Bulletin N° 213




16 November 2005
Grenoble, France

Dear Colleagues and Friends of CEIMSA,

We have received many articles from readers expressing their hopes (and anxieties) concerning the evolution of democracy in the United States. "Where there is life there is hope," to coin a cliché but the entrenched forces of repression seem to be far from yielding power, and the struggle for human liberation continues at every level. One might hope that the number of opportunists and arrivists who are willing to collaborate with the highly visible crimes against humanity that we witness everyday, despite the impressive  efforts at censorship, is dwindling. Political mobilization goes on at a slow pace, and the methods of psychological warfare for "killing hope" have been developed into an exact science, but democratic traditions remain stubbornly rooted in U.S. institutions and behavioral patterns.

Eventually, an international social class consciousness is likely to take shape, despite new levels of repression. As individuals find themselves compelled to acknowledge their genuine needs, to confront their own disappointments and seek a better understanding of the nature of those forces that would prevent them from realizing their legitimate desires, they will find strength by organizing around their social class interests instead of continuing to compete individually for small favors and commodities handed out for "good behavior".

Resistance in Iraq has awakened hundreds of millions of people around the world, and democratic movements are developing daily into collective class-conscious confrontations which challenge the private interests of a relatively small, but well armed, capitalist class.

We can look forward to more propaganda and more psychological warfare aimed at dissolving this emerging class consciousness before it blossoms into a full blown democratic movement and becomes a real threat to entrenched capitalist interests. One voice representing these capitalist interests at the time of the Vietnam War was recorded on audio tape, when President Richard Nixon instructed his Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger :

                "The only place you and I disagree . . . is with regard to the bombing.
                You're so goddamned concerned about the civilians, and I (in contrast)
                don't give a damn. I don't care.". . . "I'd rather use the nuclear bomb. . . .
                Does that bother you? I just want you to think big."

                                        (Richard Nixon to Secretary of State Henry Kissinger on the Watergate tapes)

This forthright imperialist declaration of war against humanity by a United States President is an illustration of one current of American political tradition. It is part of the Euro-American imperialist heritage, which sustains the Bush/Cheney cabal to this day, with strategic collaboration by the media.

On the other hand, representing an anti-imperialist element in western tradition, the international socialist professor of history, Eric Hobsbawm, concludes his book, The Age of Extremes, with the following observation :

                        We live is a world captured, uprooted and transformed by the titanic
                        economic techno-scientific process of the development of capitalism,
                        which dominated the past two and three centuries. We know, or at least
                        it is reasonable to suppose, that it cannot go on ad infinitum. The future
                        cannot be a continuation of the past, and there are signs, both externally,
                        and, as it were, internally, that we have reached a point of historic crisis.
                        The forces generated by the techno-scientific economy are now great
                        enough to destroy the environment, that is to say, the material foundations
                        of human life. The structures of human societies themselves, including even
                        some of the social foundations of the capitalist economy, are on the point
                        of being destroyed by the erosion of what we have inherited from the human past.
                        Our world risks both explosion and implosion. It must change.

                        We do not know were we are going. We only know that history has brought us
                        to this point....[pp. 584-585]

The international conflicts we see today represent a continuous, but highly accelerated, episode in the historic struggles for democratic control over the political economies of institutions that govern every aspect of our lives. Periodically, throughout history, the intensity of conflicts during confrontations, such as wars, labor strikes, or mass demonstrations, has laid bare some of the political and economic contradictions which served to alienate working people from one another and from the centers of power.

CEIMSA associates, by sending us articles and their essays, continue to support our efforts to understand WHY we now find ourselves at this historical conjuncture, and WHAT we might do to improve our lives and the environment in which we live.

Below are nine communications recently received by CEIMSA which shed light on the process of social-movement formations today that are linking ordinary American citizens to the rest of the world. By engaging in activities that would disarm their common sources of oppression, the scholars and students associated with CEIMSA have given formal recognition to the existence of a world class struggle. Their intellectual commitment to "science for the people" is a necessary element in this struggle for participatory democracy and economic equality.

Item A. is an article from New Orleans by Tulane University graduate student, Jay Arena, in the Department of Sociology, who has attempted a synthesis of American government policies --domestic and foreign: The same social class interests, he argues, dictate the same political strategies of domination/subjugation at home and abroad.

Item B. is an interview with Dahr Jamail, by "Unknown News" editor, Don Nash, who asks him "ten questions on Iraq".

Item C. is a brief report form Kathleen Allee in Hollywood, California, on political repression at the local Hollywood High School.

Item D. is a article describing FBI spying on U.S. citizens, which is reminiscent of the Plamer Raids of 1919-20, and the McCarthy Era of the early 1950s.

Item E. is an international perspective of the Bush-II administration from Argentina, where the dissolution of social class consciousness has run its course, and seems to be reconsolidating (in part, thanks to U.S. policies in the Middle East).

Item F. is an article sent to us by our research associate, Michael Parenti (author of Democracy for the Few), on the political history of the Supreme Court, lest we forget. . . .

Item G. is an article by Howard Zinn, (author of Voices of a People's History of the United States)who also warns us not to expect much from the Supreme Court : as the stakes rise, the Supreme Court Justices could always be counted on to protect privilege and wealth against the interests of the people.

Item H. is Professor Noam Chomsky's analysis of the October attack on his work by the London Guardian, and what lessons can be learned from the dishonesty, which now threatens the reputation of this "progressive" paper.

And finally, item I. is Diana Johnstone's investigation of what was behind Emma Brockes' apparently planned falsifications of an interview with Noam Chomsky.

Francis McCollum Feeley
Professor of American Studies/
Director of Research
Universsité Stendhal-Grenoble III

from Jay Arena :
12 November 2005

The War At Home:
New Orleans, Public Housing, and the "Chilean Option"
by Jay Arena

The U.S. military, in its' desperate attempt to crush the growing armed Iraqi resistance, is employing what Pentagon strategists call the "Salvador option". To terrorize the Iraqi people into submission the U.S. is funding, training, directing, and sometimes staffing, death squads--as was done during the brutal counter-insurgency campaign in Central America in the 1980s. The U.S. imperialist state is betting that this strategy of terror will effectively beat the Iraqis into submission, thus guaranteeing control of the oil and allowing U.S. forces to be unleashed in new wars of pillage from Damascus, to Tehran, to Caracas.

This war abroad, as some sections of the U.S. anti-war movement have argued, cannot be seen in isolation from the war at home. The brutal colonial war in Iraq is but the flip slide of the war at home against workers, immigrants, and other oppressed people.  Indeed, New Orleans, and the whole Gulf coast, has become the latest front in this domestic conflict. Grass Roots activists in the region argue that the Bush-led regime, with support from the Democrats, are using hurricane Katrina to deepen and expand the racist and anti-working class neoliberal offensive of privatization, austerity, and attacks on civil liberties. In short, the U.S. government is coupling its' Salvador option abroad with a "Chilean option" at home. Just as the U.S. and Latin American ruling classes used Pinochet's Chile as a template for the rest of Latin America, the Bush regime wants to "shock and awe" the U.S. working class by rapidly creating a neoliberal wonderland in New Orleans to be exported across the country. This article documents the neoliberal offensive in New Orleans, with a particular emphasis on public housing, both before Katrina and during its' post-disaster intensification. I conclude by highlighting how grass roots movements are challenging this agenda and showing that another anti-racist, pro-working class world, is possible. 

The Bi-Partisan Neoliberal Assault on Public Housing

In the early 1980s New Orleans had over 14,000 public housing apartments that was home to over 60,000 people, almost all African Americans. The response of the local and national authorities to tenant demands for improved public housing and services was to destroy it and displace families. Local Democratic Party elected officials, such as former Mayors Sidney Barthelemy (now director of governmental affairs for the New Orleans-based real estate outfit HRI) and Marc Morial (now head of the National Urban League), helped lead the charge. Working closely with the Republican and Democratic Bush (I), Clinton, and Bush (II), administrations, and acceding to the demands of white controlled real estate and tourist interests, these Black Democrats cut the public housing stock by over half, from 14,000 to approximately 6,000 apartments during the 1990's and early 00's. 

Ethnic and Class Cleansing: The Case of the St. Thomas Housing Development
The location of the pre-hurricane demolished housing developments is important for understanding the destruction Katrina heaped on poor families. For example, the now-destroyed St. Thomas development, which at one time had been home to over 1,500 Black, and some white, working class families, was located along the riverfront, where flooding did not occur or quickly receded. In the late 1990s, after a decade long effort, local and federal officials demolished the St. Thomas development. The political leaders, along with bought-off community activists, dutifully responded to the demands of real estate and tourist interests who saw this working class Black community as being "in the way" of "growing" tourism. Due to the gentrification that followed in the neighborhoods surrounding the St. Thomas, even more working class families were driven from the area.  Many of the displaced residents were pushed out to New Orleans East or the Lower 9th ward, where flooding was extensive.

In contrast to the misery faced by most of the former Black working class residents removed from the area, influential white businessmen prospered. For example, real estate tycoons like Pres Kabacoff and Joe Canizaro--both of whom Mayor Ray Nagin has appointed to the Rebuild New Orleans Commission--made millions through the ethnic and class cleansing of the area.  In addition, community activist Barbara Major, a close associate of Joseph Canizaro who helped facilitate and legitimate St. Thomas's destruction, has been awarded for her services my being named co-chair of the Commission by Nagin.

In contrast to the "winners," only a handful of residents have been able to return to the renamed, privatized,  "River Gardens" development, which is being built on the 60-acre site of the old St. Thomas. In fact, the new development, partly financed through the Clinton administration's so-called HOPE VI grant designed to "reform" public housing, has now become a subsidized housing development for, mainly, the upwardly mobile.  In addition to the HOPE VI funding, sales and property tax proceeds from a nearby, newly constructed Wal-Mart--another beneficiary of the project--are being used to subsidize the developer and the wealthy residents.

The "public-private partnership" that oversaw the St Thomas "redevelopment" was clearly a disaster for the poorest segments of New Orleans Black working class. Nonetheless, federal, state and local governments are using the St. Thomas as a "role model" for "redoing" the remaining public housing developments. In fact Housing and Urban Development (HUD) secretary Alphonse Jackson, who infamously stated, in the wake of the hurricane that New Orleans is "not going to be as black as it was for a long time, if ever again", unveiled this plan during a visit in early November to the city. Surrounded by supportive local elected officials, he exclaimed:  "St. Thomas [will] be the model" for further reconstruction of the remaining development in New Orleans. The result will be, if Jackson has his way, the further gutting of the remaining 6,000 to 7,000 public housing apartments in the name of "reinventing" public housing and "de-concentrating poverty". It seems that Alphonse Jackson shares the same sentiments expressed by Baton Rouge congressmen Richard Baker, who crowed following Katrina:  "We finally cleaned up public housing in New Orleans. We couldn't do it, but God did."

What will happen to the residents at these former developments, you might ask? Well, HUD secretary Jackson reassured people that "We will be involvedIf they want to go back home, we will do everything in our power to make sure they are comfortable." Yet, he added that most people, after staying away for over six months, will not want to come back. Adonis Expose, communications director of the Housing Authority of New Orleans (HANO) concurred, having concluded earlier "the reality is, if they're doing better where they are, they're probably not coming back." HUD and HANO are helping make that "reality", that is helping guarantee people will stay away, by refusing to provide alternative housing in the city in the interim while developments are reconstructed, albeit in vastly reduced numbers. In fact, in a further attempt to keep Black public housing residents away, HANO awarded a no-bid contract to Vacant Property Security, Inc.  to place steel doors on apartments so residents cannot even return to retrieve their belongings. The message being sent by government officials to public housing tenants, as well as the Lower 9th ward homeowners not able to even view their homes, is clear: you are not welcome in the city of New Orleans.

Iberville Housing Development: Katrina as Pretext for Seizing Prime Real Estate

The policy of refusing re-entry to homes is particularly criminal in the case of the Iberville housing development, where floodwaters did not enter apartments. HANO is not allowing the over 600 Black working class families that resided at Iberville, which sits next to the French Quarter, from moving back into their homes. The official explanation is that soil and other environmental tests must first be undertaken to guarantee safety--yet this "concern" is only raised with regard to public housing residents. No timetable is given for when tests will be completed.

Timothy Ryan, a pro-business economist and University of New Orleans chancellor, in another brief instance of public candidness by local elites, pointed to the real motives behind blocking re-entry of Black working class families to the development: "[Iberville] has retarded French Quarter development for 30 years", he bemoaned [NB: Housing authority officials began desegregation of the-then all white development beginning only in 1965]. The good professor proffered "taking Iberville and mak[ing] it a retirement community" as a "solution" to the (Black working class) "problem." 

More Neoliberal Air Strikes Launched Against Education, Health, Civil Liberties

The over 60,000 students that attended New Orleans public schools before Katrina came primarily from Black working class families. As with public housing, public education had faced a barrage of attacks from business and government officials. For example, over the last several years the New Orleans school board have instituted rules--such as not posting important agenda items until just before meetings start-- to make it much more difficult for parents and other members of the public to give input at school board meetings. To further stifle debate, the local press and school board members, such as James Fahrenholz, have vilified courageous local activists, such as Assata Olugbala, who consistently speak out at board meetings.  In addition, semi-privatized charter schools, often with pressure from the state department of education, have been imposed. Finally, this summer the State legislature and Board of Education, along with local school board "reformers", hired a private management  "turnaround" firm, Alvarez & Marsal, to manage the district. This outfit was previously used in St. Louis to carry out draconian cuts and privatize services.

Under cover of the disaster, Alvarez and Marsal, with full support from local and state officials, are systematically dismantling the school system. First to go were teachers and support staff, who were all laid-off indefinitely, and their union contracts ripped up. Next, local and state school officials announced that schools opened on the non-flooded west bank of New Orleans would re-emerge as semi-privatized charter schools.  The federal department of education helped the effort by providing $20 million to open 13 west bank New Orleans schools, but only if they were opened as charters. To speed up the charter conversion, State officials intervened and "waived" democratic procedures, such as the requirement that parents and staff must approve a school becoming a charter. Like Geneva conventions rules in another context, democratic rights get in the way of "reform" and "progress."

On the east bank of New Orleans most of the schools are not even opening for the school year--a further way to keep working class families away from the city. The handful of schools to open on the east bank will also be converted to charters and these disproportionally serve white and middle class students, such as Lusher, located next to Tulane University, and Ben Franklin, located on the University of New Orleans campus. In a final coup de grace to public schools and local (Black) control over them, Governor Kathleen Blanco is pushing a plan, which the legislature is expected to support, to allow the State to take over 104--out of a total of 117-- city schools designated as "failing." The State will then have the power to turn them over to private foundations or businesses, or, as may be the case for many schools, refuse to reopen them at all.

The same pattern of using the hurricane to deepen the neoliberal agenda is evident in the health care arena. Since taking office two years ago Governor Blanco has decimated the public Charity hospital system budget, partly by allowing private nursing homes and hospitals to raid the state's Medicaid allotment.  As a result, the state closed or reduced vital services, such as the walk-in clinics, over the last several years.  Now, State officials plan to permanently close New Orleans Charity Hospital, built by Huey Long in the 1930s and the main provider of health care to the uninsured. The pretext is the damage it received during the hurricane. Just as with schools and public housing, working class people, with Black workers being the most immediately affected, are rapidly seeing the neoliberal agenda intensify from simply cutbacks, to privatization and elimination of vital public services.

To manage the discontent these cuts inevitably generate the government is beefing up its repressive forces. Wherever working class people go for help in the New Orleans area--from the offices of FEMA, to unemployment insurance, to food stamps-- they are greeted by intimidating, heavily armed National Guard troops and the ever-present private, Blackwater security forces. As Mike Howells, a New Orleans "hold out" and activist explained, "the message to working class people is clear when you enter these facilities: don't dare challenge authorities or we will be in your face." In addition, the Blackwater forces have also joined National Guard troops in patrolling streets and intimidating local residents.  In sum, like the "reforms" instituted in the social service sector, the Bush regime, with either open support or acquiescence from Democrats, is using the hurricane to undermine Posse Comitatus, and other controls on the use of the military domestically.

Join the Working Class Fightback!: New Orleans Convergence, MLK Day 2006

The racist, anti-working class agenda being pursed by the ruling class is not going unchallenged. Local social justice activists, some of whom have the spent decades on the front lines in New Orleans fighting for economic justice and social equality are currently involved in ongoing struggles in the Greater New Orleans area to stop unfair evictions, reopen public housing, schools, and secure alternative housing for storm victims.  They recognize that it will take a national movement to stop the post-Katrina offensive against affordable housing, public healthcare, public education and police repression now besieging the community.  Yet, they also realize that this struggle must incorporate the people of New Orleans here and currently in exile. 

In contrast to the neoliberal agenda, activists in New Orleans-based grassroots groups, such as the anti-war, pro-public housing group C3/ Hands Off Iberville, are proposing a pro-working class, anti-racist reconstruction plan that demands:

" No to ethnic and class cleansing-a pro-worker and African-American friendly environment, affordable public and private housing, universal healthcare, a mass public works rebuilding program that pays a living wage, an end to police brutality in our community. 
" We call for financing this through, one, taxing the oil companies---$1 tax for every $1 price increase since the run up the Iraq war. Two, immediate withdrawal from Iraq-money to rebuild the U.S,, no money to destroy Iraq.

These activists, argue that "the utter failure of all levels of government to look after the most basic needs of the working class and the African-Americans of the Gulf Coast in the wake of  Hurricane Katrina demonstrates that we must organize ourselves in a mass movement to defend our interests."   To fight for this agenda local activists are inviting supporters from across country and world to converge on New Orleans for the "Martin Luther King Day March To Rebuild The Gulf Coast And The World! On January 16, 2005."

For more information on how you an support this effort call C3/Hands Off Iberville representative Mike Howells at 504-587-0080 or the author,  Jay Arena at 504-520-9521 or email him at jarena@tulane.edu.

Jay Arena is PhD student in the Department of Sociology at Tulane University. He is also a long time community and labor activist in New Orleans, and an active member of the anti-war, pro-public housing group C3/Hands Off Iberville.

from Don Nash :

Nov. 4, 2005

 10 Questions and Answers about Iraq
(Dahr Jamail Interviewed by *Don Nash*/, /Unknown News/)

*Q.* /What does Iraq actually look like two and a half years after the
U.S. invasion?/

Most of Iraq is a disaster and in a state of complete chaos.

The security situation is more accurately described as a brutal,
guerrilla war which spiraled out of control over a year ago. Attacks on
US forces even now average over 70 per day, and are expected to increase
in coming months.

The myth that the US military has control over any portion of Iraq is
just that-a myth. Even the heavily fortified "Green Zone" is mortared on
a regular basis. If one wishes to fly in or out of Baghdad International
, get ready for a spiral descent/take off... as this has been
necessary for also over a year due to the inability of the military to
safeguard the area around the airport. Like in Vietnam, planes will be
shot down if they don't use the spiral method of taking off/landing.

The infrastructure is in shambles. For most of the western companies who
were awarded the no-bid cost-plus contracts in Iraq, it's their dream
contract -- guaranteed profits with no oversight. Companies like Bechtel
have been paid out in full for their initial contract worth $680 million
and awarded contracts totaling over $3.8 Billion, despite the fact that
many of their projects in their initial contract were not even begun.

Meanwhile, Iraqis suffer and die from waterborne diseases, child
malnutrition is worse than during the sanctions, and there is over 70%

*Q.* /How do the Iraqi people feel overall about the U.S. occupation?/

According to *a recent poll*
< http://www.unknownnews.org/0510281023Iraquispolled.html> commissioned
by the British military, 82% of Iraqis want all occupation forces
removed from their country, less than 1% feel occupation forces have
improved security, and 45% openly admitted to feeling that attacks
against US forces are justified. This is quite similar to what I've seen
during my 8 months in Iraq as well, aside from the fact that I found a
larger percentage (greater than 45%) of Iraqis in support of the Iraqi

*Q.* /Is there anyway to know how many Iraqis are being held in
detention by the U.S.?/

No. But there is now a huge number of missing persons in Iraq (over
100,000 according to two Iraq NGOs [non-government organizations] I know
of), many of which are feared to be detained by the US. One NGO, Doctors
for Iraq Society, estimates that there are 60,000 Iraqis in US military
detention facilities in Iraq.

*Q.* /What really happened in Fallujah and Ramadi?/

During the November, 2004 siege of Fallujah, 60% of the city was
completely destroyed. Most of the rest of it had moderate to severe
damage done as well. Iraqi NGO's and medical workers in and around
Fallujah estimate over 4000 dead, mostly civilians. To this day, over
50,000 residents of Fallujah remain displaced.

The US military used cluster bombs, depleted uranium munitions, and
white phosphorous (a new form of napalm) during the siege, and appear to
have used forms of chemical weapons as well.

I have described Fallujah as a modern day Guernica, and prefer to call
it a massacre rather than a siege. Fallujah is the model of Bush
Administration foreign policy. There has been next to no reconstruction
completed inside the city, as was promised by occupation authorities.

*Q.* /Are there other towns in Iraq destroyed by the U.S. military that
we havent heard about?/

Many in the US may not have heard that Al-Qa'im, Kerabla, Najaf (from
during the Muqtada al-Sadr intifadas), Haditha, Hit and parts of Baquba,
Baghdad, Ramadi and Samarra have suffered large scale destruction by US
military operations.

*Q.* /Is Iraq already in civil war?/

Yes, state-sponsored civil war. The US-backed puppet Iraqi government is
using the Badr Army (Shia) and the Kurdish Peshmerga militia to battle a
primarily Sunni resistance. Most ordinary Iraqis loath the idea of civil
war, but fear the possibility of it occurring as the U.S.-backed tactic
of divide and conquer moves forward in occupied Iraq.

*Q.* /How do the Iraqi people feel about the American people?/

Fortunately, most are quick to differentiate between the US government
and American people. But unfortunately, in places like Fallujah, Haditha
and Al-Qa'im where US operations have caused so much death and
destruction, that distinction is being blurred and lost.

*Q.* /Is Abu Musab al-Zarqawi alive?/

Personally, I don't believe he is alive. I researched this heavily when
I was last in Jordan, by visiting the city where Zarqawi is from
(al-Zarqa), and after interviewing many of his neighbors and old friends
found that most of them believe he was killed in Tora Bora, Afghanistan
during the US bombing campaign which followed the events of 9/11.

Any claim that he is a leader of the Iraq resistance or leading a terror
group in Iraq is, I believe, US state propaganda.

*Q.* /Do the Iraqi people have any hope for a future?/

Not much nowadays. Most who can afford it are leaving Iraq. Those who
have little choice but to stay in Iraq can look forward to continued and
increasing violence, no reconstruction, a fundamentalist state and an
endless US occupation which was failed before it even began.

*Q.* /Are the American people obligated to help the Iraqi people? And
what could be done?/

The American people are completely obliged to help the Iraqi people
because it is the fault of the American people that the Bush cabal was
allowed to invade Iraq. Any US citizen who is not doing everything in
their power to end this illegal and immoral occupation as quickly as
possible is complicit with the war crimes being committed in Iraq on a
daily basis.

Thank you, Dahr Jamail.

All images, photos, photography and text are protected by United States and international copyright law. If you would like to reprint Dahr's Dispatches on the web, you need to include this copyright notice and a prominent link to the http://DahrJamailIraq.com website. Website by photographer Jeff Pflueger's Photography Media http://jeffpflueger.com . Any other use of images, photography, photos and text including, but not limited to, reproduction, use on another website, copying and printing requires the permission of Dahr Jamail. Of course, feel free to forward Dahr's dispatches via email.

More writing, commentary, photography, pictures and images at http://dahrjamailiraq.com

from Kathleen Allee
Los Angeles
5 November 2005

Dear Francis,
Thank you again for keeping us (Americans) updated on what's going on in our country.
It is still quite difficult to get information that is accurate and unbiased here.

This is an unfolding story and I don't have much information but, here in Los Angeles, students were
barred on Nov. 2 from leaving their schools for an anti-war, anti-Bush rally.  PUBLIC schools actually
chained their doors to keep them in.  Some students handing out flyers announcing the rally have been
suspended and may be expelled. 

This is all I know, because I heard it on KPFK 90.7, alternative radio in Los Angeles.  I haven't been able
to locate any other information.

But, it a very strange, fear based climate we are in these days.  It is very hard to be a liberal (or
progressive)and secular.

How is everyone. . . .


from Barton Gellman :
The Washington Post    
6 November 2005

The FBI's Secret Scrutiny :
In hunt for terrorists, bureau examines records of ordinary Americans

    By Barton Gellman

    The FBI came calling in Windsor, Conn., this summer with a document marked for delivery by hand. On Matianuk Avenue, across from the tennis courts, two special agents found their man. They gave George Christian the letter, which warned him to tell no one, ever, what it said.

    Under the shield and stars of the FBI crest, the letter directed Christian to surrender "all subscriber information, billing information and access logs of any person" who used a specific computer at a library branch some distance away. Christian, who manages digital records for three dozen Connecticut libraries, said in an affidavit that he configures his system for privacy. But the vendors of the software he operates said their databases can reveal the Web sites that visitors browse, the e-mail accounts they open and the books they borrow.

    Christian refused to hand over those records, and his employer, Library Connection Inc., filed suit for the right to protest the FBI demand in public. The Washington Post established their identities - still under seal in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit - by comparing unsealed portions of the file with public records and information gleaned from people who had no knowledge of the FBI demand.

    The Connecticut case affords a rare glimpse of an exponentially growing practice of domestic surveillance under the USA Patriot Act, which marked its fourth anniversary on Oct. 26. "National security letters," created in the 1970s for espionage and terrorism investigations, originated as narrow exceptions in consumer privacy law, enabling the FBI to review in secret the customer records of suspected foreign agents. The Patriot Act, and Bush administration guidelines for its use, transformed those letters by permitting clandestine scrutiny of U.S. residents and visitors who are not alleged to be terrorists or spies.

    The FBI now issues more than 30,000 national security letters a year, according to government sources, a hundredfold increase over historic norms. The letters - one of which can be used to sweep up the records of many people - are extending the bureau's reach as never before into the telephone calls, correspondence and financial lives of ordinary Americans.

    Issued by FBI field supervisors, national security letters do not need the imprimatur of a prosecutor, grand jury or judge. They receive no review after the fact by the Justice Department or Congress. The executive branch maintains only statistics, which are incomplete and confined to classified reports. The Bush administration defeated legislation and a lawsuit to require a public accounting, and has offered no example in which the use of a national security letter helped disrupt a terrorist plot.

    The burgeoning use of national security letters coincides with an unannounced decision to deposit all the information they yield into government data banks - and to share those private records widely, in the federal government and beyond. In late 2003, the Bush administration reversed a long-standing policy requiring agents to destroy their files on innocent American citizens, companies and residents when investigations closed. Late last month, President Bush signed Executive Order 13388, expanding access to those files for "state, local and tribal" governments and for "appropriate private sector entities," which are not defined.

    National security letters offer a case study of the impact of the Patriot Act outside the spotlight of political debate. Drafted in haste after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the law's 132 pages wrought scores of changes in the landscape of intelligence and law enforcement. Many received far more attention than the amendments to a seemingly pedestrian power to review "transactional records." But few if any other provisions touch as many ordinary Americans without their knowledge.

    Senior FBI officials acknowledged in interviews that the proliferation of national security letters results primarily from the bureau's new authority to collect intimate facts about people who are not suspected of any wrongdoing. Criticized for failure to detect the Sept. 11 plot, the bureau now casts a much wider net, using national security letters to generate leads as well as to pursue them. Casual or unwitting contact with a suspect - a single telephone call, for example - may attract the attention of investigators and subject a person to scrutiny about which he never learns.

    A national security letter cannot be used to authorize eavesdropping or to read the contents of e-mail. But it does permit investigators to trace revealing paths through the private affairs of a modern digital citizen. The records it gathers describe where a person makes and spends money, with whom he lives and lived before, how much he gambles, what he buys online, what he pawns and borrows, where he travels, how he invests, what he searches for and reads on the Web, and who telephones or e-mails him at home and at work.

    As it wrote the Patriot Act four years ago, Congress bought time and leverage for oversight by placing an expiration date on 16 provisions. The changes involving national security letters were not among them. In fact, as the Dec. 31 deadline approaches and Congress prepares to renew or make permanent the expiring provisions, House and Senate conferees are poised again to amplify the FBI's power to compel the secret production of private records.

    The House and Senate have voted to make noncompliance with a national security letter a criminal offense. The House would also impose a prison term for breach of secrecy.

    Like many Patriot Act provisions, the ones involving national security letters have been debated in largely abstract terms. The Justice Department has offered Congress no concrete information, even in classified form, save for a partial count of the number of letters delivered. The statistics do not cover all forms of national security letters or all U.S. agencies making use of them.

    "The beef with the NSLs is that they don't have even a pretense of judicial or impartial scrutiny," said former representative Robert L. Barr Jr. (Ga.), who finds himself allied with the American Civil Liberties Union after a career as prosecutor, CIA analyst and conservative GOP stalwart. "There's no checks and balances whatever on them. It is simply some bureaucrat's decision that they want information, and they can basically just go and get it."
'A Routine Tool'

    Career investigators and Bush administration officials emphasized, in congressional testimony and interviews for this story, that national security letters are for hunting terrorists, not fishing through the private lives of the innocent. The distinction is not as clear in practice.

    Under the old legal test, the FBI had to have "specific and articulable" reasons to believe the records it gathered in secret belonged to a terrorist or a spy. Now the bureau needs only to certify that the records are "sought for" or "relevant to" an investigation "to protect against international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities."

    That standard enables investigators to look for conspirators by sifting the records of nearly anyone who crosses a suspect's path.

    "If you have a list of, say, 20 telephone numbers that have come up . . . on a bad guy's telephone," said Valerie E. Caproni, the FBI's general counsel, "you want to find out who he's in contact with." Investigators will say, " 'Okay, phone company, give us subscriber information and toll records on these 20 telephone numbers,' and that can easily be 100."

    Bush administration officials compare national security letters to grand jury subpoenas, which are also based on "relevance" to an inquiry. There are differences. Grand juries tend to have a narrower focus because they investigate past conduct, not the speculative threat of unknown future attacks. Recipients of grand jury subpoenas are generally free to discuss the subpoenas publicly. And there are strict limits on sharing grand jury information with government agencies.

    Since the Patriot Act, the FBI has dispersed the authority to sign national security letters to more than five dozen supervisors - the special agents in charge of field offices, the deputies in New York, Los Angeles and Washington, and a few senior headquarters officials. FBI rules established after the Patriot Act allow the letters to be issued long before a case is judged substantial enough for a "full field investigation." Agents commonly use the letters now in "preliminary investigations" and in the "threat assessments" that precede a decision whether to launch an investigation.

    "Congress has given us this tool to obtain basic telephone data, basic banking data, basic credit reports," said Caproni, who is among the officials with signature authority. "The fact that a national security letter is a routine tool used, that doesn't bother me."

    If agents had to wait for grounds to suspect a person of ill intent, said Joseph Billy Jr., the FBI's deputy assistant director for counterterrorism, they would already know what they want to find out with a national security letter. "It's all chicken and egg," he said. "We're trying to determine if someone warrants scrutiny or doesn't."

    Billy said he understands that "merely being in a government or FBI database . . . gives everybody, you know, neck hair standing up." Innocent Americans, he said, "should take comfort at least knowing that it is done under a great deal of investigative care, oversight, within the parameters of the law."

    He added: "That's not going to satisfy a majority of people, but . . . I've had people say, you know, 'Hey, I don't care, I've done nothing to be concerned about. You can have me in your files and that's that.' Some people take that approach."
'Don't Go Overboard'

    In Room 7975 of the J. Edgar Hoover Building, around two corners from the director's suite, the chief of the FBI's national security law unit sat down at his keyboard about a month after the Patriot Act became law. Michael J. Woods had helped devise the FBI wish list for surveillance powers. Now he offered a caution.

    "NSLs are powerful investigative tools, in that they can compel the production of substantial amounts of relevant information," he wrote in a Nov. 28, 2001, "electronic communication" to the FBI's 56 field offices. "However, they must be used judiciously." Standing guidelines, he wrote, "require that the FBI accomplish its investigations through the 'least intrusive' means. . . . The greater availability of NSLs does not mean that they should be used in every case."

    Woods, who left government service in 2002, added a practical consideration. Legislators granted the new authority and could as easily take it back. When making that decision, he wrote, "Congress certainly will examine the manner in which the FBI exercised it."

    Looking back last month, Woods was struck by how starkly he misjudged the climate. The FBI disregarded his warning, and no one noticed.

    "This is not something that should be automatically done because it's easy," he said. "We need to be sure . . . we don't go overboard."

    One thing Woods did not anticipate was then-Attorney General John D. Ashcroft's revision of Justice Department guidelines. On May 30, 2002, and Oct. 31, 2003, Ashcroft rewrote the playbooks for investigations of terrorist crimes and national security threats. He gave overriding priority to preventing attacks by any means available.

    Ashcroft remained bound by Executive Order 12333, which requires the use of the "least intrusive means" in domestic intelligence investigations. But his new interpretation came close to upending the mandate. Three times in the new guidelines, Ashcroft wrote that the FBI "should consider . . . less intrusive means" but "should not hesitate to use any lawful techniques . . . even if intrusive" when investigators believe them to be more timely. "This point," he added, "is to be particularly observed in investigations relating to terrorist activities."
'Why Do You Want to Know?'

    As the Justice Department prepared congressional testimony this year, FBI headquarters searched for examples that would show how expanded surveillance powers made a difference. Michael Mason, who runs the Washington field office and has the rank of assistant FBI director, found no ready answer.

    "I'd love to have a made-for-Hollywood story, but I don't have one," Mason said. "I am not even sure such an example exists."

    What national security letters give his agents, Mason said, is speed.

    "I have 675 terrorism cases," he said. "Every one of these is a potential threat. And anything I can do to get to the bottom of any one of them more quickly gets me closer to neutralizing a potential threat."

    Because recipients are permanently barred from disclosing the letters, outsiders can make no assessment of their relevance to Mason's task.

    Woods, the former FBI lawyer, said secrecy is essential when an investigation begins because "it would defeat the whole purpose" to tip off a suspected terrorist or spy, but national security seldom requires that the secret be kept forever. Even mobster "John Gotti finds out eventually that he was wiretapped" in a criminal probe, said Peter Swire, the federal government's chief privacy counselor until 2001. "Anyone caught up in an NSL investigation never gets notice."

    To establish the "relevance" of the information they seek, agents face a test so basic it is hard to come up with a plausible way to fail. A model request for a supervisor's signature, according to internal FBI guidelines, offers this one-sentence suggestion: "This subscriber information is being requested to determine the individuals or entities that the subject has been in contact with during the past six months."

    Edward L. Williams, the chief division counsel in Mason's office, said that supervisors, in practice, "aren't afraid to ask . . . 'Why do you want to know?' " He would not say how many requests, if any, are rejected.
'The Abuse Is in the Power Itself'

    Those who favor the new rules maintain - as Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, put it in a prepared statement - that "there has not been one substantiated allegation of abuse of these lawful intelligence tools."

    What the Bush administration means by abuse is unauthorized use of surveillance data - for example, to blackmail an enemy or track an estranged spouse. Critics are focused elsewhere. What troubles them is not unofficial abuse but the official and routine intrusion into private lives.

    To Jeffrey Breinholt, deputy chief of the Justice Department's counterterrorism section, the civil liberties objections "are eccentric." Data collection on the innocent, he said, does no harm unless "someone [decides] to act on the information, put you on a no-fly list or something." Only a serious error, he said, could lead the government, based on nothing more than someone's bank or phone records, "to freeze your assets or go after you criminally and you suffer consequences that are irreparable." He added: "It's a pretty small chance."

    "I don't necessarily want somebody knowing what videos I rent or the fact that I like cartoons," said Mason, the Washington field office chief. But if those records "are never used against a person, if they're never used to put him in jail, or deprive him of a vote, et cetera, then what is the argument?"

Barr, the former congressman, said that "the abuse is in the power itself."

    "As a conservative," he said, "I really resent an administration that calls itself conservative taking the position that the burden is on the citizen to show the government has abused power, and otherwise shut up and comply."

    At the ACLU, staff attorney Jameel Jaffer spoke of "the profound chilling effect" of this kind of surveillance: "If the government monitors the Web sites that people visit and the books that they read, people will stop visiting disfavored Web sites and stop reading disfavored books. The FBI should not have unchecked authority to keep track of who visits [al-Jazeera's Web site] or who visits the Web site of the Federalist Society."
Links in a Chain

    Ready access to national security letters allows investigators to employ them routinely for "contact chaining."

    "Starting with your bad guy and his telephone number and looking at who he's calling, and [then] who they're calling," the number of people surveilled "goes up exponentially," acknowledged Caproni, the FBI's general counsel.

    But Caproni said it would not be rational for the bureau to follow the chain too far. "Everybody's connected" if investigators keep tracing calls "far enough away from your targeted bad guy," she said. "What's the point of that?"

    One point is to fill government data banks for another investigative technique. That one is called "link analysis," a practice Caproni would neither confirm nor deny.

    Two years ago, Ashcroft rescinded a 1995 guideline directing that information obtained through a national security letter about a U.S. citizen or resident "shall be destroyed by the FBI and not further disseminated" if it proves "not relevant to the purposes for which it was collected." Ashcroft's new order was that "the FBI shall retain" all records it collects and "may disseminate" them freely among federal agencies.

    The same order directed the FBI to develop "data mining" technology to probe for hidden links among the people in its growing cache of electronic files. According to an FBI status report, the bureau's office of intelligence began operating in January 2004 a new Investigative Data Warehouse, based on the same Oracle technology used by the CIA. The CIA is generally forbidden to keep such files on Americans.

    Data mining intensifies the impact of national security letters, because anyone's personal files can be scrutinized again and again without a fresh need to establish relevance.

    "The composite picture of a person which emerges from transactional information is more telling than the direct content of your speech," said Woods, the former FBI lawyer. "That's certainly not been lost on the intelligence community and the FBI."

    Ashcroft's new guidelines allowed the FBI for the first time to add to government files consumer data from commercial providers such as LexisNexis and ChoicePoint Inc. Previous attorneys general had decided that such a move would violate the Privacy Act. In many field offices, agents said, they now have access to ChoicePoint in their squad rooms.

    What national security letters add to government data banks is information that no commercial service can lawfully possess. Strict privacy laws, for example, govern financial and communications records. National security letters - along with the more powerful but much less frequently used secret subpoenas from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court - override them.
'What Happens in Vegas'

    The bureau displayed its ambition for data mining in an emergency operation at the end of 2003.

    The Department of Homeland Security declared an orange alert on Dec. 21 of that year, in part because of intelligence that hinted at a New Year's Eve attack in Las Vegas. The identities of the plotters were unknown.

    The FBI sent Gurvais Grigg, chief of the bureau's little-known Proactive Data Exploitation Unit, in an audacious effort to assemble a real-time census of every visitor in the nation's most-visited city. An average of about 300,000 tourists a day stayed an average of four days each, presenting Grigg's team with close to a million potential suspects in the ensuing two weeks.

    A former stockbroker with a degree in biochemistry, Grigg declined to be interviewed. Government and private sector sources who followed the operation described epic efforts to vacuum up information.

    An interagency task force began pulling together the records of every hotel guest, everyone who rented a car or truck, every lease on a storage space, and every airplane passenger who landed in the city. Grigg's unit filtered that population for leads. Any link to the known terrorist universe - a shared address or utility account, a check deposited, a telephone call - could give investigators a start.

    "It was basically a manhunt, and in circumstances where there is a manhunt, the most effective way of doing that was to scoop up a lot of third party data and compare it to other data we were getting," Breinholt said.

    Investigators began with emergency requests for help from the city's sprawling hospitality industry. "A lot of it was done voluntary at first," said Billy, the deputy assistant FBI director.

    According to others directly involved, investigators turned to national security letters and grand jury subpoenas when friendly persuasion did not work.

    Early in the operation, according to participants, the FBI gathered casino executives and asked for guest lists. The MGM Mirage company, followed by others, balked.

    "Some casinos were saying no to consent [and said], 'You have to produce a piece of paper,' " said Jeff Jonas, chief scientist at IBM Entity Analytics, who previously built data management systems for casino surveillance. "They don't just market 'What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.' They want it to be true."

    The operation remained secret for about a week. Then casino sources told Rod Smith, gaming editor of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, that the FBI had served national security letters on them. In an interview for this article, one former casino executive confirmed the use of a national security letter. Details remain elusive. Some law enforcement officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they had not been authorized to divulge particulars, said they relied primarily on grand jury subpoenas. One said in an interview that national security letters may eventually have been withdrawn. Agents encouraged voluntary disclosures, he said, by raising the prospect that the FBI would use the letters to gather something more sensitive: the gambling profiles of casino guests. Caproni declined to confirm or deny that account.

    What happened in Vegas stayed in federal data banks. Under Ashcroft's revised policy, none of the information has been purged. For every visitor, Breinholt said, "the record of the Las Vegas hotel room would still exist."

    Grigg's operation found no suspect, and the orange alert ended on Jan. 10, 2004."The whole thing washed out," one participant said.
'Of Interest to President Bush'

    At around the time the FBI found George Christian in Connecticut, agents from the bureau's Charlotte field office paid an urgent call on the chemical engineering department at North Carolina State University in Raleigh. They were looking for information about a former student named Magdy Nashar, then suspected in the July 7 London subway bombing but since cleared of suspicion.

    University officials said in interviews late last month that the FBI tried to use a national security letter to demand much more information than the law allows.

    David T. Drooz, the university's senior associate counsel, said special authority is required for the surrender of records protected by educational and medical privacy. The FBI's first request, a July 14 grand jury subpoena, did not appear to supply that authority, Drooz said, and the university did not honor it. Referring to notes he took that day, Drooz said Eric Davis, the FBI's top lawyer in Charlotte, "was focused very much on the urgency" and "he even indicated the case was of interest to President Bush."

    The next day, July 15, FBI agents arrived with a national security letter. Drooz said it demanded all records of Nashar's admission, housing, emergency contacts, use of health services and extracurricular activities. University lawyers "looked up what law we could on the fly," he said. They discovered that the FBI was demanding files that national security letters have no power to obtain. The statute the FBI cited that day covers only telephone and Internet records.

    "We're very eager to comply with the authorities in this regard, but we needed to have what we felt was a legally valid procedure," said Larry A. Neilsen, the university provost.

    Soon afterward, the FBI returned with a new subpoena. It was the same as the first one, Drooz said, and the university still had doubts about its legal sufficiency. This time, however, it came from New York and summoned Drooz to appear personally. The tactic was "a bit heavy-handed," Drooz said, "the implication being you're subject to contempt of court." Drooz surrendered the records.

    The FBI's Charlotte office referred questions to headquarters. A high-ranking FBI official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, acknowledged that the field office erred in attempting to use a national security letter. Investigators, he said, "were in a big hurry for obvious reasons" and did not approach the university "in the exact right way."
'Unreasonable' or 'Oppressive'

    The electronic docket in the Connecticut case, as the New York Times first reported, briefly titled the lawsuit Library Connection Inc. v. Gonzales . Because identifying details were not supposed to be left in the public file, the court soon replaced the plaintiff's name with "John Doe."

    George Christian, Library Connection's executive director, is identified in his affidavit as "John Doe 2." In that sworn statement, he said people often come to libraries for information that is "highly sensitive, embarrassing or personal." He wanted to fight the FBI but feared calling a lawyer because the letter said he could not disclose its existence to "any person." He consulted Peter Chase, vice president of Library Connection and chairman of a state intellectual freedom committee. Chase - "John Doe 1" in his affidavit - advised Christian to call the ACLU. Reached by telephone at their homes, both men declined to be interviewed.

    U.S. District Judge Janet C. Hall ruled in September that the FBI gag order violates Christian's, and Library Connection's, First Amendment rights. A three-judge panel heard oral argument on Wednesday in the government's appeal.

    The central facts remain opaque, even to the judges, because the FBI is not obliged to describe what it is looking for, or why. During oral argument in open court on Aug. 31, Hall said one government explanation was so vague that "if I were to say it out loud, I would get quite a laugh here." After the government elaborated in a classified brief delivered for her eyes only, she wrote in her decision that it offered "nothing specific."

    The Justice Department tried to conceal the existence of the first and only other known lawsuit against a national security letter, also brought by the ACLU's Jaffer and Ann Beeson. Government lawyers opposed its entry into the public docket of a New York federal judge. They have since tried to censor nearly all contents of the exhibits and briefs. They asked the judge, for example, to black out every line of the affidavit that describes the delivery of the national security letter to a New York Internet company, including, "I am a Special Agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation ('FBI')."

    U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero, in a ruling that is under appeal, held that the law authorizing national security letters violates the First and Fourth Amendments.

    Resistance to national security letters is rare. Most of them are served on large companies in highly regulated industries, with business interests that favor cooperation. The in-house lawyers who handle such cases, said Jim Dempsey, executive director of the Center for Democracy and Technology, "are often former prosecutors - instinctively pro-government but also instinctively by-the-books." National security letters give them a shield against liability to their customers.

    Kenneth M. Breen, a partner at the New York law firm Fulbright & Jaworski, held a seminar for corporate lawyers one recent evening to explain the "significant risks for the non-compliant" in government counterterrorism investigations. A former federal prosecutor, Breen said failure to provide the required information could create "the perception that your company didn't live up to its duty to fight terrorism" and could invite class-action lawsuits by families of terrorism victims. In extreme cases, he said, a business could face criminal prosecution, "a 'death sentence' for certain kinds of companies."

    The volume of government information demands, even so, has provoked a backlash. Several major business groups, including the National Association of Manufacturers and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, complained in an Oct. 4 letter to senators that customer records can "too easily be obtained and disseminated" around the government. National security letters, they wrote, have begun to impose an "expensive and time-consuming burden" on business.

    The House and Senate bills renewing the Patriot Act do not tighten privacy protections, but they offer a concession to business interests. In both bills, a judge may modify a national security letter if it imposes an "unreasonable" or "oppressive" burden on the company that is asked for information.
'A Legitimate Question'

    As national security letters have grown in number and importance, oversight has not kept up. In each house of Congress, jurisdiction is divided between the judiciary and intelligence committees. None of the four Republican chairmen agreed to be interviewed.

    Roberts, the Senate intelligence chairman, said in a statement issued through his staff that "the committee is well aware of the intelligence value of the information that is lawfully collected under these national security letter authorities," which he described as "non-intrusive" and "crucial to tracking terrorist networks and detecting clandestine intelligence activities." Senators receive "valuable reporting by the FBI," he said, in "semi-annual reports [that] provide the committee with the information necessary to conduct effective oversight."

    Roberts was referring to the Justice Department's classified statistics, which in fact have been delivered three times in four years. They include the following information: how many times the FBI issued national security letters; whether the letters sought financial, credit or communications records; and how many of the targets were "U.S. persons." The statistics omit one whole category of FBI national security letters and also do not count letters issued by the Defense Department and other agencies.

    Committee members have occasionally asked to see a sampling of national security letters, a description of their fruits or examples of their contribution to a particular case. The Justice Department has not obliged.

    In 2004, the conference report attached to the intelligence authorization bill asked the attorney general to "include in his next semiannual report" a description of "the scope of such letters" and the "process and standards for approving" them. More than a year has passed without a Justice Department reply.

    "The committee chairman has the power to issue subpoenas" for information from the executive branch, said Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), a House Judiciary Committee member. "The minority has no power to compel, and . . . Republicans are not going to push for oversight of the Republicans. That's the story of this Congress."

    In the executive branch, no FBI or Justice Department official audits the use of national security letters to assess whether they are appropriately targeted, lawfully applied or contribute important facts to an investigation.

    Justice Department officials noted frequently this year that Inspector General Glenn A. Fine reports twice a year on abuses of the Patriot Act and has yet to substantiate any complaint. (One investigation is pending.) Fine advertises his role, but there is a puzzle built into the mandate. Under what scenario could a person protest a search of his personal records if he is never notified?

    "We do rely upon complaints coming in," Fine said in House testimony in May. He added: "To the extent that people do not know of anything happening to them, there is an issue about whether they can complain. So, I think that's a legitimate question."

    Asked more recently whether Fine's office has conducted an independent examination of national security letters, Deputy Inspector General Paul K. Martin said in an interview: "We have not initiated a broad-based review that examines the use of specific provisions of the Patriot Act."

    At the FBI, senior officials said the most important check on their power is that Congress is watching.

    "People have to depend on their elected representatives to do the job of oversight they were elected to do," Caproni said. "And we think they do a fine job of it."

Researcher Julie Tate and research editor Lucy Shackelford contributed to this report.

Ezequiel Adamovsky :
November 5, 2005

Bush in Argentina: Bringing Imperialism Back to Public Debate
by Ezequiel Adamovsky

A few years ago, Tulio Halperin Donghi, Argentina's most eminent historian, argued that "dependency" or "imperialism" were no longer part of the agenda of Latin American historiography or public debate. This was not due to their lack of significance as political concepts, he said, but because they have been accepted as part of an unchangeable reality. Imperialism and dependency affect us, that's for sure; but there is no point in discussing it any longer, "just as we don't discuss the rain". It is just there.

Indeed, the very word "imperialism" (not to mention "capitalism") was for most of the 90s something of a relic in Argentina, confined to die-hard leftists, and rejected by politicians, academics, and journalists alike. In comparison to that situation, the last couple of weeks leading to the Summit of the Americas seem to have made visible a dramatic change in Argentine culture.

George Bush's visit, quite expectedly, was to be resisted by local activists and social movements. That we all knew. Somewhat unexpected was the general strike called by CTA, one of the main national unions, which was observed by many workers throughout the country. But nobody would have guessed such an intense participation of common people and even mainstream public figures in anti-Bush activities.

The first surprise came when the soccer hero Diego Maradona - something of a pagan (politically incorrect) God in Argentina - announced that he was going to march against Bush in Mar del Plata. "Bush makes me sick", he simply declared, after screening an exclusive interview with his friend Fidel Castro in his own, immensely popular TV show. His move was followed by many public figures who are not usually seen in demonstrations, including some rock stars and actors.

On Thursday night they all took an "anti-FTAA train" to Mar del Plata - a city on the Atlantic, some 400 kilometers far from Buenos Aires - together with important leftwing activists such as Evo Morales, the Bolivian indigenous leader who is likely to win the coming presidential elections in his country. In Mar del Plata they met the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo, other human rights activists, leftwing parties and social movements, and they all marched together before rallying in a soccer stadium to listen to Hugo Chavez's speech.

The charismatic president of Venezuela spoke for over two hours before 40.000 people, in a stadium decorated with images of Che Guevara and the leaders of Latin American independence. His speech, which was transmitted live on TV, was an uncompromising denunciation of "imperialism", "neoliberalism", "capitalism", and US domination, all of which is leading to the destruction of the planet. "The FTAA is dead and buried!", he announced to the delight of his audience.

But he went even farther: by quoting extensively from Marx, Mao Tse Tung, Che Guevara, and Rosa Luxemburg, as well as some Latin American myths (such as Evita, Josart�nd, of course, Fidel Castro), Chavez argued strongly in favor of a post-capitalist society, which he called "socialism of the 21st century". Maradona, like everybody else in the stadium, clapped their hands to death.

Meanwhile, there were massive anti-Bush demonstrations in the streets of Mar del Plata, Buenos Aires, and all major cities of Argentina, and other less numerous actions in over 200 towns. In a few cities some demonstrators attacked buildings of trans-national corporations.

The information about these political activities, and also about the debates in the III "Counter" Summit of the Peoples, which was held in Mar del Plata at the same time, managed to attract the attention of the mainstream media. For the past couple of weeks, and for the first time since the 70s, anti-imperialism has become part of the public agenda in Argentina. As the famous actress Leonor Manso put it in front of TV cameras while boarding the "anti-FTAA train": "We can now talk about imperialism again. Isn't it nice?".

A poll in today's (Saturday 5 November) Clarin, the most important Argentine newspaper, confirms that we are dealing with a wide cultural phenomenon. Only 9% of the population believe that these kind of summits will be of any help for the people. In the ranking of popularity, Hugo Chavez got 38% of "positive image", while George Bush barely obtained 5%.

Indeed, it is the American negative role in Argentina and the rest of the world that became a sort of commonsensical truth. Even perfectly conservative news presenters in the mainstream media express it in a matter-of-fact tone. It seems to be so obvious that they don't even bother to explain it.

To be sure, this is not a new phenomenon. Anti-American feelings became more and more widespread in the 90s, while the role of the US administration and the IMF in Argentina's endemic economic crisis became undeniable. The level of hatred of American domination showed itself in a rather tragic light on September 11th. In a country with almost no Muslims or close links with the Middle East, lots of people actually celebrated the attacks on the Twin Towers. At that time, these kinds of feelings did not make it to the public sphere, but remained in the realm of private conversation. Today, only few years later, anti-American sentiments are openly expressed on national TV.

As a leftwing teenager in the 80s, I remember how hard it was to win a political debate with my friends. Whenever I tried to make the point that "socialism" was what we needed to make our lives better, there was always someone pointing to the example of the USA. The idea that American society was not only prosperous, but also the home of justice, human rights, opportunities for all, etc. was shared by most people. Today, average Argentines may not believe that "socialism" or anything like that is a desirable or feasible alternative. But nobody would argue anymore that American society offers a good example either. Moreover, as the massive anti-Bush reaction in Argentina seems to prove, more and more people are starting to link the US with suffering around the world.

American imperial domination is not only loosing control of some peripheral countries; it is also loosing the war over people's minds and hearts. Long ago, Antonio Gramsci argued that domination rests upon a combination of coercion and consensus. If the Italian thinker was right, American imperialism may be coming to an end.

from Michael Parenti :
4 November 2005

Dear Francis,
Here is a ZNet Commentary that appeared awhile ago. Please feel free to circulate and post.
Best wishes,

Right-Wing Judicial Activism
by Michael Parenti

 Appearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee as nominee for Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, John Roberts assured the senators that he would not be one of those noisome activist judges who inject their personal values into court decisions.
He would behave like an umpire calling balls and strikes. With a completely open mind, he would judge each case solely on its own merits, with only the Constitution to guide him, he said.
None of the senators doubled over with laughter.
A fortnight later, while George Bush was introducing another Court nominee---his right-wing Jesus-freak crony Harriet Miers---he prattled on about his judicial philosophy and how he wanted jurists to be strict constructionists who cleave close to the Constitution, as opposed to loose constructionist liberals who use the Court to advance their ideological agenda.
It is time to inject some reality into this issue. In fact, through most of its history the Supreme Court has engaged in the wildest conservative  judicial activism in defense of privileged groups.
Be it for slavery or segregation, child labor or the sixteen hour workday, state sedition laws or assaults on the First Amendment---rightist judicial activists have shown an infernal agility in stretching and bending the Constitution to serve every inequity and iniquity.
Right to the eve of the Civil War, for instance, the Supreme Court asserted the primacy of property rights in slaves, rejecting all slave petitions for freedom. In the famous Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857), the Court concluded that, be they slave or free, Blacks were a subordinate and inferior class of beings without constitutional rights.
Thus did reactionary judicial activists---some of them slaveholders---spin racist precepts out of thin air to lend a constitutional gloss to their beloved slavocracy.
When the federal government wanted to establish national banks, or give away half the country to speculators, or subsidize industries, or set up commissions that fixed prices and interest rates for large manufacturers and banks, or imprison dissenters who denounced war and capitalism, or use the U.S. Army to shoot workers and break strikes, or have Marines kill people in Central America---the Supreme Courts conservative activists twisted the Constitution in every conceivable way to justify  these acts. So much for strict construction.
But when the federal or state governments sought to limit workday hours, set minimum wage or occupational safety standards, ensure the safety of consumer products, or guarantee the right of collective bargaining, then the Court ruled that ours was a limited form of government that could not tamper with property rights and could not deprive owner and worker of freedom of contract.
The Fourteenth Amendment, adopted in 1868 ostensibly to establish full citizenship for African Americans, says that no state can deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law, nor deny any person equal protection of the laws.
In another act of pure judicial invention, a conservative dominated Court decided that person really meant corporation; therefore the Fourteenth Amendment protected business conglomerates from regulation by the states.
To this day, corporations have legal standing as persons thanks to conservative judicial activism.
By 1920, pro-business federal courts had struck down roughly three hundred labor laws passed by state legislatures to ease inhumane working conditions.
Between 1880 and 1931 the courts issued more than 1,800 injunctions to suppress labor strikes. No trace of conservative restraint during those many years.
When Congress outlawed child labor or passed other social reforms, conservative jurists declared such laws to be violations of the Tenth Amendment. The Tenth Amendment says that powers not delegated to the federal government are reserved to the states or the people. So Congress could not act.
But, when states passed social welfare legislation, the Courts right-wing activists said such laws violated substantive due process (a totally fabricated oxymoron) under the Fourteenth Amendment. So the state legislatures could not act.
Thus for more than fifty years, the justices used the Tenth Amendment to stop federal reforms initiated under the Fourteenth Amendment, and the Fourteenth to stymie state reforms initiated under the Tenth. Its hard to get more brazenly activist than that.
A conservative Supreme Court produced Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), another inventive reading of the Fourteenth Amendments equal protection clause. Plessy confected the separate but equal doctrine, claiming that the forced separation of Blacks from Whites did not impute inferiority as long as facilities were equal (which they rarely were). For some seventy years, this judicial fabrication buttressed racial segregation.
Convinced that they too were persons, women began to argue that the due process clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment (applying to state governments) and the Fifth Amendment (applying to the federal government) disallowed the voting prohibitions imposed on women by state and federal authorities.
 But in Minor v. Happersett (1875), the conservative Court fashioned another devilishly contorted interpretation: true, women were citizens but citizenship did not necessarily confer a citizens right to suffrage. In other words,  due process, and equal protection applied to such persons as business corporations but not to women or people of African descent.
At times, presidents place themselves and their associates above accountability by claiming that the separation of powers gives them an inherent right of executive privilege. Executive privilege has been used by the White House to withhold information on undeclared wars, illegal campaign funds, Supreme Court nominations, burglaries (Watergate), insider trading (by Bush and Cheney), and White House collusion with corporate lobbyists.
But the concept of executive privilege (i.e. unaccountable executive secrecy) exists nowhere in the Constitution or any law. Yet the wild-eyed right-wing activists on the Supreme Court trumpet executive privilege, deciding out of thin air that a presumptive privilege for withholding information belongs to the president.
Bush just recently talked about how important it is for us to guard executive privilege in order for there to be crisp decision making in the White House. Crisp? So Bush presents himself as a strict constructionist while making claim to a wholly extra-constitutional juridical fiction known as executive privilege.
With staggering audacity, the Courts rightist judicial activists have decided that states cannot prohibit corporations from spending unlimited amounts on public referenda or other elections because such campaign expenditures are a form of speech and the Constitution guarantees freedom of speech to such persons as corporations.
In a dissenting opinion, the liberal Justice Stevens noted, Money is property; it is not speech. But his conservative colleagues preferred the more fanciful activist interpretation.
They further ruled that free speech enables rich candidates to spend as much as they want on their own campaigns, and rich individuals to expend unlimited sums in any election contest. Thus poor and rich can both freely compete, one in a whisper, the other in a roar.
Right-wing judicial activism reached a frenzy point in George W. Bush v. Al Gore. In a 5-to-4 decision, the conservatives overruled the Florida Supreme Courts order for a recount in the 2000 presidential election. The justices argued with breathtaking contrivance that since different Florida counties might use different modes of tabulating ballots, a hand recount would violate the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
By preventing a recount, the Supreme Court gave the presidency to Bush.
In recent years these same conservative justices have held that the Fourteenth Amendments equal protection clause could not be used to stop violence against women, or provide a more equitable mode of property taxes, or a more equitable distribution of funds between rich and poor school districts.
But, in Bush v. Gore  they ruled that the equal protection clause could  be used to stop a perfectly legal ballot recount. Then they explicitly declared that the Bush case could not be considered a precedent for other equal protection issues. In other words, the Fourteenth Amendment applied only when the conservative judicial activists wanted it to, as when stealing an election.
We hear conservatives say that judges should not try to legislate from the bench, the way liberal jurists supposedly do. But a recent study by Paul Gewirtz and Chad Golder of Yale University reveals that conservative justices like Thomas and Scalia have a far higher rate of invalidating or reinterpreting Congressional laws than more liberal justices like Byers and Ginsberg.
By this measure, too, the conservatives are the more activist.
In sum, the right-wing aggrandizers in black robes are neither strict constructionists nor balanced adjudicators. They are unrestrained power hustlers masquerading as sober defenders of lawful procedure and constitutional intent.
If this is democracy, who needs oligarchy?
Michael Parenti's recent books include Superpatriotism (City Lights), The Assassination of Julius Caesar (New
Press), and The Culture Struggle (Seven Stories Press), all available in paperback; also visit: www.michaelparenti.org.

from Howard Zinn :
13 November 2005

It's Not Up To The Court

by Howard Zinn

John Roberts sailed through his confirmation hearings as the new Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, with enthusiastic Republican support, and a few weak mutterings of opposition by the Democrats. Then, after the far right deemed Harriet Miers insufficiently doctrinaire, Bush nominated arch conservative Samuel Alito to replace Sandra Day O'Connor. This has caused a certain consternation among people we affectionately term "the left."

I can understand that sinking feeling. Even listening to pieces of Roberts's confirmation hearings was enough to induce despair: the joking with the candidate, the obvious signs that, whether Democrats or Republicans, these are all members of the same exclusive club. Roberts's proper "credentials," his "nice guy" demeanor, his insistence to the Judiciary Committee that he is not an "ideologue" (can you imagine anyone, even Robert Bork or Dick Cheney, admitting that he is an "ideologue"?) were clearly more important than his views on equality, justice, the rights of defendants, the war powers of the President.

At one point in the hearings, The New York Times reported, Roberts "summed up his philosophy." He had been asked, "Are you going to be on the side of the little guy?" (Would any candidate admit that he was on the side of "the big guy"? Presumably serious "hearings" bring out idiot questions.)

Roberts replied: "If the Constitution says that the little guy should win, the little guy's going to win in court before me. But if the Constitution says that the big guy should win, well, then the big guy's going to win, because my obligation is to the Constitution."

If the Constitution is the holy test, then a justice should abide by its provision in Article VI that not only the Constitution itself but "all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the Supreme Law of the Land." This includes the Geneva Convention of 1949, which the United States signed, and which insists that prisoners of war must be granted the rights of due process.

A district court judge in 2004 ruled that the detainees held in Guantanamo for years without trial were protected by the Geneva Convention and deserved due process. Roberts and two colleagues on the Court of Appeals overruled this.

There is enormous hypocrisy surrounding the pious veneration of the Constitution and "the rule of law." The Constitution, like the Bible, is infinitely flexible and is used to serve the political needs of the moment. When the country was in economic crisis and turmoil in the Thirties and capitalism needed to be saved from the anger of the poor and hungry and unemployed, the Supreme Court was willing to stretch to infinity the constitutional right of Congress to regulate interstate commerce. It decided that the national government, desperate to regulate farm production, could tell a family farmer what to grow on his tiny piece of land.

When the Constitution gets in the way of a war, it is ignored. When the Supreme Court was faced, during Vietnam, with a suit by soldiers refusing to go, claiming that there had been no declaration of war by Congress, as the Constitution required, the soldiers could not get four Supreme Court justices to agree to even hear the case. When, during World War I, Congress ignored the First Amendment's right to free speech by passing legislation to prohibit criticism of the war, the imprisonment of dissenters under this law was upheld unanimously by the Supreme Court, which included two presumably liberal and learned justices: Oliver Wendell Holmes and Louis Brandeis.

It would be naive to depend on the Supreme Court to defend the rights of poor people, women, people of color, dissenters of all kinds. Those rights only come alive when citizens organize, protest, demonstrate, strike, boycott, rebel, and violate the law in order to uphold justice.

The distinction between law and justice is ignored by all those Senators--Democrats and Republicans--who solemnly invoke as their highest concern "the rule of law." The law can be just; it can be unjust. It does not deserve to inherit the ultimate authority of the divine right of the king.

The Constitution gave no rights to working people: no right to work less than twelve hours a day, no right to a living wage, no right to safe working conditions. Workers had to organize, go on strike, defy the law, the courts, the police, create a great movement which won the eight-hour day, and caused such commotion that Congress was forced to pass a minimum wage law, and Social Security, and unemployment insurance.

The Brown decision on school desegregation did not come from a sudden realization of the Supreme Court that this is what the Fourteenth Amendment called for. After all, it was the same Fourteenth Amendment that had been cited in the Plessy case upholding racial segregation. It was the initiative of brave families in the South--along with the fear by the government, obsessed with the Cold War, that it was losing the hearts and minds of colored people all over the world--that brought a sudden enlightenment to the Court.

The Supreme Court in 1883 had interpreted the Fourteenth Amendment so that nongovernmental institutions-hotels, restaurants, etc.-could bar black people. But after the sit-ins and arrests of thousands of black people in the South in the early Sixties, the right to public accommodations was quietly given constitutional sanction in 1964 by the Court. It now interpreted the interstate commerce clause, whose wording had not changed since 1787, to mean that places of public accommodation could be regulated by Congressional action and be prohibited from discriminating.

Soon this would include barbershops, and I suggest it takes an ingenious interpretation to include barbershops in interstate commerce.

The right of a woman to an abortion did not depend on the Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade. It was won before that decision, all over the country, by grassroots agitation that forced states to recognize the right. If the American people, who by a great majority favor that right, insist on it, act on it, no Supreme Court decision can take it away.

The rights of working people, of women, of black people have not depended on decisions of the courts. Like the other branches of the political system, the courts have recognized these rights only after citizens have engaged in direct action powerful enough to win these rights for themselves.

This is not to say that we should ignore the courts or the electoral campaigns. It can be useful to get one person rather than another on the Supreme Court, or in the Presidency, or in Congress. The courts, win or lose, can be used to dramatize issues.

On St. Patrick's Day, 2003, on the eve of the invasion of Iraq, four anti-war activists poured their own blood around the vestibule of a military recruiting center near Ithaca, New York, and were arrested. Charged in state court with criminal mischief and trespassing (charges well suited to the American invaders of a certain Mideastern country), the St. Patrick's Four spoke their hearts to the jury. Peter DeMott, a Vietnam veteran, described the brutality of war. Danny Burns explained why invading Iraq would violate the U.N. Charter, a treaty signed by the United States. Clare Grady spoke of her moral obligations as a Christian. Teresa Grady spoke to the jury as a mother, telling them that women and children were the chief victims of war, and that she cared about the children of Iraq. Nine of the twelve jurors voted to acquit them, and the judge declared a hung jury. (When the federal government retried them on felony conspiracy charges, a jury in September acquitted them of those and convicted them on lesser charges.)

Still, knowing the nature of the political and judicial system of this country, its inherent bias against the poor, against people of color, against dissidents, we cannot become dependent on the courts, or on our political leadership. Our culture--the media, the educational system--tries to crowd out of our political consciousness everything except who will be elected President and who will be on the Supreme Court, as if these are the most important decisions we make. They are not. They deflect us from the most important job citizens have, which is to bring democracy alive by organizing, protesting, engaging in acts of civil disobedience that shake up the system. That is why Cindy Sheehan's dramatic stand in Crawford, Texas, leading to 1,600 anti-war vigils around the country, involving 100,000 people, is more crucial to the future of American democracy than the mock hearings on Justice Roberts or the ones to come on Judge Alito.

That is why the St. Patrick's Four need to be supported and emulated. That is why the GIs refusing to return to Iraq, the families of soldiers calling for withdrawal from the war, are so important.

That is why the huge peace march in Washington on September 24 bodes well.

Let us not be disconsolate over the increasing control of the court system by the right wing.

The courts have never been on the side of justice, only moving a few degrees one way or the other, unless pushed by the people. Those words engraved in the marble of the Supreme Court, "Equal Justice Before the Law," have always been a sham.

No Supreme Court, liberal or conservative, will stop the war in Iraq, or redistribute the wealth of this country, or establish free medical care for every human being. Such fundamental change will depend, the experience of the past suggests, on the actions of an aroused citizenry, demanding that the promise of the Declaration of Independence--an equal right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness--be fulfilled.

from Noam Chomsky :
13 November 2005

Chomsky Answers Guardian

by Noam Chomsky

This is an open letter to a few of the people with whom I had discussed the Guardian interview of 31 October, on the basis of the electronic version, which is all that I had seen.  Someone has just sent me a copy of the printed version, and I now understand why friends in England who wrote me were so outraged.

 It is a nuisance, and a bit of a bore, to dwell on the topic, and I always keep away from personal attacks on me, unless asked, but in this case the matter has some more general interest, so perhaps its worth reviewing what most readers could not know.  The general interest is that the print version reveals a very impressive effort, which obviously took careful planning and work, to construct an exercise in defamation that is a model of the genre.  Its of general interest for that reason alone.

A secondary matter is that it may serve as a word of warning to anyone who is asked by the Guardian for an interview, and happens to fall slightly to the critical end of the approved range of opinion of the editors.  The warning is: if you accept the invitation, be cautious, and make sure to have a tape recorder that is very visibly placed in front of you.  That may inhibit the dedication to deceit, and if not, at least you will have a record.  I should add that in probably thousands of interviews from every corner of the world and every part of the spectrum for decades, that thought has never occurred to me before.  It does now.

It was evident from the electronic version that t was a scurrilous piece of journalism.  Thats clear even from internal evidence.  The reporter obviously had a definite agenda: to focus the defamation exercise on my denial of the Srebrenica massacre.  From the character of what appeared, it is not easy to doubt that she was assigned this task.  When I wouldnt go along, she simply invented the denial, repeatedly, along with others.  The centerpiece of the interview was this, describing my alleged views, in particular, that:

during the Bosnian war the massacre at Srebrenica was probably overstated. (Chomsky uses quotations marks to undermine things he disagrees with and, in print at least, it can come across less as academic than as witheringly teenage; like, Srebrenica was so not a massacre.)

Transparently, neither I nor anyone speaks with quotation marks, so the reference to my claim that Srebrenica was so not a massacre, shown by my using the term massacre in quotes, must be in print hence witheringly teenage, as well as disgraceful.  That raises the obvious question: where is it in print, or anywhere?  I know from letters that were sent to me that a great many journalists and others asked the author of the interview and the relevant editors to provide the source, and were met by stony silence for a simple reason: it does not exist, and they know it.  Furthermore, as Media Lens pointed out, with five minutes research on the internet, any journalist could find many places where I described the massacre as a massacre, never with quotes.  That alone ends the story.  I will skip the rest, which also collapses quickly.

More interesting, however, is the editorial contribution.  One illustration actually is in the e-edition.  I did write a very brief letter in response, which for some reason went to the ombudsman, who informed me that the word fabrication had to be removed.  My truncated letter stating that I take no responsibility for anything attributed to me in the article did appear, paired with a moving letter from a victim, expressing justified outrage that I or anyone could take the positions invented in the Guardian article.  Pairing aside, the heading given by the editors was: Fall out over Srebrenica. The editors are well aware that there was no debate or disagreement about Srebrenica, once the fabrications in their article are removed.

The printed version reveals how careful and well-planned the exercise was, and why it might serve as a model for the genre.  The front-page announcement of the interview reads: Noam Chomsky The Greatest Intellectual? The question is answered by the following highlighted Q&A, above the interview:

Q: Do you regret supporting those who say the Srebrenica massacre was exaggerated?

A: My only regret is that I didn't do it strongly enough

It is set apart in large print so that it cant be missed, and will be quoted separately (as it already has been).  It also captures the essence of the agenda.  The only defect is that it didnt happen.  The truthful part is that I said, and explained at length, that I regret not having strongly enough opposed the Swedish publishers decision to withdraw a book by Diana (not Diane, as the Guardian would have it) Johnstone after it was bitterly attacked in the Swedish press.  As Brockes presumably knew, though I carefully explained anyway, there is one source for my involvement in this affair: an open letter that I wrote to the publisher, after editors there who objected to the decision, and journalist friends, sent me the Swedish press charges that were the basis for the rejection.  In the open letter, readily available on the internet (and the only source), I went through the charges one by one, checked them against the book, and found that they all ranged from serious misrepresentation to outright fabrication.  I then took and take the position that it is completely wrong to withdraw a book because the press charges (falsely) that it does not conform to approved doctrine.  And I do regret that I didnt do it strongly enough, the words Brockes managed to quote correctly.  In the interview, whatever Johnstone may have said about Srebrenica never came up, and is entirely irrelevant in any event, at least to anyone with a minimal appreciation of freedom of speech.

The article is then framed by a series of photographs.  Lets put aside childhood photos and an honorary degree -- included for no apparent reason other than, perhaps, to reinforce the image the reporter sought to convey of a rich elitist hypocrite who tells people how to live (citing a comment of her own, presumably supposed to be clever, which will not be found on the tape, I am reasonably confident).  Those apart, there are three photos depicting my actual life.  Its an interesting choice, and the captions are even more interesting.

One is a picture of me talking to journalist John Pilger (who isnt shown, but lets give the journal the benefit of the doubt of assuming he is actually in the original).  The second is of me meeting Fidel Castro. The third, and most interesting, is a picture of me in Laos en route to Hanoi to give a speech to the North Vietnamese.

Thats my life: honoring commie-rats and the renegade who is the source of the word pilgerize invented by journalists furious about his incisive and courageous reporting, and knowing that the only response they are capable of is ridicule.

Since Ill avoid speculation, you can judge for yourselves the role Pilger plays in the fantasy life of the editorial offices of the Guardian.  And the choice is interesting in other ways.  Its true that I have met John a few times, much fewer than I would like because we both have busy lives.  And possibly a picture was taken.  It must have taken some effort to locate this particular picture, assuming it to be genuine, among the innumerable pictures of me talking to endless other people.  And the intended message is very clear.

Turn to the Castro picture.  In this case the picture, though clipped, is real.  As the editors surely know, at least if those who located the picture did 2 minutes of research, the others in the picture (apart from my wife) were, like me, participants in the annual meeting of an international society of Latin American scholars, with a few others from abroad.  This annual meeting happened to be in Havana.  Like all others, I was in a group that met with Castro.  End of second story.

Turn now to the third picture, from 1970.  The element of truth is that I was indeed in Laos, and on my way to Hanoi.  The facts about these trips are very easy to discover.  I wrote about both in some detail right away, in two articles in the New York Review, reprinted in my book At War with Asia in 1970.  It is easily available to Guardian editors, because it was recently reprinted.  If they want to be the first to question the account (unlike reviewers in such radical rags as the journal of the Royal Institute, International Affairs), it would be very easy for a journalist to verify it: contact the two people who accompanied me on the entire trip, one then a professor of economics at Cornell, the other a minister of the United Church of Christ.  Both are readily accessible.  From the sole account that exists, the editor would know that in Laos I was engaged in such subversive activities as spending many hours in refugee camps interviewing miserable people who had just been driven by the CIA clandestine army from the Plain of Jars, having endured probably the most intense bombing in history for over two years, almost entirely unrelated to the Vietnam war.  And in North Vietnam, I did spend most of my time doing what I had been invited to do: many hours of lectures and discussion, on any topic I knew anything about, in the bombed ruins of the Hanoi Polytechnic, to faculty who were able to return to Hanoi from the countryside during a lull in the bombing, and were very eager to learn about recent work in their own fields, to which they had had no access for years.

The rest of the trip to Hanoi to give a speech to the North Vietnamese is a Guardian invention.  Those who frequent ultra-right defamation sites can locate the probable source of this ingenious invention, but even that ridiculous tale goes nowhere near as far as what the Guardian editors concocted, which is a new addition to the vast literature of vilification of those who stray beyond the approved bounds.

So thats my life: worshipping commie-rats and such terrible figures as John Pilger.  Quite apart from the deceit in the captions, simply note how much effort and care it must have taken to contrive these images to frame the answer to the question on the front page.

It is an impressive piece of work, and, as I said, provides a useful model for studies of defamation exercises, or for those who practice the craft.  And also, perhaps, provides a useful lesson for those who may be approached for interviews by this journal.

This is incidentally only a fragment.  The rest is mostly what one might expect to find in the scandal sheets about movie stars, familiar from such sources, and of no further interest.

Noam Chomsky

from Diana Johnstone :
Date: Mon, 14 Nov 2005
Subject: On the significance and origins of a hatchet job

Kulturkrieg in Journalism: Using Emotion to Silence Analysis
The Origins of the Guardian Attack on Chomsky

by Diana Johnstone

        Last Halloween, The Guardian ran an attack on Noam Chomsky that amazed many readers who had considered The Guardian to be one of Britain's more serious newspapers.  The attack took the form of what Alexander Cockburn describes as a  "showcase interview", "a showcase for the interviewer's inquisitorial chutzpa". In this art form, the interviewee is simply the prey for the interviewer who plies him with trap questions and then rewrites the whole thing to make him look like an idiot compared to
her clever self. The interviewer was a young Oxford graduate named Emma Brockes who is making a name for herself in the genre.

        Ms Brockes obviously had scant familiarity with Chomsky's work. For all one can tell, her sole background preparation for this assignment was an article written by her colleague Ed Vulliamy and published by the Balkan Crisis Report of International War and Peace Reporting (IWPR, an outfit heavily subsidized by NATO governments) on 27 August 2004.  Vulliamy's article, "We Must Fight for Memory of Bosnia's Camps", calling for monuments to perpetuate the memory of the 1992 Bosnian Serb detention camps
which he visited as a reporter (but not, of course, the Muslim and Croat camps which he did not visit), includes an attack on me which is echoed very precisely by Ms Brockes, even to misspelling my name in the same way. The entire background for her attack on Chomsky seems to be drawn from two paragraphs of Vulliamy's article:

        Revisionism over the carnage in Bosnia is rampant and persistent. It has been ever since Thomas Deichmann and his group in London, under the auspices of a circle called "Living Marxism", claimed the camps found by ITN and myself were fabrications. They adopted the Serbian term "collection centres", claiming their inmates were there of their own volition. Deichmann's charges were ruled by a jury as being in breach of civil law in the London High Court when they were legally challenged by ITN. Successive
verdicts in The Hague have rendered them ridiculous as well as poisonous. One could be forgiven for thinking that once the Bosnian Serb co-president Biljana Plavsic had pleaded guilty to the entire hurricane of violence unleashed on her authority, the revisionists would go to ground.

        After all, who would know best: they or the woman (and her peers and subordinates) on whose orders the pogrom was carried out? But no. In Sweden, here they come again, through the pages of a magazine called Ordfront, or Word Front. Last year, it carried an interview with the author Diane Johnstone, about her book Fool's Crusade, which expresses doubts over the number of victims of the Srebrenica massacre; the authencity of the Racak massacre in Kosovo; the use of systematic rape in the war in Bosnia;
and the true figure of Bosnian war dead (the official estimate is more than 200,000 - Johnstone claims 50,000). And just as before, members of the chattering classes, unbelievably, have hailed this poison as "outstanding work", in a letter signed by, among others, Noam Chomsky, Arundhati Roy, Tariq Ali, John Pilger, et.al.

        In her write-up of the interview, Ms Brockes interprets Chomsky's defense of publication of my book as a "defense of those who say the Srebrenica massacre was exaggerated" and drags in the ITN-Living Marxism (LM) controversy, confusing the facts just as in Vulliamy's article. She lauds "my colleague, Ed Vulliamy", as one of the "serious, trustworthy people" who disagree with Chomsky.  So it is not far-fetched to see Vulliamy's influence in the Brockes hatchet job.

        (The above citation from the Vulliamy article misrepresents the ITN-LM case, as does Ms Brockes. The issue raised by LM had to do with the way photographs taken at Trnopolje camp, by focusing on a thin man on the other side of a wire fence which in reality did not surround the Muslim inmates, but rather the ITN crew itself, was used to create the impression that what was happening in Bosnia was a repetition of a Nazi-style Holocaust.  I corrected that misrepresentation in my reponse to The
Guardian, which was published by Counterpunch, but not by the Guardian. I pointed out then that the judgment of the court was based solely on the subjective issue as to whether or not the ITN journalists "deliberately" set out to deceive the public. Moreover, in reality, nobody denied the "existence" of the camps, which Vulliamy claims to have "discovered", although he was led there by Bosnian Serb guides. There are other misrepresentations in his article. For example, I have never made any claim as to the number of victims in Bosnia, but simply pointed to the fact that among various estimates, the media has preferred to accept and repeat the
highest, which was offered without any evidence by the information ministry in Sarajevo. Since my book was published, a serious study by Norwegian experts for the Hague Tribunal has estimates the overall number of casualties of the Bosnian war at 102,622 persons, of which 55,261 were civilians and 47,360 militaries at the time of death (no ethnic breakdown). That is a lot, but it is not "over 200,000", as Vulliamy and others go right on repeating, usually with the implication that all were Muslims
killed by Serbs, which is quite impossible.)

        From this citation, it emerges that the Brockes interview was a continuation of the vicious attack on me and the managing editor of the Swedish magazine Ordfront, Bj��Ecklund, following his long article in the July/August 2003 issue on "lies about  Yugoslavia" which featured an interview with me and excerpts from my book, "Fools' Crusade".

        The first shots in that assault were fired by Maciej Zaremba, anex-Maoist of Polish origin turned ideological watchdog, in a flailing article published by Sweden's leading mainstream daily, Dagens NyeterZaremba's sloppy attack (he admittedly never read my book, and seems not even to have read the Ordfront piece carefully) was thereupon echoed by mainstream Swedish media, in a campaign absurdly called a "debate", although replies from those being attacked (myself and others) were excluded.  Among the uncorrected lies was the statement that I was a "pillar of LM", a magazine with which I have never had the slightest

        This shameful campaign was used to bring to heel Ordfront, which until then had been the most important left-oriented alternative to Sweden's mainstream press. It is an amazing story, excellently recounted by Al Burke, a (formerly U.S.) Swedish citizen who is well-acquainted with the Ordfront scandal and its broader political context. His document, "All Quieted on the Word Front", deserves to be read carefully by all who are concerned by the growing threats to freedom of political expression in the
"democratic West". 

        See http://www.nnn.se/n-model/foreign/ordfront.pdf

       For starters, there is an introduction on Al Burke's web site:

Two Kinds of Journalism

        Ms Brockes colleague Ed Vulliamy is a proud practitioner of what is called "advocacy journalism", a reporter who openly and passionately takes sides in conflicts he covers.  I would prefer to describe it as sort of literary journalism, where phrase-making and emotional arousal take precedence over reason, or even, on occasion, facts. The striking feature is the unrestrained use of a florid style, reflected in his choice of adjectives. In the article cited above, for instance, he speaks of the "putrid afternoon" when he had "the accursed honor" of seeing "heinous walls", etc. As to content, in the case of the Yugoslav disintegration wars, the emotional approach works best by reducing events to a certain number of notorious atrocities, proper to chill the blood and close the
mind to contemplation of political complications. Beyond advocacy, he writes as a sort of professional mourner and literary avenger.

        Now, that is his right and suits his talent.  I make no attempt to interfere with his mourning and his advocacy.  But I do object when his style of journalism is used to condemn a quite different type of journalistic writing: one that attempts to be analytical and fair to all sides.

        I readily acknowledge that emotional commitment is probably the most powerful motor for even the most analytical writing.  But the difference is the attempt to be dispassionate, to exercise a certain self-control over the emotional flow of words. The watchdogs condemn efforts to be fair to all sides in the Yugoslav conflicts as "inflicting new pain on the victims"; Vulliamy wrote (article cited) that "Johnstone's book has inflicted new pain on those who matter the most: those who underwent endless days of mindless torture and survived; on the brave and almost forgotten women of Srebrenica who are still desperately searching
for their loved ones; and dishonours the memory of the victims."

        In short, I am accused of being a sort of torturer, and Vulliamy is no doubt able to round up some poor Bosnian Muslim victims of his acquaintance, wave my book at them, and tell them that they have been dishonored and that he is busily defending them from the pain I am inflicting.

        This does not really do much for the victims, but it does serve to preserve the Bosnian conflict as a purely emotional issue, a manichean issue of good versus evil, which keeps it firmly on the terrain commanded by Vulliamy himself, and the likes of Zaremba.  It enforces the notion of a dualistic world, in which all is either black or white, good or evil, and anyone who tries to understand all sides of an issue is condemned as an appeaser, a coward, and perhaps even a handmaiden of the Devil.

        In reality, trying to be fair and analytical does not at all preclude feeling sympathy for victims, and other human emotions.  But for some writers, their emotional commitment seems to exclude all fairness and reasonable analysis. Whatever the political aims of such writers, a matter I cannot judge, their militant rejection of dispassionate analysis can only play into the hands of political powers who cloak their geostrategically motivated military interventions in the rhetoric of humanitarian imperatives.   

Francis McCollum Feeley
Professor of American Studies/
Director of Research
Université Stendhal Grenoble-3
Grenoble, France