CONSTRAINTS AND ALTERNATIVES: FROM THE CENTER FOR THE ADVANCED STUDY OF
AMERICAN INSTITUTIONS AND SOCIAL MOVEMENTS, GRENOBLE,
8 May 2006
Dear Colleagues and Friends of CEIMSA,
Sixty-one years ago, today, representatives of the German high command,
led by Admiral Karl Doenitz, signed the unconditional surrender in
Reims, France. Hitler had committed suicide in Berlin on April 30, and
Doenitz, commander-in-chief of the German navy, had become
head-of-state at the time of Germany's surrendered to the Allies. He
was subsequently judged guilty of war crimes at Nuremburg and served a
10-year prison term.
According to the Kondratieff
Wave theory, the Second World War was "trough war"
by which the capitalist nations systematically dug their way out of a
depression. By May 1945 the Great Depression was behind them and a
brilliant future of investments for many decades lay ahead, for anyone
with money. [For more details, please see our previous Bulletin of 20
George Orwell, speaking of the human condition at this moment in
history, observed: "They could be made to accept the most flagrant
violations of reality, because they never fully grasped the enormity of
what was demanded of them, and were not sufficiently interested in
public events to notice what was happening."
"Here, [in this open, goal-seeking system of violence]" wrote Anthony Wilden,
professor of communications at Simon Fraser University in British
Columbia, Canada, "practically everyone becomes somebody's victim,
except at the top, and you insensibly retaliate against the system by
creating your own victims as you grow older. ... As long as the pain is
personalized and individualized, and as long as there is no political
and strategic analysis of the system as a whole, then the reproduction
of violence in the system is self-organizing, self-perpetuating,
requiring no directions, no planning, no particular leaders, and
nobody's conscious consent." (from The Rules are No Game, p.xii)
If the enemy is war, then the Grand Strategy which adopts war as its necessary
tactics must be confronted not simply by anti-war tactics, but by
an opposing strategy which ends the requirements for war.
The democratic search for strategic analysis at the level of strategy
must take into account the constraints
placed on our lives by The Powers
[If necessary, copy & paste : http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sentiment_d'inf%C3%A9riorit%C3%A9]
and the goals of that system of which we all are a part, but which they
govern for their own objectives. [For more on social alternatives
caused by economic constraints, see the radical daily newspaper, The New Standard at : http://newstandardnews.net/.]
Identifying and dissolving delusions of inferiority, self-defeating
violence, and other counter-productive tactics, which are waged against
others and often against ourselves, is a necessary first step if we are
to achieve strategic advantage against an "enemy strategy," which has
meaning to anyone literate in real relationships between the levels of
tactics and strategy within goal-seeking systems.
Item A. below, is an
article by Mike Whitney who analyzes the Grand Strategy behind U.S.
military tactics in Iran.
Item B. is an up-date on
the Israel Lobby by Alexander Cockburn, who reminds us that, unlike
matter and energy, information can be created and destroyed.
Item C. is a critique of
the declining investment opportunities in Latin America, and the new
social movements seeking to prevent the pillage of transnational
Item D. is a series of
photographs taken by Cristina Castellano at the May Day demonstration
in Chicago 2006, and forwarded to us by Dr. James Cohen, from his
colleague in Mexico. [For more on the General Strike/Boycott
movement in the U.S., see: http://www.truthout.org/multimedia.htm.]
Item E. is information on
the first SDS conference in 37 years, sent to us by San Diego community
organizer, Monty Kroopkin.
Item F. is from the
inimitable Jim Hightower, still raising hell in the radical tradition
of Mother Jones.
Francis McCollum Feeley
Professor of American Studies
Director of Research
Université Stendhal Grenoble 3
from Mike Whitney :
7 May 2006
Last Gasp of the Dollar?
bourse opens next week)
05/07/06 "ICH" --
-- If one day the world's largest oil producers demanded euros for
their barrels, "it would be the financial equivalent of a nuclear
strike.” Bill O'Grady, A.G. Edwards commodities analyst
“Everybody knows the real reason for American belligerence is not the
Iranian nuclear program, but the decision to launch an oil bourse where
oil will be traded in euros instead of US dollars….The oil market will
break the dominance of the dollar and lead to a decline of global
American hegemony.” Igor Panarin, Russian political scientist
Overnight the story of Iran’s proposed oil
bourse has slipped into the mainstream press exposing the real
reasons behind Washington’s ongoing hostility towards Tehran. Up to
this point, analysts have brushed aside the importance of the upcoming
oil-exchange as a Leftist-Internet conspiracy theory unworthy of
further consideration. Now, the Associated Press has clarified the
issue showing that an Iran oil bourse “could lead central bankers
around the world to convert some of their dollar reserves into euros,
possibly causing a decline in the dollar’s value”.
Currently, the world is drowning in dollars, even a small movement
could trigger a massive recession in the United States. There’s nothing
remotely “conspiratorial” about this. It is simply a matter of supply
and demand. If the oil bourse creates less demand for the dollar, the
value of the dollar will sink accordingly; pushing energy, housing,
food and other prices higher.
Oil has been linked to the dollar since the 1970s when OPEC agreed to
denominate it exclusively in dollars. This provided the US a virtual
monopoly which has allowed it to run huge account deficits without fear
of crippling interest rate hikes. As Bill O’ Grady of A.G.Edwards said,
“If OPEC decided they didn’t want dollars anymore, it would be the end
of American hegemony by signaling the end to the dollar as the sole
“If the dollar lost its status as the world’s reserve currency, that
would force the United States to fund it massive account deficit by
running a trade surplus, which would increase inflationary pressures.”
There’s no prospect of the US running a trade surplus anytime soon.
Bush has savaged the manufacturing sector outsourcing over 3 million
jobs and shutting down plants across the country. His short-sighted
“free trade” policies and enormous tax cuts for the rich ensure that
Americans will be left to face skyrocketing energy costs and a
hyper-inflationary greenback. There’s no way we can retool fast enough
to “manufacture our way” out of the quagmire of red ink.
Currently, the national debt is a whopping $8.4 trillion with an
equally harrowing $800 billion trade deficit. (7% of GDP) The
ever-increasing demand for the greenback in the oil trade is the only
thing that has kept the dollar from freefalling to earth. Even a small
conversion to euros will erode the dollar’s value and could precipitate
Presently, oil is sold exclusively on the London Petroleum Exchange and
the New York Mercantile Exchange both owned by American investors. If
the bourse opens, central banks around the world will reduce their
stockpiles of dollars to maintain a portion of their currency in euros.
This is the logical step for Europe which buys 70% of Iran’s oil. It is
also the reasonable choice for Russia which sells two-thirds of its oil
to Europe but (amazingly) continues to denominate those transactions in
Washington has succeeded in maintaining its monopoly by propping up the
many corrupt and repressive regimes in the Gulf States. The prudent
choice for Saudi Arabia would be to move away from the debt-ridden
dollar and enhance its earnings with the stronger euro. Regrettably,
Uncle Sam has a gun to their head. They understand that such a
transition would invite the same response that Saddam got 6 months
after he converted to euros and was removed through “shock and awe”.
Regardless, of the outcome, the profligate spending, budget-busting tax
cuts, and the shocking increase in the money supply (the Fed has
doubled the money supply in one decade) has the greenback headed for
the dumpster. Already, China and Japan (who hold an accumulated $1.7
trillion in US securities and currency) are gradually moving away from
the dollar towards the euro (although the Fed has blocked the public
from knowing the extent of the damage by abandoning the M-3 publication
of inflows) The European Central Bank (ECB) and Japan’s central bank
are frantically trying to conceal the probability of a dollar collapse
by issuing carefully worded statements to allay public fears while they
to prepare for an “orderly” retreat.
But, it won’t be “orderly”. The dollar has lost 5% against the euro
since April and is quickly headed south. The Iran bourse could be the
final jolt that pushes the greenback over the edge. This is the bitter
lesson for those who choose to ignore economic fundamentals and build
their house on sand. Paul Volcker anticipated this scenario in a speech
last year when he said that account imbalances were as great as he had
ever seen and predicted “a 75% chance of a dollar crash in the next 5
Volcker was right, but economic advisor, Peter Grandich summarized it
even better when he opined, “The only one who doesn’t know the US
dollar is dead is the US dollar.”
Prepare for the requiem.
from Alexander Cockburn :
6 May 2006
The Uproar Over The
For the past few weeks a sometimes comic debate has been simmering in
the American press, focused on the question of whether there is an
Israeli lobby and, if so, just how powerful it is.
I would have thought that to ask whether there's an Israeli lobby here
is a bit like asking whether there's a Statue of Liberty in New York
Harbor or a White House located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue,
Washington, D.C. The late Steve Smith, brother-in-law of Teddy Kennedy,
and a powerful figure in the Democratic Party for several decades,
liked to tell the story of how a group of four Jewish businessmen got
together $2 million in cash and gave it to Harry Truman when he was in
desperate need of money during his presidential campaign in 1948.
Truman went on to become president and to express his gratitude to his
Since those days, the Democratic Party has long been hospitable to, and
supported by, rich Zionists. In 2002, for example, Haim Saban, the
Israel-American who funds the Saban Center at the Brooking Institute
and is a big contributor to AIPAC, gave $12.3 million to the Democratic
Party. In 2001, the magazine Mother Jones listed on its website the 400
leading contributors to the 2000 national elections. Seven of the first
10 were Jewish, as were 12 of the top 20, and 125 of the top 250. Given
this, all prudent candidates have gone to amazing lengths to satisfy
None of this history is particularly controversial, and there have been
plenty of well-documented accounts of the activities of the Israel
Lobby down the years, from Alfred Lilienthal's 1978 study, The Zionist
Connection, to former U.S. Rep. Paul Findley's 1985 book, "They Dare To
Speak Out" to "Dangerous Liaison: The Inside Story of the U.S.-Israeli
Covert Relationship," written by my brother and sister-in-law, Andrew
and Leslie Cockburn, and published in 1991.
Three years ago, Jeffrey St. Clair and I published a collection of 18
essays called The Politics of Anti-Semitism, no less than four of which
were incisive discussions of the Israel lobby. Kathy and Bill
Christison, former CIA analysts, reviewed the matter of dual loyalty,
with particular reference to the so-called neo-cons, alternately
advising an Israeli prime minister and an American president.
Most vividly of all in our book, a congressional aide, writing
pseudonymously under the name George Sutherland, contributed a savagely
funny essay called "Our Vichy Congress." "As year chases year,"
Sutherland wrote, "the lobby's power to influence Congress on any issue
of importance to Israel grows inexorably stronger . Israel's strategy
of using its influence on the American political system to turn the
U.S. national security apparatus into its own personal attack dog -- or
Golem -- has alienated the United States from much of the Third World,
has worsened U.S. ties to Europe amid rancorous insinuations of
anti-Semitism, and makes the United States a hated bully."
So it can scarcely be said that there had been silence here about the
Israel Lobby until two respectable professors, John J. Mearsheimer and
Stephen M. Walt, the former from the University of Chicago and the
latter from Harvard, wrote their paper "The Israel Lobby and U.S.
Foreign Policy," published in longer form by the Kennedy School at
Harvard (which has since disowned it) and, after it had been rejected
by the Atlantic Monthly (which originally commissioned it), in shorter
form by the London Review of Books.
In fact, the significance of this essay rests entirely on the
provenance of the authors, from two of the premier academic
institutions of the United States. Neither of them have any tincture of
radicalism. After the paper was published in shortened form in the
London Review of Books, there was a slightly stunned silence, broken by
the screams of America's most manic Zionist, Professor Alan Dershowitz
of Harvard, who did Mearsheimer and Walt the great favor of thrusting
their paper into the headlines. Dershowitz managed this by his usual
volleys of hysterical invective, investing the paper with the fearsome
allure of that famous anti-Semitic tract, a forgery of the Czarist
police, entitled "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion." The
Mearsheimer-Walt essay was Nazi-like, Dershowitz howled, a classic case
of conspiracy-mongering, in which a small band of Zionists were accused
of steering the Ship of Empire onto the rocks.
In fact, the paper by Mearsheimer and Walt is extremely dull. The long
version runs to 81 pages, no less than 40 pages of which are footnotes.
I settled down to read it with eager anticipation but soon found myself
looking hopefully for the end. There's nothing in the paper that any
moderately well-read student of the topic wouldn't have known long ago,
but the paper has the merit of stating rather blandly some home truths
that are somehow still regarded as too dangerous to state publicly in
respectable circles in the United States.
After Dershowitz came other vulgar outbursts, such as from Eliot Cohen
in the Washington Post. These attacks basically reiterated Dershowitz's
essential theme: There is no such thing as the Israel lobby, and those
asserting its existence are by definition anti-Semitic.
This method of assault at least has the advantage of being funny, (a)
because there obviously is a Lobby -- as noted above and (b) because
Mearsheimer and Walt aren't anti-Semites any more than 99.9 percent of
others identifying the Lobby and criticizing its role. Partly as a
reaction to Dershowitz and Cohen, the Washington Post and New York
Times have now run a few pieces politely pointing out that the Israel
Lobby has indeed exercised a chilling effect on the rational discussion
of U.S. foreign policy. The tide is turning slightly.
Meanwhile, mostly on the left, there has been an altogether different
debate, over the actual weight of the Lobby in the deliberations of
those running the American Empire. This debate was rather amusingly
summed up by the Israeli writer Yuri Avneri, a former Knesset member:
"I think that both sides are right (and hope to be right, myself, too).
The findings of the two professors are right to the last detail. Every
senator and congressman knows that criticizing the Israeli government
is political suicide. . If the Israeli government wanted a law tomorrow
annulling the Ten Commandments, 95 U.S. senators (at least) would sign
the bill forthwith .
"The question, therefore, is not whether the two professors are right
in their findings. The question is what conclusions can be drawn from
them. Let's take the Iraq affair. Who is the dog? Who the tail? . The
lesson of the Iraq affair is that the American-Israeli connection is
strongest when it seems that American interests and Israeli interests
are one (irrespective of whether that is really the case in the long
run). The United States uses Israel to dominate the Middle East, Israel
uses the United States to dominate Palestine."
Alexander Cockburn is coeditor with Jeffrey St. Clair of the muckraking
newsletter CounterPunch. He is also co-author of the new book "Dime's
Worth of Difference: Beyond the Lesser of Two Evils," available through
from Michael Albert :
May 08, 2006
Donald Rumsfeld Discovered the Wild West in Latin America)
How fast has Latin America fallen from favor? Just a decade ago the
Clinton administration was holding up the region as the crown jewel of
globalization's promise: All is quiet on "our southern flank," reported
the head of the US Southern Command, General Barry McCaffrey, in 1995,
"our neighbors are allies who, in general, share similar values." "The
Western Hemisphere has a lot to teach the world," said McCaffrey's
boss Secretary of Defense William Cohen two years later, "as the
world reaches for the kind of progress we have made."
Today, with a new generation of leaders in
open rebellion against Washington's leadership, Latin America is no
longer seen as a beacon unto the world but as a shadowy place where
"enemies" lurk. "They watch, they probe," Donald
Rumsfeld warns of terrorists in Latin America; they look for
"weaknesses." According to the new head of Southcom General Bantz
Craddock, the region is held hostage by a league of extraordinary
gentlemen made up of the "transnational terrorist, the narco-terrorist,
the Islamic radical fundraiser and recruiter, the illicit trafficker,
the money launderer, the kidnapper, [and] the gang member."
"Terrorists throughout the Southern command area of responsibility,"
Craddock's predecessor warned, "bomb, murder, kidnap, traffic drugs,
transfer arms, launder money and smuggle humans." Problems that
Clinton's Pentagon presented as discrete issues -- drugs, arms
trafficking, intellectual property piracy, migration, and money
laundering, what the editor of Foreign Policy Moisés Naín
has described as the "five
wars of globalization" -- are now understood as part of a larger
unified campaign against terrorism.
The Pentagon's Wide War on
Everything in Latin America
Latin America, in fact, has become more dangerous of late, plagued by a
rise in homicides, kidnappings, drug use, and gang violence. Yet it is
not the increase in illicit activity that is causing the Pentagon to
beat its alarm but rather a change in the way terrorism experts and
government officials think about international security. After 9/11,
much was made of Al Qaeda's virus-like ability to adapt and spread
through loosely linked affinity cells even after its host government in
Afghanistan had been destroyed. Defense analysts now contend that, with
potential patron nations few and far between and funding sources cut
off by effective policing, a new mutation has occurred. To raise money,
terrorists are reportedly making common cause with gun runners, people
smugglers, brand-name and intellectual-property bootleggers, drug
dealers, blood-diamond merchants, and even old-fashioned high-seas
In other words, the real enemy facing the U.S. in its War on Terror is
not violent extremism, but that old scourge of American peacekeepers
since the days of the frontier: lawlessness. "Lawlessness that breeds
terrorism is also a fertile ground for the drug trafficking that
supports terrorism," said former Attorney John Ashcroft a few years
ago, explaining why Congress's global counterterrorism funding bill was
allocating money to support the Colombian military's fight against
Counter-insurgency theorists have long argued for what they describe as
"total war at the grass-roots," by which they mean a strategy not just
to defeat insurgents by military force but to establish control over
the social, economic, and cultural terrain in which they operate.
"Drying up the sea," they call it, riffing on Mao's famous dictum, or
the swamp." What this expanded definition of the terrorist threat
does is take the concept of total war out of, say, the mountains of
Afghanistan, and project it onto a world scale: Victory, says the
Pentagon's 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review,
"requires the creation of a global environment inhospitable to
Defining the War on Terror in such expansive terms offers a number of
advantages for American security strategists. Since the United States
has the world's largest military, the militarization of police work
justifies the "persistent surveillance" of, well, everything and
everybody, as well as the maintenance of "a long-term, low-visibility
presence in many areas of the world where U.S. forces do not
traditionally operate." It justifies taking "preventive measures" in
order to "quell disorder before it leads to the collapse of political
and social structures" and shaping "the choices of countries at
strategic crossroads" which, the Quadrennial Defense Review believes,
include Russia, China, India, the Middle East, Latin America, Southeast
Asia -- just about every nation on the face of the earth save Britain
and, maybe, France.
Since the "new threats of the 21st century recognize no borders," the
Pentagon can, in the name of efficiency and flexibility, breach
bureaucratic divisions separating police, military, and intelligence
agencies, while at the same time demanding that they be subordinated to
U.S. command. Hawks now like to sell the War on Terror as "the
Long War," but a better term would be 'the Wide War," with an
enemies list infinitely expandable to include everything from DVD
bootleggers to peasants protesting the Bechtel Corporation. Southcom
Commander Craddock regularly preaches against "anti-globalization and
anti-free trade demagogues," while Harvard security-studies scholar and
leading ideologue of the "protean
enemy" thesis, Jessica Stern, charges, without a shred of credible
evidence, that Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez is brokering an
alliance between "Colombian rebels and militant Islamist groups."
A Latin American Wild West
In Latin America, the tri-border region of Paraguay, Brazil, and
Argentina, centered on Paraguay's legendary city of Ciudad del Este, is
ground zero for this broad view of global security. It's the place
where, according to the Pentagon, "all
the components of transnational lawlessness seem to converge." The
region had been on the Department of Defense watch list ever since two
Lebanese residents were implicated in the 1992 and 1994 Hezbollah
bombings of the Israeli embassy and a Jewish community center in Buenos
Right after 9/11, Douglas
Feith, Pentagon Undersecretary and neocon ultra, suggested that the
U.S. hold off invading Afghanistan and instead bomb the tri-border
region, just to "surprise" al-Qaeda and throw it off guard. Attention
to the region increased after U.S. troops discovered what CNN excitedly
called "a giant poster of Iguaçu Falls" -- Latin America's most
visited tourist destination, a few miles from Ciudad del Este --
hanging on the wall of an al-Qaeda operative's abandoned house in
Kabul. Since then, security analysts and journalists have taken to
describing the place as a "new Libya," where Hamas raises money for its
operations and al-Qaeda operates training camps or sends its militants
for a little R and R.
Rio may have its favelas, Mexico its Tijuana, and Colombia its jungles
overrun by guerrillas, drug lords, and paramilitaries, but none of
these places hold a candle to the tri-border zone. It is truly the
last, or at least the most well-known, lawless territory in the
Americas, the War on Terror's very own "Wild
West," as one military official dubbed it.
The Pentagon's overheated definition of the terrorist threat melts away
distinctions between Shiites from Sunnis or either from Marxists. Thus,
we have former CIA director James Woolsey claiming that Islamic
extremists and criminals in the tri-border region work together "sort
of like three different Mafia families," who occasionally kill each
other but more often cooperate. Jessica Stern says that there
"terrorists with widely disparate ideologies -- Marxist Colombian
rebels, American white supremacists, Hamas, Hezbollah, and others --
meet to swap tradecraft." In Ciudad del Este, "international crimes
like money laundering, gunrunning, migration fraud, and drug
trafficking," according to military analyst Colonel
William Mendel, "recombine and metastasize." The proceeds of these
various illicit trades reportedly arm Latin America's leftist
guerrillas, fund Islamic terrorism, and enrich the Russian, Asian, and
even Nigerian mafias -- everybody, it seems, but the Corleone family.
Rumors drift through the Pentagon's world that Osama bin Laden even
turns a nice profit running untaxed cigarettes into Brazil.
It's difficult to assess the truth of any of these lurid allegations.
The second largest city in South America's second poorest country,
Ciudad del Este is a free-trade boomtown, home not only to roughly
30,000 Lebanese and Syrian migrants but to lots of Koreans, Chinese,
and South Asians, many of them undocumented. The city is no doubt a
"free zone for significant criminal activity," as former FBI director
Louis Freeh once described it. Its polyglot streets are packed with
money changers, armored cars, and stalls selling everything from
bootlegged War of the Worlds DVDs and dollar-a-pop Viagra to the latest
sermons by respected Shiite Imams. Everyday, more than 40,000 people
cross the International Friendship Bridge from Brazil, many looking for
brand-name knockoffs either for personal use or for resale on the
streets of Rio or São Paulo. Surrounded by porous borders and
crisscrossed by river routes linking the continent's interior to the
Atlantic, the city is certainly a trading post for Andean cocaine,
Paraguayan marijuana, Brazilian weapons, and dirty money.
But security experts have found it a distinct stretch to link any of
this criminal activity to al-Qaeda. A couple of years ago, for example,
senior U.S. Army analyst Graham Turbiville pointed to the
purchase of 30,000 ski masks by a Ciudad del Este Lebanese
businessman as evidence that terrorism was flourishing in the region.
The transaction, he said, "raised many questions" -- one of which was
whether Turbiville was even aware that some of the world's best skiing
takes place in the nearby Andes.
Newspaper accounts depicting the region as Osama's lair are inevitably
based not on investigative reporting but on the word of Pentagon
officials or analysts, who either recycle each other's assertions or
pick up rumors circulated in the Latin American press -- stories many
Latin Americans insist are planted by the CIA or the Pentagon.
Brazilian and Argentine intelligence and police agencies, which have
done much to disperse tri-border criminal activity elsewhere, insist
that no terrorist cells exist in the area.
Ciudad del Este is thick with spies from Israel, the U.S., various
Latin American countries, and even China. "There are so many of us," an
Argentine spook recently remarked, "that we are bumping into each
other." If any of al-Qaeda's operatives were actually prowling the
city, odds are that at least one of them would have been found by now.
Yet the State
Department says that no "credible information" exists confirming
that the group is operating in the tri-border region, while even Southcom chief
Brantz Craddock admits that the Pentagon has "not detected Islamic
terrorist cells" anywhere in Latin America.
Establishing Dominion over
Whether or not bin Laden's deputies kick back at Iguaçu Falls
with skinheads and Asian gangsters to trade war stories and sip mate,
the specter of this unholy alliance provides plenty of cover for the
Pentagon to move forward with its militarization of hemispheric
relations, even as nation after nation in the region slips out of
Washington's political and economic orbit.
According to the Department of Defense, the hydra-headed terrorist
network now supposedly spreading across southern climes cannot be
defeated if Latin American nations continue to think of criminal law
enforcement and international warfare as two distinct activities. What
is needed is a Herculean Army of One, a flexible fighting machine
capable of waging a coordinated war against criminal terrorism on all
its multiple fronts and across any border. Secretary of Defense
Rumsfeld regularly tours the region urging security officials to break
down bureaucratic firewalls in order to allow local police, military
and intelligence services to act in an integrated manner. The goal,
according to the Pentagon, is to establish "effective sovereignty" or,
more biblically, "dominion" over "ungoverned spaces" -- boundary areas
like the tri-border region, but also poor city neighborhoods where
gangs rule, rural hinterlands where civil institutions are weak, and
waterways and coastlines where illegal trafficking takes place.
So far, the Pentagon has had the most success in implementing this
program in Central America and Colombia. In Central America, the Bush
administration has pushed the region's defense ministers to set up a
multinational "rapid-response force" made up of military and police
officers to counter "emerging transnational threats." Such a force, the
formation of which is underway, worries human rights activists, who
have worked hard since the region's fratricidal civil wars of the 1980s
to strictly limit military mandates to the defense of national borders.
According to Adam
Isacson, who monitors Washington's Colombia policy for the Center
for International Policy, the U.S. is "carrying out a host of
activities that would have been unthinkable back in 2000." Then, the
Clinton administration promised that no portion of its $4 billion
counter-narcotic funding package would be used to fight leftist rebels.
In 2002, however, a newly emboldened Republican Congress tucked money
into its global counterterrorism funding bill to support Colombia's
counterinsurgency program. Since then, the Pentagon has increasingly
taken the lead in directing what is now being called a "unified
campaign" against cocaine and guerrillas. Over the last couple of
years, the number of U.S. troops allowed in country has doubled to 800.
Some of them teach Colombian police officers light-infantry training
tactics, skills usually associated with low-intensity warfare, not
civilian law enforcement; but many are involved in directly executing
Colombia's counterinsurgency offensive, coordinating police and
military units, and providing training and intelligence support for
mobile brigades and Special Forces.
In Latin America more generally, it is increasingly the Pentagon, not
the State Department, which sets the course for hemispheric diplomacy.
With a staff of 1,400 and a budget of $800 million, Southcom already
has more money and resources devoted to Latin America than do the
Departments of State, Treasury, Commerce, and Agriculture combined. And
its power is growing.
For decades following the passage of the 1961 Foreign Assistance Act,
it was the responsibility of the civilian diplomats over at Foggy
Bottom to allocate funds and training to foreign armies and police
forces. But the Pentagon has steadily usurped this authority, first to
fight the War on Drugs, then the War on Terror. Out of its own budget,
it now pays for about two-thirds of the security training the U.S.
gives to Latin America. In January 2006, Congress legalized this
transfer of authority from State to Defense through a provision in the
National Defense Authorization Act, which for the first time officially
gave the Pentagon the freedom to spend millions from its own budget on
aid to foreign militaries without even the formality of civilian
oversight. After 9/11, total American military aid to the region jumped
from roughly $400 million to more than $700 million. It has been
steadily rising ever since, coming in today just shy of $1 billion.
Much of this aid consists of training Latin American soldiers -- more
than 15,000 every year. Washington hopes that, even while losing its
grip over the region's civilian leadership, its influence will grow as
each of these cadets, shaped by ideas and personal loyalties developed
during his instruction period, moves up his nation's chain of command.
Training consists of lethal combat techniques in the field backed by
counterinsurgency and counter-terror theory and doctrine in the
classroom. This doctrine, conforming as it does to the Pentagon's broad
definition of the international security threat, is aimed at
undermining the work civilian activists have done since the end of Cold
War to dismantle national and international intelligence agencies in
Chilean General Augusto Pinochet's infamous Operation
Condor in the 1970s, for example, was in effect an international
consortium of state intelligence agencies that served as the central
command for a continental campaign of political terror, compiling
execution lists of left-wing activists, while coordinating and
directing the work of police, military, and death-squad units
throughout Latin America. Condor was dismantled when Chile returned to
civilian rule in the early 1990s. However, a similarly integrated
system is exactly what the newly established Counter-Terrorism
Fellowship Program, run (with no Congressional supervision) out of the
Pentagon's Office of Special Operations and Low Intensity Warfare
Conflict, evidently hopes to restore. Every year the Program's
curriculum encourages thousands of select Latin American Fellows to
return to their home countries and work to increase the "cooperation
among military, police, and intelligence officials" and create "an
intelligence sharing network with all other governments in the region."
During the Cold War, Washington urged Latin American soldiers to police
their societies for "internal enemies," which anti-Communist military
regimes took as a green light to commit mass slaughter. Today, the
Pentagon thinks Latin America has a new "internal enemy": Southcom's
General Craddock recently told a class of Latin American cadets at the
Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (née
School of the Americas, the alma mater of some of the region's most
infamous executioners) to be on guard against anti-free trade populists
who "incite violence against their own government and their own
Osama at the Falls
Outside Washington's sphere of influence in Central America and
Colombia, the Bush administration is finding most Latin American
militaries a hard sell. Since the end of the Cold War brought sharp
reductions in their budgets, the region's cash-starved armed forces
eagerly take U.S. money, training, and equipment, and regularly
participate in Pentagon-led conferences, war games, and military
maneuvers. Police agencies work with the FBI and the Department of
Homeland Security to combat money laundering as well as gun- and
But most regional security officials have snubbed Washington's attempt
to rally them behind a broader ideological crusade. Two years ago at an
inter-American meeting of defense ministers in Quito, Ecuador,
Rumsfeld's Latin American counterparts rejected a
proposal that they coordinate their activities through Southcom.
Chile's defense minister insisted that the UN is the "only forum with
international legitimacy to act globally on security issues." "We are
very good at taking care of our borders," sniffed Argentina's defense
minister in response to Rumsfeld's claim that borders don't matter in a
world of stateless terrorism. They likewise rebuffed a U.S. plan to
draw up a regional list of suspected terrorists to prevent them from
obtaining visas and traveling between countries.
In contrast to the Pentagon's attempt to ratchet up a sense of
ideological urgency, the region's military leaders have sounded quite a
different note. "The cause of terrorism," said Brazil's José
Alencar, "is not just fundamentalism, but misery and hunger." When the
U.S. delegation at the meeting pushed for "narco-terrorism" to be
ranked the hemisphere's number-one challenge, the Latin Americans
balked, insisting that poverty was the major threat to stability. From
the sidelines, the former head of Ecuador's armed forces mordantly
observed that in "Latin America there are no terrorists -- only hunger
and unemployment and delinquents who turn to crime. What are we going
to do, hit you with a banana?"
During the Cold War, Washington was able to mobilize fear of Communism
-- which for Latin America's political and economic leaders generally
translated into fear of democracy -- and so make its particular
security interests seem like the region's collective security
interests. Today, a majority of South Americans not only oppose the
U.S. occupation of Iraq, but refuse to get too worked up about
terrorism in general. Polls have
repeatedly revealed, not surprisingly, that poverty is their major
Last year, a publicity foray by the Brazilian tourist town of Foz de
Iguaçu, just outside of Ciudad de Este, to capitalize on its
post-9/11 notoriety captures just how untroubled so many Latin
Americans are by Islamic terrorism. Its city government ran full-page
advertisements in leading newspapers featuring a photograph of Osama
bin Laden above the caption: "When he's not busy blowing up the world,
bin Laden takes a few days to relax at Iguaçu." Asked about the
ads, a city spokesperson explained, "Where there is laughter, there is
In sharp contrast to the unanimity with which the hemisphere
sequestered Cuba during the Cold War, the region's governments have
roundly rejected the Bush administration's attempts to redefine
Venezuela as a pariah state. Brazil, in fact, signed a "strategic
alliance" with Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez last year,
promising military cooperation and economic integration, including
joint projects on energy development.
The region's refusal to follow Washington's various leads on a whole
range of issues reflects a broadening rift over economic issues,
undercutting Washington's ability to cast the War on Terror as a common
struggle. More and more Latin Americans -- not just the poor and the
outspoken who marched against Bush during last year's Summit of the
Americas in Argentina, but many of the region's elites -- understand
that the free-market orthodoxy promoted by the U.S. over the last two
decades has been the very font of their problems. In one country after
another, national elections in recent years have brought to power a new
Latin America left sharply critical of unbridled capitalism. Brazil,
Venezuela, Argentina, and Bolivia, among other countries, are now
working together to contest Washington's hemispheric authority.
A Train Wreck of a Policy
Even the Pentagon
acknowledges that the "roots" of Latin America's "poor security
environment" can be found in the "hopelessness and squalor of poverty."
At times, it goes so far as to
admit, as Southcom did in its most recent annual report, that the
"free market reforms and privatization of the 1990's have not delivered
on the promise of prosperity." But rather than build on this insight to
trace, say, the connections between financial liberalization and money
laundering or to examine how privatization and cheap imports have
forced rural peasants and urban workers into the informal, often
illegal, economies in areas like the tri-border region, the Department
of Defense is now openly positioning itself as globalization's
Praetorian Guard, making the opening up of markets across Latin America
a central objective of its mission.
During the Cold War, the Pentagon had a surprisingly small physical
presence in Latin America. Except for some Caribbean bases, its
strategists preferred to work through local allies who shared their
vision of continental security. But the failure to rally Latin America
behind the War on Terror, combined with the rise of economic
nationalism, has led the Pentagon to return to more historically
traditional methods of flexing its muscle in the region. It has
recently been establishing in the Caribbean and the Andes a chain of
small but permanent military bases, known euphemistically as "cooperative
security locations." The Pentagon also calls them "lily pads" and
from them imagines itself leapfrogging troops and equipment, shifting
its weight from one "pad" to another as crises dictate to project its
power deep into Latin America.
This is where the obsession with Ciudad del Este comes in. With
Argentina, Brazil, and Venezuela acting in unison to temper U.S.
ambitions, corrupt and repressive Paraguay is the new darling of the
Bush administration. In 2003, Nicanor Duarte became the first
Paraguayan head of state to be hosted by the White House. In August
2005, Donald Rumsfeld flew to Asunción, the first time a
Secretary of Defense visited Paraguay. That trip was shortly followed
by a meeting between Dick Cheney and his Paraguayan counterpart.
Even though the terrorist threat reportedly emanating from the
tri-border region has yet to be substantiated, it serves as an
effective stalking horse, topping the agenda not only of these
high-level meetings but of every ministerial gathering sponsored by
Southcom. And the drumbeat is producing some rain.
Last summer, Paraguay, over the angry protests of its neighbors,
invited the Pentagon to begin eighteen months of bilateral military
exercises, training local troops in "domestic peacekeeping operations,"
small-unit maneuvers, and border control. Washington and
Asunción insist that the training mission is only temporary, yet
observers point to the U.S.-built Mariscal Estigarribia air base in the
northern part of the country, capable of handling large-scale military
air traffic, as an indication that the Bush administration is there to
stay. If so, it would give Washington its southernmost bridgehead in
Latin America, within striking distance not just of the storied Ciudad
del Este, but of the Guarani Aquifer, one of the world's largest bodies
of fresh water, not to speak of Bolivia's important natural gas
At the moment, it is ridiculous to say, as Gen. Craddock recently did,
that "transnational terrorism" is Latin America's "foremost" problem.
Then again, Iraq was not a haven for Islamic jihadists until our
national security establishment made it so.
The Pentagon today is pursuing a train-wreck of a policy in the region.
It continues the march of free-market absolutism, which its officials
insist, despite all evidence to the contrary, will generate economic
opportunities and rein in crime. At the same time, as it did during the
Cold War, it is going forward with the militarization of the hemisphere
in order to contain the "lawlessness" that such misery generates; and,
once again, it is trying to rally Latin American troops behind an
ideological crusade. So far, the region's officer corps has refused to
get on the bandwagon, but Washington's persuasive powers are
considerable. If those in charge of the Bush administration's
hemispheric diplomacy continue down these tracks, the disaster that
waits may very well transform much of Latin America into the Ciudad del
Este of their dreams, the wild west of their imaginations.
Greg Grandin teaches Latin American
history at NYU. He is the author of the just published Empire's
Workshop: Latin America, the United States, and the Rise of the New
Imperialism, part of the American Empire Project
series. He has written for Harper's Magazine, the Nation, and other
[This article first appeared on Tomdispatch.com, a weblog of
the Nation Institute, which offers a steady flow of alternate sources,
news, and opinion from Tom Engelhardt, long time editor in publishing,
co-founder of the
American Empire Project and author of The
End of Victory Culture, a history of American triumphalism in the
Cold War, and of a novel, The
Last Days of Publishing.]
from Jim Cohen :
Date: Tue, 2 May 2006
From: castellano cristina
Subject: Photos Manifestation Chicago
To: Jim Cohen
la dirección correcta para ver las photos de la
Manifestación en Chicago.
from Monty Kroopkin :
Subject: first SDS conference in 37 years has 90 chapters!
Date: 26 April 2006
Did you know about this? The conference report is short on ideology,
but huge on implications. The resolution on the May 1
strike/boycott says more.
from Jim Hightower :
Date: 4 May 2006
Subject: Jim Hightower's Common-Sense Commentaries
We've got another announcement before we get to this week's
Common-Sense Commentaries: you can now listen to Jim's daily
commentaries as a podcast!
What does that mean? It means that you can download a 2-minute daily
dose of Jim right to your MP3 player or computer. The podcast is available on
iTunes, MyYahoo, and other services.
It also means we now offer webfeeds
for you all to keep on top of what's going on with Jim. Well, what the
heck are webfeeds? We thought you might ask that, so we've created a
page on the new website that should hopefully explain just about
everything. Go here to
learn about RSS feeds, and to receive our stuff via the new feeds.
Keep reading, keep listening, and keep agitating!
Thursday, April 27, 2006
Posted by Jim Hightower
Look out – here comes Halliburton again! WWith its own personal sugar
daddy occupying the the vice president's chair, this giant government
contractor keeps getting multibillion-dollar, no-bid contracts from the
BushCheney regime, despite having... [Read more]
Friday, April 28, 2006
Posted by Jim Hightower
Time for another report [sports theme] from the Wide, Wide, Wide, WILD
world of sports!
Exciting news, sports fans: Marketers have made a trendsetting
breakthrough for the corporate branding of sports!... [Read more]
Monday, May 1, 2006
Posted by Jim Hightower
Pentagon chief Donnie Rumsfeld has finally amassed the level of troop
strength necessary to win the war. Not the war in Iraq – his personal
war to hang on to his job.
... [Read more]
Tuesday, May 2, 2006
Posted by Jim Hightower
Question: What does the name "Google" translate in to Chinese? Answer:
This Internet giant grew up with a free-spirit attitude and the ethical
slogan of "Do No... [Read
Wednesday, May 3, 2006
Posted by Jim Hightower
Last year, with a veritable gusher of oil profits flooding into the
coffers of Exxon Mobil, CEO Lee Raymond moaned that he really didn't
know what to do with so much money. But now... [Read more]
Francis McCollum Feeley
Professor of American Studies/
Director of Research
Université de Grenoble-3