Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Dare to Struggle : Immokalee workers

First, They Took On Taco Bell. Now, the Fast-Food

New York Times May 22, 2005

Immokalee, Fla
Tejano music bounced off the one-story buildings of
this farming town and the smell of tamales filled the
air as scores of revelers danced into the night outside
the headquarters of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers.

The celebration marked a hard-fought, unlikely victory
by the workers, a coalition of mostly Guatemalan and
Mexican tomato pickers, over one of the nation's fast-
food giants, Taco Bell.

They led a four-year boycott against the chain until it
agreed in March to pay a penny more per pound for
Florida tomatoes and to adopt a code of conduct that
would allow Taco Bell to sever ties to suppliers who
commit abuses against farmworkers.

With that triumph, the farmworkers group is turning to
a larger target: the rest of the fast-food industry.
The coalition has sent letters to executives at
McDonald's, Subway and Burger King asking them to
follow Taco Bell's lead.

"When we started this, it was like man going to the
moon - nobody thought it was possible," said Lucas
Benitez, a leader of the coalition. "With the help of
people around the country, we have built a way to go to
the moon. Now we must continue moving forward."

Taco Bell, a subsidiary of Yum Brands, based in
Louisville, Ky., estimates it will pay the Florida
tomato growers an extra $100,000 a year, a cost that
company officials said would not be passed on to

The fast-food chain, which buys 10 million pounds of
Florida tomatoes a year, has also agreed to help the
farmworkers persuade the other fast-food chains, and
eventually supermarket retailers, to increase pay and
monitor suppliers to make sure farmworkers are not held
against their will, beaten or forced into indentured

"This is an industrywide approach to get all the
growers on board, and then also get all the quick-food
restaurants and retail supermarkets to join with us in
that effort," said a Taco Bell spokeswoman, Laurie

McDonald's says it already has a code of conduct for
suppliers that prohibits forced labor and child labor,
and demands that workers receive fair compensation.

A Burger King spokeswoman said the company's chairman
had not read the coalition's letter, but she said that
the chain also had a code of conduct for suppliers.

A spokeswoman for Subway said on Wednesday that the
company could not immediately comment because it had
only received the letter the previous day.

The Coalition of Immokalee Workers formed a dozen years
ago to help increase the wages of farmworkers, who earn
as little as 40 cents for every 32-pound bucket of
tomatoes picked, according to the group.

In the late 1990's, the coalition began investigating
slavery cases in which farmworkers were being beaten
and held against their will by labor contractors.

A coalition member, Romeo Ramirez, went undercover to
help the authorities build a case, taking a job with
labor contractors suspected of illegally detaining

The coalition has helped investigate five slavery cases
that have gone to trial and is in the middle of
investigating three new cases in central and north

Mr. Benitez, Mr. Ramirez and Julia Gabriel, also a
coalition member, received the Robert F. Kennedy Human
Rights Award in 2003 for investigating farmworker

Associated Press

Monday, May 23, 2005

Open Letter to Schwarzenegger

Immigrant and Refugee Rights Groups
“Open Letter” to Governor Schwarzenegger:

“Retract Your Support for Border Vigilante Hate Groups – Advocate for the Rights of All California Residents”

· National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights:
Arnoldo García (510) 465-1984 ext 305 or (510) 928-0685
Catherine Tactaquin (510) 465-1984 ext 302
· See California-Wide Contacts Below
· Open Letter/Carta Abierta SEE BELOW

(Oakland, CA) Today, immigrant and refugee rights organizations across the state are delivering an “Open Letter to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger” – calling on the Governor to withdraw his invitation to the Minutemen Project, an armed anti-immigrant vigilante group that “patrolled” the Arizona border, to prosecute any initiative, measure or campaign that endangers the well-being and rights of immigrants communities in the state of California and to make good on his words as a “champion of immigrants.”

The open letter, titled, “Gov. Schwarzenegger -- Retract Your Support for Border Vigilante Hate Groups – Advocate for the Rights of All California Residents,” comes after a series of controversial public statements Governor Schwarzenegger made over the last two months calling, first, for the “closing” the U.S.-Mexico border, then applauding the Minutemen Project for doing a “terrific job” in Arizona where they harassed and illegally detained migrants. He then invited them to California while calling for more border security and immigration enforcement, which have caused migrant deaths.

The “Open Letter” declares:

· “One out of every four Californians, like you Mr. Governor, is an immigrant. Your support for vigilantes amounts to calling for attacks on immigrants and diminishes their civil rights.
· “We are calling on you to immediately retract your support for the Minutemen Project and to publicly pledge to uphold fundamental human and civil rights.
· “As Governor, it is your responsibility to protect and promote the rights and interests of all California residents -- regardless of their immigration or citizenship status -- to live, work, worship, study and play free from fear or hate.”

Signatories to the letter are demanding that Governor Schwarzenegger:

Retract his support for the Minutemen, disinviting them and any other anti-immigrant group from coming to California to harass immigrants.
Denounce as illegal and pledge to prosecute any form of vigilantism, hate violence, racial profiling and/or any other discriminatory and anti-immigrant actions or campaigns. And,
Make good on his words that as a “champion of immigrants” he will work to work to provide access to public services, including driver’s licenses, fully fund education, healthcare, and enforce the labor rights and protections of all residents of California regardless of their immigration or citizenship status.

The letter calls for decisive action from the Governor: “You must clearly state that racist and intolerant behavior has no place in our great state.”

The “Open Letter” points out that the U.S. already spends more than $2.5 billion annually on immigration control and enforcement on the U.S.-Mexico border alone. In spite of the firestorm of criticism, Gov. Schwarzenegger continues lauding the Minutemen Project and is inciting anti-immigrant hysteria and destabilizing community safety through his support.

The Minutemen Project, the open letter emphasizes, is “mimicking” the U.S. official border enforcement strategy of “prevention through deterrence,” which according to the Public Policy Institute of California has failed at its intended goal of stopping unauthorized migration and has only resulted in more migrant deaths. Implemented in 1994, the current border security strategy deliberately forces migrants to cross through dangerous isolated desert and mountainous areas. During the last ten years, over 3,500 migrants have died as a result.

The letter closes by calling on Governor Schwarzenegger to work “to ensure the integration of all immigrant communities into the mainstream of California.”

California State Contacts (Partial List):

AFSC U.S.-Mexico Border Program:
Christián Ramírez (619) 233-4114

Comité No Nos Vamos (559) 498-6033

Filipinos for Affirmative Action:
Christopher Punongbayan (510) 465-9876 ext. 305

Frente Indígena de Organizaciones Binacionales (FIOB):
Rufino Dominguez (559) 499-1178

Interfaith Coalition for Immigrant Rights:
Betty Self-Cantón (415) 227-0388
Rev. Phil Lawson
Tessa R. Callejo

La Raza Centro Legal, San Francisco
Reneé Saucedo (415) 553-3404

National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights:
Arnoldo García (510) 465-1984 ext 305 or (510) 928-0685
Catherine Tactaquin (510) 465-1984 ext 305

Voluntarios de la Comunidad
Felipe Garcia (916) 568-7565
José Sandoval (408) 203-1696



Gov. Schwarzenegger –
Retract Your Support for Border Vigilante Hate Groups
Advocate for the Rights of All California Residents

Dear Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger:

We are greatly disturbed by your continuing support and praise for the Minutemen Project, an armed anti-immigrant vigilante group that “patrolled” the Arizona-Mexico border in April. Your position is inciting bigotry and undermining the rights of California´s immigrant communities.

Your words of support are giving cover to hate groups and encourage racial discrimination and hate against those perceived to be the most vulnerable. Inspired by your words, Minutemen Project members and their supporters marched in Baldwin Park, threatening community safety. Regardless of your intention, you must take responsibility for and seek to rectify the consequences of your conduct.

One out of every four Californians, like you Mr. Governor, is an immigrant. Your support for vigilantes amounts to calling for attacks on immigrants and diminishes their civil rights.

We are calling on you to immediately retract your support for the Minutemen Project and to publicly pledge to uphold fundamental human and civil rights. As Governor, it is your responsibility to protect and promote the rights and interests of all California residents -- regardless of their immigration or citizenship status -- to live, work, worship, study and play free from fear or hate.

Mr. Governor:
Retract your invitation to the Minutemen
Stop and Prosecute Hate, Serve All California Residents

First, Governor Schwarzenegger, you must retract your invitation to the Minutemen and any other anti-immigrant group from coming to California to endanger and violate the rights of our border communities and migrants. You must clearly state that racist and intolerant behavior has no place in our great state.

Second, Governor Schwarzenegger, you must denounce as illegal and pledge to prosecute any form of vigilantism, hate violence, racial profiling and/or any other discriminatory and anti-immigrant actions or campaigns, which threaten the rights and integrity of our communities everywhere in California.

And, third, Gov. Schwarzenegger, we urge you to act quickly to make good on your declaration that you are a “champion of immigrants,” to provide equitable and fair access to public services, including driver’s licenses, fully funded education, labor protections, and healthcare, to all residents of California regardless of their immigration or citizenship status.

Close Off Hate, Not the Border!

Your latest remarks, Governor Schwarzenegger – lauding the actions of a paramilitary private citizen armed patrol – are a patent endorsement of activities that promote bigotry and hate. By not taking a resolute stand against the Minutemen Project and other anti-immigrant groups, you are encouraging more vigilantism and hate violence against immigrants or anyone perceived to “look or sound” like an immigrant in California.

We must remind you of your statements, during a press conference over three weeks ago, Gov. Schwarzenegger, when you called for closing the U.S.-Mexico border. While you did not apologize and blamed your command of English, saying you misspoke, you changed your statement to say instead that the federal government must do more to “secure” the border.

Then, two weeks ago week during a radio interview, you praised the Minutemen Project, an armed vigilante anti-immigrant group, which attempted to seal a twenty-mile stretch of the U.S. border in Arizona to stop migrants from crossing. Mr. Schwarzenegger, you claimed they were doing a “terrific job” and invited them to come patrol California’s border.

On Sunday May 8, during a Fox television interview, you reiterated your support for the Minutemen Project, claiming that “no one, Democrats and Republicans alike” wants immigration reform. “It’s not a lack of money. When we can afford the war in Iraq, we can afford to control our own borders,” you declared.

We remind you, Gov. Schwarzenegger, that the U.S. government already spends ten times more on immigration enforcement than on immigration services. The U.S. spends over $2.5 billion annually on immigration enforcement on the U.S.-Mexico border alone. Today there are more Border Patrol agents in the San Diego border sector alone than there were along the entire 2,000 mile-long U.S.-Mexico border in the 1980s. Additional billions are spent on airports and other points of entry.

Meanwhile, immigration and naturalization applications languish for years, leaving otherwise legal residents to live in fear of arrest, detention and deportation.

And, while our schools and health care services are severely under-funded or cutback, even more enforcement monies are on the way. Congress and the President have now pledged to double border enforcement, triple interior enforcement, and radically expand jail space for undocumented immigrants over the next five years after President Bush signed into law the “National Intelligence and Terrorism Prevention Act” in December 2004. On May 11, 2005, President Bush signed the REAL ID Act, as part of the Iraq war budget, which will send hundreds of millions of dollars more for the continuing militarization of the U.S.-Mexico border.

The Minutemen Project, which you lauded Governor Schwarzenegger, is only mimicking the U.S. government’s inhumane border enforcement strategy, called “prevention through deterrence,” which forces migrants to risk their lives crossing through the most dangerous desert and mountainous areas. The Border Patrol began applying this strategy to the entire border in 1994. The result is immigrants are deliberately funneled into Arizona and other isolated border areas where hundreds of men, women and children die every year. According to the 2002 study by the non-partisan Public Policy Institute of California, Holding the Line: The Effect of the Recent Border Build-up on Unauthorized Immigration, increased U.S. border enforcement has done virtually nothing to decrease unauthorized migration and only produced more migrant deaths.

Since 1994, more than 3,500 migrants have died at the border as a result of the border control strategy. The Mexican government states that an average of two migrants die on the border every day, a result of being deliberately forced to cross through dangerous desert and mountain regions.

Mr. Governor, “Champion of Immigrants,” Live Up to Your Own Words

In spite of the firestorm of criticism against you, Governor Schwarzenegger, you continue to commend the Minutemen who have declared they will come to California in August. Taking advantage of this volatile situation, California Republican Assemblyman Ray Haynes and “Rescue California,” the group that led the recall effort of Gov. Gray Davis, have submitted a state initiative for the 2006 ballot calling for a state border police to “secure” the border and go after employers hiring undocumented workers.

Governor Schwarzenegger, we hold you directly responsible for any hate violence that may result from your words of encouragement to anti-immigrant vigilantism. We also hold you responsible if we are faced with fighting a wasteful state border patrol initiative that will further divide our state and communities. Instead, your Office should be working to ensure the integration of all immigrant communities into the mainstream of California.

The time is now to retract your statements and take positive actions to remedy the situation and ACT as a “champion of immigrants.”

We must all work together to create a future where all Californians and their communities thrive or we will face uncertainty and divisions that will tear our state apart.

We look forward to hearing from you.


(Partial List of Endorsers)

AFSC Human Migration and Mobility/Project Voice
AFSC U.S.-Mexico Border Program, San Diego
Bay Area Immigrant Rights Coalition, Oakland
Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law, Los Angeles
Central American Resource Center
Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles
Comité No Nos Vamos, Fresno
Filipinos for Affirmative Action, Oakland
Frente Indígena de Organizaciones Binacionales
International Institute of the East Bay
La Raza Centro Legal, San Francisco
The Interfaith Coalition for Immigrant Rights
Love Sees No Borders
Migration Policy and Resource Center/Occidental College
Mujeres Unidas y Activas, San Francisco
National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights
Red Mexicana de Acción frente al Libre Comercio (Mexican Action Network on Free Trade)
South Asian Network
Southwest Workers Union
Union de Exbraceros e Inmigrantes, Fresno
Voluntarios de la Comunidad, San Jose and Sacramento

Shan Cretin, Pacific Southwest Regional Director for AFSC
Maria Marroquín, The Worker Center at Calvary Church
Heba Nimr, Partnership for Immigrant Leadership and Action
(Individuals’ organizations listed for ID only)

To Endorse the Open Letter to Gov. Schwarzenegger
Para Endosar la Carta Abierta al Gob. Schwarzenegger:
Call/Telefonee al (510) 465-1984 ext. 305
Email: agarcia@nnirr.org



Gob. Schwarzenegger
Retracte su apoyo a los grupos de odio vigilantes en la frontera
Sea promotor de los derechos de todos los residentes de California

Estimado señor Gobernador Arnold Schwarzenegger:

Estamos profundamente molestos por su continuo apoyo al Proyecto Minutemen, un grupo armado de vigilantes anti-inmigrantes que “patrullan” la frontera de Arizona con México desde el mes de abril. Su postura está instigando la intolerancia racista y socavando los derechos de las comunidades inmigrantes de California.

Sus palabras de apoyo dan amparo a los grupos de odio y alientan la discriminación y el odio racial contra los inmigrantes que son percibidos como los más vulnerables. Inspirados por sus palabras, miembros e integrantes del Proyecto Minutemen y otros grupos anti-inmigrantes marcharon en Baldwin Park, amenazando la seguridad de la comunidad. Sin importar el propósito de sus intenciones, usted tiene que asumir su responsabilidad y rectificar las consecuencias de su conducta.

Uno de cada cuatro californianos, como usted, Señor Gobernador, es un inmigrante. Su apoyo a los vigilantes, de manera resumida, es un llamado a atacar a los y las inmigrantes y socava sus derechos civiles.

Le estamos exigiendo que retracte inmediatamente su apoyo a los Minutemen y se comprometa públicamente a defender los derechos humanos y civiles de todos y todas. Como Gobernador, es su responsabilidad proteger y promover los derechos y los intereses de todos los y las residentes de California – sin importar su condición migratoria o de ciudadanía – para poder vivir, rezar, trabajar, estudiar, y jugar libres del miedo u odio.

Sr. Gobernador:
Retracte su invitación a los Minutemen, ponga alto al odio y aplíqueles la ley,
Sirva a todos los y las residentes de California

Primero, Gobernador Schwarzenegger, tiene que retractarse de su invitación a los Minutemen y a cualquier otros grupos anti-inmigrantes de venir a California a poner en peligro y violar los derechos de nuestras comunidades fronterizas y de los migrantes. Tiene que declarar sin ambages que la conducta racista e intolerante no tiene lugar en nuestro gran estado.

Segundo, Gobernador Schwarzenegger, tiene que denunciar como ilegal y comprometerse a aplicar la ley a cualquier forma del vigilancia por estos grupos, la violencia de odio, el perfil racial, y/o cualquier otras acciones o campañas anti-inmigrantes que amenazan los derechos y la integridad de nuestras comunidades en California.

Y, tercero, Gob. Schwarzenegger, le urgimos a tomar acciones rápidamente para hacer valer su declaración que es un “campeón de los inmigrantes” y proveer el acceso equitativo y justo a los servicios públicos, incluyendo a las licencias de manejar, los fondos completos para la educación, las protecciones laborales, y la salud a todos los y las residentes de California sin importar su condición migratoria o de ciudadanía.

¡Cierre el odio, no la frontera!

Sus últimos comentarios, Gobernador Schwarzenegger – alabando las acciones de un grupo armado paramilitar de ciudadanos – es un rotundo endoso a las actividades que promueven el racismo y el odio. Al no tomar una posición resuelta contra el Proyecto Minutemen y otros grupos anti-inmigrantes, está incitando a la vigilancia paramilitar y la violencia contra inmigrantes o contra cualquier persona que “aparente ser o hablar” como un inmigrante en California.

Tenemos que recordarle sus declaraciones, durante una conferencia de prensa hace más de tres semanas, Gob. Schwarzenegger, cuando hizo un llamado a cerrar la frontera entre EEUU y México, no se disculpó y explicó que era debido a su falta de conocimiento del inglés, diciendo que habló mal, cambió su declaración para decir que el gobierno federal tenía que hacer más para “la seguridad” fronteriza.

Luego, hace dos semanas durante una entrevista en la radio, elogió a los Minutemen, un un grupo anti-inmigrante de vigilantes paramilitares armados, que intentaron cerrar un sector de veinte millas de la frontera estadounidense en Arizona para impedir que cruzaran migrantes. Sr. Schwarzenegger, usted afirmó que estaban haciendo un trabajo “tremendo” y los invitó a patrullar la frontera de California.

El Domingo 8 de Mayo, durante una entrevista en el canal de televisión Fox, reiteró su apoyo al Proyecto de los Minutemen, afirmando que “ninguno, Demócratas y Republicanos por igual” quieren la reforma migratoria. “No es por falta de dinero. Cuando podemos sufragar la guerra en Irak, podemos sufragar el costo para controlar nuestras propias fronteras,” declaró usted.

Le recordamos, Gob. Schwarzenegger, que el gobierno EEUU ya gasta diez veces más en el control policíaco de la inmigración que en servicios de inmigración. Los EEUU gasta más de $2.5 mil millones anualmente para vigilar la migración sólo en la frontera entre EEUU y México. Hoy hay más agentes de la Patrulla Fronteriza en el sector de la frontera de San Diego que en todas las 2,000 millas de la frontera EEUU-México durante los 1980s. Se gastan miles de millones de dólares más en los aeropuertos y otros puntos de entrada en la frontera.

Mientras tanto, las solicitudes para la inmigración y la naturalización permanecen en el limbo por años, dejando a las personas que califican para residentes legales, vivir bajo el temor al arresto, la detención y la deportación.

Y, mientras nuestras escuelas y servicios de salud sufren severos recortes presupuestales o son eliminados, aún más dinero está en camino para el control policíaco de la migración. El Congreso y el Presidente han prometido duplicar el numero de agentes para el control fronterizo y triplicar el control policíaco del interior durante los próximos cinco años, y expandir radicalmente el espacio carcelario para inmigrantes indocumentados después de que el Presidente Bush ratificó como ley el “Acta de Inteligencia Nacional y Prevención del Terrorismo” en Diciembre del 2004. El 11 de Mayo, 2005, el Presidente Bush ratificó el Acta de REAL ID, como componente del presupuesto para la guerra contra Irak, la cual dedicará millones de dólares más sólo para continuar la militarización de la frontera estadounidense con México.

El Proyecto Minutemen, que usted alabó Gobernador Schwarzenegger, sólo está copiando la estrategia inhumana de control fronterizo del gobierno estadounidense, llamada “la prevención por medio de la intimidación” que consiste en forzar a los migrantes a arriesgar sus vidas al cruzar por las áreas más peligrosas del desierto y las montañas. La Patrulla Fronteriza empezó a aplicar esta estrategia en toda la frontera en 1994. El resultado es que los inmigrantes son encauzados deliberadamente a Arizona y otras áreas aisladas de la frontera donde mueren centenares de hombres, mujeres, y niños cada año. Según un estudio hecho en 2002 por el Instituto de Políticas Públicas de California, no-partidario, intitulado Controlando la línea. El efecto de la ampliación de los recientes controles en la frontera (Holding the Line: The Effect of the Recent Border Build-up on Unauthorized Immigration), la actual estrategia de control migratorio en la frontera de EEUU virtualmente no ha hecho algo para impedir la migración no autorizada y sólo ha incrementado las muertes de migrantes.

Desde 1994, más de 3,500 migrantes han muerto en la frontera debido a esta estrategia de control fronterizo. El gobierno mexicano declara que un promedio de dos migrantes mueren cada día en la frontera, como resultado de ser obligados intencionadamente a cruzar por las regiones más peligrosas del desierto y las montañas.

Sr. Gobernador, “Campeón de Inmigrantes,” haga valer sus propias palabras

A pesar de las olas de críticas en su contra, Gobernador Schwarzenegger, usted continúa ensalzando a los Minutemen, quienes han declarado que vendrán a California en agosto. Aprovechandose de esta volátil situación, Ray Haynes, el legislador republicano en la Asamblea Estatal de California, y “Rescue California” (Rescatar a California) el grupo que organizó el esfuerzo de referéndum contra el Gob. Gray Davis, han presentado una iniciativa estatal de ley para la elecciones del 2006 planteando la creación de una policía fronteriza estatal para “asegurar” la frontera e investigar a los empleadores que ocupan a trabajadores indocumentados.

Gobernador Schwarzenegger, usted será responsable directamente de cualquier violencia de odio que resulte de sus palabras de aliento a la vigilancia paramilitar anti-inmigrante. También será responsable si tenemos que enfrentarnos y combatir una iniciativa para crear una patrulla fronteriza estatal que continuará dividiendo a nuestro estado y a nuestras comunidades. En lugar de ello, su Oficina debería estar trabajando para asegurar la integración de todas las comunidades en la vida misma de California.

Ya es hora de retractarse de sus declaraciones y tomar acciones positivas que remedien la situación y ACTUE como un “campeón de los inmigrantes.”

Tenemos que trabajar juntos para crear un futuro donde todos los californianos y sus comunidades prosperen o enfrentaremos las incertidumbres y las discordias que destrozarán a nuestro estado.

Esperamos saber de usted lo más pronto posible.


(Lista parcial de firmantes)

AFSC Human Migration and Mobility/Project Voice
AFSC U.S.-Mexico Border Program, San Diego
Bay Area Immigrant Rights Coalition, Oakland
Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law, Los Angeles
Central American Resource Center
Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles
Comité No Nos Vamos, Fresno
Filipinos for Affirmative Action, Oakland
Frente Indígena de Organizaciones Binacionales
International Institute of the East Bay
La Raza Centro Legal, San Francisco
The Interfaith Coalition for Immigrant Rights
Love Sees No Borders
Migration Policy and Resource Center/Occidental College
Mujeres Unidas y Activas, San Francisco
National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights
Red Mexicana de Acción frente al Libre Comercio (Mexican Action Network on Free Trade)
South Asian Network
Southwest Workers Union
Union de Exbraceros e Inmigrantes, Fresno
Voluntarios de la Comunidad, San Jose and Sacramento

Shan Cretin, Pacific Southwest Regional Director for AFSC
Maria Marroquín, The Worker Center at Calvary Church
Heba Nimr, Partnership for Immigrant Leadership and Action
(Organizaciones de individuos sólo para identificación.)

Para Endosar la Carta Abierta al Gob. Schwarzenegger:
To Endorse the Open Letter to Gov. Schwarzenegger
Telefonee al/Call (510) 465-1984 ext. 305
Email: agarcia@nnirr.org

--- 30 ---

Friday, May 20, 2005

Villaraigosa Wins! The Latino community wins !

from L.A. Weekly

MAY 19 - 25, 2005
Los Angeles

New Mayor, New City
Antonio can remake the city as he pleases — well, sort of


It may not always have been pretty, but it was goddamn important.

The election of Antonio Villaraigosa as mayor of Los Angeles, by a stunning
17-point margin, signals a civic transformation almost without parallel in
modern American history. The leopard has changed his spots: This is not the
city of Yorty, Poulson or Riordan; of Nixon and Reagan; or even of Tom Bradley.
A vast population has moved away, a vast population has moved here, and the
tensions that go with such a cosmic makeover have abounded. On Tuesday,
Villaraigosa demonstrated that he had mastered this most basic test of
political leadership: He won support from all quadrants of what is a famously
divided city, and by margins that entitle him to claim a mandate for — and here
the studied vagueness of his campaign emerges as a retrospective plus — damn
near anything. The magnitude of his victory means that, for the foreseeable
future, the City Council will exist chiefly to do his bidding.

The campaign — oy, the campaign — may have been uninspiring, but there have been
plenty of inspiring liberal campaigns that didn’t make it past the finish line.
We have something much more unusual and important in Los Angeles today: a city
government soon to be headed by a charismatic leader with a record of
liberalism, in a city that has a civic left capable of governing to the
advantage of the L.A. working class. That doesn’t make Los Angeles the New
Jerusalem of All Things Progressive, but at a time when the right runs the show
nearly everyplace else, it does make L.A. ground zero for liberal innovation.

It was liberal institutions that helped make this victory. Sure, the County Fed
and most of its member unions endorsed Jim Hahn, but activists from such key
locals as Local 11 of the Hotel Employees waged an unofficial but very
effective get-out-the-vote campaign among 80,000 sometime voters in the Latino
community — and not to the advantage of Jim Hahn. County Fed leader Miguel
Contreras, who died so suddenly on May 6, understood that the campaign the Fed
had waged for Villaraigosa four years ago resounded still, that there was no
way the labor vote would go to Hahn. (Which was fine with Miguel, who remained
a Villaraigosa buddy and backer. One mutual friend told me at Villaraigosa’s
election-night celebration that in their last conversation before he died,
Miguel had asked him, “When’s the earliest on election night that I can come
over to Antonio’s party? 10:30?”)

It was L.A.’s liberal operatives who helped put Villaraigosa over the top as
well. His field campaign was captained by Anthony Thigpenn, one of a cadre of
progressive younger African-Americans who are transforming the politics of
South-Central. And Villaraigosa’s victory is the crowning achievement in the
career of Parke Skelton, possibly the most principled political consultant in
the business, who has steered to elected office virtually every liberal pol in
greater L.A. — among them, Hilda Solis, Eric Garcetti, Jackie Goldberg, Sheila
Kuehl, Karen Bass and Martin Ludlow. Having won the city district by district,
on Tuesday Parke won it across the board.

But the victory is fundamentally Villaraigosa’s, and he won it in two stages.
The first stage was his campaign of 2001, which set liberal L.A. ablaze with
excitement and probably pulled down as many votes as such a liberal campaign
could conceivably amass: 46 percent. The second stage, his campaign this year,
was deliberately duller, devoted largely to reassuring older African-Americans
and San Fernando Valley centrists that he wasn’t such a dangerous character
after all. Underpinning both campaigns was an energy, a palpable engagement
with all things L.A., that could not have contrasted more sharply with Jim
Hahn’s visceral lack of commitment to the calling of mayor. It is impossible to
imagine that Hahn would ever have entered public life absent the example of and
pressure from his father, legendary county supe Kenny Hahn. If nothing else,
son Jim offered proof positive that a public career cannot be built on filial
piety alone.

Hahn’s sins of omission as mayor have now been compounded by his sins of
commission as a candidate. He ran the worst kind of law-’n’-order campaign,
modeled, much as his 2001 campaign was, after Poppy Bush’s 1988 savaging of
Michael Dukakis as a criminal-coddling ACLU-nik. But Los Angeles of 2005 is not
the United States of 1988, nor was Villaraigosa the pushover that Dukakis had
been. The irony is that while history will remember Hahn as the mayor who beat
back secession, he pitched his campaign this year to the very voters who were
the core of the secession movement, voters who couldn’t abide the
transformation of L.A. into a cosmopolitan, progressive city.

And just how extensively will Los Angeles be transformed? The limits on
municipal policy in an age of capital mobility and conservative hegemony are
quite real, but that doesn’t mean that a city can’t commit itself to the
promotion of living wages, affordable housing and a basic growth-with-justice
agenda. Mayor Villaraigosa can call on a locally based progressive talent pool
that includes such policy activists as Occidental government professor Peter
Dreier and nonprofit housing advocate Jan Breidenbach (in housing), Roxana
Tynan of the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (in development), Larry
Frank of UCLA’s Labor Center (in work-related issues), and the Liberty Hill
Foundation’s Torie Osborn (for general administrative genius). A Villaraigosa
administration would be a coalition of progressive and centrist forces, of
course, and the names currently popping up on his transition team have a more
centrist pedigree: Bob Hertzberg, Robin Kramer, who worked for Riordan, and Ari
Swiller, who worked for supermarket magnate Ron Burkle. How exactly Villaraigosa
balances out these forces will be one of the first indications of the course
he’ll chart.

There’s one further bonus to Villaraigosa’s victory, as there was to Tom
Bradley’s first victory, 32 years ago: It’s likely to lead to a spate of civic
self-congratulation. And, as with Bradley’s victory, it’s not entirely

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Bill Moyer on Corporation for Public Broadcasting

Moyers Blasts Corporation for Public Broadcasting

[The Bush ideologues on the board of the Corporation
for Public Broadcasting are raising the stakes over
alleged 'bias' in the programming of both public
television and public radio.

As its special target, Bill Moyers took the opportunity
to address more than 2,000 people at the National
Conference on Media Reform last weekend to throw down
the gauntlet.]

Take Public Broadcasting Back - Bill Moyers

Bill Moyers' speech to the National Conference for
Media Reform

[The following is the prepared text for Bill Moyers’
speech to the National Conference for Media Reform on
May 15, 2005. The event in St. Louis was organized and
Take Public Broadcasting Back
by Bill Moyers
From Free Press, May 16, 2003


MORNING IN ST. LOUIS. You're church for me today, and
there’s no congregation in the country where I would be
more likely to find more kindred souls than are
gathered here.

There are so many different vocations and callings in
this room - so many different interests and aspirations
of people who want to reform the media - that only a
presiding bishop like Bob McChesney with his great
ecumenical heart could bring us together for a weekend
like this.

What joins us all under Bob’s embracing welcome is our
commitment to public media. Pat Aufderheide got it
right, I think, in the recent issue of In These Times
when she wrote: "This is a moment when public media
outlets can make a powerful case for themselves. Public
radio, public TV, cable access, public DBS channels,
media arts centers, youth media projects, nonprofit
Internet news services ... low-power radio and
webcasting are all part of a nearly invisible feature
of today’s media map: the public media sector. They
exist not to make a profit, not to push an ideology,
not to serve customers, but to create a public - a
group of people who can talk productively with those
who don't share their views, and defend the interests
of the people who have to live with the consequences of
corporate and governmental power."

She gives examples of the possibilities. "Look at what
happened," she said, "when thousands of people who
watched Stanley Nelson’s The Murder of Emmett Till on
their public television channels joined a postcard
campaign that re-opened the murder case after more than
half a century. Look at NPR’s courageous coverage of
the Iraq war, an expensive endeavor that wins no points
from this administration. Look at Chicago Access
Network’s Community Forum, where nonprofits throughout
the region can showcase their issues and find

The public media, she argues, for all our flaws, are a
very important resource in a noisy and polluted
information environment.

You can also take wings reading Jason Miller’s May 4
article on Z Net about the mainstream media. While it
is true that much of the mainstream media is corrupted
by the influence of government and corporate interests,
Miller writes, there are still men and women in the
mainstream who practice a high degree of journalistic
integrity and who do challenge us with their stories
and analysis.

But the real hope "lies within the Internet with its 2
billion or more Web sites providing a wealth of
information drawn from almost unlimited resources that
span the globe. ... If knowledge is power, one’s
capacity to increase that power increases exponentially
through navigation of the Internet for news and

Surely this is one issue that unites us as we leave
here today. The fight to preserve the Web from
corporate gatekeepers joins media, reformers, producers
and educators - and it’s a fight that has only just

I want to tell you about another fight we're in today.
The story I've come to share with you goes to the core
of our belief that the quality of democracy and the
quality of journalism are deeply entwined. I can tell
this story because I've been living it. It’s been in
the news this week, including reports of more attacks
on a single journalist - yours truly - by the right-
wing media and their allies at the Corporation for
Public Broadcasting.

As some of you know, CPB was established almost 40
years ago to set broad policy for public broadcasting
and to be a firewall between political influence and
program content. What some on this board are now doing
today - led by its chairman, Kenneth Tomlinson - is too
important, too disturbing and yes, even too dangerous
for a gathering like this not to address.

We're seeing unfold a contemporary example of the age-
old ambition of power and ideology to squelch and
punish journalists who tell the stories that make
princes and priests uncomfortable.

Let me assure you that I take in stride attacks by the
radical right-wingers who have not given up demonizing
me although I retired over six months ago. They've been
after me for years now, and I suspect they will be
stomping on my grave to make sure I don't come back
from the dead.

I should remind them, however, that one of our boys
pulled it off some 2,000 years ago - after the
Pharisees, Sadducees and Caesar’s surrogates thought
they had shut him up for good. Of course I won't be
expecting that kind of miracle, but I should put my
detractors on notice: They might just compel me out of
the rocking chair and back into the anchor chair.

Who are they? I mean the people obsessed with control,
using the government to threaten and intimidate. I mean
the people who are hollowing out middle-class security
even as they enlist the sons and daughters of the
working class in a war to make sure Ahmed Chalabi winds
up controlling Iraq’s oil. I mean the people who turn
faith-based initiatives into a slush fund and who
encourage the pious to look heavenward and pray so as
not to see the long arm of privilege and power picking
their pockets. I mean the people who squelch free
speech in an effort to obliterate dissent and
consolidate their orthodoxy into the official view of
reality from which any deviation becomes unpatriotic

That’s who I mean. And if that’s editorializing, so be
it. A free press is one where it’s OK to state the
conclusion you're led to by the evidence.

One reason I'm in hot water is because my colleagues
and I at NOW didn't play by the conventional rules of
Beltway journalism. Those rules divide the world into
Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives,
and allow journalists to pretend they have done their
job if, instead of reporting the truth behind the news,
they merely give each side an opportunity to spin the

Jonathan Mermin writes about this in a recent essay in
World Policy Journal. (You'll also want to read his
book Debating War and Peace, Media Coverage of US
Intervention in the Post Vietnam Era.)

Mermin quotes David Ignatius of the Washington Post on
why the deep interests of the American public are so
poorly served by Beltway journalism. The "rules of our
game," says Ignatius, "make it hard for us to tee up an
issue ... without a news peg." He offers a case in
point: the debacle of America’s occupation of Iraq. "If
Senator so and so hasn't criticized postwar planning
for Iraq," says Ignatius, "then it’s hard for a
reporter to write a story about that."

Mermin also quotes public television’s Jim Lehrer
acknowledging that unless an official says something is
so, it isn't news. Why were journalists not discussing
the occupation of Iraq? Because, says Lehrer, "the word
occupation ... was never mentioned in the run-up to the
war." Washington talked about the invasion as "a war of
liberation, not a war of occupation, so as a
consequence, "those of us in journalism never even
looked at the issue of occupation."

"In other words," says Jonathan Mermin, "if the
government isn't talking about it, we don't report it."
He concludes: "[Lehrer’s] somewhat jarring declaration,
one of many recent admissions by journalists that their
reporting failed to prepare the public for the
calamitous occupation that has followed the
‘liberation’ of Iraq, reveals just how far the actual
practice of American journalism has deviated from the
First Amendment ideal of a press that is independent of
the government."

Take the example (also cited by Mermin) of Charles J.
Hanley. Hanley is a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for
the Associated Press, whose fall 2003 story on the
torture of Iraqis in American prisons - before a U.S.
Army report and photographs documenting the abuse
surfaced - was ignored by major American newspapers.
Hanley attributes this lack of interest to the fact
that "it was not an officially sanctioned story that
begins with a handout from an official source."

Furthermore, Iraqis recounting their own personal
experience of Abu Ghraib simply did not have the
credibility with Beltway journalists of American
officials denying that such things happened. Judith
Miller of the New York Times, among others, relied on
the credibility of official but unnamed sources when
she served essentially as the government stenographer
for claims that Iraq possessed weapons of mass

These "rules of the game" permit Washington officials
to set the agenda for journalism, leaving the press all
too often simply to recount what officials say instead
of subjecting their words and deeds to critical
scrutiny. Instead of acting as filters for readers and
viewers, sifting the truth from the propaganda,
reporters and anchors attentively transcribe both sides
of the spin invariably failing to provide context,
background or any sense of which claims hold up and
which are misleading.

I decided long ago that this wasn't healthy for
democracy. I came to see that "news is what people want
to keep hidden and everything else is publicity." In my
documentaries - whether on the Watergate scandals 30
years ago or the Iran-Contra conspiracy 20 years ago or
Bill Clinton’s fundraising scandals 10 years ago or,
five years ago, the chemical industry’s long and
despicable cover-up of its cynical and unspeakable
withholding of critical data about its toxic products
from its workers, I realized that investigative
journalism could not be a collaboration between the
journalist and the subject. Objectivity is not
satisfied by two opposing people offering competing
opinions, leaving the viewer to split the difference.

I came to believe that objective journalism means
describing the object being reported on, including the
little fibs and fantasies as well as the Big Lie of the
people in power. In no way does this permit journalists
to make accusations and allegations. It means, instead,
making sure that your reporting and your conclusions
can be nailed to the post with confirming evidence.

This is always hard to do, but it has never been harder
than today. Without a trace of irony, the powers-that-
be have appropriated the newspeak vernacular of George
Orwell’s 1984. They give us a program vowing "No Child
Left Behind," while cutting funds for educating
disadvantaged kids. They give us legislation cheerily
calling for "Clear Skies" and "Healthy Forests" that
give us neither. And that’s just for starters.

In Orwell’s 1984, the character Syme, one of the
writers of that totalitarian society’s dictionary,
explains to the protagonist Winston, "don't you see
that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range
of thought? Has it ever occurred to you, Winston, that
by the year 2050, at the very latest, not a single
human being will be alive who could understand such a
conversation as we are having now? The whole climate of
thought will be different. In fact there will be no
thought, as we understand it now. Orthodoxy means not
thinking - not needing to think. Orthodoxy is

An unconscious people, an indoctrinated people, a
people fed only on partisan information and opinion
that confirm their own bias, a people made morbidly
obese in mind and spirit by the junk food of
propaganda, is less inclined to put up a fight, to ask
questions and be skeptical. That kind of orthodoxy can
kill a democracy - or worse.

I learned about this the hard way. I grew up in the
South, where the truth about slavery, race, and
segregation had been driven from the pulpits, driven
from the classrooms and driven from the newsrooms. It
took a bloody Civil War to bring the truth home, and
then it took another hundred years for the truth to
make us free.

Then I served in the Johnson administration. Imbued
with Cold War orthodoxy and confident that "might makes
right," we circled the wagons, listened only to each
other, and pursued policies the evidence couldn't
carry. The results were devastating for Vietnamese and

I brought all of this to the task when PBS asked me
after 9/11 to start a new weekly broadcast. They wanted
us to make it different from anything else on the air -
commercial or public broadcasting. They asked us to
tell stories no one else was reporting and to offer a
venue to people who might not otherwise be heard.

That wasn't a hard sell. I had been deeply impressed by
studies published in leading peer-reviewed scholarly
journals by a team of researchers led by Vassar College
sociologist William Hoynes. Extensive research on the
content of public television over a decade found that
political discussions on our public affairs programs
generally included a limited set of voices that offer a
narrow range of perspectives on current issues and

Instead of far-ranging discussions and debates, the
kind that might engage viewers as citizens, not simply
as audiences, this research found that public affairs
programs on PBS stations were populated by the standard
set of elite news sources. Whether government officials
and Washington journalists (talking about political
strategy) or corporate sources (talking about stock
prices or the economy from the investor’s viewpoint),
public television, unfortunately, all too often was
offering the same kind of discussions, and a similar
brand of insider discourse, that is featured regularly
on commercial television.

Who didn't appear was also revealing. Hoynes and his
team found that in contrast to the conservative mantra
that public television routinely featured the voices of
anti-establishment critics, "alternative perspectives
were rare on public television and were effectively
drowned out by the stream of government and corporate
views that represented the vast majority of sources on
our broadcasts."

The so-called experts who got most of the face time
came primarily from mainstream news organizations and
Washington think tanks rather than diverse interests.
Economic news, for example, was almost entirely
refracted through the views of business people,
investors and business journalists. Voices outside the
corporate/Wall Street universe - nonprofessional
workers, labor representatives, consumer advocates and
the general public were rarely heard. In sum, these two
studies concluded, the economic coverage was so narrow
that the views and the activities of most citizens
became irrelevant.

All this went against the Public Broadcasting Act of
1967 that created the Corporation for Public
Broadcasting. I know. I was there. As a young policy
assistant to President Johnson, I attended my first
meeting to discuss the future of public broadcasting in
1964 in the office of the Commissioner of Education. I
know firsthand that the Public Broadcasting Act was
meant to provide an alternative to commercial
television and to reflect the diversity of the American

This, too, was on my mind when we assembled the team
for NOW. It was just after the terrorist attacks of
9/11. We agreed on two priorities. First, we wanted to
do our part to keep the conversation of democracy
going. That meant talking to a wide range of people
across the spectrum - left, right and center.

It meant poets, philosophers, politicians, scientists,
sages and scribblers. It meant Isabel AlIende, the
novelist, and Amity Shlaes, the columnist for the
Financial Times. It meant the former nun and best-
selling author Karen Armstrong, and it meant the right-
wing evangelical columnist Cal Thomas. It meant
Arundhati Roy from India, Doris Lessing from London,
David Suzuki from Canada, and Bernard Henry-Levi from
Paris. It also meant two successive editors of the Wall
Street Journal, Robert Bartley and Paul Gigot, the
editor of The Economist, Bill Emmott, The Nation’s
Katrina vanden Heuvel and the L.A. Weekly’s John

It means liberals like Frank Wu, Ossie Davis and
Gregory Nava, and conservatives like Frank Gaffney,
Grover Norquist, and Richard Viguerie. It meant
Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Bishop Wilton Gregory of
the Catholic Bishops conference in this country. It
meant the conservative Christian activist and lobbyist,
Ralph Reed, and the dissident Catholic Sister Joan
Chittister. We threw the conversation of democracy open
to all comers.

Most of those who came responded the same way that Ron
Paul, the Republican and Libertarian congressman from
Texas, did when he wrote me after his appearance, "I
have received hundreds of positive e-mails from your
viewers. I appreciate the format of your program, which
allows time for a full discussion of ideas. ... I'm
tired of political shows featuring two guests shouting
over each other and offering the same arguments. ...
NOW was truly refreshing."

Hold your applause because that’s not the point of the
story. We had a second priority. We intended to do
strong, honest and accurate reporting, telling stories
we knew people in high places wouldn't like.

I told our producers and correspondents that in our
field reporting our job was to get as close as possible
to the verifiable truth. This was all the more
imperative in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks.
America could be entering a long war against an elusive
and stateless enemy with no definable measure of
victory and no limit to its duration, cost or
foreboding fear. The rise of a homeland security state
meant government could justify extraordinary measures
in exchange for protecting citizens against unnamed,
even unproven, threats.

Furthermore, increased spending during a national
emergency can produce a spectacle of corruption behind
a smokescreen of secrecy. I reminded our team of the
words of the news photographer in Tom Stoppard’s play
who said, "People do terrible things to each other, but
it’s worse when everyone is kept in the dark."

I also reminded them of how the correspondent and
historian Richard Reeves answered a student who asked
him to define real news. "Real news," Reeves responded,
"is the news you and I need to keep our freedoms."

For these reasons and in that spirit, we went about
reporting on Washington as no one else in broadcasting
- except occasionally 60 Minutes - was doing. We
reported on the expansion of the Justice Department’s
power of surveillance. We reported on the escalating
Pentagon budget and expensive weapons that didn't work.
We reported on how campaign contributions influenced
legislation and policy to skew resources to the
comfortable and well-connected while our troops were
fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq with inadequate
training and armor. We reported on how the Bush
administration was shredding the Freedom of Information
Act. We went around the country to report on how
closed-door, backroom deals in Washington were costing
ordinary workers and tax payers their livelihood and
security. We reported on offshore tax havens that
enable wealthy and powerful Americans to avoid their
fair share of national security and the social

And always - because what people know depends on who
owns the press - we kept coming back to the media
business itself, to how mega media corporations were
pushing journalism further and further down the
hierarchy of values, how giant radio cartels were
silencing critics while shutting communities off from
essential information, and how the mega media companies
were lobbying the FCC for the right to grow ever more

The broadcast caught on. Our ratings grew every year.
There was even a spell when we were the only public
affairs broadcast on PBS whose audience was going up
instead of down.

Our journalistic peers took notice. The Los Angeles
Times said, "NOW’s team of reporters has regularly put
the rest of the media to shame, pursuing stories few
others bother to touch."

The Philadelphia Inquirer said our segments on the
sciences, the arts, politics and the economy were
"provocative public television at its best."

The Austin American-Statesman called NOW, "the perfect
antidote to today’s high pitched decibel level, a
smart, calm, timely news program."

Frazier Moore of the Associated Press said we were
hard-edged when appropriate but never Hardball. "don't
expect combat. Civility reigns."

And the Baton Rouge Advocate said, "NOW invites viewers
to consider the deeper implication of the daily
headlines," drawing on "a wide range of viewpoints
which transcend the typical labels of the political
left or right."

Let me repeat that: NOW draws on "a wide range of
viewpoints which transcend the typical labels of the
political left or right."

The Public Broadcasting Act of 1967 had been prophetic.
Open public television to the American people - offer
diverse interests, ideas and voices ... be fearless in
your belief in democracy - and they will come.

Hold your applause - that’s not the point of the story.

The point of the story is something only a handful of
our team, including my wife and partner Judith Davidson
Moyers, and I knew at the time - that the success of
NOW’s journalism was creating a backlash in Washington.

The more compelling our journalism, the angrier the
radical right of the Republican Party became. That’s
because the one thing they loathe more than liberals is
the truth. And the quickest way to be damned by them as
liberal is to tell the truth.

This is the point of my story: Ideologues don't want
you to go beyond the typical labels of left and right.
They embrace a world view that can't be proven wrong
because they will admit no evidence to the contrary.
They want your reporting to validate their belief
system and when it doesn't, God forbid.

Never mind that their own stars were getting a fair
shake on NOW: Gigot, Viguerie, David Keene of the
American Conservative Union, Stephen Moore, then with
the Club for Growth, and others. No, our reporting was
giving the radical right fits because it wasn't the
party line. It wasn't that we were getting it wrong.
Only three times in three years did we err factually,
and in each case we corrected those errors as soon as
we confirmed their inaccuracy. The problem was that we
were telling stories that partisans in power didn't
want told ... we were getting it right, not right-wing.

I've always thought the American eagle needed a left
wing and a right wing. The right wing would see to it
that economic interests had their legitimate concerns
addressed. The left wing would see to it that ordinary
people were included in the bargain. Both would keep
the great bird on course. But with two right wings or
two left wings, it’s no longer an eagle and it’s going
to crash.

My occasional commentaries got to them as well.
Although apparently he never watched the broadcast (I
guess he couldn't take the diversity), Sen. Trent Lott
came out squealing like a stuck pig when after the
midterm elections in 2002 I described what was likely
to happen now that all three branches of government
were about to be controlled by one party dominated by
the religious, corporate and political right.

Instead of congratulating the winners for their
election victory as some network broadcasters had done
- or celebrating their victory as Fox, the Washington
Times, The Weekly Standard, talk radio and other
partisan Republican journalists had done - I provided a
little independent analysis of what the victory meant.
And I did it the old-fashioned way: I looked at the
record, took the winners at their word, and drew the
logical conclusion that they would use power as they
always said they would. And I set forth this conclusion
in my usual modest Texas way.

Events since then have confirmed the accuracy of what I
said, but, to repeat, being right is exactly what the
right doesn't want journalists to be.

Strange things began to happen. Friends in Washington
called to say that they had heard of muttered threats
that the PBS reauthorization would be held off "unless
Moyers is dealt with." The chairman of the Corporation
for Public Broadcasting, Kenneth Tomlinson, was said to
be quite agitated. Apparently there was apoplexy in the
right-wing aerie when I closed the broadcast one Friday
night by putting an American flag in my lapel and said
- well, here’s exactly what I said:

"I wore my flag tonight. First time. Until now I
haven't thought it necessary to display a little
metallic icon of patriotism for everyone to see. It was
enough to vote, pay my taxes, perform my civic duties,
speak my mind, and do my best to raise our kids to be
good Americans.

"Sometimes I would offer a small prayer of gratitude
that I had been born in a country whose institutions
sustained me, whose armed forces protected me, and
whose ideals inspired me; I offered my heart’s
affections in return. It no more occurred to me to
flaunt the flag on my chest than it did to pin my
mother’s picture on my lapel to prove her son’s love.
Mother knew where I stood; so does my country. I even
tuck a valentine in my tax returns on April 15.

"So what’s this doing here? Well, I put it on to take
it back. The flag’s been hijacked and turned into a
logo - the trademark of a monopoly on patriotism. On
those Sunday morning talk shows, official chests appear
adorned with the flag as if it is the good housekeeping
seal of approval. During the State of the Union, did
you notice Bush and Cheney wearing the flag? How come?
No administration’s patriotism is ever in doubt, only
its policies. And the flag bestows no immunity from
error. When I see flags sprouting on official lapels, I
think of the time in China when I saw Mao’s little red
book on every official’s desk, omnipresent and unread.

"But more galling than anything are all those
moralistic ideologues in Washington sporting the flag
in their lapels while writing books and running Web
sites and publishing magazines attacking dissenters as
un-American. They are people whose ardor for war grows
disproportionately to their distance from the fighting.
They're in the same league as those swarms of corporate
lobbyists wearing flags and prowling Capitol Hill for
tax breaks even as they call for more spending on war.

"So I put this on as a modest riposte to men with flags
in their lapels who shoot missiles from the safety of
Washington think tanks, or argue that sacrifice is good
as long as they don't have to make it, or approve of
bribing governments to join the coalition of the
willing (after they first stash the cash). I put it on
to remind myself that not every patriot thinks we
should do to the people of Baghdad what Bin Laden did
to us. The flag belongs to the country, not to the
government. And it reminds me that it’s not un-American
to think that war - except in self-defense - is a
failure of moral imagination, political nerve, and
diplomacy. Come to think of it, standing up to your
government can mean standing up for your country."

That did it. That - and our continuing reporting on
overpricing at Haliburton, chicanery on K Street, and
the heavy, if divinely guided hand, of Tom DeLay.

When Senator Lott protested that the Corporation for
Public Broadcasting "has not seemed willing to deal
with Bill Moyers," a new member of the board, a
Republican fundraiser named Cheryl Halperin, who had
been appointed by President Bush, agreed that CPB
needed more power to do just that sort of thing. She
left no doubt about the kind of penalty she would like
to see imposed on malefactors like Moyers.

As rumors circulated about all this, I asked to meet
with the CPB board to hear for myself what was being
said. I thought it would be helpful for someone like
me, who had been present at the creation and part of
the system for almost 40 years, to talk about how CPB
had been intended to be a heat shield to protect public
broadcasters from exactly this kind of intimidation.

After all, I'd been there at the time of Richard
Nixon’s attempted coup. In those days, public
television had been really feisty and independent, and
often targeted for attacks. A Woody Allen special that
poked fun at Henry Kissinger in the Nixon
administration had actually been cancelled. The White
House had been so outraged over a documentary called
the "Banks and the Poor" that PBS was driven to adopt
new guidelines. That didn't satisfy Nixon, and when
public television hired two NBC reporters - Robert
McNeil and Sander Vanoucur to co-anchor some new
broadcasts, it was, for Nixon, the last straw.
According to White House memos at the time, he was
determined to "get the left-wing commentators who are
cutting us up off public television at once - indeed,
yesterday if possible."

Sound familiar?

Nixon vetoed the authorization for CPB with a message
written in part by his sidekick Pat Buchanan, who in a
private memo had castigated Vanocur, MacNeil,
Washington Week in Review, Black Journal and Bill
Moyers as "unbalanced against the administration."

It does sound familiar.

I always knew Nixon would be back. I just didn't know
this time he would be the chairman of the Corporation
for Public Broadcasting.

Buchanan and Nixon succeeded in cutting CPB funding for
all public affairs programming except for Black
Journal. They knocked out multiyear funding for the
National Public Affairs Center for Television,
otherwise known as NPACT. And they voted to take away
from the PBS staff the ultimate responsibility for the
production of programming.

But in those days - and this is what I wanted to share
with Kenneth Tomlinson and his colleagues on the CPB
board - there were still Republicans in America who did
not march in ideological lockstep and who stood on
principle against politicizing public television. The
chairman of the public station in Dallas was an
industrialist named Ralph Rogers, a Republican but no
party hack, who saw the White House intimidation as an
assault on freedom of the press and led a nationwide
effort to stop it.

The chairman of CPB was former Republican Congressman
Thomas Curtis, who was also a principled man. He
resigned, claiming White House interference. Within a
few months, the crisis was over. CPB maintained its
independence, PBS grew in strength, and Richard Nixon
would soon face impeachment and resign for violating
the public trust, not just public broadcasting.

Paradoxically, the very National Public Affairs Center
for Television that Nixon had tried to kill - NPACT -
put PBS on the map by rebroadcasting in primetime each
day’s Watergate hearings, drawing huge ratings night
after night and establishing PBS as an ally of
democracy. We should still be doing that sort of thing.

That was 33 years ago. I thought the current CPB board
would like to hear and talk about the importance of
standing up to political interference. I was wrong.
They wouldn't meet with me. I tried three times. And it
was all downhill after that.

I was na’ve, I guess. I simply never imagined that any
CPB chairman, Democrat or Republican, would cross the
line from resisting White House pressure to carrying it
out for the White House. But that’s what Kenneth
Tomlinson has done.

On Fox News this week he denied that he’s carrying out
a White House mandate or that he’s ever had any
conversations with any Bush administration official
about PBS. But the New York Times reported that he
enlisted Karl Rove to help kill a proposal that would
have put on the CPB board people with experience in
local radio and television. The Times also reported
that "on the recommendation of administration
officials" Tomlinson hired a White House flack (I know
the genre) named Mary Catherine Andrews as a senior CPB
staff member. While she was still reporting to Karl
Rove at the White House, Andrews set up CPB’s new
ombudsman’s office and had a hand in hiring the two
people who will fill it, one of whom once worked for
.. you guessed it ... Kenneth Tomlinson.

I would like to give Mr. Tomlinson the benefit of the
doubt, but I can't. According to a book written about
the Reader’s Digest when he was its Editor-in-Chief, he
surrounded himself with other right-wingers - a pattern
he’s now following at the Corporation for Public

There is Ms. Andrews from the White House. For acting
president, he hired Ken Ferree from the FCC, who was
Michael Powell’s enforcer when Powell was deciding how
to go about allowing the big media companies to get
even bigger. According to a forthcoming book, one of
Ferree’s jobs was to engage in tactics designed to
dismiss any serious objection to media monopolies. And,
according to Eric Alterman, Ferree was even more
contemptuous than Michael Powell of public
participation in the process of determining media
ownership. Alterman identifies Ferree as the FCC
staffer who decided to issue a "protective order"
designed to keep secret the market research on which
the Republican majority on the commission based their
vote to permit greater media consolidation.

It’s not likely that with guys like this running the
CPB some public television producer is going to say,
"Hey, let’s do something on how big media is affecting

Call it preventive capitulation.

As everyone knows, Mr. Tomlinson also put up a
considerable sum of money, reportedly over $5 million,
for a new weekly broadcast featuring Paul Gigot and the
editorial board of the Wall Street Journal. Gigot is a
smart journalist, a sharp editor, and a fine fellow. I
had him on NOW several times and even proposed that he
become a regular contributor. The conversation of
democracy - remember? All stripes.

But I confess to some puzzlement that the Wall Street
Journal, which in the past editorialized to cut PBS off
the public tap, is now being subsidized by American
taxpayers although its parent company, Dow Jones, had
revenues in just the first quarter of this year of $400
million. I thought public television was supposed to be
an alternative to commercial media, not a funder of it.

But in this weird deal, you get a glimpse of the kind
of programming Mr. Tomlinson apparently seems to
prefer. Alone of the big major newspapers, the Wall
Street Journal has no op-ed page where different
opinions can compete with its right-wing editorials.
The Journal’s PBS broadcast is just as homogenous --
right- wingers talking to each other. Why not $5
million to put the editors of The Nation on PBS? Or Amy
Goodman’s Democracy Now! You balance right-wing talk
with left-wing talk.

There’s more. Only two weeks ago did we learn that Mr.
Tomlinson had spent $10,000 last year to hire a
contractor who would watch my show and report on
political bias. That’s right. Kenneth Y. Tomlinson
spent $10,000 of your money to hire a guy to watch NOW
to find out who my guests were and what my stories
were. Ten thousand dollars.

Gee, Ken, for $2.50 a week, you could pick up a copy of
TV Guide on the newsstand. A subscription is even
cheaper, and I would have sent you a coupon that can
save you up to 62 percent.

For that matter, Ken, all you had to do was watch the
show yourself. You could have made it easier with a
double Jim Beam, your favorite. Or you could have gone
online where the listings are posted. Hell, you could
have called me - collect - and I would have told you.

Ten thousand dollars. That would have bought five
tables at Thursday night’s "Conservative Salute for Tom
DeLay." Better yet, that ten grand would pay for the
books in an elementary school classroom or an upgrade
of its computer lab.

But having sent that cash, what did he find? Only Mr.
Tomlinson knows. He’s apparently decided not to share
the results with his staff, or his board or leak it to
Robert Novak. The public paid for it - but Ken
Tomlinson acts as if he owns it.

In a May 10 op-ed piece, in Reverend Moon’s
conservative Washington Times, Tomlinson maintained he
had not released the findings because public
broadcasting is such a delicate institution that he did
not want to "damage public broadcasting’s image with
controversy." Where I come from in Texas, we shovel
that kind of stuff every day.

As we learned only this week, that’s not the only news
Mr. Tomlinson tried to keep to himself. As reported by
Jeff Chester’s Center for Digital Democracy (of which I
am a supporter), there were two public opinion surveys
commissioned by CPB but not released to the media - not
even to PBS and NPR. According to a source who talked
to Salon.com, "The first results were too good and
[Tomlinson] didn't believe them. After the Iraq War,
the board commissioned another round of polling, and
they thought they'd get worse results."

But they didn't. The data revealed that, in reality,
public broadcasting has an 80 percent favorable rating
and that "the majority of the U.S. adult population
does not believe that the news and information
programming on public broadcasting is biased." In fact,
more than half believed PBS provided more in-depth and
trustworthy news and information than the networks and
55 percent said PBS was "fair and balanced."

Tomlinson is the man, by the way, who was running The
Voice of America back in 1984 when a partisan named
Charlie Wick was politicizing the United States
Information Agency of which Voice of America was a
part. It turned out there was a blacklist of people who
had been removed from the list of prominent Americans
sent abroad to lecture on behalf of America and the
USIA. What’s more, it was discovered that evidence as
to how those people were chosen to be on the blacklist,
more than 700 documents had been shredded. Among those
on the blacklists of journalists, writers, scholars and
politicians were dangerous left-wing subversives like
Walter Cronkite, James Baldwin, Gary Hart, Ralph Nader,
Ben Bradlee, Coretta Scott King and David Brinkley.

The person who took the fall for the blacklist was
another right-winger. He resigned. Shortly thereafter,
so did Kenneth Tomlinson, who had been one of the
people in the agency with the authority to see the
lists of potential speakers and allowed to strike
people’s names. Let me be clear about this: There is no
record, apparently, of what Ken Tomlinson did. We don't
know whether he supported or protested the blacklisting
of so many American liberals. Or what he thinks of it

But I had hoped Bill O’Reilly would have asked him
about it when he appeared on The O’Reilly Factor this
week. He didn't. Instead, Tomlinson went on attacking
me with O’Reilly egging him on, and he went on denying
he was carrying out a partisan mandate despite
published reports to the contrary. The only time you
could be sure he was telling the truth was at the end
of the broadcast when he said to O’Reilly, "We love
your show."

We love your show.

I wrote Kenneth Tomlinson on Friday and asked him to
sit down with me for one hour on PBS and talk about all
this. I suggested that he choose the moderator and the

There is one other thing in particular I would like to
ask him about. In his op-ed essay this week in
Washington Times, Ken Tomlinson tells of a phone call
from an old friend complaining about my bias. Wrote Mr.
Tomlinson: "The friend explained that the foundation he
heads made a six-figure contribution to his local
television station for digital conversion. But he
declared there would be no more contributions until
something was done about the network’s bias."

Apparently that’s Kenneth Tomlinson’s method of
governance. Money talks and buys the influence it

I would like to ask him to listen to a different voice.

This letter came to me last year from a woman in New
York, five pages of handwriting. She said, among other
things, that "after the worst sneak attack in our
history, there’s not been a moment to reflect, a moment
to let the horror resonate, a moment to feel the pain
and regroup as humans. No, since I lost my husband on
9/11, not only our family’s world, but the whole world
seems to have gotten even worse than that tragic day."

She wanted me to know that on 9/11 her husband was not
on duty. "He was home with me having coffee. My
daughter and grandson, living only five blocks from the
Towers, had to be evacuated with masks - terror all
around. ... My other daughter, near the Brooklyn Bridge
.. my son in high school. But my Charlie took off like
a lightning bolt to be with his men from the Special
Operations Command. ‘Bring my gear to the plaza,’ he
told his aide immediately after the first plane struck
the North Tower. ... He took action based on the
responsibility he felt for his job and his men and for
those Towers that he loved."

In the FDNY, she said, chain-of- command rules extend
to every captain of every fire house in the city. If
anything happens in the firehouse - at any time - even
if the captain isn't on duty or on vacation - that
captain is responsible for everything that goes on
there 24/7."

So she asked: "Why is this administration responsible
for nothing? All that they do is pass the blame. This
is not leadership. ... Watch everyone pass the blame
again in this recent torture case [Abu Ghraib] of Iraqi
prisons ..."

And then she wrote: "We need more programs like yours
to wake America up. ... Such programs must continue
amidst the sea of false images and name-calling that
divide America now. ... Such programs give us hope that
search will continue to get this imperfect human
condition on to a higher plane. So thank you and all of
those who work with you. Without public broadcasting,
all we would call news would be merely carefully
controlled propaganda."

Enclosed with the letter was a check made out to
"Channel 13 - NOW" for $500. I keep a copy of that
check above my desk to remind me of what journalism is
about. Kenneth Tomlinson has his demanding donors. I'll
take the widow’s mite any day.

Someone has said recently that the great raucous mob
that is democracy is rarely heard and that it’s not
just the fault of the current residents of the White
House and the capital. There’s too great a chasm
between those of us in this business and those who
depend on TV and radio as their window to the world. We
treat them too much as an audience and not enough as
citizens. They're invited to look through the window
but too infrequently to come through the door and to
participate, to make public broadcasting truly public."

To that end, five public interest groups including
Common Cause and Consumers Union will be holding
informational sessions around the country to "take
public broadcasting back" - to take it back from
threats, from interference, from those who would tell
us we can only think what they command us to think.

It’s a worthy goal.

We're big kids; we can handle controversy and
diversity, whether it’s political or religious points
of view or two loving lesbian moms and their kids,
visited by a cartoon rabbit. We are not too fragile or
insecure to see America and the world entire for all
their magnificent and sometimes violent confusion.
"There used to be a thing or a commodity we put great
store by," John Steinbeck wrote. "It was called the

Monday, May 16, 2005

Death of Democracy in Haiti

May 12, 2005

Democracy’s Death
Haitian dissidents find themselves the targets of massive repression
By Ben Terrall

Supporters hug paramilitary leader Louis-Jodel Chamblain, who was released by the Latortue
regime after an overnight trial that Amnesty International deemed “an insult to justice.”

In sync with its grandiose claims about building democracy in the Middle East, the Bush administration is promoting new elections in Haiti in October and November as the great hope for the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere. Yet, while Washington provides diplomatic, political and military support for the Haitian government of Interim Prime Minister Gerard Latortue, hooded police and death squads are systematically repressing political supporters of former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

Aristide’s Lavalas Party is still the Haitian political organization with the most popular support by a large margin. Months after the February 29, 2004, coup that drove Aristide from office, Conrad Tribble of the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince conceded, “If there were an election held today, Lavalas would win.” But today, Lavalas partisans can barely go outdoors safely, while the right-wing paramilitary leader Guy Philippe, who was trained by U.S. Special Forces in Ecuador in the ’90s, has launched his own political party, the Front for National Reconstruction.

In the beginning of February 2004, Philippe led U.S.-trained paramilitaries across the border from the Dominican Republic in attacks on Haiti’s second largest city, Cap-Haitien. Also directing the paramilitary attacks was Louis-Jodel Chamblain, former second-in-command of the Revolutionary Front for Haitian Advancement and Progress, an anti-Lavalas death squad that the CIA helped create in 1993. In the following two weeks, these forces emptied Haiti’s prisons; among those set free were anti-Aristide death squad veterans from the 1991–1994 coup period. The new regime has now filled the jails with government officials, teachers and Lavalas supporters.

Thomas Griffin, a Philadelphia immigration lawyer, interviewed both poor slum dwellers and rich elites in Haiti for a report recently published by the University of Miami’s Center for the Study of Human Rights. The report noted, “Haiti’s security and justice institutions fuel the cycle of violence. Summary executions are a police tactic. … Haiti’s brutal and disbanded army has returned to join the fray. Suspected dissidents fill the prisons, their constitutional rights ignored. As voices for nonviolent change are silenced by arrest, assassination or fear, violent defense becomes a credible option.”

Much of the repression has occurred under the watch of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), established by the U.N. Security Council on June 1, 2004. A March 2005 report by the Harvard Law Student Advocates for Human Rights and the Global Justice Center notes that the mission was endowed “with a strong mandate in three principal areas: providing a secure and stable environment, particularly through disarmament; supporting the political process and good governance in preparation for upcoming elections; and monitoring and reporting on human rights,” but it has “made little, if any, progress on any of these three fronts.”

The Harvard report concludes: “MINUSTAH has provided cover for abuses committed by the HNP [Haitian National Police] during operations in poor, historically tense Port-au-Prince neighborhoods. Rather than advising and instructing the police in best practices, and monitoring their missteps, MINUSTAH has been the midwife of their abuses.” The report also attacked the United Nations’ unwillingness to protect civilians from political violence, saying, “the failure to do so when civilians beg for U.N. assistance is simply incomprehensible.”

Violent imprisonment

Father Gerard Jean-Juste, famous in both Haiti and the diaspora for decades of service to the poor, is still working on the ground in Port-au-Prince. On October 13, 2004, masked Haitian police arrested Jean-Juste as he was feeding hundreds of hungry children at his parish.

Latortue claimed there was a warrant for Jean-Juste’s arrest, but no one ever produced the document or any evidence linking the priest to a crime. This means the arrest was in violation of Haiti’s constitution, but the U.S. State Department explained this away, saying, “Haitian legal experts have told us that under Haitian law, the government can hold Father Jean-Juste for up to three months in his current status while finalizing the case against him.” A State Department spokesperson also assured reporters that Jean-Juste was being “lawfully held.”

But as one of Jean-Juste’s lawyers, Loyola University New Orleans professor William Quigley, put it: “The situation here is very bad there is no real law except the law of the powerful.”

On November 29, Jean-Juste was released for lack of evidence. He told In These Times, “A guy like me is lucky.” While imprisoned, his wrists were cuffed so tightly that circulation hadn’t completely returned in one hand, but “they didn’t beat me.” Twelve of his fellow cellmates had been beaten so badly “their heads were broken.”

In contrast to Jean-Juste, Ted Nazaire’s case received no international attention. Nazaire was arrested after fighting with his brother. Because a judge happened to be passing by when the fight occurred, a warrant actually was filled out for his arrest, unlike most of his fellow inmates. A tall, muscular man of 26, Nazaire spent four months in prison until his mother resorted to bribing a judge to gain his release.

While in prison, Nazaire witnessed the bloody December 1 massacre of prisoners by guards at the National Penitentiary­the same day that Colin Powell was engaged in a high-profile meeting with Latortue. Nazaire estimates that police systematically killed at least 60 prisoners. Other eyewitnesses, including Radio Megastar journalist Saby Kettny, who saw police firing machine guns from a catwalk at prisoners, confirm that mass executions took place. According to the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, on December 1, only 22 of the 1,041 prisoners in the National Penitentiary had been convicted of a crime.

The swollen eye, knot on his head, and bruised arms and legs testified to the severe beating Nazaire received from guards who threatened to kill him if he talked about the massacre. Nazaire and his family have since gone into hiding for their safety.

A complicit media

Jean-Juste says that on most Haitian radio stations “everything bad happening this week will be blamed on Lavalas.” The stations, primarily owned by elites who opposed Aristide’s efforts to increase the minimum wage and advance other progressive initiatives, have demonized Lavalas for years.

The press owner’s association, the National Association of Haitian Media, is a member of the Group of 184, an anti-Lavalas outfit masquerading as a civil society umbrella group that spearheaded the coup with funding from the U.S.-based International Republican Institute (itself an arm of the National Endowment for Democracy). Between 2001 and 2003 the European Commission contributed approximately $890,000 to organizations affiliated with the Group of 184, and the U.S. Agency for International Development allocated more than $3 million. This funding occurred during the U.S. aid embargo that financially paralyzed the Aristide government.

Andre Apaid Jr., the Group of 184’s leader, is a factory owner who founded Haiti’s main TV station, Tele-Haiti, and led the 2003 campaign opposing Aristide’s decision to double the minimum wage. For the University of Miami report, Griffin talked to numerous sources who described Apaid’s support for the Port-au-Prince gang leader Labanye, who had terrorized the city’s residents before his violent death on March 31. One veteran Haitian dissident told Griffin that despite Apaid’s claims to be non-political, he was in fact “the government’s boss.”

Griffin believes “Lavalas gangs” has become a catchphrase used to justify further repression. “The U.N. is in there to make it legitimate, but they can’t even talk to the people they’re supposed to be helping,” he says. “There’s no strategy in entering the poorest neighborhoods during so-called security operations. They shoot wildly, as do the police. Since Aristide was ousted, the outspoken democratic leaders, including government officials, have been either killed or arrested.

“For Aristide to be blamed for their desperation is absurd,” he concludes.

The Latortue regime has also accused Aristide of orchestrating violence from his exile in South Africa a questionable charge according to human rights lawyer Brian Concannon, who worked for years to put death squad leader Chamblain behind bars. (The Latortue regime acquitted Chamblain last summer in an overnight trial that Amnesty International called “an insult to justice” and a “mockery.”)

“Latortue can say that Aristide is backing violence in Port-au-Prince without presenting any proof and it’s presented as gospel in the newspapers,” Concannon says. “But when people talk to our lawyers in Haiti about the interim government’s persecution of dissidents, they have extremely credible, consistent and corroborated information. That information will not get into the mainstream media.”

Such bias has also characterized the electoral process. In November, Roselor Julien resigned as president of the Provisional Electoral Council, calling preparations for the upcoming elections a “burlesque comedy.” Julien warned that other panel members were trying to rig the ballot and that the council was not capable of ensuring free and fair elections. The council has also excluded representatives of Lavalas.

“Today in 2005, who can expect free, fair and democratic elections in Haiti with thousands of Lavalas [members] in jail, exile and hiding?” asked Aristide at an April 19 press conference in South Africa. He demanded that four steps be taken to reverse the “tragic mistake” of the 2004 coup d’etat.

“One, thousands of Lavalas who are in jail and in exile must be free to return home. Two, the repression that has already killed 10,000 people must end immediately. Three, then there must be national dialogue. Four, free, fair and democratic elections must be organized in an environment where the huge majority of Haitian people is neither excluded nor repressed as they have been up until today.”

"A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is
approaching spiritual death.... Our only hope today lies in our ability to recapture the revolutionary spirit and go into a
sometimes hostile world declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism." -- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

"We can have democracy in this country or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few... but we can't
have both." -- Louis Brandeis, U.S. Supreme Court Justice

"Cowardice asks the question - is it safe? Expediency asks the question - is it politic? Vanity asks the question - is it
popular? But conscience asks the question - is it right? And there comes a time when one must take a position that is
neither safe, nor politic, nor popular; but one must take it because it is right." -- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr

Impeachment and war

Secret Way to War
By Mark Danner

It was October 16, 2002, and the United States Congress had just voted to
authorize the President to go to war against Iraq. When George W. Bush came
before members of his Cabinet and Congress gathered in the East Room of the
White House and addressed the American people, he was in a somber mood
befitting a leader speaking frankly to free citizens about the gravest decision
their country could make.

The 107th Congress, the President said, had just become "one of the few called
by history to authorize military action to defend our country and the cause of
peace." But, he hastened to add, no one should assume that war was inevitable.
Though "Congress has now authorized the use of force," the President said
emphatically, "I have not ordered the use of force. I hope the use of force
will not become necessary." The President went on:

"Our goal is to fully and finally remove a real threat to world peace and to
America. Hopefully this can be done peacefully. Hopefully we can do this without
any military action. Yet, if Iraq is to avoid military action by the
international community, it has the obligation to prove compliance with all the
world's demands. It's the obligation of Iraq."

Iraq, the President said, still had the power to prevent war by "declaring and
destroying all its weapons of mass destruction" -- but if Iraq did not declare
and destroy those weapons, the President warned, the United States would "go
into battle, as a last resort."

It is safe to say that, at the time, it surprised almost no one when the
Iraqis answered the President's demand by repeating their claim that in fact
there were no weapons of mass destruction. As we now know, the Iraqis had in
fact destroyed these weapons, probably years before George W. Bush's ultimatum:
"the Iraqis" -- in the words of chief U.S. weapons inspector David Kaye -- "were
telling the truth."

As Americans watch their young men and women fighting in the third year of a
bloody counterinsurgency war in Iraq -- a war that has now killed more than
1,600 Americans and tens of thousands of Iraqis -- they are left to ponder "the
unanswered question" of what would have happened if the United Nations weapons
inspectors had been allowed -- as all the major powers except the United
Kingdom had urged they should be -- to complete their work. What would have
happened if the UN weapons inspectors had been allowed to prove, before the
U.S. went "into battle," what David Kaye and his colleagues finally proved

Thanks to a formerly secret memorandum published by the London Sunday Times on
May 1, during the run-up to the British elections, we now have a partial answer
to that question. The memo, which records the minutes of a meeting of Prime
Minister Tony Blair's senior foreign policy and security officials, shows that
even as President Bush told Americans in October 2002 that he "hope[d] the use
of force will not become necessary" -- that such a decision depended on whether
or not the Iraqis complied with his demands to rid themselves of their weapons
of mass destruction -- the President had in fact already definitively decided,
at least three months before, to choose this "last resort" of going "into
battle" with Iraq. Whatever the Iraqis chose to do or not do, the President's
decision to go to war had long since been made.

On July 23, 2002, eight months before American and British forces invaded,
senior British officials met with Prime Minister Tony Blair to discuss Iraq.
The gathering, similar to an American "principals meeting," brought together
Geoffrey Hoon, the defense secretary; Jack Straw, the foreign secretary; Lord
Goldsmith, the attorney general; John Scarlett, the head of the Joint
Intelligence Committee, which advises the prime minister; Sir Richard Dearlove,
also known as "C," the head of MI6 (the equivalent of the CIA); David Manning,
the equivalent of the national security adviser; Admiral Sir Michael Boyce, the
chief of the Defense Staff (or CDS, equivalent to the chairman of the Joint
Chiefs); Jonathan Powell, Blair's chief of staff; Alastair Campbell, director
of strategy (Blair's communications and political adviser); and Sally Morgan,
director of government relations.

After John Scarlett began the meeting with a summary of intelligence on Iraq
-- notably, that "the regime was tough and based on extreme fear" and that thus
the "only way to overthrow it was likely to be by massive military action," "C"
offered a report on his visit to Washington, where he had conducted talks with
George Tenet, his counterpart at the CIA, and other high officials. This
passage is worth quoting in full:

"C reported on his recent talks in Washington. There was a perceptible shift
in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove
Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and
WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. The NSC
had no patience with the UN route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on
the Iraqi regime's record. There was little discussion in Washington of the
aftermath after military action."

Seen from today's perspective this short paragraph is a strikingly clear
template for the future, establishing these points:

1. By mid-July 2002, eight months before the war began, President Bush had
decided to invade and occupy Iraq.

2. Bush had decided to "justify" the war "by the conjunction of terrorism and

3. Already "the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy."

4. Many at the top of the administration did not want to seek approval from
the United Nations (going "the UN route").

5. Few in Washington seemed much interested in the aftermath of the war.

We have long known, thanks to Bob Woodward and others, that military planning
for the Iraq war began as early as November 21, 2001, after the President
ordered Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to look at "what it would take to
protect America by removing Saddam Hussein if we have to," and that Secretary
Rumsfeld and General Tommy Franks, who headed Central Command, were briefing
American senior officials on the progress of military planning during the late
spring and summer of 2002; indeed, a few days after the meeting in London leaks
about specific plans for a possible Iraq war appeared on the front pages of the
New York Times and the Washington Post.

What the Downing Street memo confirms for the first time is that President
Bush had decided, no later than July 2002, to "remove Saddam, through military
action," that war with Iraq was "inevitable" -- and that what remained was
simply to establish and develop the modalities of justification; that is, to
come up with a means of "justifying" the war and "fixing" the "intelligence and
facts...around the policy." The great value of the discussion recounted in the
memo, then, is to show, for the governments of both countries, a clear
hierarchy of decision-making. By July 2002 at the latest, war had been decided
on; the question at issue now was how to justify it -- how to "fix," as it
were, what Blair will later call "the political context." Specifically, though
by this point in July the President had decided to go to war, he had not yet
decided to go to the United Nations and demand inspectors; indeed, as "C"
points out, those on the National Security Council -- the senior security
officials of the U.S. government -- "had no patience with the UN route, and no
enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime's record." This would
later change, largely as a result of the political concerns of these very
people gathered together at 10 Downing Street.

After Admiral Boyce offered a brief discussion of the war plans then on the
table and the defense secretary said a word or two about timing -- "the most
likely timing in US minds for military action to begin was January, with the
timeline beginning 30 days before the US Congressional elections" -- Foreign
Secretary Jack Straw got to the heart of the matter: not whether or not to
invade Iraq but how to justify such an invasion:

"The Foreign Secretary said he would discuss [the timing of the war] with
Colin Powell this week. It seemed clear that Bush had made up his mind to take
military action, even if the timing was not yet decided. But the case was thin.
Saddam was not threatening his neighbors, and his WMD capability was less than
that of Libya, North Korea or Iran."

Given that Saddam was not threatening to attack his neighbors and that his
weapons of mass destruction program was less extensive than those of a number
of other countries, how does one justify attacking? Foreign Secretary Straw had
an idea: "We should work up a plan for an ultimatum to Saddam to allow back in
the UN weapons inspectors. This would also help with the legal justification
for the use of force."

The British realized they needed "help with the legal justification for the
use of force" because, as the attorney general pointed out, rather dryly, "the
desire for regime change was not a legal base for military action." Which is to
say, the simple desire to overthrow the leadership of a given sovereign country
does not make it legal to invade that country; on the contrary. And, said the
attorney general, of the "three possible legal bases: self-defence,
humanitarian intervention, or [United Nations Security Council] authorization,"
the first two "could not be the base in this case." In other words, Iraq was not
attacking the United States or the United Kingdom, so the leaders could not
claim to be acting in self-defense; nor was Iraq's leadership in the process of
committing genocide, so the United States and the United Kingdom could not claim
to be invading for humanitarian reasons.[1] This left Security Council
authorization as the only conceivable legal justification for war. But how to
get it?

At this point in the meeting Prime Minister Tony Blair weighed in. He had
heard his foreign minister's suggestion about drafting an ultimatum demanding
that Saddam let back in the United Nations inspectors. Such an ultimatum could
be politically critical, said Blair -- but only if the Iraqi leader turned it

"The Prime Minister said that it would make a big difference politically and
legally if Saddam refused to allow in the UN inspectors. Regime change and WMD
were linked in the sense that it was the regime that was producing the WMD....
If the political context were right, people would support regime change. The
two key issues were whether the military plan worked and whether we had the
political strategy to give the military plan the space to work."

Here the inspectors were introduced, but as a means to create the missing
casus belli. If the UN could be made to agree on an ultimatum that Saddam
accept inspectors, and if Saddam then refused to accept them, the Americans and
the British would be well on their way to having a legal justification to go to
war (the attorney general's third alternative of UN Security Council

Thus, the idea of UN inspectors was introduced not as a means to avoid war, as
President Bush repeatedly assured Americans, but as a means to make war
possible. War had been decided on; the problem under discussion here was how to
make, in the prime minister's words, "the political context ...right." The
"political strategy" -- at the center of which, as with the Americans, was
weapons of mass destruction, for "it was the regime that was producing the WMD"
-- must be strong enough to give "the military plan the space to work." Which is
to say, once the allies were victorious the war would justify itself. The demand
that Iraq accept UN inspectors, especially if refused, could form the political
bridge by which the allies could reach their goal: "regime change" through
"military action."


From: New York Review of Books. See the full article there