Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Corporate control of U.S. media subject of
McChesney talk April 13 at North Central College

NAPERVILLE, Ill. - Can citizens be sure they’re getting fair, balanced, unbiased news when just one company owns all the news outlets for a given market? Award-winning author and media expert Robert McChesney, speaking at North Central College on Tuesday, April 13, thinks not.

McChesney will speak at 7:30 in the Harold and Eva White Activities Center, 325 E. Benton Ave., on “The Emerging Struggle for Control of the Media in the United States” and how ordinary citizens can get involved. The event, originally scheduled for January but cancelled due to bad weather, is free and open to the public.

McChesney’s most recent book, The Problem of the Media, has just been published to glowing reviews. Said one reviewer, “If you are sick of the dumbed-down, hyper-commercialized media and want to know how to change it, this is must reading. An essential call to arms.”

Author or editor of eight additional books on the role of media in democratic and capitalist societies, McChesney says that a wave of mergers in recent years has led to a concentration of media ownership that is unhealthy for the future of American democracy. He argues that the media have become an anti-democratic force in the United States and, to varying degrees, around the world; that increased “choice” (including the Internet) does not necessarily translate into more objective information; and that wealthy investors, advertisers and a handful of huge media, computer and telecommunications conglomerates are the principal beneficiaries of the Information Age.

McChesney is a leader in the burgeoning media reform movement that in the past year generated over a million phone calls and pieces of mail to Congress and the White House protesting the Federal Commerce Commission's June 2nd decision to further deregulate media ownership.

Since 1998, McChesney has been at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign where he is research professor in the Institute of Communications Research and the Graduate School of Library and Information Science. From 1988-1998, he was at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he was an award-winning classroom teacher. His Ph.D. is from the University of Washington. His most recent books include The Problem of Media (2004), Our Media, Not Theirs (with John Nichols, 2002) and Rich Media, Poor Democracy (2000).

White Activities Center is handicap-accessible.
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Monday, March 22, 2004

A timely article about one of the leaders of the Levellers, the radically democratic religious heretics who fomented "a revolution within the revolution" during the English civil war (see Chrisopher Hill's The World Turned Upside Down for the full story). As St. Clair points out, the lessons of Lilburne's life and of his unswerving dedication to the right of dissent speak to our own situation as citizens of Bush and Ashcroft's Neo-Puritan, Neo-Imperialist America. What's not to love about a relgious movement that wanted to abolish social class and declared proudly that "the ale house is the house of God"?

From Counter Punch 3/20/04
What Would Lilburne Do?
Intolerable Opinions in an Age of Shock and Awe


In Love's free state all powers so levelled be
That them affection governs more than awe.

William Davenant

In 1638, John Lilburne was put on secret trial by the Star Chamber of Charles I. His crime? The writing and distribution of seditious pamphlets that skewered the legitimacy of the monarchy and challenged the primacy of the high prelates of the Church of England. He was promptly convicted of publishing writing of "dangerous consequence and evil effect."

For these intolerable opinions, the royal tribunal sentenced him to be publicly flogged through the streets of London, from Fleet Prison, built on the tidal flats where Fleet Ditch spilled out London's sewage, to the Palace Yard at Westminster, then a kind of public showground for weekly spectacles of humiliation and torture. By one account, Lilburne was whipped by the King's executioner more than 500 hundred times, "causing his shoulders to swell almost as big as a penny loafe with the bruses of the knotted Cords."

The bloodied writer was then shackled to a pillory, where, to the amazement of the crowd of onlookers, he launched into an impassioned oration in defense of his friend Dr. John Bastick, the puritan physician and preacher. Only weeks before, Bastick's ears had been slashed off by the King's men as punishment for publishing an attack on the Archbishop of Canterbury, an essay that Lilburne had happily distributed far and wide. Lilburne gushered forth about this barbaric injustice for a few moments, before his tormentors gagged his mouth with a urine soaked rag. After enduring another two hours of torture, the guards dragged him behind a cart back to the Fleet, where he was confined in irons for the next two-and-a-half years. This was the first of "Free-Born" John Lilburne's many parries with the masters of Empire.

While in his foul cell in Fleet prison, Lilburne was kept in solitary confinement on orders of the Star Council, his lone visitor a maid named Katherine Hadley. Somehow the maid was able to sneak pen, paper and ink past the Fleet's guards to the young radical. According to Lilburne's own description, he was "lying day and night in Fetters of Iron, both hands and legges," when he began to write furiously, penning a gruesome account of his mock trial and torture, The Work of the Beast, and a scabrous assault on the Anglican bishops, Come Out of Her, My People. These pamphlets were smuggled out of Newgate, printed in the LowLands and distributed through covert networks across England to popular acclaim and royal indignation.

Oliver Cromwell, then a Puritan leader in the House of Commons, took up Lilburne's cause, giving a stirring speech in defense of the imprisoned writer. It swayed Parliament, which voted to release Lilburne from jail. Lilburne emerged from the grateful to Cromwell, but not blind to the general's dictatorial ambitions: he would later pen savage attacks on Cromwell and his censorious functionaries.

Soon Lilburne joined the Parliamentary Army, fighting with distinction against the royal forces in numerous clashes, including the battle at the Edgehill, the first major encounter of the English Civil War, before being captured at Brentford on 12th November, 1642. Once again he faced trial, this time at Oxford, for "taking up arms against the King." Lilburne was swiftly convicted and sentenced to death. But his friends in Parliament rose to his defense, threatening similar reprisals against Royalist prisoners. A prisoner exchange was arranged and Lilburne was on the loose again, leading soldiers into battle against the king's troops, eventually rising to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel.

But in 1645 Lilburne abandoned the Cromwell's New Model Army, known for singing the Psalms as they clamored into battle, after he was told that he must swear to the Solemn League and Covenant, Cromwell's equivalent of a religious loyalty oath to the Presbyterian church. Lilburne, an Independent, hated oaths and had defied the Star Chamber, in his first prosecution, by refusing to take the oath ex officio, which he argued violated the ancient right of habeas corpus.

But by now, Lilburne was plotting a more profound insurrection aimed at democratizing the army, as well as the rest of the nation. Why, he asked, should soldiers be expected to fight in a war declared by legislators for whom they could not vote? Why, he asked in the halls at Westminster, weren't the soldiers paid more? Why weren't the families of the slain compensated?

"Every free man of England, poor as well as rich, should have a vote in choosing those that are to make the law," Lilburne wrote. "All and every particular and individual man and woman, that ever breathed in the world, are by nature all equal and alike in their power, dignity, authority and majesty, none of them having (by nature) any authority, dominion or magisterial power one over or above another." Jefferson sounds cautious beside Lilburne's exuberant prose.

These were the opening shots of the Levellers, aimed, in the words of one observer, "to sett all things straight and rayse a parity and community in the kingdom." It would be, in Lilburne's view, a new kingdom, without a king or a House of Lords or even land lords.

The Leveller movement began as a rebellion within a rebellion, spreading from the Army to persecuted religious sects to farmers and working class people. It was a movement energized by writers, headlined by Lilburne, Richard Overton and William Walwyn, and the pamphlets flew off the presses, with more than 2,100 different tracts being printed in 1645. This prompted the repressive acts known as the Ordinances, which suppressed public assemblies, outlawed meetings of Antinomians and Anabaptists, prohibited preaching by lay preachers, and imposed strict censorship of the press. Cromwell's notorious Committee of Examinations, essentially Parliament's version of the Star Chamber, was tasked with investigating "scandalous" writing, destroying independent presses and arresting writers, publishers and vendors of documents deemed seditious. These were the oppressive laws, which prompted Milton to write the Areopagitica. Milton's passionate polemic, one the great defenses of a free press, was mild compared to the furious denunciations that poured from Lilburne's pen.

These testy impertinences landed Lilburne in Newgate again, this time on charges of libel. But 2,000 leading Londoners signed a petition on his behalf and public riots in his defense prompted his quick release. The experience only served to sharpen his resistance to Cromwell, who he saw as a dictatorial sell-out to the forces of Empire (not unlike, say, John Kerry), and the leading agent of state oppression. He fired off a threatening public letter to Cromwell, which darkly concluded: "rest assured if ever my hand is upon you, it shall be when you are in your full glory."

Lilburne and his Leveller cohorts started an underground paper called The Moderate. The title was something of a joke. After all the Leveller platform seems downright pinko by our constricted standards: they wanted to outlaw monopolies, eliminate taxes on the poor, impose term limits on members of Parliament, eliminate all restrictions on the press and religious worship, universal suffrage and assure trial by juror for all defendants.

But Lilburne was far from the most radical spirit in those topsy-turvy days. He was outflanked to his left by Gerrard Winstanley's Diggers and by the Seekers, Ranters, Antinomians and militant fen dwellers, the Earth First!ers of their time.

Like Tom Paine, he opposed the death penalty, speaking out against the execution of Charles I. "I refused to be one of his (Charles I) judges," Lilburne wrote. "They were no better than murders in taking away the King's life even though he was guilty of the crimes he was charged with. It is murder because it was done by a hand that had no authority to do it."

Cut to 1649. Lilburne is imprisoned once more in the Tower of London, along with four of his Leveller cohorts, including the brilliant polemicist Richard Overton. This time they'd attacked Cromwell head-on, accusing him of being a reactionary force roaming the land with secret police threatening all dissenters. "If our hearts were not over-charged with the sense of the present miseries and approaching dangers of the Nation, your small regard to our late serious apprehensions, would have kept us silent; but the misery, danger, and bondage threatened is so great, imminent, and apparent that whilst we have breath, and are not violently restrained, we cannot but speak, and even cry aloud, until you hear us, or God be pleased otherwise to relieve us." The charge was treason.

His wife Elizabeth, herself a forceful agitator for peace and the rights of women, wrote an urgent pamphlet in his defense, titled A Petition of Women. The prose still resonates, perhaps more now than it has in 300 years. "Would you have us keep at home in our houses, when men of such faithfulness and integrity as the four prisoners, our friends in the Tower, are fetched out of their beds and forced from their houses by soldiers, to the affrighting and undoing of themselves, their wives, children, and families? Are not our husbands, our selves, our daughters and families, by the same rule as liable to the like unjust cruelties as they?" Elizabeth got 10,000 people to sign a petition on Lilburne's behalf.

He was soon released. But arrested again within the year. This time for denouncing Cromwell's genocidal raids on Ireland. But the jury refused to convict him and Cromwell had him banished from England. Lilburne spent a few months in Holland writing incendiary pamphlets before sneaking back into England. He was soon discovered and arrested on charges of treason once again. Again the jury refused to convict. But Cromwell refused to release him, shuttling Lilburne from the Tower, to the Mount Orgueil, a dank Norman castle in Guernsey, and finally to Dover castle. One of his guards described Lilburne as being tougher to handle than "ten Cavaliers."

While locked in Dover castle, Lilburne fell under the spell of the Quakers, and became a radical pacifist, writing that he had finished with "carnal sword fightings and fleshly bustlings and contests." His pen never stopped, though. The pamphlets continued to flow until his death in 1657.

Lilburne refused to be a martyr. He faced the beast, endured prisons and tortures that would give even an inmate at Guantanamo the chills, and remained defiant and upbeat. He lived the life of an escape artist, who could talk himself into and out of trouble, almost effortlessly. His mind ran in overdrive and so, apparently, did his mouth. His friend Harry Marten, the regicide, quipped: "If the world was emptied of all but John Lilburne, Lilburne would quarrel with John and John with Lilburne." And so it should be.

I first encountered the writings of John Lilburne in 1981 during a series of lectures on Milton and the radicals of the English revolution delivered by the great British historian Christopher Hill, author of The World Turned Upside Down. Hill was stalking other game in those lectures, but his energetic asides on Lilburne and his band of Levellers pricked my interest. Here were puritans who detested imperial ambitions and believed in unfettered free speech and absolute equality. A far cry from Nathaniel Hawthorne's band of vicious prudes, not to mention the neo-puritans, like Falwell and Robertson, then in the ascendancy.

Lilburne had long fallen out of favor with American historians and his writings were difficult to track down. I ended up devouring them at the stark library of Georgetown University (the meager library at American University, where I went to school, is a international scandal), overlooking the Potomac River and the gloom-stricken Lincoln Memorial. In those days, the chill shadow of Reagan loomed over the Republic and Lilburne's polemics on freedom and repression, gripped me like an urgent voice from the grave.

It's strange, but perhaps instructive of our current historical amnesia, that Lilburne's reputation has fallen into such neglect in the US, for his anarchic style seems more in line with the rambunctious spirit that animated the American revolution than the dour pontifications of John Locke, whose writing gets all the press clips these days.

So why do I reprise the moldering life of John Lilburne now, at this perilous moment in the life of the Republic? Well, for starters, the forces that Lilburne confronted "with violent and bitter expressions" have coalesced once again (not that they ever really dissipated, mind you) and threaten to impose their preemptive will upon the living creatures of the world. What are these forces? Militarism, religious bigotry, official censorship, prosecutorial inquisitions and torture, imperial expansion, monopolists, land grabbers, misogynists and those who buy and sell the earth and humans, too. In short, the whole sick crew.

When you survey the wreckage of the Bush imperium, it's very easy to become overwhelmed by darkness of the times, submerged in the remorseless riptide of blood and official violence. But even facing methods of torture and imprisonment that would unnerve an inmate of Guatanamo, Lilburne never surrendered to defeatism. His writing remains infused with radical purpose, a radiant call from across the centuries for collective resistance.

As you steel yourself to confront the new imperialists, ask yourself: what would Lilburne do?

Jeffrey St. Clair's new book, Been Brown So Long It Looked Like Green to Me: the Politics of Nature, is just out from Common Courage Press.

Monday, March 15, 2004

PBS censors clamp down on Emma Goldman's nipple!
If there were any justice in the world, every major paper in the country would pick up the story below and run it under the headline suggested above. Sadly, only the tabloids would have the daring.

Even Buttoned-Down PBS Gets Caught in the Wringer
By Lisa de Moraes

Thursday, March 11, 2004; Page C07

Viacom CEO Sumner Redstone confided to investors this week that "a
woman's breast is not such a big deal" to him. We wish him a speedy

Ironic, isn't it, that thanks to Mr. Redstone's MTV and CBS, which
produced and aired, respectively, the little Super Bowl halftime number
that's come to be known as the Breast Heard Round the World, TV execs
all over the country have been engaged in vigorous debate about that
part of the female anatomy which no longer holds any interest for the
80-year-old Mr. Redstone.

Take PBS station WGBH, for example, where suits went back and forth
about how much cleavage to show in its upcoming "American Experience"
documentary "Emma Goldman."

You cannot expect to make a documentary about a colorful 20th-century
anarchist and advocate of free speech and free love -- a woman J. Edgar
Hoover once called one of the most dangerous people in America --
without including a little anarchy, a little free speech and a little
free love in the piece.

In calmer times, this would not be a problem.

But since Justin Timberlake unleashed Janet Jackson's right breast
during the Super Bowl halftime show and it began its scorched-earth
march through the TV industry, it's a big problem.

So the executive producer of "American Experience" agreed to cut a
couple of seconds of a scene re-creation in the documentary, in which
Goldman's lover is seen unbuttoning the front of her chemise, revealing
about as much cleavage as Susan Sarandon showed off in that black number
she wore to this year's Academy Awards.

According to "American Experience" executive producer Mark Samels,
during the normal finishing process this documentary, like all "American
Experience" documentaries, went to an attorney at WGBH for what's called
"errors and omissions" analysis. While screening the project, Samels
reports, the attorney raised concerns about the love scene.

Here is where Samels's version of what happened differs from that of the
public TV source who was among those who brought this to the attention
of The TV Column.

According to our source, the showing of cleavage was what knotted the
attorney's knickers; he thought it would be objectionable to the Federal
Communications Commission, which has been on a sort of shock-and-awe
campaign against TV smut -- at least the broadcast stuff -- since its
chief wandered in on the halftime show while watching the Super Bowl
with his family.

According to Samels, it wasn't the cleavage that had the attorney
grinding his teeth; it was the question of nipplage.

Mel Buckland, who wrote, produced and directed the documentary, declined
to comment for this article, nervously telling The TV Column that she
had been expressly told by folks at "American Experience" not to discuss
the situation and explaining that she was afraid of the career
consequences if she did talk to the press. (Just to refresh your memory:
This is still about a documentary on the life of a woman who lobbied in
this country, back in the early 1900s, for freedom of -- among other
things -- speech.)

Samels says the "American Experience" team assured the WGBH attorney
that there was no nipplage in the scene.

According to Samels, the attorney passed along the documentary to an
outside attorney who does work for WGBH on communications issues, for a
second opinion.

"That person also agreed that it looked like a full breast was exposed,
which was a pretty common-sense line of decency we haven't crossed,"
Samels explained.

However, a spokeswoman for "American Experience" with whom we spoke
yesterday afternoon said the outside attorney did not screen the
documentary; rather, the in-house attorney had described the scene in
question and the outside attorney advised that "he didn't perceive any
legal issues with it."

Back to Samels, who tells The TV Column that the "American Experience"
people "went back and did a frame-by-frame analysis, because we had only
looked at it 50 times while making it.

"I didn't see a fully exposed breast, and sure enough, there isn't," he

"What there is is a shadow of a blouse which gives the appearance of the
revealing of a nipple, the full breast."

That, he says, is why they agreed to remove what he calls 51 frames and
our source says is about two seconds of the love scene.

Samels insists, however, that even after the nip and tuck, there is
"enough cleavage to drive a truck through in this scene."

We will pause here for a minute while you try to get that image out of
your head.

Our public TV source and Samels do agree that it's pretty ironic that a
documentary about a woman who preached free love and free speech should
be mired in a discussion about whether it's okay to show a breast on TV.

"What I love about it is that it shows the country has never gotten away
from its Puritanical roots," Samels said. "Which once again calls for
exploration of American history. You can only understand who we are by
knowing how we got this way."

That, of course, is a shameless plug for "American Experience," which
bills itself as television's longest-running history series.

Oh well, that's showbiz.

Note: The American Experience documentary on Emma Goldman airs on Mon.,
April 12. Check out the website for more information.]

Thursday, March 11, 2004

More on the Department of Homeland Security TV series. Get this, "Christian faith" is a central element of the show, with the President and various police agents routinely kneeling and bowing in prayer. Canada here I come...

Homeland security meets home theater
New show lauding Bush slated for fall premiere
By Charlie Savage, Globe Staff, 2/28/2004
WASHINGTON -- A Hollywood producer says he is set to air a new hybrid reality-fiction TV show glorifying the Department of Homeland Security and President Bush's counterterrorism efforts this fall, just before the presidential election.
Now in pilot production with eight episodes scheduled, "DHS: The Series" will follow two Homeland Security special agents on dangerous assignments. As in the recent HBO series "K Street," real-life law enforcement figures will appear in fictional plots, said Joseph M. Medawar, a producer with Steeple Distributions Inc.
"It has become a passion to educate the public through a series taking two agents . . . [who] put themselves on the line to serve this great country of ours and to protect us from the threat of terrorism," he said.
A trailer for the show opens with a voiceover from a Bush speech delivered after the Al Qaeda attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. It then asks "How do we know . . . that we are truly . . . safe?" before jumping through fast-cut images such as satellites, car chases, a 911 center, explosions, fighter jets, evacuations, a gun-toting jihadist, and Osama bin Laden.
The series became an instant conversation topic in Washington yesterday after an E! Online report quoted producers as saying the show had been endorsed by Bush and Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, both of whom "contributed sound bites" and offered high-level access extending to the White House itself.
The report raised eyebrows because the Bush-Cheney campaign intends to make the president's "war on terrorism" a central prong in his reelection strategy. Pushing a pseudoreality show on that subject as the campaign enters its final stretch would be unprecedented.
But spokesmen for the White House and Department of Homeland Security said they had no knowledge of the show, though they noted that the administration has called upon Hollywood to produce homeland security-related shows -- and has worked with the TV show "Threat Matrix" among others.
Medawar, however, insisted that he has met with both Ridge and Homeland Security Undersecretary Asa Hutchison during recent trips by the officials to California. He also said US Representative Dana Rohrabacher, Republican of California, has been a "great ally" who "started the introduction to President Bush." A spokesman for Rohrabacher confirmed he was helping out as a "friendly adviser," though he said that meant telling them how to get access more than actually making calls himself.
Series co-star Alison Waterbury -- who said her preparation included a three-day course at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Georgia and a trip to Israel, where she witnessed a suicide bombing -- added that the cast received a photograph back from Bush and a short note of encouragement and that they briefed the president's wife during a recent trip to California.
"I've met with first lady Laura Bush and briefly ran the idea by her," she said. "She was very interested in it, but didn't make any comment."
Jim Amormino, a spokesman for the Orange County Sheriff's Department, confirmed that the show had filmed in an emergency call center and elsewhere.
Medawar -- whose production credits include the 1992 Stephen King film "Sleepwalkers" and 1986's "Hardbodies 2" -- dismissed any suggestion that the show has a political agenda, but said he is a staunch Bush supporter. "I think he's a great man, and he's done an unbelievable job for our country. He's a man of faith. He believes in God."
One poster for the series uses a picture of Bush and his Cabinet members with their heads bowed in prayer. Medawar said Christianity will be a central element of the show, whose trailer has an agent saying, "Hey Johnny, do me a favor -- say a prayer," as he runs into a hostage situation.
© Copyright 2004 Globe Newspaper Company.

Saturday, March 06, 2004

You can't make this stuff up: someone is pitching a dramatic TV series a la The West Wing based on the inner workings of the Department of Home Security. The line between entertainment and propaganda, never that solid to begin with, has apparently been erased entirely post 9/11.The sad thing is that I have no doubt one of the networks will pick it up. The good thing is that unless it features sexy women in bikinis, wanna-be rock stars or big fat obnoxious dudes no one will watch it.

Bush Backs New Terrorism TV Series
by Jeffrey Jolson-Colburn, E! News, 2/26/04
George W. Bush is apparently giving the White House seal of approval to a television series, D.H.S.--The Series, a drama about the Department of Home Security being introduced Thursday night to prospective networks at an Industry gathering. President Bush and Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge both "endorse and contribute sound bites to the introductions of the series," according to the show's producers. Though the series' theme relates to the President's agenda on national security and international terrorism, it is virtually unprecedented for the White House to endorse such a fictional representation.,1,13584,00.html

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Why they had to crush Aristide
Haiti's elected leader was regarded as a threat by France and the US

Peter Hallward

Monday March 01 2004
The Guardian (UK)

Jean-Bertrand Aristide was re-elected president of Haiti in November
2000 with more than 90% of the vote. He was elected by people who
approved his courageous dissolution, in 1995, of the armed forces that
had long terrorised Haiti and had overthrown his first administration.
He was elected by people who supported his tentative efforts, made with
virtually no resources or revenue, to invest in education and health. He
was elected by people who shared his determination, in the face of
crippling US opposition, to improve the conditions of the most poorly
paid workers in the western hemisphere.

Aristide was forced from office on Sunday by people who have little in
common except their opposition to his progressive policies and their
refusal of the democratic process. With the enthusiastic backing of
Haiti's former colonial master, a leader elected with overwhelming
popular support has been driven from office by a loose association of
convicted human rights abusers, seditious former army officers and
pro-American business leaders.

It's obvious that Aristide's expulsion offered Jacques Chirac a
long-awaited chance to restore relations with an American administration
he dared to oppose over the attack on Iraq. It's even more obvious that
the characterisation of Aristide as yet another crazed idealist
corrupted by absolute power sits perfectly with the political vision
championed by George Bush, and that the Haitian leader's downfall should
open the door to a yet more ruthless exploitation of Latin American

If you've been reading the mainstream press over the past few weeks,
you'll know that this peculiar version of events has been carefully
prepared by repeated accusations that Aristide rigged fraudulent
elections in 2000; unleashed violent militias against his political
opponents; and brought Haiti's economy to the point of collapse and its
people to the brink of humanitarian catastrophe.

But look a little harder at those elections. An exhaustive and
convincing report by the International Coalition of Independent
Observers concluded that "fair and peaceful elections were held" in
2000, and by the standard of the presidential elections held in the US
that same year they were positively exemplary.

Why then were they characterised as "flawed" by the Organisation of
American States (OAS)? It was because, after Aristide's Lavalas party
had won 16 out of 17 senate seats, the OAS contested the methodology
used to calculate the voting percentages. Curiously, neither the US nor
the OAS judged this methodology problematic in the run-up to the

However, in the wake of the Lavalas victories, it was suddenly important
enough to justify driving the country towards economic collapse. Bill
Clinton invoked the OAS accusation to justify the crippling economic
embargo against Haiti that persists to this day, and which effectively
blocks the payment of about $500m in international aid.

But what about the gangs of Aristide supporters running riot in
Port-au-Prince? No doubt Aristide bears some responsibility for the
dozen reported deaths over the last 48 hours. But given that his
supporters have no army to protect them, and given that the police force
serving the entire country is just a tenth of the force that patrols New
York city, it's worth remembering that this figure is a small fraction
of the number killed by the rebels in recent weeks.

One of the reasons why Aristide has been consistently vilified in the
press is that the Reuters and AP wire services, on which most coverage
depends, rely on local media, which are all owned by Aristide's
opponents. Another, more important, reason for the vilification is that
Aristide never learned to pander unreservedly to foreign commercial
interests. He reluctantly accepted a series of severe IMF structural
adjustment plans, to the dismay of the working poor, but he refused to
acquiesce in the indiscriminate privatisation of state resources, and
stuck to his guns over wages, education and health.

What happened in Haiti is not that a leader who was once reasonable went
mad with power; the truth is that a broadly consistent Aristide was
never quite prepared to abandon all his principles.

Worst of all, he remained indelibly associated with what's left of a
genuine popular movement for political and economic empowerment. For
this reason alone, it was essential that he not only be forced from
office but utterly discredited in the eyes of his people and the world.
As Noam Chomsky has said, the "threat of a good example" solicits
measures of retaliation that bear no relation to the strategic or
economic importance of the country in question. This is why the leaders
of the world have joined together to crush a democracy in the name of

Peter Hallward teaches French at King's College London and is the author
of Absolutely Postcolonial


Tuesday, March 02, 2004

By Yifat Susskind

A political crisis that has been brewing in Haiti since 2000 exploded during the second week of February 2004. Members of an armed movement seeking to overthrow Haiti's President, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, went on a rampage in a dozen Haitian towns, killing more than 60 people. The towns remain under siege by criminal gangs led by former paramilitary members.

There is great concern for the families in these areas, since the armed vigilantes have cut road and telephone access to communities, emptied prisons and blocked convoys of food aid from reaching impoverished areas.

The blockade of food aid is particularly worrisome since, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, nearly half of all Haitians lack access to even minimum food requirements. Hospitals, schools, police stations and other government buildings have been burned and looted. Meanwhile, the US Department of Homeland Security has begun preparations for the internment of up to 50,000 Haitian refugees at the US naval base in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, signaling that the US expects a much greater escalation of violence in Haiti.

What is the Political Backdrop to the Conflict? The crisis dates back to a political stalemate stemming from a contested election. In 2000-the same year that George Bush stole the US presidency-Haiti held elections for 7,500 positions nationwide. Election observers contested the winners of seven senate seats.

President Aristide balked at first, but eventually yielded and the seven senators resigned. Members of Haiti's elite, long hostile to Aristide's progressive economic agenda, saw the controversy as an opportunity to derail his government.

Since 2001, human rights activists and humanitarian workers in Haiti have documented numerous cases of opposition vigilantes killing government officials and bystanders in attacks on the state power station, health clinics, police stations and government vehicles. The US government did not condemn any of these killings.

In January 2004, the opposition escalated its protests. At some demonstrations, government supporters, who represent Haiti's poorest sectors, attacked opposition activists. Only then did US Secretary of State Powell issue a one-sided condemnation of 'militant Aristide supporters.'

In a country as poor as Haiti, control over the institutions of the state is one of the only sources of wealth, making national politics an arena of violent competition. Similarly, in an environment of 70 percent unemployment, the prospect of long-term work as a paramilitary fighter leads many young men to join these forces.

Who is the Opposition? Like the so-called opposition to the Chavez government of Venezuela, Haiti's opposition represents only a small minority (8 percent of the population according to a 2000 poll). With no chance of winning through democratic elections, they rely instead on armed violence to foment a political crisis that will lead to the fall of the government. Using their international business connections, especially ties to the corporate media, the opposition has manufactured an image of itself as the true champion of democracy in Haiti.

The gangs that have placed thousands of Haitians under siege are reportedly armed with US-made M-16s, recently sent by the US to the government of the Dominican Republic.

The gangs are directly linked to two groups financed by the Bush Administration: the right-wing Convergence for Democracy and the pro-business Group of 184.

The Convergence is a coalition of about two dozen groups, ranging from neo-Duvalierists (named for the Duvaliers' dictatorship that ruled Haiti from 1957-1986) to former Aristide supporters. These groups have little in common except their desire to see Aristide overthrown.

According to the Council on Hemispheric Affairs, the opposition's 'only policy goal seems to be reconstituting the army and the implementation of rigorous Structural Adjustment Programs.'

The Convergence is led by former FRAPH paramilitary leaders (including Louis Chamblain, Guy Phillipe and Jean Pierre Baptiste) who carried out the bloody 1991 coup d'etat, in which the CIA-trained and -funded FRAPH overthrew Aristide, killed 5,000 civilians and terrorized Haiti for four years.

The Convergence is supported by the Haitian elite and the leadership of the US Republican Party (through the National Endowment for Democracy and the International Republican Institute).

The Group of 184 is represented by Andy Apaid, a Duvalier supporter and US citizen who obtained a Haitian passport by fraudulently claiming to have been born in Haiti. Apaid owns 15 factories in Haiti and was the main foe of Aristide's 2003 campaign to raise the minimum wage (which, at $1.60 a day, was lower than what it had been 10 years earlier).

By demanding that the opposition be included in any resolution of Haiti's political impasse, the US has greatly empowered these forces. While the opposition perpetuates Haiti's political deadlock, the US embargo (see below) guarantees the island's economic strangulation. Aristide's opponents hope that these combined tactics will achieve what they cannot win through democratic elections: the ouster of Aristide.

Why is it so hard to get a clear picture of what's happening in Haiti? Media Manipulation

One reason is that the opposition has succeeded in mobilizing the mainstream media to create an image of Aristide as a tyrant and the opposition as democratic freedom fighters. For example, international media have run several stories comparing the opposition to the movement to overthrow Haiti's long-time Duvalier dictatorship. Although the Haitian government has condemned attacks by its supporters on opposition forces, mainstream media did not report the condemnations

Most international coverage of the crisis in Haiti comes from the large wire services, Reuters and the Associated Press. These wire services rely almost exclusively on Haiti's elite-owned media (Radio Metropole, Tele-Haiti, Radio Caraibe, Radio Vision 2000 and Radio Kiskeya) for their stories. The outlets are owned and operated by the opposition. For example, Andy Apaid, spokesman for the Group of 184, is the founder of Tele-Haiti.

Progressive journalists have accused these stations of exaggerating reports of violence by government supporters and ignoring violence by opposition forces. These stations air commercials inciting Haitians to overthrow the government.

US Double-Speak

Another reason for confusion is that the Bush Administration is upholding a long US tradition of talking about respect for democracy in Haiti while supporting the country's most anti-democratic, pro- business forces. o The US has encouraged the opposition to refuse to participate in elections and, at the same time, declared that elections in Haiti will only be considered legitimate if the opposition participates.

Powell says that the US is 'not interested in regime change.' But the Administration is supporting a disinformation campaign in the US media, maintaining an embargo that is intensifying hunger and disease amongst Haiti's poorest and supporting the sponsors of armed, vigilante violence that has already killed scores of people.

What is the role of the US in Haiti? The US was the main supporter of the Duvalier dictatorship. In 1986, when Haiti's pro-democracy movement finally succeeded in overthrowing the hated dictator, he was ferried to safety by the Reagan Administration.

Only with the rise of Aristide, Haiti's first democratically elected president, did US support shift from the Haitian leadership to those who orchestrated the 1991 coup d'etat.

In 1994, public pressure and fear of an influx of Haitian 'boat people' led the Clinton Administration to reverse the coup d'etat and restore Aristide to power.

The Republican leadership strongly opposed the intervention. In 1995, when Republicans took control of Congress, they pushed to cancel US aid to Haiti and to finance the opposition by reallocating federal funds to Haitian non-governmental organizations opposed to Aristide.

In 2000, the Republicans exploited Haiti's electoral controversy as an opportunity to discredit Aristide. The Bush Administration pressured the Inter-American Development Bank to cancel more than $650 million in development assistance and approved loans to Haiti -- money that was slated to pay for safe drinking water, literacy programs and health services.

The seven contested senators are long gone, but the embargo remains in place, denying critical services to the poorest people in the hemisphere.

What is Aristide's record? The US allowed Aristide to be reinstated on the condition that he implement a neoliberal economic agenda.

Aristide complied with some US demands, including a reduction of tariffs on US-grown rice that bankrupted thousands of Haitian farmers and maintenance of a below- subsistence-level minimum wage.

But Aristide resisted privatizing state-owned resources, because of protests from his political base and because he was reluctant to relinquish control over these sources of wealth.

Aristide eventually doubled the minimum wage and -- despite the embargo -- prioritized education and healthcare: he built schools and renovated public hospitals; established new HIV-testing centers and doctor-training programs; and introduced a program to subsidize schoolbooks and uniforms and expand school lunch and bussing services.

Aristide has tried to walk a line between US demands for neoliberal reforms and his own commitment to a progressive economic agenda. As a result, he has lost favor with parts of his own political base and Haitian and US elites.

Aristide has also been criticized for turning a blind eye to human rights abuses committed by his supporters and by advocates of good governance for rewarding loyalists with government posts regardless of their qualifications. (a patronage system even more extensive than the one that has filled the Bush Administration with former CEOs and corporate lobbyists.)

So Should Progressives Support Aristide? The current crisis is not about supporting or opposing Aristide the man, but about defending constitutional democracy in Haiti. In a democracy, elections-and not vigilante violence-should be the measure of 'the will of the people.' Aristide has repeatedly invited the opposition to participate in elections and they have refused, knowing that they cannot win at the polls.

How Should the Crisis be Resolved? MADRE supports the proposal of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM, a consortium of Caribbean governments) which:

Rejects any violent overthrow of the government and insists that any change in government be in compliance with Haiti's constitution.

Calls on the opposition to accept Aristide's offer to take part in elections in order to break the impasse that has frozen Haiti's government for the past several years.

Calls on the international community to provide economic assistance to Haiti in order to alleviate the country's grinding poverty and create some foundation for economic and political stability.

MADRE also calls on the Bush Administration to:

Unequivocally denounce the opposition and cease any financial, political or military support for its forces.

Lift the embargo that is denying urgently needed development aid and health programs to Haitian women and families.

Some Statistics on Haiti

The richest 1% of the population controls nearly half of all of Haiti's wealth.

Haiti has long ranked as the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere and is the fourth poorest country in the world.

Haiti ranks 146 out of 173 on the Human Development Index.*

Life expectancy is 52 years for women and 48 for men*.

Adult literacy is about 50%.*

Unemployment is about 70%.*

85% of Haitians live on less than $1 US per day.*

Haiti ranks 38 out of 195 for under-five mortality rate.*

*Source: 'Investigating the Effects of Withheld Humanitarian Aid,' a report of the Haiti Reborn/Quixote Center.

MADRE is working to deliver emergency supplies of food and medicine to women and families in Haiti. In recent weeks, armed gangs seeking to overthrow Haiti's government have prevented food supplies from reaching impoverished communities and attacked government clinics and hospitals. MADRE is working with a local, progressive community-based organization that has a long record of successfully delivering aid to those most in need, even in times of crisis.

Please support this emergency campaign for women and families in Haiti by making a tax-deductible contribution to MADRE.

Haiti Support Group press release - 23 February 2004

Return of the FRAPH/FAD'H

The reappearance of the FRAPH/FAD'H is nothing less than a stinking stain on today's Haiti. - In December 2003, the Workers' Struggle (Batay Ouvriye) organisation succinctly summed up the main protagonists in the struggle for political power in Haiti: "Lavalas and the bourgeois opposition are two rotten buttocks in a torn pair of trousers."

Today, 23 February 2004, as Haitians wake up to the news that the northern city of Cap-Haitien has fallen to a rebel force composed of former Haitian Army (FAD'H) soldiers led by FRAPH leader, Louis Jodel Chamblain, we can perhaps continue with this analogy, and say:

"The reappearance of the FRAPH/FAD'H is nothing less than the excrement that's making a stinking stain on the torn trousers that is Haiti today."

The Haiti Support Group wholeheartedly endorses Amnesty International's 16 February press release which stated, "The last thing that the country needs is for those who committed abuses in the past to take up leadership positions in the armed opposition."

As a solidarity organisation that believes that internationally-recognised human rights standards can lend valuable protection to individuals and organisations struggling to overthrow tyranny and dictatorship, we are deeply concerned that the Haitian opposition - grouped in the Democratic Platform - has failed to unequivocally condemn the emergence of notorious human rights abusers at the head of the armed movement to oust President Aristide.

We are also greatly alarmed to see statements in the media which indicate that the rebel force intends to reinstate the disbanded Haitian Army (FAD'H). Ever since its creation during the US occupation (1915-34), the Haitian Army's primary roles have been to defend the country's tiny and reactionary economic elite and to repress movements for political change. We fully expect a reborn Haitian Army to play exactly the same role.

For this reason, the Haiti Support Group - a solidarity organisation that has supported the Haitian people's struggle for justice, human rights, equitable development and participatory democracy since 1992 - cannot accept that a reborn Haitian Army will serve the best interests of the Haitian majority.

In this context, we are obliged to point out that elements within the Democratic Convergence opposition coalition have long intimated their support for the reinstatement of the Haitian Army, and that, more recently, the continued silence on this issue on the part of the Democratic Platform is a strong indication that it is willing to accept a reborn Haitian Army in exchange for the early departure of President Aristide.

As the desperately grim scenario unfolds in Haiti, we are reminded once again of this extract from an article published in The Washington Post newspaper on 2nd February 2001:

The (Democratic) Convergence was formed as a broad group with help from the International Republican Institute, an organisation that promotes democracy that is closely identified with the U.S. Republican Party.

It includes former Aristide allies - people who helped him fight Haiti's dictators, then soured as they watched him at work. But it also includes former backers of the hated Duvalier family dictatorship and of the military officers who overthrew Aristide in 1991 and terrorised the country for three years. The most determined of these men, with a promise of anonymity, freely express their desire to see the U.S. military intervene once again, this time to get rid of Aristide and rebuild the disbanded Haitian army. "That would be the cleanest solution," said one opposition party leader. Failing that, they say, the CIA should train and equip Haitian officers exiled in the neighboring Dominican Republic so they could stage a comeback themselves."

Background on rebel leaders whose forces are now in control of over half of Haiti: Louis Jodel Chamblain Chamblain was joint leader - along with CIA operative Emmanuel 'Toto' Constant - of the Front révolutionnaire pour l'avancement et le progrès haïtien, (Revolutionary Front for Haitian Advancement and Progress) known by its acronym - FRAPH - which phonetically resembles the French and Creole words for 'to beat' or 'to thrash'.

FRAPH was formed by the military authorities who were the de facto leaders of the country during the 1991-94 military regime, and was responsible for numerous human rights violations before the 1994 restoration of democratic governance.

Among the victims of FRAPH under Chamblain's leadership was Haitian Justice Minister Guy Malary. He was ambushed and machine-gunned to death with his body- guard and a driver on October 14, 1993. According to an October 28, 1993 CIA Intelligence Memorandum obtained by the Center for Constitutional Rights: "FRAPH members Jodel Chamblain, Emmanuel Constant, and Gabriel Douzable met with an unidentified military officer on the morning of 14 October to discuss plans to kill Malary." (Emmanuel "Toto" Constant, the leader of FRAPH, is now living freely in Queens, NYC.)

In September 1995, Chamblain was among seven senior military and FRAPH leaders convicted in absentia and sentenced to forced labour for life for involvement in the September 1993 extrajudicial execution of Antoine Izméry, a well-known pro-democracy activist. In late 1994 or early 1995, it is understood that Chamblain went into exile to the Dominican Republic in order to avoid prosecution.

Guy Philippe Guy Philippe is a former member of the FAD'H (Haitian Army). During the 1991-94 military regime, he and a number of other officers received training from the US Special Forces in Equador, and when the FAD'H was dissolved by Aristide in early 1995, Philippe was incorporated into the new National Police Force. He served as police chief in the Port-au-Prince suburb of Delmas and in the second city, Cap-Haitien, before he fled Haiti in October 2000 when Haitian authorities discovered him plotting what they described as a coup, together with a clique of other police chiefs. Since that time, the Haitian government has accused Philippe of master-minding deadly attacks on the Haitian Police Academy and the National Palace in July and December 2001, as well as hit-and-run raids against police stations on Haiti's Central Plateau over last two years.

Ernst Ravix According to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights report on Haiti, dated 7 September 1988, FAD'H Captain Ernst Ravix, was the military commander of Saint Marc, and head of a paramilitary squad of "sub- proletariat youths" who called themselves the Sans Manman (Motherless Ones). In May 1988, the government of President Manigat tried to reduce contraband and corruption in the port city of Saint Marc, but Ravix, the local Army commander, responded by organising a demonstration against the President in which some three thousand residents marched, chanted, and burned barricades. Manigat removed Ravix from his post, but after Manigat's ouster, he was reinstated by the military dictator, Lt. Gen. Namphy.

Ravix was not heard of again until December 2001 when former FAD'H sergeant, Pierre Richardson, the person captured following the 17 December attack on the National Palace, reportedly confessed that the attack was a coup attempt planned in the Dominican Republic by three former police chiefs- Guy Philippe, Jean-Jacques Nau and Gilbert Dragon - and that it was led by former Captain Ernst Ravix. According to Richardson, Ravix's group withdrew from the National Palace and fled to the Dominican Republic when reinforcements failed to arrive.

Jean Tatoune Jean Pierre Baptiste, alias "Jean Tatoune", first came to prominence as a leader of the anti- Duvalier mobilisations in his home town of Gonaives in 1985. For some years he was known and respected for his anti-Duvalierist activities but during the 1991-94 military regime he emerged as a local leader of FRAPH. On 22 April 1994, he led a force of dozens of soldiers and FRAPH members in an attack on Raboteau, a desperately poor slum area in Gonaives and a stronghold of support for Aristide. Between 15 and 25 people were killed in what became known as the Raboteau massacre.

In 2000, Tatoune was put on trial and sentenced to forced labour for life for his participation in the Raboteau massacre. He was subsequently imprisoned in Gonaives, from where he escaped in August 2002, and took up arms again in his base in a poor area of the city. At various times he has spoken out against the government, and at other times in favour of it, but since September 2003 he has allied himself with the followers of murdered community leader, Amiot Metayer, and vowed to overthrow the government by force.

Jean-Baptiste Joseph Joseph is a former Haitian Army sergeant who, following the disbanding of the FAD'H in 1995, headed an association of former FAD'H members. The formation of the Rassemblement des Militaires Révoqués Sans Motifs (RAMIRESM), the Assembly of Soldiers Retired Without Cause was announced at a 1 August 1995 press conference in Port-au-Prince. During 1995 and 1996, RAMIRESM was closely associated with Hubert De Ronceray's neo-Duvalierist party, Mobilisation pour le développement national, (MDN) Mobilisation for National Development.

On 17 August 1996, Joseph was one of 15 former soldiers arrested at the MDN party headquarters and accused of plotting against the government. Two days later, approximately twenty armed men, reportedly in uniforms and thought to be former soldiers, fired on the main Port-au-Prince police station, killing one bystander.

Since then nothing had been heard of Joseph, until he emerged in Hinche with the rebel forces last week. The right-wing MDN party is a leading member of the Democratic Convergence coalition.

Monday, March 01, 2004

Saddam, Oil and Empire

Supply versus Demand


(An excerpt from Larry Everest's new book Oil, Power and Empire.)

World oil markets have become increasingly tight and volatile, and this has become a major potential problem. Several trends are responsible: global supplies have not been growing as fast as demand, key energy-producing regions are highly unstable, and there is heated competition for control of oil and natural gas sources.

The demand for energy has been rising by some 2.5 percent a year as industrialization spreads around the world. In 2003, global consumption stood at 77 million barrels of oil a day; by 2010, if these trends continue, it could rise to over 90 million barrels a day, a 17 percent increase.

However, petroleum output--and especially production capacity--are not growing nearly as fast. (Of course, immediate demand for petroleum oscillates with the ups and downs of the global economy; here we are focusing on longer-term trends in capacity and demand.)
An April 2001 report by the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations and the Baker Institute for Public Policy, two high profile establishment think-tanks run by former government officials, was commissioned by Vice President Dick Cheney to help shape a new U.S. energy strategy. Their report, "Strategic Energy Policy Challenges For The 21st Century" (hereafter the "Baker report"), singled out the lack of spare production capacity as a key concern:

Perhaps the most significant difference between now and a decade ago is the extraordinarily rapid erosion of spare capacities at critical segments of energy chains. Today, shortfalls appear to be endemic. Among the most extraordinary of these losses in spare capacity is in the oil arena.

The Baker Report noted that in 1985, OPEC spare production capacity stood at 25 percent of global demand, but in 1990 it had fallen to eight percent, and by 2001 was a mere two percent. Without an adequate cushion of spare capacity, shortages could occur and prices could spike:

the world is currently precariously close to utilizing all of its available global oil production capacity, raising the chances of an oil supply crisis with more substantial consequences than seen in three decades.

A related problem is that energy sources are concentrated in some of the most tumultuous areas in the world. According to energy forecasts, by 2050 the Persian Gulf/Caspian Sea region will account for more than 80 percent of world oil and natural gas production. The region's reserves are estimated to be 800 billion barrels of oil and an energy equivalent amount in natural gas. Meanwhile, total oil reserves in the Americas and Europe are less than 160 billion barrels and will be exhausted in the next 25 years.

Former Carter official Zbigniew Brzezinski calls the Persian Gulf/Central Asian region "the global zone of percolating violence" and warns that it will likely be "a major battlefield, both for wars among nation-states and, more likely, for protracted ethnic and religious violence." In his book Jihad vs. McWorld, Benjamin Barber calculates that 69 percent of the total world production of oil and 92 percent of the world's proven oil reserves are "in nations that are at a high and moderate risk for current or future ethnic conflicts"--located mainly in this same region. Pentagon officials talk of an "arc of instability" running from the Andes in South America through North Africa, the Middle East, into Southeast Asia.

This volatility, which results from many factors including resistance to oppressive U.S.-backed regimes, presents a number of challenges to U.S. power. First, America faces difficulties maintaining its hold on the Middle East, which remains the world's premiere oil-producing region. Second, another center of world energy production has opened up in the former Soviet Republics of Central Asia. The region's geopolitical "tectonic plates" are in motion and its future economic and political orientation is now being fought out. Third, these and other developments have impeded investment in oil and natural gas production and hindered their expansion. The Baker Report points to political difficulties and under-investment in oil-producing countries as prime culprits in a crisis of energy production growth:

[T]he US government has operated under the assumption that the national oil companies of these countries would make the investments needed to maintain enough surplus capacity to form a cushion against disruptions elsewhere. For several years, these assumptions appeared justified.

But recently, things have changed. These Gulf allies are finding their domestic and foreign policy interests increasingly at odds with US strategic considerations, especially as Arab-Israeli tensions flare. They have become less inclined to lower oil prices in exchange for security of markets, and evidence suggests that investment is not being made in a timely enough manner to increase production capacity in line with growing global needs. A trend toward anti-Americanism could affect regional leaders' ability to cooperate with the United States in the energy area.

The Baker report argued that these problems "highlight the concentration of resources in the Middle East Gulf region and the vulnerability of the global economy to domestic conditions in the key producer countries." The U.S. agenda includes reshaping these "domestic conditions"--by force if need be.

The world's major energy multinationals are blocked from investing in many of the world's richest producing countries--mainly by nationally-owned oil companies which were a product of the anti-colonial upsurges of the 1950s and 1960s. In February 2003, the chairman of ExxonMobil stated that his company's output was not keeping up with demand: "When we consider, that as demand increases, our existing base production declines, we come squarely to the magnitude of the task before us. About half the oil and gas volume needed to meet demand 10 years from now is not in production today." The New York Times concluded that ExxonMobil's problems stem from "flat" production, the decline of its existing fields in North America and the North Sea, and the fact that "more than 90 percent of the world's proven oil reserves are owned by countries, national oil companies and the Russian oil companies"--many of which are closed to direct foreign investment. "As competition in the oil industry!

ts tighter, the challenge is accessing the reserves in the new areas, and every issue counts," one energy company executive commented.

In Iraq, non-Arab foreign investment was outlawed by the Ba'ath regime, and in 2000, investment in the Middle East accounted for only 70 cents of every $100 spent by U.S. companies for oil and gas exploration and development.

Feeding America's Petro-Dependence

The U.S. government has made clear that it is incapable of dealing with these mounting problems through conservation, ending the petro-dependence of the U.S. economy, or energy self-reliance. In May 2001, the Bush administration issued a "National Energy Policy," often referred to as the Cheney report, which emphatically declared that the U.S. economy would continue to consume a grossly disproportionate share of the planet's natural resources: "Our prosperity and way of life are sustained by energy use."

A year later, the Environmental Protection Agency reported that average fuel economy for U.S. cars and trucks fell to its lowest level in 22 years.

The Cheney report made no bones about the fact that domestic oil production won't come close to meeting U.S. consumption, even if the Arctic wilderness was exploited. The same will soon be true for natural gas, so the U.S. will have to import more and more of each. "Over the next twenty years, U.S. oil consumption will increase by 33 percent, natural gas consumption by well over 50 percent, and demand for electricity will rise by 45 percent. If America's energy production grows at the same rate as it did in the 1990s, we will face an ever-increasing gap," the report states, noting that the U.S. produces "39 percent less oil today than we did in 1970." It concludes that if current trends continue, the U.S. will be importing two-thirds of its oil within 20 years -- up from 37 percent in 1980.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) predicts that natural gas imports will more than double between 2001 and 2025, and imports of liquefied natural gas, much of it from Third World countries, will increase more than 10 fold. Shortly after the 2003 war, the director of Rice University's energy program told The New York Times, "We're on the verge of discovering that natural gas is almost as important as oil for our energy supplies...Once we wake up to this, we'll have to deal with the geopolitical implications of importing natural gas from some of the more unsavory parts of the world."

The Cheney report's solution is to gain access, leverage, and control of energy sources across the planet, from Colombia and Venezuela -- where the U.S. has been maneuvering against guerrilla insurgents and a nationalist-oriented government -- to the Middle East, the Caspian Basin and east Asia. The report argues that "energy security must be a priority of U.S. trade and foreign policy."

The new National Security Strategy echoes this orientation. It calls enhancing "energy security," a major goal and commits the U.S. to "expand the sources and types of global energy supplied, especially in the Western Hemisphere, Africa, Central Asia, and the Caspian region."