Thursday, May 22, 2003


Yesterday US Senator Robert Byrd made a speech on the floor of the Senate which has been published on the Common Dreams site. Raven and I check this site almost every day because it gives us a little clue as to whether consciousness is increasing in Fortress America—or whether the long arm of the unconscious has the upper hand….

Raven is reading over my shoulder.

“Ha! Nothing like a mixed metaphor. Mixed body parts, even.”

It’s too early in the morning for a blast of criticism, Rave. I just want to pass on a few bits from Byrd’s speech, okay?

“I am never one to fly in the face of new awareness. Especially about a piece called “The Truth Will Emerge”.

Okay. He begins by saying, “The danger is that damage is done before the truth is widely realized. “

“He’s right except that he should have added “usually” before “damage”.

He mentions the manipulation by the Bush Gang, the blurring of the faces of Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein, the expoitation of fear. And then he talks about the cynical application of the term “liberation” to the process of destroying Iraq, saying: “But ‘liberation’ implies the follow up of freedom, self-determination and a better life for the common people. In fact, if the situation in Iraq is the result of ‘liberation’, we may have set the cause of freedom back 200 years.”

“How about that they’ve bombed it back to the Stone Age?”

Raven yawns and moves his beady eyes closer to the screen.

That’s pretty much the implication in what he goes on to say:

“Despite our high-blown claims of a better life for the Iraqi people, water is scarce, and often foul, electricity is a sometime thing, food is in short supply, hospitals are stacked with the wounded and maimed, historic treasures of the region and of the Iraqi people have been looted, and nuclear material may have been disseminated to heaven knows where, while U.S. troops, on orders, looked on and guarded the oil supply.

Meanwhile, lucrative contracts to rebuild Iraq's infrastructure and refurbish its oil industry are awarded to Administration cronies, without benefit of competitive bidding, and the U.S. steadfastly resists offers of U.N. assistance to participate. Is there any wonder that the real motives of the U.S. government are the subject of worldwide speculation and mistrust?

And in what may be the most damaging development, the U.S. appears to be pushing off Iraq's clamor for self-government. Jay Garner has been summarily replaced, and it is becoming all too clear that the smiling face of the U.S. as liberator is quickly assuming the scowl of an occupier. The image of the boot on the throat has replaced the beckoning hand of freedom. Chaos and rioting only exacerbate that image, as U.S. soldiers try to sustain order in a land ravaged by poverty and disease.”

“Well, what were they expecting, anyway?”

Let me finish reading, Rave:

“Democracy and Freedom cannot be force fed at the point of an occupier's gun. To think otherwise is folly. One has to stop and ponder. How could we have been so impossibly naive? How could we expect to easily plant a clone of U.S. culture, values, and government in a country so riven with religious, territorial, and tribal rivalries, so suspicious of U.S. motives, and so at odds with the galloping materialism which drives the western-style economies?”

“Isn’t that what I just asked?”

Yeah. And the predictable future looks bleak, too. Byrd says:

“We may have sparked a new international arms race as countries move ahead to develop WMD as a last ditch attempt to ward off a possible preemptive strike from a newly belligerent U.S. which claims the right to hit where it wants. In fact, there is little to constrain this President. Congress, in what will go down in history as its most unfortunate act, handed away its power to declare war for the foreseeable future and empowered this President to wage war at will…We cower in the shadows while false statements proliferate. We accept soft answers and shaky explanations because to demand the truth is hard, or unpopular, or may be politically costly.

But, I contend that, through it all, the people know. The American people unfortunately are used to political shading, spin, and the usual chicanery they hear from public officials. They patiently tolerate it up to a point. But there is a line. It may seem to be drawn in invisible ink for a time, but eventually it will appear in dark colors, tinged with anger. When it comes to shedding American blood - - when it comes to wreaking havoc on civilians, on innocent men, women, and children, callous dissembling is not acceptable. Nothing is worth that kind of lie - - not oil, not revenge, not reelection, not somebody's grand pipedream of a democratic domino theory.

And mark my words, the calculated intimidation which we see so often of late by the "powers that be" will only keep the loyal opposition quiet for just so long. Because eventually, like it always does, the truth will emerge. And when it does, this house of cards, built of deceit, will fall.”

“Nothing like pulling optimism out of the hat like a rabbit, is there?”

Raven wanders toward the window, poised for his getaway.

Where are you off to now, guy?

“Off to find that house of cards. To watch it fall.”

Senator Byrd is not alone in his optimism. Apparently.

Wednesday, May 21, 2003


Raven is twiddling his feathers in front of the computer screen, thinking about why countries have laws.

And why is this your Issue of the Day?

“Because of this Belgian Business.”

Sounds arcane, Rave. Is this something like “Our Man in Havana”?

“No. Maybe. But without the vacuum sweeper store as a front for imaginary espionage. And without Alec Guiness, too. All seriousness aside, the Belgian Business is about trying Tommy Franks for war crimes. For dropping cluster bombs in civilan areas, for example.”

They may look like bunches of grapes to kids, but the unexploded ones are still killing them, too. So, are they putting out a warrant for Franks, or what?

“Doesn’t look like it. Some people from Iraq and Jordan filed the lawsuit. I have read several articles about what happened—pretty good ones in LA JORNADA and on the Commondreams web site. The article on Common Dreams, reprinted from THE GUARDIAN says:

‘Franks appears to have a case to answer. The charges fall into four categories: the use of cluster bombs; the killing of civilians by other means; attacks on the infrastructure essential for public health; and the failure to prevent the looting of hospitals. There is plenty of supporting evidence.

US forces dropped around 1,500 cluster bombs from the air and fired an unknown quantity from artillery pieces. British troops fired 2,100. Each contained several hundred bomblets, which fragment into shrapnel. Between 200 and 400 Iraqi civilians were killed by them during the war. Others, mostly children, continue to killed by those bomblets which failed to explode when they hit the ground. The effects of their deployment in residential areas were both predictable and predicted. This suggests that their use there breached protocol II to the Geneva conventions, which prohibits "violence to the life, health and physical or mental well-being" of non-combatants.

On several occasions, US troops appear to have opened fire on unarmed civilians. In Nassiriya, they shot at any vehicle that approached their positions. In one night alone they killed 12 civilians. On a bridge on the outskirts of Baghdad they shot 15 in two days. Last month, US troops fired on peaceful demonstrators in Mosul, killing seven, and in Falluja, killing 13 and injuring 75.’”

We wrote about that incident, Rave.“

"’The armed forces also deliberately destroyed civilian infrastructure, bombing the electricity lines upon which water treatment plants depended, with the result that cholera and dysentery have spread. Protocol II prohibits troops from attacking "objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population such as ... drinking water installations and supplies".

The fourth convention also insists that an occupying power is responsible for "ensuring and maintaining ... the medical and hospital establishments and services, public health and hygiene in the occupied territory". Yet when the US defenses secretary Donald Rumsfeld was asked why his troops had failed to prevent the looting of public buildings, he replied: "Stuff happens. Free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things." Many hospitals remain closed or desperately under-supplied. On several occasions US soldiers acted on orders to fire at Iraqi ambulances, killing or wounding their occupants. They shot the medical crews which came to retrieve the dead and wounded at the demonstration in Falluja. The Geneva conventions suggest that these are straightforward war crimes: Medical units and transports shall be respected and protected at all times and shall not be the object of attack.’”

All of these sound like legitimate points on which to base a lawsuit, Rave. So what are they doing with it?

“Well, the US government responded very angrily. The State Department threatened Belgium that it will punish nations which allow political use of their laws. The Belgians didn’t feel like being bombed out of existence, I guess, because they already have amended the law that allowed for those kinds of crimes to be tried in their jurisdiction, and denounced the lawyer who filed the case.”

The US has been insisting, with its refusal to subscribe to a world court, that no laws apply to US citizens except US laws.

“Precisely. The article goes on to indicate:‘The Bush government's response would doubtless be explained by its apologists as a measure of its insistence upon and respect for national sovereignty. But while the US forbids other nations to proscribe the actions of its citizens, it also insists that its own laws should apply abroad. The foreign sovereignty immunities act, for example, permits the US courts to prosecute foreigners for harming commercial interests in the US, even if they are breaking no laws within their own countries. The Helms-Burton Act allows the courts in America to confiscate the property of foreign companies which do business with Cuba. The Iran-Libya Sanctions Act instructs the government to punish foreign firms investing in the oil or gas sectors in those countries. The message these laws send is this: you can't prosecute us, but we can prosecute you.

Of course, the sensible means of resolving legal disputes between nations is the use of impartial, multinational tribunals, such as the international criminal court in the Hague. But impartial legislation is precisely what the US government will not contemplate. When the ICC treaty was being negotiated, the US demanded that its troops should be exempt from prosecution, and the UN security council gave it what it wanted. The US also helped to ensure that the court's writ runs only in the nations which have ratified the treaty. Its soldiers in Iraq would thus have been exempt in any case, as Saddam Hussein's government was one of seven which voted against the formation of the court in 1998. The others were China, Israel, Libya, Qatar, Yemen and the US. This is the company the American government keeps when it comes to international law.

To ensure that there was not the slightest possibility that his servicemen need fear the rule of law, George W Bush signed a new piece of extra-territorial legislation last year, which permits the US "to use all means necessary and appropriate to bring about the release" of US citizens being tried in the court. This appears to include the invasion of the capital of the Netherlands.’”

Great—now the marines will be landing where—Rotterdam? They can change the song to include another round of invasions—from the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli to the dikes of Holland.

"Tilting at windmills with tanks and bombing fields of tulips...."

Tuesday, May 20, 2003


Raven is wretched;
kicking along in tidepools,
sniffing at garbage—
he feels the world is ending,
and there’s nothing he can do.

He’s probably right.
All of us feel impotent
in the face of death—
more so when life seems to be
moving along like always….

Just a bit of minor transitory depression for The Bird for All Seasons. He’ll be rocking and rolling again in no time.

I--his lesser half, his anima--am a different story. After reading the Strategy Document of the National Endowment for Democracy, dated January 2002 and NOT FOR PUBLIC CIRCULATION (the pages of the plan dealing with North Korea, China and Burma are even “scrambled”—any Navajo code-busters interested in this one?), I am ready to upchuck my breakfast of, yes, scrambled eggs at the mere mention of the word DEMOCRACY.

Yesterday Raven and I talked about Instant Mix Democracy, Totalitarian Democracy and even Fascist Democracy. The word has become so perverted by its misuse as the rationale for imposing free trade zones, neutralizing competition, institutionalizing greed and violence and hunger, grabbing other countries’ natural resources, dumping surplus products to ruin other economies, mounting and supporting military coups against democratically elected presidents, authorizing the running of guns and drugs and dirty tricks all over the globe by the CIA, cluster bombing women and children in mideast markets—and generally heating the planet to the boiling point—that it would be difficult to find a more cynical word to substitute for Imperialism.

Give it a try, though. If you think of one, send Raven and me a message in a bottle with The Word written on the outside of an envelope containing anthrax, the SARS virus, a medal of Our Lady of Guadalupe minted in Florida and blessed by Jeb Bush or the Bill of Rights shredded into confetti. We don’t care what you put in the envelope—we won’t open it anyway—but here in this broken down beach town we’ll use just about anything as toilet paper. (Especially copies of the Strategy Document for the National Endowment for Democracy….)

Monday, May 19, 2003


Raven and I made do with cinnamon rolls and coffee this morning.

“They would have been tastier if you had heated them.” Raven looks a bit sulky around the edges.

Maybe. Listen, Rave, I am reading a piece by Arundhati Roy in the Common Dreams site called “Instant-Mix Imperial Democracy”. Apropos your comment about heating things up, she says the following:

“Here we are, the people of the world, confronted with an Empire armed with a mandate from heaven (and, as added insurance, the most formidable arsenal of weapons of mass destruction in history). Here we are, confronted with an Empire that has conferred upon itself the right to go to war at will, and the right to deliver people from corrupting ideologies, from religious fundamentalists, dictators, sexism, and poverty by the age-old, tried-and-tested practice of extermination. Empire is on the move, and Democracy is its sly new war cry. Democracy, home-delivered to your doorstep by daisy cutters. Death is a small price for people to pay for the privilege of sampling this new product: Instant-Mix Imperial Democracy (bring to a boil, add oil, then bomb).”

“She is certainly right to call it Imperial Democracy, since it has little or nothing in common with the traditional use of the term. Maybe she should have gone for the whole hog (paz, domestic animals) and called it Totalitarian Democracy?”

Or even Fascist Democracy, to be congruent with the US government’s official policy of Doublespeak?

“The cooking instructions make it clear why the US government has fomented civil unrest in, for example, Venezuela—to bring social conditions to a boil.” Raven takes a swig of his coffee.

Oil was already part of the mix. Venezuela sits on a lake of oil and gas that comprises almost half of the reserves of this hemisphere. Since The Bush Gang planned to invade Iraq, and they weren’t sure to what lengths the Iraquis might go to keep their oil out of the US clutches, The Gang decided to go after Venezuela first.

“So they cooked up the idea that Chávez—excuse me, The Leo of Your Dreams—was a dictator, so that they could depose him and enforce their brand of what you called Fascist Democracy—I like that term—in Venezuela.”

And it was necessary to make a coup in order to throw out the Constitution which says that PDVSA is not privatizable. Remember that the first thing self-proclaimed president Pedro Carmona did on April 12, 2002, was annul the Constitution.

“No bombing was necessary.”

No, it was not a time-capsule replay of the coup in Chile of Sept. 11, 1973, when Pinochet ordered the bombing of the president, Salavador Allende, in La Moneda. But it could have been. Which is one of the reasons why in June of last year Chávez installed anti-aircraft weapons around Miraflores, cut the military budget by 25% and put the money to social programs.

“But the The Gang is still agitating for a takeover.”

And using the power of the media, which is what they used to bring things to a boil in the first place. The irony of Charley Shapiro orchestrating a Free Speech event to ridicule Chávez last week in the US ambassador’s residence in Caracas is the enormous power of the media in Venezuela. Lots of money from Gustavo Cisneros, fishing buddy of Daddy Warbucks Bush, is behind the media. Despite his crying “poormouth” that he doesn’t have enough money to send Miss Venzuela to compete for the Miss Universe crown.

“What!? I thought Venezuela was a veritable factory for beauty queens.”

That’s the point, Rave. To make folks think that Chávez’ monetary controls are unpatriotic because they are stopping poor little Miss Venezuela from displaying the wonders of silcone in a swim suit.

“Quite a complicated situation, ain’t it? Now it’s a cultural war they’re bringing to a boil. Seems like a good moment to feel nostalgia for the good old days of The Cold War.”

Well, Venezuelan intellectual Luis Britto called this The Hot Cultural War, so I guess you are right on target, Rave.

“I would be if I were ready to bomb Miraflores. With money from the National Endowment for Democracy crammed in my tiny pockets. But I wouldn’t like to see Chávez test his anti-aircarft weaponry on my very elegant and excruciatingly expensive War on Iraq army surplus toilet seats. Especially the pink ones.”

Jesus, Rave, you’re a one-note samba.

“No way, José. I am your friendly Rantin’ Raven Rock ‘n’ Roller—from way back in the days of The Cold War, baby.”

Raven boogies his way to the sink with his coffee cup.