accord qui laisserait les masses palestiniennes repartir les mains vides.

Washington estime que les régimes arabes non seulement souscriront à un accord qui prendrait au piège le peuple palestinien à l’intérieur de ghettos militarisés et appauvris dans les différentes zones de la Cisjordanie et de la bande de Gaza mais qu’ils se joindront à l’Egypte et à la Jordanie pour finalement reconnaître Israël.

Le tribut le plus lourd payé pour un accord le sera à Gaza où le gouvernement du Hamas, que le Fatah d’Abbas a destitué par un coup constitutionnel soutenu par l’occident, est destiné à être détruit.

La conférence proposée est une affirmation de la politique américaine que Washington a annoncée indépendamment des autres membres du Quartette pour le Proche-Orient : l’Union européenne, les Nations unies et la Russie. Elle sera présidée par la secrétaire d’Etat Condoleezza Rice.

Bush a présenté son annonce comme un ultimatum, en déclarant que la présence à la réunion sera réservée à ceux qui soutiennent la création d’un Etat palestinien, qui rejettent la violence et qui reconnaissent Israël. Présentant la conférence comme « l’heure du choix », il a mis en garde qu’un soutien pour le Hamas serait une victoire pour ses « promoteurs étrangers » en Syrie et en Iran qui « détruiraient la possibilité d’un Etat palestinien ».

Le président américain a décrit la prise de contrôle de Gaza par le Hamas comme une trahison « violente et illégale » et a menacé le Hamas en déclarant : « Il faut empêcher que Gaza ne devienne un sanctuaire d’où sont lancées des attaques contre Israël. Il faut accepter le gouvernement palestinien légitime, laisser l’aide se rendre à Gaza, désarmer la milice et reconnaître Israël. »

Il a également insisté pour qu’Abbas arrête les militants et mette fin à la corruption avant le début des pourparlers, et il a dit aux nations arabes de mettre un terme « à la fiction qu’Israël n’existe pas », de réfréner la rhétorique anti-Israël dans leurs médias et d’envoyer des responsables ministériels dans l’Etat juif.

En comparaison, Bush a déclaré que les Israéliens « pouvaient être sûrs que les Etats-Unis n’abandonneraient jamais leur engagement pour la sécurité d’Israël en tant qu’Etat juif et terre natale du peuple juif ». Il a poursuivi en lançant un appel superficiel à Tel Aviv pour « le retrait des avant-postes non autorisés et la fin de l’expansion des colonies ». Aucun appel ne fut lancé pour le démantèlement de la plus grande partie des colonies israéliennes.

L’annonce fut suivie par des appels téléphoniques de Bush à l’Arabie saoudite, la Jordanie et l’Egypte pour recevoir leur appui à cette initiative.

Bush a offert 190 millions de dollars US pour soutenir financièrement le régime d’Abbas en Cisjordanie, en plus des 80 millions de dollars pour aider tout spécialement Abbas à réaliser la réforme des services de sécurité. Les responsables américains ont dit que l’argent était détourné de Gaza, acculant le peuple à la famine.

Israël a salué la reprise des pourparlers mais a immédiatement fait savoir que les trois questions clés des frontières, du droit au retour des réfugiés palestiniens et de Jérusalem ne figuraient pas à l’ordre du jour.

Abbas a dit qu’il espérait arriver à une « paix complète avec les Israéliens d’ici un an ou même moins que cela », donc avant que Bush ne quitte son poste. « Je l’ai entendu de mes propres oreilles, du président lui-même et de la secrétaire d’Etat Rice », a-t-il ajouté.

Sami Abu Zuhri, un porte-parole du Hamas, a rejeté la conférence de Bush, en l’appelant « une nouvelle croisade de Bush contre le peuple palestinien ».

L’envoyé de paix choisi par Bush, l’ancien premier ministre britannique Tony Blair, a été envoyé en mission cette semaine pour avoir des entretiens durant deux jours avec Abbas et le gouvernement israélien d’Ehud Olmert. Le président israélien, Shimon Peres n’a pas tari d’éloges envers Blair. « Je ne peux pas trouver un meilleur homme », a-t-il dit en ajoutant :

« Nous avons de la musique au Proche-Orient, nous disposons d’un orchestre au Proche-Orient, ce qu’il nous faut c’est un bon chef d’orchestre et je pense que Tony peut devenir ce chef d’orchestre ».

Les lettres de recommandation de Blair comme envoyé de paix ont été rédigées sur la base de son empressement à suivre à la lettre les instructions de Bush. James Wolfensohn, l’ex-directeur de la Banque mondiale et envoyé spécial du Quartette qui a démissionné en 2006, a déclaré récemment au quotidien israélien Ha’aretz : « Les Etats-Unis n’ont jamais renoncé à garder la haute main sur les négociations et je serais fort étonné si pour le département d’Etat… je n’étais pas une gêne.

« Le problème central, c’est que je ne disposais pas de l’autorité nécessaire. Cette autorité revenait au Quartette et au sein du Quartette elle revenait aux Américains. »

La Jordanie, l’Egypte et l’Arabie saoudite ont salué les propositions de Bush, et ce, en dépit du fait que l’Arabie saoudite ait poliment décliné d’y participer.

Le ministre des Affaires étrangères jordanien, Abdelelah Khatib et son homologue égyptien, Ahmed Aboul Gheït, se sont rendus le 25 juillet en Israël pour une visite inédite en tant qu’émissaires de la Ligue arabe. Ils ont remis à Olmert, au ministre des Affaires étrangères Tzipi Livni et à d’autres ministres et membres de la Knesset le texte de l’initiative de paix saoudienne, d’un retrait des territoires en échange de la paix, en offrant, a déclaré Gheït, « la sécurité, la reconnaissance et l’acceptation pour cette région, ce qu’Israël avait attendu depuis si longtemps ».

Israël n’acceptera pas l’appel de la Ligue arabe d’un retrait total de la Cisjordanie où elle dispose d’importantes colonies mais elle sait aussi qu’il s’agit là d’un point négociable de toute manière pour ce qui est des Etats arabes. Youval Steinitz du parti d’opposition de droite, Likoud, a déclaré : « Je suis heureux de dire qu’après avoir entendu nos critiques ils ont dit [le plan] n’était pas un ultimatum, que ce n’était pas ’à prendre ou à laisser’ ».

Bush a reçu cette semaine le roi Abdallah de Jordanie à la Maison blanche pour pousser en avant son projet.

Les Etats-Unis et Israël considèrent la division entre les factions rivales palestiniennes, le Fatah et le Hamas, la division politique de fait entre la Cisjordanie et la bande de Gaza, et la formation d’un gouvernement d’urgence par Abbas comme une occasion de poursuivre leurs intérêts géo politiques dans la région.

A cette fin, ils offrent quelques miettes à leurs agents politiques, Abbas et son nouveau premier ministre, Salam Fayyad, un ancien fonctionnaire de la Banque mondiale et du Fonds monétaire international, tout en isolant et en assiégeant la bande de Gaza qui se trouve sous le contrôle du Hamas.

Mais, la soi-disant stratégie « West Bank First » (La Cisjordanie d’abord) de Bush vise également à s’assurer le soutien des Etats sunnites arabes, l’Egypte, la Jordanie et l’Arabie saoudite, à l’encontre de l’Iran chiite dont l’influence croissante dans la région est tout autant une abomination pour ces derniers qu’elle l’est pour la Maison blanche. Bush a accusé l’Iran de soutenir les insurgés chiites en Irak, le Hezbollah au Liban et le Hamas en Palestine, en décrivant le tout comme un arc de l’extrémisme chiite.

Ceci est à la fois une justification pour une action hostile à l’encontre de l’Iran et un appel à la formation d’un autre arc des Etats sunnites en recourant au sectarisme afin de diviser les travailleurs et les paysans pauvres et de détourner les luttes sociales au sein de leurs propres pays.

La Syrie a été continuellement associée à l’Iran depuis qu’elle s’était jointe à l’Iran pendant la guerre Iran-Irak de 1980. Les deux pays sont unis par des liens économiques très forts, le commerce annuel atteignant 200 millions de dollars et les entreprises iraniennes ont investi plus d’un milliard de dollars en Syrie, dans le marché de l’énergie, dans l’industrie automobile, le ciment et l’agriculture.

Damas cherche désespérément à améliorer ses relations avec les Etats-Unis et Israël et est plus que disposée à traiter avec Israël, pour avoir à maintes reprises cherché à engager des pourparlers de paix avec Jérusalem. Elle n’était cependant pas disposée à participer aux pourparlers de paix en l’absence d’un parti tiers et de l’engagement d’Israël de rendre le plateau du Golan, illégalement occupé et colonisé par Israël depuis la guerre de 1967. Le premier ministre Olmert a refusé ceci de but en blanc et a appelé la Syrie à rompre toute relation avec l’Iran et les partis anti-israéliens. Ainsi, sans aucune indication de compromis, la Syrie a refusé de participer à la conférence proposée par Bush.

La semaine dernière, le président syrien Bashar al Assad avait reçu le président iranien, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, pour discuter de l’Irak, de la Palestine et du Liban. Ahmadinejad a également rencontré le dirigeant du Hezbollah, cheikh Hassan Nasrallah qui était venu du Liban pour le voir.

Les préparatifs de la conférence proposée par Bush ont lieu dans le contexte à la fois d’une intensification de l’offensive menée par Israël contre Gaza et contre Nablus, le bastion du Hamas en Cisjordanie, et des « exécutions ciblées » de son personnel par des avions israéliens.

Israël a à présent complètement bouclé ses frontières avec la bande de Gaza, ne permettant que l’acheminement de l’aide humanitaire, entraînant ainsi la perte d’au moins 68.000 emplois. Des milliers de petites usines, d’entreprises et de fermes sont fermées vu que les importations et les exportations ont été réduites à néant et qu’environ 85 pour cent des salariés du secteur privé de Gaza se retrouvent à présent au chômage.

Les fonctionnaires des Nations unies ont lancé l’avertissement que la fermeture contribue à créer une catastrophe humanitaire. « Si la fermeture actuelle continue, nous craignons de devenir à Gaza une société pratiquement totalement dépendante de l’aide, une société à qui on a volé toute possibilité d’autosuffisance et de dignité par le travail », a dit John Ging, le directeur des Nations unies pour les opérations dans la bande de Gaza.

Le gouvernement de la Cisjordanie a également resserré l’étau sur le Hamas et Gaza. Il a étendu le pouvoir des tribunaux militaires et accordé au ministère de l’Intérieur le droit de fermer des organisations non gouvernementales. Il a dit au 17. 000 policiers de Gaza dont il verse les salaires de ne pas retourner au travail. Abbas a aussi annoncé la tenue de nouvelles élections sans l’accord des 120 membres du parlement dont le quorum requis n’est pas atteint : la moitié de ses 75 membres Hamas sont détenus dans des prisons israéliennes sans procès et le restant refuse d’y participer.

Le ministre adjoint de l’Information du Hamas, Hassan Abu Hasheish, a déclaré cette semaine :

« Il y a eu 750 cas d’agression commis contre des gens du Hamas en Cisjordanie au cours de ces six dernières semaines. Je ne pense pas que les gens puissent tolérer et pardonner cela. Si les choses continuent ainsi ça va exploser. Voici ce que Fatah a fait à Gaza. »

(World Socialist Web Site, par Jean Shaoul)

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Actualité - Célébrons le Mouvement du 26 Juillet

Aujourd'hui est le 54e anniversaire de l'historique assaut contre les casernes de Moncada et de Carlos Manuel de Cespedes à Cuba. Il est important de prendre le temps de célébrer cette occasion si importante pour le peuple cubain à la réunion d'aujourd'hui du Comité organisateur de l'Association d'Amitié avec Cuba de Hamilton.

Le 26 juillet 1953, les forces révolutionnaires lancèrent deux attaques contre le Régime Batista, une contre la caserne de Moncada, à Santiago de Cuba, et l'autre contre la caserne de Carlos Manuel de Cespedes à Bayamo. La caserne de Moncada servait de quartier général du régime Batista dans le sud du pays et c'est là qu'était stationnée sa deuxième plus importante garnison.

Depuis le triomphe de la révolution cubaine en 1959, ce jour est célébré et des millions de Cubains participent aux célébrations. À chaque année les célébrations ont lieu dans une ville qui s'est distinguée par ses progrès sociaux et économiques au cours de l'année. En marquant cet anniversaire, le peuple cubain réaffirme sa détermination à défendre son droit de vivre libre de l'ingérence étrangère et de créer une société socialiste.

Les attaques furent exécutées par une nouvelle organisation créée en 1952 sous la direction de Fidel Castro et d'Abel Santamaría. C'était une organisation révolutionnaire clandestine sans nom précis, formée de jeunes travailleurs, d'étudiants, d'employés, d'artisans, de campesinos de différentes parties de l'île, etc. Elle comptait environ 1 500 membres et s'associait à des figures révolutionnaires du passé comme Eduardo Chibás et José Martí. Environ 120 jeunes ont participé à ces assauts, dont 70 furent tués durant et après l'attaque. D'autres, dont Fidel, furent arrêtés, torturés, jugés et/ou exécutés. Plusieurs, dont Fidel, furent amnistiés en mai 1955 par suite des mouvements de mobilisation populaire en appui aux prisonniers. Par exemple, à partir de 1955 des mères de prisonniers et d'autres Cubaines organisèrent une campagne pour libérer les rebelles emprisonnés. La société civile, comprenant des journalistes, intellectuels et personnalités politiques, émit un appel public réclamant «la liberté pour tous les prisonniers politiques». Cette année-là, le congrès cubain adopté une loi accordant l'amnistie générale aux prisonniers politiques. En réponse aux attaques, le régime de Batista intensifia la répression contre les forces progressistes comme jamais auparavant, avec des arrestations de masse de toute personne considérée comme suspecte, la censure et la suspension des droits constitutionnels. Autrement dit, la réponse immédiate du régime de Batista fut de criminaliser la jeunesse qui aspire à un monde meilleur. Les jeunes ont été accusés de violence, d'agitation et de calomnie, tout comme le sont les jeunes aujourd'hui qui luttent pour un autre monde. Le régime de Batista savait très bien que malgré la défaite des forces rebelles, les deux tentatives de prise d'assaut allaient inspirer et encourager le jeunes et les révolutionnaires, tous ceux qui voulaient une Cuba nouvelle.

Il est important de placer ces événements dans un contexte historique plus large. Le peuple cubain a combattu pendant des siècles pour s'affranchir du joug colonial. La lutte a été menée par une population formée en majeure partie de descendants d'esclaves africains amenés à Cuba après la dévastation des populations autochtones, et de mulâtres. C'est une histoire qui comprend plusieurs leaders et combattants remarquables toujours honorés à Cuba et dans le monde, comme José Martí. À la fin du dix-neuvième siècle, les forces révolutionnaires se rapprochaient plus que jamais de leur rêve de libération et de dignité. Une république fut créée en conséquence des ces efforts répétés. Mais les États-Unis, le nouvel empire qui naissait, ne l'acceptèrent pas. Par une politique d'agression et par des coups d'État, le régime Batista fut porté au pouvoir, un régime asservi aux intérêts américains comme on en n'avait jamais vu, qui s'affaira à saper la République et sa Constitution. Dans ce contexte naquit ce qu'on appela la Génération du Centenaire, la génération menée par Fidel Castro, culminant 50 années de lutte contre les gouvernements cubains asservis aux intérêts américains. Les jeunes étaient aux premières lignes et l'Université de La Havane devint une foyer important de l'opposition au gouvernement. C'est ainsi que les attaques du 26 juillet furent la continuation d'une longue histoire de lutte à Cuba, un maillon dans la longue chaîne d'événements qui allait mener à la Révolution de 1959.

Bien que la bataille fut perdue ce jour-là, elle rendit possible la victoire finale, la libération de Cuba du diktat américain et l'établissement d'un gouvernement populaire. Sa signification est dans la prise de position. Le peuple cubain planta son drapeau et ce fut un appel à la lutte. Aujourd'hui les casernes ont été transformées en une école et un Musée de la Révolution. Le mouvement révolutionnaire qui allait mener à la prise du pouvoir en 1959 prit pour nom la date de la tentative de prise d'assaut: le Mouvement du 26 Juillet. Lorsque Fidel fut arrêté, il se défendit lui-même en cour. Son plaidoyer de quatre heures fut enregistré et devint la plate-forme du Mouvement du 26 Juillet. J'aimerais citer quelques passages de ce plaidoyer intitulé «L'histoire n'acquittera»:

«...Il est question ici de principes fondamentaux, c'est le procès du droit des hommes d'être libres, c'est le fondement de notre existence en tant que nation civilisée et démocratique qui pèse dans la balance. [...]

«Pourquoi étions-nous convaincus de l'appui du peuple? Lorsque nous parlons du peuple, nous ne parlons pas de ceux qui vivent dans le confort, les éléments conservateurs de la nation qui accueillent favorablement tout régime répressif, toute dictature, tout despotisme, qui se prosternent devant les maîtres du moment. Lorsque nous parlons de la lutte et que nous mentionnons le peuple, nous parlons des grandes masses à qui tout le monde fait des promesses et qui sont trompées par tout le monde; nous parlons du peuple qui aspire à une nation meilleure, plus digne et plus juste; qui est mu par des aspirations ancestrales à la justice, car il a souffert l'injustice et la raillerie pendant des générations; qui aspire à de grands changements dans tous les aspects de la vie; ceux qui, pour réaliser ces changements, sont prêts à sacrifier le dernier souffle quand ils croient en quelque chose ou en quelqu'un, surtout quand ils croient en eux-mêmes. La première condition de sincérité et de bonne foi dans toute entreprise est de faire précisément ce que personne ne fait jamais, c'est-à-dire parler avec une clarté absolue, sans peur. Les démagogues et les politiciens professionnels qui parviennent à faire le miracle d'avoir raison en toute chose et de plaire à tout le monde trompent nécessairement tout le monde à propos de tout. Les révolutionnaires doivent proclamer leurs idées courageusement, définir leurs principes et exprimer leurs intentions pour que personne ne s'y méprenne, ni ami ni ennemi. [...]

«Mais je ne crains pas la prison, comme je ne crains pas la fureur du misérable tyran qui a enlevé la vie à 70 de mes camarades. Condamnez-moi, peu importe. L'histoire m'acquittera.»

Ainsi, commémorer ce jour c'est défendre les acquis du peuple cubain dans la libération de sa société du contrôle impérialiste et l'établissement d'un système socialiste avec un système de santé et d'éducation universel. Aujourd'hui au Canada l'Association d'amitié avec Cuba de Hamilton plante courageusement son drapeau. C'est le drapeau de la paix et de l'autodétermination, pour dire aux États-Unis et à tous ceux qui voudraient attaquer Cuba que nous ne le permettrons pas. Nous n'acceptons pas la négation du droit des peuples à la souveraineté et nous allons nous assurer que notre pays agisse en notre nom, qu'il s'oppose à l'isolement de Cuba et qu'il défende son droit d'être. L'Association d'amitié est pour un monde différent où les relations entre les peuples sont des relations d'amitié et de coopération, chacun dans son droit.

(Le Marxiste-Léniniste)

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Je donne la priorité à cette question, compte tenu de son importance, bien qu’il y en ait d’autres.

Je ne nierai pas que les prérogatives du pouvoir, qu’il soit réel, relatif ou fictif, exercent de l’influence sur les êtres humains, parce qu’ils ont tous été éduqués ainsi depuis des temps immémoriaux.

Je ne suis pas arrivé en un instant à mes idées actuelles sur le pouvoir, mais j’estime avoir été conséquent. J’attribue le modeste apport de notre Révolution au fait que nos réponses aux questions n’ont jamais régressé malgré le réalisme cru que nous a imposé le blocus brutal de l’Empire.

Je parlais dans mes réflexions du 31 juillet de ce que représentait pour moi la possibilité d’avoir disposé d’une année pour réunir des informations et réfléchir à fond à des problèmes vitaux qui menacent plus que jamais notre espèce.

Le 24 juillet dernier, l’agence de presse russe Ria Novosti a publié l’information suivante :

« Le général Leonid Ivachov, expert de la défense, a signalé que le principal instrument de la politique étasunienne sont les diktats économiques, financiers, technologiques et militaires.

« En les imposant, les Etats-Unis s’efforcent de s’assurer l’hégémonie mondiale. Leur stratégie de sécurité nationale indique explicitement qu’il leur faut garantir un accès soutenu, autrement dit contrôlé, aux régions clefs de la planète, aux communications stratégiques et aux ressources mondiales. Il s’agit d’une stratégie entérinée par une loi, ce qui nous conduit à la conclusion que des conflits encore plus redoutables avec la Russie, la Chine et l’Inde attendent les Etats-Unis à l’avenir.

« Washington s’obstine à mettre en place un système capable de neutraliser le potentiel nucléaire de ses rivaux stratégiques, Moscou et Beijing, pour assurer son monopole sur le terrain militaire. Les Etats-Unis veulent déployer leur bouclier antimissile non seulement en Europe mais aussi ailleurs dans le monde pour pouvoir espionner tout ce qui se passe en Russie et en Chine. Ils s’efforcent aussi d’accroître leur arsenal offensif à un rythme supérieur même à celui de la Guerre froide.

« Après l’effondrement de l’Union soviétique, l’OTAN a perdu le caractère défensif qu’elle avait eu depuis sa fondation en 1949 pour se transformer en un outil puissant et agressif au service de l’oligarchie mondiale, soucieuse d’établir sa mainmise à l’échelle planétaire. Le nouveau concept stratégique de l’Alliance, adopté en avril 1999 grâce aux pressions des Etats-Unis, envisage des fonctions novatrices et élargit son domaine de compétence au monde entier, sans plus se borner à l’Atlantique Nord. Le secrétaire actuel de l’OTAN, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, visite fréquemment l’Australie, la Nouvelle-Zélande et le Japon. L’Alliance a aussi commencé à passer par-dessus le droit international et le Conseil de sécurité des Nations Unies. Entre temps, les USA stimulent l’expansion de l’OTAN et refusent de ratifier le Traité sur les forces armées classiques en Europe (FACE), s’arrogeant le droit d’agir sans la moindre limitation et de configurer les troupes à leur guise.

« Les USA font n’importe quoi pour que la Russie ne soit pas un acteur autonome. Les débats sur la défense antimissile, l’Iran et le Kosovo n’ont pas engendré des formules de compromis.

« Il est important que la Russie consolide ses positions et récupère son potentiel géopolitique. Au début des années 70, quand Moscou avait assuré la parité nucléaire avec Washington, celui-ci s’était rendu compte qu’il ne pourrait pas l’emporter sur le terrain militaire et il a accepté de négocier sur un pied d’égalité, signant le Traité de défense antimissile (ABM) en 1972 et les traités suivants sur la Limitation des armes stratégiques offensives (SALT). La seule chose que respectent les USA, c’est la force. S’ils se sentent en position de force supérieure, ils ne font jamais de concessions à personne.

« Pour neutraliser leurs visées d’hégémonie mondiale, il faut ériger un pôle alternatif, et il existe d’ores et déjà une base pour le faire : l’Organisation de coopération de Shanghai (OCS)

« En fait, il semble quelque peu incorrect de parler des forces étasuniennes. Les USA ont une puissance militaire, une économie vigoureuse et une quantité énorme de monnaie forte qu’ils peuvent imprimer à l’infini, mais leur niveau géopolitique s’est effondré : les USA inspirent très peu de confiance politique au reste du monde.

« En 1999, la Chine et la Russie ont signalé devant l’Assemblée générale des Nations Unies qu’il fallait préserver le traité ABM de 1972. Tous les pays ont voté cette résolution, sauf quatre : les USA, Israël, l’Albanie et la Micronésie. Ce vote témoigne de l’isolement international total des Etats-Unis.

« Il sera impossible de régler la situation au Moyen-Orient, dans les Balkans, dans la péninsule coréenne et dans d’autres régions de la planète sans la participation de la Russie. Ceci s’applique aussi à la Chine, qui est capable de résister aux pressions des USA. La Chine jouit d’un grand prestige dans le monde, possède une économie puissante et une monnaie forte.

« L’OCS devrait recruter de nouveaux alliés et conjuguer le potentiel des pays qui le souhaiteraient et seraient capables de suivre une politique autonome. Il faut tout d’abord proclamer officiellement le refus des visées d’hégémonie mondiale des USA. Ensuite, la Chine et la Russie devraient dénoncer devant le Conseil de sécurité des Nations Unes le déploiement du système ABM étasunien en tant qu’action qui modifie l’architecture de sécurité mondiale et menace l’ensemble de la communauté internationale. La Chine, l’Inde et la Russie pourraient former un front unique contre les diktats des USA. Il est aussi possible d’envisager de stabiliser le système financier mondial. L’OCS pourrait formuler une philosophie novatrice fondée sur l’harmonie des civilisations et sur l’usage rationnel des ressources naturelles. La plupart des Etats soutiendraient sûrement ces mesures, j’en suis convaincu. Un nouveau pôle politique, le pôle de la paix, verrait ainsi le jour. La mission de l’OCS est de créer un nouveau modèle de développement au profit de la civilisation humaine.

« Seule une alliance de civilisations pourrait s’opposer à l’Empire étasunien : la russe, dont l’orbite inclut la Communauté d’Etats indépendants (CEI), la chine, l’indienne, l’islamique et la latino-américaine. Il s’agit d’un espace immense où nous pourrions créer des marchés plus équitables, notre propre système financier à caractère stable, notre mécanisme de sécurité collective et notre philosophie, fondée sur la priorité du développement intellectuel de l’homme face à la civilisation occidentale moderne qui mise sur les biens matériels et mesure la réussite à l’aune des grandes demeures, des yachts et des restaurants. Notre mission est de réorienter le monde vers la justice et le développement intellectuel et spirituel. »

Voilà l’essentiel des idées d’Ivachov, transmises par Ria Novosti.

Précisons que le général Leonid Ivachov est vice-président de l’Académie des questions géopolitiques, et qu’il a été secrétaire du Conseil des ministres de défense de la Communauté d’Etats indépendants et chef du département de coopération militaire du ministère de la Défense de la Fédération de Russie.

Le 11 septembre 2001, date des tragiques événements de New York qui ont servi de prétexte aux Etats-Unis pour jeter, voilà presque six ans, les bases de leur politique génocidaire, le général Ivachov était chef d’état-major des forces armées russes. Quelqu’un de vraiment bien informé. Il vaut la peine que notre peuple connaisse ses points de vue.

La Révolution cubaine, cela saute aux yeux, s’est toujours préoccupée de l’éducation du peuple.

C’est partant de ma propre expérience que je suis très vite arrivé à la conclusion que seule la conscience politique pouvait l’emporter sur les instincts qui nous régissent. Compte tenu des avancées technologiques, on parle maintenant de la possibilité de manipuler les fonctions des cellules du cerveau. A quoi servirait tout ça dans un monde où règne la valeur commerciale des biens et services ? Quelle autorité en décidera ? Par ce biais et par le vol éhonté des cerveaux – un phénomène sur lequel il ne faut cesser d’insister avec obstination – on pourrait détruire ce qui vaut le plus en l’être humain : son éducation à travers la conscience.

Les laboratoires produisent des médicaments qui sauvent des vies, ce qui serait socialement très utile si on les pouvait les mettre à la portée de tout le monde. Mais les laboratoires fabriquent aussi toutes sortes d’armements qui peuvent mettre fin à la vie humaine.

La publicité commerciale et la surconsommation sont inconciliables avec la survie de notre espèce. Vous aurez beau faire tous les calculs possibles, vous serez forcés de constater que les ressources naturelles, l’espace, le climat, le temps et le système, au rythme et dans la direction où ils vont, ne le supporteront pas.

Fidel Castro Ruz

3 août 2007

(Granma International)

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Actualité - Les techniques d’interrogatoire de la CIA provoquent de graves troubles mentaux

WASHINGTON, le 3 août. – Les techniques utilisées dans les interrogatoires auxquelles la CIA soumet les supposés terroristes peuvent provoquer des troubles mentaux et constituent des pratiques illégales aux Etats-Unis, selon les déclarations jeudi des organisations physiques pour les droits de l’homme et les droits humains premier.

Les conclusions du rapport, élaboré par des chercheurs médicaux et juridiques des deux associations, sont basées sur une vaste documentation médicale et sur les témoignages de plusieurs victimes de tortures.

Les chercheurs ont analysé les techniques de la CIA, qui comprennent la privation sensorielle et du sommeil, l’exposition des prisonniers à une chaleur ou un froid extrême durant de longues périodes, le placement des prisonniers dans des positions très inconfortables et la simulation de l’asphyxie de l’interrogé par une technique connue sous le nom de « waterboarding ».

Le rapport indique que certaines pratiques peuvent provoquer des troubles psychologiques de longue durée. Par exemple, le stress post-traumatique, une psychose ou une dépression qui peuvent mener jusqu’au suicide. C’est pourquoi les chercheurs considèrent que ces techniques de torture sont illégales aux Etats-Unis, rapporte AP.

(Granma International)

Libellés :

Actualité - De nouveaux territoires boliviens libérés de l’analphabétisme

LA PAZ.- La commune de Tito Yupanki, située dans la province de Manco Kapac, à la frontière avec le Pérou, est devenue aujourd’hui la 16e du territoire bolivien a se déclarer libérée de l’analphabétisme.

En hissant le drapeau blanc dans cette ville du nord-est de La Paz, le coordinateur national du programme Moi, je peux, Benito Ayma, a remercié l’apport de la solidarité cubaine à cette nouvelle victoire dans le combat contre l’ignorance.

Ayma a expliqué que pour le moment, le pays andin a enseigné la lecture et l’écriture à 175 000 personnes grâce à cette méthode audiovisuelle moderne, et actuellement plus d’un demi-million d’illettrés étudient dans les salles de cours.

L’objectif d’alphabétiser 1 200 000 adultes âgés de plus de 15 ans avant la fin de l’année 2008, a-t-il souligné, permettra de déclarer la Bolivie libre de ce fléau. Il serait ainsi le troisième pays d’Amérique latine sans analphabètes, après Cuba et le Venezuela.

Par la suite, le ministre conseiller de la mission diplomatique cubaine en Bolivie, Danilo Sanchez, a expliqué aux diplômés l’importance de continuer à approfondir leur savoir-faire en pratiquant la lecture et l’écriture, dans le cadre du processus de post-alphabétisation.

Sanchez a également signalé qu’au cours de ce mois de juillet, de nombreux apprenants ont reçu leur diplôme dans les neuf provinces du pays, et il a appelé les personnes diplômées à faire part de l’importance de ce programme dans le cadre du processus de changement qu’effectue le Gouvernement d’Evo Morales. (PL)

(Granma International)

Libellés :

samedi, juillet 21, 2007

Actualité - How to Sell an Endless War

Buy Hard

The current Bush administration has sometimes been very frank about the need to sell the 'war on terror', and many of the elements used to sell that attack on Iraq--the intelligence dossiers, the unsourced revelations, the denigration of hard evidence, the cosying-up to prominent exiles--are now being used to sell an attack on Iran. With some 22 minutes out of every hour on US TV given over to advertising, the public is accustomed to being sold things on the promise of nirvana if they only succumb. If the Iraq debacle is anything to go by, the process can be extended--remarkably smoothly, in many ways--to selling (and buying) a war.

Andy Card, George W. Bush's chief of staff, said Congress had not been asked in August 2002 to authorise military force in Iraq because "From a marketing point of view, you don't introduce new products in August." When Colin Powell appointed a Madison Avenue advertising star, Charlotte Beers, as undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs, he explained on 6 September 2001: "I wanted one of the world's greatest advertising experts, because what are we doing? We're selling. We're selling a product democracy the free enterprise system, the American value system." This was less direct than Andy Card, but one could easily add 'war' to this list of goodies since war--particularly after the cataclysm of five days later - was the chosen way of achieving these benefits. Rampton and Stauber commented: "Rather than changing the way we actually relate to the people of the Middle East, [US officials] still dream of fixing their image through some new marketing campaign cooked up in Hollywood or Madison Avenue."

But how, exactly, do you sell a war? The usual rules of advertising seem to serve just fine. The first rule is: repeat your message often enough and people will believe it. Adolph Hitler had already taken this insight into the political sphere: "The receptivity of the great masses is very limited, their intelligence is small, but their power of forgetting is enormous [Propaganda] must confine itself to a few points and repeat them over and over." Hitler, in fact, made the connection with commercial advertising explicit: "All advertising, whether in the field of business or politics, achieves success through the continuity and sustained uniformity of its application." In her book The Origins of Totalitarianism, Hannah Arendt noted the reliance of Soviet and Nazi leaders on repeating lies.

After 9/11, US government officials repeatedly stressed the links between Iraq and 9/11. Bush frequently linked bin Laden and Saddam Hussein in the same breath, though he was pretty tricky in the exact wording, suggesting he knew it was an artful lie. In an October 2002 opinion poll, 66 per cent of Americans said they believed Saddam Hussein was involved in the 9/11 attacks, and 79 per cent said he possessed, or was close to possessing, nuclear weapons. As late as July 2006, 64 per cent of US respondents still believed Saddam had maintained strong links to al-Qaida and 50 per cent believed he had harboured weapons of mass destruction. Reporters who interviewed US soldiers in Kuwait on the eve of the war in Iraq were shocked to find them convinced they were going to fight 'terrorists', a misconception that--as Max Rodenbeck points out - surely fed into the frequent instances of overly aggressive behaviour.

Now the official focus has switched to Iran, whose government, according to Bush, is "belligerent, loud, noisy, threatening". There were no less than five mentions of Iran in Bush's January 2007 State of the Union address and Iran is constantly in the news.

A second rule of advertising is: find some memorable catch-phrases. After Bush introduced the phrase "axis of evil" in a January 2002 speech, Woodward reported, "[Deputy Defence Secretary Paul] Wolfowitz saw once again how important it was to grab the headlines, and he was reminded that academics didn't get it. Oversimplification was required in a sound-bite culture." When Rumsfeld mentioned the concept of "shock and awe", Bush said it was a catchy notion. Another common sound-bite was the "smoking gun"--as when Bush said of Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction, "we cannot wait for the final proof, the smoking gun, that could come in the form of a nuclear cloud." More recent catch-phrases suggest a shifting definition of the enemy and an intensifying spotlight on Iran. Bush noted in August 2006 that the US was "at war with Islamic fascists", while Blair (echoing the "axis of evil") has invoked an "arc of extremism" in the Middle East and beyond, adding that expansion of Iranian power calls for an "arc of moderation" to pin it back.

A third rule of advertising is to promise big benefits from your product. This is common-sense but it may be done quite subtly. Advertising has a strong strain of wish-fulfilment--it appeals to a pervasive and powerful kind of magical thinking. Typically, the product is portrayed as possessing magical qualities that will bring you love, sex, respect, security, or some combination of these. Raymond Williams argued that the problem with consumer society is not that we are too materialistic, but that we are not materialistic enough; if we were sensibly materialistic, if we confined our interest to the usefulness of objects, we would find most advertising to be of insane irrelevance.

The magical thinking behind the 'war on terror' is what allows such a radical disconnect between problem and solution--most glaringly, between 9/11 and attacking Iraq. Arendt noted in The Origins of Totalitarianism that it can be very attractive when leaders offer solutions with a degree of certainty; the illogical nature of the proposed 'solution' (for example, eliminating the Jews as a remedy for Germany's military and economic problems) does not necessarily make it any less attractive. Arendt also noted that the need for certainty may be particularly intense in circumstances where people's own economic and social circumstances are precarious; she suggested that part of the appeal of fascism was that the identification of a clearly-identified enemy--whilst frightening--was less frightening and less disorienting than a world in which the source of insecurity remained obscure.

That analysis resonates today. In his book What's the matter with Kansas?, Thomas Frank provides a revealing case-study of how economic insecurity has fed into support for Bush and for right-wing politicians more generally. Frank argues that in Kansas (and, by extension, much of middle America), a longstanding hostility towards big corporations has been displaced into a 'backlash' politics that includes hostility towards foreign enemies, towards a range of 'outgroups', and towards the forces (like science, evolution, secularism and pluralism) that seem to undermine old and comfortable certainties.

Whilst the Bush administration has significantly exacerbated domestic inequality and insecurity, the search for scapegoats precedes his regime. In her 1999 book Stiffed, Susan Faludi considered how economic security in the US had corroded traditional masculine roles centred on on protecting and providing. She wrote of "the search for someone to blame for the premature death of masculine promise", and she elaborated:

What began in the 1950s as an intemperate pursuit of Communists in the government bureaucracy, in the defence industries, in labor unions, the schools, the media, and Hollywood, would eventually become a hunt for a shape-shifting enemy who could take the form of women at the office, or gays in the military, or young black men on the street, or illegal aliens on the border, and from there become a surreal 'combat' with nonexistent black helicopters, one-world government, and goose-stepping UN peacekeeping thugs massing on imaginary horizons.
The desire to find some kind of an enemy was already in place, in other words. It seems that the terrorist - perhaps the ultimate shape-shifter with his civilian garb, his fluctuating 'state backers', and his tendency to disintegrate at the moment of his greatest crime--has stepped into an existing template.

Much earlier instances of scapegoating were illuminated in Keith Thomas's classic study Religion and the Decline of Magic. Thomas noted that when suffering is not explicable within existing frameworks, human beings have tended to resort to magical thinking--in other words, to turn to solutions with no logical or scientific connection to the problem. The limits of medical knowledge in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, for example, created a powerful impulse to explain illness through 'witchcraft'.

Today, in the face of the 'disease' of contemporary terrorism and the increased disorientation and anxiety after 9/11, severe shortcomings in state-based and economics-based explanatory frameworks have helped to create political and intellectual space for explanations and prescriptions that are once more leading us into the realms of the superstitious and the persecutory. In many ways, we are witnessing a return to magical thinking--the belief and hope that we can re-order the world to our liking by mere force of will or by actions that have no logical connection to the problem we are addressing. And as the old witch-hunts, it is the weakness of the victim that attracts the persecutor--the lack of weapons-of-mass-destruction, the inability to hit the US.

The personalities of both George W. Bush and Tony Blair have apparently contributed to this latest wave of magical thinking. US analyst Joe Klein said of Bush, "The President seems to believe that wishing will make it so." Novelist Doris Lessing said of Blair "He believes in magic. That if you say a thing, it is true." Commenting on Blair and the supposed Iraqi 'weapons of mass destruction', Polly Toynbee observed that the British Prime Minister "is so easily carried away by the persuasiveness of his own words and the force of his own arguments that you can hear him mesmerise himself There is an almost childish blurring between the wish and the fact: if he says something strongly enough, his words can magic it into truth" Perhaps the the most convincing salesmen actually do believe in their products (or at least have persuaded themselves to believe); but believing and cajoling have increasingly been revealed as insufficient. In a recent Foreign Affairs article, Blair argues that confronting 'Islamist terrorism' means not only using force but also "telling them that their attitude toward the United States is absurd, that their concept of governance is pre-feudal, that their positions on women and other faiths are reactionary." It also means rejecting "their false sense of grievance against the West". These words may have magical powers that only Blair is aware of; the rest of us may wonder how helpful or persuasive it is to be told that your attitudes are 'absurd' or your grievances are 'false'.
In the 'war on terror', key policy-makers have adopted (and sometimes openly expressed) the idea that you do not need evidence on which to base something as serious (and incendiary) as a war. Rumsfeld came close to acknowledging this with his statement that "absence of evidence is not evidence of absence of weapons of mass destruction". Notoriously, M16 chief Sir Richard Dearlove told a Downing Street meeting in July 2002 that in the US "the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy". More recently, in January 2007, Richard Perle noted that when it came to assessing the nuclear threat from Iran, "You can't afford to wait for all the evidence".

There are some indications that, for the Bush administration, the aim has not been to study reality (and then base behaviour on it) but to create reality. In the summer of 2002, journalist and author Ron Suskind met with one of Bush's senior advisers, who was unhappy with an article Suskind had written about the administration's media relations. The adviser commented that:

guys like me were "in what we call the reality-based community," which he defined as people who "believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality." I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. "That's not the way the world really works anymore," he continued. "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality - judiciously, as you will--we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do."

A fourth rule of advertising is that you are selling not only the product but also the problem or threat that the product is alleged to address. To sell the toilet-cleaner, in other words, you have to sell the germs. By extension, to sell the 'war on terror', you have to sell the terror. Of course, 9/11 was a horrifying fact, as were the bombings in Madrid and London that followed the invasion of Iraq. But we now know that the threat from Iraq was systematically exaggerated. Moreover, for all the fears being whipped up in relation to Iran, the threat of a direct attack on the US by Iran is small, particularly when compared with the threat of total obliteration by the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Of 42 terrorist organisations listed by the US State Department, only a handful (all linked to al-Qaida) have ever attacked the US or indicated that they wish to do so.

A fifth rule in advertising is another very basic one: you stress that the product will not cost much. Selling the attack on Iraq was like selling a dodgy mortgage: the cost looked reasonable but after a certain period--surprise!--the rates went up dramatically. Just before the Iraq war, the Pentagon estimated that it would cost about $50 billion. Wolfowitz told Congress, "There is a lot of money to pay for this [the Iraq war]. It doesn't have to be US taxpayer money. We are talking about a country that can finance its own reconstruction and relatively soon." Bush underlined the promise in the case of the 'war on terror' by pushing through tax-cuts in the run-up to war. (Indeed, the belief that major foreign and domestic problems can be magically solved without raising significant new taxes is something that seems to have united the Republican Bush and Labour's Blair.)

The impression that war would be relatively costless was reinforced by the incitement to a spending spree in the tough-talking aftermath of 9/11. Whilst the US intervention in World War Two had led to a concerted recycling effort and to rationing of gasoline and food, 9/11 led only to calls to US consumers to maintain their spending as a patriotic duty: there was to be a veritable feast at the wake. On 17 October 2001, Bush declared, "They want us to stop flying and they want us to stop buying, but this great nation will not be intimidated by the evildoers." Yet somehow, sometime, the costs of war will have to be met.

US Congressional Budget Office figures reveal that the Iraq war is currently absorbing some 200 million dollars a day. The total bill so far: $400 billion--a sum that economist Linda Bilmes says could provide health insurance for all the uninsured Americans. Assuming a gradual withdrawal of US troops that will be complete by 2015, Bilmes and renowned economist Joseph Stiglitz calculate the war could end up costing almost $2.5 trillion.

Before the Iraq invasion, promising low costs also included promising low troop commitments and low casualties - the latter reflecting, in part, an emphasis on technological 'advances' like Cruise missiles. Rumsfeld in particular promoted the idea of quick and relatively costless military solutions. Once again, this deceptive brand of magic has hardly borne scrutiny. Death and war are blood brothers who do not wish to be separated, and what was supposed to be 'a new kind of war' has turned out to be a pretty old kind in many ways. As of April 5th 2007, a total of 3,259 American soldiers had been confirmed as killed in Iraq. More than 50,000 US soldiers have been wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the cost of looking after them could eventually run to some $536 billion. An October 2006 study in The Lancet suggested that some 655,000 had died as a result of the US-led invasion--a careful calculation made by a team from Johns Hopkins university.

The increasingly obvious costs of the 'war on terror' potentially present a problem that is familiar to consumer society more generally: the problem of dealing with broken promises. Consumerism has to sustain itself in the face of a reasonably consistent and persistent failure to bring happiness by means of a new skirt, car, deodorant, floor-cleaner or whatever. The trump card is that the dissatisfaction arising from the false promises of advertising is not so much a problem as a solution: it creates continued demand! This is the perverse genius of capitalism, and it was implicitly celebrated in an unusually frank in-store 2004 campaign by London's department store Selfridges, which reminded its customers, "You want it, you buy it, you forget it". If skillfully manipulated, frustrated desires can be encouraged to home in on some new product, some new promise that is also unlikely to be fulfilled. The process can be remarkably seamless and shameless.

US officials have an impressive CV when it comes to selling the useless and expensive wars that sustain the country's vast armaments industry, and the 'war on terror' is only the latest in a long line. Served either hot or Cold, these serial wars have never quite delivered what they promised--either to the ordinary citizens of America or to the wider world. After the stand-off with the Soviet Union (with its huge financial costs and horrendous human costs in the developing world) came the 'war on drugs' (which fuelled paramilitary abuses in Colombia, for example), and the US stand-off with 'rogue states'.

The 'war on terror' has itself mutated with great speed. In 1996, the Taliban was welcomed by Western diplomats as a relatively palatable and pliable alternative to the warlords terrorising Afghanistan. But this was soon forgotten as al-Qaida moved centre-stage and the Taliban was increasingly seen as a key backer. The toppling of Taliban was not an initial aim of the US-led war; the stated purpose was to bring justice to those responsible for 9/11 and eliminate their bases. But again this was quickly forgotten. The 2001 attacks on Afghanistan did not bring peace, either there or in the wider world. Again, this was not necessarily a problem so long as the TV crews disappeared and some new crisis could be brought to western TV screens.

A key way that you make people forget their dissatisfaction with what they have been offered is precisely by offering them something new. A small child has started crying and the minder picks up a rattle, saying "Here, take a look at this!" Suddenly, the child is not crying any more. At a meeting of the National Security Council on 25 September 2001, Donald Rumsfeld said, "Look, as part of the war on terrorism, should we be getting something going in another area, other than Afghanistan, so that success or failure and progress isn't measured just by Afghanistan?" The debacle in Iraq has itself produced an urge for some new distraction, perhaps a war that will focus on aerial bombing and will not be so costly in terms of American lives. This "new, improved" product--seriously entertained in relation to Iran - has already been road-tested in Lebanon and Somalia.

Meanwhile, the bizarre 'beauty' of the 'war on terror' is not only that it fails to remove the security deficit; it actively creates demand! First, it fosters a general sense of dread within the West: since we are 'at war', it is logical to conclude that the enemy must be powerful and pervasive. Second, the 'war on terror' predictably produces new terrorists. Over time, the exaggeration of threats is made more plausible by the creation of enemies. Iraq was labeled a source of terror, and it has obligingly become so. The whole fiasco is almost a copybook case of Hannah Arendt's 'action-as-propaganda', a concept she explained by pointing to "the advantages of a propaganda that constantly 'adds the power of organization' to the feeble and unreliable voice of argument, and thereby realizes, so to speak, on the spur of the moment, whatever it says."

The idea that strengthening the enemy is actually functional may sound bizarre, but it all depends on your goals. Winning is not everything. Making money and winning elections are also important. Being seen to be winning may sometimes be paramount. During the attack on Afghanistan in 2001, US officials "admitted privately that they would soon be running out of things to bomb--and running short of the videos that help keep public support for the war afloat". (As with music sales, a short video can do wonders.) Woodward noted, "[Deputy Secretary of Defence Paul] Wolfowitz said that the Taliban were getting reinforcements but [General Tommy] Franks [head of US Central Command] thought that had a good news side--it would create more targets."

The predictably counterproductive effects of attacking Iraq also throw doubt on whether defeating terror is really a core aim. Certainly, the war has been counterproductive. An assessment by 16 US intelligence agencies found that the invasion and occupation of Iraq had helped to create a new generation of Islamic radicalism and that the overall terrorist threat had grown since 9/11. One study found a sevenfold increase in the yearly rate of fatal jihadist attacks when comparing the period between 9/11 and the start of the Iraq invasion and the following period up to end-September 2006. When "terrorist attacks" inside Iraq and Afghanistan were excluded, there was still a rise of more than one-third. The probably of terror attacks in a particular country rose if the country had troops in Iraq, was close to Iraq, had a significant degree of identification with the Iraqi people and exchanged ideas or personnel with Iraqi jihadist groups.

Some products have an inherently limited demand: there are only so many potatoes you can eat until you feel full. Some have a level of demand that can be increased through advertising: whilst a person only needs a limited number of sweaters: the dictates of fashion can overcome this awkward fact. Still other products have an intrinsically magical quality: the more you have, the more you seem to need. This may be because the products are addictive, or because they help to create a world in which they seem more and more 'essential'. Drugs and guns have both these happy qualities, and so does the 'war on terror'. (Note that the warmongers are not simply selling war but also the instruments of war: each new instalment of perpetual warfare--not least in the 'war on terror' - brings a chance to advertise your high-tech killing wares; in this sense, as Jean Baudrillard noted, war is advertising. )

We know that selling something frequently represents an opportunity to sell something else: would you like a nice stand for that TV, sir, or some shoes to go with that suit? Moreover, if a product is unreliable, this is not so much a problem as an opportunity to sell insurance. Finally, if after a while the product becomes useless of even downright dangerous, this conveniently creates demand for a replacement. Indeed, this process may have an element of design: they used to call it 'built-in obsolescence', a technique that works best when the manufacturer has a monopoly of what is being sold. (This need for a monopoly makes it doubly unfortunate that in the US the Democrats have, until recently, tended to fall in line with the solutions peddled by the Republican administration).

In the quasi-monopolistic conditions of American politics, it seems the frustrated desire for security can always be harnessed to some new promise, some new war, some new threat: whether it is Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Somalia, Syria, Iran or North Korea. For those in search of safety and certainty, war has both the advantages and limitations of a drug or a spot of 'retail therapy': each new war we buy into can bring some temporary relief in the context of a general free-floating powerlessness; but this inevitably wears off and before long you may need another hit to make you feel better. All it requires, to keep the dysfunctional system going, is that we quickly and obligingly forget how badly the last 'solution' worked, that we erase how soon the good trip turned to bad, that we subscribe to the new definition of evil as readily as the media-drenched 'proles' of George Orwell's 1984, that we choke off our disillusion through some new fever; in short, that we take the Selfridges slogan and let it seduce us into supporting whatever war is currently on offer: "You want it, you buy it, you forget it".

Gore Vidal had much earlier referred to the "United States of Amnesia", and Rumsfeld himself happily observed of journalists, "they've got the attention-span of gnats". TV seems to be the perfect medium here. A survey in the US by a team at the University of Massachusetts during the 1991 Iraq war found: "The more TV people watched, the less they knew Despite months of coverage, most people do not know basic facts about the political situation in the Middle East, or about the recent history of US policy towards Iraq."

With no sense of history, it is easy to portray the actions of 'the other side' as naked, unprovoked aggression; the element of retaliation is obscured. A good example may be the much-publicised capture of 15 British sailors by Iranian authorities. How many people realize that this is quite likely to represent retaliation for the capture by US officials in northern Iraq of five Iranian officials, a raid apparently aimed at two very high-ranking Iranian security officials?

Capitalism and the 'war on terror' not only help to sustain one another but they also have this in common: they worship success but are nourished by failure. As dutiful consumers, we must pat ourselves on the back for our high standards of living, and yet we can never admit that we have enough. We celebrate our economic victory (as individuals, as 'the West', as 'developed' nations) - and America's particularly high levels of consumption are sometimes taken as attaching a special, other-worldly seal of approval to 'God's own country'. But at the same time we are constantly reminded, every hour of every day, of what we do not have and of all the material and physical desires (often re-defined as'needs') that remain unfulfilled. The 'war on terror' works in something of the same way. We celebrate each (fleeting) military victory (which some see, again, as attaching God's approval to this endeavour). But we are constantly reminded--by the government, by the police, by journalists - of what we do not have, and all the ways in which our need for security and certainty remain chronically unfulfilled. We are forever winning the 'war on terror', in other words, but there is always so much more to do. One day Bush is standing aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln after the fall of Saddam and declaring under a banner proclaiming 'Mission Accomplished': "We do not know the day of final victory, but we have seen the turning of the tide." Twelve days later, there are bombings in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and in a special on the 'war on terror', Time magazine has to break the news to its readers: "No, it's not over." Each terror attack serves to remind us that we remain chronically in need of those whom we know (but somehow keep forgetting) are making the problem worse.

In this macabre dance of officialdom and the media, victory and failure are simultaneously glorified, and each failure--in a pattern that has long characterised humanitarian relief, for example - is redefined as both 'need' and 'opportunity'. Is the doctrine of deterrence increasingly redundant in the face of suicide attacks? Then we must renew our commitment to it by deterring states from supporting terrorists that they do not, in any case, support! Has the technology of the West been turned against itself on 9/11 by attackers armed with no more than knives, box-cutters and a willingness to die? Then we must have more technology: more high-tech weapons, more smart weapons and drones! Are terrorists angry at our meddling in the Middle East? Then we must meddle some more! Is Iraq falling apart? Then we must attack Iran!

Apparently confident of our capacity to forget, the official response to dissatisfaction with the 'war on terror' seems to be that we have not been trying--or buying--hard enough. Referring to the battle with "Islamist extremism", Tony Blair asks, "Why are we not yet succeeding?" His answer: "Because we are not being bold enough, consistent enough, thorough enough in fighting for the values we believe in."

When Meyrav Wurmser, a prominent neo-con and director of the Centre for Middle East Policy at the Hudson Institute, said of the Iraq situation, "It's a mess, isn't it?", there were promising hints of a neo-con rethink. But as with many neo-cons, her plea has been for more of the same: "My argument has always been that this war is senseless if you don't give it a regional context." Wurmser explains further: "The objective was to change the face of the Middle East. But it was impossible to create a mini-democracy amidst a sea of dictatorships looking to destroy this poor democracy, and thus, where do insurgents in Iraq come from? From Iran and Syria." She adds that "many parts of the American administration" wanted Israel to attack Syria rather than Hizbollah, seeing the former course as likely to weaken Iran and weaken rebellion in Iraq. Of course, the forcible ending of Sunni dominance in Iraq under Saddam Hussain has itself boosted Iranian influence in Iraq, where the Shi'a majority has gained in power through democratization.

Evidence from witch-hunts past and present suggests that they operate within closed systems of thought that make them difficult to challenge. When the killing or banishment of a witch does not eliminate a particular problem, the conclusion is usually not that the witch-hunt was ill-conceived but that more witches must be found. Even as the number of chosen enemy shifts with Orwellian rapidity, this is disguised with the insistence that "they are all the same, really"--an essentially racist discourse that angers and belittles those on the receiving end. Tony Blair recently came up with a typical example of this 'lumping':The struggle against terrorism in Madrid, or London, or Paris is the same as the struggle against the terrorist acts of Hezbollah in Lebanon, or Palestinian Islamic Jihad in the Palestinian territories, or rejectionist groups in Iraq. The murder of the innocent in Beslan is part of the same ideology that takes innocent lives in Libya, Saudi Arabia, or Yemen. And when Iran gives support to such terrorism, it becomes part of the same battle, with the same ideology at its heart.

Blair says that what these groups have in common is that they hate "us", a formulation that panders to his audience's sense of self-importance. But not everyone is buying either the reckless, mutating definitions of the enemy or the policy of endless war as a route to peace. For all the mind-numbing influence of sound-bites and 'real-time' TV, lies may not be forgotten overnight, and the false promise of a quick and easy solution to the desire for security have been increasingly exposed as such. Many US soldiers and relatives had the impression that taking Baghdad would be the soldiers' ticket home. But as early as July 2003, Julian Borger noted of the home-base of the US's Third Infantry Division in the state of Georgia, "Hinesville feels the pain of a war that is refusing to end as neatly as was advertised."

In relation to Iraq, the warmongers' plan (again in line with Arendt's analysis of totalitarianism) was that action would serve as the most effective propaganda. Thus, the late Robin Cook recalled of Blair, "In the many conversations we had in the run-up to the war, he always assumed that the war would end in victory, and that military triumph would silence the critics." Prior to the attack on Iraq, Bush's close adviser Karl Rove proclaimed: "Everything will be measured by results. The victor is always right. History ascribes to the victor qualities that may not actually have been there. And similarly to the defeated." Another statement was very similar to Rove's: "The victor will not be asked afterwards whether he told the truth or not. When starting and waging a war it is not right that matters, but victory." That last statement was from Adolf Hitler in 1939.

Part of the problem, for Bush and Blair, is that relying on 'victory' to generate legitimacy is clearly a double-edged sword. Moreover, those who claim that God is on their side may be particularly vulnerable to a loss of popularity and prestige when defeat or stalemate implies that God is more ambivalent.

Meanwhile, although the salesmen of war have shaped and manipulated the debate, dissent can never be stifled completely. Noam Chomsky has suggested that effective propaganda tends to involve slogans that nobody is going to oppose and that will not encourage people to think. Thus, 'Support our troops!' works well; 'Support our policy!' does not work so well. The official mantra has been that opposing the 'war on terror' is disloyal to 'our soldiers'. But now we find old slogans neatly subverted, as in this American banner: "Support our troops--bring them home." Take a look at, and you can see how part of the problem (the American love affair with the car and the accompanying thirst for oil) is being turned into part of the solution: those stuck in traffic can now read a range of improvised banners on bridges and roadsides with slogans like "Nobody died when Clinton lied", "A nation of sheep soon begets a government of wolves", and "655,000 Dead Iraqis and I'm still paying $2.69 for unleaded." It seems peace, too, can be advertised with skill and ingenuity.

The Swedish diplomat and arms inspector Hans Blix summed up the Iraq debacle well. Noting that US and UK governments presumably claimed their certainty that weapons existed in order to get endorsement by their legislatures and by the UN Security Council, he added that governments "are not just vendors of merchandise but leaders from whom some sincerity should be asked when they exercise their responsibility for war and peace in the world." But sincerity is not top of the salesman's list of qualities. Perhaps those who peddle false certainties are half aware that their audience (like those witnessing a magic trick) may actually want, at some level, to be fooled: certainly, any feeling of temporary reassurance would depend on this mechanism. In any event, the shrewd vendor seems to know something that many of us do not: his products will not bring us the promised benefits; yet if our frustrated desires can be managed successfully, we may want these products all the more for that.

(CounterPunch, par David Keen)

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