Author: juan

¿QUIÈN MATÓ A BERTA CÁCERES?

Juan Diego Castro León
@castroyleon

No todos los días el mundo llora la muerte de una defensora del medio ambiente. Pero todos los días, en algún lugar del mundo, uno es asesinado.

Conocí a Berta Cáceres en 2010 en Honduras. En ese entonces me recomendaron que si quería conocer la verdadera resistencia social en Honduras, tenía que conocer a Berta y al Consejo Cívico de Organizaciones Populares e Indígenas de Honduras – COPINH.

Berta nos recogió en su camioneta. Recorría el territorio que abarcaba el COPINH sola, pero en ese momento lo hacía con una pistola en su cintura; no porque tuviera miedo de las amenazas de las cuales era objeto diariamente, pero porque temía por la seguridad de mis compañeros de viaje y la mía. Berta era una de las personas más amenazadas de Honduras por su labor como lideresa del COPINH, organización que lucha en contra de los mega proyectos energéticos que amenazan con invadir y destruir el territorio ancestral del pueblo Lenca, al igual que la vida de miles de campesinos.

La situación para los miembros de las organizaciones sociales de defensa de los derechos humanos, del medio ambiente y sindicales, se deterioró tras el golpe de Estado de 2009 en contra del presidente Manuel Zelaya, perpetrado por militares en coordinación con los sectores más poderosos del empresariado local y extranjero.


(Vídeo de protestas al día siguiente del Golpe militar en 2009)

Por cuenta del golpe militar, Honduras se convirtió en uno de los países más peligrosos para ser activista, compitiendo por desplazar a Colombia de ese trágico ranking. Tras el golpe se reportaron más de 300 asesinatos extrajudiciales de civiles por parte del Estado, al igual que 34 desapariciones y asesinatos de miembros del movimiento políticos de oposición, y 13 asesinatos de periodistas según el Comité para la Protección de Periodistas.

También se presentaron más de 100 asesinatos selectivos de activistas campesinos que luchaban por la defensa de sus territorios en contra los mega proyectos que entraron en furor desde que el gobierno de Porfirio Lobo – que remplazo a la dictadura pro tempore – impulsó la campaña de relaciones públicas, Honduras Open for Business. Esta campaña reunió a inversionistas de 55 países para invertir en industrias como la minería, el turismo, represas, maquilas, y en el proyecto neoliberal más escandaloso de las últimas décadas, las llamadas Ciudades Modelo. Este último, descrito como un “sueño húmedo” para neoliberales. En este prototipo de “Ciudad Zona Franca” las leyes laborales, tributarias, judiciales o cualquier tipo ley de soberanía, no aplicarían, y hasta los inversionistas se podrían mudar y vivir dentro de ellas, solo para ser protegidos por firmas de seguridad privadas contra amenazas indeseadas (como los habitantes del país donde se instalan). Esta reunión contó con la presencia de líderes con poca fibra moral como, Carlos Slim, Álvaro Uribe y Paul Romer, el arquitecto de las Ciudades Modelo.

Con una de las cifras de homicidio per cápita más altas del mundo, Honduras no solo abrió sus puertas a inversionistas extranjeros, pero también a los carteles Mexicanos que operan impunemente por todo el país y los cuales controlan a las Maras (pandillas Centro Americanas). Esto se convirtió en la justificación perfecta para que Estados Unidos reforzara su apoyo militar, lo cual impulsó desgracias como la masacre de Mosquitia, donde campesinos, tildados de narcotraficantes fueron acribillados desde un helicóptero Black Hawk manejado por militares hondureños, bajo la directriz de agentes de la DEA.
La situación solo se agrava cuando las Naciones Unidas reportó la presencia de Paramilitares Colombianos contratados para proteger fincas, y plantaciones de palma africana de las familias más ricas de Honduras.

Desde los años 80, cuando Honduras lideraba la guerra sucia contra las insurgencias Centro Americanas – bajo el mando del ex asesor de la Casa Blanca, Roger Noriega – no se veía el nivel de represión y violación sistemática de los derechos humanos como se ve hoy día. Esta situación solo se intensifica por cuenta de la presencia de multinacionales extractivitas, el narcotráfico y la ayuda militar de EEUU.

Berta Cáceres se convirtió en una piedra en los zapatos para las multinacionales nacionales y extranjeras que promovieron el golpe de Estado. Y ante la vista gorda de los medios masivos de comunicación y gobiernos de la región, sobre las amenazas en contra de los movimientos sociales en Honduras, hoy lloramos la muerte de esta defensora de la vida.

No todos los días el mundo llora la muerte de una defensora del medio ambiente. Pero todos los días, en algún lugar del mundo donde multinacionales y gobiernos tengan intereses de extractivismo, los asesinados.

Si me preguntan quién mato a Berta Cáceres, les diría; la lógica del neoliberalismo la asesinó.

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The Week the World Stood Still: The Cuban Missile Crisis and Ownership of the World

By: Noam Chomsky/Tomdispatch.com/October 15, 2012

The world stood still 50 years ago during the last week of October, from the moment when it learned that the Soviet Union had placed nuclear-armed missiles in Cuba until the crisis was officially ended — though unknown to the public, only officially.

The image of the world standing still is the turn of phrase of Sheldon Stern, former historian at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library, who published the authoritative version of the tapes of the ExComm meetings where Kennedy and a close circle of advisers debated how to respond to the crisis. Those meetings were secretly recorded by the president, which might bear on the fact that his stand throughout the recorded sessions is relatively temperate compared to other participants, who were unaware that they were speaking to history.

Stern has just published an accessible and accurate review of this critically important documentary record, finally declassified in the late 1990s. I will keep to that here. “Never before or since,” he concludes, “has the survival of human civilization been at stake in a few short weeks of dangerous deliberations,” culminating in “the week the world stood still.”

There was good reason for the global concern. A nuclear war was all too imminent, a war that might “destroy the Northern Hemisphere,” President Dwight Eisenhower had warned. Kennedy’s own judgment was that the probability of war might have been as high as 50%. Estimates became higher as the confrontation reached its peak and the “secret doomsday plan to ensure the survival of the government was put into effect” in Washington, as described by journalist Michael Dobbs in his well-researched bestseller on the crisis (though he doesn’t explain why there would be much point in doing so, given the likely nature of nuclear war).

Dobbs quotes Dino Brugioni, “a key member of the CIA team monitoring the Soviet missile buildup,” who saw no way out except “war and complete destruction” as the clock moved to “one minute to midnight,” the title of his book. Kennedy’s close associate, historian Arthur Schlesinger, described the events as “the most dangerous moment in human history.” Defense Secretary Robert McNamara wondered aloud whether he “would live to see another Saturday night,” and later recognized that “we lucked out” — barely.

“The Most Dangerous Moment”

A closer look at what took place adds grim overtones to these judgments, with reverberations to the present moment.

There are several candidates for “the most dangerous moment.” One is October 27th, when U.S. destroyers enforcing a quarantine around Cuba were dropping depth charges on Soviet submarines. According to Soviet accounts, reported by the National Security Archive, submarine commanders were “rattled enough to talk about firing nuclear torpedoes, whose 15 kiloton explosive yields approximated the bomb that devastated Hiroshima in August 1945.”

In one case, a reported decision to assemble a nuclear torpedo for battle readiness was aborted at the last minute by Second Captain Vasili Arkhipov, who may have saved the world from nuclear disaster. There is little doubt what the U.S. reaction would have been had the torpedo been fired, or how the Russians would have responded as their country was going up in smoke.

Kennedy had already declared the highest nuclear alert short of launch (DEFCON 2), which authorized “NATO aircraft with Turkish pilots … [or others] … to take off, fly to Moscow, and drop a bomb,” according to the well-informed Harvard University strategic analyst Graham Allison, writing in the major establishment journal Foreign Affairs.

Another candidate is October 26th. That day has been selected as “the most dangerous moment” by B-52 pilot Major Don Clawson, who piloted one of those NATO aircraft and provides a hair-raising description of details of the Chrome Dome (CD) missions during the crisis — “B-52s on airborne alert” with nuclear weapons “on board and ready to use.”

October 26th was the day when “the nation was closest to nuclear war,” he writes in his “irreverent anecdotes of an Air Force pilot,” Is That Something the Crew Should Know? On that day, Clawson himself was in a good position to set off a likely terminal cataclysm. He concludes, “We were damned lucky we didn’t blow up the world — and no thanks to the political or military leadership of this country.”

The errors, confusions, near-accidents, and miscomprehension of the leadership that Clawson reports are startling enough, but nothing like the operative command-and-control rules — or lack of them. As Clawson recounts his experiences during the 15 24-hour CD missions he flew, the maximum possible, the official commanders “did not possess the capability to prevent a rogue-crew or crew-member from arming and releasing their thermonuclear weapons,” or even from broadcasting a mission that would have sent off “the entire Airborne Alert force without possibility of recall.” Once the crew was airborne carrying thermonuclear weapons, he writes, “it would have been possible to arm and drop them all with no further input from the ground. There was no inhibitor on any of the systems.”

About one-third of the total force was in the air, according to General David Burchinal, director of plans on the Air Staff at Air Force Headquarters. The Strategic Air Command (SAC), technically in charge, appears to have had little control. And according to Clawson’s account, the civilian National Command Authority was kept in the dark by SAC, which means that the ExComm “deciders” pondering the fate of the world knew even less. General Burchinal’s oral history is no less hair-raising, and reveals even greater contempt for the civilian command. According to him, Russian capitulation was never in doubt. The CD operations were designed to make it crystal clear to the Russians that they were hardly even competing in the military confrontation, and could quickly have been destroyed.

From the ExComm records, Stern concludes that, on October 26th, President Kennedy was “leaning towards military action to eliminate the missiles” in Cuba, to be followed by invasion, according to Pentagon plans. It was evident then that the act might have led to terminal war, a conclusion fortified by much later revelations that tactical nuclear weapons had been deployed and that Russian forces were far greater than U.S. intelligence had reported.

As the ExComm meetings were drawing to a close at 6 p.m. on the 26th, a letter arrived from Soviet Prime Minister Nikita Khrushchev, sent directly to President Kennedy. His “message seemed clear,” Stern writes: “the missiles would be removed if the U.S. promised not to invade Cuba.”

The next day, at 10 am, the president again turned on the secret tape. He read aloud a wire service report that had just been handed to him: “Premier Khrushchev told President Kennedy in a message today he would withdraw offensive weapons from Cuba if the United States withdrew its rockets from Turkey” — Jupiter missiles with nuclear warheads. The report was soon authenticated.

Though received by the committee as an unexpected bolt from the blue, it had actually been anticipated: “we’ve known this might be coming for a week,” Kennedy informed them. To refuse public acquiescence would be difficult, he realized. These were obsolete missiles, already slated for withdrawal, soon to be replaced by far more lethal and effectively invulnerable Polaris submarines. Kennedy recognized that he would be in an “insupportable position if this becomes [Khrushchev’s] proposal,” both because the Turkish missiles were useless and were being withdrawn anyway, and because “it’s gonna — to any man at the United Nations or any other rational man, it will look like a very fair trade.”

Keeping U.S. Power Unrestrained

The planners therefore faced a serious dilemma. They had in hand two somewhat different proposals from Khrushchev to end the threat of catastrophic war, and each would seem to any “rational man” to be a fair trade. How then to react?

One possibility would have been to breathe a sigh of relief that civilization could survive and to eagerly accept both offers; to announce that the U.S. would adhere to international law and remove any threat to invade Cuba; and to carry forward the withdrawal of the obsolete missiles in Turkey, proceeding as planned to upgrade the nuclear threat against the Soviet Union to a far greater one — only part, of course, of the global encirclement of Russia. But that was unthinkable.

The basic reason why no such thought could be contemplated was spelled out by National Security Adviser McGeorge Bundy, former Harvard dean and reputedly the brightest star in the Camelot firmament. The world, he insisted, must come to understand that “[t]he current threat to peace is not in Turkey, it is in Cuba,” where missiles were directed against the U.S. A vastly more powerful U.S. missile force trained on the much weaker and more vulnerable Soviet enemy could not possibly be regarded as a threat to peace, because we are Good, as a great many people in the Western hemisphere and beyond could testify — among numerous others, the victims of the ongoing terrorist war that the U.S. was then waging against Cuba, or those swept up in the “campaign of hatred” in the Arab world that so puzzled Eisenhower, though not the National Security Council, which explained it clearly.

Of course, the idea that the U.S. should be restrained by international law was too ridiculous to merit consideration. As explained recently by the respected left-liberal commentator Matthew Yglesias, “one of the main functions of the international institutional order is precisely to legitimate the use of deadly military force by western powers” — meaning the U.S. — so that it is “amazingly naïve,” indeed quite “silly,” to suggest that it should obey international law or other conditions that we impose on the powerless. This was a frank and welcome exposition of operative assumptions, reflexively taken for granted by the ExComm assemblage.

In subsequent colloquy, the president stressed that we would be “in a bad position” if we chose to set off an international conflagration by rejecting proposals that would seem quite reasonable to survivors (if any cared). This “pragmatic” stance was about as far as moral considerations could reach.

In a review of recently released documents on Kennedy-era terror, Harvard University Latin Americanist Jorge Domínguez observes, “Only once in these nearly thousand pages of documentation did a U.S. official raise something that resembled a faint moral objection to U.S.-government sponsored terrorism”: a member of the National Security Council staff suggested that raids that are “haphazard and kill innocents… might mean a bad press in some friendly countries.”

The same attitudes prevailed throughout the internal discussions during the missile crisis, as when Robert Kennedy warned that a full-scale invasion of Cuba would “kill an awful lot of people, and we’re going to take an awful lot of heat on it.” And they prevail to the present, with only the rarest of exceptions, as easily documented.

We might have been “in even a worse position” if the world had known more about what the U.S. was doing at the time. Only recently was it learned that, six months earlier, the U.S. had secretly deployed missiles in Okinawa virtually identical to those the Russians would send to Cuba. These were surely aimed at China at a moment of elevated regional tensions. To this day, Okinawa remains a major offensive U.S. military base over the bitter objections of its inhabitants who, right now, are less than enthusiastic about the dispatch of accident-prone V-22 Osprey helicopters to the Futenma military base, located at the heart of a heavily populated urban center.

An Indecent Disrespect for the Opinions of Humankind

The deliberations that followed are revealing, but I will put them aside here. They did reach a conclusion. The U.S. pledged to withdraw the obsolete missiles from Turkey, but would not do so publicly or put the offer in writing: it was important that Khrushchev be seen to capitulate. An interesting reason was offered, and is accepted as reasonable by scholarship and commentary. As Dobbs puts it, “If it appeared that the United States was dismantling the missile bases unilaterally, under pressure from the Soviet Union, the [NATO] alliance might crack” — or to rephrase a little more accurately, if the U.S. replaced useless missiles with a far more lethal threat, as already planned, in a trade with Russia that any “rational man” would regard as very fair, then the NATO alliance might crack.

To be sure, when Russia withdrew Cuba’s only deterrent against an ongoing U.S. attack — with a severe threat to proceed to direct invasion still in the air — and quietly departed from the scene, the Cubans would be infuriated (as, in fact, they understandably were). But that is an unfair comparison for the standard reasons: we are human beings who matter, while they are merely “unpeople,” to adapt George Orwell’s useful phrase.

Kennedy also made an informal pledge not to invade Cuba, but with conditions: not just the withdrawal of the missiles, but also termination, or at least “a great lessening,” of any Russian military presence. (Unlike Turkey, on Russia’s borders, where nothing of the kind could be contemplated.) When Cuba is no longer an “armed camp,” then “we probably wouldn’t invade,” in the president’s words. He added that, if it hoped to be free from the threat of U.S. invasion, Cuba must end its “political subversion” (Stern’s phrase) in Latin America. “Political subversion” had been a constant theme for years, invoked for example when Eisenhower overthrew the parliamentary government of Guatemala and plunged that tortured country into an abyss from which it has yet to emerge. And these themes remained alive and well right through Ronald Reagan’s vicious terror wars in Central America in the 1980s. Cuba’s “political subversion” consisted of support for those resisting the murderous assaults of the U.S. and its client regimes, and sometimes even perhaps — horror of horrors — providing arms to the victims.

The usage is standard. Thus, in 1955, the Joint Chiefs of Staff had outlined “three basic forms of aggression.” The first was armed attack across a border, that is, aggression as defined in international law. The second was “overt armed attack from within the area of each of the sovereign states,” as when guerrilla forces undertake armed resistance against a regime backed or imposed by Washington, though not of course when “freedom fighters” resist an official enemy. The third: “Aggression other than armed, i.e., political warfare, or subversion.” The primary example at the time was South Vietnam, where the United States was defending a free people from “internal aggression,” as Kennedy’s U.N. Ambassador Adlai Stevenson explained — from “an assault from within” in the president’s words.

Though these assumptions are so deeply embedded in prevailing doctrine as to be virtually invisible, they are occasionally articulated in the internal record. In the case of Cuba, the State Department Policy Planning Council explained that “the primary danger we face in Castro is… in the impact the very existence of his regime has upon the leftist movement in many Latin American countries… The simple fact is that Castro represents a successful defiance of the US, a negation of our whole hemispheric policy of almost a century and a half,” since the Monroe Doctrine announced Washington’s intention, then unrealizable, to dominate the Western hemisphere.

Not the Russians of that moment then, but rather the right to dominate, a leading principle of foreign policy found almost everywhere, though typically concealed in defensive terms: during the Cold War years, routinely by invoking the “Russian threat,” even when Russians were nowhere in sight. An example of great contemporary import is revealed in Iran scholar Ervand Abrahamian’s important upcoming book of the U.S.-U.K. coup that overthrew the parliamentary regime of Iran in 1953. With scrupulous examination of internal records, he shows convincingly that standard accounts cannot be sustained. The primary causes were not Cold War concerns, nor Iranian irrationality that undermined Washington’s “benign intentions,” nor even access to oil or profits, but rather the way the U.S. demand for “overall controls” — with its broader implications for global dominance — was threatened by independent nationalism.

That is what we discover over and over by investigating particular cases, including Cuba (not surprisingly) though the fanaticism in that particular case might merit examination. U.S. policy towards Cuba is harshly condemned throughout Latin America and indeed most of the world, but “a decent respect for the opinions of mankind” is understood to be meaningless rhetoric intoned mindlessly on July 4th. Ever since polls have been taken on the matter, a considerable majority of the U.S. population has favored normalization of relations with Cuba, but that too is insignificant.

Dismissal of public opinion is of course quite normal. What is interesting in this case is dismissal of powerful sectors of U.S. economic power, which also favor normalization, and are usually highly influential in setting policy: energy, agribusiness, pharmaceuticals, and others. That suggests that, in addition to the cultural factors revealed in the hysteria of the Camelot intellectuals, there is a powerful state interest involved in punishing Cubans.

Saving the World from the Threat of Nuclear Destruction

The missile crisis officially ended on October 28th. The outcome was not obscure. That evening, in a special CBS News broadcast, Charles Collingwood reported that the world had come out “from under the most terrible threat of nuclear holocaust since World War II” with a “humiliating defeat for Soviet policy.” Dobbs comments that the Russians tried to pretend that the outcome was “yet another triumph for Moscow’s peace-loving foreign policy over warmongering imperialists,” and that “[t]he supremely wise, always reasonable Soviet leadership had saved the world from the threat of nuclear destruction.”

Extricating the basic facts from the fashionable ridicule, Khrushchev’s agreement to capitulate had indeed “saved the world from the threat of nuclear destruction.”

The crisis, however, was not over. On November 8th, the Pentagon announced that all known Soviet missile bases had been dismantled. On the same day, Stern reports, “a sabotage team carried out an attack on a Cuban factory,” though Kennedy’s terror campaign, Operation Mongoose, had been formally curtailed at the peak of the crisis. The November 8th terror attack lends support to Bundy’s observation that the threat to peace was Cuba, not Turkey, where the Russians were not continuing a lethal assault — though that was certainly not what Bundy had in mind or could have understood.

More details are added by the highly respected scholar Raymond Garthoff, who also had rich experience within the government, in his careful 1987 account of the missile crisis. On November 8th, he writes, “a Cuban covert action sabotage team dispatched from the United States successfully blew up a Cuban industrial facility,” killing 400 workers according to a Cuban government letter to the U.N. Secretary General.

Garthoff comments: “The Soviets could only see [the attack] as an effort to backpedal on what was, for them, the key question remaining: American assurances not to attack Cuba,” particularly since the terrorist attack was launched from the U.S. These and other “third party actions” reveal again, he concludes, “that the risk and danger to both sides could have been extreme, and catastrophe not excluded.” Garthoff also reviews the murderous and destructive operations of Kennedy’s terrorist campaign, which we would certainly regard as more than ample justification for war, if the U.S. or its allies or clients were victims, not perpetrators.

From the same source we learn further that, on August 23, 1962, the president had issued National Security Memorandum No. 181, “a directive to engineer an internal revolt that would be followed by U.S. military intervention,” involving “significant U.S. military plans, maneuvers, and movement of forces and equipment” that were surely known to Cuba and Russia. Also in August, terrorist attacks were intensified, including speedboat strafing attacks on a Cuban seaside hotel “where Soviet military technicians were known to congregate, killing a score of Russians and Cubans”; attacks on British and Cuban cargo ships; the contamination of sugar shipments; and other atrocities and sabotage, mostly carried out by Cuban exile organizations permitted to operate freely in Florida. Shortly after came “the most dangerous moment in human history,” not exactly out of the blue.

Kennedy officially renewed the terrorist operations after the crisis ebbed. Ten days before his assassination he approved a CIA plan for “destruction operations” by U.S. proxy forces “against a large oil refinery and storage facilities, a large electric plant, sugar refineries, railroad bridges, harbor facilities, and underwater demolition of docks and ships.” A plot to assassinate Castro was apparently initiated on the day of the Kennedy assassination. The terrorist campaign was called off in 1965, but reports Garthoff, “one of Nixon’s first acts in office in 1969 was to direct the CIA to intensify covert operations against Cuba.”

We can, at last, hear the voices of the victims in Canadian historian Keith Bolender’s Voices From the Other Side, the first oral history of the terror campaign — one of many books unlikely to receive more than casual notice, if that, in the West because the contents are too revealing.

In the current issue of Political Science Quarterly, the professional journal of the association of American political scientists, Montague Kern observes that the Cuban missile crisis is one of those “full-bore crises… in which an ideological enemy (the Soviet Union) is universally perceived to have gone on the attack, leading to a rally-’round-the-flag effect that greatly expands support for a president, increasing his policy options.”

Kern is right that it is “universally perceived” that way, apart from those who have escaped sufficiently from the ideological shackles to pay some attention to the facts. Kern is, in fact, one of them. Another is Sheldon Stern, who recognizes what has long been known to such deviants. As he writes, we now know that “Khrushchev’s original explanation for shipping missiles to Cuba had been fundamentally true: the Soviet leader had never intended these weapons as a threat to the security of the United States, but rather considered their deployment a defensive move to protect his Cuban allies from American attacks and as a desperate effort to give the U.S.S.R. the appearance of equality in the nuclear balance of power.” Dobbs, too, recognizes that “Castro and his Soviet patrons had real reasons to fear American attempts at regime change, including, as a last resort, a U.S. invasion of Cuba… [Khrushchev] was also sincere in his desire to defend the Cuban revolution from the mighty neighbor to the north.”

“Terrors of the Earth”

The American attacks are often dismissed in U.S. commentary as silly pranks, CIA shenanigans that got out of hand. That is far from the truth. The best and the brightest had reacted to the failure of the Bay of Pigs invasion with near hysteria, including the president, who solemnly informed the country: “The complacent, the self-indulgent, the soft societies are about to be swept away with the debris of history. Only the strong… can possibly survive.” And they could only survive, he evidently believed, by massive terror — though that addendum was kept secret, and is still not known to loyalists who perceive the ideological enemy as having “gone on the attack” (the near universal perception, as Kern observes). After the Bay of Pigs defeat, historian Piero Gleijeses writes, JFK launched a crushing embargo to punish the Cubans for defeating a U.S.-run invasion, and “asked his brother, Attorney General Robert Kennedy, to lead the top-level interagency group that oversaw Operation Mongoose, a program of paramilitary operations, economic warfare, and sabotage he launched in late 1961 to visit the ‘terrors of the earth’ on Fidel Castro and, more prosaically, to topple him.”

The phrase “terrors of the earth” is Arthur Schlesinger’s, in his quasi-official biography of Robert Kennedy, who was assigned responsibility for conducting the terrorist war, and informed the CIA that the Cuban problem carries “[t]he top priority in the United States Government — all else is secondary — no time, no effort, or manpower is to be spared” in the effort to overthrow the Castro regime. The Mongoose operations were run by Edward Lansdale, who had ample experience in “counterinsurgency” — a standard term for terrorism that we direct. He provided a timetable leading to “open revolt and overthrow of the Communist regime” in October 1962. The “final definition” of the program recognized that “final success will require decisive U.S. military intervention,” after terrorism and subversion had laid the basis. The implication is that U.S. military intervention would take place in October 1962 — when the missile crisis erupted. The events just reviewed help explain why Cuba and Russia had good reason to take such threats seriously.

Years later, Robert McNamara recognized that Cuba was justified in fearing an attack. “If I were in Cuban or Soviet shoes, I would have thought so, too,” he observed at a major conference on the missile crisis on the 40th anniversary.

As for Russia’s “desperate effort to give the U.S.S.R. the appearance of equality,” to which Stern refers, recall that Kennedy’s very narrow victory in the 1960 election relied heavily on a fabricated “missile gap” concocted to terrify the country and to condemn the Eisenhower administration as soft on national security. There was indeed a “missile gap,” but strongly in favor of the U.S.

The first “public, unequivocal administration statement” on the true facts, according to strategic analyst Desmond Ball in his authoritative study of the Kennedy missile program, was in October 1961, when Deputy Secretary of Defense Roswell Gilpatric informed the Business Council that “the U.S. would have a larger nuclear delivery system left after a surprise attack than the nuclear force which the Soviet Union could employ in its first strike.” The Russians of course were well aware of their relative weakness and vulnerability. They were also aware of Kennedy’s reaction when Khrushchev offered to sharply reduce offensive military capacity and proceeded to do so unilaterally. The president failed to respond, undertaking instead a huge armaments program.

Owning the World, Then and Now

The two most crucial questions about the missile crisis are: How did it begin, and how did it end? It began with Kennedy’s terrorist attack against Cuba, with a threat of invasion in October 1962. It ended with the president’s rejection of Russian offers that would seem fair to a rational person, but were unthinkable because they would have undermined the fundamental principle that the U.S. has the unilateral right to deploy nuclear missiles anywhere, aimed at China or Russia or anyone else, and right on their borders; and the accompanying principle that Cuba had no right to have missiles for defense against what appeared to be an imminent U.S. invasion. To establish these principles firmly it was entirely proper to face a high risk of war of unimaginable destruction, and to reject simple and admittedly fair ways to end the threat.

Garthoff observes that “in the United States, there was almost universal approbation for President Kennedy’s handling of the crisis.” Dobbs writes, “The relentlessly upbeat tone was established by the court historian, Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., who wrote that Kennedy had ‘dazzled the world’ through a ‘combination of toughness and restraint, of will, nerve and wisdom, so brilliantly controlled, so matchlessly calibrated.'” Rather more soberly, Stern partially agrees, noting that Kennedy repeatedly rejected the militant advice of his advisers and associates who called for military force and the dismissal of peaceful options. The events of October 1962 are widely hailed as Kennedy’s finest hour. Graham Allison joins many others in presenting them as “a guide for how to defuse conflicts, manage great-power relationships, and make sound decisions about foreign policy in general.”

In a very narrow sense, that judgment seems reasonable. The ExComm tapes reveal that the president stood apart from others, sometimes almost all others, in rejecting premature violence. There is, however, a further question: How should JFK’s relative moderation in the management of the crisis be evaluated against the background of the broader considerations just reviewed? But that question does not arise in a disciplined intellectual and moral culture, which accepts without question the basic principle that the U.S. effectively owns the world by right, and is by definition a force for good despite occasional errors and misunderstandings, one in which it is plainly entirely proper for the U.S. to deploy massive offensive force all over the world while it is an outrage for others (allies and clients apart) to make even the slightest gesture in that direction or even to think of deterring the threatened use of violence by the benign global hegemon.

That doctrine is the primary official charge against Iran today: it might pose a deterrent to U.S. and Israeli force. It was a consideration during the missile crisis as well. In internal discussion, the Kennedy brothers expressed their fears that Cuban missiles might deter a U.S. invasion of Venezuela, then under consideration. So “the Bay of Pigs was really right,” JFK concluded.

These principles still contribute to the constant risk of nuclear war. There has been no shortage of severe dangers since the missile crisis. Ten years later, during the 1973 Israel-Arab war, National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger called a high-level nuclear alert (DEFCON 3) to warn the Russians to keep their hands off while he was secretly authorizing Israel to violate the cease-fire imposed by the U.S. and Russia. When Reagan came into office a few years later, the U.S. launched operations probing Russian defenses and simulating air and naval attacks, while placing Pershing missiles in Germany with a five-minute flight time to Russian targets, providing what the CIA called a “super-sudden first strike” capability. Naturally this caused great alarm in Russia, which unlike the U.S. has repeatedly been invaded and virtually destroyed. That led to a major war scare in 1983. There have been hundreds of cases when human intervention aborted a first strike minutes before launch, after automated systems gave false alarms. We don’t have Russian records, but there’s no doubt that their systems are far more accident-prone.

Meanwhile, India and Pakistan have come close to nuclear war several times, and the sources of the conflict remain. Both have refused to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty, along with Israel, and have received U.S. support for development of their nuclear weapons programs — until today in the case of India, now a U.S. ally. War threats in the Middle East, which might become reality very soon, once again escalate the dangers.

In 1962, war was avoided by Khrushchev’s willingness to accept Kennedy’s hegemonic demands. But we can hardly count on such sanity forever. It’s a near miracle that nuclear war has so far been avoided. There is more reason than ever to attend to the warning of Bertrand Russell and Albert Einstein, almost 60 years ago, that we must face a choice that is “stark and dreadful and inescapable: Shall we put an end to the human race; or shall mankind renounce war?”

 

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Why Chavez Won: An Inside View

By: Lisa Sullivan/SOAW Latina/ October 8, 2012

A few days before the elections, a friend from the states wrote me: “Hi Lisa, all the main stream media down here has Chavez losing and ready to die. Can you give me a more accurate update on the elections?”

My inbox began to fill up with similar inquiries, many from people who I had met when leading delegations here to Venezuela, my home of 27 years.  They were confused, wondering why Chavez was going to lose, die, or steal the elections, or all of the above. Those were, after all, the only stories to be found, countered by that of  the great white hope in the form of a young, skinny opponent (the adjectives repeated ad nausea by the media describe opposition candidate Capriles).

Where, my friends asked, was all that enthusiasm and spirit they had seen here, the one that had transformed this nation into the least unequal spot in all of Latin America, where free university education, health care and cheap food led to  Venezuelans rating themselves as the happiest people on the continent? Had Venezuelans suddenly dropped the most significant political project in Latin America of the past 50 years to suddenly opt for skinniness and youth?

Even NPR set the stage for Venezuelan elections to a backdrop of doom and gloom, as friends notified me in a rush, listening to the Diane Rehm show. For busy and exhausted US citizens just trying to survive via the longest work hours on the planet, they only had time for small sound bites about Venezuela, or any global issue. And these sound bites painted a picture of Venezuela in shades of grey, kind of like those last tottering days of the Soviet empire. Into this scene, rides – or jogs – the youthful skinny Mr. Good to finally chase out the old (age 58) and solidly built Mr. Bad, according to Ms. Rehm and company.

How, then, then to explain yesterday’s street scenes? The ones showing colorfully attired and jubilant Venezuelans standing patiently in huge lines at polling centers, sharing laughs and empanadas with fellow line-mates, indifferent of political loyalties. On the cameras, everyone looked so happy in those long lines, certainly that must mean that they were all voting against Chavez, that evil cancer-ridden old chunky socialist dictator.

But even worse, how to explain the RESULTS?  How to explain how this cruel “strongman” had won robustly with more than 54% of the vote, 10% more than his opponent. Or, that there was a record 81% voter turnout? Well, it must be ……….fraud. That was the other scenario the mainstream media had constantly dangled. But wait, in a few minutes the opposition candidate was on televions himself, accepting defeat, acknowledging the decision of the Venezuelan people and absolute legitimacy of the electoral system. Wasn’t it only Jimmy Carter who was allowed an occasional sound bite that spoke positively about the Venezuelan electoral system (the very best of the dozens his Carter Center has monitored). Wait, this just isn’t going as planned.

So, why? Well, without delving into the messy deep part of that question (think: Iraq and weapons of mass destruction), maybe let’s just touch on some of the easier reasons. In spite of the fact that there were 12,000 journalists in Venezuela covering the elections last night, only a handful  of them seemed to venture far from their 5-star hotels to take a look around the barrios and small rural towns where most Venezuelans actually live. Like I do. Perhaps if they poked around there for a half hour or so, they might discover what’s behind all this love for this madman.

How about, for a start, free health care, and right in your local community?  Well, if you don’t believe those red-shirted socialist Venezuelans occasionally shown on tv pumping their fists at rallies, try listening to a gringa.  A few weeks ago, I returned to Venezuela after a long set of travels interspersed with minor surgery. By the time my flight touched ground at the  Maiquetia airport, my head was pounding and my vision blurring.

The next morning my companero Ledys took me to the local government health post, or, CDI, similar to those found in almost every Venezuelan community.  As I stumbled in, the waters parted and soon I was on a gurney with young Cuban and Venezuelan doctors patiently asking me many questions and examining me. Realizing I was having a reaction to the pain medication that I took for the first time on the plane, I was sent home with new meds and a smile, never interchanging a single id or form of any payment. Within a few hours I was helping friends dig a vegetable garden.  What a contrast to the series of medical appointments I had just undergone in the US, where the first words at a doctor’s office were never “good morning” but, “your insurance card and id”.

But the next day Ledys and I were back at the CDI, albeit in opposite roles. This time is was he with the pain, a raging one, in his lower right abdomen. Ledys was certain that the “socialist” arepas we had eaten the previous day had laid havoc to his gut, as he gulped several down, taking advantage of their rock bottom price. The doctors thought otherwise, especially after doing emergency lab work. The next thing I knew, the same social worker who had helped us the previous day was strolling him by wheelchair into an ambulance and sending me off with a kiss and assurance that we were in capable hands. Within minutes, we arrived at a four-story brand new building in the heart of Petare, one of the most populous and poorest sectors of the country, but I felt that I was back in Washington,  in a state-of-the-art hospital.

But no, this was definitely Venezuela, as I discerned when no id was requested, the only information requested being name and age of patient. By late evening, orderlies called me to the hospital ward where I found Ledys looking happy and pain free after three hours of surgery to rid him of his appendix and hernia (they threw in the second surgery since he was already opened up.) Two days later we were sent home, with meds and follow up instruction. Total bill: $0.

If free health care isn’t enough reason to explain Venezuela’s election results, maybe you can look to the faces of the young people who were jumping up and down last night in front of the presidential palace. For some odd reason, they just didn’t buy the charm of that young skinny candidate, in spite of the fact that he even wore his lucky shoes yesterday (the press just loved that touch). Maybe the reason for their unadulterated joy was the lack of two words in their vocabulary:  student loans.

I found that out when recently I hosted a dialogue been university students from the US and Venezuela at a cultural center that Ledys and I started in the sprawling barrios of Barquisimeto. When I saw the quizzical look on the faces of the Venezuelans as I attempted to translate the term student loans – which the US students were explaining were their main stumbling block to a hopeful future – I realized it wasn’t a question of translation, but of opposing realities. When we began to build this center twenty years ago, we only had two young at the center who had made it to college. Now, among this group of 15 Venezuelan musicians, all between ages 17-20, and all hailing from these barrios, every single one of them was studying at the university. Tuition was free and some even had scholarships to cover food and transportation. Student loans?

As Ledys and I anxiously awaiting the results last night I was getting text messages from my comadre Erika, a young mother of six, and my neighbor.  Erika treats every recent election (and there have been many of them, over 10 in the past decade or so) as a matter of life and death, waiting anxiously with heart-in-hand outside the one polling station in our little town of Palo Verde, the one school building there. When I arrived in this community 15 years ago, the school was just a grade school. In the past ten years, it has doubled in size, and now also functions as a high school by day, on weekends as a free government university, and evenings, as one of the tens of thousands of “mission” schools, run by the government.

Erika grew up having to pick coffee instead of going to school. Three years ago she got her grade school degree from the mission school, and is now well on her way to a high school degree. She is thinking of what to study at the university level, maybe social work. She often repeats to  me: “”comadre, notice how Chavez always says, WE the poor. He is one of us”.

Erika lives in a hand fashioned home of bahereque (waddle and daub) like mine, snuggled in a small community at the end of the town. More than half of the thirty or so homes in our neighborhood are brand new, sporting the before unheard-of  indoor bathrooms and kitchens, all tiled in a lovely sea green.  Erika was part of the community council that helped with the census that determined which families most needed the new homes (mostly, those that squished several nuclear families together under one roof). Others had more need as she acknowledged, so she helped with the process, but remained with her old home.

Funds for 16 homes were dispersed by the government, but the community council managed the funds well enough to build 17 homes.  The instant that the election results were announced Erika called me with joy and tears in her voice: “comadre, we won!”.

I confess, I also felt tears stream down my face. I was holding my computer to the television screen so that my daughter back in Virginia could see the results via skype at the moment they were announced. Her tears joined mine. She remembers all too well growing up in the pre-Bolivarian Venezuela. The one where her friends in the barrio could barely scrape enough to eat, where some had parents who died of lack of health care, where none ever dreamed of going to college. That’s the Venezuela before, the one that the mainstream press never bothers to mention, the Venezuela that led Latin America for the deepest plunge into poverty in the 15 years preceding Chavez.  The Venezuela directed by the IMF and World Bank, two of the main buddies the lucky-shoed candidate promised to usher in again.

After the results, the television screens turned to the scene outside the presidential palace. Did the US mainstream press bother to show that scene?  It was utterly electric. Seas of red-shirted Venezuelans had been waiting for hours for results, and now the moment was theirs as Chavez stepped out onto “the balcony of the people”.  As crowd and president intoned the national anthem together the look of sheer joy on the faces of so many Venezuelans, a nation that saw my children grow and flourish and learn to become  caring people in love with justice, I let my own tears flow.

“Chavez is the people” is the phrase heard over and over here. To those back in the states, how could you possibly understand, there is no real coverage of what happens in Venezuela in the mainsteam media. But to watch that scene, that utter connection, you would also sense that each of these people felt that who they are was being uplifted at that moment : their absolutely dignity, their unalienable right to healthcare, education, housing, food and  above all, a sense that they have the power to determine the direction of their own country All of this was lifted as  high as the stars last night.

The electricity built as Chavez held high above the crowd the sword of Simon Bolivar.  The one mismatch for me and Chavez has always been his military persona, and as a life-time peace activist, the image of a sword isn’t exactly what does it for me, even one gleaming like this in gold and diamonds. But the chant of the crowd as he raised the sword is one that I have heard over and over again  in my recent travels to the length and breadth of this Latin America, a continent that I have lived in and loved for the past  35 years: “alerta, alerta, alerta que camina,  la espada de Bolivar por America Latina” (Alert: The sword of Bolivar is walking throughout Latin America.)

As Chavez held up the sword, he and the crowd swayed as they spoke and cheered that real independence was finally coming to Latin America, a continent increasingly configuring itself as one: UNASUR, ALBA, CELAC, all variations of Bolivar’s dream. The independence that Bolivar won from Spain, via a sword, was now being won again, from a colonizer that took over no sooner than Spaniards had departed: my country.

But this time the sword was indicative of a new form of battle: democracy. The massive enthusiastic and peaceful turnout at Venezuelan polls yesterday is the real story of Venezuelan elections. The fact that deep social change is happening in Venezuela and throughout Latin America, via a ballot box and not bullets, is what I celebrate.

In my travels as Latin America coordinator for the School of the Americas Watch, I have heard too many stories of atrocities, murders, rapes, disappearances, torture at the hands of dictators that we in the US trained and supported. And I don’t just mean in the 60’s and 70’s. I mean in the 2010’s, like in Honduras, where human rights leaders, peasants  and journalists are being murdered right now, today, because of our support for an illegal coup to unseat a president who dared to invite his population to dream the dreams of dignity that flowed in the streets last night, the dreams of Morazan, Central America’s Bolivar.

One final note. There are actually lots of journalists who do take the time to seek out and write about the real story.  They are not to be found in the mainstream press, but they can be found in organizations such as CEPR, the Real News, Venezuelanalysis, the Americas Program, Upside Down World, and many many more.  My saludos to them this morning, how we need you and thank you for rolling up your sleeves, with meager or no budgets, and working late into the night to report the truth. From Venezuela, from the heart of the Bolivarian dream for Latin America, gracias!

 

 

***Lisa Sullivan is Latin America Coordinator for School of the Americas Watch

more information at www.soawlatina.org

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A New Tradition spreads the word in T.O

By: Juan Diego Castro/surla.org/September 5, 2012

“Spread the word, ancient texts have arisen bringing into fruition…A NEW TRADITION…”

With these words Ruben ‘Beny’ Esguerra the creative mind behind the music, lyrics and concept of A New Tradition, closed his CD Release Jam, last Thursday, August 30th , held at Lula Lounge in downtown Toronto.

The event, as it was expected, brought together some of the most talented youth from the city in an eclectic evening with a mix of music, live painting, and dance performances that included traditional Colombian cumbia, hip hop, and break dancing courtesy of the F.A.M (Future Art Movement).

Accompanying Ruben Esguerra, was a 13 member band directed by a New Tradition’s Luisito Obregoso who is the producer, arranger, percussionist, lead and back vocals.

This musical project which has been in the works for more than a year is a fusion of “contemporary sounds [like hip hop], inflected with ‘older traditions’ and played in unique and innovative ways”. For Esguerra, his music is “woven with the spoken word poetry [to] form a rich interplay that compliment[s] and bind[s] into melodies, rhythms and rhymes to tell stories that resonate and stimulates the listener on multiple levels”.

In a way, A New Tradition epitomises the struggle for identity, culture, and politics that many young Latin@s go through while growing up in Canada. Many people believe that amalgamating into Canadian society sometimes means that you put your identity and culture on the chop-line. But Benny Esguerra shows us that being part Canada is not about assimilating but it should be rather about sharing your ancestry, identity, traditions, and the politics attached to your culture.

Through his lyrics, Benny Esguerra managed to bring a message of resistance to spark critical consciousness in dealing with issues that affect our community in Canada, and Latin America. Music and culture then, becomes the vehicle used to reflect and act as a community, as he reminds us with the lyrics from his song “Se han tomado el mundo”: “La resistencia cultural si es pacifica pero nunca pasiva…”, “The cultural resistance is a pacific but not passive”.

The future of our community is expressed through artist like Benny Esguerra. We must then continue to support local artists who contribute to the preservation and development of our identity as Latin@s in Canada.

Check out A New Tradition Music at www.newtraditionmusic.com

Check out our interview with Benny Esguerra:

An interview with spoken word artist Benny Esguerra from SURLA ORG on Vimeo.

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‘Catastrophe': Critics Slam Neoliberal Plan for Privatized Cities in Honduras

By: Common Dreams Staff/Commondreams.org/September 6, 2012

What an official of the rightwing government of Honduras is calling the “most important project in half a century,” critics of the neoliberal plan to build private cities in the Central American nation are calling a “catastrophe” and argue that so-called “chartered cities” would violate the rights of all Hondurans, with particularly negative impacts for the nation’s indigenous population.

President Porfirio Lobo—who came to power in a military coup in 2009—has fully endorsed the proposals to create privately-funded “charter cities” as a way to attract foreign investment to his nation. Details remain elusive, but the experimental cities would be modeled on independently-governed and profit-driven business center cities, so-called “free trade zones” like Dubai or Hong Kong, but would be built virtually from scratch on lands to be determined by the government.

Inspired by US economist advisers—namely US economist Paul Romer, a graduate of the University of Chicago school of economics and currently a professor at the Stern School of Business at NYU—the cities would operate outside the control of the regular Honduran government and have “their own police, laws, government and tax systems.”

Details of the plan remain murky, but the government has already held high-level meetings with possible private investors and the Associated Press reports that the MGK investment group has already promised $15 million to begin construction on the first proposed city.

As the government moves quickly forward, however, opponents have launched legal challenges to the deals and indigineous groups argue that their lands are the target of the government.

As the Associated Press reports:

“These territories are the Garifuna people’s and can’t be handed over to foreign capital in an action that is pure colonialism like that lived in Honduras during the time that our land became a banana enclave,” said Miriam Miranda, president of the Fraternal Black Organization of Honduras.

Oscar Cruz, a former constitutional prosecutor, filed a motion with the Supreme Court last year characterizing the project as unconstitutional and “a catastrophe for Honduras.”

“The cities involve the creation of a state within the state, a commercial entity with state powers outside the jurisdiction of the government,” Cruz said.

The Supreme Court has not taken up his complaint.

The Guardian adds:

… the idea has provoked controversy in a country already suffering from one of the worst levels of inequality in the world.

Critics say it will allow a foreign elite to set up a low-tax, sympathetically regulated enclave where they can skirt labour standards and environmental rules.

“This would violate the rights of every citizen because it means the cession of part of our territory to a city that would have its own police, its own juridical power, and its own tax system,” said Sandra Marybel Sanchez, who joined a group of protesters who tried to lodge an appeal at the supreme court.

Ismael Moreno, a correspondent for the leftwing Nicaraguan magazine Envio, compared the charter cities to the banana enclaves, which were run on behalf of a foreign elite. He also spelled out the environmental risks, particularly if one of the development sites is the Sico valley, an area of virgin forest on the Mosquito Coast.

This model city would end up eliminating the last agricultural frontier left to us,” he wrote.

 

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