The Friends of California Libre...

30 June 2003

Passive Foreign Aggression

Greetings, friends,
I was recently pleased to see a healthy turnout at the Century Plaza Hotel for Mr. Bush's visit last Friday, especially the rather anaemic group supporting our Leader, who chose to spend all of ten hours or so within California's borders. I certainly hope fear was one of his motivating factors, but to drop in and pick up a cool $4's good to be king.

Also thanks to everyone who is sending me speeches by Senator Byrd and Governor Dean; rather than repeat them here, I urge anyone interested in the election we have to look forward to in 16 months to search them out. And in the case of Mr. Byrd, anyone with a taste for rhetorical flourishes no less than that of the great Roman Cicero himself. Bra-fucking-vo.

Hey, this screed could be a lot worse. Take a peek at the "dullest blog in the world" (thanks, Geri):

All this chaos and death and destruction being brought about with my payroll deductions (which just went down about $40 a month, but that won't save a single Iraqi or American life, natch) hasn't much for my sense of humor. Yet the Government keeps feeding us the most ridiculous lines, and I can't shake the dread of the Cosmic Joke. How about art becoming reality:
'Apocalypse Now' Music Fires Up U.S. Troops for Raid

And in the same vein, I've enclosed a picture of a church window that demonstrates, yet again, the awesome humility of the Catholic Church (thanks, Ethan). Many of you (especially New Yorkers) will also enjoy this little 4 July fireworks applet sent to me (thanks, Mom); it is actually a bit of fun, sort of a cross between "Missile Command" and one of Ronald Reagan's waking dreams:

But back to the serious task at hand, which is to spread TRUTH (or at least, an alternate view of this too small world) to my friends, family, and colleagues in the full takeover of the Earth by the human race. One of my favorite bands once asked: "Who owns the world?" It can't possibly be us, too silly even to know you can't drive and yell at your spouse on a cell phone without some possibility of mowing down some innocent schmuck walking to the liquor store...

But bad driving is not limited to Los Angeles:
Lagos Seeks Sanity Tests for Traffic Woes

Really bad manners might be, though:

But to broaden the argument in favor of more humility in the US, here we go again:
Taliban Names Anti-U.S. Leadership Council

And why not?
US Losing the Peace in Afghanistan
By Jim Lobe
Asia Times Online

Especially considering what we've got brewing in Iraq. Remember all the doom and gloomers predicting a new Vietnam? And then a quick dismissal of these predictions by the Right in the face of our overwhelming destruction of the Iraqi government. Well, now we've got the worst of both worlds; yah, it's Vietnam, but we can't leave this time. So what's going on in the 51st state?

Let's see...there's mayhem...
From Liberation to Counter-Insurgency
By Jim Lobe
The Asia Times

Random violence...
Iraq's Lethal Peace
The Guardian

Body-counts with faceless American soldiers and faceless Iraqi citizens...
By William Rivers Pitt
t r u t h o u t Perspective

And even some cold-blooded Vietnam-stylie slaughter:
'I Just Pulled the Trigger'
By Bob Graham
The Evening Standard

If you're not disgusted yet, I have another country in crisis to tell you about, and it's not Iraq, it's US:
Toward One-Party Rule
By Paul Krugman
The New York Times

And now, for something completely different; I know you've all been waiting for this:
And the Friendliest City on Earth Is...

I'm thinking, however, of taking my next vacation in Canada:
'Prince of Pot' Says, Like, Come to Toronto Dude

Or maybe going back to Spain:
Police Seize Hashish Hidden in Moroccan Squid Truck

Unless, of course, we wipe out the whole fucking planet before too long, military hegemony or not:
White House Makes Hefty Changes to E.P.A. Global Warming Report
By Andrew C. Revkin and Katharine Q. Seelye
The New York Times

Let's hope our other friends in the Western world get their shit together soon. Look, even some of the most scholarly of American newspapers are starting to take notice of the doings over in Europe: - European leaders debate a constitution

And they're also shrinking from this mad plan, which screams out "Sudetenland" to crusty ol' historical types like me:
Bombing Iran could be tempting option for Bush

Although hopefully reason will prevail (but don't hold your breath):
Setbacks Dog U.S. Iran Policy
By Michael Moran

But the Europeans are blinking...just a bit:
Belgium Forgoes its Role as "the World's Judge"
By Jean-Pierre De Staercke
La Liberation

And that's the nervous state of the world this week, but that's not all. I am sure nothing I can say will add to this:
9-Year-Old Girl Marries Dog in India

Finally, as I like to do, a full article dug out of the British press. This one is particularly disturbing; US interference with international relief groups. It's also an issue which augurs more e-mail hitting us up for donations, and demands more caution in acceeding:
Now Bush wants to buy the complicity of aid workers
Relief groups have been told they must be an "arm of the US government"
Naomi Klein
Sunday June 22 2003
The Observer
The Bush administration has found its next target for pre-emptive war, but it's not Iran, Syria or North Korea. Not yet anyway.
Before launching any new foreign adventures, the Bush gang has some homeland housekeeping to take care of: it is going to sweep up those pesky non-governmental organisations that are helping to turn world opinion against US bombs and brands.
The war on NGOs is being fought on two clear fronts. One buys the silence and complicity of mainstream humanitarian and religious groups by offering lucrative reconstruction contracts. The other marginalises and criminalises more independent-minded NGOs by claiming that their work is a threat to democracy. The US Agency for International Development (USaid) is in charge of handing out the carrots, while the American Enterprise Institute, the most powerful think-tank in Washington, is wielding the sticks.
On May 21 in Washington, Andrew Natsios, the head of USaid, gave a speech blasting US NGOs for failing to play a role many of them didn't realise they had been assigned: doing public relations for the US government. According to InterAction, the network of 160 relief and development NGOs, Natsios was "irritated" that starving and sick Iraqi and Afghan children didn't realise that their food and vaccines were coming to them courtesy of George Bush. From now on, NGOs had to do a better job of link ing their humanitarian assistance to US foreign policy and making it clear that they are "an arm of the US government". If they didn't, InterAction reported, "Natsios threatened to personally tear up their contracts and find new partners".
For aid workers, there are even more strings attached to US dollars. USaid told several NGOs that have been awarded humanitarian contracts that they cannot speak to the media - all requests from reporters must go through Washington. Mary McClymont, CEO of InterAction, calls the demands "unprecedented" and says: "It looks like the NGOs aren't independent and can't speak for themselves about what they see and think."
Many humanitarian leaders are shocked to hear their work described as "an arm" of government - most see themselves as independent (that would be the "non-governmental" part of the name). The best NGOs are loyal to their causes, not to countries, and they aren't afraid to blow the whistle on their own governments. Think of Medecins Sans Frontieres standing up to the White House and the European Union over Aids drug patents, or Human Rights Watch's campaign against the death penalty in the US.
Natsios embraced this independence in his previous job as vice president of World Vision. During the North Korean famine, Natsios didn't hesitate to blast his own government for withholding food aid, calling the Clinton administration's response "too slow" and its claim that politics was not a factor "total nonsense".
Don't expect candour like that from the aid groups Natsios now oversees in Iraq. These days, NGOs are supposed to do nothing more than quietly pass out care packages with a big "brought to you by the US" logo attached - in public-private partnerships with Bechtel and Halliburton, of course.
That is the message of "NGO Watch", an initiative of the American Enterprise Institute and the Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies that takes aim at the growing political influence of the non-profit sector. The stated purpose of the website, launched on June 11, is to "bring clarity and accountability to the burgeoning world of NGOs". In fact, it is a McCarthyite blacklist, telling tales on any NGO that dares speak against Bush administration policies or in support of international treaties opposed by the White House.
This bizarre initiative takes as its premise the idea that there is something sinister about "unelected" groups of citizens getting together to try to influence their government. "The extraordinary growth of advocacy NGOs in liberal democracies has the potential to undermine the sovereignty of constitutional democracies," the site claims.
Coming from the AEI, this is not without irony. As Raj Patel, policy analyst at the California-based NGO Food First, points out: "The American Enterprise Institute is an NGO itself and it is supported by the most powerful corporations on the planet. They are accountable only to their board, which includes Motorola, American Express and ExxonMobil."
As for influence, few peddle it quite like the AEI, whose looniest of ideas have a habit of becoming Bush administration policy. And no wonder. Richard Perle, member and former chairman of the Pentagon's Defence Policy Board, is an AEI fellow, along with Lynne Cheney, the wife of the vice-president, and the Bush administration is crowded with former AEI fellows. As President Bush said at an AEI dinner in February: "At the American Enterprise Institute, some of the finest minds in our nation are at work on some of the greatest challenges to our nation. You do such good work that my administration has borrowed 20 such minds."
In other words, the AEI is more than a think-tank - it's Bush's outsourced brain. Taken together with Natsios's statements, this attack on the non-profit sector marks the emergence of a new Bush doctrine: NGOs should be nothing more than the charity wing of the mili tary, silently mopping up after wars and famines. Their job is not to ask how these tragedies could have been averted, or to advocate solutions. And it is certainly not to join anti-war and globalisation movements pushing for real political change.
The control freaks in the White House have really outdone themselves this time. First they tried to silence governments critical of their foreign policies by buying them off with aid packages and trade deals. (Last month US trade representative Robert Zoellick said that the US would only enter into new trade agreements with countries that offered "cooperation or better on foreign policy and security issues".)
Next they made sure the press didn't ask hard question during the war by trading journalistic access for editorial control. Now they are attempting to turn relief workers in Iraq and Afghanistan into publicists for Bush's Brand US. The US government is usually described as "unilateralist", but I don't think that's quite accurate. The Bush administration may be willing to go it alone, but what it really wants is legions of self-censoring followers, from foreign governments to national journalists and international NGOs.
This is not a lone wolf we are dealing with; it's a sheep-herder. The question is: which of the NGOs will play the sheep?
Copyright Guardian Newspapers Limited

Vive le Screed!

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