Posts Tagged ‘Amy Goodman’

Democracy Now on the Crimes and Mass Murders of President George H.W. Bush

December 10, 2018

The Friday before last, former president George H.W. Bush, the father of former president George ‘Dubya’ Bush, finally fell off his perch at the age of 94. Like Monty Python’s parrot, he had shuffled off this mortal coil and joined the choir invisible. He was an ex-president, and well and truly. He was buried with due state honours last Wednesday.

And the press and media fell over themselves to praise him to the rafters. If you believed them, you would have thought that America had lost a statesman of the stature of the ancient Athenian politico, Pericles. Or that he combined in himself the wisdom of Thomas Jefferson, Maddison and the rest of the Founding Fathers.

He wasn’t. He was the successor to Ronald Reagan and a former head of the CIA, and had been involved with shady dealings, dirty, proxy wars and invasions in Latin America and Iraq, that had cost thousands their lives, while thousands others were tortured by the dictators he supported. And domestically he was responsible for racist electioneering and a highly discriminatory drugs policy that has resulted in the massive disproportionate incarceration of Black American men.

Mehdi Hasan on George Bush Senior

He was a disgusting creature, and Mehdi Hasan wrote a piece in the Intercept describing just how disgusting and reprehensible he was. In the piece below, he also appeared on Democracy Now! to talk to host Amy Goodman about Bush senior and his legacy of corruption, murder and terror.

Bush was elected president in 1990. He was a former director of the CIA, and served from 1981-89 as Reagan’s vice-president. Despite calling for a kinder, gentler politics when he was vice-president, Bush refused to tackle climate change, saying that the American way of life was not up for negotiation, defended future supreme court justice Clarence Thomas even after he was accused of sexual harassment. He was responsible for launching the first Gulf War in Iraq in 1991. During the War, the US air force deliberately bombed an air raid shelter in Baghdad killing 408 civilians. The relatives of some of those killed tried to sue Bush and his deputy, Dick Cheney, for war crimes. The attack on Iraq continued after the end of the war with a devastating sanctions regime imposed by Bush, and then his son’s invasion in 2003.

The Invasion of Panama

In 1990 Bush sent troops into Panama to arrest the country’s dictator, General Manuel Noriega on charges of drug trafficking. Noriega had previously been a close ally, and had been on the CIA’s payroll. 24,000 troops were sent into the country to topple Noriega against Panama’s own military, which was smaller than the New York police department. 3,000 Panamanians died in the attack. In November 2018, the inter-American Commission on Human Rights called on Washington to pay reparations for what they considered to be an illegal invasion.

Pardoning the Iran-Contra Conspirators

As one of his last acts in office, Bush also gave pardons to six officials involved in the Iran-Contra scandal. This was a secret operation in which Reagan sold arms to Iran in order to fund the Contras in Nicaragua, despite Congress banning the administration from funding them. Bush was never called to account for his part in it, claiming he was ‘out of the loop’, despite the testimony of others and a mass of documents suggesting otherwise.

The Collapse of Communism and Neoliberalism

Bush’s period in office coincided with the collapse of Communism. In the period afterwards, which Bush termed the New World Order, he was instrumental in spreading neoliberalism and the establishment of the NAFTO WTO treaties for international trade.

Hasan not only wrote for the Intercept, he also hosted their Deconstructed podcast, as well as a show, Up Front, on Al-Jazeera English.

The Media’s Praise of Bush

Goodman and Hasan state that there is a natural reluctance against speaking ill of the dead. But they aren’t going to speak ill of Bush, just critically examine his career and legacy. Hasan states that as a Brit living in Washington he’s amazed at the media hagiography of Bush. He recognizes that Bush had many creditable achievements, like standing up to the NRA and AIPAC, but condemns the way the media ignored the rest of Bush’s legacy, especially when it involves the deaths of thousands of people as absurd, a dereliction of duty. He states that Bush is being described as the ‘anti-Trump’, but he did many things that were similar to the Orange Buffoon. Such as the pardoning of Caspar Weinberger on the eve of his trial, which the independent special counsel at the time said was misconduct and that it covered up the crime. And everyone’s upset when Trump says he might pardon Paul Manafort. Bush should be held to the same account. It doesn’t matter that he was nicer than Trump, and less aggressive than his son, he still has a lot to answer for.

The Iran-Contra Scandal

Goodman gets Hasan to explain about the Iran-Contra scandal, in which Reagan sold arms to Iran, then an enemy state, to fund a proxy war against a ‘Communist’ state in South America despite a congressional ban. He states that it was a huge scandal. Reagan left office without being punished for it, there was a Special Council charged with looking into it, led by Lawrence Walsh, a deputy attorney general under Eisenhower. When he looked into it, he was met with resistance by Reagan’s successor, Bush. And now we’re being told how honest he was. But at the time Bush refused to hand over his diary, cooperate with the Special Counsel, give interviews, and pardoned the six top neocons responsible. The Special Counsel’s report is online, it can be read, and it says that Bush did not cooperate, and that this was the first time the president pardoned someone in a trial in which he himself would have to testify. He states that Bush and Trump were more similar in their obstruction of justice than some of the media would have us believe.

Iraq Invasion

They then move on to the Iraq invasion, and play the speech in which Bush states that he has begun bombing to remove Saddam Hussein’s nuclear bomb potential. It was done now, because ‘the world could wait no longer’. Because of Bush’s attack on Iraq, his death was marked by flags at half-mast in Kuwait as well as Washington. Hasan states that Hussein invaded Kuwait illegally, and it was a brutal occupation. But Hasan also says that Bush told the country that it came without any warning or provocation. But this came after the American ambassador to Iraq, April Glaspie, told Hussein that American had no opinion on any border dispute with Kuwait. This was interpreted, and many historians believe, that this was a green light to Hussein to invade.

Bush also told the world that America needed to go into Iraq to protect Saudi Arabia, as there were Iraqi troops massing on the border of that nation. This was another lie. One reporter bought satellite photographs of the border and found there were no troops there. It was lie, just as his son lied when he invaded twelve years later. As for the bombing of the Amariyya air raid shelter, which was condemned by Human Rights Watch, this was a crime because the Americans had been told it contained civilians. Bush also bombed the civilian infrastructure, like power stations, food processing plants, flour mills. This was done deliberately. Bush’s administration told the Washington Post that it was done so that after the war they would have leverage over the Iraqi government, which would have to go begging for international assistance. And this was succeeded by punitive sanctions that killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children. It all began on Bush’s watch.

Racism, Willie Horton and Bush’s Election Campaign

They then discuss his 1988 election campaign, and his advert attacking his opponent, Michael Dukakis. Dukakis was attacked for having given a weekend pass from prison to Willie Horton, a Black con serving time for murder, who then went and kidnapped a young couple, stabbing the man and repeatedly raping the woman. This was contrasted with Bush, who wanted the death penalty for first degree murder. The advert was created by Lee Atwater and Roger Ailes, who later apologized for it on his deathbed. This advert is still studied in journalism classes, and until Trump’s ad featuring the migrant caravan appeared it was considered the most racist advert in modern American political history. Atwater said that they were going to talk about Horton so much, people would think he was Dukakis’ running mate. Bush approved of this, and talked about Horton at press conferences. And unlike Atwater, he never apologized. Roger Stone, whom Hasan describes as one of the most vile political operatives of our time, an advisor to Donald Trump and Nixon, actually walked up to Atwater and told him he would regret it, as it was clearly a racist ad. When even Roger Stone says that it’s a bad idea, you know you’ve gone too far. But the press has been saying how decent Bush was. Hasan states he has only two words for that: Willie Horton.

In fact, weekend passes for prison inmates was a policy in many states, including California, where Ronald Reagan had signed one. Hasan calls the policy what it was: an attempt to stoke up racial fears and division by telling the public that Dukakis was about to unleash a horde of Black murderers, who would kill and rape them. And ironically the people who were praising Bush after his death were the same people attacking Trump a week earlier for the migrant caravan fearmongering. It reminded everyone of the Willie Horton campaign, but for some reason people didn’t make the connection between the two.

Racism and the War on Drugs

Hasan also makes the point that just as Bush senior had no problem creating a racist advert so he had no problem creating a racist drug war. They then move on to discussing Bush’s election advert, in which he waved a bag of crack cocaine he claimed had been bought in a park just a few metres from the White House. But the Washington Post later found out that it had all been staged. A drug dealer had been caught selling crack in Lafayette Square, but he had been lured there by undercover Federal agents, who told him to sell it there. The drug dealer even had to be told the address of the White House, so he could find it. It was a nasty, cynical stunt, which let to an increase in spending of $1 1/2 billion on more jails, and prosecutors to combat the drugs problem. And this led to the mass incarceration of young Black men, and thousands of innocent lives lost at home and abroad in the drug wars. And today Republican senators like Chris Christie will state that this is a failed and racist drug war.

This was the first in a series of programmes honouring the dead – which meant those killed by Bush, not Bush himself. The next programme in the series was on what Bush did in Panama.

Dark Rock and Bush: The Sisters of Mercy’s ‘Vision Thing’

I’ve a suspicion that the track ‘Vision Thing’ by the Sisters of Mercy is at least partly about George Bush senior. The Sisters are a dark rock band. Many of front man Andrew Eldritch’s lyrics are highly political, bitterly attacking American imperialism. Dominion/Mother Russia was about acid rain, the fall of Communism, and American imperialism and its idiocy. Eldritch also wanted one of their pop videos to feature two American servicemen in a cage being taunted by Arabs, but this was naturally rejected about the bombing of American servicemen in Lebanon. Another song in the same album, ‘Dr Jeep’, is about the Vietnam War.

‘Vision Thing’ seems to take its title from one of Bush’s lines, where he said, if I remember correctly, ‘I don’t have the vision thing.’ The song talks about ‘another black hole in the killing zone’, and ‘one million points of light’. It also has lines about ‘the prettiest s**t in Panama’ and ‘Take back what I paid/ to another M*****f****r in a motorcade’. These are vicious, bitter, angry lyrics. And if they are about Bush senior, then it’s no wonder.

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Maria the Witch on the Rise of Bolsonaro, Brazil’s Fascist Candidate

October 25, 2018

This is a mirror on Kevin Logan’s channel of a piece by Maria the Witch warning and explaining about the rise of Jair Bolsonaro, the Far-Right, Fascist candidate in the Brazilian elections. From what she says about herself at the beginning of the video, Maria is a Brazilian who studied in the US. However, Bolsonaro’s dangerous ascent to power has pushed her into making this video so that when the time came, she ‘wouldn’t be laughing like an Anglo’.

At the moment, Bolsonaro is only a few votes away from the Brazilian presidency, at 46 per cent he’s just shy of the 50% + 1 required for him to take power. At a 49 per cent approval rating, he’s way ahead in the polls.

As for who he is, the video has a clip of Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman explaining that he’s a former army officer, who has openly praised the country’s military dictatorship, which last from 1964 to ’85. He has a long history of making racist, misogynistic and homophobic comments, and encouraging police to kill suspected drug dealers.

Glenn Greenwalt of the Intercept explains that he’s been called Brazil’s Donald Trump, which radically understates the case. He’s much closer to Duterte in the Philippines or General Sisi in Egypt. He is far more dangerous than Trump, as democracy in Brazil is far more fragile. It lacks the political infrastructure that America and the UK have to limit the power of the president. He is likely to win against Lula’s successor – Lula da Silva was Brazil’s previous, left-wing president – because of the animus built up by the media and the business class against PT, the Workers’ Party.

As for his bigoted comments, he once said in an interview that he’d rather hear that his son died in a car accident than was gay. He defended torture and rape during the dictatorship, and when a member of Brazil’s lower house confronted him about it he told her she needn’t worry, because she didn’t deserve to be raped by him – meaning that she was too ugly for him to rape her. He’s made a whole slew of similar comments about Blacks and the indigenous peoples. More worrying are his models for dealing with crime. They’re taken from the world’s worst dictators like Pinochet. As in the Philippines, he wants to send in the army and police to slaughter indiscriminately anyone they consider to be a drug dealer or criminal without trial. He believes in military rule. He does not regard the military coup of 1964 as a coup, and wishes to replicate it. And he has the entire top level of the military supporting him.

The institutions that would constrain Bolsonaro or somebody like him in the US – a strong supreme court, the CIA or the FBI, and other political parties, don’t exist. Due to his popularity, there is a sizable part of the Brazilian population that fears he will bring back the worse elements of dictatorships, such as the summary execution of dissidents, shut down media outlets, and closed congresses.

Maria then asks how this is possible in a country that has been ruled for 14 years by the centre left PT. Back to Greenwald.

Greenwald explains that it’s similar to what is happening in America, the UK and Europe where this kind of extremism is spreading, and the media outlets that have aided its rise refuse to take any responsibility for it. The media is very oligarchical, and in the hands of a small number of very rich families. The journalists themselves are afraid of Bolsonaro and don’t support him, but continue to create the narrative that supports him: that Bolsonaro and PT are simply two sides of the same coin. PT are a left-wing dictatorship, like Bolsonaro represents a rightwing dictatorship, and both are equally bad. Greenwald makes the point that during the 14 years PT governed the country, there was a very free and open press that constantly attacked them. they impeached one of their presidents and put the other in prison, so the idea that it’s a dictatorship like that to which Bolsonaro aspires is grotesque. But this is what is normalizing Bolsonaro.

As for Lula da Silva, he was thrown in prison just as he was leading in the polls and banned all of the media from interviewing him. The Intercept/em> has tried, as have others, but there are prevented by a prior restraint order issued by the Supreme Court. He states that Brazilian institutions carry much of the blame for the rise of Bolsonaro, just as American institutions do for Trump and British for Brexit, and European globalization policies for the rise of the extreme Right on the continent.

Maria also explains that there have also been a series of events that have weakened Brazilian democracy, aimed not just at PT but also at other left-wing parties. Earlier this year councilwoman Marielly Franco was murdered, PT president Dilma Rousseff was impeached and then Lula was arrested.

There is then a segment from a report by Amy Goodman explaining that Franco was a member of Rio de Janeiro’s council, a human rights activist. She and her driver were assassinated as they returned from an event on empowering Black women. Franco was a Black lesbian, who was fiercely critical of the police’s killing of people in the favela neighbourhoods. The night before her death she had Tweeted ‘How many more must die before this war ends?’ In January alone 154 people were killed by the cops in Rio State. Goodman goes on to say that last month President Temer ordered the military to assume control of police duties in Rio. Dilma Rousseff was impeached three years ago by the Brazilian senate in a move she denounced as a coup. Lula was leading in the polls, but had been convicted of corruption and money-laundering, charges many believe were trumped up. Rousseff stated that this was the second part of the coup, after her impeachment.

The British human rights lawyer, Geoffrey Robertson, told The New Internationalist ‘Extraordinarily aggressive measures are being taken to put Lula in jail by the judiciary, by the media, by the great sinews of wealth and power in Brazil’.

Maria then goes to a Brazilian academic at King’s College, London, Anthony Pereira, the professor and director of the Brazil institute there, who explains that this is nothing new but a relapse into Brazil’s ‘fashy disease’ from the 1960s, which was never properly cured.

Pereira explains that the transition from dictatorship to democracy was unique in that it was very slow and gradual, and unlike the Chilean transition, informal. It was managed by the regime itself, which changed the rules when it feared instability, dividing the opposition and making a lot of deals. Tancredo Hernandez was the first civilian candidate to win the presidency indirectly in 1985. After he won the election, Hernandez talked to the military and many other politicians and promised that there would be no revenge, no trials for human rights abuses, and that he would make sure that the political elite could make a smooth transition from the military to the civilian. There was a church report organized by the diocese of Sao Paolo on the human rights abuses, and people knew there had been torture, but these revelations were not state policy. This informal transition kept things very much as they had been. This explains why Bolsonaro’s discourse – his rhetoric – sounds very much like what was said in 1964, talking about the unity of the Brazilian family, how the left cannot divide the country, it cannot allow women to be against men, Afro-Brazilians to be against Whites, for homosexuals to be against heterosexuals. It’s a bit like One Nation Conservatism in Britain where there is a view of an organic, hierarchical society, patriarchal, dominated by the social elite. It has a place for everyone, but it rejects what it calls ‘activism’, associated with subversion and not being really Brazilian. And it rejects the Left, because of its association with Communism, Socialism and Venezuela. It’s a unity which excludes an awful lot of people.

Maria goes on to recommend that people watch the full pieces by Pereira and Greenwald explaining the country’s relationship with the workers’ party, PT. She also recommends that people look at the videos by the Intercept and Democracy Now. She states that people should be interested in this, not just because one of the world’s largest countries is going full Fascist, not just because the US and Britain have both had a hand in Brazil’s dictatorship, but also if they don’t want her to be silence or, worse, hunted down. She also recommends another female left-wing YouTuber from Brazil for those of her viewers who speak Portuguese. The videos and links to them are shown at the end of Maria’s video.

I’ve put this up as it seems that every Fascism in one guise or another is on the rise again. And the Fascist in one part of the world embolden and strengthen the stormtroopers in others. It’s also important to know that Britain also was involved in supporting the Brazilian dictatorship.

And Greenwald is right in that the forces that are enabling the rise of Bolsonaro are the same as those aiding the rise of the extreme right over here: globalism – not just confined to the Continent, but also a part of British economic policy – and an oligarchic media that is heavily biased against the Left.

And I was talking a few weeks ago to a left-wing minister at my local church, who wondered if Corbyn would ever be allowed to take power if he was elected. If his fears are justified, then what has happened to Lula da Silva will be repeated over here to stop Jeremy Corbyn and a genuine reforming, Socialist Labour government.