Aristide goes to South Africa

Just got Aristide’s statement in the mail. He’s leaving Jamaica to go to South Africa. It’s actually a nice statement. Read it, read between the lines. And know that the battle for Haiti’s future isn’t over yet.

Statement by President Jean-Bertrand Aristide
May 30, 2004
Kingston, Jamaica

As my family and I prepare to leave Jamaica for South Africa, I once again thank Prime Minister Patterson, the people of Jamaica and the entire Caribbean family for hosting us during this very special time. We extend this heartfelt appreciation on behalf of the Haitian refugees as well. For them too it’s a special time.

When have we ever seen a democratically elected president leave his rightful place against his will as it happened on February 29, 2004? It’s a special time. When did we ever see powerful hands set fire to a house then prevent the people inside from leaving? It’s a special time.

Since February 29, 2004, the level of suffering has dramatically increased in Haiti. While on one side thousands are being killed for supporting their elected government, on the other side, more than 2,000 people lost their lives because of the ecological disaster that we all recently witnessed. We stand in solidarity with the residents of Mapou, Font Verette, Jimani, and with all Haitians and Dominicans directly affected. We express our profound condolences to all those who lost a mother, father, husband, wife, child, relative or friend in this tragedy. Again, a special thanks to the Jamaican government and to all those who have answered the humanitarian call of these victims.

Claro, me siento en profunda communión con mis Hermanos y Hermanas de laRepública Dominicana. De nuevo, un abrazo fraternal a todas las víctimas mientras buscamos como seguir expresando esa solidaridad, dado que Haiti y la República Dominicana son dos alas del mismo pájaro.

As we prepare this return to the mother continent, we thank President Mbeki, the people of South Africa, the Member Nations of the Organization of African Union. After two visits to South Africa, it will now be our temporary home until we are back in Haiti. Of course the Haitian situation must be normalized; peace must be restored through democratic order. The solidarity shared by South Africa, CARICOM and the Organization of African Union to promote peace and democracy in Haiti crystallizes the world-wide African unity that will continue to flourish.

Wherever we are, always united, we will continue to promote peace. This, more than ever , is what the world needs today. We must all work for peace, not war. We must all work for a better life in a world where four-fifths of the population consumes only one-fifth of the world’s resources. And we must all work for the full respect of this democratic principle: one person one vote. Peace is linked to freedom. May the spirit of our 200 years of independence guide us in this special time.


It’s the new world water, and every drop counts

A reader sent me this article in the New Scientist. It is about a neglected aspect of the US/Israel war on the Palestinian population: the fact that it is a water war. I don’t have the statistics with me (Vandana Shiva cites a few of them in her book, Water Wars), but Israeli per capita water use is vast compared to Palestinians. Israeli agriculturalists are allowed to dig wells several times deeper than Palestinians. Gaza is always short of drinking water and every time it is besieged the Israelis essentially use the denial of water as a weapon. And, most tellingly, the Apartheid Wall‘s path follows the West Bank aquifer very closely.

The New Scientist article reports on a ‘plan’ for desalination plants to supply the Palestinian territories with water, while the Israelis freely use the Palestinian aquifer for their own water needs, as they are doing now.

This may come as a surprise to readers, but the US and Israeli officials agree that the plan is a good one, while experts, scientists, and Palestinians all agree that it is a bad one — all strictly from a technical point of view, of course. The immorality of a campaign of ethnic cleansing as part of a wholesale water theft (or is the water theft part of a campaign of ethnic cleansing?) doesn’t really come up in the article.

(thanks to the reader who sent me the article. points to any reader who can identify the song and the artist from which the title of this blog entry was taken and email it to me).

Repercussions of the ‘bloodbath/massacre’ in Saudi Arabia

First, I’m very pleased to note that it seems Tim Wise is blogging again, as well as UTS.

Today’s hypocrisy. Looking at the headlines of various newspapers today I saw news of a ‘massacre’ and a ‘bloodbath’ in Saudi Arabia by Al Qaeda. It was a brutal hostage-taking operation that was done, and certainly it was both a massacre and a bloodbath. I didn’t notice these media outlets calling what Israel did in Rafah a ‘bloodbath’ or what the US is doing in Najaf right now a ‘massacre’.

An interesting article in the Independent speculates about the possible implications for the world economy if the Saudi regime gets into real trouble. The Saudi regime is a real anomaly in the world. It is the definition of an imperial gas station: virtually created to be that. One book on the topic, quite old, is ‘Arabia Without Sultans’, I think by Halliday, and another one called ‘A House Built on Sand’. There’s a novel called ‘Cities of Salt’ that is a classic, by an author who was exiled for writing it and actually passed on recently. Both books are hard to get your hands on, but well worth it. Since neither are recent though, it’s important to note that Saudi Arabia is the swing producer that has the power to make sure world oil markets go the way the US wants them to go. It can bust any quota. No other country comes close in terms of sheer endowment of oil, and that’s why it’s so firmly under the thumb of the US. Some believe that the Iraq invasion was to try to give the US some extra leverage over the Saudis by gaining direct control over another major producer. There’s more…

But oil consumption has increased so much and so continuously that even Saudi Arabia can’t keep up, and if the Iraqi resistance keeps on keeping Iraqi oil from flowing (pipelines are very difficult to defend — all the brutality of the US/Colombian paramilitary regime can’t defend the pipelines from being blown up in that country) then there won’t be capacity enough to keep prices down. Rahul Mahajan blogged a little about this recently.

There is a lot of conservation literature (some of it rather poor science, like Rifkin’s ‘Hydrogen Economy’, which somehow neglects to emphasize that while hydrogen might be a good way to store energy, you have to generate electricity from some other source to create hydrogen; but some of it better than that, like Amory Lovins’s work on ‘soft energy paths’ in the 1970s) that could be brought to bear to avert the numerous catastrophic possibilities of the path we’re on (one is simply running out of oil so that people freeze in the dark; another is climate change). But that would take some rather serious political changes.

Colombia: Cali building occupation ends

A couple days ago I blogged about the heroic union SINTRAEMCALI’s attempts to stop the creeping privatization of the public utilities company in the city of Cali, Colombia. I noted that it was a high-risk maneuver, and they made a risk assessment yesterday after the National government responded with overwhelming repression and decided to call off the occupation. The assessment of the situation by Nathan Eisenstadt of the Colombia Solidarity Campaign in the UK is mixed:

The agreement is more of a short term pacifier to facilitate further negotiations with a commitment to reviewing the Government’s recent restructuring proposal and a continuing dialogue including public consultation regarding its implications. It’s not a full victory for either side and accordingly can be viewed as victory for both. On the part of the Government the CAM Tower is no longer occupied by the workers so victory could be claimed, but before the occupation occurred eviction was (obviously) not the Government’s goal. On the part of workers the issues surrounding the new proposal and its implications have been brought to the fore, negotiations opened and the people mobilized.

This is by no means the end, the threat of privatisation, increased tariffs, and removal of subsidies to impoverished sectors remains very real. What has been achieved is to show that in spite of his dogmatic stance and unremitting anti democratic tactics that the people are still ready to resist the President´s onslaught and present viable alternatives. Something that defined this battle from the last was the lack of build up, that few knew the implications of a rapidly imposed proposal with sufficient time for word to spread. Times change and effective methods one year, with one government, do not necessarily work in same way with the next. There remains much work to be done and this was the first step in a new process rather than the last in an established one…

When I hear about these struggles I wonder what it would take for movements in North America to have that kind of hard-headed strategy, that kind of sense of how to intervene in a principled and effective way, that kind of understanding of the forces at play. Circumstances in Colombia are incomparably more difficult than in North America. Repression in Colombia is in a completely different world from anything North American unionists (or any other activists) face. Why does it seem that they are able to accomplish so much more?

Signals of Repression in Haiti

Just looking at the May 25, 2004 Haiti Human Rights report from Let Haiti Live. You can get a copy of the report by writing to Between the firing on the Lavalas demonstration, the brutal arrest and imprisonment of Annette August, internal displacement, executions, rape, and massacre, what is clear is that the Canadian, US, and French soldiers are doing exactly what they went there to do: overseeing the destruction of the remnants of a popular and independent political force and ensuring that the Haitian people are terrorized into silence.

And for all this, there are signs that worse is to come. Despite having a substantial number of its own troops there to guarantee ‘security’, the US is citing ‘insecurity’ as a reason to issue a travel advisory, telling Americans not to go there. ‘Insecurity’ was also cited as a reason for the coup. Such vicious lies. The US military specializes in destroying the security and aspirations of people all over the world. Another signal: the new ‘president’, Latortue, himself showing no signs of malnutrition but who deigned to suggest to the people over whom he has been installed that they eat less, says the big problem is thousands of armed Lavalas people who have to be disarmed. I guess this will be the job for the third-world armies that take over the occupation from the Americans. Let the Haitians eat gruel and let the poor people kill each other.

Has anyone paused to ask, if there are so many well-armed and ruthless Lavalas people running around, how the hell was it so easy for the US-armed paramilitaries to take over the country? I can’t help but think that if Aristide and Lavalas were what people said they were (ruthless, armed, etc.) they would probably still be in power now. But no lie is too blatant, no logic too convoluted, when it comes to justifying smashing helpless black people.


Doing the rounds and checking Under the same sun I discovered that the authenticity of the story about Rumsfeld banning digital cameras ( which I got via the Newsinsider and which Under the same sun and Empire Notes got from me) has been questioned.

The News Insider pulls stories out of the mainstream, and like me, probably assumes that mainstream media outlets don’t publish lies unless they think they can substantiate them. So, unlike the editor of the Daily Mirror (whose crime was little different from our own: republishing something entirely plausible but difficult to verify because of insufficient checking) I will not be resigning my blogpost.

African-Americans invented sexism, and other interesting tales

Now, having read Toufe’s piece on moral agency I am not about to try to make some kind of case absolving an artist like Nelly for creating a video in which women are treated in degrading, sexist, and appalling ways. Social change is made by moral agents who decide not to follow the script that is laid down for them. By people who face all the social forces and do not succumb to them. It is these exceptions to the social script that provide possibilities for hope.

Having said that, I saw this article on hip hop and gender politics and thought it was provocative, in the opposite way that Toufe’s piece was. The author is saying — look, there’s plenty of sexism and misogyny in hip hop, there’s no question. But sexism and misogyny wasn’t invented by rap artists. It is consumed by huge numbers of people. (And, a point that the author doesn’t make, it is put forward by incredibly concentrated media companies as *the* dominant voice of hip hop, creating enormous pressures on artists to create that kind of work if they want a shot at recognition, reward, etc.) So there is an institutional context for this, and hip-hop artists alone shouldn’t have to take the fall for sexism.

The fact that they are is actually telling. By blaming hip-hop for sexism and misogyny, other sectors of society (no less infected by sexism) can throw up their hands and wonder why *they* are so sexist and misogynist. Must be a pathology of ‘black culture’ or ‘hip hop culture’ or ‘youth culture’. The one thing it can’t be is something that is pervasive throughout a patriarchal society where men beat their wives and girlfriends senseless, rape and terrorize women, and just generally keep women in their place across the board.

This is something worth watching for. It is not unlike a lot of what is being said about the ‘new antisemitism’. Remember the ‘old antisemitism’ is what was practiced by Europe since the Crusades and the Inquisition and culminated in the Holocaust. But many pundits are saying, look, the ‘new antisemitism’ is worse than the ‘old antisemitism’, and the ‘new antisemitism’ is criticism of Israel, and it is practiced not by whites and white supremacists but by Muslims and their supporters. So whereas in the past, opposing anti-semitism meant opposing white supremacy (and those things that accompanied it, colonialism, racism, and imperialism), today you can oppose ‘the new anti-semitism’ and still be firmly on the side of white supremacy, because the ‘new anti-semitism’ is something that is, by definition, practiced by white supremacy’s victims (Muslims, Arabs).

In this way, blacks can be blamed for sexism (and homophobia), Muslims can be blamed for anti-semitism (and sexism and homophobia). Not only does this justify doing bad things to them (locking them up or bombing them), but it also helps us to avoid any reckoning with these diseases of our own society.

Still thinking through this, but I might try to lay out the argument in an essay or a commentary.

A beacon of democracy in the middle east

Israel and the United States, currently competing to see who can bring more democracy to the Middle East, have achieved notable triumphs in the area of press freedom. Israel, for example, shoots and kills journalists (like the UK’s James Miller and over a dozen Arab journalists who die even more invisibly than people like Miller) and international observers (like the UN’s Ian Hook) and activists (like the US’s Rachel Corrie). Israel bombs radio stations — it did so as part of its latest attack on Rafah, for example. You can get a good idea for what Israel thinks of freedom of the press for Palestinians from this quote by an Israeli official, that comes via al-Jazeera: “We are under no obligation to help Palestinian journalists enter Israel. We don’t differentiate between ordinary Palestinians and Palestinians who claim to be journalists.”

Not to be outdone, the United States has a proclivity for bombing al-Jazeera journalists — it bombed the Kabul station while bombing Afghanistan, it conducted a missile attack on Tariq Ayoub, and it shelled the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad, killing numerous journalists.

Well, Israel is keeping up! Readers may remember the case of Mordechai Vanunu, the technician who leaked Israel’s nuclear weapons program and spent 18 years in prison for his act. His arrest itself was abhorrent, his imprisonment despicable, and conditions were placed on him after his release that he couldn’t leave Israel, couldn’t talk to journalists, etc. After Vanunu’s release, he was forced to hide in a church after Israeli newspapers leaked his address. A journalist from the Sunday Times, Peter Hounam of the UK, spent some time with Vanunu at the church. As a result, Hounam was arrested and is now being kept incommunicado by the Israelis.

Peace in Sudan?

A peace accord has been signed in Sudan. For those who know a little bit about the conflict, it seems that the settlement is along the lines of what the Southern rebels have been demanding all along. Because the power-sharing agreement is to last six years, with revenues being split between north and south in the meantime, and at the end of which there is to be a referendum giving southerners the option of independence, there seems to be an incentive for the north to try to undermine the possibility of southern independence and weaken the south as much as possible leading up to the referendum. It is also a kind of ‘power-sharing’ formula between high-level leaders, like John Garang of the SPLA (southern rebel group) who will become vice-president, and the president of Sudan. Sudan has had these kinds of agreements in the past, and they were undermined syatematically — the ‘peace’ agreement just marked a pause, or a break, while preparations for renewed offensives were being made.

There is good reason to think that is what is going on here. The atrocities that have been going on in Sudan in recent months are between regime-backed militias and a southern population in Darfur — a conflict that is not touched by this ‘peace’, according to the article: “The peace accords do not take into account a new, related war in western Sudan’s Darfur region, where government-backed Arab militiamen have caused what the UN describes as “the world’s worst humanitarian crisis”.’

In the UK’s Daily Telegraph, apparently “hands President George W Bush a rare foreign-policy boost in a Muslim country.” That alone is cause to be dubious about the agreement. The last thing the US did for peace in Sudan was launch some cruise missiles at a pharmaceutical plant near Khartoum.