vrijdag, oktober 29, 2004

Hitchens' and Hari's allies in the War On Terror™

So Hitchens has, in the pages of The Nation, officially (slightly) endorsed Bush. (And then, confusingly, slightly not, if his statement in the survey of Slate contributors is more accurate)…

Now, in their slanders against the anti-war movement, the pro-war 'left' has maintained that in all other areas, they are as progressive as us 'stoppers', and hence the pro-war position can honestly be legitimately progressive, if minoritarian, position, while we, the unprincipled majority, have sacrificed our traditional defence of the rights of women and gays and lesbians by opposing the war and more latterly by supporting the resistance.

And too often, despite, for example, their attacks on Hugo Chavez, near complete ignorance of the ills of international financial institutions and corporate globalisation [I will excuse Johann Hari here, who has in the last year had a Damascene conversion to the altermondialiste cause], support for Vichy trade unions in Iraq, and a half dozen other reactionary positions, the anti-war left takes them at their word.

But the reality is not that they are left-wing-but-pro-war: They are not left-wing in any sense at all. They are as profoundly unknowing of events as a Ford 4x4 truck-driving Peoria hardware store owner. It is my firm belief that the true division politically is not between right and left, but between ignorance and awareness (with The Ignorant being led by the greedy and the psychotic [and, let's be honest, The Aware being led by millenarian hair-splitters, or, as the French more eloquently put it, 'fly ass-fuckers'*]).

The chickenhawk 'left' are simply a bunch of unaware, unread, unconscious, unlettered, simpleton fat-heads, however baroque their sentence construction.

Iraq's getting a little repetitive for the moment, and I think I've done to death the ping-pong match of 'The resistance are all fascists!'; 'No they're not, or, at least most of them aren't!' So, to prove my point, let's have a look at two other examples of the success of the War On Terror™ of which these 'single-issue' voters and their ilk (wilfully) know nothing: Colombia and Afghanistan.

On Tuesday, Air America's Majority Report had an interview with Nation journalist (and son of basically-okay-but-mildly-Stalinoid letch** Michael Parenti) Christian Parenti, not yet back 24 hours from Afghanistan, where he had been for the last month, covering the recent presidential 'election' there. Parenti Jr. outlined for hosts Garofalo and Seder the wretched state the war against Afghanistan and the subsequent corruption and realpolitik on the part of the US, UK, UN and the rest of the gang has left the country.

Articles covering the election in most of the western press reported everything went as swimmingly and hitchless as the daily Disneyland fireworks display (apart from a few teensy-weensy little problems with ink) and that, while Iraq is plainly a mess, Afghanistan is fast on its way to being something like the Finland of Central Asia.

Parenti, however - who himself managed to get a hold of two Afghan voter registration cards - described a somewhat different reality. The re-elected Karzai controls little outside Kabul, everywhere else is controlled by drug-trafficking warlords, corruption is rampant, and the chicks are still all wearing those natty blue tablecloths that John Simpson is partial to and that Laura Bush told us was why we went to war there.

I've pulled a few quotes from the interview which you can hear in its Garofalo-interrupted entirety here [If there are any errors, they will be due to my semi-deafness and repetitive-strain-injury-inhibited typing].

Parenti describes the place as a 'narco-mafia state', with the economy more dependent on drugs than even Colombia, all overseen by brutal warlords such as that cheeky chappie, General Rashid Dostum, who is fond of tying insubordinates to the tracks of tanks and having them driven over and over until they are turned to pulp.

'The warlords that were funded by Saudi Arabia and the I.S.I. (the Pakistani secret services) and the U.S. against the U.S.S.R. are being put back in power as part of the Karzai government,' said Parenti. 'The U.S. imposed this deal on the mujahedeen, and that is that if there is open factional fighting, they will be bombed and destroyed from the air, but anything short of that is fine.'

'Poppy season is over now in northern Afghanistan and there are literally fields of marijuana as far as the eye can see and the government taxes this. The guy in charge in the province is a warlord who until a month ago was this 'heart of darkness' renegade with a private army who was refusing to disarm, so Karzai just made him governor'

'You have an economy that is basically based on gangsterism and the U.S. is complicit in all of this an allowing all of this. And Karzai is just a kept caged bird in Kabul. He's appointing these people who should be tried for war crimes'

'Hash and opium are taxed by local governors, at 20 per cent. [Many of the people] are unemployed after fighting against the Russian and very depressed and demoralised and live in utter poverty…People have no choice but to engage in large scale smuggling of consumer items, guns and the drug trade and the government is complicit in this in terms of taxes and tributes and extortion and the U.S. doesn't care…The modus operandi is to subcontract to the local warlords.'

'Most of the $4.5bn spent over three years in Afghanistan was on drivers and hotels and that sort of stuff.' Meanwhile some $5bn a month is spent in Iraq.'

Parenti also described massive vote fraud, which was all known by even mainstream journalists, but later edited out by producers and editors: 'Stories covering this are being filed, but edited out…It just seemed like there was a serious and deliberate ideological intervention at the level of producer and editors in London and New York [to remove mention of voting fraud]'

'[The election was] pushed forward by Karzai even though there was not the appropriate infrastructure for an election to happen but was pushed forward by the U.S. ambassador to happen before November 2 because Iraq is melting down and [Bush] needed some symbolic victory.'

'The people in charge of voting were the local cops. There were ballots pre-marked for Karzai and hundreds or thousands of people who don't exist who had voting cards.

'[There was] definitve proof of multiple voting: journalists who went around filming their drivers getting voting cards and like voting four or five times and journalists voting themselves and this then gets translated back into just "problems with ink"'

And as for the great liberation of women that supposedly happened post-Stealth-Bomber:

'The situation for women is that you see women in burkas all the time. To be fair, the Taliban were completely nuts, and in Kabul you see women in burkas, but there are middle class women on the street in certain neighbourhoods not wearing burkas. But once you get out of Kabul, the situation for women has not changed.'

The place is a formalised narco-mafia state, with U.S. bases, run by people like Tony Soprano, given legitimacy by the U.S. occupation…Karzai is a corrupt puppet, and the rest [of the governors] are truly psychotic, like General Dostum.'

Well. That puts my mind at ease. But what about the good work we're doing in Colombia? For much of the U.S. election, there has been no mention of the Western Hemispheric front in the War On Terror/War On Drugs.

Now, I don't want to go into a detailed and bloody history of American involvement in the country. For that, you can visit the Colombia Solidarity Campaign, the Colombia Journal, or the North American Committee on Latin America. But, briefly, for over a decade, as part of the multi-billion-dollar Plan Colombia, the U.S. has funded the militarist Colombian state, colluded with right-wing paramilitary death squads and actually deployed U.S. troops in the country, ostensibly to fight the 'narco-terrorist' FARC and ELN left-wing guerrillas. The reality is that the security forces use the guerrillas as an excuse to execute trade-unionists and other activists on behalf of multi-nationals such as Coca-Cola, giving the country the highest murder rate in the world, with some 78.6 recorded homicides per 100,000 people in 1994. The second highest recorded homicide rate in the world is Jamaica at 29.8 homicides per 100,000 people.† And the bulk of these are trade unionists and other social justice activists, human rights monitors, students, academics, journalists, workers, indigenous people and peasants, killed by the army or paramilitaries.

Some 75 per cent of all trade unionists killed in the world last year were killed in Colombia.

With the help of the U.S. and the U.K., the government is literally liquidating popular opposition to neo-liberalism through its ongoing 'Operation Dragon'.

And while America's largesse to the country (some $3.5bn in military aid since 2000) professedly goes to eliminating drug trafficking, in fact, the Colombian government and U.S. representatives in the country themselves have been repeatedly been proven to be in bed with the drug cartels. Throughout Latin America, the C.I.A. has set up or consolidated intelligence agencies whose connections to other agencies have provided the perfect channel for drug shipments.

From the Winter 2000 edition of the American International Socialist Review:

'The administration of President Ernesto Samper collapsed amid scandal in 1998 after revelations that he had accepted at least $6.1 million in campaign contributions from the notorious Cali cartel. In 1996, the commander of the Colombian armed forces was forced out because of his ties to drug traffickers.

'More recently, U.S. Customs officials in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, found 1,634.6 pounds of cocaine aboard a Colombian air force plane. Colombian prosecutors claim to have conclusive evidence that the Colombian air force has been infiltrated by the cocaine cartels at the highest levels.

'A number of officials who are themselves directly involved in anti-drug efforts admit that left-wing guerrillas are not the locus of drug production. The head of the Drug Enforcement Administration, Donnie Marshall, recently testified before Congress that "[the DEA hasn’t] come close to the conclusion that [the main rebel armies have] been involved as a drug trafficking organization." And President Pastrana said in an interview with the Argentine daily Clarín in July that the rebels "were not narcoguerrillas." "There is no evidence," he said, "that the FARC are drug traffickers."'

Most recently, in August of this year, the U.S. Defense [sic] Intelligence Agency, declassified documents from 1991 that reveal that Columbia's current president, Alvaro Uribe, then a senator, was at the time 'a close personal friend of Pablo Escobar' and was 'dedicated to collaboration with the Medellin [drug] cartel at high government levels.' The report goes on to say that Uribe was involved in narcotics activities in the U.S. as well.

These are the sorts of people - from General Dostum to Alvaro Uribe who are the actual, real allies of Hitchens and company.

And the pro-war 'left' accuse us of a cheap politic of 'my enemy's enemy is my friend' in our support for the Iraqi resistance. But for Christopher Hitchens, it is plain that so long as the 'Islamo-fascists' are having new assholes ripped for themselves by Navy S.E.A.L.s, he could give a gibbon's left testicle what happens to Colombian peasants.

Johann Hari in particular likes to say that what makes this war different is that the bad guys from the eighties, like Saddam-handshaking Rumsfeld, have learned their lesson, that this time, the neo-cons are idealistic, and won't employ a murderous realpolitik this time around.

In his recent debate with Robert Fisk, an audience member asked Hari: 'How can you be sure [the U.S./U.K.] won't back a new Iraqi tyrant?'

He responded:

'I'm not. There is, of course, a much greater chance the Americans will back something like a democracy (albeit with undemocratic IMF-style neoliberal economics) than Saddam, that's for sure.

'But your question is a good one. What I hope - and I don't say this with any confidence - is that the US government has learned the lesson of 9/11. 9/11 happened because the US has been supporting, funding and fostering tyranny in the Middle East for fifty years. That was always going to backfire onto the streets of New York one day, killing innocent people. For the first time, US Presidents will pay a domestic price for backing tyranny abroad - because US citizens will pay a terrible price for it, in blood. This murder of US citizens will continue until the Islamic rage is quelled by democracies that can absorb some of that anger internally.

'Some of Bush's speeches suggest he has learned that, and that he knows the culture of tyranny needs to be turned around.'

But it's all bullshit. Rumsfeld and John Negroponte and Otto Reich and the rest are the same satanic baby-eating motherfuckers they were in the eighties, using the same satanic baby-eating mother-fucking realpolitik in Afghanistan and Colombia and Haiti and Uzbekistan today as they did back then.

But I'm sure Hari is well-meaning. It's just that he's as deeply unaware of these things as a ficus plant. Hitchens however, is, I think, more wilfully ignorant, blinded by the pay-checks from the Weekly Standard and The Atlantic Monthly.

*'Enculer les mouches', if you're wondering.

** He was more than a little, ahem, fresh with an anarchist Cuba-solidarity activist (that sounds like a contradiction, and it is, but that's anarchists for you) friend of mine back in Victoria following a public talk she had moderated.

† Figures from the Colombia Solidarity Campaign. The murder rate has likely become much worse in the last ten years.