Bulletin #193





24 July 2005

Grenoble, France


Dear Colleagues and Friends of CEIMSA,


In the course of the current terrorist attacks in Britain and elsewhere, we have received a flurry of mail, condemning the arrogance of the governing parties in Great Britain and the U.S. The refusal on the part of American and British governments to engage in analytical thought --which, it could be argued, is the very basis of democratic societies-- throws into doubt the legitimacy of these heads of state.


In this bulletin we share with our readers several items we have recently received which challenge the legitimacy of the nations' "representatives" in London and Washington, D.C. The one-dimensional political discourses of Bush and Blair are perceived as an insult and an abuse to many thoughtful citizens who wish to put an end to the terror their nations are experiencing. The causes of this terror campaign have inevitably raised basic questions about US and British foreign policy --beginning with destabilization of Afghanistan in 1979 (which "delivered to the Soviet Union their Vietnam War", in the words of former national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski) and the establishment of permanent U.S. military bases in Saudi Arabia in 1991, against the wishes of the vast majority of the population in that kingdom.


Below please find the following items :


Item A : Professor Sheila Whittick, at Stendhal University, has forwarded to us an article written by cultural critic John Berger who writes immediately after the London bombing.


Item B : Dr. Günther Siegwart-Horst reports in great detail on the medical effects of depleted uranium used by U.S. troops in Iraqi invasion, perhaps the most ignored news story thus far in the 21st Century.


Item C : Another article forwarded by Prof. Whittick, this time written by investigative reporter Seumas Milne on the implications of Prime Minister Blair's denial syndrome concerning the London bombings.


Item D : Dahr Jamail has sent us another of his "Iraq Dispatches", on the shameless collaboration of the British media with the U.S. imperialist adventures in Iraq.


Item E : An opinion piece in the New Statesman (UK) written by John Pilger, "Blair Is Unfit to Be Prime Minister".


Item F : An article recently published in Dollars & Sense, in which Matias Vernengo warns of self-deception among the new generation of Latin American "leftist" leaders.


And finally, item G : Shirley Doulière, Grenoble University graduate student in American Studies, has forwarded to us an American feminist call to arms to resist President Bush's choice of right-wing federal judge John G. Roberts as the replacement for retiring Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. (For a contemporary critique of American political culture by UCLA Professor Douglas Keller, please visit his BlogLeft web site .)




Francis McCollum Feeley

Professor of American Studies/

Director of Research

Université Stendhal-Grenoble III

Grenoble, France







from Professor Sheila Whittick:

The Observer

Sunday July 17 2005



Hi Francis,

Hope you are well. Thought you might be interested in this article in last Sunday's Observer by John Berger.




The bloody outcome of two worlds at war

John Berger

[In a fierce piece of personal polemic, a leading cultural commentator argues that the West's capitalists can be just as 'fanatical' as Muslim fundamentalists]



'Everyone was stunned. We could see a flickering light, and thought there was going to be a fire. We could not open the door of the carriage at first; when we got out, we could see seriously injured people in the tunnel.' These are the words of Loyita Worley, a passenger on the Circle Line train going to Aldgate a little before 9am on Thursday 7 July.


People underground are both sheltered and helpless. Tunnels are ways of escape and terrible traps. The dust suffocates when the tunnels are blocked. 


To blow to pieces those going to work by public transport is to attack, in shameful stealth, the defenceless. The victims suffer more pain and for far, far longer than the suicide bomber. And such suffering gives them most surely the right to judge. 


Yet others, the politicians, rush in to speak in their name, while serving their own interests, which involve gross simplifications, the use of terms that deliberately confuse and, above all, an attempt to justify themselves and their past, however disastrous the errors committed. Not even the innocence of the pain and grief they have come to staunch and console appears to give them pause, so that for one moment they hesitate. 


'I kept closing my eyes and thinking of outside. It was frightening because all the lights had gone out and we didn't hear anything from the driver, so we wondered how he was.' (Fiona Trueman on the Piccadilly Line.) 


The calm of Londoners, who suffered the outrage of the explosions and the ordeal of waiting for news from dear ones who may have been there (that silence which cuts like a blade through your heart), impressed the watching world, as did the calm of Madrid's population the previous year. Such calm could hopefully encourage clear and, above all, precise thinking. In Spain, circumstances allowed it to do so, and one of the first acts of the subsequently elected government was to withdraw Spanish troops from the war in Iraq, a war which most Spaniards opposed. 


In London, despite the evident failure of that war to bring anything but chaos and ruin to the nation it claimed to be liberating, the effect of the atrocities suffered by people on their modest way to work has only been to increase the intransigence of the Prime Minister and government who tugged a protesting country into an unnecessary war. 


On the day of the explosions, speaking from Gleneagles, Mr Blair declared that [terrorists] 'are trying to use the slaughter of innocent people to cow us, to frighten us out of doing the things that we want to do, trying to stop us going about our business'. 


Those who argue that al-Qaeda was active before the invasion of Iraq and that therefore fighting in Baghdad or Fallujah is irrelevant to the London bombings are arguing in bad faith. 


The same bad faith encouraged them to lie about the weapons of mass destruction which did not exist. Bin Laden was certainly planning his attacks against the West before the Iraq war, but that war and what was and is happening there, is supplying al-Qaeda with a steady flow of new recruits. Eliza Manningham-Buller, head of MI5, is said to have warned other G8 countries about the danger 'of a new generation of fanatics as a result of the war in Iraq'. And she, one can assume, knows what she is talking about. 


The atrocities were planned to coincide with the G8 meeting which, this year, the British Prime Minister chaired. What happened at that meeting is not another story but another part of the same one. 


In this context, it is not the Koran that should be studied but the behaviour of the richest countries and corporations in the world. Those corporations consistently wage their own 'jihad' against any target that opposes the maximisation of their profits. The war in Iraq was conveniently removed from this year's G8 agenda. The agreed priority was to reach some agreement about action in face of the disastrous overheating of the planet and Africa's poverty. 


Before the meeting, voices from all over the world - economists, rock singers, ecologists, religious leaders - appealed, in the name of conscience and solidarity, for new, unprecedented decisions, for some change that might improve the planet's future chances. And what happened? After you've sorted through the rhetoric ... almost nothing. A little dance of statistics. Why? 


Fanaticism comes from any form of chosen blindness accompanying the pursuit of a single dogma. The G8's dogma is that the making of profit has to be mankind's guiding principle before which everything else from the traditional past or aspiring future must be sacrificed as illusion. 


The so-called war against terrorism is, in fact, a war between two fanaticisms. To bracket the two together seems outrageous. One is theocratic, the other pos itivist and secular. One is the fervent belief of a defensive minority, the other the unquestioned assumption of an amorphous, confident elite. One sets out to kill, the other plunders, leaves and lets die. One is strict, the other lax. One brooks no argument, the other 'communicates' and tries to 'spin' into every corner of the world. One claims the right to spill innocent blood, the other the right to sell the entire earth's water. Outrageous to compare them! 


Yet the outrage of what happened in London on the Piccadilly Line, the Circle Line and the No 30 bus was the misadventure of many thousands of vulnerable people, struggling to survive and make some sense of their lives, being inadvertently caught in the global crossfire of those two fanaticisms. 


John Keats wrote: 'Fanatics have their dreams wherewith they Weave/ A paradise for a sect.' All those who belong to no sect would choose to live, not in a paradise, but above ground, together. 





from Francis Feeley :


Subject : Gulf War; depleted uranium.



Depleted Uranium and the Gulf War Syndrome

by Siegwart-Horst Günther



The conditions in Baghdad hospitals where leukemia and cancer patients are housed are particularly depressing. The rooms are overcrowded. Most of the cases come from the South. Their increasing number is attributed to the radioactivity and toxicity of depleted uranium (DU) ammunition used by the Allied forces during the war and abandoned afterwards. Since 1991, I have been constantly warned about the DU danger to the population. Many of the DU-projectiles spread over the battlefields have been collected by children and used as toys with possibly devastating consequences. Inhaled uranium dust is highly toxic and can result in lung cancer.

According to recent estimates by UNICEF, 80,000 to 100,000 Iraqi children died in 1993. Thomas Eckwall, UNICEF director in Baghdad, specified that an urgent emergency program would require $83.2 million, but barely an eighth of that sum is in hand.


Properties of Depleted Uranium

In natural uranium, the proportion of the isotope 235 is only about 0.7 percent. The greater part is uranium 238. As only uranium 235 is suitable as fissile material for use in nuclear power plants, the uranium ore has to be enriched by artificially increasing the proportion of this isotope. As a result, there are large quantities of waste produced in this procedure, i.e., the so-called DU consisting almost solely of the isotope 238.

In Europe, these waste products from the uranium industry are stored in specially shielded deposits at considerable cost because of their high toxicity and radioactivity. In order to reduce these high costs, depleted uranium of the isotope 238 is passed on to interested parties, sometimes even free of charge.

Depleted uranium has properties which make it highly attractive to the armaments industry:

1. It is practically the heaviest naturally occurring substance.

2. DU projectiles, the development of which is presumably based on German technology, have a great penetrating power and are better suited for penetrating steel armor plating than any other weapon.

3. It is also an inflammable material. It ignites immediately upon piercing armor plates, releasing highly toxic and radioactive substances upon combustion.

4. After the Gulf War, since 1992, U.S. tanks are being strengthened by a layer of DU.

Different types of depleted uranium ammunition have been manufactured in the U.S. by Aerojet and Honeywell. Aerojet began mass production in 1977. At present such ammunition is also being mass produced in Britain and France. It is likely that it is being exported to other NATO countries as well as to Australia, Japan, and New Zealand.


Medical Effects

At the beginning of March 1991, I detected projectiles in an Iraqi combat area which had the form and size of a cigar and were extraordinarily heavy. At a later point, I saw children playing with projectiles of this kind; one of them died of leukemia.

My efforts to have one of these projectiles examined brought me into serious trouble in Germany: the material was highly toxic and radioactive. The projectile was confiscated by a large police detachment, carried away under enormous safety precautions, and stored in a special shielded container.

As early as the end of the 1991, I diagnosed a hitherto unknown disease among the Iraqi population which is caused by renal and hepatic dysfunctions.

During the last five years, I have been able to carry out extensive studies in Iraq. The results produced ample evidence showing that contact with DU ammunition has the following consequences, especially for children:

" A considerable increase in infectious diseases caused by the most severe immuno-deficiencies in a great part of the population.

" Frequent occurrence of massive herpes and zoster afflictions, also in children.

" AIDS-like syndromes.

" A hitherto unknown syndrome caused by renal and hepatic dysfunction-now called "Morubs Günther."

" Leukemia, aplastic anemia and malignant neoplasm.

" Congenital deformities caused by genetic defects which were partly also diagnosed in animals.


DU and the Gulf War Syndrome

The results of my studies show similarities to the Gulf War Syndrome found in Allied soldiers and their children. The congenital deformities caused by genetic defects in American and Iraqi children are identical.

According to U.S. statements, vaccinations against anthrax and botulism, malaria prophylaxis, benzenes used for delousing, pyridostigminbromides DEET or permethrin, as well as the DU ammunition are responsible for the development of this syndrome. The Allied troops were not informed about the health dangers caused by the DU projectiles until nine days after the end of the war. Like all heavy metals, such as lead, or cadmium, uranium is highly toxic. The human body must not come into contact with them.

Newspapers recorded that many Gulf War soldiers from the U.S. feared they may have been used as guinea pigs in a radiation experiment. This syndrome among U.S. Gulf War soldiers and their families was debated in the U.S. Congress.

In the opinion of the American nuclear scientist Leonard Dietz, the development of the uranium projectiles is as revolutionary as the machine-gun was during the First World War. However, he observed that the Gulf War was the most toxic war in the history of mankind.

According to statements by the U.S. Army, about 14,000 high-caliber shells were fired during the Gulf War. Estimates by the British Atomic Energy Authority say about 40 tons of this type of ammunition are scattered in the border regions between Iraq, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia. Other experts assume that there are probably 300 tons of it. Not more than 10 percent of these projectiles have been detected. The major part of them have been covered with blowing sand or are lying deep in the ground. When it rains, the toxic substances permeate into the ground water and enter the food chain a long-term source of danger in areas of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Iraq.

A British company had rejected the order to remove this uranium ammunition because the health risks to their staff would be too great.

Bedouins from Kuwait battlefields, which U.S. soldiers used as training grounds, reported that hundreds of dead camels, sheep, and birds lie in the desert. Examinations made by an American veterinarian, a specialist in infectious diseases, showed that the animals had died neither from bullets nor from disease. Some carcasses were covered with insects, but the insects were also dead.

Saudi Arabia had demanded that all tanks, vehicles and instruments of war, which had been destroyed by uranium ammunition on their territory, be collected by the U.S. Army. This material was carried away and transported to the U.S. Before that, it had been buried in the desert.


Postwar Death Toll

The president of the American Gulf War Veterans Association is especially preoccupied by the Gulf War Syndrome. This syndrome includes damages to organs, genetic manifestations, chronic fatigue, loss of endurance, frequent infections, sore throat, coughing, skin rashes, night sweats, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness, headaches, memory loss, confusion, vision problems, muscle spasms and cramps, joint pains and loss of mobility, aching muscles, swollen glands, dental problems, and malformation of newborns. According to his estimates, 50,000 to 80,000 U.S. Gulf War veterans are affected; 39,000 have been dismissed from active service already; and 2,400 to 5,000 have died so far. Today in Great Britain around 4,000 soldiers suffer from the Gulf War Syndrome. About 160 already have died, as have a number of Australians, Canadians, and French.

Similar symptoms have occurred in Kuwait and are proliferating. It is believed that in Iraq, 250,000 men, women, and children may have been affected. The death rate is high. A study carried out in 1993 by three American scientists estimated that about 50,000 Iraqi children had already died during the first eight months after the Gulf War from the detrimental effects of DU projectiles.


DU Dangers are Spreading

In May 1994, reports published in the U.S. found that among 251 families of veterans of the Gulf War living in the state of Mississippi, 67 percent of the children were born with congenital deformities their eyes, ears, or fingers are missing or they are suffering from severe blood disease and respiratory problems.

A parallel can be drawn with the situation that has developed after the 1986 accident at the Chernobyl nuclear reactor. Since then, there has been a sharp increase in cancer, especially among children. Their mortality rate is very high, as are malformations at birth.

It is important to point out what happened in Germany in 1988, after a U.S. Army plane crashed in Remscheid, and in Holland, in 1992, after an Israeli El Al transport plane crashed in Amsterdam. It is suspected that both planes were carrying radioactive material. In both these regions there has been an increase in skin diseases, kidney dysfunctions, leukemia among children and birth defects.

In Bosnia, it was reported in November 1996 that about 1,000 children were suffering from an unknown disease: earaches, aching muscles, abdominal pain, dizziness, respiratory problems, and other afflictions. Similar symptoms were described by victims of the Gulf War Syndrome. Meanwhile, six hundred of these children still receive hospital treatment. In December 1997 and January 1998, the media in the Balkans reported a dramatic increase in leukemia and cancer within the population of Republika Srpska as well as an increased number of malformations in babies. The cows in these regions also show reduced and bloody milk production, while in other animals, milk production stopped. Unusual vegetation is growing, and many fruits have strange formations. After investigations by experts from the Nuclear Research Institute in Vinca, Yugoslavia, it was found that radiation increased dangerously after the NATO bombardment, in which DU ammunition was used.

The grave dangers are increasing because DU weapons are at the disposal of several states. These weapons have already caused irreparable damage. It is for the citizens of the world to see that such dangerous weapons systems are not used again and are immediately banned.



Siegwart-Horst Günther (M.D., D.Sc., Ph.D.) is President of the Yellow Cross and lives in Germany. This is excerpted from a lecture, "A study of the health situation in Iraq resulting from the Gulf War and the sanctions."





from Sheila Whittick :

Thursday July 14 2005

The Guardian

Copyright Guardian Newspapers Limited




It is an insult to the dead to deny the link with Iraq :

Tony Blair put his own people at risk in the service of a foreign power

Seumas Milne



In the grim days since last week's bombing of London, the bulk of Britain's political class and media has distinguished itself by a wilful and dangerous refusal to face up to reality. Just as it was branded unpatriotic in the US after the 2001 attacks on New York and Washington to talk about the link with American policy in the Middle East, so those who have raised the evident connection between the London atrocities and Britain's role in Iraq and Afghanistan have been denounced as traitors. And anyone who has questioned Tony Blair's echo of George Bush's fateful words on September 11 that this was an assault on freedom and our way of life has been treated as an apologist for terror.


But while some allowance could be made in the American case for the shock of the attacks, the London bombings were one of the most heavily trailed events in modern British history. We have been told repeatedly since the prime minister signed up to Bush's war on terror that an attack on Britain was a certainty - and have had every opportunity to work out why that might be. Throughout the Afghan and Iraq wars, there has been a string of authoritative warnings about the certain boost it would give to al-Qaida-style terror groups. The only surprise was that the attacks were so long coming.


But when the newly elected Respect MP George Galloway - who might be thought to have some locus on the subject, having overturned a substantial New Labour majority over Iraq in a London constituency with a large Muslim population - declared that Londoners had paid the price of a "despicable act" for the government's failure to heed those warnings, he was accused by defence minister Adam Ingram of "dipping his poisonous tongue in a pool of blood". Yesterday, the Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy was in the dock for a far more tentative attempt to question this suffocating consensus. Even Ken Livingstone, who had himself warned of the danger posed to London by an invasion of Iraq, has now claimed the bombings were nothing to do with the war - something he clearly does not believe.


A week on from the London outrage, this official otherworldliness is once again in full flood, as ministers and commentators express astonishment that cricket-playing British-born Muslims from suburbia could have become suicide bombers, while Blair blames an "evil ideology". The truth is that no amount of condemnation of evil and self-righteous resoluteness will stop terror attacks in the future. Respect for the victims of such atrocities is supposed to preclude open discussion of their causes in the aftermath - but that is precisely when honest debate is most needed.


The wall of silence in the US after the much greater carnage of 9/11 allowed the Bush administration to set a course that has been a global disaster. And there is little sense in London that the official attitude reflects the more uncertain mood on the streets. There is every need for the kind of public mourning that will take place in London today, along with concerted action to halt the backlash against Muslim Britons that claimed its first life in Nottingham at the weekend. But it is an insult to the dead to mislead people about the crucial factors fuelling this deadly rage in Muslim communities across the world.


The first piece of disinformation long peddled by champions of the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan is that al-Qaida and its supporters have no demands that could possibly be met or negotiated over; that they are really motivated by a hatred of western freedoms and way of life; and that their Islamist ideology aims at global domination. The reality was neatly summed up this week in a radio exchange between the BBC's political editor, Andrew Marr, and its security correspondent, Frank Gardner, who was left disabled by an al-Qaida attack in Saudi Arabia last year. Was it the "very diversity, that melting pot aspect of London" that Islamist extremists found so offensive that they wanted to kill innocent civilians in Britain's capital, Marr wondered. "No, it's not that," replied Gardner briskly, who is better acquainted with al-Qaida thinking than most. "What they find offensive are the policies of western governments and specifically the presence of western troops in Muslim !

lands, notably Iraq and Afghanistan."


The central goal of the al-Qaida-inspired campaign, as its statements have regularly spelled out, is the withdrawal of US and other western forces from the Arab and Muslim world, an end to support for Israeli occupation of Palestinian land and a halt to support for oil-lubricated despots throughout the region. Those are also goals that unite an overwhelming majority of Muslims in the Middle East and elsewhere and give al-Qaida and its allies the chance to recruit and operate - in a way that their extreme religious conservatism or dreams of restoring the medieval caliphate never would. As even Osama bin Laden asked in his US election-timed video: if it was western freedom al-Qaida hated, "Why do we not strike Sweden?"


The second disinformation line peddled by government supporters since last week's bombings is that the London attacks had nothing to do with Iraq. The Labour MP Tony Wright insisted that such an idea was "not only nonsense, but dangerous nonsense". Blair has argued that, since the 9/11 attacks predated the Iraq war, outrage at the aggression could not have been the trigger. It's perfectly true that Muslim anger over Palestine, western-backed dictatorships and the aftermath of the 1991 war against Iraq - US troops in Arabia and a murderous sanctions regime against Iraq - was already intense before 2001 and fuelled al-Qaida's campaign in the 1990s. But that was aimed at the US, not Britain, which only became a target when Blair backed Bush's war on terror. Afghanistan made a terror attack on Britain a likelihood; Iraq made it a certainty.


We can't of course be sure of the exact balance of motivations that drove four young suicide bombers to strike last Thursday, but we can be certain that the bloodbath unleashed by Bush and Blair in Iraq - where a 7/7 takes place every day - was at the very least one of them. What they did was not "home grown", but driven by a worldwide anger at US-led domination and occupation of Muslim countries.


The London bombers were to blame for attacks on civilians that are neither morally nor politically defensible. But the prime minister - who was warned by British intelligence of the risks in the run-up to the war - is also responsible for knowingly putting his own people at risk in the service of a foreign power. The security crackdowns and campaign to uproot an "evil ideology" the government announced yesterday will not extinguish the threat. Only a British commitment to end its role in the bloody occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan is likely to do that.






from Dahr Jamail's Iraq Dispatches :

Date: 21 July 2005



copyright 2004, 2005



The following is a media action update. For those reading it in the US, imagine how CNN or FOX would respond to this type of pressure; but then, there is only one way to find out.

Dahr Jamail




John Pilger, Hans von Sponeck, Dahr Jamail and Others Respond to BBCStatement Regarding

The World Tribunal on Iraq


"Why say more? Observe this distinction:

between the fool who longs for his own advantage

and the sage who acts for the advantage of others."

(Shantideva, 8th century)




Media Lens recently issued a media alert about the lack of British media coverage given to the World Tribunal on Iraq, held in Istanbul last month. Our alert, The Mysterious Case of the Vanishing World Tribunal on Iraq <http://medialens.org/alerts/05/050706_the_mysterious_case.php>, was sent out on July 6, 2005.


We suggested that readers ask senior BBC managers and editors why the BBC, a publicly-funded broadcaster, is failing to cover the many reports of alleged US war crimes in Fallujah and elsewhere in Iraq. Why, in particular, did the main BBC news programmes ignore the Tribunal's damning findings against the invasion and occupation of Iraq? And when has the BBC ever reported Bush and Blair's culpability for war crimes?


These are troubling questions for well-rewarded media professionals to answer rationally, while preserving any semblance of self-respect. The cognitive dissonance demonstrated by senior BBC managers trying to believe that BBC 'impartiality' is upheld, even while actual media performance clearly promotes the agenda of destructive state power, is astounding to behold. One recalls the


White Queen's boast in Lewis Carroll's 'Through the Looking Glass': "Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."


Alice in Wonderland: The "Evidence-Based Journalism" That Ignores Evidence!


Helen Boaden, the BBC news director, has now issued the following statement to the many people who wrote to her. We asked a number of knowledgeable commentators to respond (see below).


"Thank you for your email criticising the BBC for lack of coverage of the World Tribunal on Iraq. We have received numerous complaints on this subject in different parts of the BBC and - after careful consideration of the matter - the following is the BBC response, which I am sending on behalf of the BBC.


"The subjects under discussion at the Istanbul meeting are indeed important and many of the topics are matters which the BBC has examined persistently and regularly across our outlets. There are many conferences which the BBC does not cover and - given finite resources -we take the view that what is important is that a full range of issues is aired.


"Currently our top financial priority in relation to Iraq is to report on events from the country itself. The BBC is the only British

broadcaster to have maintained a continuous presence in the country, including the maintenance of a permanent bureau in Baghdad. One example of how this investment has paid off is the whole day of reports we carried on BBC News 24, BBC World, Radio 5 Live and on the BBC News website on June 7th. On that day, we chronicled different aspects of life for the 27 million people who live in Iraq. There's a summary of what we did on the website:



"Turning to the agenda of the World Tribunal on Iraq, the BBC has examined events in Iraq from many angles, including the legal framework; the role of the UN; international relations; the conduct of coalition forces and the human rights violations at Abu Graib; the controversy over Guantanamo Bay. But unlike the WTI which takes the war in Iraq as unjust as its premise, the BBC must be open-minded and impartial in its approach.


"We are committed to evidence-based journalism. We have not been able to establish that the US used banned chemical weapons and committed otheratrocities against civilians in Falluja last November. Inquiries on the ground at the time and subsequently indicate that their use is unlikely to have occurred.


"The BBC takes its commitment to impartial reporting with the utmost seriousness. Please rest assured that we strive for open-minded, responsible journalism.


"Yours sincerely

Helen Boaden, Director, BBC News" (Email forwarded by numerous Media

Lens readers, July 13 onwards, 2005)



The award-winning journalist John Pilger, who has extensive experience of visiting and reporting on Iraq, told us:


"Helen Boaden's response is simply ridiculous. She says the BBC 'has not established' that the US has used banned weapons or committed atrocities. The US has admitted using napalm, a banned weapon, and the evidence of atrocities in Fallujah is overwhelming: too great to list here. Read, for example, the statements of doctors at Fallujah General Hospital and of other independent eye witnesses. The reason the BBC 'has not established' all this is because its reporters are embedded with the

Americans and British and report the occupiers' news, about which there is nothing 'impartial'." (Email to Media Lens, July 14, 2005)


We also contacted the World Tribunal on Iraq [WTI] for their response. Communications coordinator Caroline Muscat told us WTI had invited the BBC World Service correspondent in Istanbul, Jonny Dymond, to attend the Tribunal's hearings. She helped to set up interviews and provide footage: "we did our best to meet his needs".


Dymond confirmed to us that he attended the opening press conference, and was present on the first day of the 5-day proceedings (email from Jonny Dymond to Media Lens, July 14, 2005). This resulted in a news story on the BBC World Service lasting 24 seconds, and a longer report of about 90 seconds in length. These reports failed to mention the Tribunal's finding that the BBC, and other named, mainstream media, bears "special responsibility for promoting the lies about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction".


Caroline Muscat told us: "The lack of coverage on BBC World Service is not due to any neglect our end."


But not a smidgen of even this limited coverage was broadcast on the major BBC news bulletins, such as the evening Six O'Clock and Ten O'Clock television news on BBC1. Muscat continued:


"In effect, Ms. Helen Boaden is saying that the Tribunal was not a priority story for the BBC because of judgments made at the BBC on this global initiative." She added that the Tribunal "was followed by millions of people around the world on alternative media sites, the live audio and video streaming provided by the WTI web site... The fact that Iraqi people risked their lives to travel to Istanbul and testify on the horrors they face on a daily basis was not a priority story because the BBC says that, 'Currently our top financial priority in relation to Iraq is to report on events from the country itself'.


"While we respect the BBC's commitment to evidence-based journalism, it is hard to ignore the fact that the evidence in this story is the Tribunal itself. The fact that a significant number of respected diplomats, academicians, reporters and human rights lawyers came together with international experts from various fields to bring to the world's attention the injustice occurring in Iraq, is in itself a story that merits reporting.


"The BBC has disregarded the experience and professionalism of all those who participated in this Tribunal. In fact, one of the reasons why this initiative took place is precisely because we felt, like millions of people around the world, that there was an imbalance and a lack of clarity and objectivity in the reporting of the so-called 'war on terror'. By failing to understand the significance of presenting this other side of the story of this war the BBC has in fact proved us right." (Email to Media Lens, July 14, 2005)


We contacted Dahr Jamail, a 'non-embedded' journalist who has bravely reported from Iraq for a total of 8 months to date. Jamail testified in Istanbul, detailing many atrocities inflicted upon Iraqis by US forces. This was his response:


"It is interesting that Helen Boaden uses the reason for not covering the WTI that the BBC uses 'evidence-based journalism,' then goes on to state that the BBC has, 'not been able to establish that the US used banned chemical weapons and committed other atrocities against civilians in Fallujah last November.'


"This is one of the main purposes for the WTI to have even occurred - to provide this information to the media and to inform the world of the atrocities being committed in Iraq." (Email to Media Lens, July 13, 2005)  Jamail pointed out that the Tribunal provided all the evidence the BBC needs, "from witnesses which included several Iraqis, of the US use of illegal weapons in Fallujah during November such as cluster bombs, uranium munitions, napalm and chemical weapons". Jamail also pointed to the "testimonies and photographs of the US military raiding hospitals and killing both doctors and civilians as what appears to now be their standard operating procedure for their military adventures in Iraq." He concluded:


"It is clear that if the BBC was truly 'committed to evidence-based journalism' as Ms. Boaden states, they would report what Iraqi doctors and civilians say as to what occurred in Fallujah in November."



Blind Faith: The BBC Ignores Its Own 'Impartiality' Mantra

Hans von Sponeck is a former UN Assistant Secretary-General who ran the humanitarian oil-for-food programme in Baghdad for 18 months. He resigned in 2000, appalled at the impact of UN sanctions on Iraq. He also responded to Boaden's email:


"The World Tribunal was anything but just 'another conference'. A sensitive and impartial BBC should have quickly discovered that the Istanbul event provided a rare glimpse into a world-wide public mind which stands for peace, justice, political honesty and accountability. The BBC chose to ignore its own advice that 'impartiality is to cover all sides'. To bypass a responsible international movement at a time when political opportunism and dishonesty are rampant, when international law is broken at will and human security is becoming a distant dream, is anything but coverage of all sides and the antithesis of open-minded journalism." (Hans von Sponeck, email to Media Lens, July 13, 2005).


Tim Llewellyn, a former BBC Middle East correspondent, acknowledged "the immense difficulties on the ground" for reporters in Iraq, but told us that Boaden's points "about the deployment of depleted uranium and the atrocities in Fallujah and elsewhere are specious". He continued:


"There is plenty of reliable evidence that the invasion forces used depleted uranium and napalm-style materiel in Iraq (we the British

certainly used the former in 1991) and the BBC's defence experts could do a lot more to put this into the public arena. The deployment of such ghastly weapons against civilian areas is surely +feeding+ the anger that results in attacks like those against Madrid and London. The inability or reluctance of the BBC properly to expose or even discuss intelligently the use of such weaponry as depleted uranium or napalm is shameful and even provocative for its viewers and listeners, especially given its propensity to allow its presenters and guests to go into finger-wagging fury over Iran's alleged quest for nuclear weapons."

(Email to Media Lens, July 14, 2005)


Finally, Richard Keeble, professor of journalism at Lincoln University and author of 'Ethics for Journalists', sent us his response to the BBC statement:


"The mainstream media have been celebrating the 'revolution' that occurred over the coverage of the London bombs - with the prominent use of mobile phone images provided by members of the public and weblogs. This, it has been argued, represents a major 'democratisation' of the mainstream media. Yet significantly, the incorporation of data supplied by non-professional journalists has in no way impacted on the overall bias of the coverage. In other words, the most important revolution needed in the mainstream media is over news values. Their failure to report the Iraq War Tribunal shows how conventional news priorities still predominate. Mainstream journalism remains too closely tied to dominant economic, political and economic structures and interests. More

and more people are realising this and turning to more authentic alternatives." (Email to Media Lens, July 13, 2005).


Mark Byford, the BBC's deputy director-general, claimed recently that the "BBC now begins with the presumption that the licence-payer is right. After all, the licence-payers are the public that fund and own the BBC in the UK." (Byford, 'Your flexible friend', The Guardian, June

11, 2005) He observed: "How an organisation responds when someone complains is an important determinant of how people feel about its openness and responsiveness."


True enough. Alas, judging by the reactions we see every day, many members of the public are deeply sceptical about the BBC's own claims of "openness" and "responsiveness".


They are increasingly wise to the appalling reality that the publicly-funded BBC is an accessory to war crimes and state terrorism

perpetrated by the British government, in tandem with its US ally.




The goal of Media Lens is to promote rationality, compassion and respect for others. When writing emails to journalists, we strongly urge readers to maintain a polite, non-aggressive and non-abusive tone.


Write to Helen Boaden, director of BBC news,

Email: helenboaden.complaints@bbc.co.uk



And Mark Byford, deputy director-general

Email: mark.byford@bbc.co.uk  mailto:mark.byford@bbc.co.uk


Ask why the BBC is failing to give prominent coverage to the substantial

evidence of "coalition" war crimes in Fallujah and elsewhere in Iraq.

Why does the BBC never question Tony Blair and other senior politicians

about their culpability for these atrocities?


Please copy your emails to the following:


Roger Mosey, head of BBC television news

Email: roger.mosey@bbc.co.uk  mailto:roger.mosey@bbc.co.uk


Mark Thompson, BBC director general

Email: mark.thompson@bbc.co.uk  mailto:mark.thompson@bbc.co.uk


Michael Grade, BBC chairman

Email: michael.grade@bbc.co.uk  mailto:michael.grade@bbc.co.uk






From: "t r u t h o u t" messenger@truthout.org 

The New Statesman, UK

25 July 2005




Blair Is Unfit to Be Prime Minister

    by John Pilger



    Terror and the UK - The senseless repercussions of interventions in Afghanistan, Iraq and Palestine demand that we renew our anger at our leaders. Our troops must come home. We owe it to all those who died in London on 7 July.


    In all the coverage of the bombing of London, a truth has struggled to be heard. With honourable exceptions, it has been said guardedly, apologetically. Occasionally, a member of the public has broken the silence, as an east Londoner did when he walked in front of a CNN camera crew and reporter in mid-platitude. "Iraq!" he said. "We invaded Iraq and what did we expect? Go on, say it."


    Alex Salmond tried to say it on Today on Radio 4. He was told he was speaking "in poor taste . . . before the bodies are even buried". George Galloway was lectured on Newsnight (BBC2) that he was being "crass". The inimitable Ken Livingstone contradicted his previous statement, which was that the invasion of Iraq would come home to London. With the exception of Galloway, not one so-called anti-war MP spoke out in clear, unequivocal English. The warmongers were allowed to fix the boundaries of public debate; one of the more idiotic, in the Guardian, called Blair "the world's leading statesman".


    And yet, like the man who interrupted CNN, people understand and know why, just as the majority of Britons oppose the war and believe Blair is a liar. This frightens the British political elite. At a large media party I attended, many of the important guests uttered "Iraq" and "Blair" as a kind of catharsis for that which they dared not say professionally and publicly.


    The bombs of 7 July were Blair's bombs.


    Blair brought home to this country his and Bush's illegal, unprovoked and blood-soaked adventure in the Middle East. Were it not for his epic irresponsibility, the Londoners who died in the Tube and on the No 30 bus almost certainly would be alive today. This is what Livingstone ought to have said. To paraphrase perhaps the only challenging question put to Blair on the eve of the invasion, it is now surely beyond all doubt that the man is unfit to be prime minister.


    How much more evidence is needed? Before the invasion, Blair was warned by the Joint Intelligence Committee that "by far the greatest terrorist threat" to this country would be "heightened by military action against Iraq". He was warned by 79 per cent of Londoners who, according to a YouGov survey in February 2003, believed that a British attack on Iraq "would make a terrorist attack on London more likely". A month ago, a leaked, classified CIA report revealed that the invasion had turned Iraq into a focal point of terrorism. Before the invasion, said the CIA, Iraq "exported no terrorist threat to its neighbors" because Saddam Hussein was "implacably hostile to al-Qaeda".


    Now, an 18 July report by the Chatham House organization, a "think tank" deep within the British establishment, may well beckon Blair's coup de grâce. It says there is "no doubt" the invasion of Iraq has "given a boost to the al-Qaeda network" in "propaganda, recruitment and fundraising" while providing an ideal targeting and training area for terrorists. "Riding pillion with a powerful ally" has cost Iraqi, American and British lives. The right-wing academic, Paul Wilkinson, a voice of western power, was the principal author. Read between the lines and it says the prime minister is now a serious liability. Those who run this country know he has committed a great crime; the "link" has been made.


    Blair's bunker-mantra is that there was terrorism long before the invasion, notably 11 September. Anyone with an understanding of the painful history of the Middle East would not have been surprised by 11 September or by the bombing of Madrid and London, only that they had not happened earlier. I have reported the region for 35 years, and if I could describe in a word how millions of Arab and Muslim people felt, I would say "humiliated". When Egypt looked like winning back its captured territory in the 1973 war with Israel, I walked through jubilant crowds in Cairo: it felt as if the weight of history's humiliation had lifted. In a very Egyptian flourish, one man said to me, "We once chased cricket balls at the British club. Now we are free."


    They were not free, of course. The Americans re-supplied the Israeli army and they almost lost everything again. In Palestine, the humiliation of a captive people is Israeli policy. How many Palestinian babies have died at Israeli checkpoints after their mothers, bleeding and screaming in premature labor, have been forced to give birth beside the road at a military checkpoint with the lights of a hospital in the distance? How many old men have been forced to show obeisance to young Israeli conscripts? How many families have been blown to bits by America-supplied F-16s with British-supplied parts?


    The gravity of the bombing of London, said a BBC commentator, "can be measured by the fact that it marks Britain's first suicide bombing". What about Iraq? There were no suicide bombers in Iraq until Blair and Bush invaded. What about Palestine? There were no suicide bombers in Palestine until Ariel Sharon, an accredited war criminal sponsored by Bush and Blair, came to power. In the 1991 Gulf "war", American and British forces left more than 200,000 Iraqis dead and injured and the infrastructure of their country in "an apocalyptic state", according to the United Nations. The subsequent embargo, designed and promoted by zealots in Washington and Whitehall, was not unlike a medieval siege. Denis Halliday, the United Nations official assigned to administer the near-starvation food allowance, called it "genocidal".


    I witnessed its consequences: tracts of southern Iraq contaminated with depleted uranium and cluster bomblets waiting to explode. I watched dying children, some of the half a million infants whose deaths Unicef attributed to the embargo - deaths which US Secretary of State Madeline Albright said were "worth it". In the west, this was hardly reported. Throughout the Muslim world, the bitterness was like a presence, its contagion reaching many young British-born Muslims.


    In 2001, in revenge for the killing of 3,000 people in the Twin Towers, more than 20,000 Muslims died in the Anglo-American invasion of Afghanistan. This was revealed by Jonathan Steele in the London Guardian and was never news, to my knowledge. The attack on Iraq was the Rubicon, making the reprisal against Madrid and the bombing of London entirely predictable: the latter "in response to the massacres carried out by Britain in Iraq and Afghanistan ...", claimed a group called the Organization for El Qaeda in Europe. Whether or not the claim was genuine, the reason was. Bush and Blair wanted a "war on terror" and they got it.


    Omitted from public discussion is that their state terror makes al-Qaeda's appear miniscule by comparison. More than 100,000 Iraqi men, woman and children have been killed, not by suicide bombers, but by the Anglo-American "coalition", says a peer-reviewed study published in the Lancet, and largely ignored.


    In his poem "From Iraq", Michael Rosen wrote:

We are the unfound

We are uncounted

You don't see the homes we made

We're not even the small print or the bit in brackets . . .

because we lived far from you,

because you have cameras that point the other way . . .


    Imagine, for a moment, you are in the Iraqi city of Fallujah. It is an American police state, like a vast penned ghetto. Since April last year, the hospitals there have been subjected to an American policy of collective punishment. Staff have been attacked by US marines, doctors have been shot, emergency medicines blocked. Children have been murdered in front of their families.


    Now imagine the same state of affairs imposed on the London hospitals that received the victims of the bombing. When will someone draw this parallel at one of Blair's staged "press conferences", at which he is allowed to emote for the cameras about "our values outlast [ing] theirs"? Silence is not journalism. In Fallujah, they know "our values" only too well. And when will someone invite the obsequious Bob Geldoff to explain why his hero, Blair's smoke-and-mirrors "debt cancellation" amounts to less than the money the Blair government spends in a week, brutalizing Iraq?


    The hand-wringing over "whither Islam's soul" is another distraction. Christianity leaves Islam for dead as an industrial killer. The cause of the current terrorism is neither religion nor hatred for "our way of life". It is political, requiring a political solution. It is injustice and double standards, which plant the deepest grievances. That, and the culpability of our leaders, and the "cameras that point the other way", are the core of it.


    On 19 July, while the BBC governors were holding their annual general meeting at Television Centre, an inspired group of British documentary filmmakers met outside the main gates and conducted a series of news reports of the kind you do not see on television. Actors played famous reporters doing their "camera pieces". The "stories" they reported included the targeting of the civilian population of Iraq, the application of the Nuremberg Principles to Iraq, America's illegal rewriting of the laws of Iraq and theft of its resources through privatization, the everyday torture and humiliation of ordinary people and the failure to protect Iraqis archaeological and cultural heritage.


    Blair is using the London bombing to further deplete our rights and those of others, as Bush has done in America. Their goal is not security, but greater control. The memory of their victims in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine and elsewhere demands the renewal of our anger. The troops must come home. Nothing less is owed to those who died and suffered in London on 7 July, unnecessarily, and nothing less is owed to those whose lives are marked if this travesty endures.





from Dollars and Sense :

Issue #259

copyright May/June 2005




Latin America’s Left Off Track

Latin America has a new crop of leftist leaders, but their macroeconomic policies are sadly familiar




For several years, electoral results in Latin America have been shifting leftward. The victory of Tabaré Vázquez in Uruguay is the most recent example; the list also includes Néstor Kirchner in Argentina, Luis Inácio Lula da Silva in Brazil, Ricardo Lagos in Chile, Lucio Gutiérrez in Ecuador, and Hugo Chávez in Venezuela. The new left governments are a mix in their political provenance. Lagos is from the well-established Socialist Party, while Lula and Vázquez represent newer parties gaining power for the first time. Kirchner, from the Partido Justicialista (Peronists), Chávez, and Gutiérrez are more typical of the old Latin American populism in which personalities are more important than political parties.


Beyond these center-left electoral victories, it is clear that the majority of civil society in Latin America rejects the neoliberal policies imposed during the 1990s. Popular demonstrations against privatization and trade liberalization are widespread. Last October saw a dramatic revolt in Bolivia, for example, where a coalition of labor unions and indigenous peoples, spurred by the government’s plan to privatize the nation’s gas reserves, brought about the resignation of President Sanchez de Lozada and strengthened the position of the indigenous leader Evo Morales.


The resurgence of the left is a momentous step in Latin America. The election of Ricardo Lagos, Chile’s first Socialist president since the 1973 military coup against Salvador Allende, is a landmark, as are the victories in Brazil and Uruguay of new-style left governments embedded in deep-seated social movements. The political changes underway in Latin America today are comparable to the victories of Felipe Gonzalez after the long night of Franco’s dictatorship in Spain, and the more recent revival of the Labor Party under Tony Blair following Margaret Thatcher’s conservative reign. These victories are significant, especially because they reflect the region’s long process of redemocratization, a political shift which has gone hand in hand with the revival of civic life: the rise of empowered indigenous movements, renewed struggles for land reform, worker occupations of factories to keep them operating in the face of economic collapse, the rise of asambleas (neighborhood assemblies) meeting to discuss the way forward for anti-neoliberalism protests.


Observers of the region have usually credited this left turn to dissatisfaction with the neoliberal, "Washington Consensus" policies imposed during the 1990s. The Washington Consensus basically required deregulating markets, liberalizing trade and finance, and privatizing public firms. The emphasis was on price stabilization, fiscal austerity, and market-friendly policies, a mix that ultimately favored international financial markets and the local elites who could benefit from a more open financial environment. Arguably, if the left is to stake out a new direction and change the region for the better, economic policies will have to be at the center of the social transformation. Notwithstanding the political importance of Latin America’s recent left turn, however, there is little reason for progressives to be optimistic about the economic policy direction of Latin America’s new leaders.


Acceptable Leftists

Many observers have tried to sort the new left-leaning leaders into "good" and "bad" camps. Rutgers’ Tomás Eloy Martínez, an Argentinean writer, sees two antagonistic economic models at play. In his view, a "negative left," embodied by Chávez’s Bolivarian Revolution, uses the windfall gains from higher oil revenues to promote an unsustainable redistribution policy without laying the foundations for future growth. The "positive left" is represented by Lula and his policy of macroeconomic austerity as the necessary prerequisite for sustainable growth, allowing, in a hoped-for second phase, redistribution of the fruits of prosperity to the less privileged.


Jorge Castañeda, ex-foreign affairs minister of Mexico and former advisor to Cuauhtémoc Cardenas, also argues that Latin America has voted two lefts into power. In his view, Lagos and Vázquez should be included with Lula in the responsible and pragmatic left that has learned that market discipline and macroeconomic stability are important for development. Castañeda groups Kirchner and Mexico City mayor and possible presidential contender Andrés Manuel López Obrador with Chávez as representatives of a nationalist and populist left of the past, one that has been less receptive to modernizing influences. (Despite parallels with Chávez, Ecuador’s Gutiérrez was timid in distancing himself from Washington and fulfilling his campaign pledge to overturn neoliberal policies, which may explain, in part, his recent fall from power.)


Unlike Eloy Martínez, Castañeda sees macroeconomic orthodoxy dominating the region as a whole, Chávez and Kirchner included. Unfortunately, his view is closer to the truth. Apart from some anti-imperialist rhetoric, the economic policies of the new governments in Latin America cannot be classified as leftist. Like Tony Blair, the new center-left leaders in Latin America have embraced so-called "Third Way" economic policies that are largely indistinguishable from neoliberalism. In a sense, everyone has caved in to Thatcher’s infamous notion that there is no alternative. Maria da Conceição Tavares, a prominent Brazilian economist and member of Lula’s Workers’ Party, recently said that there is no such thing as left-wing macroeconomics.


Good Luck, Not Good Policies

If Keynesian fiscal policies—progressive taxation, increased spending on social programs, and deficit spending to maintain full employment—are the hallmarks of a progressive government, then the new left governments in Latin America cannot be seen as particularly progressive.


Despite variations in political discourse, the countries’ macroeconomic policies are broadly similar, and represent little change from those of the previous regimes. The continuity of macroeconomic policies is most evident in the arena of fiscal policy. All the center-left governments in the region have accepted the logic behind an emphasis on fiscal discipline: that high fiscal deficits cause inflation, and, by generating fears of default, cause capital flight and lead to balance-of-payments problems. All accept the dictum that they cannot pursue more progressive fiscal policies because international financial markets would punish their countries with a run on their currencies.


All of these center-left governments are prioritizing fiscal austerity to control government debt accumulation and are committed to maintaining primary surpluses even in periods of recession. (Primary surpluses correspond to the difference between spending and revenues, but excluding interest payments on outstanding debt. In other words, a government with revenues of $100 that pays $35 in interest payments and $70 on other expenditures would have a nominal deficit of $5 but a primary surplus of $30.) This is a significant change compared to the Keynesian approaches that dominated policymaking in the region prior to the 1990s and is more extreme than the anti-Keynesian bias in the developed world. The consequences are stark: maintaining primary fiscal surpluses has squeezed public investment and spending on social programs, dampened economic growth, and favored financial interests and the well-to-do.


Although exchange-rate policies vary somewhat, most Latin American governments across the political spectrum today emphasize the role of exchange rates in controlling inflation. Their role in promoting external competitiveness has become secondary. By controlling exchange rates, governments are able to keep the prices of imported goods, which crucially affect inflation, down. But this also means that the prices of domestic products are less competitive, and so hobbles the development of domestic industries.


At times exchange rate controls are seen as a temporary device to avoid balance-of-payments crises, but not as instrumental in promoting development. For example, Argentina adopted capital controls after the December 2000 crisis, but these are intended to be temporary. None of the left governments has made capital controls (such as foreign exchange controls or Tobin taxes) central to its economic agenda. Capital controls reduce the outflows and inflows of foreign currencies. With capital controls in place, the rate of interest does not need to be hiked to avoid capital outflows and can be adjusted for domestic purposes. Hence, capital controls put national governments in control of monetary policy.


If the macroeconomic policies of the region’s left regimes are successful, perhaps it doesn’t matter whether or not they are progressive. In fact, recent economic performance in Latin America has been exceptional. According to the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), the economies of the region exceeded expectations in 2004, with an average regional GDP growth rate of 5.5%, surpassing the world average rate of 4%. Venezuela grew by an incredible 18%, Argentina by around 8%, and Chile and Brazil by slightly above 5%.


However, these strong growth rates have more to do with external drivers than with any innovative policies of the region’s new leaders. Ultimately, the remarkable expansion of China, which has increased its trade with Latin America considerably, the United States’ mild recovery, and an improvement in the terms of trade—the relative price of Latin America’s exports—explain the positive Latin American performance. That external factors are propelling the region’s economies casts serious doubt on the sustainability of their growth. The economic policies pursued by the left will not be of much help if economic growth in China and the United States slows down in the near future, as many analysts expect. Good luck more than good policies is behind the new prosperity.


Macroeconomic Conservatism and Distribution

Economic growth alone is not enough to improve the lot of the region’s poor anyway. Brazil’s story illustrates the distributive consequences of the current fiscal policies in the region, and highlights the continuity with the policies of past administrations. Last year Lula signed his second agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The agreement, which requires Brazil to adopt the usual litany of neoliberal policies, particularly cutting government spending, was all but necessary, and Lula decided to sign it only to gain credibility with international financial markets.


In Brazil’s case, the primary surpluses (4.25% of GDP in 2003) go hand in hand with large nominal deficits (5% of GDP in 2003). The difference between a primary surplus and a nominal deficit represents interest payments made to the owners of government bonds. That is, almost 10% of Brazil’s GDP was transferred last year to bond holders, mostly corporations and wealthy individuals. Interest payments represent almost half of Brazilian government expenditures, and are considerably higher than the amounts spent on Zero Hunger, land reform, or First Job, to name a few of the well-publicized social programs of Lula’s Workers’ Party. The result is that the income distribution in Brazil, one of the world’s most unequal countries, is no better now than when Lula took office in 2003, and probably slightly worse. The share of wages in total income in Brazil fell from 36.1% in 2002 to 35.6% in 2003.


Argentina and Venezuela face similar constraints, but because of more closed capital accounts and lower rates of interest their plight is less extreme. In Argentina, Kirchner is negotiating fiercely with the IMF and the private creditors who allowed the country to obtain a favorable rescheduling of foreign debt. Yet last year his government maintained a primary surplus even greater than the 3% of GDP its prior agreement with the IMF called for. The IMF has let it be known that future approvals of the debt-restructuring program, and hence additional money, will be forthcoming only if Kirchner maintains fiscal austerity.


More important, Argentina has tentatively agreed to gradually scrap all the capital controls implemented since its currency crisis in 2001. Argentina’s interest rates today are considerably lower than Brazil’s, and close to the U.S. real rate of interest. (Brazil does not impose controls on capital flows.) If Argentina complies, the country can expect higher interest rates in the near future.


Kirchner has been accused of promoting irresponsible economic policies and favoring unsustainable redistribution towards the poor, but it’s hard to see why. Argentina’s current fiscal stance will require continued primary surpluses to pay for debt servicing. It’s true that the government established a program of transfers to the unemployed (Plan Jefes de Hogar), but the benefits are insufficient, and other public investments are simply not being made. Maintaining primary surpluses means that the resources available for social transfers, including the Plan Jefes de Hogar, are severely constrained. Overall, then, with the exception of the fixed exchange-rate system, Kirchner’s government is adhering to basically the same set of macroeconomic policies that prevailed through the 1990s.


The Venezuelan story is similar. Chávez’s 1998 government program (La Propuesta de Hugo Chávez para Transformar Venezuela) designated inflation as the country’s central macroeconomic problem. Since then, an overvalued exchange rate has been his administration’s main instrument for reducing the price of imported goods and keeping inflation in check. Lula also uses a managed and appreciated exchange rate to control inflation, as did his predecessor Fernando Henrique Cardoso; Argentina, under the 1991 Convertibility Plan, which pegged the country’s currency to the dollar; and Ecuador, with dollarization. In each case, overvaluation of the currency damaged external competitiveness, reducing the rates of output growth. Eventually, speculation forced depreciation.


More importantly, Chávez generated great expectations about using oil revenues to pay for social programs. His government did indeed implement a massive program of social spending, including an expansion of health assistance and distribution of foodstuffs; social spending as a share of total government spending did go up. Deficits soared, but less as a result of the increase of government spending than as the consequence of lower non-oil revenues due to recession. The social conflicts associated with the political resistance against Chávez exacerbated the fall in non-oil government revenues and forced the government to increase the amount of debt finance. Public debt has soared; interest payments on outstanding debt corresponded to around 40% of total spending last year.


Like Argentina and Brazil, Venezuela has kept substantial primary surpluses—reaching 3% of GDP in 2004—even as its nominal deficits have grown. According to Leonardo Vera, a professor at the Central University of Venezuela, a vicious circle has developed in which reduced revenues lead to more indebtedness, and indebtedness, in turn, leads to higher debt service costs. As this vicious circle turns, wealth is redistributed, but not in the way Chávez hoped—rather, from the poor to the wealthy owners of public bonds.


Across Latin America, governments both center-right and center-left have pursued fiscal policies aimed at containing deficits and trying to reduce the burden of debt. As a result, they have shunned countercyclical spending programs and neglected the effects of fiscal policy on income distribution. The region as a whole obtained a primary surplus of 1% of GDP in 2004, while the nominal deficit was close to 2% of GDP. This means that Latin America, a region of highly unequal income distribution, transferred on average 3% of GDP to the owners of government bonds last year.


With Latin American governments maintaining primary surpluses even in times of crisis and channeling a sizable share of spending into interest payments—in other works, redistributing it to the wealthy—it is not surprising that unemployment remains high across the region. The average rate of unemployment in 2003, according to ECLAC, was above 10%, with Argentina (15%) and Venezuela (18%) heading the charts. As high as these official measures of unemployment are, they underestimate the problems of underemployment and low-productivity jobs typical in the region. These numbers are particularly problematic because leveling the income distribution and reducing unemployment are essential to addressing the region’s high poverty rate. Poverty fell in 2004, but not enough to make up for the increase between 2001 and 2003; around 43% of Latin Americans still live below the poverty line. And nothing in the macroeconomic policies of the new left governments suggests that their outcomes are likely to diverge from those in the rest of the region in the coming years.


Fiscal Policy and International Financial Reform

Fiscal policy was central to the development of the systems of welfare in the developed world, and for industrialization in the global South, including in Latin America. What is often forgotten about the role of fiscal policy is that it was most effective during the Bretton Woods period, the so-called Golden Age of capitalism from the end of World War II until the 1970s. The Great Depression and the rise of fascism and communism had led the leaders of the rich countries to adopt a fiscal pact that allowed higher levels of social spending in order to save capitalism from itself. Under the Bretton Woods regime, capital controls forced interest rates to low levels. This allowed governments to increase spending, while keeping the burden of debt service within reasonable levels.


Today, a more comprehensive reform of the international financial system along the lines of Keynes’ proposals at Bretton Woods, as advocated by some heterodox economists, is necessary not just to stabilize financial markets and reduce balance-of- payments crises, but to promote more just fiscal policies. Controls on capital flows would allow lower rates of interest, reduce spending on debt service, and allow for more public investment and higher levels of social transfers. These policies should be complemented with trade polices that promote full employment, and a coherent set of industrial policies to promote international competitiveness. The experience of the new left-leaning governments in Latin America suggests that as long as the existing rules of the international financial system remain in force, global South governments will be unable to adopt progressive economic policies whatever their political stripes.


Furthermore, international financial reform is unlikely to come as a result of the victory of the left in developing countries. (Admittedly, progressive observers hoped there would be less subservience to international financial markets in Latin America with left-of-center governments in power. China and India, for example, adopt strict capital controls.) Historically, reforms of the international financial system result from crises at the center, not at the periphery, of the global economic system. But it is still important to see things for what they are. The center-left governments in Latin America have maintained or implemented macroeconomic policies that redistribute income towards financial markets and elites. Only Latin American magical realism explains how these policies could be seen as progressive alternatives to neoliberalism.



Matías Vernengo is Assistant Professor of Economics at the University of Utah, Salt Lake City (vernengo@economics.utah.edu).




Philip Arestis and Malcolm Sawyer, eds., The Economics of the Third Way: Experiences from Around the World (Edward Elgar, 2001); Jorge Castañeda, "Las dos izquierdas latinoamericanas," La Nación, 1/4/05; CEPAL (ECLAC), Estudio Económico de América Latina y Caribe, 2003-2004; Martínez, Tomás Eloy, "Bolívar quería otra cosa," La Nación, 12/31/04; José Antonio Ocampo, "Half a Lost Decade," ECLAC Notes, No. 24 (9/02); Leonardo Vera, "Interpretando la Agenda Económica de Chávez," www.analitica.com/va/economia/opinion/3817548.asp; Matías Vernengo, "Fear, Hope and Wishful Thinking in Brazil," Dissent (Winter 04).






Shirley Doulière

Feminist Court Watch

Date: Thu, 21 Jul 2005

Subject: Bush Nominates Far-Right Judge to Supreme Court



Hi Professor Feeley,

I thought it would be interesting to see feminist reactions to Bush's new step toward dictatorship.




Message transféré par Eleanor Smeal


Feminist Majority



Dear Feminist Activists,




Step 1: Contact your Senators: Urge them to thoroughly question Roberts about his views on women's rights, civil rights, and the right to privacy.


Step 2: Make an emergency contribution to the Feminist Majority's Save Roe Campaign.


Step 3: Learn More and stay up to date at Feminist Court Watch.



President Bush has nominated an ultra-conservative judge to take Sandra Day O'Connor's seat on the Supreme Court.


The fight to save the Supreme Court must begin now. The Feminist Majority is opposing John Roberts for the Supreme Court.


Roberts, a judge on the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, has a record that indicates he will be a solid vote against women's rights and Roe v. Wade. As Deputy Solicitor General, Roberts argued against Roe v. Wade, and also argued on behalf of Operation Rescue, an extreme anti-abortion group, in Bray v. Alexandria. Those of us who defend clinics know that the result of the pro-choice loss in Bray v. Alexandria was increased violence at clinics. In private practice, Roberts argued against affirmative action.


The Feminist Majority will urge every Senator who supports women's rights to thoroughly question Roberts on his views on fundamental women's rights, civil rights, and reproductive rights issues. If Roberts is to be confirmed by Senators, he must say where he stands on Roe, the right to privacy, women's rights, and civil rights. The burden is on him.


The opposition forces behind President Bush have already raised millions of dollars to support Bush's nominee for the Supreme Court. Just one such right-wing advocacy organization, Progress for America, has raised $18 million already to fight for President Bush's Supreme Court nominees. Another such organization, the Judicial Confirmation Network, has raised $3 million for its media campaign to fight any attempt to filibuster a Supreme Court nominee. Progress for America has already launched a website in support of Roberts.


Let there be no mistake about it. The case most likely to be reversed or pivotal in the coming Supreme Court nomination fight is Roe v. Wade. But even some of our progressive friends tend to marginalize the abortion issue. We must rally the millions of women and men who support reproductive rights if Roe is to be saved.


The Feminist Majority must be strong enough to ensure that the rights of women are a central part of the Supreme Court debate. Please make a special emergency contribution to the Feminist Majority's Save Roe Campaign today. We need money for Internet banner ads, grassroots organizing kits, field organizers, and a massive PR operation.


The Feminist Majority will continue to examine Roberts' record, and it will demand that Senators not confirm Roberts unless he makes clear that he will not reverse Roe and civil rights for women, minorities, and the disabled.


Women, who have the most to lose, must be the strongest voice in the debate over the Supreme Court. This time, for once, we will not be ignored.


Please help us to mount a campaign worthy of the rights of women.


Together, we can make a difference.



For Women's Lives,

Eleanor Smeal


Feminist Majority




Francis McCollum Feeley

Professor of American Studies/

Director of Research at CEIMSA-IN-EXILE