Global Notebook 3/03

Bush Wargame Reaches the Americas
IQUITOS — Jungle Expeditionary Forces have their deployment orders, and US Marine battalions have begun rotating in and out of south Colombia. Their mission: to eliminate officers of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and scatter the enemy to the remote corners of the Amazon. But the offensive also means that the US is fighting wars on three fronts: Afghanistan, Iraq, and Colombia.

Officially, the operation is led by the local military, assigned to push the FARC — under intensive US surveillance for years — south toward the waiting Marines. A similar operation was called off at the last minute two years ago.

Innocent indigenous peoples and campesinos will die, but the Bush Administration is preparing to take the heat.

The presence of US troops is a direct violation of Clinton’s Plan Colombia and Bush’s expanded Andean Initiative. But with the FARC falsely tarred as terrorists who train with Al Qaeda, public outrage may be muted. The US has provided Colombia with nearly $2 billion in military aid since 1999.

The plan was sealed last September with a meeting between Bush and Colombia’s new right-wing President Alvaro Uribe. The high-level luncheon coincided with the tail end of a joint exercise between US Marine Expeditionary Forces and the Peruvian military. For the first time, 600 Marines from the USS Portland made their way up the international waters of the Amazon to Peruvian territory just outside Iquitos.  

US forces are expected to operate out of a base at Manta, on Ecuador’s coast, and another deep in the Peruvian jungle near the Putumayo River, Peru’s border with Colombia. That secret base was built for joint US-Peru use, anticipating an offensive that pushed the FARC south. But on its completion, then-president Alberto Fujimori ordered the US to leave.

According to Narco News Bulletin, the administration hopes to keep the campaign low-key for a while. There have already been casualties, which are officially attributed to training exercises or legal assistance to Colombia’s military. But once the general public realizes the US is in another war, Bush is expected to annoint the FARC a junior partner in the axis of evil.

To ensure that enough people see it that way, reliable sources say government operatives are hard at work, assisting with a series of bombings that are subsequently laid at FARC’s feet.
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Brazil Goes Left in Landslide Vote
SAO PAULO — Former union boss Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva won Brazil’s presidential election runoff by a landslide last October 27, marking a historic shift to the left for Latin America’s largest country. Silva — a former shoeshine boy affectionately known as Lula, who rose to become the head of a labor union — got 61.5 percent of the vote.

It’s the biggest victory for a left-leaning, democratically-elected leader since Nelson Mandela in South Africa. In US terms, it compares with victories by Franklin Roosevelt, Lyndon Johnson in 1964, or Nixon’s and Reagan’s second term elections. In fact, Lula got more actual votes than George W. Bush did in 2000, in a nation with 100 million fewer people.

Brazil is likely to become one the leaders of the opposition to what Latin Americans call the "Washington consensus." Most Brazilian, as well as Silva, oppose the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA). But the country also faces currency devaluation and billions in debt.

US Conservatives haven’t wasted time in demonizing the popular new leader. Some suggest that he is part of a new "axis of evil," an Americas branch that currently includes Venezuelan maverick Hugo Chavez and the chairman of the board, Fidel Castro.
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This Episode: "Family Skeletons"

Let’s talk Bush. No, not our cowboy president, or the CIA clubhouse in Virginia. This time let’s talk a little about George Bush the Vice President– under Ronald Reagan. As the record shows, he was knee deep in a 1980s secret war.

Although a former CIA Director (1976-77), head of Drug Interdiction and Counterterrorism Task Forces under Reagan, and patron of Contra re-supply network kingpin Felix Rodriguez, Bush famously claimed to be "out of the loop" whenever covert schemes were discussed. Love that "hep" use of slang.

The official report on the Iran-Contra scandal confirmed that Bush attended several key meetings, "but none of the participants could recall his views."

Typical. But John Poindexter, Reagan’s national security advisor and a convicted conspirator who crept back out of the shadows as mastermind of Bush II’s Total Information Awareness (TIA) project, once wrote that Bush I was totally sold on supplying the Contras despite a congressional ban. His complicity was simply covered up.

According to J. Edgar Hoover, "Mr. George Bush of the CIA" was also briefed on November 23, 1963 about the reaction of anti-Castro Cuban exiles in Miami to the assassination of President Kennedy.  When this came out during his 1988 presidential run, aides said it was a different George Bush. Hey, it’s possible.

Still, allegations persist that George Bush I has concealed much about his CIA-era work and connections to Cuban exiles, not to mention more recent ties to the bin Laden family through the Carlyle Group.

Now, that’s a collection of family skeletons.
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Canada Breaks Out of US Fortress
OTTAWA – Finding the US is a dangerous rogue state, a Canadian peace and disarmament group has called for "weapons inspections." The group, Rooting Out Evil, plans to assemble volunteer inspectors at US-Canada border checkpoints some time this year. It already has volunteers from Europe, North America, and Asia, and urges other potential weapons inspectors to sign up at its Website. (

The action is part of a major campaign by activists, non-governmental organizations and individuals to keep Canada out of a US-Iraq war. The government is under pressure to join the anti-Iraq coalition. Paul Celucci, US ambassador to Canada, has repeatedly called for the country to participate, and also suggests that Ottawa should be spending more on its military. Canada has ships with the US force in the Arabian Sea, but the last of its troops in Afghanistan came home last September.

Polls show Canadians split evenly on participating in a war against Iraq. Despite intense US pressure, the government has stopped short of committing troops.

"Not only are we witnessing the resurgence of the American empire through President Bush’s doctrine of the supreme role of the US as policeman of the world," notes Caroline Harvey, director of Projet la Paix. "Since Sept. 11, we’ve also seen signs of ‘Fortress North America’ emerging as the US begins to build a common security regime around this continent through its new homeland security agency. Important questions remain, including, ‘What role is Canada expected to play in continental militarization’?
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No Dole for Kosovo
PRISTINA — Last November, Kosovo President Ibrahim Rugova’s tried to appoint

Bob Dole as the honorary representative for Kosovo in the US.  The decision was met with disapproval by the UN administration in Kosovo, however. Although declining to comment, UNMIK spokeswoman Susan Manuel made it clear that Kosovo "institutions" had no authority to make such decisions. Michael Steiner, the UN civil administrator, is the only person authorized to pursue Kosovo’s foreign policy, she explained.
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It Ain’t Easy Flying Green
RALEIGH, NC — Art dealer Doug Stuber thought it would be a routine trip: a flight to Prague to gather artists for an exhibit. But because he had run Ralph Nader’s 2000 Green Party presidential campaign in his home state, it became a kafka-esque nightmare.

Pulled out of a boarding line in Raleigh, Stuber was told he couldn’t fly that day. Why? Because of the recent sniper attacks, he learned, no Greens were allowed to fly overseas that day. But when he returned the next morning, things got even worse.

Just before boarding, he was approached by officer Stanley, the same policeman who ushered him out of the airport the day before. Stanley asked to talk privately. Stuber’s flight was about to leave, but he was questioned for an hour. Around noon, two Secret Service agents joined them, taking pictures and asking for details about his family, friends, and what the Greens are doing.

At one point, Stuber asked if they really believed the Greens were a threat like al Qaeda. That’s when the agents showed him a Justice Department document that classifies the Greens as likely terrorists.

Needless to say, he’d missed his flight again. After finally making it to Greensboro, he was told he couldn’t fly overseas. In fact, they wouldn’t even let him fly back home. The story was the same in Charlotte. He finally gave up. 

Transportation Security Administration (TSA) blacklists, not officially acknowledged but used at ticket counters nationwide, present a classic Catch-22 situation. They’re compiled from names provided by various other agencies, but TSA has no procedure for correcting "mistakes." If you find yourself on a no-fly list, you must complain to the agency that first reported your name. But for security reasons, the TSA won’t disclose who put you on the list.
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FCC Seizes Pirate Radio Equipment
BERKELEY — Federal Communications Commission (FCC) agents confiscated the broadcast equipment of Berkeley Liberation Radio (BLR), 104.1 FM last December. Using a little known legal tactic, the FCC obtained an arrest warrant for the transmitting devices and seized the equipment on Dec. 11, 2002. "This is a free speech issue and the FCC is trying to prevent us from exercising our First Amendment right," said station DJ Bryan Smith. "If more people ran radio stations without their endorsement then the FCC would lose power." 

The pirate station was launched 1999, providing music and information to the San Francisco Bay Area. Operating without a license, BLR defied the one tenth of a watt power limit established by the FCC. "Beyond the confiscation itself, we question the timing of this act of repression, as the US government prepares for war," said a statement from the volunteers. "It cannot be our music that the government fears, but our speech. The only barrier to endless war is endless reason. We, the volunteers of BLR, vow to return to the airwaves, with the support of free speech lovers everywhere."
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HBO Clarifies Lie from Baghdad
LOS ANGELES — Shortly after the premier of its Gulf War docudrama, Live From

Baghdad, HBO added a clarification at the end. A fictionalized account of CNN’s coverage of the war, the film leaves viewers with the impression that fraudulent stories about Iraqi soldiers removing Kuwaiti babies from incubators are true.

HBO’s message, which appears after the end of the credits, reads: "While the allegations of Iraqi soldiers taking babies from incubators were widely circulated during the run-up to the Gulf War (the time frame of the drama of our film), these allegations were never substantiated."

Most viewers don’t watch the entire credits, however, so many people will never see the clarification. In any case, it would be more accurate to say that attempts to confirm the story uncovered evidence that it was fabricated.

At the time, one senior Kuwaiti health official told ABC’s World News Tonight, "I think this is something just for propaganda." 

The main source of the story, who presented herself in a congressional hearing as a Kuwaiti war refugee, was actually the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador to the US. She’d been coached by the public relations agency Hill & Knowlton.
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Navy Surrenders in Battle of Vieques
SAN JUAN — Finally bowing to resistance, the US Navy has agreed to halt battle training on Vieques Island off Puerto Rico. After May 1, 2003, exercises for aircraft carrier battle groups and Marine forces will be staged on bases in the southeastern US, chiefly Florida and North Carolina, and at sea.

The sea training will use a new computer simulation system, Virtual at Sea (VAST). Technology has lessened the Navy’s reliance on fixed sites. For example, all carrier battle groups will eventually have a mobile computer-based system for simulating targets. That will enable the ships to conduct that aspect of their training while operating virtually anywhere.

The Navy’s long use of the 33,000-acre island for target practice sparked widespread protests, particularly after a civilian security guard was killed in an April 1999 bombing run by Marine Corps jets. The death unleashed pent-up local resentment and sparked a drive across Puerto Rico for the Navy to leave.

Protesters argued that the war games damaged the environment and harmed the health of the island’s 9300 residents. Due to the controversy, recent exercises have involved only dummy bombs and shells without explosives. The Navy repeatedly insisted that Vieques’ geography was perfect for simultaneous air, sea, and land maneuvers.

Under an agreement between Washington and San Juan, the former bombing site will be turned over to the Interior Department. But the Navy may also close the Roosevelt Roads naval station, the largest employer in Puerto Rico. "Without Vieques there is no way I need the Navy facilities at Roosevelt Roads – none," says Adm. Robert Natter, commander of the Atlantic Fleet. "It’s a drain on Defense Department and taxpayer dollars."
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Small Worldliness
ANN ARBOR — Much like the game Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, the corporate world is an interlocking network of board directorships separated by just a few handshakes. So say researchers at the University of Michigan Business School. In a study of nearly 7700 directors at Fortune 1000 companies, they found that each director, on average, can reach every other director through 4.6 intermediaries. Each board can contact every other board in 3.7 steps.

"At the apex of the corporate economy is a group of highly influential people who often either know each other or have acquaintances in common," says Gerald F. Davis, professor of organizational behavior and human resource management. "The Bush Cabinet, whose members have served on the boards of leading corporations — including Alcoa, Halliburton, and Reader’s Digest — is a good example of how these powerful connections can work in high places."

Board members may have frequent face-to-face contact, contributing to an intricate, ever-growing grapevine on which information travels rapidly. This "small worldliness" isn’t limited to business. But the influence wielded by corporate boards is greater and more likely to impact policies.

"In all, we cannot argue that the small-world configuration of corporate boards and directors is sufficient to forge a common world view among directors or to generate substantial homogeneity in corporate practice," Davis concludes. "But it is highly conducive to the spread of information and ideas — whether or not these are acted on in practice."