Bulletin N°231


8 May 2006
Grenoble, France

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 April 2006.]

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 That Be
[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 corporations.

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

The Last Gasp of the Dollar?
(Iran bourse opens next week)
By Mike Whitney

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 reserve currency.”

“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.” (Associated Press)

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 a sell-off.

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 dollars.

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 years”.

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
Free Press

The Uproar Over The Isreal Lobby
by Alexander Cockburn

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 Zionist backers.

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 their demands.

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 www.counterpunch.com.

from Michael Albert :
May 08, 2006

The Wide War
(How Donald Rumsfeld Discovered the Wild West in Latin America)
by Greg Gardin

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 pirates.

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 leftist rebels.

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 sometimes, "draining 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 terrorism."

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 Aires.

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 Ungoverned Spaces
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.

Well-armed Diplomacy
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 the region.

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 people."

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 drug-running operations.

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 concern.

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 no terror."

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 reserves.

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 publications.

[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.
Un abrazo,
Cristina Castellano


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

Howdy friends,
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!

Politically yours,


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: Weasel.

This Internet giant grew up with a free-spirit attitude and the ethical slogan of "Do No... [Read more]


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
Grenoble, France