|Jul. 24, 2004. 08:13 AM|
Energy crisis could loom, experts say
Politics, corporate moves are factors
Are we running out of oil? Are we in danger of another energy crisis of the magnitude of the 1970s "oil shocks" that condemned us to a decade of economic stagnation? And with our desultory regard for conservation and alternative energy sources, are we risking ever greater oil dependence on the volatile Middle East? Yes, yes and yes. Of course we're running out of oil and natural gas; they're non-renewable resources, and the rate of discovery of so-called "elephants" has been on the decline for decades since the halcyon days of Alaska's Prudhoe Bay and the North Sea. Worse, the more recent discoveries have been made in some of the world's most remote and politically unstable places — among them, Nigeria, Sudan, Russia, Indonesia and the former Soviet republics of central Asia. The critical issue is how soon will the oil run out? It's estimated that we've already exhausted about half of the original 2 trillion barrels of oil on Earth, which is a bit alarming given the relatively primitive state of global industrialization in the early decades of oil exploration. We're sure to run through the remaining half of the Earth's oil endowment much faster, especially with the emergence of China, India and other developing world nations as dynamic, oil-hungry economies. The two factors weighing most heavily on fretful energy forecasters are geopolitics and the behaviour of oil-producing corporations. Political instability: An otherwise sanguine Martin Wolf of U.K.'s Financial Times, who expects current high oil prices to spur discoveries that will ease the world oil price, as in the past, acknowledges that, "After Sept. 11, 2001, the U.S. entered an ideological conflict with the world's oil superpower (that is, the Middle East), which itself is politically riven." The test of wills between the White House and several Mideast regimes "should make us all very nervous," says Wolf, especially given the increasingly precarious state of the ruling House of Saud. The obvious parallel is the 1979 collapse of the Shah of Iran, whose regime, like the current regime in Riyadh, was a U.S. ally with only fragile local support. "If a collapse of the Saudi regime removed the country's supply from world markets, even temporarily, 10 per cent of global output would vanish," Wolf notes. The weak Saudi government, Osama bin Laden's principal target, is highly vulnerable. "Just one successful Al Qaeda attack on the giant production facilities of Saudi Arabia or Abu Dhabi could produce a global recession," writes Don Coxe, chairman of Chicago's Harris Investment Management, in Maclean's. The political uncertainties radiate outward from Riyadh. In Iraq's botched occupation, saboteurs have prevented the world's No. 2 nation in oil reserves from returning even to its prewar output of 2.5 million barrels per day, with the White House's promise of a quick ramp-up to 6 million barrels per day now regarded as a distant dream. Libya is back in business again, now that dictator Moammar Gadhafi has repudiated his nuclear-weapons ambitions, ending an 18-year U.S. embargo against the world No. 9 oil-reserve holder. Here again, though, the caprice of Gadhafi is a real concern. That also applies to the ever-shifting dictates of Russian president Vladimir Putin, Venezuela's Hugo Chavez and kleptocratic dictators in central Asia. Government by fiat is a mighty deterrent for even the world's largest oil companies to commit to multibillion-dollar exploration programs in regions were governments routinely renege on deals, and expropriation and eviction are real prospects. Oil companies' retreat: With oil prices now 30 per cent higher than the average for 2000-2003, and Canadian pump prices approaching $1 per litre, oil companies should, by tradition, be deploying their windfall profits into the search for new reserves. But that's not happening this time. Increased worldwide spending this year on exploration and production (E&P) is projected at just 9 per cent — less than half the increase following previous oil-price jumps. ExxonMobil Corp. and ChevronTexaco Corp. are among the oil majors who've refused to boost their E&P budgets this year. Which means junior and mid-sized producers account for most of this year's modest increase in E&P activity. As noted, the oil majors are super-cautious about committing to mega-projects in unstable regions. They're also jittery about a sudden, sharp decline in oil prices that would make a hash of their long-term payout projections — understandably, given that as recently as the late 1990s, oil slumped to about $10 (U.S.) a barrel, or just one-quarter of today's price. The oil majors have learned from their earlier misplaced exuberance. "What they're saying," analyst Paul Sankey of Deutsche Bank Securities told the Wall Street Journal last month, "is, `we've blown it in the past, we're not going to do that again.'" And, as never before in modern times, the industry's decision-making power is concentrated in very few hands. A rash of late-1990s mergers among top-tier oil producers created a tight fraternity of about half a dozen companies large enough to take on the biggest projects. Merger architects like Lee Raymond of the former Exxon Corp. and Sir John Browne of BP PLC (which triggered the takeover boom by absorbing Amoco Corp. and Arco Corp.), initially hailed their combinations as super-producers uniquely capable of opening up the world's most daunting regions to oil and gas production. Instead, the new giants have focused on paying off their acquisition-related debt, cutting personnel and other costs, shedding marginal properties and buying back their own stock in order to boost share prices to which executive pay is tied. The charitable view is that Big Oil is merely reacting to investor expectations. "CEOs are listening to what institutional shareholders want," Lehman Brothers Inc. analyst James Crandell told Business Week in June. "Production growth is a secondary goal, if it's a goal at all." The less charitable view is that consumers are now at the mercy of a cabal of like-minded Big Oil CEOs who are no longer forced to bet their companies on a potential giant discovery — as the plucky Arco did in Prudhoe Bay in partnership with Exxon — because of a tacit understanding among today's majors that they won't compete for the kinds of projects that once could make a company. Chemical producer Jon Meade Huntsman of Utah, whose firm has been whipsawed by soaring oil prices, along with airlines, power utilities and other sectors, complains in Business Week that "we've got (an oil) monopoly that's, in effect, more dangerous than during the Rockefeller era" of the early 20th century. The current oil price surge has been a boon to alternative-energy entrepreneurs seeking financing for their projects. And concerns about global warming and energy self-sufficiency have put alternatives to fossil fuels on the national agenda of countries like Canada, where in the recent federal election campaign both the Liberal and NDP platforms promised outsized commitments to wind power. But these are long-term solutions, at best. After decades of research, fuel cells have yet to show any sign of becoming a practical alternative to the internal combustion engine. Electricity generated from solar panels is about 10 times more expensive than power generated by traditional means. Wind-turbine technology has dropped significantly in price, and is now competitive with natural-gas-fired power plants. But it's still no match for coal-generated power in price. Thirty-four years since the first Earth Day put environmental awareness on the map, alternatives to fossil-fuel energy will account for only an estimated 6.7 per cent of U.S. energy consumption this year. In the meantime, a nasty combination of political hurdles, arguably misplaced Big Oil priorities, stunted conservation efforts, and unanticipated soaring demand from China and the Indian subcontinent is conspiring to bring on a full-blown crisis. Without a meaningful increase in investment to develop new energy sources, the world could face a severe supply shortage by 2020, British energy consultant John Westwood of Douglas-Westwood Ltd. told the Wall Street Journal last month. "As far as we're concerned, this is not the real crunch," Westwood said of the current oil-supply squeeze. "This is just a practice."
armado asaltó el Llenadero de Yagua
› Asaltantes uniformados se llevaron
July 5, 2004
By FORREST HYLTON
H aving been asked to comment on the US and the meaning of its power in Latin America, I begin with a triptych of historical references. When John F. Kennedy, Jr., was assassinated more than forty years ago, Malcolm X saw it as a case of chickens coming home to roost. If I understand him, he meant that the US government could not systematically promote, employ, and/or condone violence against African Americans at home and colored peoples abroad, and expect to remain immune from its effects. Speaking at a press conference the year after Martin Luther King, Jr., had been assassinated, H. Rap Brown, a spokesperson for "the sons [and daughters] of Malcolm X," the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, said, "Violence is as American as cherry pie." The foundational facts of US history-- the genocide of Native Americans and the enslavement and terrorizing of Africans and their descendents --preceded the subjugation of the Philippines and the Caribbean by more than two centuries. Hence, as Rap Brown implied, US imperial violence needs to be viewed in proper historical context. The final reference points not to words, but deeds. As tanks rattled through Santiago streets and people were herded into stadiums by the thousands, on September 11, 1973, Salvador Allende committed suicide in the presidential palace, having refused to renounce his democratic socialist principles. Thus began what later became a worldwide transition to neoliberal capitalism under US imperial auspices.
When the World Trade Centers fell on the morning of September 11, 2001, my initial thought was that chickens had come home to roost with greater vengeance and destruction than anyone had expected. After watching images of people jumping from collapsing, burning buildings on TV, from my rooftop, I gazed at the endless clouds of smoke billowing over Brooklyn, in shock. Even for most of us living in Manhattan at the time, only Hollywood disaster movies-- many of them little more than allegories of late imperial anxiety --offered a set of referents with which to interpret what had happened. One suspects that a majority of US residents, far from the material sites of destruction, experienced the events of September 11 with the same immediacy as a combination Hollywood disaster movie/Reality TV show. After hearing a young African American woman blame the attacks on Palestinians, I thought, "It doesn't matter who did it. Sharon will use this as a way to implement his plan for a Greater Middle East, and may try to drive the Palestinians out of the West Bank altogether, while the bulldogs of the Bush administration will get their war with Iraq. In Colombia, Uribe will convince the Bush administration that he is the hemisphere's firmest ally in the fight against 'terrorism' and will help shift the phony focus on the 'war against drugs' to 'the war against drugs and terror.'" I wish I had been wrong. However, like Rumsfeld and the neoconservatives (Feith, Wolfowitz) to whom Sharon is so close politically, Sharon has encountered difficulties on the road to realizing his insane goals. Uribe has been much more successful.
Excepting Venezuela, Latin America has all but dropped off the radar screen of the US media and policy debate (such as it is) since September 11. Since no one appears to be watching, Uribe has a free hand in dealing with social protest in Colombia, which has been even more thoroughly criminalized, and linked-- with or without evidence --to "terrorism." Mass detentions are now the norm, particularly in Arauca, where most of US Special Forces troops are deployed to train an elite battalion to protect a petroleum pipeline that belongs in part to Occidental Petroleum. Paramilitary activity has taken off exponentially alongside Colombian and US army presence in Arauca, and though the military-controlled and run zones of "rehabilitation and consolidation" (ZRCs) were declared unconstitutional last April, they continue to operate as before, along the pipeline's route to the Caribbean. At the other end of the pipeline, and similar to the rest of the Atlantic coast, Coveñas is a paramilitary paradise. No need for US Special Forces there: the zone has been (and continues to be) "cleaned" of "subversives" and "terrorists" in order to save "democracy." Perhaps that explains the recent massacre, in which children were burnt alive, of the Wayúu in the upper Guajira?
In Colombia, unlike Turkey, the cleansing is not ethnic/national, although ethnic and racial minorities, like women and children, suffer a disproportionate amount of the violence. The "cleaning" is political and economic, and designed to a) rid the country of communities that stand in the way of proposed highways, canals, dams, and natural resource extraction; and b) criminalize a broad spectrum of thought and action so that the population will accept the institutionalization of impunity, the deepening of the neoliberal model, and the tightening authoritarian discipline of the government and its paramilitary allies. Never before have trade unionists (especially in the public sector), indigenous and Afro-Colombian movements, human rights activists, students and teachers, neighborhood organizations, and peasant communities come under such sustained assault, and proposed anti-terrorism legislation will make things worse-- in a country where the military already exercises police powers.
With firm US backing, however, Uribe will seek a second term in 2006 (constitutional niceties aside). The "peace process" with AUC paramilitaries-- which, along with the "bandit extermination" campaign, forms the centerpiece of Uribe's administration -- appears to have stalled for the time being, though some reports (narconews.com, eltiempo.com) suggest that war criminal Carlos Castaño, former leader of the AUC, is in Israel. He may have been aided in his escape by the US government, even though Colin Powell declared the AUC a terrorist organization on September 10, 2001, and in spite of the fact that Castaño is wanted for extradition to the US on charges of cocaine trafficking.
For Castaño, exile in Israel would represent a return to the source: following a brief stint in the Colombian army, Castaño received training in Israel in 1983, the year after Ariel Sharon's most notorious massacres in Lebanon. Carlos Castaño's "disappearance," like his older brother Fidel's, may only heighten the power of the paramilitaries-- led by Salvatore Mancuso, José Vicente Castaño, and 'Don Berna' --to "negotiate" their insertion into a state against which they have never struggled. There has been much infighting among paramilitary factions of late, which is to be expected, as they are immersed in, and emerged from, the enormously powerful criminal underworld (one of many perverse fruits of US anti-drug policy that have ripened since the days when then Vice-President George H.W. Bush's principal occupation was prosecuting the drug war). The FARC and ELN guerrillas, meanwhile, who number at least 25,000, are more isolated from the urban majority than ever, but have suffered few major military defeats, having chosen a tactical retreat in the face of government offensives, which have been successful in terms of media representation, but not on the ground. News of paramilitary atrocities has disappeared, but in Arauca, the Guajira, and across the country, massacres, assassinations, and disappearances continue, and would remain unknown to the world except for the work of courageous journalists and human rights activists. In contrast, when the FARC massacred more than thirty coca workers on a paramilitary plantation, it made headlines worldwide. The disparity of media coverage is even more striking than the brutality of the massacres, 70% of which are committed by paramilitaries, and 27% by guerrilla insurgents (almost exclusively FARC).
As Alexander Cockburn pointed out, with respect to Venezuela, it's the same guys with the same plan: Reagan redux. Roger Noriega and Otto Reich are inveterate conspirators closely connected to anti-Castro Cubans. If a democratically elected government-- Allende in 1973 in Chile; the Sandinistas after 1984 in Nicaragua; Chávez after 1998; Aristide in 2004 in Haiti --responsive in any way to the demands of its most exploited and disenfranchised citizens, comes to power in the Western Hemisphere, it must be overthrown "by any means necessary" to prevent the threat of a bad example. If a country begins to overcome the legacy of centuries of racism, poverty, and colonial/neocolonial inequality by regaining some measure of national sovereignty in the US's "backyard," the peoples of the hemisphere could get the wrong idea about democracy. They might interpret the concept as meaning direct popular participation in the taking of decisions that affect their daily lives, and they, rather than US or European multinationals, might decide to exercise control over territory and natural resource extraction, processing, and marketing. (Just look at Bolivians.) From the perspective of US imperial planners, this must never be allowed to happen again, especially because between them, Latin American countries (Mexico, Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador) supply more oil to US markets than the Middle Eastern countries combined. Only the threat of a bad example explains the longevity of the US stranglehold of Cuba. Judging from John Kerry's public declarations, counter-insurgent visions for Latin America and the Caribbean will not change if George W. Bush loses November's presidential election.
Along a border which may be militarized with forty-six new tanks that former president of Spain, José María Aznar, donated to Uribe, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez Frías faces the most rightwing, pro-US regime in South America, and if there's another coup before or after the August recall referendum, do not be surprised if Colombia sends troops at US insistence, possibly alongside US marines or Special Forces, or if AUC units, replete with Colombian soldiers, are deployed. After all, AUC troops were recently discovered on the ranch of a prominent anti-Castro Cuban in Venezuela; an incident which has yet to be clarified, but suggests a possible Miami connection between the rightwing Venezuelans, Colombians, and anti-Castro Cubans.
While resisting the overall thrust of US trade policy-- designed to monopolize Latin American resources and markets through free trade agreements --Lula, the last great hope of parliamentary Leftists and anti-globalizers worldwide, agreed to share high-tech border surveillance equipment with Uribe in 2003 and again in 2004. Unlike Chávez, Lula also signed the "Declaración de Asunción" on July 15, 2003, pledging allegiance to the imperial agenda of the "war on drugs and terror." So far, Lula has shown no signs of having an independent foreign, as opposed to trade, policy. In spite of Chávez's efforts and the struggles of vibrant people's movements from Patagonia to Panamá, Latin America remains firmly in the grip of US imperial control, though the consensus in Washington is that Venezuela and the Andean countries have become "trouble spots" where "democracy" is in danger of giving way to "terrorism"? Plan Colombia and its successor, the Andean Regional Initiative, are clear signs of how Washington intends to bring its southern neighbors into line. Compared to the Alliance for Progress, which converted Latin American militaries from "hemispheric defense" to "national security" and emphasized "civic action," current policy is all iron fist and leather glove.
To close with torture: in contrast to some parts of the world, I suspect that most Latin Americans were not shocked by the revelations from Abu Ghraib. To a greater extent than elsewhere, in Latin America and the Caribbean, successive US administrations helped institutionalize torture, along with "disappearance," as preferred methods of dealing with dissent during the Cold War. The CIA torture manuals from the 1970s-an era of criminal military dictatorships purportedly designed to fight "communism"-are widely remembered in Bolivia, where people were never disappeared and tortured on the scale of Argentina, Uruguay, or Chile. The only surprise about the images from Abu Ghraib was that they made it into the media. Though influenced in some measure by Israeli policy in the occupied territories, the worldwide gulag system established in Afghanistan, Iraq, Guantánamo, and the oceans of the world, was pioneered in Latin American "National Security States" during the Cold War. Here, US-sanctioned torture is old news. What stands out about US foreign policy when viewed from La Paz (and, I imagine, other parts of Latin America and the Caribbean) is not the changes since September 11, but the remarkable continuity of imperial domination since World War II. Until that continuity is broken, and until the semantic distinction between "democracy" and "dictatorship" can plausibly be upheld, the 4th of July will provide no cause for celebration in the Americas.Forrest Hylton is conducting doctoral research in history in Bolivia. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Así lo manifestó el líder de la Revolución Bolivariana, Hugo Chávez Frías, durante el acto de juramentación de las Unidades de Batalla Electoral y los jefes de las Patrullas Electorales del estado Miranda, celebrado este miércoles en el Coliseo de La Urbina.
El Presidente de la República Bolivariana de Venezuela, Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías, inició su alocución felicitando a los integrantes del Comando Maisanta por el "avance organizativo" que se ha registrado en el estado Miranda.
Resaltó que el movimiento revolucionario nunca antes había estado tan unido y organizado como hoy y que muestra de ello son las Unidades de Batalla Electoral (UBE) y las Patrullas Electorales, las cuales se alimentan de "la unidad de la diversidad" tanto de grupos políticos como sociales.
"Esta unidad revolucionaria es la confluencia de distintas organizaciones políticas y sociales que hoy nos permiten presentar, al país y al mundo, un movimiento revolucionario unido como nunca antes lo estuvo en toda la Historia venezolana", señaló.
Chávez pidió a los venezolanos seguir fortaleciendo "la unidad profunda y verdadera", tanto en el pensamiento como en la acción, la organización y la movilización y citando al Libertador, Simón Bolívar, añadió: "sólo la unidad nos falta para completar la obra de nuestra regeneración, unámonos y seremos invencibles".
"Este movimiento nacionalista y revolucionario, unido como está, verdaderamente es invencible", afirmó.
Aseguró que "una poderosa máquina revolucionaria es la que está en marcha por toda Venezuela, una maquinaria que va a conducir a este pueblo a otra gran victoria". "Hoy es 21 de julio -añadió-. Faltan apenas 10 días de este mes y 14 del próximo mes de agosto, es decir, 24 días para que amanezca el día 15 de agosto día en que el pueblo de Bolívar va a escribir otra página victoriosa más en la Historia venezolana de comienzos del siglo XXI".
Sin embargo, hizo hincapié en que "el juego no se gana hasta que se hace el out número 27". De esta forma dejó claro que "ningún hombre y ninguna mujer de nuestro movimiento unitario bolivariano debe dejarse invadir por algo que puede ser nefasto: el triunfalismo".
Advirtió que hay que tener "cuidado con el triunfalismo" y agregó que el 15 de agosto por la noche los revolucionarios podrán cantar victoria y proclamarse ganadores. No obstante, indicó que mientras ese día llega, "lo que nos corresponde es batallar duro, sin descanso, sobre todo los líderes en todos los niveles".
Recordó a los líderes de las UBE y las Patrullas "tienen una tarea fundamental en esta Batalla de Santa Inés para derrotar al diablo el 15 de agosto" y aseveró que "el diablo tiene nombre y apellido, no estamos batallando nosotros con enemigo pequeño".
"El jefe de la oposición venezolana se llama George W. Bush. Contra ese caballero es que estamos batallando nosotros, es decir, contra el imperialismo norteamericano. Hay que ubicar la batalla en su justa dimensión, que nadie crea que estamos batallando contra un enemigo débil, todo lo contrario compañeros, compañeras, compatriotas y camaradas, estamos dando una batalla contra el imperio más poderoso que ha existido sobre la Tierra en toda su Historia", afirmó el presidente venezolano.
Calificó al referendo como "una verdadera prueba de fuego" para la Revolución Bolivariana. "Aquí no se está realmente debatiendo si Chávez se va o no se va, aquí lo que se está debatiendo es o la Patria o la colonia y nosotros hemos decidido ser una Patria libre y no una colonia norteamericana", dijo.
Acusó a la oposición "de estar el servicio de la primera potencia mundial y pretender entregar a su propia patria al servicio del imperio, por eso le decimos con toda la fuerza de 500 años, con todo el barro de nuestros muertos y con todo el amor por nuestro pueblo: ¡NO volverán caballeros!"
Exhortó a los bolivarianos a "combinar la calidad y la pasión revolucionaria con la eficacia política" a fin de hacer las cosas bien. En ese sentido, instó a cada quien a cumplir con su tarea en el ámbito colectivo, aportar su esfuerzo e inyectar una elevada dosis de razón y moral a sus acciones.
Tras juramentar a las UBE y a los jefes de las Patrullas les deseó suerte en la batalla y les recomendó no perder la calma porque "en medio de un combate uno no puede molestarse puesto que "el que se pone bravo o se desespera comienza a perder el juego."
"Hay que mantener la calma, aún en el medio del fragor de la batalla. Nosotros los revolucionarios no perdemos la calma nunca, ni en las más difíciles circunstancias. Mantenemos la calma y la seguridad en nosotros mismos", afirmó.
Dijo que "hay que estar muy alerta porque a todas luces se ve venir una campaña violenta" liderada por la oposición porque se saben derrotados, tanto en el referendo ratificatorio del 15 de agosto como en las elecciones regionales a celebrarse el próximo mes de septiembre: "Tengan ustedes los cañones cargados y a cada infamia hay que responderles con fortaleza y con coraje. Es la batalla de todos los días, en todos los espacios: en la calle, en la televisión, en la radio, en la prensa escrita".
Destacó que "hoy más que nunca Venezuela está acompañada a nivel internacional" y que la batalla que aquí se está librando "tiene impactos mundiales".
"Es la batalla mundial entre el llamado nuevo orden neoliberal, que pretende acabar con el mundo, y este proyecto alternativo, humanista, revolucionario y bolivariano que es hoy ejemplo para el mundo", señaló.
Concluyó anunciando que "a partir del 1 de agosto
arranca la ofensiva nacional y el día 15 de agosto el ataque general en
todo el país: la batalla de la victoria, la Batalla de Santa Inés".
It took the New York Times six days to respond editorially and publish more than a news brief on the revelation that the Bush administration had initiated internal discussions on the possible cancellation of the November presidential election.
Newsweek magazine broke the story on Sunday, July 11, revealing that the Homeland Security Department had requested a detailed analysis from the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel on the legal basis for postponing the elections in the event of a terrorist attack on or around Election Day.
Even the initiation of contingency planning for such an action clearly represented an ominous and unprecedented threat to the most basic democratic rights of the American people—especially coming from a government that had been installed through the suppression of votes and had seized on 9/11 as the pretext for launching wars, attacking civil liberties, and riding roughshod over the Constitutional system of checks and balances.
Nevertheless, the so-called “newspaper of record” remained essentially silent on the matter for nearly a week. What the Times finally did print, in its edition of Saturday, July 17, was a news story and editorial focusing on official disavowals of any intention of postponing the election. These pieces treated the entire question as an unfortunate, but not particularly significant, political gaucherie. As the headline of its editorial, “A Bad Idea, Rejected,” implied, the affair had been resolved, and there was nothing more to be said.
Behind the pose of bemused nonchalance was something quite different. The real attitude of the Times could be summed up as, “The least said, the better!”
Very little has been revealed about the Bush administration discussions on canceling the elections. What are the names and positions of those involved? What scenarios were discussed as the basis for calling off the elections? What would the disaster threshold be for such an extraordinary action? Under what mandate, and on the basis of what emergency powers, would the present government continue to rule?
None of this has been probed, but the Times has no interest in pursuing its own investigation and seeking to place the facts before the American people. On the contrary, its operating principle is to conceal the dangers and keep the people in the dark.
The very placement of its articles demonstrates this. The Times waited until Saturday, a slow news day, when its daily readership is presumably at its weekly low point, to go into print on the election threat. It inconspicuously buried its news article on page 10, and led with Justice Department denials that it had ever considered plans to delay the election. But the very facts the Times reported belied its attempt to present the question as a settled issue.
The article noted that the Justice Department denied having ever received a request from Homeland Security to look into the possibility of postponing the elections, while Homeland Security continued to insist it had made such a request. The Times passed over this stunning contradiction without comment.
The editorial contained even more glaring contradictions and non-sequiturs, raising more questions about the threat to the elections and the Times’ own role than it answered. The newspaper wrote that it was “troubling” to hear reports during the week that the Bush administration was considering the possibility of postponing the November election in the event of a terrorist attack. It said DeForest Soaries, the chairman of the US Election Assistance Commission, had set off a “firestorm” by raising the issue.
Why then, in the face of such “troubling” developments and the consequent political “firestorm,” had the New York Times remained silent? Anyone who looked to the Times for news and political commentary would have known next to nothing about the matter.
Suggesting that the motives of those Bush administration officials involved were of the most innocent sort, the Times went on to say, “However well-meaning they may have been, the inquiries were greeted with cynicism.” The editorial cited the statements of National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and Soaries denying any intention of postponing the elections, and declared: “It is good that the issue was raised now and resolved.”
With this combination of willful blindness, complacency and dishonesty, the Times declared the matter “resolved.” Really? What about the bizarre press conference held only days before Newsweek broke the story, at which Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, citing as a precedent the March train bombings in Madrid, announced that Al Qaeda was in the “operational stage” of carrying out a terrorist attack on the United States aimed at disrupting the elections? What about the statements made last week by members of the Election Assistance Commission who said that individual states could, on their own, cancel the elections, or strip voters of the right to vote for president by having the presidential electors appointed by state legislatures?
The Times, by implication, accepted as good coin the most innocent, and least credible, explanation for the Bush administration’s internal discussions on canceling the elections: namely, that they arose on the basis of sound “intelligence” gathered by the Homeland Security Department, the CIA, FBI and other agencies. This readiness to accept the word of Ridge and company was evidently unaffected by the conclusion reached by the Senate Intelligence Committee in its report released two weeks ago that all of the government’s claims of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction and close ties between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda used to justify the invasion of Iraq were false.
Despite the mountain of evidence that the Bush administration lied about the Iraqi “threat” to the American people, that it secretly uses torture against alleged Iraqi insurgents and alleged terrorist captives, and despite its unexplained refusal to take steps to prevent the 9/11 attacks even though it had ample advance warning—the Times implies that any questioning of the government’s motives is illegitimate.
Those who run the newspaper know better. They know that the Bush administration is led by a gang of political criminals, who came to power illegitimately and have ruled by means of conspiracy and provocation. They cannot be blind to the fact that Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and company have no brief for democratic rights or the Constitution, and are capable of employing extra-legal methods to hold onto power.
Given the acute crisis of the Bush administration, the undeniable growth of mass antiwar sentiment, and the many indications, including the official opinion polls, that Bush’s reelection is in serious doubt, the danger of some kind of election-eve provocation is very real.
The editors of the Times are likewise well aware that the entire week when they were maintaining their discreet silence, the political establishment was embroiled in a furious debate over the moves of the Bush administration toward canceling the November election. The top personnel of the newspaper were very likely involved in efforts to extract from the Bush administration “plausible denials” that would enable the media to conceal from the people the conspiracies being hatched against their democratic rights.
The newspaper waited until the appropriate soporific denials had been made and the turmoil within the establishment had subsided to go into print and declare the matter “resolved.”
Such deliberate deception is nothing new for the New York Times. In March 2002, for example, when the Washington Post published a front-page exposé of the fact that the Bush administration had secretly established a “shadow government,” supposedly as a precaution against a nuclear terrorist attack on the US capital, the Times published only two perfunctory articles on the subject, and failed to make an editorial comment.
The Bush administration action—which remains in effect—constituted an unprecedented threat to democratic and constitutional procedures. By executive order, the White House set up a government-in-waiting, consisting of 100-150 unelected executive branch officials, who live in fortified bunkers in mountainous regions of the East Coast, serving 90-day rotations while holding themselves ready to assume full powers in the event of a nuclear attack on Washington.
No officials of the legislative or judicial branches are included, and neither the elected party leaders in Congress nor those in the constitutional line of succession to the presidency were even aware of the program’s existence.
This shadow government provides an indication of the type of regime that would emerge in the aftermath of a canceled election. It would be a dictatorship based on the military and the police.
The existence of this police-state-in-waiting underscores the fact that the
internal government discussions about postponing or canceling elections have
little to do with a potential terrorist attack. Were a massive attack on the
scale of 9/11 to occur during the elections, it would obviously have highly
disruptive ramifications--as would a major natural disaster. But no previous
American government, including those that held power during two world wars and
even through the Civil War, raised the possibility of a hostile attack or some
other calamity as justification for postponing or canceling a national
The use, moreover, of real or invented terrorist threats as the prextext for reactionary measures is hardly a novelty for the Bush administration. This government has, since 9/11, deliberately sought to create an atmosphere of fear and panic in order to justify its "war on terror" abroad and its onslaught on democratic rights at home, including the establishment of the Homeland Security Department and the passage of the Patriot Act.
Whether or not the administration actually seeks to disrupt or cancel the November election, it has set in motion a political initiative to create some kind of authority with the power to close down elections in the future. Already commentaries are appearing in major newspapers, including the Washington Post, calling for Congress to authorize the establishment of a bipartisan, “neutral” panel that will have the power to postpone or cancel a national election.
An appropriate analogy to the use of terrorism as the pretext for such a repudiation of democracy is the infamous Reichstag Fire of February, 1933. Hitler and the Nazis seized on the burning of the parliament building to create an atmosphere of hysteria and fear and push through parliament a law abrogating parliamentary procedures, revoking democratic rights, and establishing a police state in which Hitler exercised virtually unlimited powers. A congressional authorization to cancel a US election would be the modern, American equivalent of Hitler’s “Enabling Act” of March, 1933.
It is clear from the contemptible role of the New York Times in relation to the current conspiracy against the right of the people to vote, and the Bush administration’s offensive against democratic rights as a whole, that this erstwhile voice of American liberalism would do nothing to seriously oppose such a development. The dishonest and politically reactionary role of the Times underscores the collapse of liberalism and the lack of any serious commitment within the political establishment to the defense of democratic rights.
Those sections of the ruling elite represented by the Times, which
look with foreboding at the ever more open moves to dismantle the traditional
procedures of bourgeois democracy, fear above all the danger of a massive social
and political reaction from below. They seek to restrain the most reactionary
sections of the ruling class with appeals to reason and moderation, while doing
their best to politically disarm the working people and prevent them from
mobilizing against the capitalist class to defend their basic
Towards the recall referendum
August 15: Showdown in Venezuela
By: Derrick O'Keefe - Seven Oaks Magazine
Next month’s referendum in Venezuela –set for August 15 –is shaping up as a decisive moment in the recent history of Latin America, and also as a test for a more mature yet still nebulous movement against war and Empire. Next month's vote will either mark yet another ratification of Hugo Chavez's radical, democratic project known as the Bolivarian Revolution, or it will mark a victory for the oligarchy in Venezuela and their backers in Washington, D.C.
The April, 2002, coup d'etat against Hugo Chavez's democratically elected government was greeted with a shameful and deafening silence by most of North America's "progressive" organizations, politicians, academics and even activists. More than two years later, the process in Venezuela enjoys greater international understanding and solidarity, which will be critical to responding to the outcome of next month's referendum. The fallout after August 15, sure to be fuelled by the corporate media –win or lose for Chavez –will definitely raise the potential of international pressure and even intervention against the government in Caracas.
The increased awareness is due, in part, to the extraordinary documentary The Revolution Will Not Be Televised (www.chavezthefilm.com), produced in association with the Irish Film Board. In vivid and extraordinary scenes, the film shows us a country divided between decadent wealth and grinding poverty; coup plotters whose greed is only matched by their overconfidence, class-blindness and tactical clumsiness; and an enraged and mobilized people, that, against the odds, helped to restore their president to power. The opposition in Venezuela was so hysterical about the film that they began an international campaign to shut down screenings. Shamefully, Amnesty International bowed to threats of physical violence and removed the film from their 2003 festival here in Vancouver.
Intellectuals, as well as NGOs, have also been shirking their responsibility –at least as defined by the likes of Noam Chomsky. University of British Columbia professor Maxwell Cameron has focused his criticism on Chavez, accusing him of conducting a "slow-motion constitutional coup," an interesting and insidious formulation, to say the least. The assertion is that the Venezuelan leader is using democratic mechanisms to undermine ‘democracy.’ Mechanisms employed include elections and referenda: In 1998, Chavez won the presidency with 56% of votes cast; in 1999, the new, Bolivarian constitution was approved by 71%; and, in 2000, Chavez won another presidential vote with 59% support.
A radical process of social transformation is indeed underway in Venezuela, undermining the old system, a formal democracy with entrenched class divisions that systematically excluded the majority in that oil-rich country. Millions of poor, marginalized people have been brought into political participation for the first time –a dangerously democratic process to some.
Dr. Cameron, while focusing on the case against Chavez, laments the opposition's heavy-handed tactics after briefly seizing power in 2002, and suggests that Canada needs to take a more prominent role in questioning the legitimacy of the Caracas government:
Why not? The example that comes to mind immediately, among others, is that the government of Canada has, earlier this year, just helped engineer a coup d'etat against Jean-Bertrand Aristide in Haiti. In fact, the topic of regime change in that impoverished Caribbean country was discussed at a January 2003 conference of la francophonie in Ottawa. The United States and European Community had representatives present. The government of Haiti was not invited.
Further, Canada failed to speak out forcefully during the coup in 2002 against Chavez. A quick check of news releases by the ministry of foreign affairs for that year (http://www.fac-aec.gc.ca/) reveals no official statement against the coup, though the government in Ottawa did stop short of endorsing (the real naked emperor) Pedro Carmona, the big business leader and president for 48 hours.
The Canadian government cannot be counted on to be an impartial player with respect to Venezuela; the real question is how prominent a role they will play in the campaign against Chavez. NGOs and the academy specializing in the region seem largely unwilling to condemn U.S. aggression and destabilization in Latin America and the Caribbean, let alone expose Canadian complicity. Real solidarity with the people of Venezuela, then, will have to be built the hard way: through alternative forms of media, and through activist and labour networks.
August 15 is sure to mark a turning point in the Bolivarian Revolution,
and all those opposed to Empire in all its manifestations need to be aware
and alert, ready to defend the right of Venezuela’s people to determine
their own destiny.