Foreign Policy News Stories
No Habeas Corpus for "Any Person"
With the approval of Congress and no outcry
from corporate media, the Military Commissions Act (MCA) signed
by Bush on October 17, 2006, ushered in military commission law
for US citizens and noncitizens alike. While media, including
a lead editorial in the New York Times October 19, have given
false comfort that we, as American citizens, will not be the victims
of the draconian measures legalized by this Act-such as military
roundups and life-long detention with no rights or constitutional
protections-Robert Parry points to text in the MCA that allows
for the institution of a military alternative to the constitutional
justice system for "any person" regardless of American
citizenship. The MCA effectively does away with habeas corpus
rights for "any person" arbitrarily deemed to be an
"enemy of the state." The judgment on who is deemed
an "enemy combatant" is solely at the discretion of
The oldest human right defined in the
history of English-speaking civilization is the right to challenge
governmental power of arrest and corpus laws, considered to be
the most critical parts of the Magna Carta which was signed by
King john in 1215.
Alexander Hamilton wrote in The Federalist
#84 in August of 1788:
"The establishment of the writ of
habeas corpus... are perhaps greater securities to liberty and
republicanism than any it [the Constitution] contains .... The
practice of arbitrary imprisonments have been, in all ages, the
favorite and most formidable instruments of tyranny. The observations
of the judicious [British eighteenth-century legal scholar] Blackstone,
in reference to the latter, are well worthy of recital:
"To bereave a man of life" says
he, "or by violence to confiscate his estate, without accusation
or trial, would be so gross and notorious an act of despotism,
as must at once convey the alarm of tyranny throughout the whole
nation; but confinement of the person, by secretly hurrying him
to jail, where his sufferings are unknown or forgotten, is a less
public, a less striking, and therefore a more dangerous engine
of arbitrary government."
While it is true that some parts of the
MCA target non-citizens, other sections clearly apply to US citizens
as well, putting citizens inside the same tribunal system with
non-citizen residents and foreigners.
Section 950 of the MCA states that, "Any
person is punishable as a principal under this chapter [of the
MCA] who commits an offense punishable by this chapter, or aids,
abets, counsels, commands, or procures its commission."
Section 950V. "Crimes Triable by
Military Commissions" (26) of the MCA seems to specifically
target American citizens by stating that, "Any person subject
to this chapter who, in breach of an allegiance or duty to the
United States, knowingly and intentionally aids an enemy of the
United States, or one of the co-belligerents of the enemy, shall
be punished as a military commission under this chapter may direct."
"Who," warns Parry, "has
'an allegiance or duty to the United States' if not an American
Besides allowing "any person"
to be swallowed up by Bush's system, the law prohibits detainees
once inside from appealing to the traditional American courts
until after prosecution and sentencing, which could translate
into an indefinite imprisonment since there are no timetables
for Bush's tribunal process to play out.
Section 950j of the law further states
that once a person is detained, not withstanding any other provision
of law (including section 2241 of title 28 or any other habeas
corpus provision) no court, justice, or judge shall have jurisdiction
to hear or consider any claim or cause of action whatsoever...
relating to the prosecution, trial, or judgment of a military
commission under this chapter, including challenges to the lawfulness
of procedures of military commissions."
Other constitutional protections in the
Bill of Rights, such as a speedy trial, the right to reasonable
bail, and the ban on "cruel and unusual punishment,"
would seem to be beyond a detainee's reach as well.
Parry warns that, "In effect, what
the new law appears to do is to create a parallel 'star chamber'
system for the prosecution, imprisonment, and possible execution
of enemies of the state, whether those enemies are foreign or
"Under the cloak of setting up military
tribunals to try al-Qaeda suspects and other so-called unlawful
enemy combatants, Bush and the Republican-controlled Congress
effectively created a parallel legal system for 'any person'-American
citizen or otherwise-who crosses some ill-defined line."
In one of the most chilling public statements
ever made by a US Attorney General, Alberto Gonzales opined at
a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Jan. 18, 2007, "The
Constitution doesn't say every individual in the United States
or citizen is hereby granted or assured the right of habeas corpus.
It doesn't say that. It simply says the right shall not be suspended."
More important than its sophomoric nature,
Parry warns, is that Gonzales's statement suggests he is still
searching for arguments to make habeas corpus optional, subordinate
to the President's executive powers that Bush's neoconservative
legal advisers claim are virtually unlimited during "time
Bush Moves Toward Martial Law
The John Warner Defense Authorization
Act of 2007, which was quietly signed by Bush on October 17, 2006,
the very same day that he signed the Military Commissions Act,
allows the president to station military troops anywhere in the
United States and take control of state-based National Guard units
without the consent of the governor or local authorities, in order
to "suppress public disorder."
By revising the two-century-old Insurrection
Act, the law in effect repeals the Posse Comitatus Act, which
placed strict prohibitions on military involvement in domestic
law enforcement. The 1878 Act reads, "Whoever, except in
cases and under circumstances expressly authorized by the Constitution
or Act of Congress, willfully uses any part of the Army or Air
Force as a posse comitatus or otherwise to execute the laws shall
be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years,
or both." As the only US criminal statute that outlaws military
operations directed against the American people, it has been our
best protection against tyranny enforced by martial law-the harsh
system of rules that takes effect when the military takes control
of the normal administration of justice. Historically martial
law has been imposed by various governments during times of war
or occupation to intensify control of populations in spite of
heightened unrest. In modern times it is most commonly used by
authoritarian governments to enforce unpopular rule.'
Section 333 of the Defense Authorization
Act of 2007, entitled "Major public emergencies; interference
with State and Federal law," states that "the President
may employ the armed forces, including the National Guard in Federal
service-to restore public order and enforce the laws of the United
States when, as a result of a natural disaster, epidemic, or other
serious public health emergency, terrorist attack or incident,
or other condition in any State or possession of the United States,
the President determines that domestic violence has occurred to
such an extent that the constituted authorities of the State or
possession are incapable of (or "refuse" or "fail"
in) maintaining public order-in order to suppress, in any State,
any insurrection, domestic violence, unlawful combination, or
Thus an Act of Congress, superceding the
Posse Comitatus Act, has paved the way toward a police state by
granting the president unfettered legal authority to order federal
troops onto the streets of America, directing military operations
against the American people under the cover of "law enforcement."
The massive Defense Authorization Act
grants the Pentagon $532.8 billion to include implementation of
the new law which furthermore facilitates militarized police round-ups
of protesters, so-called illegal aliens, potential terrorists,
and other undesirables for detention in facilities already contracted
and under construction, and transferring from the Pentagon to
local police units the latest technology and weaponry designed
to suppress dissent.
Author Frank Morales notes that despite
the unprecedented and shocking nature of this act, there has been
no outcry in the American media, and little reaction from our
elected officials in Congress. On September 19, a lone Senator
Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) noted that 2007's Defense Authorization
Act contained a "widely opposed provision to allow the President
more control over the National Guard [adopting] changes to the
Insurrection Act, which will make it easier for this or any future
President to use the military to restore domestic order without
the consent of the nation's governors."
A few weeks later, on September 29, Leahy
entered into the Congressional Record that he had "grave
reservations about certain provisions of the fiscal Year 2007
Defense Authorization Bill Conference Report," the language
of which, he said, "subverts solid, longstanding posse comitatus
statutes that limit the military's involvement in law enforcement,
thereby making it easier for the President to declare martial
law." This had been "slipped in," Leahy said, "as
a rider with little study," while "other congressional
committees with jurisdiction over these matters had no chance
to comment, let alone hold hearings on, these proposals."
Leahy noted "the implications of
changing the [Posse Comitatus] Act are enormous." "There
is good reason," he said, "for the constructive friction
in existing law when it comes to martial law declarations. Using
the military for law enforcement goes against one of the founding
tenets of our democracy. We fail our Constitution, neglecting
the rights of the States, when we make it easier for the President
to declare martial law and trample on local and state sovereignty."
Morales further asserts that "with
the president's polls at a historic low ... and Democrats taking
back the Congress ... it is particularly worrisome that President
Bush has seen fit, at this juncture to, in effect, declare himself
AFRICOM: US Military Control of Africa's
In February 2007 the White House announced
the formation of the US African Command (AFRICOM), a new unified
Pentagon command center in Africa, to be established by September
2008. This military penetration of Africa is being presented as
a humanitarian guard in the Global War on Terror. The real objective
is, however, the procurement and control of Africa's oil and its
global delivery systems.
The most significant and growing challenge
to US dominance in Africa is China. An increase in Chinese trade
and investment in Africa threatens to substantially reduce US
political and economic leverage in that resource-rich continent.
The political implication of an economically emerging Africa in
close alliance with China is resulting in a new cold war in which
AFRICOM will be tasked with achieving full-spectrum military dominance
AFRICOM will replace US military command
posts in Africa, which were formerly under control of US European
Command (EUCOM) and US Central Command (CENTCOM), with a more
centralized and intensified US military presence.
A context for the pending strategic role
of AFRICOM can be gained from observing CENTCOM in the Middle
East. CENTCOM grew out of the Carter Doctrine of 1980 which described
the oil flow from the Persian Gulf as a "vital interest"
of the US, and affirmed that the US would employ "any means
necessary, including military force" to overcome an attempt
by hostile interests to block that flow.
It is in Western and Sub-Saharan Africa
that the US military force is most rapidly increasing, as this
area is projected to become as important a source of energy as
the Middle East within the next decade. In this region, challenge
to US domination and exploitation is coming from the people of
Africa-most specifically in Nigeria, where seventy percent of
Africa's oil is contained.
People native to the Niger Delta region
have not benefited, but instead suffered, as a result of sitting
on top of vast natural oil and natural gas deposits. Nigerian
people's movements are demanding self-determination and equitable
sharing of oil-receipts. Environmental and human rights activists
have, for years, documented atrocities on the part of oil companies
and the military in this region. As the tactics of resistance
groups have shifted from petition and protest to more proactive
measures, attacks on pipelines and oil facilities have curtailed
the flow of oil leaving the region. As a Convergent Interests
report puts it, "Within the first six months of 2006, there
were nineteen attacks on foreign oil operations and over $2.187
billion lost in oil revenues; the Department of Petroleum Resources
claims this figure represents 32 percent of 'the revenue the country
[Nigeria] generated this year."
Oil companies and the Pentagon are attempting
to link these resistance groups to international terror networks
in order to legitimize the use of the US military to "stabilize"
these areas and secure the energy flow. No evidence has been found
however to link the Niger Delta resistance groups to international
tenor networks or jihadists. Instead the situation in the Niger
Delta is that of ethnic-nationalist movements fighting, by any
means necessary, toward the political objective of self-determination.
The volatility surrounding oil installations in Nigeria and elsewhere
in the continent is, however, used by the US security establishment
to justify military "support" in African oil producing
states, under the guise of helping Africans defend themselves
against those who would hinder their engagement in "Free
The December 2006 invasion of Somalia
was coordinated using US bases throughout the region. The arrival
of AFRICOM will effectively reinforce efforts to replace the popular
Islamic Courts Union of Somalia with the oil industry-friendly
Transitional Federal Government. Meanwhile, the persistent Western
calls for "humanitarian intervention" into the Darfur
region of Sudan sets up another possibility for military engagement
to deliver regime change in another Islamic state rich in oil
Hunt warns that this sort of "support"
is only bound to increase as rhetoric of stabilizing Africa makes
the dailies, copied directly out of official AFRICOM press releases.
Readers of the mainstream media can expect to encounter more frequent
usage of terms like "genocide" and "misguided."
He notes that already corporate media decry China's human rights
record and support for Sudan and Zimbabwe while ignoring the ongoing
violations of Western corporations engaged in the plunder of natural
resources, the pollution other peoples' homelands, and the "shoring
up" of repressive regimes.
In FY 2005 the Trans-Sahara Counter Terrorism
Initiative received $16 million; in FY 2006, nearly $31 million.
A big increase is expected in 2008, with the administration pushing
for $100 million each year for five years. With the passage of
AFRICOM and continued promotion of the Global War on Terror, Congressional
funding is likely to increase significantly.
In the end, regardless of whether it's
US or Chinese domination over Africa, the blood spilled will be
African. Hunt concludes, "It does not require a crystal ball
or great imagination to realize what the increased militarization
of the continent through AFRICOM will bring to the peoples of
Frenzy of Increasingly Destructive Trade
The Oxfam report, "Signing Away the
Future," reveals that the US and European Union (EU) are
vigorously pursuing increasingly destructive regional and bilateral
trade and investment agreements outside the auspices of the WTO.
These agreements are requiring enormous irreversible concessions
from developing countries, while offering almost nothing in return.
Faster and deeper, the US and EU are demanding unprecedented tariff
reductions, sometimes to nothing, as the US and EU dump subsidized
agricultural goods on undeveloped countries, plunging local farmers
into desperate poverty. Meanwhile the US and EU provide themselves
with high tariffs and stringent import quotas to protect their
producers. Unprecedented loss of livelihood,
displacement, slave labor, along with spiraling degradation of
human rights and environments are resulting as economic governance
is forced from governments of developing countries, and taken
over by unaccountable multinational firms.
During 2006, more than one hundred developing
countries were involved in FTA or Bilateral Investment Treaty
(BIT) negotiations. "An average of two treaties are signed
every week," the report says, "Virtually no country,
however poor, has been left out."
Much of the recent debate and controversy
over trade negotiations has revolved around the increasingly devastating
trade-distorting practices of rich countries versus the developing
countries' needs for food security and industrial development.
The new generation of agreements ... extends far beyond this traditional
area of trade policy-imposing a damaging set of binding rules
in intellectual property, services, and investment with much deeper
consequences for development and impacts on the poor.
Double standards in the intellectual-property
rights chapters of most trade agreements are glaring. As new agreements
limit developing countries' access to patented technology and
medicines while failing to protect traditional knowledge-the public-health
consequences are staggering. The US-Colombia FTA is expected to
reduce access to medicines by 40 percent and the US-Peru FTA is
expected to leave 700,000 to 900,000 Peruvians without access
to affordable medicines.
US and EU FTAs also require the adoption
of plant-breeder rights that remove the right to share seeds among
indigenous farmers. The livelihood of the world's poorest farmers
is thus made even more vulnerable, while profit margins of the
world's largest agribusinesses continue to climb. US FTAs are
now pushing for patents on plants, which will not only limit the
rights of farmers to exchange or sell seeds, but also forbid them
to save and reuse seed they have grown themselves for generations.
Under US FTAs including DR-CAFTA, US-Peru and US-Colombia FTAs,
developing-country governments will no longer be able to reject
a patent application because a firm fails to indicate the origin
of a plant or show proof of consent for its use from a local community.
As a result, communities could find themselves forced to pay for
patented plant varieties based on genetic resources from their
New rules also pose a threat to essential
services as FTAs allow foreign investors to take ownership of
healthcare, education, water, and public utilities.
Investment chapters of new FTAs and BITs
allow foreign investors to sue for lost profits, including anticipated
future profits, if governments change regulations, even when such
reforms are in the public interest. These rules undermine the
sovereignty of developing nations, transferring power from governments
to largely unaccountable multinational firms. A growing number
of investment chapters and treaties further tip the scales of
justice by preventing governments from screening or regulating
foreign investment-banning the use of all 'performance requirements'
in all sectors including mining, manufacturing, and services.
More than 170 countries have signed international
investment agreements that provide foreign investors with the
right to turn immediately to international investor-state arbitration
to settle disputes, without first trying to resolve the matter
in national courts. Such arbitration fails to consider public
interest, basing decisions exclusively on commercial law.
Not only is the legal basis for investment
arbitration loaded against public interest, so are the proceedings.
Despite the fact that many arbitration panels are hosted at the
World Bank and the United Nations, the investment arbitration
system is shrouded in secrecy. It is virtually impossible to find
out what cases are being heard, let alone the outcome or rationale
for decisions. As a result, there is no body of case decisions
to inform governments of developing countries when drafting investments
Oxfam notes that the only group privy
to this information is an increasingly powerful select group of
commercial lawyers, whose fees often place them out of reach of
developing-country governments. These lawyers, according to the
Oxfam report, are eager to advise foreign investors regarding
opportunities to claim compensation from developing countries
under international investment agreements.
Strong opposition is growing to the political
asymmetry inherent in these bilateral trade and investment agreements.
As Oxfam notes, "It is in nobody's long-term interest to
have a global economy that perpetuates social, economic, and environmental
KIA: The US Neoliberal Invasion of India
Farmers' cooperatives in India are defending
the nation's food security and the future of Indian farmers against
the neoliberal invasion of genetically modified (GM) seed. As
many as 28,000 Indian farmers have committed suicide over the
last decade as a result of debt incurred from failed GM crops
and competition with subsidized US crops, yet when India's Prime
Minister Singh met with President Bush in March 2006 to finalize
nuclear agreements, they also signed the Indo-US Knowledge Initiative
on Agriculture (KIA), backed by Monsanto, Archer Daniels Midland
(ADM), and Wal-Mart. The KIA allows for the grab of India's seed
sector by Monsanto, of its trade sector by giant agribusiness
ADM and Cargill, and its retail sector by Wal-Mart.
Though the contours of KIA have been kept
so secret that neither senior Indian politicians nor the scientific
community know its details, it is clear that Prime Minister Singh
has agreed to sacrifice India's agriculture sector to pay for
US concessions in the nuclear field.
In one of very few public statements by
a US government official regarding KIA, Nicholas Burns, Under
Secretary of State for Political Affairs, states, "While
the civilian nuclear initiative has garnered the most attention
... Our first priority is to continue giving governmental support
to the huge growth in business between the Indian and American
private sectors. Singh has also challenged the United States to
help launch a second green revolution in India's vast agricultural
heartland by enlisting the help of America's great land-grant
Vandana Shiva translates, "These
are twin programs about a market grab and a security alignment
... Burns announced that while the nuclear deal is the cutting
edge, what the US is really seeking is agricultural markets and
real estate markets ... to take over the land of people, not through
a market mechanism, but using the state and an old colonial law
of land acquisition to grab the land by force."
Through KIA, Monsanto and the US have
asked for unhindered access to India's gene banks, along with
a change in India's intellectual property laws to allow patents
on seeds and genes, and to dilute provisions that protect farmers'
rights. A combination of physical access to India's gene banks
and a possible new intellectual property law that allows seed
patents will in essence deliver India's genetic wealth into US
hands. This would be a severe blow to India's food security and
At the same time KIA has paved the way
for Wal-Mart's plans to open five hundred stores in India, starting
in August 2007, which will compound the outsourcing of India's
food supply and threaten 14 million small family venders with
loss of livelihood.
"This is not about 'free trade,"
Shiva explains, "Today's trade system, especially in agriculture,
is dishonest, and dishonesty has become a war against farmers.
It's become a genocide."
Farmers are, however, organizing to protect
themselves against this economic invasion by maintaining traditional
seed banks and setting up exemplary systems of community agrarian
support. In response to the flood of debilitating debt tied to
GM/hybrid seeds and the toxic petroleum based fertilizers and
pesticides these crops depend on, one woman in the small village
of Palarum says, "We do not buy seeds from the market because
we suspect they may be contaminated with genetically engineered
or terminator seeds." Instead village women save and trade
hardy traditional seeds that have evolved over centuries to produce
low-maintenance, nutritious "crops of truth."
Each village in this rural area of India
has formed its own community-based organization called a sangham.
Seventy-two sanghams are part of a regional federation. These
sanghams form an informal social security network that, through
the maintenance of seed banks, will come to the rescue of individuals
or entire villages in times of crop failure. Every member of the
community has access to food and is assured of some work even
if landless. The federation furthermore trains students in skills
such as carpentry, computing, pottery, bookbinding, veterinary
science, herbal medicine, sewing, farming, waste management, and
Author Arun Shrivastava comments that,
"These seventy-two villages were once horizontally and vertically
stratified along caste, class, and religious lines. Food scarcity
was endemic, people were malnourished, the majority worked as
unskilled day wagers. Today they are cohesive, interdependent.
I did not see one malnourished person. Rarely do people go to
urban centers to seek work." Shrivastava continues, "The
community is the most important entity that can help us ensure
food and nutrition security... The right of access to natural
resources-land, rivers, forests, air, and everything that Nature
has given us, including seeds, is the fundamental right of the
communities, not of the corporations or the state or the individual.
No corporation has the right to expropriate what Nature gave us."
Professor of genetics Suman Sahai concludes,
"India must be cautious that it does not become the dumping
ground for a technology and its controversial products that have
been rejected in many parts of the world and whose safety and
usefulness remain questionable... Food security is an integral
part of national security. All India's efforts in the nuclear
arena to shore up its national security goals will be undermined
if it allows itself to become insecure in the \matter of food."
Vulture Funds Threaten Poor Nations' Debt
Vulture funds, otherwise known as "distressed-debt
investors," are undermining UN and other global efforts to
relieve impoverished Third World nations of the debt that has
burdened them for many decades.
Vulture funds are financial organizations
that buy up debts that are near default or bankruptcy. The vulture
fund will pay the original investor pennies on the dollar for
the debt and then approach the debtor to arrange a better repayment
on the loan, or will go after the debtor in court.
In the private financial world, these
funds, like the birds they are named for, provide a useful function
for investors who are unable to follow up on defaulted debts and
are themselves facing financial ruin if the debtor reneges entirely.
Under normal circumstances, distressed-debt
investing-like day trading-is risky business. It is a gamble and
the company knows that going in. The vulture fund may get nothing
for its investment if the debtor continues to default and has
no assets to attach. However, if there is still meat on the bones
(the debtor has considerable assets to liquidate) the vulture
fund can make millions.
A problem has arisen in recent years,
however, as vulture funds have begun inserting themselves into
an increasingly globalized "free market"-where no distinction
is made between an irresponsible and defaulted company and a destitute
and impoverished nation.
In the case of nations, the actions of
vulture funds are corrupting the process begun in 1996 to provide
debt relief for Third World nations struggling to emerge from
the heavy debt laid upon them by previous corrupt rulers and colonial
In one recent case, the poverty-stricken
nation of Zambia was negotiating with Romania to reduce a $40
million debt still owed from a 1979 loan to buy Romanian tractors.
In r999, Romania had agreed to liquidate the entire loan for $3
million. Zambia planned to use the debt cancellation to invest
in much-needed nurses, teachers, and basic infrastructure. Just
before the deal was finalized however, investors at the England-based
vulture fund Donegal international convinced the Romanian government
to sell them the loan for just under $4 million-not much more
than Zambia had offered. Donegal then turned around and sued Zambia
(where the average wage is barely a dollar a day) for the full
Throughout the lawsuit, global NGOs have
pleaded with the English High Court to void the new contract and
allow Zambia to honor the original agreement of $3 million. But
on February 15, 2007, an English court ruled that Donegal was
entitled to much of what it was seeking-at least $15 million,
In a last desperate plea, global NGOs
working to relieve Third World debt (such as Oxfam and the Jubilee
Debt Campaign) turned to Donegal directly, asking them to forgive
the debt. Donegal knows that, as a national entity, even a cash-poor
country like Zambia has access to considerable resources; in this
case copper, cobalt, gem stones, coal, uranium, marble, and much
more. Public works and other civic improvement projects can also
Also, Donegal has no history of mercy
toward impoverished nations. In 1996 it paid $11 million for a
discounted Peruvian debt and threatened to bankrupt the country
unless they paid $8 million. Donegal got its money. Now they're
suing Congo Brazzaville for $400 million for a debt they bought
for $10 million. Donegal and other vulture funds have teams of
lawyers combing the world for assets that can be seized.
Even worse, many of these vulture funds
have influential ties to powerful world leaders like the Bush
administration. The risk normally faced by distressed-debt investors
is virtually eliminated when they have political influence that
is greater than the poor nation they are suing. They raise most
of their money through legal actions in US courts, where lobbying
and political contributions hold influence. And many vulture fund
CEOs have close links to top officials both in the US and England.
President Bush has the power to block
collection of debts by vulture finds, either individual ones or
all of them, if he considers it to be at odds with US foreign
policy-in this case debt relief for poor countries. According
to Congressman John Conyers, "It's our position that the
Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and the comity doctrine brought
from our constitution allows the president to require the courts
defer in individual suits against foreign nations. And so, we're
conducting a couple of things. First of all, we want to know where
these practices are going on at the present time, and, two, how
we can get this information to President Bush so that he can,
as he indicated to us, stop it immediately."
Chancellor Gordon Brown, now the prime
minister of England, calls the vulture funds perverse and immoral.
Oxfam and jubilee have urged the chancellor to use his influence
as chair of the International Monetary Fund's key decision-making
committee to make sure that new regulations are devised that prevent
private companies from bypassing international debt rules and
pursuing debts from very poor countries.
The Scam of "Reconstruction"
in Afghanistan '
A report issued in June 2005 by the non-profit
organization Action Aid reveals that much of the US tax money
earmarked to rebuild Afghanistan actually ends up going no further
than the pockets of wealthy US corporations. "Phantom aid"
that never shows up in the recipient country is a scam in which
paychecks for overpriced, and often incompetent, American "experts"
under contract to USAID go directly from the Agency to American
bank accounts. Additionally, 70 percent of the aid that does make
it to a recipient country is carefully "tied" to the
donor nation, requiring that the recipient use the donated money
to buy products and services from the donor country, often at
drastically inflated prices. The US far outstrips other nations
in these schemes, as Action Aid calculates that 86 cents of every
dollar of American aid is phantom.
Authors Ann Jones and Fariba Nawa suggest
that in order to understand the failure and fraud in the reconstruction
of Afghanistan, it is important to look at the peculiar system
of American aid for international development. International and
national agencies-including the World Bank, the International
Monetary Fund and U SAID, that traditionally distribute aid money
to developing countries-have designed a system that is efficient
in funneling money back to the wealthy donor countries, while
undermining sustainable development in poor states.
A former head of U SAID cited foreign
aid as "a key foreign policy instrument" designed to
help countries "become better markets for US exports."
To guarantee that mission, the State Department recently took
over the aid agency. USAID and the Army Corps of Engineers now
cut in US business and government interests from the start, making
sure that money is allocated according to US economic, political,
strategic, and military priorities, rather than according to what
the recipient nation might consider important.
Though Afghans have petitioned to allocate
aid money as they find appropriate, donor countries object, claiming
that the Afghan government is too corrupt to be trusted. Increasingly
frustrated and angry Afghan communities meanwhile claim that the
no-bid, open-ended contracts being awarded to contractors such
as Kellogg, Brown, and Root/ Halliburton, DynCorp, Blackwater,
and the Louis Berger Group are equivalent to licensed bribery,
corruption, theft, and money laundering.
The Karzai government, confined to a self-serving
American agenda, has delivered little to the average Afghan, most
of whom still live in abject poverty. Western notions of progress
evident in US-contracted hotels, restaurants, and shopping malls
full of new electronic gadgets and appliances are beyond the imaginations
or practicalities of 3.5 million war torn Afghan citizens who
are without food, shelter, sewage systems, clean water or electricity.
Infrastructure hastily built with shoddy
materials and no knowledge or respect for geologic or climatic
conditions is culminating in one expensive failure after another.
USAID's website, for example, boasts of its only infrastructure
accomplishment in Afghanistan - the Kabul-Kandahar Highway - a
narrow and already crumbling highway costing Afghanis $1 million
a mile. The highway was featured in the Kabul Weekly newspaper
in March 2005 under the headline, "Millions Wasted on Second-Rate
Roads." The article notes that while other bids from more
competent construction firms came in at one-third the cost, the
contract went to the Louis Berger Group, a firm with tight connections
to the Bush administration-as well as a notorious track record
of other failed and abandoned construction projects in Afghanistan.
Former Minister of Planning, Ramazan Bashardost,
complained that when it came to building roads, the Taliban had
done a better job. "And," he also asked, "Where
did the money go?" Now, in a move certain to lower President
Karzai's approval ratings and further diminish US popularity in
the area, the Bush administration has pressured Karzai to turn
this "gift from the people of the United States" into
a toll road, charging each driver $20 for a road-use permit valid
for one month. In this way, according to American "experts"
providing highly paid technical assistance, Afghanistan can collect
$30 million annually from its impoverished citizens and thereby
decrease the foreign aid "burden" on the United States.
Jones asks, "Is it any wonder that
foreign aid seems to ordinary Afghans to be something only foreigners
Another Massacre in Haiti by UN Troops
Eyewitness testimony confirms indiscriminate
killings by UN forces in Haiti's Cite Soleil community on December
22, 2006, reportedly as collective punishment against the community
for a massive demonstration of Lavalas supporters in which about
ten thousand people rallied for the return of President Aristide
in clear condemnation of the foreign military occupation of their
country. According to residents, UN forces attacked their neighborhood
in the early morning, killing more than thirty people, including
women and children. Footage taken by Haiti Information Project
(HIP) videographers shows unarmed civilians dying as they tell
of extensive gunfire from UN peacekeeping forces (MINUSTAH).
A hardened UN strategy became apparent
days after the demonstration, when UN officials stated they were
entering Cite Soleil to capture or kill gangsters and kidnappers.
While officials of MINUSTAH have admitted to "collateral
damage," in the raids of December 2006, they say they are
there to fight gangsters at the request of the René Préval
But many residents and local human rights
activists say that scores of people having no involvement with
gangs were killed, wounded, and arrested in the raids.
Although MINUSTAH denied firing from helicopter
gunships, HIP captured more than three hours of video footage
and a large selection of digital photos, illustrating the UN's
behavior in Haiti.
An unidentified twenty-eight-year-old
man, filmed by HIP, can be seen dying as he testifies that he
was shot from a circling UN helicopter that rained gunfire on
those below. HIP film also shows a sixteen-year-old, dying just
after being shot by UN forces. Before dying he describes details
of the UN opening fire on unarmed civilians in his neighborhood.
The wounded and dying, filmed by HIP, all express horror and confusion.
IPS observed that buildings throughout
Cite Soleil were pockmarked by bullets; many showing huge holes
made by heavy caliber UN weapons, as residents attest. Often pipes
that brought in water to the slum community now lay shattered.
A recently declassified document from
the US embassy in Port-auPrince reveals that during a similar
operation carried out in July 2005, MINUSTAH expended 22,000 bullets
over several hours. In the report, an official from MINUSTAH acknowledged,
"given the flimsy construction of homes in Cite Soleil and
the large quantity of ammunition expended, it is likely that rounds
penetrated many buildings, striking unintended targets."
Frantz Michel Guerrier, spokesman for
the Committee of Notables for the Development of Cite Soleil based
in the Bois Neuf zone, said, "It is very difficult for me
to explain to you what the people of Bois Neuf went through on
Dec. 22, 2006-almost unexplainable. It was a true massacre. We
counted more than sixty wounded and more than twenty-five dead,
among [them] infants, children, and young people."
"We saw helicopters shoot at us,
our houses broken by the tanks," Guerrier told IPS. "We
heard detonations of the heavy weapons. Many of the dead and wounded
were found inside their houses. I must tell you that nobody had
been saved, not even the babies. The Red Cross was not allowed
to help people. The soldiers had refused to let the Red Cross
in categorically, in violation of the Geneva Convention."
Several residents told IPS that MINUSTAH, after conducting its
operations, evacuated without checking for wounded.
Following the removal of Haiti's elected
Jean-Bertrand Aristide government , up to one thousand Lavalas
political activists were imprisoned under the US-backed interim
government, according to a Miami University Human Rights study.
A study released by the Lancet Journal
of Medicine in August 2006 estimates that 8,000 were killed and
35,000 sexually assaulted in the greater Port-au-Prince area during
the time of the interim government (2004-2006). The study attributed
human rights abuses to purported "criminals," police,
anti-Lavalas gangs, and UN peacekeepers.
HIP Founding Editor Kevin Pina commented,
"It is clear that this represents an act of terror against
the community. This video evidence shows clearly that the UN stands
accused, once again, of targeting unarmed civilians in Cite Soleil.
There can be no justification for using this level of force in
the close quarters of those neighborhoods. It is clear that the
UN views the killing of these innocents as somehow acceptable
to their goal of pacifying this community. Every demonstration,
no matter how peaceful, is seen as a threat to their control if
it includes demands for the return of Aristide to Haiti. In that
context it is difficult to continue to view the UN mission as
an independent and neutral force in Haiti. They apparently decided
sometime ago it was acceptable to use military force to alter
Haiti's political landscape to match their strategic goals for
the Haitian people."
Impunity for US War Criminals
A provision mysteriously tucked into the
Military Commission Act (MCA) just before it passed through Congress
and was signed by President Bush on October 17, 2006, redefines
torture, removing the harshest, most controversial techniques
from the definition of war crimes, and exempts the perpetrators-both
interrogators and their bosses-from prosecution for such offences
dating back to November 1997.
Author Jeff Stein asks, "Who slipped
language into the MCA that would further exempt torturers from
The White House denies any involvement
or knowledge regarding the insertion of such language, leaving
the origin of adjustments to this significant part of the MCA
Motivation for this provision, however,
leads clearly to leadership in the Bush administration, as the
passage effectively rewrote the US enforcement mechanism for the
Geneva War Crimes Act, which would have, upon sworn testimonies
of Lieutenant General Randall M. Schmidt, Major General Mike Dunlavey,
and US Brigadier General Commander, Janis Karpinski, held former
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Vice President Dick Cheney,
and President George Bush guilty of active roles in directing
acts of torture upon detainees held at Guantánamo and Abu
Ghraib (see Censored 2007, Story #7).
A spokesperson for the Center for Constitutional
Rights comments, "The MCA's restricted definitions arguably
would exempt certain US officials who have implemented or had
command responsibility for coercive interrogation techniques from
war crimes prosecutions...
This amendment is designed to protect
US government perpetrators of abuses during the 'war on terror'
Joanne Mariner of Human Rights Watch adds
that the effect of this provision of the MCA is "that perpetrators
of several categories of what were war crimes at the time they
were committed, can no longer be punished under US law."
As a whole, the MCA evolved out of the
need to override the June 2006 Supreme Court declaration that
the administration's hastily assembled military commissions were
unconstitutional. That momentous Supreme Court decision confirmed
that all prisoners in US custody had to be held in accordance
with the Geneva Convention's Article 3, which prohibits "outrages
upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading
treatment." Through passage of the MCA, Congress and the
President negated the corrective role of the courts in checking
and balancing executive power.
A Senate aide involved in the drafting
of the Senate version of the bill that was agreed upon by john
McCain, Lindsey Graham, and John Warner, said, "We have no
idea who [the extended impunity provision] came from or how it
came to be." White House spokesperson Dana Perrino said the
stealth changes didn't come from the counsel's office, "It
could have come from elsewhere in the White House or justice Department,"
she said, "but it didn't come from us."
Whatever the source, the amended provision
was passed and is a part of US law.
Mexico's Stolen Election
Overwhelming evidence reveals massive
fraud in the 2006 Mexican t ./ presidential election between "president-elect"
Felipe Calderón of the conservative PAN party and Andrés
Manuel Lopez Obrador of the more liberal PRD. In an election riddled
with "arithmetic mistakes," a partial recount uncovered
evidence of abundant stuffing and stealing of ballots that favored
the PAN victory.
Meanwhile, US interests were significantly
invested in the outcome of Mexico's election. Though neither candidate
had any choice but to cooperate with the US agenda, important
differences existed around energy policy, specifically with regard
to foreign privatization of Mexican oil and gas reserves.
Though the energy sector of Mexico is
already deeply penetrated by US capital, as it stands, the Mexican
government owns and controls the oil industry, with very tight
restrictions on any foreign investment. Petróleos Mexicanos
(PEMEX), the fifth largest oil company in the world, exports 8o
percent of its oil to the US. Sixty percent of its revenue ($30
billion per year) currently goes to the Mexican government, accounting
for more than 40 percent of the Mexican government's annual revenues.
Calderón promises a more thorough
and streamlined exploitation of Mexico's oil, demanding that Mexico
remove barriers to private/foreign investment (which are currently
written into the Mexican Constitution). Obrador, on the other
hand, insisted on maintaining national ownership and control of
the energy sector in order to build economic and social stability
In June 2005, Mexico signed an accord
called Alliance for the Security and Prosperity of North America
(AS PAN) with Canada and the US. The point was made that this
accord would be binding on whoever became president of Mexico
in the upcoming elections. Included in AS PAN is a guarantee to
fill the energy needs of the US market, as well as agreements
to forge "a common theory of security," allowing US
Homeland Security measures to be implemented in Mexico.
Five months later, in November 2005, an
"audition" was held with Mexican presidential candidates
before members of the US Chamber of Commerce in Mexico City. All
candidates were asked whether they would open the energy sector
in Mexico, especially the nationalized oil company, PEMEX, to
Felipe Calderón received resounding
applause when he answered that he is in favor of private investment
in PEMEX, and of weakening the labor unions. He also received
applause when he stated that he supported George Bush's guest
worker program and that he agreed the border needed to be secured
or militarized. Obrador said that he would not allow risk capital
investment in PEMEX-but hastened to add that other sectors would
be opened to investment.
Calderón won the audition, Obrador
was granted the role of understudy. Former US Ambassador to Mexico
Jeffrey Davidow told Obrador, "If you win the election, we
will support you." But when Obrador appeared to be the front-runner
in the election, PAN allied with forces in the US to launch a
feverish campaign against him.
Though US laws prevent US influence in
other countries' elections, anti-Obrador ads airing on Mexican
TV were designed by US firms and illegally
financed by business councils that included such transnationals
as Wal-Mart and Halliburton. US election advisers Rob Allyn and
Dick Morris were contracted to develop a media campaign that would
foment fear that Obrador, with ties to Chavez and Castro, posed
a dangerous Socialist threat to Mexico.
Outgoing president Vicente Fox violated
campaign law by making dozens of anti-Obrador speeches during
the campaign, as the PAN party illegally saturated airwaves with
swift-boat style attack ads against Obrador. Under Mexican law,
ruling party interference is a serious crime and grounds for annulling
While Obrador's campaign and hundreds
of independent election observers documented several hundred cases
of election fraud in making their case for a recount, most Mexican
TV stations failed to report the irregularities that surfaced.
Days after the election The New York Times irresponsibly declared
Calderón the winner, and Bush called to personally congratulate
Calderón on his "win," even though no victor
had been declared under Mexican law. Illegal media campaigns combined
with grand-scale fraud had had their effect.
Dominant forces in the US thus had a strong
presence behind the scenes of the 2006 Mexican election. As a
consequence, Washington looks forward to working with Calderóri,
who promises tighter (repressive) control and cooperation on all
matters of interest to the US, in an accelerated plan to put Mexico
more directly under US domination.
Mexico has thus been denied the democratic
election of a president who might have joined Latin America in
standing up to aggressive US neoliberal policies.
People's Movement Challenges Neoliberal
The US Free Trade model is meeting increasingly
successful resistance as people's movements around the world build
powerful alternatives to neoliberal exploitation.
This is particularly evident in Latin
America, where massive opposition to US economic domination has
demanded that populist leaders and parties take control of national
governments in Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Argentina, Brazil,
Nicaragua, and Uruguay.
Latin American presidents are delivering
on promises to fix the mistake of twenty-five years of neoliberal
reforms that resulted in the region's worst economic collapse
in more than one hundred years. In the two decades preceding World
Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) policies, 1960-1980,
the region's income per person grew by 82 percent. By comparison
it grew just 9 percent 1980-2000, and only 4 percent 2000-2005.
Strong ties between Venezuela's Hugo Chavez,
Cuba's Fidel Castro, and Bolivia's Evo Morales, Ecuador's Rafael
Correa, and Nicaragua's Daniel Ortega, along with cooperative
relationships with major economies including Argentina and Brazil,
are creating the real potential for autonomous alternatives to
US-dictated economic policy in the Western Hemisphere.
In the past year alone several leaders
have announced plans to cut ties with the World Bank and IMF.
After a sweeping reelection in December 2006, Chavez announced
April 30, 2007 that, having paid off debts to the World Bank and
the IMF, Venezuela would cut ties with both institutions. Chavez
has been able to put his nation on a path of solid growth by fulfilling
his 1998 campaign promise to renationalize Venezuela's oil industry
(PDVSA). Though fierce US opposition to his move to end foreign
privatization led to a failed US-backed military coup in 2002,
nationalized oil is now the source of nearly half the Venezuela
government's revenues and 8o percent of the country's export earnings.
Venezuela's economy has grown 38 percent in the last three years.
Chavez plans to set up a new lending institution
run by Latin American nations and has pledged to support it with
Venezuela's booming oil revenues., Venezuela's $50 billion in
foreign exchange reserves is providing financial support to countries
in the region without the exploitive policy conditions attached
to WTO and World Bank lending. Leaders are thus able to deliver
on promises to their people, contributing not only to stability
but to the strengthening of Democracy in the region.
In April 2006, Evo Morales announced his
rejection of the IMF and any future FTA with the US. He instead
launched the Bolivian Peoples Trade Agreement (PTA), a socialist
alternative to the neoliberal free trade model. The PTA emphasizes
support of indigenous culture, reciprocity, solidarity, and national
sovereignty. Above all the PTA emphasizes improved living conditions
for the whole population as a result of international trade and
investment. Bolivia's 2005 passage of a Hydrocarbons Law raised
the royalties paid by foreign gas companies to the government
of Bolivia. While infuriating US corporations, the resulting tens
of millions of dollars in revenue have enabled Bolivia to pay
off its IMF debt and begin to build social programs and national
In December 2006, Rafael Correa, who recently
won the presidential election in Ecuador on an anti-privatization,
anti-US military base platform, announced plans to restructure
Ecuador's foreign debt in order to increase spending on crucial
social programs. Ecuador has since paid its debt to the IMF and
announced plans to sever ties to the institution. Nicaraguan President
Daniel Ortega has also announced negotiations toward an IMF exit.
Argentina was one of the IMF's most publicized
"successes" turned-crushing-failure at the end of the
last century. From 1991 to 1998 the country adopted a host of
IMF-recommended reforms including large-scale privatizations.
The economy grew substantially during this period but went into
a terrible downward slide beginning in mid-1998. At the end of
2001 the whole experiment fell apart, with the country defaulting
on more than $100 billion of debt. The currency collapsed soon
thereafter, and the majority of people fell below the poverty
line in a country that had previously been one of the richest
in Latin America.
When Argentina's President Nestor Kirchner
finally refused the IMF's debilitating repayment mandates, Argentina's
economy began to rebound-and it hasn't stopped growing. In a remarkable
expansion, which was never supposed to have happened according
to IMF predictions, Argentina's economy has grown by 47 percent
in the past few years, making it the fastest growing economy in
the Western Hemisphere, and pulling more than nine million people
(in a country of 36 million) out of poverty. Argentina decided
to make its break with the IMF in January 2006 by paying off its
remaining $9.9 billion debt.
As of December 2005, Brazil is also free
to make its own decisions, free from IMF interference, after paying
off its debt two years ahead of schedule. "We repaid the
money to show the world that this country has a government and
it is the owner of its own nose," Lula said at the time,
adding, "Brazil has been able to decide that it does / not
want another IMF deal."