Saturday, October 29, 2011

य'अल विल बे हैप्पी तो लीनर स्प्रिंग क्लेईन्त २०००इस फाइट accompli

Spent 80 hors these last three weeks orgainzing and reorganizing "stuff" and finally it all started to fit together like a suduko puzzle ... it all came to a head it all came to fruition!


Thursday, October 27, 2011

This might not have been the most prudent e-mail I ever sent (which is saying a LOT!)

My Dear Mr. Andrew J. Borst,

I'm a 1973 graduate of WIU )Math Major, Statistics Minor - nominated to Phi Beta Kappa, but, graduated early before the dinner) and want to return for a Master's Degree.

Under ideal circumstances, I'm seeking a Master's in interdisciplinary studies structured towards facilitating my next career move (performing musician / fund raiser / political activist).

My contact information is:

Home phone: xxx xxx xxxx
Cell phone: yyy yyy yyyy
Address: xxxx x xxxxx xxx
Barrington, IL 60010

In particular, I would like to use my professional and life experiences to address at the West-Central Illinois Regional Area the following issues:

Allocation of Funding for Public Health and Safety

The single most unreported story in the history of history appeared in ABC News' web
site in February, 2011, which told of IBM approaching Barack Obama with a proposal
use their computer expertise to reduce Medicare / Medicaid expenditures by $900 Billion.
This offer was refused, which is most extraordinary.

Nonetheless, at the regional (and state) level, improvements of the quality of life and of
death can be obtained at huge cost savings simply by spending more money on routine
preventative check ups and wise use of Hospice for terminal patients. Such matters
can be quantified, and health care personnel can be trained (or retrained) to provide
health care with a much different emphasis (at the present, 90% of Medicare payments
are made to recipients who will live less than one year).

There is a brilliant model for offering such services in the Chicago area (and one that
could be developed on a parallel basis at WIU). My personal physician who has treated
me pro bono for the last 10 years works for a medical clinic that has on staff 10 doctors,
two physician assistants, and six support staff for check in and check out. In addition,
they have a couple of dozen health care workers. They see patients, at their busiest
peak hours at the rate of one every 90 seconds, which is TRULY astounding.

The reality is this: HEALTH care is a matter of national security (when the next influenza epidemic hits, and 10's of 1000's of people die, and millions are laid low, we will all be reminded of why this is so). FURTHERMORE, no one ought to make a profit on either the
good or bad health of any human being.

In addition, there are "hot spots" in the state, specifically Streator, Illinois, where I grew up, where the rate of deaths from cancer is 250% higher than the nation wide average. This undoubtedly is the result of toxins in the soil and in the air under and surrounding Streator. With its history as first a coal mining community, then a farming community, and finally the glass manufacturing capital of the world, any number of toxins might have escaped into the environment. By charting the places where the victims of cancer have lived, it ought to be possible to determine WHERE the toxins are most heavily concentrated, and then what to do to remove them and purify the soil and fix the mess.

Law Enforcement

White collar crime is much more costly in both financial terms and theft of assets, the
break up of families, the break down of health, the devastation of communities. LAW
enforcement should be geared to using forensic accounting methods and computer
surveillance to detect major fraud (ENRON for seven years running was rated the top
company in America; if ENRON is the best, then what about those companies that
aren't so good?)

On the flip side, burglary, robbery, auto theft tend to be crimes committed by people
of lower social standing who are motivated by, literally, hunger, and a lack of education
which leads to a lack of opportunity for employment, and poverty ad infinitum. Our
prisons ought to provide educational opportunities to equip men (and women) in the
early stages of their criminal careers with skill sets to be able to make a living wage
outside of prison (as consultants to businesses and home owners in high crime
areas is most assuredly a live possibility). The entire thrust of the prison system in
the country ought to be reversed so that those who come from favored backgrounds
and commit crimes against many citizens (with the sweep of a pen, or the smudge of
an eraser) ought to serve REAL jail time and to the full extent available under the law,
while people of impoverished circumstances ought to be able to give a chance to
rehabilitate themselves and become contributing citizens (who pay taxes, own their
homes and businesses and are willing to give some of what they have to the less


The whole educational canon needs to be re-examined. While schools do a fine job
of graduating technicians, much more is required of a good citizen than mere technical
expertise: critical thinking and a historical over view being two of the most needed and
most neglected areas, along with multicultural studies.

Mental Health

Western medicine cannot cure the common cold and cannot cure depression. Much
work and rethinking is needed in the mental health field. Giving someone a drug to
mask the symptoms of a "pathology" is hardly dealing with root causes and the pain
that must be endured to get past the original sticking point. The emphasis should be
on talk "therapy" for most of the so-called "mental illnesses" rather than medication
(depression, Alzheimers, dementia, and schizophrenia being exceptions to this
(broad generalization).

Becoming Independent of Foreign Oil

It ought to be possible to run a rural region (such as McDonough County) utilizing
electric energy (perhaps issue every man, woman, and child a golf cart and build
the infrastructure to re-charge them every 5 miles or so) rail technology (there are
train tracks that in theory would permit any one to get from anywhere to any where
else via rail road - how fast and efficient might innovative design and thinking make
rail roads?) the outright banning of motor vehicles during certain hours of the day
(police, emergency response vehicles, and trucks being exceptions) to make room
for a lot of golf carts.

My professional and personal adult background includes the following experiences:

10 years as an actuary, working for Bankers Life & Casualty Company where I became a Fellow of the Society of Actuaries and a Member of the American Academy of Actuaries. My duties there involved pricing, experience studies, new product compliance, old product restoration, financial projections for both FIT purposes, and for the ultimate sale of BL&C's health insurance and mass-marketed Life Insurance books of business.

10 years as a technical writer / editor - script writer for various Junior College College Algebra and Trigonometry text books and grade school and junior high school mathematics text books,as well as writing questions and checking answer keys.

2 years in the publishing industry, working for Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers (BCP) as the home office liaison to the Hughes Aircraft System Engineer who developed the coding to convert BCP's twp-year self teaching Latin Program (Artes Latinae) from an audio-cassette / text book format to a CDRom / text book format. Additional duties there involved ghost writing the Publisher's preface to the Complete Writings and Speeches of Adolph Hitler, soliciting colleges and universities for the emplacement of ads in BCP's semi-annual catalogues, and pricing the CDRom version of the Artes Latinae program and cost estimating the expenditures for the ultimate completion of the AL-conversion product.

20 years as a contract bridge instructor. I'm a professional bridge player, earning my income primarily from teaching. I've also presented more than 30 lectures about the game in various regional tournaments around the midwest.

20 years as a golf caddie. I've caddied for Byron Nelson and Andy North, plus a number of the top Illinois club professionals from the Chicago area. I'm also a scratch golfer and have worked as a golf instructor.

2 years in the food and bevridge industry - working as a wait staff person, bartender, night clean up.

Several months working as a movie extra for three movies: Home Alone Part 2; The Babe; Hoffa.

30 years as a professional recording musician, singer, song writer. I'd rate myself the world's most prolific recording artist, given the six CDs and one DVD I cut in a five week period from this past December 2010 - January 2011. Within the next 2-3 months I will be touring the Chicago
area, the Stae of Illinois, and finally the country allocating 60% of the net proceeds to charities, primarily (a) kevlar vests for our troops, (b) organic farming, (c) luekimia research.

I've also been homeless, on social security total disability, in jail (multiple times), and in various mental institutions (typically committed involuntarily).

I have a very strong spiritual relationship with God, or the Universe, and although I call myself a Lutheran, I also converted to Islam in 2007, which event fortified and strengthened my Christian beliefs considerably.

Like Chief Seattle, I see all things as connected, and I believe my life's experiences have given me insights into the human condition that few, if any, can completely share.

Thank you for your attention to this e-mail. I would like to interview for a Master's degree program and discuss these matters further with the various department chairs, or advisors. My time is quite flexible, although I must travel in the mornings in order to keep my transportation expenses to a bare minimum, and furthermore, need to meet during the working week.

I look forward to hearing from you, and hopefully soon.

Respectfully yours,

Mark Raymond Ganzer

Once again, my contact information is:

Home phone: xxx xxx xxxx
Cell phone: yyy yyy yyyy
Address: xxxx x xxxxx xxx
Barrington, IL 60010

At first blush, it appears as if I must be a lunatic. But, what I was asking for was something I know the university did not offer. I would not have wanted to be accepted into a program tailor-made for me and then have somebody discover some the inconvenient truths about me, and get seller's remorse. So, I just put everything up front, to see the reaction I get, as much as anything else. Why would I even want to associate with something that would hold my mental illness misdiagnosis, prison record, etc, etc, etc against me?

Hey, I live in AMERICA - land of the serfs, home of the slaves, and wouldn't I rather not get emotionally involved with somebody who would freak over this shit?

It's so gratifying to be appreciated for what you do. Why don't more people take the time to say, "thanks?"

Thanks to everyone who helped deliver the Freedom of Speech in Chicago petition today! Thanks to the 9,500 signers so far!

We delivered the Freedom of Speech in Chicago petition to Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office today at about 12:30. There were about thirty petition deliverers.

At the time of delivery the petition had 9,500+ signatures (as of this email, there are over 11,000!)

We began with a rally at Daley Plaza at 11:45 with signs that stated “We Want Peaceable Assembly Rights for Occupy Chicago”. Wyl Villacres, the petition writer, read the First Amendment to the Constitution stating the rights of citizens to peaceably assemble and to petition our government for redress. We used the Human Microphone, in which the speaker says a phrase and the group echoes his or her words.

Then, using the Human Microphone, Wyl read some of your comments from the petition. At 12:15 we marched to City Hall chanting “We Want Peaceable Assembly Rights for Occupy Chicago”. All of us were allowed to go in the building and to go to the 5th floor to the mayor’s office. We read the petition and cover letter using the Human Microphone. We requested to meet with Mayor Emmanuel.

Word came that a representative would come out to receive the petition. While we waited we chanted “We Want Peaceable Assembly Rights for Occupy Chicago”. We also gave a shout out to teachers, libraries and librarians, police, mental health resources, students, and more. The acoustics in front of the Mayor’s office are terrific, we note.

Mr. Andy Orellana, Press Aide, Mayor’s Press Office,, 312-744-4351, came out to meet us. Wyl read the cover letter and petition to Mr. Orellana, and handed it to him. We then left, chanting “We Want Peaceable Assembly Rights for Occupy Chicago” as we entered the elevators.

Later, at General Assembly at Occupy Chicago there was an announcement that the Mayor’s office is tallying phone calls in favor or against allowing Occupy Chicago to have a base in Grant Park where they can remain 24/7. To speak out call Dial 311 (within Chicago), If calling from outside of Chicago, call: 312.744.5000 (Note: If you can’t get through at 311 in Chicago call the 312.744.5000 number)

Please keep the petition going! We need more folks to support peaceable assembly rights for Occupy Chicago!

Nancy Wade
Co-Organizer, Deliver the Freedom of Speech in Chicago Petition

IT is rewarding to see how successful my alma mater's masters degree programs are

E-mail I sent this morning to the President of Western Illinois University:

Dear President Thomas,

It is rewarding to see that your Masters Degree Programs are so successful that your graduate admissions office cannot even find the time to issue a courtesy pro forma "Sorry, we do not offer the type of program you are seeking. Best of luck in your continuing academic endeavors."

(Irony is not dead; but irony can be deadly.)

I phoned the graduate admissions office a few weeks back. The very pleasant person I talked with advised me that her boss, who could answer my question in re: an interdisciplinary masters degree program was recruiting in the Chicago area, but that she would leave for her my name and telephone number.

I continue to await her call, but have long since given up holding my breath.

I also sent an e-mail to the head of your admissions department. He may even have kept his copy of it. I suspect he was most unimpressed, but, once again, had not the simple courtesy to send a pro-forma "sorry, but we can't help" response.

I graduated WIU in 1973, one quarter early, and although I was nominated for Phi Beta Kappa, because of my early graduation, it seemed like a moot point.

My father is in the WIU Athletic Hall of Fame, having varsity lettered in four different sports - football, wrestling (which he also student-coached), boxing, and golf.

MANY of my friends and acquaintances have graduated from what I once considered to be as fine a school as any in the land, on the basis that ALL my teachers' doors were opened to me at any hour of the school day. ALL my teachers shared a genuine appreciation of my scholarship. And what is the heart and soul of the university, anyway, if not its professors?

I have spoken of these matters at great length with Dr Lenora Jean Daniels, PhD, who was blackballed from teaching a number of her specialty courses in Philadelphia, and who was a victim of the academic equivalent of genocide, the purging of all the socialist, anarchist, and liberal social science professors from the University of Wisconsin.

Apparently, WIU has chosen to pick its students to fit a certain preconceived mold, that will dovetail nicely with corporate interests.

Here's a news flash for you, sir:

Corporate interests and the college-aged youth of America are SO at odds with each other, that students, unable to get jobs in their fields (engineering, DP, CIS - those which have not been outsourced have been filled by the 250,000 academic admittees to the US from foreign lands who are willing to work for 50-65% of what American workers would find acceptable, thereby supressing the wages of American workers). The Occupy Movements are NOT going away any time soon, and, quite frankly, the irrelevance of degrees from Universities below the brand name recognition of the usual suspects - the Ivy Leagues, U of C, Stanford, MIT, to major law firms, investment banks, etc, etc, etc, is so transparent and apparent, that in the very near future, if not already, the salad days of universities blithely increasing their tuitions annually (yes, I am most assuredly aware of Western's guarantees in this arena), the better to fund their big athletic programs ever more generously, are going to be a thing of the past; and a dim past it has been.

While I actually expect no response whatsoever from you based on what I have so far written, the corporate stance of the university in these matters appears to be to play ostrich and hide its head in the sand, I now, like all good professors do, reiterate, and expand upon some earlier points:

I graduated WIU in 1973, one quarter early, and although I was nominated for Phi Beta Kappa, because of my early graduation, it seemed like a moot point.

My father is in the WIU Athletic Hall of Fame, having varsity lettered in four different sports - football, wrestling (which he also student-coached), boxing, and golf.

MANY of my friends and acquaintances have graduated from what I once considered to be as fine a school as any in the land, on the basis that ALL my teachers' doors were opened to me at any hour of the school day.

The grand children of our friends and acquaintances are getting about to be college age.

I fully intend to write EACH AND EVERY ONE to express my disappointment with YOU, with my alma mater, and with your graduate admissions staff. I will strongly encourage them to donate to other, FAR MORE WORTHY CAUSES - the world health organization, KIVA, the March of Dimes, to name a few that come to my mind.

I will encourage my father to do the same with his colleagues.

Why should an irrelevant university get our charitable donations?

AND irrelevant you are fast becoming, (as are most of this nation's colleges and universities, and as some of the major ones ALREADY ARE - Harvard, University of Chicago to name but two - which essentially brought us the IT bubble, the housing bubble, ENRON, etc, etc, etc).

There WILL (always) be a place for forward thinking universities with freedom of academic thought.

There is not a place for your university as it appears to me to be presently positioning itself.

Sincerely yours,

Mark Raymond Ganzer

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Why don't we just deport every government employee with dual citizenship?

That way, Chicago is spared the burden (and it WILL be a horror) of the Rham Emmanuel administration.

And the U.S. rids itself of the neo-cons!

Greater Israel - or Peace? Face it, Israel hasn't been great since the daze of Jeroboam and Rehoboam - no matter they kill 100X as many Arabs

Pathbreaking scholars Norman Finkelstein and John Mearsheimer speak out about the precarious future of the Jewish state.Greater Israel-or Peace?
Shortly before Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas arrived in New York to seek United Nations recognition of a Palestinian state, TAC’s Scott McConnell sat down with Norman Finkelstein and John Mearsheimer to discuss the deeper currents shaping the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Since then, President Obama has given a speech shocking in its deference to Benjamin Netanyahu and Israel’s right-wing coalition, and there is no immediate prospect for renewed Israeli-Palestinian negotiations—the “peace process” begun with discussions in Oslo, Norway in 1991. Israel has announced fresh plans to move settlers into Palestinian areas of Jerusalem it conquered in 1967.

As daunting as the prospects for peace may be, Israel no longer enjoys immunity from criticism within the American media and academy—thanks in large part to the work of scholars like Mearsheimer and Finkelstein, who have forced a debate among foreign-policy thinkers and the American left over the price Americans, Israelis, and Palestinians all pay for Tel Aviv’s policies.

One of America’s most important dissident scholars, Norman Finkelstein has written six books touching on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In 2007, after he had been recommended by DePaul University’s political science department and described by the university as an “outstanding teacher,” he was denied tenure thanks to an unprecedented lobbying campaign waged by Alan Dershowitz, who had long sparred with Finkelstein over Israel. Finkelstein is the child of European Jews who survived Auschwitz and Majdanek, which gave added force to his book The Holocaust Industry, critical of ways Israel has exploited the Holocaust for financial and political gain. His most recent work, This Time We Went Too Far, is an analysis of Israel’s 2008-09 war against the Palestinians in Gaza.

Professor John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago is one of America’s foremost international relations scholars. He created a storm in 2006 when he and co-author Stephen Walt of Harvard University published the essay “The Israel Lobby,” which was later expanded into a best-selling book.

Scott McConnell: Have we come to the end of the Oslo process? Is a two‑state solution still a viable possibility?

Norman Finkelstein: The problem is the definition of terms. The Oslo process, contrary to what’s widely understood, was largely a success. It’s true now that it may be at an impasse, but as it was originally conceived, it was largely a success. The Israeli leadership was very clear about what it intended from the Oslo process.

Mainly, Rabin said—the former prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin—that if we can get the Palestinians to do the dirty work in the Occupied Territories, there’s going to be less pressure from human rights organizations. They wouldn’t cause as many problems if the Palestinians were doing the policing. And there was a military reason: namely, a large number of Israeli troops was bogged down in the Occupied Territories. That meant time taken away from military training.

The quid pro quo was, well, in 1990‑91 the PLO made what seemed to have been a tactical or strategic error by supporting Saddam Hussein, and they lost all of their funding from the Gulf States. And basically the United States and Israel threw them a life preserver, saying, “If you switch sides, you do what we want you to do, we’ll keep you alive.” That was the choice that the Palestinians made, or the Palestinian leadership made. But then a new problem arose, and that’s Hamas began to rise in power.

John Mearsheimer: The Israelis—and this was especially true of Rabin when the Oslo peace process got started—had no interest in giving the Palestinians a viable state. What they wanted was to restrict the Palestinians to a handful of Bantustans that were located inside of Greater Israel, and it could be called a Palestinian state. In a very important way, Oslo has been successful in that it has allowed the Israelis, working with the Palestinian Authority, to create a situation where the Palestinians have some autonomy in these Bantustans.

McConnell: You say this about Rabin too? He’s considered the most peace-oriented Israeli.

Finkelstein: He was the most rigid. Even Rabin’s wife, afterwards, during the Camp David negotiations, said that her husband would never have agreed to the concessions that [Prime Minister Ehud] Barak made. Now remember, Barak barely made any concessions. But she said her husband would have never agreed to that. I think she’s probably right. In Rabin’s last speech to the Knesset before he was assassinated, he said, “I don’t support a Palestinian state.” He said, “Something less than it.”

Mearsheimer: It’s also important to understand the American position since the Oslo process began has reflected very clearly the Israeli position. It was considered politically unacceptable in the United States to use the words “Palestinian state” until Bill Clinton’s last month in office.

The first time Bill Clinton uttered the words “Palestinian state” was in January of 2001. If you remember, in 1998 Hillary Clinton, who was then the first lady, said that she thought it would be very good for peace in the region if Palestinians had a state of their own. All hell broke loose. The president had to dissociate himself from his wife because it was so controversial. This was 1998, five years after the Oslo peace accords had been signed.

As unusual as this may sound, or as paradoxical as this may sound, it was actually George W. Bush who was the first president who really put the issue of a Palestinian state on the table. But even he realized that with Ariel Sharon as his counterpart in Israel there was no way he could push in any meaningful manner for the Palestinians to get a viable state of their own. And again, that’s the key to having a deal.

McConnell: Do you think there is a framework for a possible deal in the kind of negotiations that went on late in Barak’s term before Sharon’s election, at the 2001 Taba summit and things like that?

Finkelstein: What you can say with a fair amount of generality is that if you look at the Taba map, and you look at the map that [Prime Minister Ehud] Olmert presented in 2006, they look the same. They all call for keeping about 9 percent of the West Bank, and they all call for keeping the large settlement blocs, what’s called Ariel in the north and Maale Adumim in the center. It is impossible to construct a Palestinian state with those maps.

Mearsheimer: Ariel reaches far out into the West Bank and actually sits on top of the largest aquifer in the West Bank, and it was put there for a purpose. Maale Adumim is designed to give Israel control well out into the heart of the West Bank. And the people who built those settlements understood full well that it would be almost impossible for any Israeli political leader to abandon them and turn them over to the Palestinians.

The reason that the Oslo peace process is dead and that you’re not going to get a two‑state solution is that the political center of gravity in Israel has moved far enough to the right over time that it’s, in my opinion, unthinkable that the Israelis would number one, give up the Jordan River valley; number two, abandon Ariel and Maale Adumim; and number three, allow for a capital in East Jerusalem.

So given all those factors, I think that we’re rapidly reaching the point—in fact, I think we’ve reached that point—where we’re going to have a Greater Israel which runs from the Jordan River valley to the Mediterranean.

Finkelstein: I don’t agree with that. There are many reasons to be pessimistic. But there are also some grounds for a reasonable amount of optimism. Things are changing in the region, and things are changing in the world. Like you say, the Israeli political establishment has moved to the right. The Israeli population has moved to the right, it has a siege mentality. But those are political factors.

And then the question is trying to change the calculus of power. Here things are changing. There are changes in American public opinion, which are quite significant when you look at the polls. There are changes in Jewish public opinion. There are major regional changes—what’s happening now between Israel and Turkey that’s part of an Arab Spring.

Mearsheimer: I think there’s no question that the international environment that Israel operates in is changing in profound ways, and developments in Turkey and Egypt are probably the best two examples of that. As a result of all this, Israel has a growing sense that it’s isolated, that it really only has one friend in the world, which is the United States.

Now the $64,000 question is whether that’s likely to lead Israel to be more flexible in the short to medium term, or is it likely to cause them to hunker down and be much less flexible and even more bellicose than they have been. And I would bet that the latter would be the case.

McConnell: What difference does it make that Turkey and Egypt are no longer de facto allies of Israel?

Finkelstein: I think a lot of it is psychological, and not psychological in the sense of Oprah psychological. It’s a whole way of relating to the region. Israel has the sense that this is its region. And it’s very disorienting for them to feel as if they’re losing control in that part of the world, that the natives are getting restless.

Mearsheimer: I put Norman’s point in slightly different terms, that is to say, I think what is at stake for the Israelis here is legitimacy, and I think that for them, and for most countries, legitimacy matters greatly. If you read the Israeli press, you’ll see there are all sorts of concerns about de-legitimization. And if you listen to people in the American Jewish community talk about what’s happening to Israel, they’re deeply concerned about de‑legitimization. What’s happening here with Turkey and with Egypt is that as those countries become more democratized and more critical of Israel, they’re adding fuel to that de‑legitimization fire.

There’s no question that most European governments will support Israel at the UN, and there’s certainly no question that the United States will. But the support in Europe, and even the support in the United States, is not terribly deep. It’s wide, right, but not deep.

Finkelstein: Actually support for Israel is no longer that wide. It used to be fair to say wide but not deep, wide and thin. But now if you look at the polls, it’s actually quite surprising. In Pew polls of the last few years, the negative opinion of Israel is kind of astonishing.

Mearsheimer: It’s right down there with Iran, North Korea…

Finkelstein: Well, it’s always ranked with Iran, North Korea, and Pakistan. They’re the four countries least liked in the world. But even if you take countries which have the strongest Israel lobbies—apart from the U.S., it’s Canada, the U.K., France, Germany, and Australia—look at the polls. Even in places like Canada, the polls show about 15 to 20 percent having a positive view of Israel, 60 or 70 percent having a negative view. Public opinion has really swung. Even in the U.S., by the way.

McConnell: Let’s try to tease this out, I mean, the number of Americans who consider themselves pro‑Israeli as opposed to pro-Palestinian has been kind of constant, like a 60 to 10 ratio, and hasn’t changed very much over a generation.

Finkelstein: Except—if you put it “pro‑Israel versus pro‑Palestinian,” that’s correct—if you look at it in terms of, “Do you have a positive or negative opinion of Israel?” for the first time in the last two or three years it’s come down to 50/50. It has changed.

Mearsheimer: I think that’s very important, but I think there’s an even more important indicator of how weak the support is. And that is that if you ask Americans if the United States should support Israel or the Palestinians in their conflict, roughly 70 percent, sometimes up to 75 percent, say we should favor neither side.

It’s really quite remarkable. We have this special relationship where we favor Israel axiomatically over Palestinians at every critical juncture. But here you have a situation where the American people, three-fourths of them, are saying that the United States should favor neither side. In fact, what the American people want to see is the United States act as a—what’s the word?

McConnell: Neutral arbiter.

Mearsheimer: Yeah, a neutral arbiter rather than as Israel’s lawyer.

When you think about how Americans deal with Israel, there are three dimensions to it. One is how people think about Israel and America’s relationship with Israel. Number two is how they talk about it, and number three is actual U.S. policy. There’s great variation among those three dimensions.

I think that over the past ten years how Americans think about Israel has changed in significant ways. More and more people are aware of what the Israelis are doing to the Palestinians. They understand that this is bad for the United States from a strategic point of view, and it’s morally bankrupt behavior.

There has been a significant change in the discourse as well over the past ten years. And that’s largely a result of the Internet. It’s very difficult for pro‑Israel forces to shape the discourse on the Internet the way they exercise great influence with the New York Times or CBS or even NPR.

So the discourse has really changed, especially when you get away from the mainstream media, which is increasingly less important. But what’s depressing is that U.S. policy has hardly changed at all. And the question you have to ask yourself is what does this mean for the long term. In a world where people are thinking very differently from the policy-makers and talking very differently from the policy-makers, how does this play itself out?

McConnell: Norman, you’ve been on this subject a long time, a whole career. I wonder if you could talk a little bit about the beginning of your involvement and whether you’ve sensed a change in response to what you say compared to the way it was 20 or 30 years ago, or 10 or 15 years ago?

Finkelstein: I’m sort of second generation. I think the Edward Said, Noam Chomsky generation was first—that was the generation of the ’70s, where it was really virtually impossible to say anything on the topic without being ostracized. I came in right after the Lebanon War of June 1982. And the Lebanon War was Israel’s first public relations disaster in the United States, at least after the ’67 War. They took a big blow back then. It’s forgotten, but it was a PR disaster. Immediately afterwards they tried to recoup from it.

Actually, one of the initiatives they took to recoup was how I got started. I think the Joan Peters book From Time Immemorial was simply a propaganda exercise to try to recoup from the ’82 war.

The next big change occurs with the 1987 Palestinian Intifada, which I think had a very substantial impact, though it was temporary, on public opinion in the United States. I was already teaching by ’88. And I remember in my class—I was at Brooklyn College at the time—a student who was not particularly political, he was what you’d call a typical white ethnic, he was either Irish or Italian, from Bay Ridge or Bensonhurst, he said in class, “Stone vs. Uzi, that doesn’t sound fair.” And that was the image that was being projected then.

The next big turning point probably came with the Second Intifada, which had a very negative impact because of the suicide bombings. But it also had a positive impact because the Israeli repression was so terrible; again, it alienated significant numbers of people.

As for myself, I don’t know if you were familiar with the lingo from back in the ’30s and ’40s, but there were all of these young Americans, many of whom incidentally were Jewish, in the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, who went to go fight fascism in Spain. And at that point, to fight fascism made you pro‑Communist, because—you know the whole thing. And then they went to fight in World War II again.

So they come back, and a lot of them are called before [Sen. Joseph] McCarthy, the very same people who fought in World War II. And why were they called before McCarthy? Well, they called themselves premature anti‑fascists. They were anti‑fascists before it was politically correct to be anti‑fascists because they were anti‑fascist at the time of Franco, and at that time the Americans supported Franco.

So even though personally my political positions aren’t really radical at all, and even though I don’t particularly like the nomenclature, I say I was a premature anti‑Zionist.

Mearsheimer: Can I ask Norman a quick question…

McConnell: Yeah, sure.

Mearsheimer: …which I think is important to readers and for me and Scott. You say that you’re an anti‑Zionist.

Finkelstein: No, I don’t. I say I don’t like the nomenclature.

Mearsheimer: You said you were an anti‑Zionist before your time.

Finkelstein: I said that just to make the parallel with anti‑fascist.

Mearsheimer: But here’s the question. Do you, Norman Finkelstein, think it’s a good thing there’s a Jewish state?

Finkelstein: No. But I don’t think it’s a good thing to have Christian states, Muslim states, or any kind of ethnic states. There is a difference between saying… remember let’s be clear about what the UN said. The UN said, “We want to create a Jewish state and an Arab state in Palestine.”

Mearsheimer: Right.

Finkelstein: But then the UN went on to say, and it was very explicit in the recommendation, “There cannot be any discrimination whatsoever in the Jewish state against an Arab minority.” Now, you may ask the reasonable question, “Well, if there can’t be any discrimination whatsoever, what do they mean by a Jewish state?” They never answer that.

But it doesn’t necessarily follow from the idea that you say there should be two states that you believe it should be a Jewish state or that you’re a Zionist. There’s no connection between the two.

Mearsheimer: I was just interested in what your preferences were.

Finkelstein: I think one of the problems when we discuss the Israel‑Palestine conflict is people talk too much in terms of “What’s your preference?”, like politics is a Chinese menu—I’ll take one from column A and two from column B. That’s not what politics is about.

Politics is about what is realistically possible in terms of your long‑term values, your philosophical perspective. What is really possible now in my opinion are two states, basically what people call the international consensus. It doesn’t mean it’s my philosophical preference. If you asked me, I’d say I would like to see a world without states.

McConnell: When does a two-state solution become not realistically possible?

Mearsheimer: The reason that people continue to talk about a two‑state solution even though I think it’s no longer realizable is that many Palestinians don’t see a viable alternative; they don’t think that a one‑state solution will work.

And in the case of many Israelis and their American supporters, they’re basically sticking their heads in the sand because they don’t want to talk about a one‑state solution, because they understand that a one‑state solution is basically an apartheid state.

Finkelstein: You know, I can see John’s point, but we have to be clear about what John’s point is. He was talking about political facts and political will. He said that the political spectrum has shifted in Israel and that it’s going to be very hard to get these people to budge.

Yes, that’s true. It’s going to be hard to get them to budge, but the problem is, to put it simply, it’s never been tried. The only time it really was tried to get them to budge was the First Intifada, and you know, the First Intifada was very sobering for Israel.

I lived there during the First Intifada. I used to go every summer. You’d be very surprised what it looked like. They had to have 500,000 troops there. When you went in the Occupied Territories then, you saw 65‑year‑old men—they had to bring up all their reserves, and they were putting in six months.

Once there is a real mass action and summoning of will, you may see things shift in Israel. It’s just not been tried. All that’s been tried is this thing called a “peace process.” Nothing happens because there was no pressure on them; the Israelis treat the whole thing like a joke.

Mearsheimer: A lot has changed since 1987 when the First Intifada broke out. First of all, there are many more settlers. And if you leave 60-plus percent of those settlers, you still have to remove…

Finkelstein: 200,000.

Mearsheimer: Right. You still have to remove a…

Finkelstein: If you look at the polls, the polls vary. But as high as 60 percent say they’re willing to be bought out. The Israeli expression is “quality of life settlers.” They just moved there because Israel gave them tons of mortgage subsidies and everything. They say, “Give us money, we’ll leave.”

Mearsheimer: But the fact is that if 40 percent of the settlers were to resist removal, it would be incredibly bloody.

Finkelstein: Yeah, but then you look at the polls, and the polls say about 10,000 or 15,000 would resist violently. The rest say they would oppose it, but if the army gives an order, “You have to leave,” only about 10,000 or 15,000 say that they would resist violently. In my opinion that’s mostly bravado. The actual number will probably be several thousand.

And then the Israeli former security people say there’s a really easy way to handle them: all we’ll do is say, “We’re leaving. You want to stay in Hebron with 160,000 crazy Arabs? Stay. We’re going.” And the Israeli security people say, “You’ll see how fast they’ll leave.”

Mearsheimer: Your point that pressure has not been brought to bear on the Israelis up to now is correct. But the reason that pressure has not been brought to bear is because the United States protects Israel at every turn. If the United States were willing to put serious sanctions on Israel, there’s no question that we could get Israel to move to a two‑state settlement very quickly.

And by the way, that would be good for Israel, good for the Palestinians, and good for us. And the fact that we don’t do it is really quite shocking because it’s a win‑win‑win situation.

Finkelstein: Correct.

Mearsheimer: But then the question is, who’s going to put pressure on Israel?

Finkelstein: That’s why I said there are new factors. It is true that the U.S. is the key factor, but now with the Arab Spring there are regional factors. For a lot of the Arab countries, or a lot of the Arab leaders, this has become a drain on them. Turkey and Egypt, they want to modernize and this Israel/Palestine thing is a drain on them. They have a real incentive to want to resolve it.

But the other thing is, as we’ve all agreed, there are changes in public opinion. The challenge is translating the changes in public opinion into some sort of political force. There is raw material; it still requires work. It’s a hard job, but our possibilities now are greater than ever.

Mearsheimer: Yeah. I hope that you’re right, but I think that you’re wrong. The reason has to do with how American politics works. The way this political system of ours was set up in the beginning gave huge amounts of influence to interest groups, interest groups of all sorts.

In the present situation, interest groups that have lots of money can influence the political process in profound ways. The principal reason that we don’t have any financial reform after the 2008 financial crisis is, in large part, because of the interest groups or lobbies associated with the financial industry. They’re just so powerful in Washington that Congress really can’t stand up to them. As a result, we’ve done very little to fix the system that caused this disaster in 2008.

When it comes to foreign policy, we, of course, have interest groups—like the Cuban lobby, the Israel lobby, the Armenian lobby—that can wield lots of influence. In this day and age, where money really matters, and where the Israel lobby has lots of money to throw at political candidates, it is very easy for it to get its way. And foolishly, in my opinion, the lobby tends to support the hard-line policies of Israel, which I don’t think are in Israel’s interests.

The end result is that virtually nobody on Capitol Hill will stand up to Benjamin Netanyahu. And the president won’t either.

Finkelstein: Everything you said, of course, is true and I don’t bury my head in the ground. The only addition to what you said is, I haven’t seen any real attempt to challenge the lobby. There’s never been a serious opposition in Washington. They’ve never had to contend with anybody.

It is true money talks. No question about it. But then we don’t know how many people in Congress—I know you may react cynically to it—but we don’t really know how many are just misinformed. They just don’t know what’s going on because there’s nobody on the other side doing anything. How many people in Congress are really sick of the bribery and bullying of AIPAC, but there’s nobody with whom they can stand? There’s no lobby here.

It’s work that we have to do. And then, once we have done our part and nothing budges, I’ll see your side. But it’s the same thing with the Palestinians. I saw what happened during the First Intifada. The Israelis were in a complete panic. They didn’t know what to do. They didn’t know if they were coming or going. The people had real power.

McConnell: My fear is that Israel, if they were faced with a third Intifada as a result of, say, the dead‑end of the Palestinian‑UN thing, would welcome it.

Mearsheimer: It’s very clear that when the Palestinians turn to terrorism it works to Israel’s advantage. It makes much more sense for the Palestinians to pursue a Gandhi‑like policy. The other reason that the Palestinians do not want to turn to terrorism or to a third Intifada is the threat of further expulsion. I believe that there are lots of Israelis who would welcome an opportunity to drive the Palestinians…

McConnell: Across the Jordan River. Yeah.

Mearsheimer: …out of Greater Israel and solve the demographic problem that way. The reason I believe that Israel is in such trouble over the long term is that you’re going to end up with a Greater Israel, where there are going to be more Palestinians than Israeli Jews.

In fact, I think I could make a convincing argument that right now there are more Palestinians than Israeli Jews living between the Jordan and the Mediterranean. But certainly 20 years down the road, the numbers are going to clearly favor the Palestinians, and I believe that will be an apartheid state. It will be impossible for Israel to maintain that state.

McConnell: What keeps Israel from trying to push the Palestinians out of the West Bank?

Finkelstein: I remember during the Second Intifada, I had a several hour conversation with Rantissi, who was the head of Hamas—he was subsequently assassinated by Israel. And I said to him, “You know, these suicide bombings, they just give Israel the pretext to commit massacres.” And he said to me, “Israel does what it wants. It doesn’t need pretext.” I said to him, “If Israel did what it wanted to do, none of you would be here.”

Israel has real constraints and limits imposed on it by international public opinion. People are very naïve about that. Even the Gaza massacre, the Israeli invasion of 2008 to 2009, okay, it was terrible. No question about it. Killed 1,400 people. Lebanon 2006, July, August, it killed 1,200 people, 1,000 civilians. It was horrible. But it was really small potatoes next to Lebanon 1982. Lebanon ’82, the estimates are they killed between 15,000 and 20,000 people. That’s a big difference because the limits have increased on them.

Mearsheimer: And what has increased the limits?

Finkelstein: Well, public opinion has put real constraints on what Israel can do, even though what it did in Gaza was terrible, I’ll be the first one to say. It’s still much less than they were once able to get away with. Every time there’s a war, they have been hoping to do a mass expulsion: during that attack on Iraq in 2003; they were hoping to do it in 1990­–91. If you read the Israeli newspapers, they’re always talking about the transfer. They can’t do it because public opinion puts real constraints on them.

I think sometimes we underestimate just how vulnerable Israel is on the public-relations front. That’s why they spend so much money on propaganda. And that’s why they panic every time they feel like they’re losing the propaganda war. Because they realize just how vulnerable they are and how big the constraints on them are. Otherwise it makes no sense why they invest so much in that image of theirs.

Mearsheimer: When Norman says that Israelis and their supporters in the United States care greatly about what people think about Israel, I think that’s a further way of saying they’re worried deeply about Israel’s legitimacy. And this is why people like Norman and people like me, and Steve Walt, and Jimmy Carter, and Noam Chomsky, and Edward Said are viewed as being so dangerous to Israel. When Norman tells you about all the times he’s been blacklisted and mafia‑like tactics have been used on him, basically what’s going on there is that the lobby is interested in marginalizing him and silencing him because it knows how dangerous he is.

Israel’s greatest advantage in the world today is in terms of its material resources. It’s a rich country that has one of the most formidable militaries on the planet. And of course, it’s joined at the hip with the United States, which has the most formidable military in the world.

But where Israel is particularly weak and is threatened is in the realm of ideas. I like to think about this in Gramscian terms. Gramsci used to talk about wars of ideas. What’s happened here is that as the material balance of power has moved in Israel’s favor, the balance of ideas has moved against Israel.

People like Norman, who are what I like to call the “corridor cutters” on this issue, help in a major way, pushing in that direction. Then people like Jimmy Carter, Steve Walt, and I came along and stood on the shoulders of people like Norman. All of us have been attacked, viciously attacked in some cases, and ostracized in other cases because we are viewed as a threat.

Again, it all gets back to that important concept of legitimacy.

McConnell: There’s some voice in me, not mine, but I can hear a voice saying if you’re a realist in terms of power politics, ideas matter much less than military/economic strength and things like that.

Mearsheimer: The truth is sometimes ideas don’t matter very much, and sometimes they really do. This is a case where ideas do matter. What the Israelis are doing to the Palestinians has become an important part of our discourse about the Middle East. It simply does not work to Israel’s advantage. My argument is that this situation is only going to get worse over time. Israel is going to be more isolated, and the United States, which of course backs Israel at every turn, is going to be increasingly isolated as well.

Finkelstein: On the strictly military plane, it is true Israel is very powerful. But we should also bear in mind that it’s become a very modern country. One of the consequences of becoming a modern country is people don’t want to die. Israel has a very effective, automated military. But when it comes to actual battlefield engagement, the Israeli soldiers don’t want to fight.

McConnell: What happened in Lebanon in 2006?

Finkelstein: It’s very clear Israel did not launch a major ground offensive for one reason: it did not want to take a large number of casualties. Lebanon proved to be for them a complete disaster. Now they make claims—there’s a tiny bit of truth to it—their claim was that because they were bogged down during the Second Intifada in policing action in the West Bank, there had been no time for rehearsals for ground/air coordination and that’s why things went so badly in Lebanon.

There’s a little bit of truth to it, but a bigger truth is Hezbollah people, they’re ready to die. They’re not afraid to go out there and get killed. The Israelis don’t want to get killed. The same thing happened in Gaza. Gaza was a—there was no war. As one person put it, it was like a child with a magnifying glass burning ants. It was all a high‑tech war.

Once a friend of mine—she’s an Israeli, I went to high school with her—she was very offended, and she said why did I call Israel a modern‑day Sparta? She says, “You don’t know Israelis. They’re not Sparta. They like the Beatles. They like this, they like that.” I said, “You misunderstood what I said. I said a high‑tech Sparta.” Because it’s true, they are not Spartans. They like cafes. They like the good life.

Mearsheimer: They like unfair fights.

Finkelstein: They want to live.

Mearsheimer: But I think there’s a more important point at play here, which is not to say this point is not important. As Israel becomes a modern economy, and you have more and more people who are secular, wealthy, and like to lead the good life, what begins to happen is that they begin to think about the exit option. They think about leaving Israel. Because they don’t want to live in Sparta. They’d much prefer to live in Europe or in the United States.

McConnell: Are you guys surprised by how quickly Obama seemed to have climbed down from making a solution to the conflict a top priority? By all indications he was someone who understood the moral and political case for a Palestinian state.

Mearsheimer: He did not step away from the problem quickly. Shortly after taking office in January 2009 he began to put pressure on Israel—throughout 2009, throughout 2010, and even earlier this year Obama was putting pressure on the Israelis.

That of course is why Netanyahu came to Washington and spoke before AIPAC and spoke before Congress and went toe to toe, in effect, with Obama. The sad truth is that Netanyahu beat him at every turn, and now with the election looming and the economy in shambles, Obama is in no position to pick a fight with Israel.

Finkelstein: Even if Obama prevailed over Netanyahu, the settlement he was calling for was roughly that map where Israel would keep about 10 percent—9 or 10 percent—of the West Bank, including all the major settlement blocs.

If you include the settlement blocs, like Maale Adumim, there’s no state because the way that settlement bloc is constructed, it separates Jerusalem from the whole West Bank. So you have this little island of Jerusalem. Metropolitan Jerusalem is about 30 to 40 percent of the Palestinian economy. If you separate Jerusalem, there’s no state. Even if Obama prevailed and you got the 10 percent map, it still has no relationship to what a viable Palestinian state would look like.

Mearsheimer: I don’t think, Norman, that it’s clear whether Obama was thinking in terms of what’s called the Israeli map or whether he was thinking in terms of the Palestinian map. But I believe that most of his Middle East advisers and Obama understand that the only way we’re going to solve this is to give the Palestinians a viable state, and that means basically the Palestinian map.

Finkelstein: No, I don’t think that’s true, John. I mean…

Mearsheimer: Then I wonder why you’re so optimistic that we can solve this one?

Finkelstein: Oh, because as I said, I totally agree with you on Congress. I totally agree with you on the executive. On those points there’s no disagreement at all. What I said is there is a changed political configuration now. There are changes in public opinion. There are changes in Jewish opinion. There’s a lot of work to be done. But there are reasons to be optimistic.

McConnell: Can you elaborate on the changes in Jewish opinion?

Finkelstein: Trying to understand Jewish relationships with Israel, there are three factors. There is the ethnic factor, which is the one people tend to home in on—Israel, Jewish State, of course Jews love Israel. That’s how people usually reason.

There is a second factor. That’s the citizenship factor, namely American Jews are American citizens, and they have a good life here, and they are very wary of being hit with the dual-loyalty charge. So wherever it looks like there are tensions between the U.S. and Israel, or tensions might be brewing, Americans Jews are very cautious and very wary.

That was very noticeable between ’48 and ’67, when American Jews had no interest whatsoever in Israel. It’s easily documented. Even those people who subsequently became Israel’s supporters, like Norman Podhoretz—if you look at Commentary magazine, as I have, between 1960 and 1967, there’s virtually nothing on Israel.

And then there’s the third factor. It’s the ideological factor. American Jews are liberal. They are liberal Democrats ever since Roosevelt in ’32. Last presidential election, 80 percent of Jews voted for Obama. More Jews voted for Obama than Latinos voted for Obama. American Jews are liberal, and they vote liberal and Democratic. Now for a long time on this ideological level, they were able to reconcile being liberal with being supportive of Israel, because Israel was the light unto the nations, bringing Western civilization to the barbaric East…

Mearsheimer: Only democracy.

Finkelstein: Only democracy in the Middle East, and all the rest. Well, in the last ten or 15 years, it’s wearing thin, and American Jews are having a lot of trouble as liberals—especially young American Jews on college campuses, which tend to be more liberal than American society in general—they’re having a lot of trouble reconciling their liberal beliefs with the way Israel carries on, and Israeli conduct and Israeli society in general.

And therefore you can see in a lot of polls—the best pollster in the American Jewish community, by a far margin, is Stephen Cohen. And Cohen says, “Support for Israel is dying.” He claims it’s dying because of intermarriage; you know, the ethnic factor. Jews are now intermarrying at a rate of about 6o percent. He says that it’s obvious that among the intermarried Jews, interest in Israel tends to plummet. And again, there’s a lot of statistical evidence. The intermarriage factor is significant. But I think as big a factor now is the liberalism factor. They just can’t do it anymore.

Mearsheimer: This is the Peter Beinart thesis.

Finkelstein: No, that’s the Norman Finkelstein thesis, which Peter Beinart took. [laughter]

Finkelstein: Because I was working on it since 2007. You know, I lectured very widely on it. I wrote a book. I started the book. It was called A Farewell to Israel: The Coming Break‑up of American Jewish Support for Israel. I’ve since re-titled it. It’s now called Knowing Too Much because I think that’s the problem. American Jews now know too much. They don’t know what to do with it.

McConnell: And Birthright Israel isn’t enough to counter this?

Finkelstein: It’s not enough, no, because Birthright Israel, first of all, is self‑selective. Many of them are just…

Mearsheimer: It’s propaganda. It’s very hard to propagandize Jews. They’re very knowledgeable, and they’re critical thinkers.

Finkelstein: That’s the other thing. All of the scholarship that comes out—those are the sectors where Jews tend to be, in the highly educated, literate sectors. That information is reaching them, and they don’t know what to do with it. You can see it in colleges now. It used to be when someone like me would come speak, it would be hysteria, with the audience shouting and screaming. Then they realized, “Well, we don’t really want to do that anymore.” So they would start having vigils outside and passing out leaflets.

Now, nothing. Nothing. There’s only one way they can work now: behind the scenes. They try to put pressure to not invite him because he’s this or he’s that. Behind the scenes they’re working very hard, but in the public arena—in the court of public opinion—they have vanished because it’s hopeless. How do you defend it?

They don’t like me, not because of my beliefs, they don’t like me because they know I’m going to have the facts. I read. I patiently go through all the reports. That’s what they fear. It’s not my politics because, as I said, my politics are not radical. It’s the facts. They’re in dread of that because there’s no defense anymore.

McConnell: How much are you speaking now on campuses?

Finkelstein: Quite a lot. Let’s put it this way: I could easily speak every day, if I were to accept every invitation, but it’s impossible because my forte is knowing the facts, which means I have to sit home and work. I have to read. I don’t want to become a rhetorical speaker. My effectiveness is mastering all of the data and being able to respond.

People ask me, “Why don’t you ever lose your cool? Why don’t you get angry? I get so angry.” I say, “Because the reason you get angry is frustration. You know what the other person is saying is not true, but you don’t know how to answer it. You don’t know the facts, and that’s where the anger and frustration come from.”

When you know how to answer it, you just sit very patiently. You’ll get your turn, and then you’ll answer. That’s why I can’t accept all the speaking engagements, because I’ve got to know the facts. Then we’ll be effective, and I still say we could win. John knows that, because I saw that you can have very big meetings at the University of Chicago, which has a very large Jewish population. There was one meeting where John and I were present, I don’t remember which one it was.

Mearsheimer: Yeah, it was during operation Cast Lead in January 2009.

Finkelstein: It must have been what? 1,500 people?

Mearsheimer: It was a huge audience. They turned away, I think, 800 people.

Finkelstein: And they can’t answer, the other side. There’s nothing. Nothing. And that’s what’s causing a lot of Jews—that’s, for me, what’s breaking up the whole support. It’s like—oh, what’s his name?—David Remnick said a few months ago. He said, “How long is this occupation going to go on?” He said, “I can’t take it anymore.” But what he really meant was, “I can’t justify it anymore.” How do you justify it?

What's da' worldt comin' to when high-ranking Junta Officer talks non-violent resistance? We want a eart filled with Jesuses and Ghandis?

Published on Wednesday, October 26, 2011 by Waging Nonviolence
Through the Eyes of a Defector: High-Ranking Fiji Junta Officer Talks Nonviolent Resistance
by Anna Lenzer
The world has had little reason to pay attention to the intensifying human rights meltdown in Fiji at the hands of the ruling military junta. After all, it hasn’t affected the bottom line: foreign exploitation of the island nation’s cheap natural resources or the discounted soldiers it supplies to the United Nations and American mercenary companies in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Fiji Water, one of the top imported bottled waters in the United States, still markets itself as an untarnished taste of paradise, while giving millions of dollars to the country’s brutal dictatorship and hiring a military-led company to run its security. Even Gibson Guitar, the favorite of rock-stars which just became the new darling of the Tea Party after federal raids on its imported wood, is busy courting the despotic regime for preferential access to Fiji’s mahogany riches, which were behind the country’s 2000 coup.

The draconian censorship of all media in Fiji means constant suppression of reports about the increasing surveillance, harassment, detentions, beatings, rape and murder of Fijian citizens at the hands of their dictatorship. International press has recently noticed that the junta is even censoring news of tourist deaths on the island in order to maintain the facade of idyllic calm.

But in the past few months, the discontent simmering in Fijian society has come spilling out through several key fractures. There have been high-level defections, calls for global solidarity by labor unions and on-the-ground protests. For the first time since the junta took power in a 2006 coup, many Fijians have hope that the ingredients of a revolution are coming together.

Fiji’s highest-profile defector yet, Lieutenant Colonel Ratu Tevita Mara, believes that Fiji is ripe for an Oceanic version of the Arab Spring. He was formerly the fourth highest-ranking member of Fiji’s military and the army’s chief of staff. In a recent interview, I spoke with Mara, about the junta, its vulnerabilities, and what he sees as its inevitable downfall.

Mara was initially a key supporting official of Commodore Voreqe (Frank) Bainimarama’s 2006 coup — the U.S. Embassy calls Mara a “coup ringleader” in Wikileaks cables — but he has since described his government as a “vicious and brutal illegal military junta” run by a “mafia of violent and corrupt terrorists.” Mara’s words carry additional weight with Fijians as he is the son of the founding father of modern Fiji, Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara — the first prime minister of post-independence Fiji and later its president. He’s also the brother-in-law of Fiji’s current president, Ratu Epeli Nailatikau, who answers to self-appointed Prime Minister Bainimarama. Mara was charged this spring with sedition and mutiny after a military officer reported him for making a critical comment about the regime.

Mara spoke to me from Australia, where he’s a declared fugitive from Fiji after being picked up at sea by the Tongan navy in May. (Being related to Tonga’s royal family, he was given citizenship there.) The junta has filed extradition papers for him all over the South Pacific, where he’s been on a speaking tour airing their dirty laundry to regional governments and Fijian expatriate democracy groups. He has also put a series of videos on his website in which he appeals directly to soldiers and police officers to end Bainimarama’s reign, calling some out by name. According to Mara, Bainimarama’s inner circle has become increasingly insular, and that it’s this inside group of soldiers and bodyguards that has been behind the physical assaults on dissidents, including Fiji’s infamous nighttime arson attacks on the homes of perceived critics. “It’s not the whole of the military that’s doing these atrocities in Fiji, it’s only a select number of people under Bainimarama,” Mara explained.

Recently-released Fijian Wikileaks cables — explored in depth by the Australian press — document the torture, rape, and even murder of detainees that constitute the reign of Bainimarama’s henchmen. A 2007 cable reported that Bainimarama privately confirmed to EU diplomats that “if someone insults the President or the RFMF [Republic of Fiji Military Forces], of course we must have them taken to the barracks and have them beaten up.” In another 2007 cable, the U.S. Embassy related Fijian human rights reports that Bainimarama himself had joined in the beating of a senior government official, barking “don’t f*** with the military” as he did. The U.S. Embassy also reported on an incident when the military had handed over the bruised, dead body of a detainee to the police.

Fijians are arrested not only for public statements against the junta, Mara explained, but are now even taken to barracks for comments made in private conversation — a tactic he described in one of his internet videos as “more like Nazi Germany and the Gestapo, or the Soviet Union and the KGB.” A more contemporary comparison, however, would be China, where Fiji’s chief censor — the secretary of the Ministry of Information —is attending workshops on how to control the flow of information to the public.

Mara confirmed to me that “the mobile phones are tapped, the landlines are tapped.” He also confirmed that the internet is indeed monitored — a fact that I discovered on my own in 2009 after my emails were intercepted by Fiji police at an internet cafe and I was arrested for them.

“There is control on the internet, they control that. The internet monitoring is done by the internet company Connect,” which the government owns, said Mara. “I’ve sat in meetings where transcripts of conversations have been brought up to Bainimarama. Civil servants have even been sent from their jobs for phone conversations criticizing the government.” People who appear to be civilians are paid by the military to monitor their neighbors: “Reserve soldiers, they get put on the payroll. They remain in civil society, continue their normal civilian jobs, and send information back to military headquarters.” Mara recalled taxi drivers calling military headquarters with tips about seditious passengers.

The surveillance apparatus, the censorship of media — which the regime has dubbed the “journalism of hope” — and a climate of fear around public protest have led many Fijians to use anonymous methods to communicate to each other and to the world that they’ve had enough. The capital city of Suva and other parts of the main island were recently tagged in the middle of the night with graffiti like “PM MURDERER,” “BAINIMARAMA U EVIL LEADER,” and “PM YOUR TIME IS OVER – NEW GOV’T SOON,” followed by the torching of police huts. A group calling itself the Viti Revolutionary Forces emerged to take credit, and managed to send out a nationwide text message urging Fijians to “start passive resistance now.” The military has started to arrest suspects, and five men appeared in court this month to plead not guilty to charges of sedition.

Anti-regime blogs by well-connected dissidents have flourished, and are becoming the go-to drops for whistleblowers with inside scoops about the junta. Satirical accounts masquerading as the regime have been created on social media, such as a junta Twitter account which tweets at unsuspecting foreigners who’ve made comments about Fiji (“As long as you do not criticise us you are welcome to stay. Smile for the men with the guns.”) A former Fijian government minister was arrested, and says he was beaten, for distributing an anti-regime DVD to villagers. Fijians abroad have started displaying upside-down Fijian flags at public events, as they’ve been doing at this month’s Rugby World Cup in New Zealand. (Rugby is Fiji’s national sport.)

But perhaps the most critical mass of resistance comes from Fiji’s trade unions, whose leaders have been repeatedly arrested and beaten by the military. They’re now taking the risk of being publicly quoted by Australian and New Zealand press about their ordeals, while the unions are persecuted for holding public meetings due to Fiji’s martial law forbidding unpermitted gatherings.

International trade unions have raised the alarm about the junta’s abuses and called for global solidarity. As a result, the Australian Transport Workers Union, along with their New Zealand counterparts, have even considered shutting down flights to Fiji.

The regime escalated its war against Fiji’s workers last month with the release of its Essential National Industries Decree, a hugely controversial law designed to shred workers’ rights. An Air Pacific pilot was just arrested and charged with cyber-crimes for releasing internal documents to an anti-regime blog showing that the airline, which is nearly half-owned by the Australian giant Qantas, had helped to draft the decree and paid a New York law firm tens of thousands of dollars to consult on it.

While workers continue to step up their resistance in the face of repression, there are signs that the military is losing its moral authority. This developing situation — to be discussed in part two of this series — has heightened prospects of a popular uprising. As Secretary General of Amnesty International Salil Shetty told regional press this month, “In all these places, we are talking currently about Syria, Yemen, I don’t see how Fiji is such an exception. If this level of violation of human rights continues and if people don’t have a voice and if they have no basic freedoms, in my view it’s a matter of time.”

Anna Lenzer is a freelance journalist living in New York City. Her work has appeared in outlets such as Mother Jones, City Limits, and Wayne Barrett's book Grand Illusion: The Untold Story of Rudy Giuliani and 9/11.

Rat bastard Conn Hallinan wants us to look in the mirror - hey, you! We don'ts got to .. what we do is a priori good because our intentions are good!

Published on Wednesday, October 26, 2011 by Foreign Policy in Focus
Pakistan: Reversing the Lens
by Conn Hallinan
Since the United States invaded Afghanistan in October 2001, Pakistan has lost more than 35,000 people, the vast bulk of them civilians. While the U.S. has had slightly over 1800 soldiers killed in the past 10 years, Pakistan has lost over 5,000 soldiers and police. The number of suicide bombings in Pakistan has gone from one before 2001, to more than 335 since.

“Terrorism,” as Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari says, “is not a statistic for us.”

For most Americans, Pakistan is a two-faced “ally” playing a double game in Central Asia even as it siphons off tens of billions of dollars in aid. For Pakistanis, the spillover from the Afghan war has cost Islamabad approximately of $100 billion. And this in a country with a yearly GDP of around $175 billion and whose resources have been deeply strained by two years of catastrophic flooding.

Washington complains that its $20.7 billion in aid over the past nine years has bought it very little in the way of loyalty from Islamabad, while Pakistan points out that U.S. aid makes up less than 0.3 percent of Pakistan’s yearly GDP.

Both countries’ opinions of one another are almost mirror images. According to a U.S. poll, 74 percent of Americans do not consider Pakistan to be an ally, while the Pew Research Center found that six in 10 Pakistanis consider the Americans an “enemy” and only 12 percent have a favorable view of the United States.

This mutual distrust in part results from mistakes and misjudgments by both countries that date back to the 1979-89 Russian occupation of Afghanistan. But at its heart is an American strategy that not only runs counter to Pakistan’s interests, but will make ending the war in Afghanistan a far more painful procedure than need be.

Pakistani Interests

If Pakistan is a victim in the long-running war, it is not entirely an innocent one. Pakistan, along with the United States, was an ally of the anti-Communist, right-wing mujahideen during the 1980s Afghan war.

Pakistan’s interest in Afghanistan has always been multi-faceted. Islamabad is deeply worried that its traditional enemy, India, will gain a foothold in Afghanistan, thereby essentially surrounding Pakistan. This is not exactly paranoid, as Pakistan has fought—and lost—three wars with India, and tensions between the two still remain high.

Over the past six years, India has conducted 10 major military exercises along the Pakistani border. The latest—Viajyee Bhava (Be Victorious)—involved 20,000 troops. India has the world’s fourth largest army, Pakistan the 15th.

By aligning itself with Washington during its Cold War competition with the Soviets in Afghanistan, Islamabad had the inside track to buy high-performance American military hardware to help it offset India’s numerical superiority. Indeed, it did manage to purchase some F-16s fighter-bombers.

But when Pakistan allied itself with the Taliban, India aligned itself with the Northern Alliance, composed of Tajiks, Uzbeks, and Hazaras who opposed the Pashtun-dominated Taliban. Pashtuns are a plurality in Afghanistan’s complex mix of ethnicities, and traditionally they dominated the Kabul government.

Islamabad has always been deeply concerned about the Pashtuns, because a long-time fear of Islamabad is that Pakistani Pashtuns could ally themselves to Afghani Pashtuns and form a breakaway country that would fragment Pakistan.

From Islamabad’s point of view, the American demand that it corral the Taliban and the Haqqani Group that operate from mountainous Northwest Frontier and Federally Administrated Tribal Areas of Pakistan could stir up Pashtun nationalism. In any case, the task would be beyond the capabilities of the Pakistan military. In 2009, the Pakistani Army used two full divisions just to reclaim the Swat Valley from local militants, a battle that cost billions of dollars, generated two million refugees, and inflicted heavy casualties.

Diverging Objectives

Current U.S. strategy has exacerbated Pakistan’s problem by putting the Northern Alliance in power, excluding the Pashtuns from any meaningful participation, and targeting the ethnic group’s heartland in southern and eastern Afghanistan. President Hamid Karzai is a Pashtun, but he is little more than window dressing in a government dominated by other ethnic groups. According to Zahid Hussain, author of a book on Islamic militants, this has turned the war into a “Pashtun war” and has meant that “the Pashtuns in Pakistan would become…strongly allied with both al Qaeda and the Taliban.”

The United States has also remained silent while India moved aggressively into Afghanistan. On October 4, Kabul and New Delhi inked a “strategic partnership” that, according to The New York Times, “paves the way for India to train and equip Afghan security forces.” The idea of India training Afghan troops is the equivalent of waving a red flag to see if the Pakistani bull will charge.

One pretext for the agreement was the recent assassination of Burhanuddin Rabbani, head of the Afghan High Peace Council, killed by the Taliban under the direction of the Pakistani secret service, the ISI, according to Karzai government claims. But evidence linking the Taliban or Pakistan to the hit is not persuasive, and the Taliban and Haqqani Group—never shy about taking the credit for killing people—say they had nothing to do with it.

Pakistan’s ISI certainly maintains a relationship with the Afghan-based Taliban and the Haqqani Group, but former Joint Chiefs of Staff head, Admiral Mike Mullen’s charge that the latter are a “veritable arm” of Pakistan’s ISI is simply false. The Haqqanis come from the powerful Zadran tribe based in Paktia and Khost provinces in Afghanistan and North Waziristan in Pakistan’s Tribal Area.

When their interests coincide, the Haqqanis find common ground with Islamabad, but the idea that Pakistan can get anyone in that region to jump to attention reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of the deeply engrained cultural and ethnic currents that have successfully rebuffed outsiders for thousands of years. And in the border region, the Pakistan Army is as much an outsider as is NATO.

Dealing with the Mess

There is a way out of this morass, but it will require a very different strategy than the one the United States is currently following, and one far more attuned to the lens through which most Pakistanis view the war in Afghanistan.

The United States and its allies must first stand down their military offensive—including the drone attacks—against the Taliban and Haqqani Group, and negotiate a ceasefire. Then the United States must open immediate talks with the various insurgency groups and declare a plan for the withdrawal of all foreign troops. The Taliban—the Haqqanis say they will follow the organization’s lead—have indicated that they will no longer insist on a withdrawal of troops before opening talks, but they do want a timetable. Any government in Kabul that emerges from such negotiations must reflect the ethnic make-up of the country.

Pakistan’s concerns over Indian influence must also be addressed, including the dangerous issue of Kashmir. President Obama ran on a platform that called for dealing with Kashmir, but he subsequently dropped it at the insistence of New Delhi.

Pakistan and the United States may have profoundly different views of one another, but on at least one issue they agree: slightly over 90 percent of Pakistanis would like U.S. troops to go home, and 62 percent of Americans want an immediate cut in U.S. forces. Common ground in this case seems to be based on a strong dose of common sense.

Conn Hallinan is a Foreign Policy In Focus columnist. Hallinan is also a columnist for the Berkeley Daily Planet, and an occasional free lance medical policy writer. He is a recipient of a Project Censored "Real News Award." He formally ran the journalism program at the University of California at Santa Cruz, where he was also a college provost. He can be reached at:

"The Commons" ain't so much any more - sho' 'nuff not fo' po' folk

Published on Wednesday, October 26, 2011 by The Guardian/UK
Private Spaces Are Stifling Protest
Occupy London's struggle to find a public space for protest reflects the increasing private control of our towns and cities
by Anna Minton
The right to peaceful public protest is an essential component of a healthy democratic society. Except, it seems, in the City of London.

The argument over whether the Occupy movement should camp outside St Paul's and the subsequent closure of the cathedral has served to distract from the main issue facing the protesters, which is that political protest is banned in the vast majority of the City's public places. The protesters did not intend to camp outside St Paul's but they found they had nowhere else to go if they wished to remain in the City – which is the focus of the protest.

Aiming to target financial institutions, OccupyLSX decided to set up camp outside the London Stock Exchange in Paternoster Square, hence the name. But they were prevented from entering Paternoster Square, which is privately owned, by a high court injunction taken out to prevent members of the public from accessing the square.

It is no coincidence that the second camp opened by the Occupy movement is in Finsbury Square, which is on the edge of the City and falls outside the jurisdiction of the Corporation of London, the local authority responsible for the Square Mile. Under the jurisdiction of Islington council, Finsbury Square is a genuinely public square, unlike the majority of the City's so-called public places, which are owned and controlled by private estates.

A defining characteristic of privately owned "public" squares and spaces is conditional access. Members of the public are only allowed in if the company controlling the place is agreeable. This is private property in the same way that someone's house is private property, which means that the owner can decide who is or is not allowed to enter and what they are allowed to do there.

These are not democratic spaces. Instead rules and regulations are enforced by uniformed private security and round-the-clock surveillance. A host of seemingly innocuous activities such as cycling, rollerblading and even eating in some places are forbidden. So is filming, taking photographs and political protest.

Were the protesters to target Canary Wharf, they would get little further as that is also privately owned, as is London's other financial hub, the Broadgate Centre. At Canary Wharf recently a group of activists wishing to mount a protest were contacted by advertising company JDDecaux, which told them that the space was an "experimental advertising space" for which the daily rate was £4,750. This is a model that looks at space purely as a place for investment rather than as an open democratic forum where people can meet freely and come and go.

It is no surprise that protesters targeting the UK's financial system have encountered so many difficulties as it was the finance system itself that was the driver for the privatisation of public space in Britain, a process that took root in the 1980s alongside the deregulation of the banks.

During the 1980s, Canary Wharf and the Broadgate Centre, the two emerging finance centres in east London, were virtually the only high security, privately owned and privately controlled places that functioned like this. They were also exceptional places created in response to the deregulation of the financial markets and "big bang" of 1986, with its demands for big banks and large trading floors.

Now, a generation later, this model has spread out, not only throughout the City but to towns and cities across the country that are increasingly characterised by privately owned places, from small "mixed-use" enclaves to enormous shopping complexes such as Cabot Circus in Bristol and Liverpool One, which spans 34 streets in the heart of Liverpool.

This is a very fundamental change, which is reversing democratic rights established along with the rise of parliamentary democracy in the mid-19th century. People often assume that the streets of London, and other cities, have always been public but that is far from the case. During the early 19th century, before the advent of parliamentary democracy and local government, cities such as London were parcelled up and owned by a small group of aristocratic landlords.

These places include some of the finest Georgian and early Victorian squares, but what we don't see today are the private security forces and gates that excluded the majority. Following growing public outrage, reflected by two major parliamentary inquiries, control over public space was passed over to local authority control and the streets opened up.

Since then, it has been common for local authorities to "adopt" streets and public spaces, which means that whether or not they actually own them, they control and run them. Now this process is being reversed, with huge implications for democracy. Protest is not allowed in the privately owned places that define our finance centres because they are not democratic places, a conclusion that is unlikely to surprise the protesters.

As for the area around St Paul's, it is owned by the church, which traditionally welcomes all members of the public. Today it seems even that is in question.

© Guardian News and Media Limited 2011
Anna Minton is a writer and journalist and the author of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation's Viewpoint on fear and distrust. Her book, 'Ground Control: The Death and Life of British Cities', will be published by Penguin in 2009

Say it t'ain't so! US Linked to Brutal Businessman? What? US? No how; no way!

Published on Wednesday, October 26, 2011 by The Nation
WikiLeaks Honduras: US Linked to Brutal Businessman
by Dana Frank
Since 2009, beneath the radar of the international media, the coup government ruling Honduras has been collaborating with wealthy landowners in a violent crackdown on small farmers struggling for land rights in the Aguán Valley in the northeastern region of the country. More than forty-six campesinos have been killed or disappeared. Human rights groups charge that many of the killings have been perpetrated by the private army of security guards employed by Miguel Facussé, a biofuels magnate. Facussé’s guards work closely with the Honduran military and police, which receive generous funding from the United States to fight the war on drugs in the region.

New Wikileaks cables now reveal that the US embassy in Honduras—and therefore the State Department—has known since 2004 that Miguel Facussé is a cocaine importer. US “drug war” funds and training, in other words, are being used to support a known drug trafficker’s war against campesinos.
US “drug war” funds and training, in other words, are being used to support a known drug trafficker’s war against campesinos. (photo of campesino killed by Miguel Facussé forces: Felipe Canova)

Miguel Facussé Barjum, in the embassy’s words, is “the wealthiest, most powerful businessman in the country,” one of the country’s “political heavyweights.” The New York Times recently described him as “the octogenarian patriarch of one of the handful of families controlling much of Honduras’ economy.” Facussé’s nephew, Carlos Flores Facussé, served as president of Honduras from 1998 to 2002. Miguel Facussé’s Dinant corporation is a major producer of palm oil, snack foods, and other agricultural products. He was one of the key supporters of the military coup that deposed democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya on June 28, 2009.

Miguel Facussé’s power base lies in the lower Aguán Valley, where campesinos originally settled in the 1970s as part of an agrarian reform strategy by the Honduran government, which encouraged hundreds of successful campesino cooperatives and collectives in the region. Beginning in 1992, though, new neoliberal governments began promoting the transfer of their lands to wealthy elites, who were quick to take advantage of state support to intimidate and coerce campesinos into selling, and in some cases to acquire land through outright fraud. Facussé, the biggest beneficiary by far of these state policies, now claims at least 22,000 acres in the lower Aguán, at least one-fifth of the entire area, much of which he has planted in African palms for an expanding biofuel empire.

Campesino living standards in the region, meanwhile, have eroded dramatically. In December 2009 thousands of organized campesinos began staging collective recuperations of lands in the lower Aguán that they argue were stolen from them, or else legally promised to them by the government through previous agreements or edicts.

The campesinos’ efforts have been met with swift and brutal retaliation. According to Committee of Families of the Detained and Disappeared of Honduras (COFADEH), the independent, highly respected human rights group, at least forty-four have been killed, at least sixteen this past summer alone. The victims include leaders of groups such as the Movimiento Unificado de Campesinos de Aguán (MUCA), which is involved in land occupations, but also members of stable communities that have been in place for decades, such as Guadalupe Carney, Rigores or Prieta, whose residents believed they had secure title to their holdings. According to a recent statement by Human Rights Watch calling for investigation, no one has been arrested or prosecuted for any of these murders.

Many of these killings and related attacks have been attributed to Miguel Facussé’s private security guards, as well those of his associates. Known locally as sicarios or hired assassins, they wear either plainclothes or Grupo Dinant uniforms and are reported to number between 200 and 300. Facussé himself admits that on November 15, 2010, his guards shot and killed five campesinos from the MUCA at the El Tumbador community. A July 2011 report from a joint fact-finding mission from the World Council of Churches, Foodfirst Information and Action Network (FIAN) International, and other international groups on the killings of campesinos in the Aguán, states: “In all cases, according to witnesses and members of the peasant movements, the security guards working for Miguel Facussé and René Morales are seen to be the primary actors,” including in the deaths of three MUCA members on August 17, 2010.

Alleged assassinations and armed attacks by Facussé’s guards continue. On October 5, Facussé’s security guards allegedly shot at and gravely injured two MUCA members at the San Isidro campesino community, according to FIAN. On October 11 at La Aurora, FIAN and other human rights groups report, at least six security guards on lands claimed by Facussé’s Dinant Corporation, together with police and military forces, shot and killed Santos Serfino Zelaya Ruiz, 33, and opened fire on fifteen women spreading salt, who hid for hours afterwards in the palm trees.

On January 8, 2011, opposition activist and journalist Juan Chinchilla was kidnapped in the Aguán Valley, tortured and interrogated. He escaped after two days and reported in an interview that his captors “almost all wore uniforms of the military, police and private guards of Miguel Facussé.”

Human rights groups worldwide have denounced Facussé’s attacks on Honduran campesinos. On April 8, the German development bank DEG (Deutsche Investitions und Entwicklungselleschaft mbH), cancelled a $20 million loan to Dinant after investigating the situation. A week later EDF, a major French energy corporation, announced it was canceling plans to buy carbon credits from Dinant.

Facussé has lashed back aggressively with full-page advertisements in his defense. He also recently sued both Honduras’ Bishop Luis Alfonso Santos and Andres Pavon, President of the Comité para la Defensa del Los Derechos Humanos (CODEH), a well-known human rights group, for defamation.

In tandem with the killings and disappearances of individual activists, in the past year and a half, the Honduran police and military have launched successive waves of repression against entire campesino communities, both newly occupied sites and stable ones with long-term legal status. On December 15, 2010, between 500 and 1,000 police and military surrounded the small campesino town of Guadalupe Carney with snipers and helicopters, and staged a house-by-house search for alleged arms—which they never found. Troops have remained encamped in the middle of the town ever since. In April 2010, 2,000 Honduran police and military occupied the entire lower Aguán valley, controlling access and intimidating its residents.

The situation has worsened since May, and continues to escalate. Five security guards, a policeman, and five others, in addition to over sixteen campesinos, have died. The region is once again occupied by 1,000 troops in a military operation known as Xatruch II—which is aimed at combating armed guerrillas, of whose existence there is no evidence. Nor has any evidence been produced linking campesinos to the other deaths.

Overall, the occupation and repression of the lower Aguán have assumed terrifying proportions. “With the militarization of Xatruch II they are trying to convert our zone into Iraq,” COFADEH and the MUCA charge. “Our settlements are being submitted to a permanent state of siege.”

On June 24, with one hour’s notice, police burned down almost the entire ten-year-old community of Rigores of over 100 houses and bulldozed down its three churches and seven-room schoolhouse. The residents began to rebuild their homes with tarps and sticks, but on September 16–18, in response to the death of a policeman nearby, police rampaged through the town, randomly grabbing and detaining people, including children. One of them was a 16-year-old boy who has testified that police put a bag over his head, sprayed him with gasoline and threatened to kill him. On September 20 police and military successfully ejected all those who remained in the community .

Multiple eyewitnesses and human rights groups report Facussé’s private guards, police, and military all working together in these violent evictions and associated deaths— at El Tumbador on November 15, 2010; in Guadalupe Carney on December 15, 2010; in Rigores on June 24, 2011; and at La Aurora on October 11, where the women hid in the trees—as well as during Chinchilla’s kidnapping. This past August 15, COFADEH reports, Facussé’s guards along with police and members of the military brutally attacked campesinos on the African palm plantation known as Finca Panamá.

According to Rights Action, the Washington, DC, and Toronto–based human rights group, “Military, police and private security forces are reported to exchange uniforms depending on the context, to mobilize jointly both in police patrol cars and automobiles that belong to private security companies employed by the African palm planters.” COFADEH concludes: “The relationship between the military and the private security guards demonstrates clearly that the security guards are acting as paramilitary forces.”

In the past two years since the coup US funding for the Honduran military and police has escalated dramatically. The US has allocated $45 million in new funds for military construction, including expansion and improvement of the jointly operated Soto Cano Air Force Base at Palmerola (supplied now with US drones) and has opened three new military bases. Police and military funding, almost $10 million for 2011, rose dramatically in June with $40 million more under the new $200 million Central American Regional Security Initiative, supposedly to combat drug trafficking in Central America—which is, indeed, rampant, dangerous and growing in Honduras under Lobo’s post-coup government, especially in the Aguán.

Honduran military operations in the lower Aguán valley, including joint operations with Facussé’s guards, benefit from these funds, as well as special training. This summer seventy members of Honduras’ Fifteenth Batallion received a special thirty-three-day training course from the US Rangers. According to the Honduras Solidarity Network, members of the Xatruch Special Forces group in the Aguán Valley, in a September meeting, “confirmed that they had received training from the United States military in special operations, which include sniper and anti-terrorism training.” Eyewitnesses informed Rights Action they saw US Rangers also training Facussé’s security guards.

Most recently, on October 6 members of Operation Xatruch II captured, detained without charges, and tortured Walter Nelin Sabillón Yanos, a MUCA member, FIAN reports. Sabillón testified to FIAN that while he was in detention at the Tocoa police station, authorities beat him, repeatedly placed a hood on his head, and three times applied electric shock to his hands, abdomen and mouth while interrogating him about the campesino movement.

On September 17 I called the Tocoa police station to inquire about the condition of more than thirty campesinos that had been rounded up and were being detained. “Tell her they’ve killed all the campesinos,” the official laughed, and then hung up. A colleague who called immediately afterward was told the detainees were being treated “like dogs.” “Are they being tortured?” she asked. “I hope so,” the official replied.

Now cables released by Wikileaks on September 30 suddenly shed light on the US military and State Department’s role in the Aguán Valley conflict and in Honduras more broadly. A March 19, 2004, cable from the US embassy in Tegucigalpa, entitled “Drug Plane Burned on Prominent Honduran’s Property,” reports that “a known drug trafficking flight with a 1,000 kilo cocaine shipment from Colombia…successfully landed March 14 on the private property of Miguel Facusse.” According to the cable’s author, Ambassador Larry Palmer, sources informed police that “its cargo was off-loaded onto a convoy of vehicles that was guarded by about 30 heavily armed men.” The plane was seen burned and its wreckage then buried by a “bulldozer/front-end loader.” Palmer writes that “Facusse’s property is heavily guarded and the prospect that individuals were able to access the property and, without authorization, use the airstrip is questionable.” One source “claimed that Facusse was present on the property at the time of the incident.”

Ambassador Palmer also reported that “this incident marks the third time in the last fifteen months that drug traffickers have been linked to this property owned by Mr. Facusse.” In a subsequent cable on March 31, 2004, Palmer noted the confiscation by Honduran authorities of “approximately 700 kilos of cocaine” and conveyed the belief that the drugs may have come from the burned plane on Facussé’s property.

On February 22, 2009—four months before the coup—El Heraldo, a right-wing Tegucigalpa newspaper, reported that, according an official of the Honduran government’s anti-narcotics office, a Cessna aircraft with 1,400 kilos of cocaine had been found in Farallones, east of the Aguán Valley in the department of Colon, “on a landing strip that according to our information belongs to Miguel Facussé.” It seems safe to presume that the US embassy reads El Heraldo daily and carefully.

Other cables released by Wikileaks establish that embassy officials met with Miguel Facussé in June 2006 and on September 7, 2009, ten weeks into the coup, when the embassy had lunch with Facussé and Rafael Callejas, another of the coup government’s powerful backers.

A new US ambassador, Lisa Kubiske, arrived in Honduras this August. She is an expert on biofuels—the center of Miguel Facussé’s African palm empire.

How does this all add up, then? First, the US embassy met at least twice with a known, prominent drug trafficker. Second, it was aware that he was a backer of the coup and met with him as it was playing out, as if he were merely a “prominent businessman.”

Third, most importantly, the United States is funding and training Honduran military and police that are conducting joint operations with the security guards of a known drug trafficker, to violently repress a campesino movement on behalf of Facusse’s dubious claims to vast swathes of the Aguán Valley, in order to support his African palm biofuels empire.

Current Honduran President Porfirio Lobo was in Washington, DC, the first week in October, trumpeting his commitment to defending human rights and fighting drug wars—with President Obama’s full blessing. In reality, both are providing cover and support for a war against impoverished campesinos, to promote the economic interests of Honduras’ richest and most powerful man.

Copyright © 2011 The Nation

Dana Frank is professor of history at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and the author of “Bananeras: Women Transforming the Banana Unions of Latin America,” which focuses on Honduras, and Buy American: The Untold Story of Economic Nationalism. She is currently writing a book about the AFL-CIO's Cold War intervention in the Honduran labor movement.