PUBLICATION:

The Nation [ISSN 0027-8378]

TITLE:

The Right and US Trade Law:
Invalidating the 20th Century

DATE:

October 15, 2001

AUTHOR:

William Greider, National Affairs Correspondent

FULL ARTICLE:

http://www.thenation.com/doc.mhtml?i=20011015&s=greider

INTRODUCTION:

The case of Methanex v. United States originated in
California in the mid-1990s, when people began to notice a
foul taste in their drinking water, a smell like turpentine.
Santa Monica had to shut down half its supply wells and
purchase clean water from elsewhere. The contamination
turned up in thirty public water systems, Lake Tahoe and
Shasta Lake, plus 3,500 groundwater sites. The source was
quickly identified as methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE), a
methanol-based gasoline additive that creates cleaner-
burning fuel, thus reducing air pollution. But even small
amounts of MTBE leaking from storage tanks, pipeline breaks
or car accidents made water unfit to drink -- and extremely
difficult to clean up. A study team from the University of
California, Davis, added that in lab tests on rats and mice,
MTBE was also carcinogenic, raising the possibility of human
risk.

The state government acted promptly. In 1997 the legislature
authorized a ban on MTBE if further investigations confirmed
the health risks. In March 1999, after more research and
lengthy public hearings, Governor Gray Davis issued an
executive order to begin the phaseout. Other states were
acting too. The oxygenating additive is used in one-fourth
of the US gasoline supply, especially in pollution-prone big
cities, so New York, New Jersey and other places were also
discovering MTBE's unintended consequences for clean water.
Up to this point, the story sounded like an alarming but
fairly conventional environmental problem.

Then, four months after Governor Davis's order, a Canadian
company from Vancouver, British Columbia, filed a daring
lawsuit against the US government, demanding $970 million in
compensation for the damage California was inflicting on its
future profits. Methanex Corporation, which manufactures
methanol, principal ingredient of MTBE, claimed that banning
the additive in the largest US market violates the foreign-
investment guarantees embodied in Chapter 11 of the North
American Free Trade Agreement. Under Chapter 11, foreign
investors from Canada, Mexico and the United States can sue
a national government if their company's property assets,
including the intangible property of expected profits, are
damaged by laws or regulations of virtually any kind. Who
knew?

The company did not take its case to US federal court.
Instead, it hired a leading Washington law firm, Jones, Day,
Reavis & Pogue, to argue the billion-dollar claim before a
private three-judge arbitration tribunal, an "offshore"
legal venue created by NAFTA. Each side -- the plaintiff
company and defendant government -- gets to choose one of
the three arbitrators who will hear the case, then they
jointly select the third, who presides. The proceedings are
in secret -- no public notice whatever -- unless both sides
agree to disclose the case. Sacramento had difficulty
finding out what was happening, though it was California's
environmental law that was under attack.

Methanex and the other controversial corporate claims
pending before NAFTA tribunals are like a slow-ticking time
bomb in the politics of globalization. As nervous members of
Congress inquire into what they unwittingly created back in
1993, environmentalists and other critics explain the
implications: Multinational investors can randomly second-
guess the legitimacy of environmental laws or any other
public-welfare or economic regulation, including agency
decisions, even jury verdicts. The open-ended test for
winning damages is whether the regulation illegitimately
injured a company's investments and can be construed as
"tantamount to expropriation," though no assets were
physically taken (as is the case when a government
seizes an oil field or nationalizes banks).

NAFTA's arbitrators cannot overturn domestic laws, but their
huge damage awards may be nearly as crippling -- chilling
governments from acting once they realize they will be
"paying to regulate," as William Waren, a fellow at
Georgetown law school, puts it. On its face, this strange
new legal system's ability to check democratically elected
governments confirms a principal accusation of those
much-disparaged protesters against corporate-dominated
globalization. Elite power politics, they contend, is
imposing rules on the global economy that effectively shut
out competing voices and values, that slyly undermine the
sovereign capacity of a nation to defend its own citizens'
broader interests. Indeed, the US multinational community
dreams of establishing Chapter 11's provisions as the
worldwide standard, to be applied next in the proposed
Free Trade Area of the Americas.

The most disturbing aspect of Chapter 11, however, is not
its private arbitration system but its expansive new
definition of property rights -- far beyond the established
terms in US jurisprudence and with a potential to override
established rights in domestic law. NAFTA's new investor
protections actually mimic a radical revision of
constitutional law that the American right has been
aggressively pushing for years -- redefining public
regulation as a government "taking" of private property that
requires compensation to the owners, just as when government
takes private land for a highway or park it has to pay its
fair value. Because any new regulation is bound to have some
economic impact on private assets, this doctrine is a
formula to shrink the reach of modern government and cripple
the regulatory state -- undermining long-established
protections for social welfare and economic justice,
environmental values and individual rights. Right-wing
advocates frankly state that objective -- restoring the
primacy of property against society's broader claims. A
tentative majority on the Supreme Court agrees in theory --
the same five who selected George W. Bush as President.

"NAFTA checks the excesses of unilateral sovereignty,"
Washington lawyer Daniel Price told a scholarly forum in
Cleveland. He ought to know, since he was the lead US
negotiator on Chapter 11 a decade ago. As for anyone
troubled by the intrusions on US sovereignty, he said, "My
only advice is, get over it." Price, who heads international
practice at Powell, Goldstein, Frazer & Murphy, a premiere
Washington firm, says that contrary to the widely held
assumption that suits like Methanex's represent an
unintended consequence of NAFTA, the architects of NAFTA
knew exactly what they were creating. "The parties did not
stumble into this," he said. "This was a carefully crafted
definition."

This account, instead of delving further into Chapter 11's
legal complexities, turns to explore its murky political
origins. How could all this have transpired so unobtrusively?
And how did the right wing's novel concept of "regulatory
takings" find its way into an international trade agreement?
The story, in passing, is another devastating commentary on
the decay of representative democracy. These now-controversial
legal innovations were ostensibly adopted in broad daylight,
yet the public never had a clue. Nor did the media, watchful
policy experts or members of Congress. Yet the stakes are as
fundamental to public life as the Constitution itself. The
transmission of big ideas among elite interests is always a
more supple and elusive process than backroom conspiracy --
not exactly secret, yet withheld from general understanding.
To fully appreciate the momentous risks for law and justice,
one starts by stepping back in history to see what exactly
the right-wingers are trying to overthrow. The answer, in
their own words, is the twentieth century.

Back to Main News Page

==================================================================
Study: Black Votes Affected Most in Florida

By Dan Keating and John Mintz
Washington Post Staff Writers
<http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/onpolitics/elections2000/recount/front.htm>
Nov. 13, 2001

An examination of 175,010 Florida ballots that were not
counted in the 2000 presidential election provided
further evidence that the ballots of voters in the
state's black neighborhoods were most likely to go
uncounted last November.

One reason black voters had more uncounted ballots,
according to the study by The Washington Post and other
media organizations, was that ballots in predominantly
black neighborhoods were twice as likely to have no
indication of any vote for president. In heavily black
areas, 13 of every 1,000 ballots had no mark, compared
to 6 in 1,000 in white neighborhoods.

Another reason was the disproportionate number of
"overvotes" - instances where more than one mark was
made on a ballot.

Black precincts had a heavy concentration of overvotes
that were rejected by counting machines on election day.
White precincts using the same technology - Votomatic
punch cards - had a different pattern of errors: They
had a higher rate of incomplete punches such as dimples
or "hanging chads."

Florida Black Ballots Affected Most in 2000 Uncounted
Votes Common, Survey Finds

By Dan Keating and John Mintz Washington Post Staff
Writers Tuesday, November 13, 2001; Page A03

An examination of 175,010 Florida ballots that were not
counted in the 2000 presidential election provided
further evidence that the ballots of voters in the
state's black neighborhoods were most likely to go
uncounted last November.

One reason black voters had more uncounted ballots,
according to the study by The Washington Post and other
media organizations, was that ballots in predominantly
black neighborhoods were twice as likely to have no
indication of any vote for president. In heavily black
areas, 13 of every 1,000 ballots had no mark, compared
to 6 in 1,000 in white neighborhoods.

Another reason was the disproportionate number of
"overvotes" -- instances where more than one mark was
made on a ballot.

Black precincts had a heavy concentration of overvotes
that were rejected by counting machines on election day.
White precincts using the same technology -- Votomatic
punch cards -- had a different pattern of errors: They
had a higher rate of incomplete punches such as dimples
or "hanging chads."

In The Post's study, voter intent on many overvotes
could not be determined. But in many instances voter
intent could be established from examining the chads,
providing a big boost for Republican George W. Bush from
predominantly white voters. In Duval County, which had
the highest rate of uncounted ballots in the state, Bush
picked up 989 votes in The Post study.

Overall, 136 out of every 1,000 ballots in heavily black
precincts were set aside -- a rate of spoiled ballots
that was three times higher than in predominantly white
precincts. Those precincts, where at least 80 percent of
the voters were white, had 45 out of 1,000 ballots
disqualified.

The difference in spoiled ballots between white and
black voters was greatest in some counties that use
paper ballots marked with a pencil and are read by
optical scanning machines. In those "optical-scan"
counties that transport ballots to the county seat to be
tallied, black voters were almost four times as likely
as whites to have cast ballots where no votes were
counted.

The rate of spoiled votes was much lower in the state's
26 optical scan counties, where the ballots are tallied
at the polling places, and voters who make an error in
filling out the ballot are alerted and allowed to
revote. Because of this "second chance" technology,
black voters were just under two times as likely as
whites to have ballots tossed out. The technology
reduced the difference in spoilage rates by more than
half.

"Clearly there are radical differences between the two
systems," said David Bositis, an authority on the black
vote at the Joint Center for Political and Economic
Studies, a think tank focusing on minorities' electoral
participation.

"Given that 9 of 10 black voters were voting Democratic,
and two-thirds of white voters were voting Republican,
this [reliance on voting machinery lacking the second
chance option] represented a net advantage for the
Republicans" in the thousands of votes, Bositis said.
"That's not minor."

The ballot study suggested that black voters stand the
most to gain from election reforms in Florida and other
states that require polling places to install "second
chance" technology.

Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) and the Republican-controlled
legislature have mandated that counties install voting
systems with the technology. Several other states --
such as California, Maryland and Georgia -- are doing
the same, election experts said.

"Because of what we learned in 2000, almost every new
election system purchased everywhere from here on out
will have second chance technology," said R. Doug
Lewis,executive director of the Election Center, a
nonpartisan group that advises and trains election
officials. "We've been trying to say to African-American
and inexperienced voters that we, too, are concerned
about any system that allows voters to be disqualified."

Second chance technology is designed to prevent
overvotes, the most common form of invalid ballot. Al
Gore was listed in 80,772 of the overvotes examined in
the ballot study, twice as many as George W. Bush.

Thousands of Florida voters using optical-scan
technology created overvotes by marking the oval next to
a candidate, then filling the oval next to "write-in"
and writing the same candidate's name, called a "double-
bubble."

The Post ballot review found that Gore could have had a
net gain of 662 votes in a hand recount of optical
overvotes, almost entirely because of those double-
bubbles.

But the statewide recount ordered by the Florida Supreme
Court, and stopped by the U.S. Supreme Court the
following day, specified only undervotes would be
examined and not overvotes. Part of the federal court's
reason for ruling the recount unfair was that it would
give undervotes a chance to be fixed but not overvotes.

Democrats and African American leaders have charged
repeatedly that black voters were disproportionately
affected by the state's election procedures, including
confusing ballot designs and instructions. The U.S.
Commission on Civil Rights issued a report in June
criticizing management of the Florida election for
disenfranchising voters, particularly blacks.

The report, approved in a 6 to 2 vote that split along
party lines with Republican-appointed members
dissenting, said that problems with voter registration
and improper attempts to remove felons from the rolls
were compounded by inadequate voting equipment and voter
training.

Back to Main News Page

==================================================================

Many laid-off workers ineligible for food stamps

By Timothy Pratt
November 09, 2001
LAS VEGAS SUN

Thousands of workers laid off in Las Vegas after the
Sept. 11 terrorist attacks are not eligible for food
stamps -- despite being legal, tax-paying residents. Of
the estimated 16,000 out of work, as many as 3,500 are
legal immigrants, and although they qualify for
unemployment, because of a 1996 law they cannot get food
stamps.

Resident immigrants, who were on the same footing as
citizens before 1996, were made ineligible for food
stamps by the Welfare Reform Act of 1996. Immigrants who
arrived after 1996 now have to pay into Social Security
for 10 years to qualify for food stamps. Exceptions
include refugees from certain countries, such as
Vietnam, and military personnel and their families.

The new law cut an estimated 825,000 legal immigrants
from the program Up to half of the 7,000 laid-off
workers seeking help at the Culinary Union's Project
Helping Hand in October were residents who couldn't get
food stamps, D. Taylor, staff director of the Culinary
Union, estimated.

"It's a terrible shame," Taylor said. "A lot of people
working in our industry are recent immigrants, and they
are the first people to get laid off. They're legal,
they pay taxes, they send their children to school, but
when they're out of work, they can't get help."

As many as 50,000 members of the Hotel and Restaurant
Employees International may be faced with the same
problem nationwide. The hospitality industry is one of
the hardest hit by layoffs since the Sept. 11 attacks,
Taylor said. About 16,600 more unemployment insurance
claims than normal have been filed by workers in Nevada
since Sept. 11, Birgit Baker, administrator for the
State Employment Security Division, said.

About 13,000 laid-off workers applied for food stamps
and Medicaid in Clark County in September and October,
Sandee Wyand, field supervisor for Nevada State Welfare,
said.

Legal immigrants are eligible for unemployment benefits.
Neither the unemployment nor the welfare office analyzes
how many claims are filed by immigrants. Wyand said 37
percent of the workers seeking services at Project
Helping Hand were Hispanic.

"Many of these Hispanics were legal immigrants who
applied, because their children were born in the United
States and they could at least receive food stamps for
their children," Wyand said.

Laid-off workers have been turning to local food
pantries after finding they aren't eligible for food
stamps.

"We've been getting about 350 people a week coming to us
for food since Sept.

24," Clentine Coleman, social services director at
Catholic Charities, said. About 300 laid-off workers of
1,750 at Catholic Charities were residents who couldn't
receive food stamps, Coleman said.

Zulie Franco, director of the Hispanic-American
Partnership, has seen 150 people a week since Sept. 15,
about 10 percent of whom are legal residents who sought
food stamps first.

The Nevada Association for Latin Americans has given 800
laid-off workers food since Sept. 11, about 10 percent
of whom are residents who couldn't receive food stamps.
English said that two tons of canned food ran out in the
last week of October.

Zanira Al-Amin volunteered from the State Welfare
Division at Project Helping Hand.

"It was hard to get many of the workers to understand
that they didn't qualify for food stamps, since they
thought being a resident made them eligible," she said.

"They said they pay taxes and it isn't fair. It was
frustrating for me as well -- I told them, if they were
mine, I'd give them away."

A bill in the Senate would restore food stamp benefits
to legal immigrants. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., 24 other
senators are urging the Senate Agriculture Committee to
include Senate Bill 583 the Farm Bill now moving through
Congress.

"The time is right for this bill," said Ellen Vollinger,
legal director for the Washington-based Food Research
and Action Center, which supports the legislation.

"Since 1996 we have seen the gaping hole left in the
safety net for these people. But what we are seeing now
is lending more gravity to the issue. What is happening
in Las Vegas is also happening in Los Angeles, New York
and other cities where tourism is important.

Back to Main News Page

===================================================================

November 4, 2001

Holding Terrorists Accountable?
It Depends on the Color and the Cause...

By Tim Wise <tjwise@mindspring.com>

Members of his terrorist organization and network have
killed Americans, on American soil. Those inspired by his
message have engaged in a mass atrocity: blowing innocent
people out of their offices as the building where they
worked crumbled to the ground.

He himself has called for total war against the enemy in an
effort to "cleanse" the United States. He has said that
although innocent people will die in such an effort, "it is
necessary, and because it is necessary, it is good." Seven
years ago he warned of potential pending attacks when he
wrote: "New Yorkers who work in tall office buildings --
anything close to the size of the World Trade Center --
might consider wearing hardhats to work..."

Osama bin Laden? Not even close. And unlike bin Laden, who
is now a marked man despite little concrete evidence linking
him to the attacks of September 11th, this individual has
not been targeted for elimination by the United States
government. No one is speaking of "bringing him to justice,"
or holding him accountable for the actions attributable to
his associates and devotees.

And unlike bin Laden, whose whereabouts are unknown, the
address of the person about whom I speak is well known. He
is not in hiding, and doesn't move around. He's so easy to
find that 60 Minutes' Mike Wallace simply sauntered up to
his home a couple of years ago and had a chat with him. His
phone number is (304) 653-4600.

His name is William Pierce, and he lives in Mill Point, West
Virginia, with a P.O. Box at the post office in nearby
Hillsboro. He is a longtime neo-Nazi who calls Hitler the
"greatest man of our era" and advocates the liquidation of
all non-whites in the U.S.

His novel, The Turner Diaries (written under a pseudonym)
apparently served as the inspiration for Timothy McVeigh's
attack on the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City, much the way
we are told Osama bin Laden's words have inspired Islamic
terrorism, even if he is not directly involved in the
planning process.

In Pierce's book, white "patriots" blow up a federal
building using the same materials as those used by McVeigh,
packed in a truck like the one McVeigh used, at the same
time of day as the one exploded by McVeigh. They then launch
a race war, slaughtering non-whites, race-"mixers," gays,
lesbians and Jews, before dropping nuclear weapons on
Israel.

McVeigh was, according to former soldiers who served with
him in the Persian Gulf, obsessed with the book, and
inspired by its author. In the days before the bombing he
sent clippings of the book to his sister, explaining that
"something big" was going to happen, and when arrested had
copies of Turner Diaries' passages in his car.

Over the years, other followers of Pierce and members of his
group, the National Alliance, have engaged in armed
robberies, shootouts with law enforcement, and murders in at
least a half dozen states. They have plotted to commit mass
murder in multiple bombings, foiled only by premature
detonation of the devices in question.

The Order -- a neo-Nazi gang that committed a series of
robberies and killed Denver radio talk show host Alan Berg
in 1984 -- was led by Alliance members, including Robert
Matthews who left Pierce $50,000 in life insurance benefits
after his death during a shootout with the FBI.

Pierce's weekly radio broadcasts regularly call for the
elimination of anyone who isn't white, and his group
encourages members to raid military bases in search of
weapons and ammunition. Yet no one is calling for him to be
brought in "dead or alive" as President Bush recently did
regarding bin Laden.

While President Bush and media pundits warn of bin-Laden's
associates "living among us," the National Alliance has at
least 16 active cells nationwide, engaged in activity in at
least 26 states, a membership hovering around 1,000, and
thousands more listening to their shortwave radio broadcasts
and reading the materials on their website.

On those broadcasts and the website, readers and listeners
can see and hear Pierce call for "a racially clean area of
the earth for the development of our people," with "no
non-whites in our living space." They can hear him speak of
the mass slaughter that he terms the "final cleansing," and
the need to eliminate all Jews and race "traitors." For
these latter groups he says, "we must hunt them down and get
rid of them."

On August 15th of this year, Pierce broadcast the following
message: "We really have become too civilized and have
forgotten one of Mother Nature's most basic rules: Two
different types of animal cannot permanently occupy exactly
the same ecological niche. One eventually must drive the
other into extinction..."

"We must have exclusive possession of those portions of this
planet which constitute suitable habitat for us...in order
to obtain and maintain that exclusive possession, we must be
prepared to kill, to annihilate, any and all competitors."

But despite the open support for mass murder, and despite
the actual violence carried out by Alliance members and
Pierce acolytes over the past two decades, few people are
aware of this neo-Nazi terror network, nor does the
President seem concerned about it.

One gets the impression that in the eyes of American
officialdom, some terrorists pose a threat to the country
and others don't. Some terrorist actions result in calls for
racial or ethnic profiling of those "fitting the
description" and others don't.

After all, when have white guys ever been profiled just
because some white guys like McVeigh, or Pierce, or others
of their ilk committed atrocities, advocated murder, and
engaged in criminal activity? The answer is never, of
course.

Profiling and war are things we offer to those who look
different from us, speak differently than us, and are easy
to identify without inconveniencing the dominant majority.
Arabs, Muslims, and people of color generally, make easy
targets. Not so white guys. Not so William Pierce.

And homegrown white terrorists can't be as effectively used
to justify huge military buildups, or new powers for the
CIA, as a perceived foreign threat can. For an
Administration desperately in need of an enemy to justify
its desire for massive new military expenditures, only the
dark, dangerous image of the outsider will do.

As for Pierce, like bin Laden, he has proclaimed his
innocence. Regarding the Oklahoma City bombing, he insists
he had nothing to do with it. But also like bin Laden, he
has not only failed to condemn the action others have sought
to pin on him, but indeed he has all but praised it
outright. About McVeigh, Pierce says:

"He did what he did for an impersonal reason, for an
ideal...he has acted as a man of principle should act...He
wanted to send the government a message that its behavior
would not be tolerated. And part of that message would be
the killing of the government's secret police agents -- FBI
and ATF -- who worked in the building."

"The fact that his bomb would kill not only secret police
agents but also civilians, including the 19 children in the
day-care center, was regrettable but unavoidable: collateral
damage...however regrettable the killing of innocent
civilians in that bombing, Timothy McVeigh is no monster. He
is a soldier, and what he did was based on principle."

When Muslim fundamentalists say things like this about
terrorism carried out by their associates, we term it
"giving aid and comfort" to the enemy, or "supporting
terrorism." With Pierce, the same rhetoric is ignored, no
matter what his loyal readers and listeners might do.

And while the media was quick to broadcast footage of select
Palestinians celebrating in the wake of the World Trade
Center attacks, they said nothing about the spirited
discussions on National Alliance message boards, where
members of the group were expressing elation at the day's
events.

Within minutes of the World Trade Center's collapse,
Alliance members were logging on to the group's chat room
boards to say things like: "the World Trade Centers (and)
the Pentagon have had their noses removed from Jewish
rectums and smothered in the heap of shit they created! I'm
sure like me you are all jumping out of your skin with
excitement right now!"

Or this, from a member in New York at the time of the
attacks:

"...there is extreme chaos everywhere. Many people are
helpless and in a state of panic. I am happy to have a
reservoir of deep knowledge about this from all I have
learned from the alliance...I AM STRONG, PREPARED AND IN
CONTROL!!!"

Shortly after the attack, Billy Roper, the Deputy Membership
Coordinator for the Alliance wrote: "the enemy of our enemy
is, for now at least, our friends...we may not want them
marrying our daughters...but anyone who is willing to drive
a plane into a building to kill Jews is alright by me. I
wish our members had half as much testicular fortitude."

Beyond merely pointing out that there are indeed white folks
every bit as fanatical and dangerous as the members of
al-Qaeda, and that indeed some of those were pleased with
the most recent terrorist attacks on America, another point
should be made.

If, as is likely, the renewed emphasis on "Arab terrorism"
or "Muslim extremism" results in heightened suspicion and
profiling of those who are Arab, Muslim, or appear to be,
the result may be that America will let down its guard to
these other kinds of dangers. The Tim McVeighs and followers
of Bill Pierce will fly below the radar of the nation's new
security apparatus. No one will be looking for them.

This is not to say that such groups should literally be
bombed, their members arrested, and those who look like them
profiled. Just as such actions are ineffective and overbroad
and authoritarian when applied to presumed Arab terrorists,
so too would they be when applied to white supremacists.

But the inconsistency is worth noting, as is the danger that
could logically flow from that inconsistency. If a member of
the National Alliance, or some other group seeking to foment
a race war wanted to commit a major terrorist attack, now
would be the time to do it, as they would likely evade
suspicion and detection, so busy are folks looking for
danger with dark skin, long beards and a turban.

It is in this sense that any kind of racial, ethnic,
national or religious profiling is an utter waste of time,
and potentially capable of increasing the risks to innocent
people, not to mention ethically unjust.

Terrorism has many faces, more than a few of which are
white, just like those of most of the folks calling for war
against Afghanistan. And yet never have they called for war
against West Virginia. Nor did they call for war against
Idaho when that state played host to the Aryan Nation's
compound: a place that had nurtured and inspired Buford
Furrow, the individual who shot up a Jewish Community Center
in Los Angeles and killed a Filipino postman two years ago.

So when you hear the President speak of "bringing the
terrorists to justice or bringing justice to the
terrorists," just remember that although all terrorists are
equal in the eyes of the law, some are more equal than
others.

--

Tim Wise is an antiracist activist, writer and lecturer. He
can be reached at <tjwise@mindspring.com>.

Copyright (c) 2001 Tim Wise. All Rights Reserved.

Back to Main News Page

=====================================================

http://www.monbiot.com/dsp_article.cfm?article_id=465
http://guardian.co.uk/Columnists/Column/0,5673,583253,00.html

The Guardian (UK)

30 October 2001

The US has been training terrorists at a camp in Georgia for
years - and it's still at it.

America's Terrorist Training Camp

By George Monbiot <g.monbiot@zetnet.co.uk>

"If any government sponsors the outlaws and killers of
innocents," George Bush announced on the day he began
bombing Afghanistan, "they have become outlaws and murderers
themselves. And they will take that lonely path at their own
peril." I'm glad he said "any government", as there's one
which, though it has yet to be identified as a sponsor of
terrorism, requires his urgent attention.

For the past 55 years it has been running a terrorist
training camp, whose victims massively outnumber the people
killed by the attack on New York, the embassy bombings and
the other atrocities laid, rightly or wrongly, at Al-Qaeda's
door. The camp is called the Western Hemisphere Institute
for Security Cooperation, or WHISC. It is based in Fort
Benning, Georgia, and it is funded by Mr Bush's government.

Until January this year, WHISC was called "the School of the
Americas", or SOA. Since 1946 SOA has trained over 60,000
Latin American soldiers and policemen. Among its graduates
are many of the continent's most notorious torturers, mass
murderers, dictators and state terrorists. As hundreds of
pages of documentation compiled by the pressure group SOA
Watch shows, Latin America has been ripped apart by its
alumni.

In June this year, Colonel Byron Lima Estrada, once a
student at the school, was convicted in Guatemala City of
murdering Bishop Juan Gerardi in 1998. Gerardi was killed
because he had helped to write a report on the atrocities
committed by Guatemala's "D-2", the military intelligence
agency run by Lima Estrada with the help of two other SOA
graduates. D-2 coordinated the "anti-insurgency" campaign
which obliterated 448 Mayan Indian villages, and murdered
tens of thousands of their people. Forty per cent of the
cabinet ministers who served the genocidal regimes of Lucas
Garcia, Rios Montt, and Mejia Victores studied at SOA.

In 1993, the United Nations Truth Commission on El Salvador
named the army officers who had committed the worst
atrocities of the civil war. Two-thirds of them had been
trained at the School of the Americas. Among them were
Roberto D'Aubuisson, the leader of El Salvador's death
squads; the men who killed Archbishop Oscar Romero; and 19
of the 26 soldiers who murdered the Jesuit priests in 1989.
In Chile, the school's graduates ran both Augusto Pinochet's
secret police and his three principal concentration camps.
One of them helped to murder Orlando Letelier and Ronni
Moffit in Washington DC in 1976.

Argentina's dictators Roberto Viola and Leopoldo Galtieri,
Panama's Manuel Noriega and Omar Torrijos, Peru's Juan
Velasco Alvarado and Ecuador's Guillermo Rodriguez all
benefitted from the school's instruction. So did the leader
of the Grupo Colina death squad in Fujimori's Peru; four of
the five officers who ran the infamous Battalion 3-16 in
Honduras (which controlled the death squads there in the
1980s) and the commander responsible for the 1994 Ocosingo
massacre in Mexico.

All this, the school's defenders insist, is ancient history.
But SOA's graduates are also involved in the dirty war now
being waged, with US support, in Colombia. In 1999 the US
State Department's report on human rights named two SOA
graduates as the murderers of the peace commissioner Alex
Lopera. Last year, Human Rights Watch revealed that seven
ex-pupils are running paramilitary groups there and have
commissioned kidnappings, disappearances, murders and
massacres. In February this year a SOA graduate in Colombia
was convicted of complicity in the torture and killing of 30
peasants by paramilitaries. The school is now drawing more
of its graduates from Colombia than from any other country.

The FBI defines terrorism as "violent acts ...intended to
intimidate or coerce a civilian population, influence the
policy of a government, or affect the conduct of a
government", which is a precise description of the
activities of SOA's graduates But how can we be sure that
their alma mater has had any part in this? Well, in 1996,
the US government was forced to release seven of the
school's training manuals. Among other top tips for
terrorists, they recommended blackmail, torture, execution
and the arrest of witnesses' relatives.

Last year, partly as a result of the campaign run by SOA
Watch, several US congressmen tried to shut the school down.
They were defeated by 10 votes. Instead, the House of
Representatives voted to close it then immediately reopen it
under a different name. So, just as Windscale turned into
Sellafield in the hope of parrying public memory, the School
of the Americas washed its hands of the past by renaming
itself WHISC. As the school's Colonel Mark Morgan informed
the Department of Defense just before the vote in Congress,
"Some of your bosses have told us that they can't support
anything with the name 'School of the Americas' on it. Our
proposal addresses this concern. It changes the name." Paul
Coverdell, the Georgia senator who had fought to save the
school, told the papers that the changes were "basically
cosmetic."

But visit WHISC's website and you'll see that the School of
the Americas has been all but excised from the record. Even
the page marked "History" fails to mention it. WHISC's
courses, it tells us, "cover a broad spectrum of relevant
areas, such as operational planning for peace operations;
disaster relief; civil-military operations; tactical
planning and execution of counter drug operations." Several
pages describe its human rights initiatives. But, though
they account for almost the entire training programme,
combat and commando techniques, counter-insurgency and
interrogation aren't mentioned. Nor is the fact that WHISC's
"peace" and "human rights" options were also offered by SOA
in the hope of appeasing Congress and preserving its budget:
but hardly any of the students chose to take them.

We can't expect this terrorist training camp to reform
itself: after all it refuses even to acknowledge that it has
a past, let alone to learn from it. So, given that the
evidence linking the school to continuing atrocities in
Latin America is rather stronger than the evidence linking
the Al-Qaeda training camps to the attack on New York, what
should we do about the "evil-doers" in Fort Benning,
Georgia?

Well, we could urge our governments to apply full diplomatic
pressure, and to seek the extradition of the school's
commanders for trial on charges of complicity in crimes
against humanity. Alternatively, we could demand that our
governments attack the United States, bombing its military
installations, cities and airports in the hope of
overthrowing its unelected government and replacing it with
a new administration overseen by the UN. In case this
proposal proves unpopular with the American people, we could
win their hearts and minds by dropping naan bread and dried
curry in plastic bags stamped with the Afghan flag.

You object that this prescription is ridiculous, and I
agree. But, try as I might, I cannot see the moral
difference between this course of action and the war now
being waged in Afghanistan.

Copyright (c) 2001 George Monbiot. All Rights Reserved

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