Bulletin #182




16 April 2005

Grenoble, France



Dear Colleagues and Friends of CEIMSA,


Recently several members of our research center saw the documentary film, Darwin's Nightmare, about the ravaging effects of neo-liberal "reforms" on the shores of Lake Victoria in Tanzania. The second largest fresh-water lake in the world (200 miles long and 150 miles wide) which is bordered by three countries --Tanzania, Uganda, and Kenya-- is being destroyed by a predator fish, the giant Nile perch, that grows to a weight of some 50 kilos. It was introduced into these waters in the early 1960s as an experiment and, over a period of 50 years, it has eliminated an estimated 210 different species of fish which for thousands of years had served to keep the lake water clean. Today Lake Victoria is being depleted of oxygen while a monoculture has evolved servicing European multinational corporations with enormous quantities of small filets taken from the flesh of this giant predator -- 3 million filets are sold each day in European supermarkets at enormous profits to a few investors.


But this is only one part of the story. This documentary film also illustrates how lending institutions like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund often operate to destabilize the societies where capital loans are made. In the Tanzanian city of Mwanza, the local economy was destroyed, and nouveau riches are able to exploit the population with impunity, leaving behind a debris of homeless children, HIV positive widows, and desperately under-employed men and women. Like elsewhere in the capitalist world, inequality is growing in Tanzania today.


But, by the very logic of capitalist expansion, these crises generate new investment opportunities --in this case, it is the European military industries which profit from the social instability. As artificial scarcity leads to wars, new employment opportunities are created for the indigenous population. Giant cargo planes with a capacity of 55 tons are sent to pick up maximum loads of Nile perch, but they do not arrive empty : Military arms are sent from Europe down to Africa, thus guaranteeing future employment in warfare, followed by investment opportunities in humanitarian aid which will eventually be sent to war zones. "Last Christmas," said one Russian pilot arriving in Mwanza, "I brought the African children guns; and then flew to Johannesburg to pick up a load of grapes to bring back to the European children for Christmas. It is not fair, but there is nothing I can do about it!"


Obviously, there is no compelling reason to stop this vicious circle, which as the movie points out is not a circle at all, but rather a spiral downward towards massive devastation of whole regions of Africa. At the end of the film, before the credits were shown, we read that some 5 million people have been killed in the war-torn regions of the Congo, Zaire, and Angola in the past 4 years. (If you are ignorant of this fact, ask your local newspaper editor for the reason !)


In his book, Parecon: Life After Capitalism, Michael Albert argues that media control over public opinion must be broken if citizens are to become free to acknowledge world crises, such as the deterioration of Lake Victoria and the lake cultures in the area, and to create an alternative to this 500-year-old political economy, which has run its course and today presents a imminent danger to life on earth.



Below are several articles CEIMSA received recently describing some of these imminent dangers and the little-publicized protests against them.


Item A. is an interview with Dr. Helen Caldicott, author of The New Nuclear Danger, George W. Bush's Military Industrial Complex, by Scott Harris, executive producer of the nationwide radio program, Between The Lines, in which Dr. Caldicott discussed the key that role America and Russia must play in nuclear disarmament in the next few years.


Item B. is an article written by our research associate, Professor Edward Herman, in which he offers readers an up-date on the human rights violations and blatantly illegal foreign policies coming out of the George W. Bush White House and the Republican-led Congress.


Item C. is a critical essay by George Monbiot on the historical continuity of the World Bank, placing the Wolfowitz nomination in its historical perspective. Monbiot's work is a useful reminder that demonizing individuals is not necessarily the path toward radical structural change.



When I was a Fulbright scholar in the former Soviet Union several years ago, I attended an historical conference in which the political economy of the USSR in the 1930s was discussed. New documentation had come to light on the methods employed by the dictator Joseph Stalin to discipline the Soviet population --methods which enabled him to secure the complete loyalty of a select political elite, and with their assistance consolidate his political power. It was observed that state terror and propaganda in themselves were not a sufficient means to guarantee his monopoly of power. Strategic and wide-spread bribery was indispensable; without it, historians argued, Stalin's political economy would have collapsed, beginning at the local levels. Many officials in strategic posts were simply receiving two guaranteed incomes under Stalin's regime: one according to the formal Soviet pay scale; the second under the table. This practice was sufficient to mobilize the immediate destruction of any incipient democratic movement at the moment of its birth and to eliminate all possible challenges at the local level to Stalin's authoritarian policies. One of these strategic posts were the local police, and, of course, another was the local media. Item D. is an article by Creag Aaron, that was first published in Dollars and Sense and which documents the corruption within the American media today.


Historians of the Rome Empire, have remarked that Bread and Circuses were two necessary distractions in order to manipulate public opinion fifteen hundred years ago, so that the political elite would not be challenged. Bread was provided to fill the empty stomachs and Blood Sports --gladiators and battles, Christians and lions-- were made available to occupy the emotions of oppressed people so they would not think of social revolution against their oppressors. Much has been written on the decadence of the Roman Empire before it fall, and some scholars have argued that the American Empire has entered this same stage of decay. [For a history of the fall of the Roman Republic, see also Michael Parenti's book, The Assassination of Julius Caesar: A People's History of Ancient Rome.] In item E. Mike Whitney writes of the pomp and pageantry of the Catholic Church in the 21st Century, so far away from what it was becoming in the early 1960s, under Pope John XXIII (1958-63), with followers devoted to "liberation theology" over the next two decades.


And finally, item F. is the "smoking gun", yet another proof that media censorship is wearing thin. One of the slogans from the late 1960s anti-war/anti-capitalist social movement was : "THE REVOLUTION WILL NOT BE TELEVISED!" This seems to have been a prophetic statement, as today we can witness, thanks to the communication revolution, the precise extent of censorship in the mainstream media against genuine democratic movements. Tom Reeves' article, "Lessons for U.S. Radicals" gives us the necessary information "to get a whiff of the potent political and cultural winds now blowing [in Canada] just across the northern border."




Francis McCollum Feeley

Professor of American Studies

Director of Research

Université Stendhal

Grenoble, France





from Michael Albert

14 April 2005



    Nuclear Proliferation

    Threat of Global Nuclear Weapons Proliferation Met by U.S. Development of New Atomic Arms and Militarization of Space

    by Dr. Helen Caldicott and Scott Harris, interviewed by Between The Lines on April 14, 2005


        The Bush administration has taken a hard line against nations they say are engaged in the development of nuclear weapons. Targets of harsh rhetoric coming from the White House include Iran and North Korea, countries that Bush has branded the Axis of Evil. But while the administration speaks out frequently about the dangers of nuclear proliferation around the world, it has announced plans to spend millions of dollars to develop and test a new generation of American nuclear weapons and technology to militarize outer space. These include new "bunker buster" bombs, anti-satellite weapons and anti-ballistic missiles as part of the national missile defense program.


        Talks to renew the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, or NPT, begin in May, but the Bush administration and other nuclear powers are reported to be unconcerned about its future. If the NPT is abandoned, its demise could pave the way for an unprecedented explosion of nuclear weapons proliferation across the globe.


        Dr. Helen Caldicott is a pediatrician and anti-nuclear weapons activist. She founded the Nobel Prize-winning Physicians for Social Responsibility in 1978 because of her grave concern over the medical impact of nuclear weapons on the human race. Caldicott, who went on to found the Nuclear Policy Research Institute in 2002, was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts. Between The Lines' Scott Harris spoke with Dr. Caldicott about the current danger of nuclear weapons proliferation and the U.S. effort to militarize outer space.


        Dr. Caldicott: The administration used 9/11 to say, "Well we probably need some more nuclear weapons." This plan was actually initiated during the Clinton era, and they are currently designing, developing and about to test new nuclear weapons, up to 80 a year. Therefore, North Korea looks at America and says, "Well, if you're doing it, we will too." So it gives a very unfortunate message to the rest of the world. And unfortunately, America leads the world in the development of nuclear weapons; it always has, and is the model for the whole world.


        People in glass houses can't throw stones. As Jesus said, "instead of the mote in the other person's eye, look instead at the mote in your own eye." And so America can't with impunity tell other countries they can't have nuclear weapons when it's building more, and has an arsenal of over 10,000 itself.


        I see the solution to this terribly detrimental problem being that Russia and America are now friends, they're fighting the terrorist issue together -- and that if Russia and America decide to, they could within five years eradicate and abolish their nuclear arsenals. Of the 30,000 bombs in the world, Russia and America own 95 percent of them. So, if they would move toward abolition rapidly, then France, China and England have said they will too. And Israel, which has over probably 300 to 400 hydrogen bombs -- and India and Pakistan would be forced to do the same. And then we could enter an era of relative nuclear sanity in the world and I can think of no other issue more serious and pertinent now for us to address than this issue which hangs over our heads like the sword of Damocles twisting in the wind.


        Between The Lines: Dr. Caldicott, your group which you founded back in 2002, the Nuclear Policy Research Institute, is sponsoring a conference in Washington, D.C. this May. The focus of that conference will be the weaponization of space. Tell us your concerns overall about the Bush administration and where they're headed with a revival of the Reagan era Star Wars program and weaponizing space.


        Dr. Caldicott: OK, the conference I've organized is called, "Full Spectrum Dominance," which is the term that the U.S. Space Command uses to put weapons in space, and to fight war in space and to fight war from space down to earth -- and literally vaporize "cities" and effect very many killed. They are intent on anti-satellite weapons and they're building them right now -- and the two companies that are most involved in this are Lockheed Martin and Raytheon.


        Missile Defense is supposedly contrived to knock out Russia's missiles when they launch them. However, Russia can launch 2,500 hydrogen bombs all at once, and all tests that have been conducted thus far for Missile Defense in America where a hit to kill vehicles-- is hitting a dummy warhead have all failed and have all been fraudulent. It will never work according to all of the physicists and scientists who are involved, and it's going to suck up to $1 trillion in money from the American taxpayers. That's a different system than putting actual weapons in space and launching war from space down to earth.


        America plans to actually dominate space, and space is a global commons according to the United Nations law. It belongs to all of us, not just 5 percent of the earth's population. So, this is an absolute violation of international law. It could in fact trigger a nuclear war, as could the National Missile Defense plans, because Russia and China have both said, "If you build a missile defense system against our missiles -- which are targeted on you, we'll just build thousands more hydrogen bombs, so we can supersaturate your system."


        Incidentally, China only has 18 weapons that can hit America. So, at this point in time she's really not involved in the nuclear arms race, although the Pentagon is being very provocative and pushing her in that direction because it's all good for business, you see.


        Between The Lines: Where does citizen activism come in to this very bleak world where international law seems to be pushed aside by the Bush administration in setting an example for the rest of the world? Treaty after treaty, whether it's global warming or nuclear non-proliferation or biological or chemical weapons treaties, seem to, again, be ignored or decimated by the world's remaining superpower, the United States. Where do you have hope that things can change Dr. Caldicott?


        Dr. Caldicott: The earth is in the intensive care unit. We have an acute clinical emergency on our hands, like we did in the early 80's when Reagan got into office. And there's an aphorism that says, "In a dark time, the eye begins to see," and this is a very, very dark time. I believe in the wisdom and intelligence of the American people. I believe they will do the right thing. And we just have to now get off our chairs and decide that we will save the earth -- and in five years move toward bilateral nuclear disarmament with Russia. I know it can be done. I know, I've spoken to millions of Americans, I know how they think and feel. They desperately want to do the right thing.



Dr. Helen Caldicott is author of "The New Nuclear Danger, George W. Bush's Military Industrial Complex," published by the New Press. Contact Dr. Caldicott's Nuclear Policy Reserach Institute at (202) 822-9800 or visit their website at http://www.nuclearpolicy.org .


Scott Harris is executive producer of Between The Lines, which can be heard on more than 35 radio stations and in RealAudio and MP3 on our website at http://www.btlonline.org . This interview excerpt was featured on the award-winning, syndicated weekly radio newsmagazine, Between The Lines for the week ending April 15, 2005. This Between The Lines Q&A was compiled by Scott Harris and Anna Manzo.




from Edward Herman

18 March 2005

Third World Traveler



The Normalization of Torture, Death Squads and Contempt for the Rule of Law

By Edward Herman


The U.S. political establishment keeps reaching new levels of hypocrisy, deception (including self-deception), and open immorality as the empire expands in the pursuit of "freedom," militarism and war become more institutionalized, and rightwing political power is consolidated. The appointment of Alberto Gonzales as Attorney-General is the most dramatic illustration of these developments, as he epitomizes the institutionalization of a regime of torture on the U.S.'s own Devil's Island (Guantanamo), at Abu Ghraib, Bagram, Kabul (the "pit") and elsewhere in the empire, along with the official contempt for law. (Human Rights First lists some 44 disclosed and 13 suspected detention centers in the gulag: see, Ending Secret Detentions, Deborah Pearlstein et al., Human Rights First, June, 2004:


http://www.humanrightsfirst.org/us_law/detainees/rpt_disclose_intro.htm  [Media Material]


http://www.humanrightsfirst.org/us_law/PDF/EndingSecretDetentions_web.pdf  [Complete Report]).


Gonzalez' appointment was an announcement that the United States under Bush is now openly and proudly an outlaw regime in which torture is acceptable and a feature of state policy, and was to be used further (as it has been), despite its illegality in a host of international agreements (and U.S. law) and the widespread view that it is deeply immoral. As Amnesty International noted in its 1974 Report on Torture, "One of the shared values of the humanist tradition was the abolition of torture. This principle found its way into the post-war declarations on human rights and laws of war without any dissent of debate" (p. 30). In elevating Gonzales, the Bush administration has officially rejected that humanist tradition and associated human rights and laws of war principles, not without dissent but with little or no debate.


It should be emphasized that U.S. involvement in torture is far from new. In the frontispiece to The Washington Connection and Third World Fascism, published back in 1979, Noam Chomsky and I showed that 26 of the 35 countries that used torture on an administrative basis in the mid-to-late 1970s were clients of the United States, and there was solid evidence that torture technology and training flowed out from the "sun" to all its "planets." But this was not overt and openly defended in important segments of the media (as it is with Limbaugh, O'Reilly et al. today), and it was done largely by proxies working over their indigenous dissidents and labor organizers. With the usual cooperation of the mainstream media, the U.S. public was spared knowledge of these activities.


Today the United States is heavily into torture directly as well as via "renditions" and proxy operations (e.g., the U.S.-employed Iraqis are now torturing with great zeal: see Human Rights Watch,, The New Iraq? Torture and Ill-treatment of Detainees in Iraqi Custody). And Gonzales, the principal legal apologist for this torture outburst, is rewarded with appointment as the highest law enforcement official in the United States. Could there be a more brazen statement of a country's leadership's contempt for basic morality and the rule of law?


Of course, another brazen statement was the invasion of Iraq itself, a clear case of aggression in violation of the most fundamental principle of the UN Charter and declared at Nuremberg to be the "supreme crime." Even though this was based on Big Lies in the Goebbels style, the establishment media and moralists have never considered this supreme criminality a point worth mentioning, let alone the basis of moral condemnation.


Aggression by Saddam against Kuwait in 1990 and alleged efforts to create a "Greater Serbia" by Milosevic - which I consider unadulterated baloney [see Diana Johnstone, Fools Crusade, pp. 32-40] - caused great indignation and harsh sanctions and military responses by the Great Powers, but a really major aggression based on lies by the Godfather, although it received a plaintive wee protest about "illegality" from Kofi Annan, was swallowed and the aggressor's further pacification and takeover of Iraqi affairs was even sanctioned by Kofi Annan and the Security Council (UN Security Council Resolution 1546 [2004], adopted unanimously, gives the "multinational force in Iraq" the authority to "take all necessary measures to contribute to the maintenance [sic] of security and stability in Iraq," and it "welcomes" the "security partnership between the sovereign Government of Iraq [i.e., the U.S.-appointed Allawi government] and the multinational force…").


The Bush government's contempt for basic morality and the rule of law is also displayed in the appointment of John Negroponte to be chief of the new intelligence bureaucracy. Negroponte was part of the war management apparatus during the Vietnam War, and helped organize the killing of millions and destruction of that country in that failed attempt to save it for a minority government under our control.


He played a sinister role in the war against Nicaragua as Ambassador to Honduras from 1981 to 1985, maintaining warm relations with and bribing a military-dominated government that allowed the contras to work from Honduran bases in their terrorist activities, tolerating and almost certainly giving sub rosa support to the murder of hundreds of dissidents at the El Aguacate air base and by the CIA-trained death squad Battalion 3-16. Negroponte's predecessor Jack Binns claimed that 30 Salvadoran nuns who fled El Salvador to Honduras in 1981 were savagely tortured by the Honduran police and later thrown out of helicopters to their death.


Negroponte has denied knowledge of any of these serious human rights violations, but the leading Honduras newspapers "carried at least 318 stories about military abuses in 1982 alone," and he contradicted himself by boasting that he "personally intervened …to secure the release of politically sensitive detainees." "Instances of disappearances, harassment and abductions of political dissidents all escalated under Negroponte, yet the annual Human Rights Reports prepared by the ambassadorial staff …were masterpieces of cunning redaction or invention, consistently downplaying human rights abuses and denying that any evidence existed of systematic violations by manipulating language and statistics."


There is a "huge amount of material implicating him in playing a sedulously deceitful role after being posted to Honduras." (Council on Hemispheric Affairs, "Negroponte: Nominee for Baghdad Embassy, a Rogue for all Seasons," April 27, 2004: http://www.coha.org/NEW_PRESS_RELEASES/New_Press_Releases_2004/04.20_Negroponte.htm.  )


So Negroponte is an established liar, lying to congress as well as to the public, willing to violate national and international law, including the 1983 Boland amendment barring military aid to groups working to overthrow the Sandinista government, and he is a proven efficient manager of death squads (see ibid.; also Sam Smith, Undernews, Feb. 17, 2005: http://www.prorev.com/indexa.htm ; Marjorie Cohn, "Negroponte, Director of Intelligence Manipulation," Feb. 21, 2005: http://www.truthout.org/docs_2005/022105B.shtml )


This background of course made Negroponte a logical Bush appointment as ambassador to Iraq, bringing knowledge of ruthless pacification policy from Vietnam and death squad-support experience from his Honduras years. His return to the United States as head of intelligence gives that job to a man who is totally ruthless in serving his masters, willing to use force and deception in all their forms, and an expert in lying in all of its forms.


The Council on Hemispheric Affairs calls him "an-ends-justifies-the-means operator" and describes him as "the anti-Christ of democracy, repeatedly dragging its noble cause through the offal." His appointment signifies an advance over the puny tricks of a J. Edgar Hoover, with a potential for blowing back to this country some of the uglier forms of dissident control that Negroponte has been involved with in Vietnam, Honduras and Iraq.


There was some sharp media criticism of the Gonzalez appointment; virtually none of the appointment of Negroponte (see FAIR's Media Advisory: "Media Omissions on Negroponte's Record ," Feb. 22, 2005: http://www.fair.org/index.php?page=2452 ). The New York Times set a hard-to-beat standard for apologetics for criminality and human rights violations in reporting on the Negroponte appointment.


Under a general heading on his appointment which refers to him only as "Longtime Diplomat," David Sanger's article "An Old Hand In New Terrain" only reaches Negroponte's human rights record in the 16th of 20 paragraphs, where Sanger tells us that Negroponte was "immersed in" U.S. aid to Honduras, with not one word about human rights violations or what precisely Negroponte did there. Then, "He has spent the ensuing two decades vigorously defending himself against allegations that he played down human rights violations in Honduras when their exposure could have undermined the Reagan administration's Latin American agenda."


So, not a word of what those human rights violations charges were, no suggestion that he might have had an active role in those violations rather than merely playing them down, not a trace of investigative effort seeking evidence about the truth or falsity of those charges, and an implicit defense of anything he might have done as based on loyal support of Reagan's program (unspecified as to ends or methods). Saddam Hussein needs somebody like David Sanger to write up a news account of charges of his human rights violations, exposure of which might have undermined the reputation of the Iraqi state.


Despite some reservations on the Bush regime's policies and actions in its aggression/occupation and torture - and as just noted there are few if any on the appointment of death squad supervisor Negroponte--the Democrats, mainstream media, and much of the intellectual class still identify with this outlaw regime, and automatically side with it in its struggle to pacify Iraq, accommodate Sharon and the Israeli occupation, and move on to a war with Iran. Completely destroy a city (Fallujah), openly bombing one hospital and occupying another to prevent "propaganda"? No problem - no suggestion of illegality, immorality, or qualification of who are the good guys. Ditto for the use of cluster bombs, napalm and depleted uranium in Iraq (following their use in Afghanistan and Yugoslavia). Ditto for Abu Ghraib and its numerous affiliates and the regular use of "extraordinary renditions" - more "errors" and regrettable even if unremedied exceptions to alleged normally decent behavior. Support the apartheid wall and continued illegal occupation and ethnic cleansing on the West Bank and East Jerusalem? Continues a great tradition. Support the claim that Iran poses a real threat and is not entitled to seek defensive capability in the face of explicit and real U.S. and Israeli threats, including the nuclear? What good propaganda system members ever fail to jump on the bandwagon of any threat that their leadership proclaims no matter how implausible or unsupported by credible evidence? Remember the WMDs!




from George Monbiot

5 April 2005




    With Wolfowitz : Have we forgotten what the World Bank is for?

    by George Monbiot


        It's about as close to consensus as the left is ever likely to come. Everyone this side of Atilla the Hun and The Wall Street Journal agrees that Paul Wolfowitz's appointment as president of the World Bank is a catastrophe. Except me.


        Under Wolfowitz, my fellow progressives lament, the World Bank will work for America. If only someone else were chosen it would work for the world's poor. Joseph Stiglitz, the Bank's renegade former chief economist, champions Ernesto Zedillo, the former president of Mexico.(1) A leading article in the Guardian suggested Colin Powell or, had he been allowed to stand, Bono.(2) But what all this hand-wringing and wishful thinking reveals is a profound misconception about the role and purpose of the body Wolfowitz will run.


        The World Bank and the IMF were conceived by the US economist Harry Dexter White. Appointed by the US Treasury to lead the negotiations on post-war economic reconstruction, White spent most of 1943 banging the heads of the other allied nations together.(3) They were appalled by his proposals. He insisted that his institutions would place the burden of stabilising the world economy on the countries suffering from debt and trade deficits rather than on the creditors. He insisted that "the more money you put in, the more votes you have".(4) He decided, before the meeting at Bretton Woods in 1944, that "the US should have enough votes to block any decision".(5)


        Both the undemocratic voting arrangement and the US veto remain to this day. The result is that the body which works mostly in poor countries is entirely controlled by rich ones. White demanded that national debts be redeemable for gold, that gold be convertible into dollars, and that all exchange rates be fixed against the dollar. The result was to lay the ground for what was to become the dollar's global hegemony. White also decided that both the Fund and the Bank would be sited in Washington.


        No one was in any doubt at the time that these two bodies were designed as instruments of US economic policy. But somehow all this has been airbrushed from history. Even the admirable Joe Stiglitz believes that the World Bank was the brainchild of the British economist John Maynard Keynes (Keynes was, in fact, its most prominent opponent).(6) When the development writer Noreena Hertz claimed in the Guardian last month that "the Bush administration is a very long way from the Bank's espoused goals and mandate", she couldn't have been more wrong. (7)


        From the perspective of the world's poor, there has never been a good president of the World Bank. In seeking contrasts with Wolfowitz, it has become fashionable to look back to the reign of that other Pentagon hawk, Robert McNamara. He is supposed to have become, in the words of an Observer leader, "one of the most admired and effective of World Bank presidents".(8) Admired in Washington perhaps. Robert McNamara was the man who concentrated almost all the Bank's lending on vast prestige projects - dams, highways, ports - while freezing out less glamorous causes such as health and education and sanitation. Most of the major projects he backed have, in economic or social terms or both, failed catastrophically.(9)


        It was he who argued that the Bank should not fund land reform because it "would affect the power base of the traditional elite groups".(10) Instead, as Catherine Caufield shows in her book Masters of Illusion, it should "open new land by cutting down forests, draining wetlands, and building roads to previously isolated areas."(11) He bankrolled Mobutu and Suharto, deforested Nepal,(12) trashed the Amazon (13) and promoted genocide in Indonesia (14). The countries in which he worked were left with unpayable debts, wrecked environments, grinding poverty and unshakeable pro-US dictators.


        Except for the language in which US demands are articulated, little has changed at the Bank. In the meeting on Thursday at which Wolfowitz's nomination was confirmed, its executive directors also decided to approve the construction of the Nam Theun 2 hydroelectric dam in Laos. This will flood 6000 people out of their homes, damage the livelihoods of a further 120,000, destroy a critical ecosystem and produce electricity not for the people of Laos but for their richer neighbours in Thailand.(15) But it will also generate enormous construction contracts for western companies. The decision to build it was made not on Wolfowitz's watch but on that of the current president, James Wolfensohn. In practical terms, there will be little difference between the two wolves. The problem with the Bank is not the management, but the board, which is dominated by the US, the UK and the other rich nations.


        The nationality of the Bank's president, which has been causing so much fuss, is of only symbolic importance. Yes, it seems grossly unfair that all its presidents are Americans, while all IMF presidents are Europeans. But it doesn't matter where the technocrat implementing the US Treasury's decisions comes from. What matters is that he's a technocrat implementing the US Treasury's decisions.


        Wolfowitz's appointment is a good thing for three reasons. It highlights the profoundly unfair and undemocratic nature of decision-making at the Bank. His presidency will stand as a constant reminder that this institution, which calls on the nations it bullies to exercise "good governance and democratisation" is run like a mediaevel monarchy.


        It also demolishes the hopeless reformism of men like George Soros and Joseph Stiglitz who, blithely ignoring the fact that the US can veto any attempt to challenge its veto, keep waving their wands in the expectation that a body designed to project US power can magically be transformed into a body which works for the poor.(16) Had Stiglitz's attempt to tinker with the World Bank's presidency succeeded, it would simply have lent credibility to an illegitimate institution, thus enhancing its powers. With Wolfowitz in charge, its credibility plummets.


        Best of all is the outside chance that the neocons might just be stupid enough to use the new wolf to blow the Bank down. The former British minister Clare Short laments that "it's as though they are trying to wreck our international systems."(17) Well, what a tragedy that would be. I would sob all the way to the party.


        Martin Jacques argued convincingly in the Guardian last week that the US neocons are "reordering the world system to take account of their newly defined power and interests."(18) Wolfowitz's appointment is, he suggested, one of the "means of breaking the old order". But what this surely illustrates is the unacknowledged paradox in neocon thinking. They want to drag down the old, multilateral order and replace it with a new, American one. What they consistently fail to understand is that the "multilateral" system is in fact a projection of US unilateralism, cleverly packaged to grant the other nations just enough slack to prevent them from fighting it. Like their opponents, the neocons have failed to understand how well Roosevelt and Truman stitched up the international order in America's interests. They are seeking to replace a hegemonic system which is enduring and effective with one which is untested and (because the other nations must fight it) unstable. Anyone who believes in global justice should wish them luck.





        1. Eg Joseph Stiglitz 15th March 2005. This War Needs the Right General. The Guardian.

        2. Leading article, 17th March 2005. Wolfowitz at the Door. The Guardian.

        3. See for eg Armand van Dormael, 1978. Bretton Woods: Birth of a Monetary System. Macmillan, London; Robert Skidelsky, 2000. John Maynard Keynes: Fighting for Britain 1937-1946. Macmillan, London; and Michael Rowbotham, 2000. Goodbye America! Globalisation, Debt and the Dollar Empire. Jon Carpenter, Charlbury, Oxfordshire.

        4. Harry Dexter White, quoted in New Economics Foundation, 2000. It's Democracy, Stupid: the trouble with the global economy - the United Nations' lost role and democratic reform of the IMF, World Bank and the World Trade Organisation. NEF, World Vision and Charter 99.

        5. Harry Dexter White, quoted in Armand van Dormael, 1978. Bretton Woods: Birth of a Monetary System. Macmillan, London.

        6. Joseph Stiglitz, 2002. Globalization and its Discontents. Allen Lane, London.

        7. Noreena Hertz, 19th March 2005. The Poodle and the Wolf. The Guardian.

        8. Leading article, 20th March 2005. Paul's Conversion? The Observer. 9. See Catherine Caufield, 1996. Masters of Illusion: the World Bank and the the Poverty of Nations. Henry Holt, New York.

        10. Robert McNamara, quoted in Catherine Caufield, ibid.

        11. Catherine Caufield, ibid.

        12. The Bank funded a project to log 45,000 acres of lowland forest. The region has never recovered.

        13. Eg the Polonoroeste scheme, initiated by the Bank in 1980.

        14. The Indonesian transmigration programme, first funded by the Bank in 1976.

        15. See for eg International Rivers Network, September 2004. Risky Business for Laos: The Nam Theun 2 Hydropower Project. IRN, Berkeley, California.

        16. George Soros, 2002. On Globalization. Public Affairs, Oxford; and Joseph Stiglitz, 2002. Globalization and its Discontents. Allen Lane, London.

        17. Clare Short, quoted by Larry Elliott, 21st March 2005. Why the West is Always in the Saddle. The Guardian.

        18. Martin Jacques, 31st March 2005. The Neocon Revolution. The Guardian.




from Craig Aaron

10 April 2005

Dollars and Sense


Payola Pundits Just The Tip of the Iceberg



Each year Gallup publishes rankings on how the public rates "the honesty and ethical standards" of various professions. In 2004, journalists didn’t do too well, barely edging out lawyers and members of Congress and falling well below nurses and even bankers in the public esteem.


If the past few months are any indication, reporters will be lucky to beat out telemarketers and used car salesmen in this year’s poll. The latest blow to the reputation of the Fourth Estate is the unmasking of several "payola pundits"—commentators who praised Bush administration policies without disclosing they were on the federal payroll.


First came Armstrong Williams, a syndicated columnist and ubiquitous TV talking head on Fox and the Sinclair stations, who took $240,000 from the U.S. Department of Education to promote the No Child Left Behind Act. His contract—first exposed by USA Today in January—required him "to regularly comment on NCLB during the course of his broadcasts" and conduct softball interviews with then-Education Secretary Rod Paige.


The Washington Post and Salon identified two other syndicated columnists on the take, both of whom were paid to promote the president’s "marriage initiative." Maggie Gallagher insists she would have disclosed her $21,000 contract with the Department of Health and Human Services, "but it never occurred to me." Michael McManus halfheartedly apologized to readers of his syndicated column, aptly titled "Ethics and Religion."


All three payola pundits seemed shocked at the public outrage. Perhaps that’s because pay-to-sway is the m.o. inside the conservative echo chamber. Williams and the others had been shilling for corporations and conservative think tanks for so long that a little extra taxpayer money for "something I believed in," as Williams put it, didn’t seem so out of the ordinary.


But the Armstrong Williams scandal is about more than a few bad apples who simply "forgot to mention" their government contracts. Framing the issue as a lapse of journalistic ethics or the decline of professional standards conveniently lets the White House off the hook. The real story here is in an extensive effort by the Bush administration to manipulate public opinion by any means necessary.


On a daily basis, every appearance by the president and high-level administration officials is carefully staged to get past the "filter"—those reporters who don’t parrot the official spin—whether it’s at a Bush campaign rally (sample audience question: "Thank you for not joining the International Criminal Court.") or a White House press conference (where James Guckert—a.k.a. Jeff Gannon, the right-wing propagandist who somehow held a White House press pass for two years—asked the president, "How are you going to work with people who seem to have divorced themselves from reality?").


While the president tells reporters "our agenda ought to be able to stand on its own two feet," the actions of his administration suggest otherwise. A report by the Minority Office of the House Committee on Government Reform shows that the Bush administration spends more than double the amount the Clinton administration did on PR—including at least $88 million in 2004. Most of these taxpayer dollars were doled out in no-bid contracts to firms like Ketchum Public Relations, which hired Williams.


The White House propaganda mill goes beyond the use of payola pundits. The administration has distributed phony news stories to local television stations trumpeting Bush’s policies on education, Medicare (also produced by Ketchum), and the war on drugs. Now they are using the official letters we get reporting our estimated future Social Security benefits to "notify" people about Social Security’s alleged crisis.


The Bush administration’s perception-management efforts reach their apex in the Defense Department. Media strategy was a part of war planning at the highest levels before the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. The continued blurring of day-to-day public affairs and battlefield psy-ops has the Pentagon considering which battlefield misinformation tactics could be used on our allies or even at home (where you can now tune in "The Pentagon Channel" on your satellite dish). "Information is part of the battlefield in a way that it’s never been before," one Bush official told the Los Angeles Times in December. "We’d be foolish not to try to use it to our advantage."


And that’s just the government. By definition, most mainstream journalists are already on the corporate payroll—from GE to Disney and on down the list. Most of the big-name reporters—some of whom won’t even vote, lest they be accused of bias—don’t hesitate to accept $50,000 to give a speech at a corporate event. It’s not just conservatives: PBS’s Charlie Rose emceed the annual meeting of Coca-Cola shareholders a few years back.


Consider the fact that studies show PR—press releases, press packets, stories planted by PR firms, and the like—accounts for as much as 70% of what passes for news, and Armstrong Williams looks like less of an anomaly. Perhaps the question shouldn’t be who else is on the take—but who isn’t?


Craig Aaron is the communications director at Free Press, a media democracy organization (www.freepress.net ). He was formerly managing editor of In These Times and an investigative reporter for Public Citizen’s Congress Watch.




from Mike  Whitney

13 April 2005

The NewStandard



    Pope TV and the New World Media

    by Mike Whitney


        The 24 hour a day barrage of coverage about the Pope’s death shows a dramatic shift in the way that news is covered. If a story is inoffensive to the political establishment or if it serves their greater interests (like Schiavo) then it becomes an immediate mega-story that swallows up most of the front page and consumes the majority of TV time. In this way, the national dialogue is controlled by PR firms working closely with Washington to decide what information is suitable for public consumption. It’s perception management pure and simple but, so far, it looks like a winning strategy. As many have already noticed, the Iraqi bloodbath has been knocked out of the headlines and consigned to page 14 next to the women’s lingerie adverts. In its place, American’s are provided with diversionary stories of vegetative housewives and dead Popes. There’s no chance that the 4 Marines who died in insurgent attacks last Tuesday will appear on page one anymore, nor will the 300,000 disgruntled Iraqis who paraded through Baghdad a few days ago calling for an end to the Occupation while burning Bush in effigy. These are the unfortunate victims of the new media regime; a system that dismisses inconvenient facts for the fairy-tales that support the status quo. The new game-plan seems to be to sweep Iraq from the collective consciousness and slow the steady erosion of public support for the war.


        The changes in news coverage can be explained by a poll that ran 3 months ago in Washington Post poll which showed in stark terms how unpopular Bush’s war in Iraq has become in just 2 short years. 56% of the people polled said the war “wasn’t worth it” and a whopping 70% concluded that the loss of 1500 American servicemen “was an unacceptable cost”.


        The results of that poll sent tremors through the political establishment, and their trepidation is reflected in way that the news is now presented. Ball-players on steroids, Schiavo and a dead Pope are just the first of what will certainly be many similar entertaining distractions.


        For the most part, Iraq has been buried by the media; a tacit admission that even supporters are now experiencing both doubt about the wisdom of the war and overall fatigue from the constant flow of bad news from the front. The casualties, the chaos, the lack of reconstruction, and the demoralizing stories of torture are slowly grinding down even the most ardent Bush fan. Beyond the legal and moral questions, the war is starting to look like it was simply a stupid idea conjured up by fanatics. This perception is not likely to change.


        The Bush team has a serious problem and limited options. There’s no light in the Iraqi tunnel, so the only choice is to manage the information. This explains why the media would rather provide a front-page pictorial of Bush performing his ablutions in front of the velvet-encrusted Pope than show a close up of the helicopter that went down in Afghanistan killing 18 American servicemen. Bush’s Vatican junket is just more-of-the-same photo-op claptrap designed to keep the lens off the mountain of carrion building up in Iraq. Its all part of the imperial narrative dressed up in regal accoutrements and presented as real news. Absent from the coverage were the thousands of incensed Italians on the streets of Rome who were aghast that the world’s foremost war criminal would be allowed to partake in the funereal ceremonies. Americans never saw the angry masses who protested Bush’s visit. Instead, they got the predictable pabulum from media operatives like Jim Vandehei of the Washington Post who faithfully chronicled the pious nostrums from the simpleton-and-chief.


        “There’s no doubt in my mind that there is a living God. And, no doubt in my mind that Lord, Jesus Christ was sent by the Almighty. No doubt in my mind about that,” Bush said.


        Or this, “The tides of moral relativism kind of washed around the Pope, but he stood strong as a rock.”


        Imagine someone who just killed 100,000 human beings and authorized the use of torture on prisoners palavering about “moral relativism”?




        Never the less, the fable-making media can be expected to maintain its present tack; inventing a narrative from whole-cloth and exploiting whatever novelty appears in real-time to steer the public away Bush’s ruinous war. It’s what they do best.


        The Streetwalking Media


        The press is the only institution in American life that is protected by an amendment. The founders wisely understood that safeguarding the free flow of information was imperative to the preservation of democracy. But the idea of a free press seems nothing more than a myth at this point. The entire institution is like an aging hooker locked in a conjugal embrace with her corporate bedfellow. The media jettisoned whatever freedom or credibility it had years ago; choosing instead to serve the narrow interests of its boardroom bosses. Now the news is tailored to meet the needs of its clientele; shaping events to spread the good news about free markets, consumerism and preemptive war. Whatever news cannot be packaged and presented in a manner that serves the objectives of its sponsors is simply left on the cutting room floor. What we see now when we turn on the evening news isn’t a free press, but the front-lines of information warfare: “Who owns the news, who controls what you know?”


        Information has been weaponized to rob Americans of their personal liberty, plunder the treasury and dupe the people into foreign adventures. The ideal of an “informed public” actively engaged in the democratic process by exposure to a broad variety of viewpoints is pure baloney. The daily news increasingly aims for uniformity in their storyline to promote conformity of thought among its readership. Diversity is a threat to the system. This being the case, we shouldn’t be surprised that Rumsfeld is deliberately targeting reporters; it is the logical extension of the prevailing political ethos. Information is power, and now that power is the exclusive province of seven media giants who are inextricably linked to the White House.


        See No Evil


        Don’t talk about a “free press”. The American media showed their true colors in their handling of the decimation of Falluja. The entire media stood by with their hands over their mouths while a city of 250,000 was bombed to the ground in the greatest single war crime in the last decade. The story of Falluja is a tale of cluster bombs, napalm, depleted uranium, banned weapons, families crushed in their homes, dogs devouring dead citizens on the city streets, and masses of displaced people victimized by a vengeful and implacable enemy. It’s a story of unspeakable crimes, of absolute impunity, and unfathomable cynicism.


        Even today, a full 6 months after the siege, the story of Falluja cannot be revised enough to fit into the imperial register; so the silence continues.


        This is the reality America’s “free press”; the collaborative handmaiden of the US war machine, partners in the destruction of entire civilizations. Eventually, it will have to be chopped down to the root before anything worthwhile can grow up in its place.





from Tom Reeves

April 15, 2005




Lessons for US Radicals:

Students Rise Again in Québec



Right next door to the apathy that is almost universal on U.S. campuses, there has been an amazing revival of student activism unseen for decades in Québec. Yet almost no U.S. students will know anything about it because of a virtually complete black-out in mainstream U.S. media--and very little coverage even on U.S. alternative and left-wing sites. Perhaps that doesn't matter, since most U.S. students seem perfectly content with the status quo. But if U.S. radicals knew more about the Quebec upheaval, they might find ways to spread the fire to the young south of the border.


Between 60,000 and 100,000 militant students marched in Montréal on March 16. Thousands more marched in Québec City, Sherbrooke, Trois-Rivière, and just about every other Québec locality with a CEGEP (somewhat similar to U.S. community colleges) or University. Students blocked the Port of Montréal, closed down the lucrative Montréal casino, blocked Federal Highway 40, and occupied various government and Liberal party offices in Québec City and Montréal--often for days at a time. In all, close to 300,000 students went on strike, closing almost all public higher education in Quebec for up to seven weeks (and continuing on many campuses). Up to 15,000 secondary school students joined demonstrations in solidarity--with backing from teacher's unions. Many University and CEGEP professors' and administrators' associations also endorsed the strike--as did a wide range of Quebec's other labor unions.


The strike began February 23 with a walkout by 30,000 CEGEP and University students, organized by the most radical of the three major student associations, CASSÉÉ (a coalition of the Association for Student Union Solidarity--ASSÉÉ--and unaffiliated student groups). The motivating grievance was a drastic cut in student stipends from the Quebec government, announced by the Liberal Minister of Education--some $103 million (Canadian dollars--U.S. equivalent about $80 million)--per year, beginning with this academic year's promised amount. ASSÉÉ included in its demands an end to the Liberal government's planned privatization and decentralization of some CEGEPs and other higher education programs, as well as a call for free tuition, and "humanistic curricula."


Tuition in Quebec is already the lowest in Canada--which is, of course, lower than almost all public institutions in the United States. Disabled and very low income students receive further assistance, which were not included in the cuts. Yet student groups were nearly unanimous in outrage at the take back of scholarship money. The two largest federations of students--FECQ for CEGEPs and FEUQ for universities--endorsed the strike almost immediately. Even traditionally conservative associations representing students in medicine, law, business and education, joined in. The elite private, English-speaking universities took symbolic but important steps by staging a one-day strike (Concordia) and issuing supportive statements--though the militant atmosphere did not carry over to the Anglo institutions, for the most part. (Concordia's radical student government was ousted after a huge and heavily funded media campaign vilifying it's pro-Palestinian stance last year.) Among the French-speaking, working-class students, CASSÉÉ itself grew rapidly in membership--now up to about 60,000.


All during March, the cities of Montréal and Québec were swarming with student militants. The daily protests have often been quite creative, including hunger strikes, streets barricaded with tires and garbage, and "bed-ins" (more intimate than sit-ins). There was also an assortment of cultural events ranging from dance and film showings to "24 hours of radical philosophy" at UQAM, the university in Montréal with a primarily working class student body. Everywhere, from the fashionable cafés of St. Denis to the gay village, the tourist-filled Old City and the Parc LaFontaine (Montréal's Central Park), the red felt patch symbolizing resistance was visible, not only on students, but on many sympathizers among the gentry of the Plateau and the queens along St. Catherine's. March was cold this year, and students often wore scarves and hoods and quilted parkas, but seemed undeterred by the winds and snow. Drivers in cars blocked by demonstrators waited patiently and smiled or waved at the students. Call-in shows were full of supportive comments--and opinion polls showed more than 70% of Québecers still supported the strike at the end of March, after all the disruptions.


The political ferment throughout Québec this spring has not been seen there at least since 1975--during the drive for independence--and recalls for many the student uprisings in the U.S. and throughout Europe between 1968 and 1972. One striking UQAM student, spoke to me of "a revolutionary consciousness that is growing again among young Québecers." I attended a rally of about 10,000 students in Parc LaFontaine where many of Québec's leading singers and comedians performed. "More of a circus, really," said one young woman, "Don't get the wrong impression--we are serious, but we also like fun at the same time." Clifford Kraus reported in the Canadian on-line journal, Autonomy & Solidarity, April 3, that students told him the same thing. One young woman at UQAM told him, "It is a really special moment....with deeper, more radical possibilities." "The cultural revolution" could come again, she hoped.


The provincial Liberal government of Jean Charest--elected by a slim margin two years ago--already had the highest disapproval rating of any sitting government--about 70%. Other strikes by workers and social service agencies staged a variety of protests against proposed cuts in housing assistance and the "$5 day care" available to all Quebec children. The Federal government is a "minority" government, with Liberal Prime Minister Paul Martin only propped up by the left-leaning Bloc Québecois (which won almost all Quebec seats in last year's Federal election) and the moderately socialist New Democrats (NDP). Martin has already taken some important symbolic steps to satisfy the left--most important was his about-face in refusing to support Bush's missile defense program. The wrath of students has spared neither the Québec nor the Federal Liberals.


And the strike has been a huge success. On April 3, the Liberal government caved almost completely on the student stipends--promising to restore immediately $70 million this year, and to return to the $103 million for coming years. They also shelved immediate plans for privatization and decentralization (seen as an attempt to divide students).


The FECQ (CEGEPS) did not take a stand, urging members to decide for themselves. FEUQ (Universities) favored accepting the proposal, seeing it as a complete victory. Campus by campus votes were taken, and some already began to reopen by April 6. Others--including the largest unit at UQAM in Montréal--extended the strike at least until April 15. The elite campus of the University of Montréal voted April 8 for its 40,000 students to remain on strike. ASSÉÉ itself urged rejection, and as of April 12, final votes of its members had not been tabulated, though it appeared that those favoring a continued strike would win. Radical demands had not been met, of course, but some radicals saw the strike result as a victory that could lead to further victories.


CASSÉÉ took the lead in attempting to broaden the student strike toward a more general protest against Liberal cutbacks. They declared a second round of so-called "echo" demonstrations in solidarity with all workers and social services against the "neo-liberal" platform of Charest--with major demonstrations planned for April 14. Although eschewed by traditional labor unions, CASSÉÉ joined a wide range of other "civil society" groups including the anti-globalization network,CLAQ, in calling for a day of mobilization, that some called a general strike. Meanwhile, groups of anarchist students held sit-ins at Walmart (waging a struggle against unionization), the state liquor warehouse (under strike from workers) and the Stock Exchange. Police counter-actions brought several minor injuries and arrests.


Whether most faculties and campuses will continue the strike is unclear, as is public reaction to a broadened set of social protests, but all agree that significant organizing has begun, with important consequences for all labor and for Quebec society itself. An ASSÉÉ organizer, a young woman student, told Radio Canada on April 11, "Whether the vote is to continue the strike or not, we have won--this is a step toward real change." The direction of change was clear from the slogan of the proposed general strike: the social peace is finished! Most activists--including those from traditional unions and neighborhood associations--predict a huge turn-out for the May day demonstrations this year.


I asked my Québec friends why they think so little of this gets reported in the U.S. media. "The isolation of Québec from the rest of North America works two ways. It's partly a cultural and linguistic veil--we would like it to be a wall, really--that also keeps out some of the worst elements of U.S. and Anglo culture and politics here--so it's not altogether negative." Yet one wonders if the veil could be lifted long enough for U.S. radicals--and potential student activists--to get a whiff of the potent political and cultural winds now blowing just across the northern border.



Tom Reeves was co-author with Karl Hess of THE END OF THE DRAFT (Random House, New York, 1970). He was National Director of the National Council to Repeal the Draft from 1968-1972. He has written about a range of U.S. foreign policy and other political issues for CounterPunch, Z, Rabble, Interconnect, Dollars & Sense, the NACLA Report and other print and internet magazines.




Francis McCollum Feeley

Professor of American Studies/

Director of Research at CEIMSA-IN-EXILE