The Oracle

I caught a tiny bit of Kerry’s speech yesterday, Obama’s speech before that, and I am prepared to venture some predictions.

First, I believe that the Democrats will win in November.

Why? Not because I believe that the US is a democracy, or that the people’s will will prevail, or that the election is a matter of citizens’ choice. The opposite is true. I believe that this election is like a year-long job interviewing/application process. It’s reality TV, like that show where Donald Trump selected a manager by progressively firing elite youths. Like that show, the employer is the elite. The candidates are Kerry and Bush. And the criteria are very simple: who is going to be the better imperial manager. Who is going to better fulfill the desires of the elite at this particular time.

I believe that elites have asked themselves this question, and answered it, and decided that it will be Kerry. I also believe that Kerry has gone out of his way to prove himself a worthy candidate for this elite. The dems have accomplished this principally, as other bloggers have duly noted, by cleansing their program and rhetoric of peace, anti-imperial sentiment, or concern for the victims of US foreign policy. They will treat the people we send to kill our poor and helpless victims better; they will send more people to kill poor and helpless victims so they are safer when they do it; they will try to involve more countries in this killing (this latter isn’t going to work, and will help pave the way for the next Republican presidency). That’s their platform, and that is a winning formula. The media won’t destroy Kerry the way it destroyed Dean, and it will help Bush et al. gently out of office and start preparing them for a return immediately the election is over, just in case Kerry gets any funny ideas (and it’s pretty clear that Kerry has proven that he doesn’t have any funny ideas).

So, that’s my prediction. Kerry will win. But I have more predictions.

The shape of the Kerry order is already coming clear. He is clear on Venezuela (Chavez is a dictator, etc.). He is clear on Israel (Palestinians are terrorists, the wall is a fence, etc.) He isn’t so clear on Haiti, but I’m pretty sure he’s not going to be sending Aristide back there the way Clinton did unless it’s to stop a revolution.

But I think — and it might just be because it’s where I’m looking closest — that the Kerry order is clearest in Colombia. In Colombia (I’ll be trying to write about this soon) the paramilitary killers who have been slaughtering their way across the countryside and through the cities for decades were in the Colombian Legislature making speeches this past week, talking pompously about the ‘sacrifices’ they have made for the country (maybe they mean it in the ancient sense, like “Abraham sacrificed a lamb”, “The paramilitaries sacrificed thousands of peasants and unionists”). But this behaviour was denounced by the US ambassador William Wood, who said it was a ‘scandal’ that the paras talked of their sacrifices. What’s more, Kerry, Edwards, and others sent a letter to Colombia’s President, Alvaro Uribe Velez, telling him to have more respect for human rights.

Meanwhile, the roundups, sieges, murders, continue in the countryside.

And that, my friends, is what the Kerry order looks like. From Bush’s pushing-the-envelope fascism, we will move back to hypocrisy while the gains of the past 4 years are consolidated.

And there have been a lot of gains, when you think about it.

-Plan Colombia, initiated around 2000, has been a tremendous success, displacing millions, devastating the countryside, dismantling popular organization and capacity, destroying the prospects for peace, and bringing in Uribe.

-Iraq has been occupied.

-Haiti has been occupied and the possibility of democratic development there wrecked.

-Israel has built a wall and the starvation of Palestinians is advancing, possibilities for a just settlement seem still more remote, Palestinian society has been shattered even further, and Israel is militarily stronger than ever.

-Civil liberties, international law, labour rights, environmental accords, health agreements, all have been thoroughly shattered all to the benefit of the US.

-Countries are being locked into bilateral trade agreements that work just as well for the US as a multilateral agreement would have.

Small wonder elites figure now is a good time to try to digest some of these gains and have someone try to manage things smoothly instead of smashing their way to new depths of destruction. That option can always be used later, after all. Like in 4 more years.

And yet. Venezuela has been and continues to be a tough nut to crack. Uribe himself seems to have backed off of a war plan with Venezuela, going there to joke around with Chavez. He was no doubt ordered to do that by the US masters. The gas pipeline they went to discuss, it seems to me, may be an attempt to use the velvet glove on Chavez where the iron fists have failed. Involve Venezuela in megaprojects, promise ‘development’ and deliver something that alienates a progressive regime from its base… the neoliberal formula could succeed where coups, assassination attempts, sham strikes and referenda fail.

But maybe not. Kerry’s Iraq plan isn’t going to work. More troops? More allied involvement? What’s in it for the allies? What’s in it for the troops? If the troops are going to hide in bunkers, it ain’t going to help ‘win the peace’. If they are out there slaughtering people, it might help for a while but it might also make them targets (and the American media can count US troops killed, even if they can’t count Iraqis bombed or dead because of bad drinking water, and the day more US troops have died under Kerry than Bush will be a day the media marks, I promise you that).

If US movements can get over the ‘Anybody But Bush’ stuff quickly after Kerry wins and actually challenge the demobilizing democrats (and other demobilizing forces that are part of the whole machinery) they could generate something difficult for the system to handle. If Michael Moore (or anyone else who can figure out how) decides to use the space he’s created with F911 after Bush is gone, instead of trying to ‘support’ the criminals his film will have helped bring into power, maybe the country could have an opposition with some weight, and that would create difficulties for elites too.

It could be that Kerry’s victory will enable us to focus on the fact that there is an empire and these are imperial problems, not just some malignant cabal in the White House, and get to more systemic critiques. It could also be that the liberals will split from the anti-imperialists and weaken possibilities for anything serious to happen.

It’s also possible that Kerry won’t win. This is just a prediction, after all, and my record isn’t that good. File this one and be ready to throw it back at me in November.

This just in — anti-poverty organization is broke again!

The importance of a resource base for trying to organize is hard to overstate. Much of the reason so much of the ‘left’ (such as it is) is based on or around campuses is resources: who else has the time, the space (I mean literally, the rooms), the opportunities.

Well, there are other bases. The churches, for example. Much of the Central America solidarity movement in the 1980s was organized through churches. I guess much of the very early civil rights movement in the US was organized around churches.

Of course, liberal non-governmental organizations and political organizations have tremendous resources and can provide these on occasion for real movement work. The anti-globalization movement of the 1990s and the WSFs are related to this resource base.

Still another base, and perhaps the most potentially powerful, is still the unions. Even the small percentage of the workforce that is unionized provides tremendous resources to major national organizations with major infrastructures, whose principal political activity seems to be supporting parties who have more contempt for working people even than the union bureaucracy does.

Every once in a while one of these bases provides enough resources to start something that takes on a life and a momentum of its own. That is what happened with the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty some 15 years ago now. Begun with a tiny bit of union funding to organize some anti-poverty actions, OCAP took on a life of its own — and indeed became very critical of the limited resistance being offered by these unions that have such potential power (see this interview for some of that critique). But while OCAP definitely has a life of its own, including a movement base and an absolutely crucial function, the resource base has been drained away from it, and OCAP has been forced, as radical groups seem frequently to be forced, to rely on the most tenuous resource base — small donations from activists and sympathetic people. Below is their latest appeal for help with sustainable funding…


An Appeal for Emergency Donations AND Sustaining Solidarity

A few months ago, OCAP issued a statement on a financial crisis that meant it could not pay its organizers and meet basic obligations around the running of its office. A generous response pulled us out of that crisis but, unfortunately, the level of regular, sustaining donations did not come up nearly enough. For that reason, we are again in a grim situation and our organizers have not been paid on time.

The number of calls we receive and respond to ie. the welfare, tenant, disability, immigration, essential service cutoff casework we do, the provincial offence tickets we fight and so on, have not decreased. OCAP is hated by those in power and those who prop them up because it starts with the needs of those it fights for. If the City tries to push poor street sellers out of Chinatown, we defend them regardless of the fact that this puts us on a collision course with avowed progressive Olivia Chow. If hotel workers ask for our help when their own union lets them down, we act without worrying too much about the enemies we make in the ranks of labour officialdom.

This is a time when the need for a serious poor peoples’ organization is greater than ever. The task of implementing the social and political agenda of the banks and corporations has been handed to those who are skilled in presenting a gentler image than that of the upfront reactionaries they’ve replaced. Dalton McGuinty promised change and gives us a low key brand of the same as before. David Miller talked of a new kind of Toronto but, under him, the social cleansing of the homeless by cops and City officials rivals anything Mel Lastman ever set in motion.

Our funding options are limited and it is to those who agree with the stands we take that we must turn. We don’t run a lavish operation. It takes a bit more than $4,500.00 a month to run our office. That’s one full-time and two part-time organizers, our rent, utilities, phone and supplies for community meals and meetings. Thanks to the great solidarity of CUPE 3903, our rent is covered. Small regular sustaining donations meet the cost of our phone bill. However, our organizers are still relying on the hit and miss one time donations that people send us. Those donations are always greatly appreciated, of course, (we certainly need some of them right now) but the real issue is to extend our base of regular donations.

OCAP’s struggle to create a model of resistance at the base has won it respect throughout Canada and even internationally. People organizing in many different places have been influenced by our work and we ask supporters everywhere to help us build the resources we must have to develop and win. Details on the fights we are taking up can be followed by going to our website at

Those who want to help sustain OCAP’s work can send us post dated cheques or call/email us for the simple details on how to arrange for regular direct deposit donations. Please act without delay. Ask friends and progressive organizations to come to our help and send all support you can to:

Ontario Coalition Against Poverty,
10 Britain Street,
TORONTO, Ontario
M5A 1R6

In solidarity,


Ontario Coalition Against Poverty
10 Britain St. Toronto, ON M5A 1R6

March against the Wall begins…

There’s a major march against Israel’s Apartheid Wall has begun today. The repression has already begun, with Israel wounding 17 people at one of the first demonstrations.

Not content with just repressing the march, Israel also assassinated a Palestinian in Tulkarem. Israel has been active in Tulkarem recently: for example, they leveled a home there yesterday, declaring curfew. Israel also killed six people in Tulkarem earlier this week, something reported in Ha’aretz and analyzed by some ISM activists below. Take a look, and note the contrast between the eyewitness testimony of the activists who describe a flat-out assassination to the flat, military-sourced clinical description of a ‘gunbattle’ given in the mainstream media. Remember that every time you hear about armed Palestinians killed in gunbattles.

1. “Six Armed Palestinians Killed in Tulkarm” Last Night? (from ISM listserv, July 26 2004)

According to Ha’aretz Daily on-line Sunday evening: “Six armed Palestinians were killed by Border Police undercover troops in the West Bank town of Tul Karm on Sunday… Military sources said the six were members of Fatah’s military wing, the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, and were on their way to carry out a terror attack… A gunbattle ensued in which six of the militants were killed, including two local leaders of the group.” (See the rest of the Ha’aretz article pasted below)

This Ha’aretz description bears little resemblance to what happened on the ground. Six Palestinians were assassinated 100 meters from the ISM apartment where three ISM volunteers were staying at the time. Only two of the six Palestinians assassinated were members of the Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades. According to reliable sources in Tulkarem, the other four were simply bystanders.

The Ha’aretz account, which relies on Israeli military sources, distorts reality by portraying all the victims as members of the armed resistance, by suggesting that Palestinians opened fire and were about to carry out a “terror attack”, by failing to note the killing of four Palestinian not involved with armed resistance, and the wounding of at least three others and the denial of access for Palestinian medical personnel.

This account in Ha’aretz, probably the most reputable Israeli newspaper, presents an inaccurate description to Israelis and to the world of one Israeli military operations in the Occupied Territories and of how Palestinians experience Israeli military occupation. The Ha’aretz account is complicit in covering up brutal Israeli military killings of four Palestinians who were not involved in armed resistance. The hundreds of stories of this type that are printed every year, where every Palestinian killed is a “militant” on his way to carry out a “terror attack”, portray an entirely different reality from what occurs on the ground daily. This type of one-sided reporting dehumanizes Palestinians and covers up Israeli military crimes rather than increasing readers’ knowledge and understanding.

1. “Six members of Al Aqsa Brigades” ?: Of the six who were assassinated, only two were members of Al Aqsa Brigades. Hani Awaida (27 years old) and Mahdi Tambouz (25) were well-known leaders of Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade in Tulkarem who the Israeli military had tried to kill or capture many times. For example, about three weeks ago ISM volunteers visited a barber shop shortly after six Palestinians were arrested (including two barbers) by Israeli soldiers only minutes after Mahdi had left the shop. All said that the soldiers were looking for Mahdi that day.

Sayed Abu Qumra (24 years old) and Ahmed Barouq (26), both killed, were both civilians who happened to be in the area visiting friends. They had no relationship to armed resistance.

Abderrahim Hassan Shadid (34) was also killed. He was an agent in the Palestinian security services who may have been walking through the area to go to a nearby police station. He was reportedly on his cellphone with colleagues telling them that something was happening when the line went dead.

18 year old Mohammed Shanti was our next door neighbor. He had just succeeded in passing his high school graduation exam a few weeks ago. Mohammed had no relationship with the Palestinian resistance.

2. “A gunbattle ensued” ?: From 100 meters away ISMers heard all the shooting. There was one long burst of shooting, a short burst, and then minutes later another medium length burst. The sound of all the gunshots was the same. They were all fired from the same type of weapon, all Israeli weapons. There was no sound of shooting from Palestinian weapons. Witnesses confirmed that there was no Palestinian shooting, saying that the six were shot suddenly and at close range by Israeli special forces in a Palestinian-plated car before any of them could react.

3. “Six armed Palestinians” ? Two of the six may have been armed. Though witnesses saw no evidence of weapons, Palestinian sources suggests that it is possible that Mahdi and Hani were armed at the time, as they frequently were armed. If they had any weapons, the Israeli army must have taken them as there were no weapons near the bodies when soldiers withdrew.

Security agent Abderrahim Shadid was unarmed, as were the other three bystanders who were killed.

4. “On their way to carry out a terror attack” ? Awaida and Tambouz were standing by the side of the street eating when they were assassinated. The Israeli army has tried multiple times over the last months to kill Awaida and Tambouz, who are members of the Palestinian armed resistance. There is no reason to believe that at the moment they were killed they were about to carry out an attack. This just happened to be the moment when soldiers were, once again, tipped off by a collaborator as to their whereabouts.

Crucial Points Omitted from the Ha’aretz Article

In addition to failing to note that four of the six Palestinians assassinated were bystanders with no involvement in armed resistance, Ha’aretz did not report on these points:

5. Israeli soldiers deny access for Palestinians medical personnel: The Israeli military prevented Palestinian medical personnel from reaching the area and treating the men who were shot for at least 20 – 30 minutes. For at least 15 of those minutes three ISMers wearing florescent orange vests were standing in view of an Israel soldier and about 70 meters from and in view of the body of 18 year old Mohammed Shanti, who was dying in the street. The ISMers shouted that he needed medical care. In response at one point an Israeli soldier aimed his laser rifle sight at the chest of an ISMer.

6. Three other civilians wounded by Israeli gunfire: In addition to the assassination of four individuals with no involvement in armed
resistance, at least three other civilians were wounded by the random Israeli gunfire. Ten year old Mohsen Na’im was shot in the leg. 60 year old Khalil Zeidan was shot in the back while sitting on the street, and 19 year old Hashim Jarrad was shot in the wrist while attempting to seek cover inside his uncle’s barber shop.

I don’t think we will have the heart to tell our neighbors that Ha’aretz reported to the world that their assassinated eighteen year old son, Mohammed, who just graduated from high school and happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time was a dangerous terrorist.

For More Information from Tulkarem contact:

Pat: 972-54-6-253-451
Phyllis: 972-54-7-834-954
Abdelkarim: 972-59-836-783

Ha’aretz Daily

Troops kill 6 militants; 6 children hurt in Gaza settlement
By Amos Harel, Haaretz Correspondent, News Agencies and Haaretz Service

Six armed Palestinians were killed by Border Police undercover troops in the West Bank town of Tul Karm on Sunday.

Military sources said the six were members of Fatah’s military wing, the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, and were on their way to carry out a terror attack.

Witnesses said troops raided the town after dark and ambushed a group of eight militants. A gunbattle ensued in which six of the militants were killed, including two local leaders of the group. The other two gunmen fled, the sources said.

Fatah leaders produced a statement Sunday night in Tul Karm promising they will react quickly and painfully to the killing of members of their faction. The statement alluded to a strike “deep in Israeli territory.”

No criminals escape, even 30 years later — right?

This is pretty amazing. The Canadian Newspaper, the Globe and Mail reports that the RCMP arrested a man who has been living in Toronto for decades for a shooting of a police officer in Chicago 30 years ago. Douglas Freeman, the police say, is really Joseph Coleman Pannell, a Black Panther who shot police officer Terrence Knox in Chicago in 1969. Knox was shot in the arm and went on to a long career in law enforcement at the end of which he retired.

Continue reading “No criminals escape, even 30 years later — right?”

Still more on Sudan

I don’t use it too often, though perhaps I should — Al Jazeera reported today that the Arab League asked the international community to give Sudan time.

To put it mildly, this is rather underwhelming. So is the Sudanese government’s own line, that the US is ‘using’ the crisis in Darfur.

That the US is using it, and will use it, cynically and with no regard for the victims, is not in doubt (on July 22 the US Congress agreed that what was going on in Sudan was ‘genocide’ — something they never managed to do for Rwanda 10 years before; and let’s not forget al-Shifa, the pharmaceutical plant Clinton blew up in 1998). But the question is about the thing that is being used, not the US’s use of it, and the thing that is being used is very real and very horrific, according to the reports that are coming out, and despite the Arab League’s exhortations, it seems to me that time is the very thing that is not on the side of the victims of this assault.

All the details are difficult to get. But the Arab League’s position, that the onus is on the rebels to disarm, is untenable. The signs point to this being a war by government-backed militias against the population that won’t stop until the government is forced to call it off or the government has achieved its military, political, and economic objectives, probably having to do with displacing a large sector of the population.

You can read the UN Humanitarian Roundups at the Darfur Information Center to get an idea of what’s going on on the ground. The current concern is that the Sudanese government is trying to force hundreds of thousands of displaced people to go back to their homes, with no guarantees about not getting massacred.

A Tale Of True Spin

CACI International, the mercenary firm accused of conspiring with fellow “subcontractor” Titan to actively engage in torture, abuse and other prisoner mistreatment at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq is the subject of yet another torture-related lawsuit. This brings the tally to two civil lawsuits and at least five (probably ineffectual) government investigations.

CACI is, needless to say, pulling out all the proverbial punches (why stop at literal punches) to defend itself against the “opportunistic” lawyers at the Iraqi Torture Victim Group. Check out the firm’s press release, to get an understanding of what true corporate spin is.

This latest lawsuit is being brought by a consortium of trial lawyers representing five Iraqis who say they were tortured while being held at Abu Ghraib. CACI, along with Titan, is being accused in the suit of the following practices:

-Acts of murder
-Violent physical assaults including being beaten while hung suspended off the ground by an arm or wrist
– Being held naked and forced to endure cold and the elements
– Being chained in a cramped position and forced to listen to loud music for sustained periods
– Being denied food and water for sustained periods
– Being urinated on
– Being photographed while naked and other humiliating situations
– Hearing and seeing other prisoners raped and sexually assaulted

– Being restrained and then forced to witness family members being beaten.

Worth noting is the following line from CACI’s retaliatory press
release: “The lawsuit filed against CACI is tantamount to an “ambulance
chasing” and “piling-on” activity in a blatant attempt to extort
financial gain.”

How utterly ironic. The company seems to forget itself. After all,
the only reason it is in the business of “interrogation” is to reap
financial gains — and as these lawsuits allege, by whatever means
necessary. CACI has been effective so far. In just three months,
between January 2004 and March 2004, CACI has added $16 million to its
bottom line. Its three-month revenue came in at $288.4 million, with
revenue specifically from US Department of Defense orders coming in at
$195.4 million.

Check out the company’s financials at any number of financial news Web sites to get a taste of how lucrative torture and interrogation can be. CACI’s ticker symbol is CAI. (Conspiracy theorists beware — don’t type in CIA).

Sudan, Darfur

Mandisi Majavu makes an argument for sanctions against Sudan for
its program of murderous ethnic cleansing in Darfur. Mandisi has been
following the situation there in his blog. Meanwhile, The Passion of the Present blog is
reproducing mainstream journals’ arguments for intervention. It quotes,
for example, a Washington Post Editorial that says the following:

government has attacked civilians with helicopter gunships. It has armed a militia that burns villages, slaughtering the men and raping the women. It has spent months obstructing humanitarian access to the resulting refugee camps, denying aid workers visas and impounding their equipment in customs, condemning tens of thousands of people to die for lack of food and medicine. Even the recent ramping up of diplomatic pressure, which has allowed relief to flow more freely, has not distracted Sudan’s government from its purpose. Its commandants have been closing down refugee camps and sending inhabitants off into the torched countryside, where there is no food, no protection and no
foreign witnesses.”

“Asking a government like this to provide security in Darfur is
like calling upon Slobodan Milosevic to protect Albanian Kosovars. The real solution is the reverse of the one Mr. Powell appears to believe in. Rather than summoning Sudan’s government into Darfur to protect refugees, the United States should be calling upon the government to pull back from the region. Just as was the case in Kosovo, security in Darfur is going to require a foreign presence, preferably an African one that builds on the small African Union observer mission that is already in the region. Mr. Powell may fear that calling for such a force is risky: What if no Africans come forward, and the job of peacekeeping falls to the United States? But the secretary must weigh that risk against the opposite one. What if Sudan’s government maintains control of Darfur and uses it to exterminate hundreds of thousands of people?”

This line: “Asking a government like this to provide security in Darfur is like calling upon Slobodan Milosevic to protect Albanian Kosovars.” Or, one could add, asking Israel to protect Palestinians, the US to protect Iraqis…

For the record, I think Mandisi is right. I believe the Sudanese regime is unleashing its militias on Darfur because it feels a free hand to do so after signing the separate peace with the SPLA, the main insurgency that was a real rival. The victims of the militias in Darfur have no such protection — but the Sudanese government could call the whole thing off in a second if it wanted to, if the international community said clearly that the game was up. Maybe a better analogy is Indonesia in East Timor in 1999, a slaughter and collective punishment that it wouldn’t have taken bombing to stop, just a word from the US to the Indonesian generals.

Vile regime and sex tourists, follow-up

A friend just sent me this article from the Los Angeles Times with a bit more detail on the source and context of Bush’s hypocritical filth on Cuba (I apologize for using euphemisms in the description). It’s been a few days since I’ve seen any technical difficulties so I’m going to try to get back to normal blogging. Since the LA Times requires registration, I’m reproducing the article below.

Bush Took Quote Out of Context, Researcher Says
Student whose paper on Castro was used in a speech is ‘annoyed.’ He says the president misconstrued the Cuban leader’s stance.
By Maura Reynolds

Times Staff Writer

July 20, 2004

WASHINGTON — Like many scholars, Charles Trumbull hoped that one day his work would attract attention in high places. So you might think he’d be thrilled that someone in the White House used one of his research papers to draft a speech for President Bush last week.

But he’s not.

In a hotel conference room in Tampa, Fla., on Friday, Bush told law enforcement officials that Fidel Castro was brazenly promoting sex tourism to Cuba.

“The dictator welcomes sex tourism. Here’s how he bragged about the industry,” Bush said. “This is his quote: ‘Cuba has the cleanest and most educated prostitutes in the world.’ ”

Asked about the source for the quote, White House officials provided a link to a 2001 paper, written by Trumbull, on the website of the Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy.

At the time he wrote the paper, Trumbull was a Dartmouth College undergraduate, and the paper won a prize from the association as the best student paper of the year. Now a law student at Vanderbilt University, Trumbull does not remember the source for the wording of the Castro quote, which he did not footnote.

“I don’t know why I don’t have a footnote for that,” said Trumbull, 24, who is clerking this summer for a federal judge in Puerto Rico. “That was before I was in law school and understood that you have to footnote everything.”

Trumbull says the quote was probably a paraphrase of comments the Cuban leader made in 1992, which have been oft-repeated and seem to have taken on a life of their own.

But regardless of the exact wording, Trumbull says the president’s speech misconstrued the meaning, which he says should have been clear from his paper.

“It shows that they didn’t read much of the article,” Trumbull said in a telephone interview.

According to Trumbull, who conducted field research in Cuba, prostitution boomed in the Caribbean nation after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, providing an important source of currency for the Cuban economy. Castro, who outlawed prostitution when he took power in 1959, initially had few resources to combat it. But beginning around 1996, Cuban authorities began to crack down on the practice.

Although prostitution still exists, Trumbull said, it is far less visible, and it would be inaccurate to say the government promotes it.

Even when Castro made the remarks, Trumbull said, he was not boasting about Cuba’s prostitutes as sex workers.

“Castro was merely trying to emphasize some of the successes of the revolution by saying ‘even our prostitutes our educated,’ ” Trumbull said. “Castro was trying to defend his revolution against negative publicity. He was in no way bragging about the opportunities for sex tourism on the island.”

On Monday, administration officials acknowledged that they did not have a source for the wording of the president’s citation other than Trumbull’s paper. A White House spokeswoman defended the inclusion, arguing it expressed an essential truth about Cuba.

“The president’s point in citing Castro’s quote was to highlight Castro’s morally corrupt attitude to human trafficking,” White House spokeswoman Claire Buchan said. She pointed to two other instances in which Castro boasted of the education level of Cuba’s prostitutes; in neither case was the context a direct promotion of sex tourism.

The speech “was vetted the same way all the president’s speeches are vetted,” Buchan said, declining to provide details.

A State Department official familiar with the matter said the Cuba material was added to the speech at the last minute. He said the White House contacted the department no more than a day before the speech and asked for material on human trafficking in Cuba. A quick search of the Internet turned up Trumbull’s paper; the official said there was inadequate time to find the original source for Castro’s quote.

The State Department official later found the original quote, which he acknowledged was much less succinct than the president’s version.

“There are hookers, but prostitution is not allowed in our country,” Castro told Cuba’s National Assembly in July 1992, according to a translation by the British Broadcasting Corp. “There are no women forced to sell themselves to a man, to a foreigner, to a tourist. Those who do so do it on their own, voluntarily…. We can say that they are highly educated hookers and quite healthy, because we are the country with the lowest number of AIDS cases.”

Trumbull described himself as “annoyed” by the use the White House made of his project. “It is really disheartening to see bits of my research contorted, taken out of context, and used to support conclusions that are contrary to the truth,” he said.

Julia Sweig, a Cuba expert at the Council on Foreign Relations, said it was one thing for an undergraduate to include an unsubstantiated quotation in a college paper, but it was another for the White House to include one in a presidential speech.

“That’s incredibly sloppy, and it shows that when it comes to Cuba policy, they are willing to cut huge corners,” Sweig said.

Bush’s standing with Cuban Americans — a crucial segment of supporters in the battleground state of Florida — has taken a hit in recent months. Critics have accused Bush of reneging on promises to crack down harder on the Castro regime. Some Republican state lawmakers even wrote the White House, suggesting the president risked losing support among Cuban Americans if he did not act.

In response, the Bush administration this spring unveiled rules limiting Cuban Americans’ packages and visits to Cuba, which officials said would hurt Castro. But some Cuban Americans say the new rules punish them by restricting their contact with relatives.

“They took a hit on their Cuba policy, so [the president’s remark on sex tourism] was an effort to make up lost ground,” Sweig said.

Times staff writers Peter Wallsten and Kathleen Hennessey contributed to this report.

The vile regime and its sex tourists

Another one a few days old now — technical difficulties, of
course. But maybe you heard the latest round of Bush slanders and lies to justify violence? Nope, I’m not talking about the garbage about Iran’s ‘link’ to 9/11 (in which Iran is ‘linked’ because the hijackers traveled through Iran… didn’t they all travel through the US too?) No, this one is about Castro, who apparently, and this is right out of Bush’s mouth, promotes ‘sex tourism’.

Continue reading “The vile regime and its sex tourists”