Wednesday, April 28, 2010

War: Mostly Just Murder and Not Really Defense

Photo: Joe Raedle. August 15, 2004.

Nature or Nurture? Why Soldiers Get A Kick Out Of Killing
By John Horgan / April 23, 2010

Do some soldiers enjoy killing? If so, why? This question is thrust upon us by the recently released video of U.S. Apache helicopter pilots shooting a Reuters cameraman and his driver in Baghdad in 2007. Mistaking the camera of the Reuters reporter for a weapon, the pilots machine-gunned the reporter and driver and other nearby people.

The most chilling aspect of the video, which was made public by Wikileaks, is the chatter between two pilots, whose names have not been released. As Elizabeth Bumiller of The New York Times put it, the soldiers "revel in their kill." "Look at those dead bastards," one pilot says. "Nice," the other replies.

The exchange reminds me of a Times story from March 2003, during the U.S. invasion of Baghdad. The reporter quotes Sgt. Eric Schrumpf, a Marine sharpshooter, saying, "We had a great day. We killed a lot of people." Noting that his troop killed an Iraqi woman standing near a militant, Schrumpf adds, "I'm sorry, but the chick was in the way."

Does the apparent satisfaction—call it the Schrumpf effect—that some soldiers take in killing stem primarily from nature or nurture? Nature, claims Richard Wrangham, an anthropologist at Harvard University and an authority on chimpanzees. Wrangham asserts that natural selection embedded in both male humans and chimpanzees—our closest genetic relatives—an innate propensity for "intergroup coalitionary killing" [pdf], in which members of one group attack members of a rival group. Male humans "enjoy the opportunity" to kill others, Wrangham says, especially if they run little risk of being killed themselves.

Several years ago, geneticists at Victoria University in New Zealand linked violent male aggression to a variant of a gene that encodes for the enzyme monoamine oxidase A, which regulates the function of neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin. According to the researchers, the so-called "warrior gene" is carried by 56 percent of Maori men, who are renowned for being "fearless warriors," and only 34 percent of Caucasian males.

But studies of World War II veterans suggest that very few men are innately bellicose. The psychiatrists Roy Swank and Walter Marchand found that 98 percent of soldiers who endured 60 days of continuous combat suffered psychiatric symptoms, either temporary or permanent. The two out of 100 soldiers who seemed unscathed by prolonged combat displayed "aggressive psychopathic personalities," the psychiatrists reported. In other words, combat didn't drive these men crazy because they were crazy to begin with.

Surveys of WWII infantrymen carried out by U.S. Army Brig. Gen. S.L.A. Marshall found that only 15 to 20 percent had fired their weapons in combat, even when ordered to do so. Marshall concluded that most soldiers avoid firing at the enemy because they fear killing as well as being killed. "The average and healthy individual," Marshall contended in his postwar book Men Against Fire, "has such an inner and usually unrealized resistance towards killing a fellow man that he will not of his own volition take life if it is possible to turn away from that responsibility…At the vital point he becomes a conscientious objector."

Critics have challenged Marshall's claims, but the U.S. military took them so seriously that it revamped its training to boost firing rates in subsequent wars, according to Dave Grossman, a former U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel and professor of psychology at West Point. In his 1995 book On Killing, Grossman argues that Marshall's results have been corroborated by reports from World War I, the American Civil War, the Napoleonic wars and other conflicts. "The singular lack of enthusiasm for killing one's fellow man has existed throughout military history," Grossman asserts.

The reluctance of ordinary men to kill can be overcome by intensified training, direct commands from officers, long-range weapons and propaganda that glorifies the soldier's cause and dehumanizes the enemy. "With the proper conditioning and the proper circumstances, it appears that almost anyone can and will kill," Grossman writes. Many soldiers who kill enemies in battle are initially exhilarated, Grossman says, but later they often feel profound revulsion and remorse, which may transmute into post-traumatic stress disorder and other ailments. Indeed, Grossman believes that the troubles experienced by many combat veterans are evidence of a "powerful, innate human resistance toward killing one's own species."

In other words, the Schrumpf effect is usually a product less of nature than of nurture—although "nurture" is an odd term for training that turns ordinary young men into enthusiastic killers.

[John Horgan, a former Scientific American staff writer, directs the Center for Science Writings at Stevens Institute of Technology.]

Source / Scientific American

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Thursday, April 22, 2010

Much Bluster About Not a Whole Lot

The tea party 'movement' has little organizational structure to speak of, and its candidates have so far failed to make a dent in Republican primaries. Photo: Ridgefield.

The tea party's exaggerated importance
By Jonathan Martin & Ben Smith / April 22, 2010

2009 was the year when many journalists concluded they were slow to recognize the anti-government, anti-Obama rage that gave birth to the tea party movement.

2010 is the year when news organizations have decided to prove they get it.

And get it. And get it some more.

Part of the reason is the timeless truth in media that nothing succeeds like excess. But part of the reason is a convergence of incentives for journalists and activists on left and right alike to exaggerate both the influence and exotic traits of the tea-party movement. In fact, there is a word for what poll after poll depicts as a group of largely white, middle-class, middle-aged voters who are aggrieved: Republicans.

But just read the succession of New York Times stories, profiling newly energized activists who are “bracing for tyranny.” Or follow the dispatches of the CNN crews who went along with two national Tea Party Express bus tours. Or delve into the crosstabs of polls conducted in the past few weeks by the Times, CNN, and, POLITICO about the opinions and demographic characteristics of tea partiers. Or check out the blogger the Washington Post hired to chronicle their movement.

The findings have been unveiled with the earnest detachment of Margaret Mead reporting her findings among teenage girls in Samoa.

Indifference has given way to curiosity, and —in recent weeks especially— to a nearly manic obsession that sometimes seems to place the tea partiers somewhere near the suffragettes and the America-Firsters in the historical ranking of mass political movements.

Pew's Project for Excellence in Journalism, which tracks media reports, found that the tea parties consumed a steady measure of news for most of this year before exploding during tax week to compete with the Icelandic volcano for attention and outstripping health care with 6% of all media reports that week.

But various sides have their own reasons for finding something new and arresting in the spasms of outrage personified by the tea partiers. The right sees the protests as evidence of a popular revolt against President Barack Obama—proof of a changing tide they believe will bring massive victories in 2010 and 2012. The left sees them as evidence of incipient fascism and an opposition to Obama rooted in racism—proof of the beyond-the-pale illegitimacy of large swaths of the conservative moment.

The tea party “movement,” meanwhile, has little organizational structure to speak of. True tea party candidates – as opposed to establishment figures like former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio who have gladly adopted the label – have failed to make a dent so far in Republican primaries. The one true tea partier poised to make a splash, Kentucky GOP Senate candidate Rand Paul, is an imperfect example thanks to his being the son of Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), who still commands a national following after his quixotic presidential race.

The tea parties’ main expression has been public gatherings. But last week’s Tax Day crowds were not representative of a force that is purportedly shaping the country’s politics. About a thousand people showed up in state capitals like Des Moines, Montgomery and Baton Rouge – and even fewer in large cities like Philadelphia, Boston and Milwaukee. In some cases, turnout was less than the original protests spurred by the stimulus, bailouts, financial crisis and new Democratic president last April 15th.

In Washington, about 10,000 people showed up on the national Mall last week – a rally worth covering but far fewer than the tens of thousands who marched in support of immigration reform in March.

“If I organized a rally for stronger laws to protect puppies, I would get 100,000 people to Washington,” Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell cracked on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday. “So, I think the media has blown the tea party themselves out of proportion."

What’s more, the eruption of protest after a president of a new party takes the country in a new direction is a standard feature of modern American politics. Ronald Reagan’s election produced record-breaking rallies for the now-forgotten Nuclear Freeze movement. The right, with rhetoric and occasional excesses that are almost identical to those of today, rose up angrily against Bill Clinton in the mid-1990s.

And just a few years ago, hundreds of thousands of Americans turned out to rally against the Iraq war. Now, veterans of those protests – covered largely as spot news and spectacle – wonder why they didn’t get the weighty, anthropological treatment assigned to the tea parties.

“They’re being treated with a lot more respect than the anti-war movement was,” said Cindy Sheehan, the mother of a soldier who died in Iraq, who became the most visible face of those protests.

“The anti-war movement has always been treated as a fringe movement – even though at the height of our movement we had hundreds of thousands of people at protests and the majority of public opinion on our side,” said Sheehan, who spoke to POLITICO from a bus on her way to an Oregon protest against the Afghan war.

“Nobody is polling us to find out our thoughts and opinions on things,” she added.

The polling has discovered what the Republican officials who have allied themselves with the tea parties already knew: That the new energy and organization is a function of an inflamed conservative grassroots already basically aligned with one party.

“There is definitely some anger at the GOP over our big spending ways, but generally this is an Obama protest vote,” says Republican strategist Mike Murphy.

Polls indicated that tea party adherents overwhelmingly support GOP candidates. Over 70 percent backed John McCain in 2008, according to POLITICO’s own in-person survey of those who attended the tax day rally in Washington. And a New York Times poll released last week showed that 40 percent of self-identified tea party supporters indicated a desire for a third party – less than the 46 percent of overall respondents to the survey who said they’d like to see an option besides the Republicans and Democrats.

“No one should mistake tea partiers for swing voters,” said Democratic strategist Paul Begala, noting surveys that show the group largely identifies as either Republican or independents who lean toward the GOP. “Those who say they're independent do not choose that status because the Democrats are too liberal but because the Republicans are too conservative.”

Other polling suggests that the protests, while much discussed within the political class, hasn’t entirely pierced the consciousness of average Americans.

A new Pew poll out this week with a national sample of 2,505 found that 31 percent of those surveyed had never even heard of the tea party movement – and another 30 percent had no opinion of them.

The media fascination, trickling down from A1 of the New York Times, for instance, to A1 of the Arizona Republic, is prompting a second round of anthropology, this time from aggravated political professionals.

Murphy, who calls the attention “absolutely ridiculous,” sees it of a piece with what has become the biennial compulsion in the political community to hold up a newly-discovered, and always pivotal, bloc of voters; Like the Angry White Males, NASCAR Dads, Soccer Moms of election cycles past – only on steroids.

“There is this urge to give any political development a catchy name and a picture,” he lamented, adding the familiar Republican complaint that well-educated, left-leaning, coast-dwelling reporters view middle America through an elitist lens.

“These young reporters fly to the wilds of Oklahoma or Kentucky, find a bunch of folks in Uncle Sam suits hollering and come back thinking they’ve got some hot scoop,” Murphy said.

The coverage began, notes Republican consultant Alex Castellanos, with not much more than bemused mockery: “’How amusing, the peasants are revolting’”

Now it has reached a level of worried fascination. Or, as Castellanos put it, “The peasants actually are revolting!”

In some ways, perceptions of the tea partiers have become much like the politician most frequently identified with the movement – Sarah Palin.

For both the left and the right, both have become symbols that outweigh their actual impact – thanks largely to excessive media attention. Conservatives mostly rush to defend them while liberals delight in mocking them, and reporters can’t get enough of the spectacle.

And, as with Palin, the tea parties enjoy an unlikely convergence of saturation coverage from media outlets across the political spectrum.

The more ideologically-driven cable networks have something near ideal for television news in the modern era: vivid images of political activism that can either be celebrated (Fox) or mocked (MSNBC). And columnists and editorial writers from the mainstream media have something to celebrate or deplore.

“It feeds the paranoia of the New York Times and provides pictures of conflict and color for TV,” said Murphy.

Source / Politico

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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Imitation: The Most Sincere Form of Flattery

American Kleptocracy: How Fears of Socialism and Fascism Hide Naked Theft
By William J. Astore / April 20, 2010

Kleptocracy -- now, there’s a word I was taught to associate with corrupt and exploitative governments that steal ruthlessly and relentlessly from the people. It’s a word, in fact, that’s usually applied to flawed or failed governments in Africa, Latin America, or the nether regions of Asia. Such governments are typically led by autocratic strong men who shower themselves and their cronies with all the fruits of extracted wealth, whether stolen from the people or squeezed from their country’s natural resources. It’s not a word you’re likely to see associated with a mature republic like the United States led by disinterested public servants and regulated by more-or-less transparent principles and processes.

In fact, when Americans today wish to critique or condemn their government, the typical epithets used are “socialism” or “fascism.” When my conservative friends are upset, they send me emails with links to material about "ObamaCare" and the like. These generally warn of a future socialist takeover of the private realm by an intrusive, power-hungry government. When my progressive friends are upset, they send me emails with links pointing to an incipient fascist takeover of our public and private realms, led by that same intrusive, power-hungry government (and, I admit it, I’m hardly innocent when it comes to such “what if” scenarios).

What if, however, instead of looking at where our government might be headed, we took a closer look at where we are -- at the power-brokers who run or influence our government, at those who are profiting and prospering from it? These are, after all, the “winners” in our American world in terms of the power they wield and the wealth they acquire. And shouldn’t we be looking as well at those Americans who are losing -- their jobs, their money, their homes, their healthcare, their access to a better way of life -- and asking why?

If we were to take an honest look at America’s blasted landscape of “losers” and the far shinier, spiffier world of “winners,” we’d have to admit that it wasn’t signs of onrushing socialism or fascism that stood out, but of staggeringly self-aggrandizing greed and theft right in the here and now. We’d notice our public coffers being emptied to benefit major corporations and financial institutions working in close alliance with, and passing on remarkable sums of money to, the representatives of “the people.” We’d see, in a word, kleptocracy on a scale to dazzle. We would suddenly see an almost magical disappearing act being performed, largely without comment, right before our eyes.

Of Red Herrings and Missing Pallets of Money

Think of socialism and fascism as the red herrings of this moment or, if you’re an old time movie fan, as Hitchcockian MacGuffins -- in other words, riveting distractions. Conservatives and tea partiers fear invasive government regulation and excessive taxation, while railing against government takeovers -- even as corporate lobbyists write our public healthcare bills to favor private interests. Similarly, progressives rail against an emergent proto-fascist corps of private guns-for-hire, warrantless wiretapping, and the potential government-approved assassination of U.S. citizens, all sanctioned by a perpetual, and apparently open-ended, state of war.

Yet, if this is socialism, why are private health insurers the government’s go-to guys for healthcare coverage? If this is fascism, why haven’t the secret police rounded up tea partiers and progressive critics as well and sent them to the lager or the gulag?

Consider this: America is not now, nor has it often been, a hotbed of political radicalism. We have no substantial socialist or workers’ party. (Unless you’re deluded, please don’t count the corporate-friendly “Democrat” party here.) We have no substantial fascist party. (Unless you’re deluded, please don’t count the cartoonish “tea partiers” here; these predominantly white, graying, and fairly affluent Americans seem most worried that the jackbooted thugs will be coming for them.)

What drives America today is, in fact, business -- just as was true in the days of Calvin Coolidge. But it’s not the fair-minded “free enterprise” system touted in those freshly revised Texas guidelines for American history textbooks; rather, it’s a rigged system of crony capitalism that increasingly ends in what, if we were looking at some other country, we would recognize as an unabashed kleptocracy.

Recall, if you care to, those pallets stacked with hundreds of millions of dollars that the Bush administration sent to Iraq and which, Houdini-like, simply disappeared. Think of the ever-rising cost of our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, now in excess of a trillion dollars, and just whose pockets are full, thanks to them.

If you want to know the true state of our government and where it’s heading, follow the money (if you can) and remain vigilant: our kleptocratic Houdinis are hard at work, seeking to make yet more money vanish from your pockets -- and reappear in theirs.

From Each According to His Gullibility -- To Each According to His Greed

Never has the old adage my father used to repeat to me -- “the rich get richer and the poor poorer” -- seemed fresher or truer. If you want confirmation of just where we are today, for instance, consider this passage from a recent piece by Tony Judt:

In 2005, 21.2 percent of U.S. national income accrued to just 1 percent of earners. Contrast 1968, when the CEO of General Motors took home, in pay and benefits, about sixty-six times the amount paid to a typical GM worker. Today the CEO of Wal-Mart earns nine hundred times the wages of his average employee. Indeed, the wealth of the Wal-Mart founder’s family in 2005 was estimated at about the same ($90 billion) as that of the bottom 40 percent of the U.S. population: 120 million people.

Wealth concentration is only one aspect of our increasingly kleptocratic system. War profiteering by corporations (however well disguised as heartfelt support for our heroic warfighters) is another. Meanwhile, retired senior military officers typically line up to cash in on the kleptocratic equivalent of welfare, peddling their “expertise” in return for impressive corporate and Pentagon payouts that supplement their six-figure pensions. Even that putative champion of the Carhartt-wearing common folk, Sarah Palin, pocketed a cool $12 million last year without putting the slightest dent in her populist bona fides.

Based on such stories, now legion, perhaps we should rewrite George Orwell’s famous tagline from Animal Farm as: All animals are equal, but a few are so much more equal than others.

And who are those “more equal” citizens? Certainly, major corporations, which now enjoy a kind of political citizenship and the largesse of a federal government eager to rescue them from their financial mistakes, especially when they’re judged “too big to fail.” In raiding the U.S. Treasury, big banks and investment firms, shamelessly ready to jack up executive pay and bonuses even after accepting billions in taxpayer-funded bailouts, arguably outgun militarized multinationals in the conquest of the public realm and the extraction of our wealth for their benefit.

Such kleptocratic outfits are, of course, abetted by thousands of lobbyists and by politicians who thrive off corporate campaign contributions. Indeed, many of our more prominent public servants have proved expert at spinning through the revolving door into the private sector. Even ex-politicians who prefer to be seen as sympathetic to the little guy like former House Majority Leader Dick Gephardt eagerly cash in.

I’m Shocked, Shocked, to Find Profiteering Going on Here

An old Roman maxim enjoins us to “let justice be done, though the heavens fall.” Within our kleptocracy, the prevailing attitude is an insouciant “We’ll get ours, though the heavens fall.” This mindset marks the decline of our polity. A spirit of shared sacrifice, dismissed as hopelessly naïve, has been replaced by a form of tribalized privatization in which insiders find ways to profit no matter what.

Is it any surprise then that, in seeking to export our form of government to Iraq and Afghanistan, we’ve produced not two model democracies, but two emerging kleptocracies, fueled respectively by oil and opium?

When we confront corruption in Iraq or Afghanistan, are we not like the police chief in the classic movie Casablanca who is shocked, shocked to find gambling going on at Rick’s Café, even as he accepts his winnings?

Why then do we bother to feign shock when Iraqi and Afghan elites, a tiny minority, seek to enrich themselves at the expense of the majority?

Shouldn’t we be flattered? Imitation, after all, is the sincerest form of flattery. Isn’t it?

pWilliam J. Astore is a TomDispatch regular; he teaches History at the Pennsylvania College of Technology and served in the Air Force for 20 years, retiring as a lieutenant colonel. He may be reached at]

Copyright 2010 William J. Astore

Source /

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Monday, April 19, 2010

Chomsky: The Two-Party System as a Mirage

Noam Chomsky Has ‘Never Seen Anything Like This’
By Chris Hedges / April 19, 2010

Noam Chomsky is America’s greatest intellectual. His massive body of work, which includes nearly 100 books, has for decades deflated and exposed the lies of the power elite and the myths they perpetrate. Chomsky has done this despite being blacklisted by the commercial media, turned into a pariah by the academy and, by his own admission, being a pedantic and at times slightly boring speaker. He combines moral autonomy with rigorous scholarship, a remarkable grasp of detail and a searing intellect. He curtly dismisses our two-party system as a mirage orchestrated by the corporate state, excoriates the liberal intelligentsia for being fops and courtiers and describes the drivel of the commercial media as a form of “brainwashing.” And as our nation’s most prescient critic of unregulated capitalism, globalization and the poison of empire, he enters his 81st year warning us that we have little time left to save our anemic democracy.

“It is very similar to late Weimar Germany,” Chomsky told me when I called him at his office in Cambridge, Mass. “The parallels are striking. There was also tremendous disillusionment with the parliamentary system. The most striking fact about Weimar was not that the Nazis managed to destroy the Social Democrats and the Communists but that the traditional parties, the Conservative and Liberal parties, were hated and disappeared. It left a vacuum which the Nazis very cleverly and intelligently managed to take over.”

“The United States is extremely lucky that no honest, charismatic figure has arisen,” Chomsky went on. “Every charismatic figure is such an obvious crook that he destroys himself, like McCarthy or Nixon or the evangelist preachers. If somebody comes along who is charismatic and honest this country is in real trouble because of the frustration, disillusionment, the justified anger and the absence of any coherent response. What are people supposed to think if someone says ‘I have got an answer, we have an enemy’? There it was the Jews. Here it will be the illegal immigrants and the blacks. We will be told that white males are a persecuted minority. We will be told we have to defend ourselves and the honor of the nation. Military force will be exalted. People will be beaten up. This could become an overwhelming force. And if it happens it will be more dangerous than Germany. The United States is the world power. Germany was powerful but had more powerful antagonists. I don’t think all this is very far away. If the polls are accurate it is not the Republicans but the right-wing Republicans, the crazed Republicans, who will sweep the next election.”

“I have never seen anything like this in my lifetime,” Chomsky added. “I am old enough to remember the 1930s. My whole family was unemployed. There were far more desperate conditions than today. But it was hopeful. People had hope. The CIO was organizing. No one wants to say it anymore but the Communist Party was the spearhead for labor and civil rights organizing. Even things like giving my unemployed seamstress aunt a week in the country. It was a life. There is nothing like that now. The mood of the country is frightening. The level of anger, frustration and hatred of institutions is not organized in a constructive way. It is going off into self-destructive fantasies.”

“I listen to talk radio,” Chomsky said. “I don’t want to hear Rush Limbaugh. I want to hear the people calling in. They are like [suicide pilot] Joe Stack. What is happening to me? I have done all the right things. I am a God-fearing Christian. I work hard for my family. I have a gun. I believe in the values of the country and my life is collapsing.”

Chomsky has, more than any other American intellectual, charted the downward spiral of the American political and economic system, in works such as “On Power and Ideology: The Managua Lectures,” “Rethinking Camelot: JFK, the Vietnam War, and US Political Culture,” “A New Generation Draws the Line: Kosovo, East Timor and the Standards of the West,” “Understanding Power: The Indispensable Chomsky,” “Manufacturing Consent” and “Letters From Lexington: Reflections on Propaganda.” He reminds us that genuine intellectual inquiry is always subversive. It challenges cultural and political assumptions. It critiques structures. It is relentlessly self-critical. It implodes the self-indulgent myths and stereotypes we use to elevate ourselves and ignore our complicity in acts of violence and oppression. And it makes the powerful, as well as their liberal apologists, deeply uncomfortable.

Chomsky reserves his fiercest venom for the liberal elite in the press, the universities and the political system who serve as a smoke screen for the cruelty of unchecked capitalism and imperial war. He exposes their moral and intellectual posturing as a fraud. And this is why Chomsky is hated, and perhaps feared, more among liberal elites than among the right wing he also excoriates. When Christopher Hitchens decided to become a windup doll for the Bush administration after the attacks of 9/11, one of the first things he did was write a vicious article attacking Chomsky. Hitchens, unlike most of those he served, knew which intellectual in America mattered. [Editor’s note: To see some of the articles in the 2001 exchanges between Hitchens and Chomsky, click here, here, here and here.]

“I don’t bother writing about Fox News,” Chomsky said. “It is too easy. What I talk about are the liberal intellectuals, the ones who portray themselves and perceive themselves as challenging power, as courageous, as standing up for truth and justice. They are basically the guardians of the faith. They set the limits. They tell us how far we can go. They say, ‘Look how courageous I am.’ But do not go one millimeter beyond that. At least for the educated sectors, they are the most dangerous in supporting power.”

Chomsky, because he steps outside of every group and eschews all ideologies, has been crucial to American discourse for decades, from his work on the Vietnam War to his criticisms of the Obama administration. He stubbornly maintains his position as an iconoclast, one who distrusts power in any form.

“Most intellectuals have a self-understanding of themselves as the conscience of humanity,” said the Middle East scholar Norman Finkelstein. “They revel in and admire someone like Vaclav Havel. Chomsky is contemptuous of Havel. Chomsky embraces the Julien Benda view of the world. There are two sets of principles. They are the principles of power and privilege and the principles of truth and justice. If you pursue truth and justice it will always mean a diminution of power and privilege. If you pursue power and privilege it will always be at the expense of truth and justice. Benda says that the credo of any true intellectual has to be, as Christ said, ‘my kingdom is not of this world.’ Chomsky exposes the pretenses of those who claim to be the bearers of truth and justice. He shows that in fact these intellectuals are the bearers of power and privilege and all the evil that attends it.”

“Some of Chomsky’s books will consist of things like analyzing the misrepresentations of the Arias plan in Central America, and he will devote 200 pages to it,” Finkelstein said. “And two years later, who will have heard of Oscar Arias? It causes you to wonder would Chomsky have been wiser to write things on a grander scale, things with a more enduring quality so that you read them forty or sixty years later. This is what Russell did in books like ‘Marriage and Morals.’ Can you even read any longer what Chomsky wrote on Vietnam and Central America? The answer has to often be no. This tells you something about him. He is not writing for ego. If he were writing for ego he would have written in a grand style that would have buttressed his legacy. He is writing because he wants to effect political change. He cares about the lives of people and there the details count. He is trying to refute the daily lies spewed out by the establishment media. He could have devoted his time to writing philosophical treatises that would have endured like Kant or Russell. But he invested in the tiny details which make a difference to win a political battle.”

“I try to encourage people to think for themselves, to question standard assumptions,” Chomsky said when asked about his goals. “Don’t take assumptions for granted. Begin by taking a skeptical attitude toward anything that is conventional wisdom. Make it justify itself. It usually can’t. Be willing to ask questions about what is taken for granted. Try to think things through for yourself. There is plenty of information. You have got to learn how to judge, evaluate and compare it with other things. You have to take some things on trust or you can’t survive. But if there is something significant and important don’t take it on trust. As soon as you read anything that is anonymous you should immediately distrust it. If you read in the newspapers that Iran is defying the international community, ask who is the international community? India is opposed to sanctions. China is opposed to sanctions. Brazil is opposed to sanctions. The Non-Aligned Movement is vigorously opposed to sanctions and has been for years. Who is the international community? It is Washington and anyone who happens to agree with it. You can figure that out, but you have to do work. It is the same on issue after issue.”

Chomsky’s courage to speak on behalf of those, such as the Palestinians, whose suffering is often minimized or ignored in mass culture, holds up the possibility of the moral life. And, perhaps even more than his scholarship, his example of intellectual and moral independence sustains all who defy the cant of the crowd to speak the truth.

“I cannot tell you how many people, myself included, and this is not hyperbole, whose lives were changed by him,” said Finkelstein, who has been driven out of several university posts for his intellectual courage and independence. “Were it not for Chomsky I would have long ago succumbed. I was beaten and battered in my professional life. It was only the knowledge that one of the greatest minds in human history has faith in me that compensates for this constant, relentless and vicious battering. There are many people who are considered nonentities, the so-called little people of this world, who suddenly get an e-mail from Noam Chomsky. It breathes new life into you. Chomsky has stirred many, many people to realize a level of their potential that would forever been lost.”
Copyright © 2010 Truthdig, L.L.C.

[Chris Hedges writes a regular column for Hedges graduated from Harvard Divinity School and was for nearly two decades a foreign correspondent for The New York Times. He is the author of many books, including: War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning, What Every Person Should Know About War, and American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America. His most recent book is Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle.]

Source / Common Dreams

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Sunday, April 11, 2010

The War Criminals Knew What They Were Doing

Donald Rumsfeld believed that releasing the innocent detainees would harm the Administration, according to a signed declaration by a top aide to Colin Powell. Photo: Kevin Lamarque/REUTERS.

George W. Bush 'knew Guantánamo prisoners were innocent'
By Tim Reid / April 9, 2010

George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld covered up that hundreds of innocent men were sent to the Guantánamo Bay prison camp because they feared that releasing them would harm the push for war in Iraq and the broader War on Terror, according to a new document obtained by The Times.

The accusations were made by Lawrence Wilkerson, a top aide to Colin Powell, the former Republican Secretary of State, in a signed declaration to support a lawsuit filed by a Guantánamo detainee. It is the first time that such allegations have been made by a senior member of the Bush Administration.

Colonel Wilkerson, who was General Powell’s chief of staff when he ran the State Department, was most critical of Mr Cheney and Mr Rumsfeld. He claimed that the former Vice-President and Defence Secretary knew that the majority of the initial 742 detainees sent to Guantánamo in 2002 were innocent but believed that it was “politically impossible to release them”.

General Powell, who left the Bush Administration in 2005, angry about the misinformation that he unwittingly gave the world when he made the case for the invasion of Iraq at the UN, is understood to have backed Colonel Wilkerson’s declaration.

Colonel Wilkerson, a long-time critic of the Bush Administration’s approach to counter-terrorism and the war in Iraq, claimed that the majority of detainees — children as young as 12 and men as old as 93, he said — never saw a US soldier when they were captured. He said that many were turned over by Afghans and Pakistanis for up to $5,000. Little or no evidence was produced as to why they had been taken.

He also claimed that one reason Mr Cheney and Mr Rumsfeld did not want the innocent detainees released was because “the detention efforts would be revealed as the incredibly confused operation that they were”. This was “not acceptable to the Administration and would have been severely detrimental to the leadership at DoD [Mr Rumsfeld at the Defence Department]”.

Referring to Mr Cheney, Colonel Wilkerson, who served 31 years in the US Army, asserted: “He had absolutely no concern that the vast majority of Guantánamo detainees were innocent ... If hundreds of innocent individuals had to suffer in order to detain a handful of hardcore terrorists, so be it.”

He alleged that for Mr Cheney and Mr Rumsfeld “innocent people languishing in Guantánamo for years was justified by the broader War on Terror and the small number of terrorists who were responsible for the September 11 attacks”.

Two detainees are escorted to interrogation by U.S. military guards at Camp X-Ray in the Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base , Cuba. Photo: Andres Leighton/AP.

He added: “I discussed the issue of the Guantánamo detainees with Secretary Powell. I learnt that it was his view that it was not just Vice-President Cheney and Secretary Rumsfeld, but also President Bush who was involved in all of the Guantánamo decision making.”

Mr Cheney and Mr Rumsfeld, Colonel Wilkerson said, deemed the incarceration of innocent men acceptable if some genuine militants were captured, leading to a better intelligence picture of Iraq at a time when the Bush Administration was desperate to find a link between Saddam Hussein and 9/11, “thus justifying the Administration’s plans for war with that country”.

He signed the declaration in support of Adel Hassan Hamad, a Sudanese man who was held at Guantánamo Bay from March 2003 until December 2007. Mr Hamad claims that he was tortured by US agents while in custody and yesterday filed a damages action against a list of American officials.

Defenders of Guantánamo said that detainees began to be released as early as September 2002, nine months after the first prisoners were sent to the jail at the US naval base in Cuba. By the time Mr Bush left office more than 530 detainees had been freed.

A spokesman for Mr Bush said of Colonel Wilkerson’s allegations: “We are not going to have any comment on that.” A former associate to Mr Rumsfeld said that Mr Wilkerson's assertions were completely untrue.

The associate said the former Defence Secretary had worked harder than anyone to get detainees released and worked assiduously to keep the prison population as small as possible. Mr Cheney’s office did not respond.

There are currently about 180 detainees left in the facility.

Source / London Times

Fluxed Up World

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Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The US Military: Never Remotely Trustworthy

It's high time these cretins were caught. Now just put this in the perspective of understanding that not one thing said by any of them is likely to be close to the truth - "national security," you know? Now we have context for the wars these criminals are fighting in the Middle East - a war crime is a war crime is a war crime. Be careful, all you apologists and defenders out there - read The Nuremburg Principles (especially article VII) before shouting too loudly.

Richard Jehn / Fluxed Up World

Wikileaks reveals video showing US air crew shooting down Iraqi civilians
By Chris McGreal / April 5, 2010

Footage of July 2007 attack made public as Pentagon identifies website as threat to national security

A secret video showing US air crew falsely claiming to have encountered a firefight in Baghdad and then laughing at the dead after launching an air strike that killed a dozen people, including two Iraqis working for Reuters news agency, was revealed by Wikileaks today.

The footage of the July 2007 attack was made public in a move that will further anger the Pentagon, which has drawn up a report identifying the whistleblower website as a threat to national security. The US defence department was embarrassed when that confidential report appeared on the Wikileaks site last month alongside a slew of military documents.

The release of the video from Baghdad also comes shortly after the US military admitted that its special forces attempted to cover up the killings of three Afghan women in a raid in February by digging the bullets out of their bodies.

The newly released video of the Baghdad attacks was recorded on one of two Apache helicopters hunting for insurgents on 12 July 2007. Among the dead were a 22-year-old Reuters photographer, Namir Noor-Eldeen, and his driver, Saeed Chmagh, 40. The Pentagon blocked an attempt by Reuters to obtain the video through a freedom of information request. Wikileaks director Julian Assange said his organisation had to break through encryption by the military to view it.

In the recording, the helicopter crews can be heard discussing the scene on the street below. One American claims to have spotted six people with AK-47s and one with a rocket-propelled grenade. It is unclear if some of the men are armed but Noor-Eldeen can be seen with a camera. Chmagh is talking on his mobile phone.

One of the helicopter crew is then heard saying that one of the group is shooting. But the video shows there is no shooting or even pointing of weapons. The men are standing around, apparently unperturbed.

The lead helicopter, using the moniker Crazyhorse, opens fire. "Hahaha. I hit 'em," shouts one of the American crew. Another responds a little later: "Oh yeah, look at those dead bastards."

One of the men on the ground, believed to be Chmagh, is seen wounded and trying to crawl to safety. One of the helicopter crew is heard wishing for the man to reach for a gun, even though there is none visible nearby, so he has the pretext for opening fire: "All you gotta do is pick up a weapon." A van draws up next to the wounded man and Iraqis climb out. They are unarmed and start to carry the victim to the vehicle in what would appear to be an attempt to get him to hospital. One of the helicopters opens fire with armour-piercing shells. "Look at that. Right through the windshield," says one of the crew. Another responds with a laugh.

Sitting behind the windscreen were two children who were wounded.

After ground forces arrive and the children are discovered, the American air crew blame the Iraqis. "Well it's their fault for bringing kids in to a battle," says one. "That's right," says another.

Initially the US military said that all the dead were insurgents. Then it claimed the helicopters reacted to an active firefight. Assange said that the video demonstrated that neither claim was true.

"Why would anyone be so relaxed with two Apaches if someone was carrying an RPG and that person was an enemy of the United States?" he said. "The behaviour of the pilots is like a computer game. When Saeed is crawling, clearly unable to do anything, their response is: come on buddy, we want to kill you, just pick up a weapon ... It appears to be a desire to get a higher score, or a higher number of kills."

Wikileaks says it will shortly release a second secret US military video showing the deaths of civilians in an attack in Afghanistan. The Pentagon has been seeking ways to prevent classified material appearing on Wikileaks, including through "criminal sanctions". Wikileaks has made public classified US army reports on weapons, military units and battle strategy in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Pentagon report, reflecting the depth of paranoia about where Wikileaks is obtaining its material, speculates that the CIA may be responsible. But perhaps most embarrassing leak for the US defence department was that of the 2008 report itself which appeared on the Wikileaks site last month.

Source / The Guardian

Fluxed Up World

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Sunday, April 4, 2010

Farmers Markets Are Happening

Photograph by Jerome Seijan.

On Job Creation — Local Fruits and Vegetables vs. Corn and Soybeans
By Ben Lilliston / April 2, 2010

It turns out that foods that are better for you may also be better for farmers and local job creation. A new study by the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University found that expanding fruit and vegetable production in the upper Midwest could bring significantly more economic benefits than conventional corn and soybean production on the same acreage.

The study, by Iowa State Research Scientist Dave Swenson, looked at the potential for fruit and vegetable production in Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin. It identified 28 kinds of fruits and vegetables that farmers are able to grow in the region. Currently, much of the fruits and vegetables in the region come from other parts of the country or even outside the country.

Some key findings on the economic impacts on the region as a whole:
  • Increased fruit and vegetable production in the six states could mean $882 million in sales at the farm level, and more than 9,300 jobs. Corn and soybean production on that same acreage would support only 2,578 jobs.
  • If half of the increased production was sold in farmer-owned stores, it would require 1,405 such stores staffed by 9,652 people.
  • Only 270,025 acres—roughly equivalent to the average cropland in one of Iowa's counties—would be needed to grow enough fruits and vegetables for the six-state region.

Previous research found that smaller sized farms (50 acres and smaller) are more likely to produce fruits and vegetables than standard-sized farms so it is likely that more, smaller farms would be needed. Researchers assumed that 50 percent of fruit and vegetable production would be directly marketed in-state by farmer-owned stores. Local and regional ownership of the food chain will be essential for maximum job creation.

The study breaks down the numbers by state and metropolitan region so it's easy to get a sense of what your neck of the woods could be doing to create new local food jobs.

The barriers to transitioning toward more fruit and vegetable production in the Midwest are enormous. Farmland is hard to come by as values are seen as a better investment than the stock market. U.S. farm policy greatly incentivizes corn and soybean production in a number of ways, including helping farmers to manage risks and supporting research for those crops. And then there's the lack of infrastructure needed to help local food systems serve a booming market. Despite these barriers, this study gives us a guidepost for the potential economic benefits of a new model for agriculture that produces healthier and more locally grown food.

Source / Think Forward

Fluxed Up World

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Engelhardt: Imperial Overstretch in Central Asia

This isn't particularly surprising, except for the fact that it's darned difficult to find photos of the Prez in the leather flight jacket. There are a couple on the White House site, but virtually nothing in the MSM. Funny, isn't it, especially since Junior thought it was such a cool, photogenic thing to do? Is Barack just mildly embarrassed to be doing that same, hokey thing?

Richard Jehn / Fluxed Up World

President Barack Obama greets U.S. troops at a mess hall at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan, March 28, 2010. Official White House Photo by Pete Souza.

Imperial Overstretch in Afghanistan
By Tom Engelhardt / April 4, 2010

He donned a leather bomber's jacket with an Air Force One logo on it, got up in front of a boisterous crowd of about 2,000 military personnel in a hangar at Bagram Air Base, and gave a tub-thumping, "support the troops" campaign speech. I'm talking about Barack Obama on his six-hour visit to "Afghanistan." Of course, any presidential trip to "the front" is always essentially a domestic political phenomenon destined to trump all other news and be covered uncritically. In this case, it was undoubtedly part of the post-health-care run-up to election 2010, emphasizing an area -- the Afghan War -- in which Americans are, at the moment, remarkably supportive of the president's policies.

Starting with that bomber's jacket, the event had a certain eerie similarity to George W. Bush's visits to Iraq. As Bush once swore that we would never step down until the Iraqis had stepped up, so Obama declared his war to be "absolutely essential." General Mohammad Zahir Azimi, a spokesman for the Afghan Defense Ministry, even claimed that the president had used the long-absent (but patented) Bush word "victory" in his meeting with Hamid Karzai. Above all, whatever the talk about beginning to draw down his surge troops in mid-2011 -- and he has so far committed more than 50,000 American troops to that country -- when it comes to the Afghan War, the president seemed to signal that we are still on Pentagon time.

Particularly striking was his assurance that, while there would be "difficult days ahead... we also know this: The United States of America does not quit once it starts on something... [T]he American armed services does not quit, we keep at it, we persevere, and together with our partners we will prevail. I am absolutely confident of that." He assured his listeners, and assumedly Americans at home, that we will "finish the job" (however undefined), and made another promise as well: "I'm looking forward," he told the troops, "to returning to Afghanistan many times in the years to come."

Many times in the years to come. Think about that and fasten your seatbelt. The U.S. evidently isn't about to leave Afghanistan anytime soon. The president seems to have set his watch to the Pentagon's clock, which means that, in terrible financial times, he is going to continue investing staggering sums of our money long-term in a perilous war in a distant land with terrible supply lines and no infrastructure. This represents a perfect Paul-Kennedy-style working definition of "imperial overstretch." Contrast this with the China-on-the-move that Michael Klare, TomDispatch regular and author of Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet, describes in his latest piece, "China's Global Shopping Spree." If the word "folly" doesn't come to mind, what does?

Copyright 2010 Tom Engelhardt

[Tom Engelhardt, co-founder of the American Empire Project, runs the Nation Institute's He is the author of The End of Victory Culture, a history of the Cold War and beyond, as well as of a novel, The Last Days of Publishing. His latest book, The American Way of War (Haymarket Books), will be published in May.]

Source /

Fluxed Up World

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Saturday, April 3, 2010

Cuban Medicine: The Unsung Heroes in Haiti

One of the World's Best Kept Secrets: Cuban Medical Aid to Haiti
By Emily J. Kirk and John M. Kirk / April 1, 2010

Media coverage of Cuban medical cooperation following the disastrous recent earthquake in Haiti was sparse indeed. International news reports usually described the Dominican Republic as being the first to provide assistance, while Fox News sang the praises of U.S. relief efforts in a report entitled "U.S. Spearheads Global Response to Haiti Earthquake"-a common theme of its extensive coverage. CNN also broadcast hundreds of reports, and in fact one focused on a Cuban doctor wearing a T-shirt with a large image of Che Guevara--and yet described him as a "Spanish doctor".

In general, international news reports ignored Cuba's efforts. By March 24, CNN for example, had 601 reports on their news website regarding the earthquake in Haiti-of which only 18 (briefly) referenced Cuban assistance. Similarly, between them the New York Times and the Washington Post had 750 posts regarding the earthquake and relief efforts, though not a single one discusses in any detail any Cuban support. In reality, however, Cuba's medical role had been extremely important-and had been present since 1998.

Cuba and Haiti Pre-Earthquake

In 1998, Haiti was struck by Hurricane Georges. The hurricane caused 230 deaths, destroyed 80% of the crops, and left 167,000 people homeless.1 Despite the fact that Cuba and Haiti had not had diplomatic relations in over 36 years, Cuba immediately offered a multifaceted agreement to assist them, of which the most important was medical cooperation.

Cuba adopted a two-pronged public health approach to help Haiti. First, it agreed to maintain hundreds of doctors in the country for as long as necessary, working wherever they were posted by the Haitian government. This was particularly significant as Haiti's health care system was easily the worst in the Americas, with life expectancy of only 54 years in 1990 and one out of every 5 adult deaths due to AIDS, while 12.1% of children died from preventable intestinal infectious diseases.2

In addition Cuba agreed to train Haitian doctors in Cuba, providing that they would later return and take the places of the Cuban doctors (a process of "brain gain" rather than "brain drain"). Significantly, the students were selected from non-traditional backgrounds, and were mainly poor. It was thought that, because of their socio-economic background, they fully understood their country's need for medical personnel, and would return to work where they were needed. The first cohort of students began studying in May, 1999 at the Latin American School of Medicine (ELAM).

By 2007, significant change had already been achieved throughout the country. It is worth noting that Cuban medical personnel were estimated to be caring for 75% of the population.3 Studies by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) indicated clear improvements in the health profile since this extensive Cuban medical cooperation began.

Improvements in Public Health in Haiti, 1999-20074

Health Indicator19992007
Infant Mortality, per 1,000 live births8033
Child Mortality Under 5 per 1,00013559.4
Maternal Mortality per 100,000 live births523285
Life Expectancy (years)5461

Cuban medical personnel had clearly made a major difference to the national health profile since 1998, largely because of their proactive role in preventive medicine-as can be seen below.

Selected Statistics on Cuban Medical Cooperation

Dec. 1998-May 2007

Visits to the doctor10,682,124
Doctor visits to patients4,150,631
Attended births86,633
Major and minor surgeries160,283
Lives saved (emergency)210,852

By 2010, at no cost to medical students, Cuba had trained some 550 Haitian doctors, and is at present training a further 567. Moreover, since 1998 some 6,094 Cuban medical personnel have worked in Haiti. They had given over 14.6 million consultations, carried out 207,000 surgical operations, including 45,000 vision restoration operations through their Operation Miracle programme, attended 103,000 births, and taught literacy to 165,000. In fact at the time of the earthquake there were 344 Cuban medical personnel there. All of this medical cooperation, it must be remembered, was provided over an 11-year period before the earthquake of January 12, 2010.6

Cuba and Haiti Post-Earthquake

The earthquake killed at least 220,000, injured 300,000 and left 1.5 million homeless.7 Haitian PrimeMinister Jean-Max Bellerive described it as "the worst catastrophe that has occurred in Haiti in two centuries".8

International aid began flooding in. It is important to note the type of medical aid provided by some major international players. Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), for example, an organization known for its international medical assistance, flew in some 348 international staff, in addition to the 3,060 national staff it already employed. By March 12 they had treated some 54,000 patients, and completed 3,700 surgical operations.9

Canada's contribution included the deployment of 2,046 Canadian Forces personnel, including 200 DART personnel. The DART (Disaster Assistance Response Team) received the most media attention, as it conducted 21,000 consultations-though it should be noted they do not treat any serious trauma patients or provide surgical care. Indeed, among the DART personnel, only 45 are medical staff, with others being involved in water purification, security, and reconstruction. In total, the Canadians stayed for only 7 weeks.10

The United States government, which received extensive positive media attention, sent the USNS "Comfort", a 1,000-bed hospital ship with a 550-person medical staff and stayed for 7 weeks, in which time they treated 871 patients, performing 843 surgical operations.11 Both the Canadian and US contributions were important-while they were there.

Lost in the media shuffle was the fact that, for the first 72 hours following the earthquake, Cuban doctors were in fact the main medical support for the country. Within the first 24 hours, they had completed 1,000 emergency surgeries, turned their living quarters into clinics, and were running the only medical centers in the country, including 5 comprehensive diagnostic centers (small hospitals) which they had previously built. In addition another 5 in various stages of construction were also used, and they turned their ophthalmology center into a field hospital-which treated 605 patients within the first 12 hours following the earthquake.12

Cuba soon became responsible for some 1,500 medical personnel in Haiti. Of those, some 344 doctors were already working in Haiti, while over 350 members of the "Henry Reeve" Emergency Response Medical Brigade were sent by Cuba following the earthquake. In addition, 546 graduates of ELAM from a variety of countries, and 184 5th and 6th year Haitian ELAM students joined, as did a number of Venezuelan medical personnel. In the final analysis, they were working throughout Haiti in 20 rehabilitation centers and 20 hospitals, running 15 operating theatres, and had vaccinated 400,000. With reason Fidel Castro stated, "we send doctors, not soldiers".13

A glance at the medical role of the various key players is instructive.

Comparative Medical Contributions in Haiti by March 2314

MSFCanadaUnited StatesCuba
No. of Staff3,408455501,504
No. of Patients Treated54,00021,000871227,143
No. of Surgeries3,70008436,499

These comparative data, compiled from several sources, are particularly telling as they indicate the significant (and widely ignored) medical contribution of the Cubans. In fact, they have treated 4.2 times the number of patients compared with MSF (which has over twice as many workers, as well as significantly more financial resources), and 10.8 times more than the Canadian DART team. (As noted, Canadian and US medical personnel had left by March 9). Also notable is the fact that the Cuban medical contingent was roughly three times the size of the American staff, although they treated 260.7 times more patients than U.S. medical personnel. Clearly, there have been significant differences in the nature of medical assistance provided.

It is also important to note that approximately one-half of the Cuban medical staff was working outside the capital, Port-au-Prince, where there was significant damage as well. Many medical missions could not get there, however, due to transportation issues. Significantly, the Cuban medical brigade also worked to minimize epidemics by making up 30 teams to educate communities on how to properly dispose of waste, as well as how to minimize public health risks. Noted Cuban artist Kcho also headed a cultural brigade made up of clowns, magicians and dancers, supported by psychologists and psychiatrists, to deal with the trauma experienced by Haitian children.

Perhaps most impressively, following the growing concern for the health of the country, due to a poor and now largely destroyed health care system Cuba, working with ALBA (the Alianza Bolivariana para los Pueblos de Nuestra América) countries, presented to the WHO an integral program to reconstruct the health care system of Haiti. Essentially, they are offering to rebuild the entire health care system. It will be supported by ALBA and Brazil, and run by Cubans and Cuban-trained medical staff. This is to include hospitals, polyclinics, and medical schools. In addition, the Cuban government has offered to increase the number of Haitian students attending medical school in Cuba. This offer of medical cooperation represents an enormous degree of support for Haiti.15 Sadly, this generous offer has not been reported by international media.

While North American media might have ignored Cuba's role, Haiti has not. A pointed remark was made by Haitian President Mr. René Préval, who noted, "you did not wait for an earthquake to help us".16 Similarly, Haiti's Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive has also repeatedly noted that the first three countries to help were Cuba, the Dominican Republic and Venezuela.

Sadly (but not surprisingly), while Cuba's efforts to assist Haiti have increased, international efforts have continued to dwindle. The head of the Cuban medical mission, Dr. Carlos Alberto García, summed up well the situation just two weeks after the tragedy: "many foreign delegations have already begun to leave, and the aid which is arriving now is not the same it used to be. Sadly, as always happens, soon another tragedy will appear in another country, and the people of Haiti will be forgotten, left to their own fate". Significantly, he added "However we will still be here long after they have all gone."17 This in fact has been the case. Canadian forces, for example, returned home and the USNS Comfort sailed several weeks ago. By contrast, Cuban President Raúl Castro noted: "we have accompanied the Haitian people, and we will continue with them whatever time is needed, no matter how many years, with our very modest support".18

A representative of the World Council of Churches to the United Nations made the telling comment that "humanitarian aid could not be human if it was only publicized for 15 days".19 Today Cuba, with the support of ALBA and Brazil, is working not to build a field hospital, but rather a health care system. And, while international efforts have been largely abandoned, the Cuban staff and Cuban-trained medical staff will remain, as they have done for the past 11 years, for as long as necessary. This is a story that international media have chosen not to tell-now that the television cameras have gone. Yet it is an extraordinary story of true humanitarianism, and of great success in saving lives since 1998. Moreover, in light of Cuba's success in providing public health care (at no cost to the patients) to millions of Haitians, this approach to preventive, culturally sensitive, low cost and effective medicine needs to be told. That significant contribution to this impoverished nation, and Cuba's ongoing commitment to its people, clearly deserve to be recognized. Until then it will sadly remain as one of the world's best- kept secrets.

[Emily J. Kirk will be an M.A. student in Latin American Studies at Cambridge University in September.

John Kirk is a professor of Latin American Studies at Dalhousie University, Canada. Both are working on a project on Cuban medical internationalism sponsored by Canada's Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC). Professor Kirk co-wrote with Michael Erisman the 2009 book "Cuba's Medical Internationalism: Origins, Evolution and Goals" (Palgrave Macmillan). He spent most of February and March in El Salvador and Guatemala, accompanying the Henry Reeve Brigade in El Salvador, and working with the Brigada Medica Cubana in Guatemala.]


[1] "Audit of USAID/HAITI Hurricane Georges Recovery Programme". USAID. 15 May, 2001. Retrieved 10 March, 2010.

[2] See entry for "Haiti" on the Pan American Health Organization website, found at Accessed February 2, 2010.

[3] William Steif, "Cuban Doctors Aid Strife-Torn Haiti." The State. April 26, 2004, and found at Accessed June 21, 2007.

[4] See entry for "Haiti" on the Pan American Health Organization website, found at Accessed February 2 2010.

[5] Anna Kovac, "Cuba Trains Hundred of Haitian Doctors to Make a Difference," August 6, 2007. Located on the MEDICC website at Accessed February 2, 2010.

[6] Ibid., "Haitian Medical Students in Cuba". Medical Education Cooperation With Cuba. 12 January, 2010. Retrieved 12 January, 2010 from, "La colabaración cubana permanecerá en Haití los años que sean necesarios", Cubadebate. 24 February, 2010. Retrieved 9 March, 2010 from , "Fact Sheet: Cuban Medical Cooperation With Haiti". Medicc Review. 15 January, 2009. Retrieved 2 February, 2010 from

[7] "Haiti Earthquake: Special Coverage". CNN. 20 March, 2010. Retrieved 22 March, 2010 from

[8] Tyler Maltbie, "Haiti Earthquake: The Nations That Are Stepping Up To Help", The Christian Science Monitor, Posted January 14, 2010 on Accessed January 28, 2010.

[9] "Two Months After the Quake, New Services and New Concerns". MSF. 12 March, 2010. Retrieved 17 March, 2010 from

[10] "Canada's Response to the Earthquake in Haiti: Progress to Date". Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada. March 17, 2010. Retrieved 17 March, 2010 from aiti_effort.

[11] "USNS Comfort Completes Haiti Mission, March 9, 2010". American Forces Press Service. 9 March, 2010. Retrieved 11 March, 2010 from ti-mission.

[12] John Burnett, "Cuban Doctors Unsung Heroes of Haitian Earthquake", National Public Radio report, January 24, 2010, and found at Accessed 28 January, 2010.

[13] José Steinsleger. "Haiti, Cuba y la ley primera," La Jornada, February 3, 2010., Data in this section came from the address given by Ambassador Rodolfo Reyes Rodríguez on January, 27, 2010 in Geneva at the 13th Special Session of the U.N. Human Rights Council on Haiti. It can be accessed at "Cuba en Ginebra: 'Ante tan difícil situación humanitaria en Haití no puede haber titubeos ni indiferencia," on the Cubbadebate website: truccion-haiti.

[14] Connor Gorry. "Two of the 170,000 + Cases". Medicc Review. March 8, 2010. Retrieved 10 March, 2010 from, "Cooperación con Haití debe ser a largo plazo." Juventud Rebelde. 23 March, 2010. Retrieved March 23, 2010 from debe-ser-a-largo-plazo, "Haiti: Two Months After The Quake, New Services and New Concerns". MSF. 12 March, 2010. Retrieved 17 March, 2010 from, "Haiti-USNS Comfort Medical And Surgical Support". U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 11 March, 2010. Retrieved 11 March, 2010 from, Brett Popplewell. "This Haitian Town Is Singing Canada's Praise". The Star. 26 January, 2010. Retrieved 17 March from, "USNS Comfort Leaves Haiti". 13 News. 11 March, 2010. Retrieved 11 March, 2010 from

[15] In a March 27, 2010 meeting in Port-au-Prince between President Préval and the Cuban and Brazilian ministers of health (José Ramón Balaguer and José Gomes), details were provided about what Balaguer termed "a plot of solidarity to assist the Haitian people". Gomes added "We have just signed an agreement-Cuba, Brazil and Haiti-according to which all three countries make a commitment to unite our forces in order to reconstruct the health system in Haiti. An extraordinary amount of work is currently being carried out in terms of meeting the most basic and most pressing needs, but now it is necessary to think about the future [.] Haiti needs a permanent, quality healthcare system, supported by well-trained professionals [.] We will provide this, together with Cuba-a country with an extremely long internationalist experience, a great degree of technical ability, great determination, and an enormous amount of heart. Brazil and Cuba, two nations that are so close, so similar, now face a new challenge: together we will unite our efforts to rebuild Haiti, and rebuild the public health system of this country". See "Cuba y Brasil suman esfuerzos con Haití," Juventud Rebelde, March 28, 2010 (Translation to English provided by authors).

[16] "Presidente Preval agradece a Fidel y Raúl Castro ayuda solidaria a Haití". 8 February, 2010. Retrieved 9 February, 2010 from

[17] María Laura Carpineta, "Habla el jefe de los 344 médicos cubanos instalados en Haití desde hace doce años". Página 12 [Argentina]. February 4, 2010, found at CUBA-L@LISTA.UNM.EDU [18] Ibid. [19] "Press Conference on Haiti Humanitarian Aid," held at the United Nations on March 23, 2004 and found at Accessed November 21, 2008.

This commentary was written for Cuba-L Analysis and CounterPunch.

Source / CounterPunch

Thanks to Jeffrey Segal / Fluxed Up World

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