The US and its allies are teaching a new generation of courageous, creative, generous people to harden their hearts against them throughout the Middle East. As the child-killing, family-destroying troops and airmen of the mass murderers in Washington, London, and Tel Aviv do their foul, reckless work, many precedents come to mind. Like the Persian Emperor Xerxes in Aeschylus' tragedy The Persians, George Bush and his allies Ariel Sharon, Tony Blair, John Howard, Silvio Berlusconi and the rest, sully foreign gods and know no measure.
But times change and while Xerxes may have lamented his fallen captains, George Bush cannot be bothered even to attend a funeral. Plataea, Marathon and Salamis may be long forgotten, but for Thermopylae we can now plausibly read Fallujah. You won't read this interpretation of reality in the mainstream media. But a new, militarily peerless barbarian horde is living that reality just the same, as the Persians had to against the Spartan infantry at Plataea and against the Athenian mariners at Salamis.
In this case, the barbarian horde seems to have run up against the political limits of their countries' military might. A look across the Latin American satrapies of empire may be timely, as oil peaks and its price pushes relentlessly upwards. The global plutocrat elite are pinched between growing popular determination to achieve decent living standards and their own diminishing ability to access and control energy and water resources. Something has to give.
US style "free market" democracy - from Iraq to Honduras to Haiti
In the maquila paradise of Honduras, the UN Food and Agriculture organization reports that 15 people a day die of hunger. The FAO believes there is a serious prospect that the number will double in months to come. 44% of people there live on less than US$1 a day. But if one reads World Bank statistics, it is clear we are not meant to worry.
Per capita income in Honduras is double that of neighboring Nicaragua. The starving Hondurans can take comfort in that cozy macroeconomic statistic from the aristocrats of poverty. In any case, no doubt their soldiers, recently home from Iraq, will gladly explain they should count themselves lucky to be the beneficiaries of freedom made-in-the-USA. (1)
In Haiti, a short hop away from Palmerola-Soto Cano, the US former Contra-terrorist air support base, the staff in the morgue and hospitals of the capital Port au Prince can no longer cope with the number of dead from the UN supervised repression there. (2) How unreasonable of them not to appreciate the privilege of participating in the liberation of their island from their own elected government. How insensitive of them not to see the clear benefits to the steadily accumulating cadavers of having been murdered under the auspices of freedom loving powers like the United States, Canada and France, with strong support from President Lula of Brazil and His Royal Highness the King of Jordan.
How many murdered Haitians will matter in the end before some among the omnipotent plutocrats shed a few tears? A few hundred? A few thousand? Freedom's trumpeters in the mainstream media can't be expected to waste newsreel and airtime on irrelevancies. We owe what we know of the horror of the repression in Haiti to a handful of incredibly brave journalists like Kevin Pina of Black Commentator and many anonymous brave Haitians. In their non-coverage of Haiti, the mainstream news media have reached a new low - after Iraq that hardly seemed possible. But it is a fact that for the media heralds of empire, every infamy is likely to be outdone.
Colombia and Chile - US laboratories for experiments in repression
In Colombia, another forgotten imperial catastrophe, the full benefits of US style democracy have been available to an ungrateful population for nearly 40 years. Only just recently on August 6th, three more trades unionists, this time in the Arauca department, discovered the essential truths underlying their country's good fortune. They were murdered by members of the "Reveis Pizarro" Mechanized Battalion of the US trained and financed Colombian army.
Their deaths and that of campesino leader Pedro Mosquera in October confirmed Colombia as the world champion of trades union repression. This in its turn more than explains the country's world ranking at number three in terms of US military aid. US taxpayers and their representatives clearly like nothing better than a genuine commitment to "free trade" demonstrated by the extermination of organized labor. (3)
Earlier this year, to emphasize the success of the US war on drugs in their country, active drugs dealing paramilitaries of the AUC terrorist group addressed the Colombian national assembly. Several of these acknowledged criminals, like Salvatore Mancuso, were wanted by the United States authorities. Unappreciative relatives of some of the thousands of people murdered by the AUC protested - outside, duly supervised by armed police.
For a judicial exposé of the real measure of the horror of the criminality of the United States and its allies one has to go to Chile. Remember how people like Tony Blair's model Margaret Thatcher and renowned war criminal Henry Kissinger fell over themselves to protect Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet from due process after he was nabbed on a shopping trip to Harrods? Now judicial investigations have revealed that Pinochet was a corrupt crook, milking the Chilean State for millions of US dollars that he stashed away in the prestigious top-drawer Riggs Bank in the United States. He was unable to cover his tracks for those crimes. (4)
Now too, the detailed truth about how he ordered the murder and disappearance of thousands of political prisoners is emerging. The judicial investigation has discovered graphic testimony and material evidence showing how victims were dumped in the sea from Chilean military helicopters at different times during the 1970s. Some of the corpses had been recently killed, usually tortured to death. Others were exhumed from mass graves in a ghoulish military operation called "Withdraw the Television Sets".
In either case, the bodies were tied up in sacks. Short lengths of steel railroad track were fixed to them to weight them down and make the corpses sink. This is how Chile was made safe for democracy US-mafia-style by the CIA and its local proxies. That is what the United States means to millions of people in Latin America.
Continent wide popular protest
Across Latin America, more and more people are deciding they have had enough of the graft, murder and mis-government paid for and encouraged by the United States and its European and other allies. In Peru, student demonstrations have recently rocked the administration of US ally President Toledo. In Ecuador, President Lucio Gutierrez, who turned out to be a devoted lap dog of US Southern Command General James T. Hill, suffered crushing defeat in last week's municipal elections with his party's share of the vote falling so low as to threaten its very legality. (5)
In Bolivia, President Carlos Mesa has followed in his disgraced predecessor's footsteps, fronting a kind of foreign-energy-company representative oligarchy. His government faces increasingly general rejection of its attempts to sell off the country's resources cheap to the Bolivian oligarchy's foreign backers, including President Lula of Brazil. (6) In Paraguay, nationally coordinated land occupations are pressing the government for economic measures to help thousands of farmworkers and their families sustain their livelihoods.
In Argentina, the piquetero movement continues to challenge President Kirchner's efforts to close down options for worker's organizations. In Uruguay, another country whose people are exhausted after years of neo-liberal humbug-economics, opinion polls decisively favour the left wing-opposition. Presidential elections are due at the end of this month, just a couple of days before the presidential vote in the US.
In Costa Rica, huge demonstrations have taken place against the Central American Free Trade Agreement and privatization-linked corruption. Privatization friendly former President Miguel Angel Rodriguez was forced to resign recently as Secretary General of the OAS. Now he is back in Costa Rica facing trial on charges of taking bribes from the French telecommunciations company Alcatel. Costa Ricans are also furious at revelations that Rodriguez received over US$1m in payments from Taiwan while he was president. (7)
In Nicaragua, teachers and health workers, for so long the victims of IMF imposed public sector cutbacks are threatening national strike action. Their pay is currently less than half what they need to meet basic needs. Recent demonstrations against measures preliminary to water privatization similarly indicate growing opposition to the agenda the World Bank and the IMF are trying to impose on this impoverished people.
Right now, Nicaraguan President Enrique Bolaños faces a constitutional procedure to strip him of the presidency. The General Audit Office have formally accused him of fraudulently using over US$20 million of government money while Vice-President to finance his successful presidential election campaign. This is the man senior US government representatives have publicly praised for his anti-corruption policies. (8)
The view from Venezuela
People don't forget. They remember. Is it any wonder that in Venezuela, senior military officers believe the US is fomenting military activity against their country? Venezuelan army general Melvin Lopez, Secretary of the National Defense Council, said at a public workshop on the effects of neighboring Colombia's continuing anti-guerrilla offensive "the presence of north americans on Colombian territory training civilians and paramilitaries is a cause for concern in Venezuela....The Plan Patriota of the Colombian government and the United States is in support of the Colombian armed forces and of the paramilitaries, although the Washington government has made efforts to neutralize them, more recently they have been training them.... we suspect the paramilitaries are involved in Plan Patriota."
His colleague Lt.-Colonel Hector Herrera said, "the United States is trying to create a sort of social and military frontier destabilization to justify UN intervention and increased military spending on Colombia....we are aware of the intentions behind Plan Colombia, not just for that neighboring country but for Latin America and the negative effects they could have for Venezuela." (9)
While we may not know what Aeschylus wrote in his numerous lost works like the Daughters of Danaus, it almost certainly had to do with the deep interconnectedness of things. Terrible crimes derived from lack of respect for fundamental justice invoke relentless, often wildly unexpected retribution. That's probably why most people don't commit terrible crimes. We have a rational dread of moral justice.
People like George Bush and Ariel Sharon , Tony Blair and John Howard clearly believe they are immune from that intuitive moral insight of the majority. The modern twist they give to Aeschylus is that their hubristic vainglory is only tragic for their victims. Like Adolf Eichmann or Henry Kissinger, they themselves are utterly banal. Their sinister intent is to try and make all of us their accomplices. We cannot afford to let them.
toni solo is an activist based in
Central America. Contact via
MUEREN 15 HONDUREÑOS POR HAMBRE CADA DIA 15/10/2004.
Other Articles by toni solo
Survival: The Case of Education and Free Software