Backtalk, July 28, 2005

G. Federsel’s Backtalk

After reading Paul Roberts’ reply to my letter posted on July 19, I felt compelled to register my rebuttal. It seems to me that I touched a raw nerve.

I have been called all kinds of names, but this is the first time I have been called an ignorant, brainwashed brownshirt. It was quite a surprise.

Just for Mr. Paul Roberts’ information, I left Czechoslovakia after the Soviet invasion in 1968. I was a university student at that time. I finished my studies in Canada, where I also obtained my law degree. I was admitted to a provincial Law Society and practiced law for many years.

When I closed my practice, I worked as a teacher for five years in South Korea and China. I lived and worked in several countries, I visited many countries (including Chile), and I speak several languages. Do I match the profile of an ignorant, brainwashed brownshirt?

Maybe Mr. Roberts should weigh his words more carefully next time he replies to his critics. He is too quick in throwing all kinds of epithets around when someone disagrees with him. It is a sign of immaturity and of the weakness of his argument.

~ George Federsel, Canada

Paul Craig Roberts replies:

I called George Federsel ignorant, and I stick to my guns.

The context is, of course, the Allende-Pinochet era. I did not say Federsel is a brownshirt. I said his ignorant knee-jerk response to my column, “If Pinochet Is Guilty, so Is Bush,” reminded me of Bush’s unthinking brownshirts who believe any criticism of the U.S. invasion of Iraq and ongoing violence is an expression of hate for America. Left-wingers are the ones who are set off by Pinochet, and apparently my column, which expressed my view that Bush’s crimes are worse than Pinochet’s sent Federsel and Dorst up the wall. How dare I suggest anyone could be worse than Pinochet! Why am I criticizing Bush when I should be criticizing Pinochet?!

As I have pointed out, Chile’s Chamber of Deputies, which selected Allende as president after he swore to respect the constitution, subsequently censured him for sedition, for ignoring the constitution, for suppressing the press, for illegal seizures of property, and for disorganizing the economy, and called on the military to overthrow Allende. It is amazing that Federsel and Dorst, who admit they know nothing whatsoever about the censure of Allende, who know nothing except what a few refugees told them or what propaganda came their way, are so brainwashed that they are able to totally miss the point of my original article.

To repeat, Dorst and Federsel know nothing whatsoever about the Allende-Pinochet era. Their strong opinions despite their lack of knowledge makes them, in my view, similar to the right-wing freaks whose minds are filled with right-wing talk radio propaganda. There is no essential difference.

First off, I couldn’t possibly agree more with Paul Craig Roberts on our deplorable quagmire in Iraq. His is a voice to be reckoned with and we’re lucky to have him!

And yet, while no one admires the worst excesses of the Allende presidency, it is but sheer Orwellian doublespeak for Roberts to level charges Allende’s way that declassified U.S. documents show more aptly apply to his American-supported successor, Pinochet. But more on that in a moment.

First, there is the matter of Roberts’ claims that “Allende did not win [the] election.” But Allende did indeed lawfully win Chile’s election, drawing the single largest total of votes of the three candidates, although less than 50 percent of the vote. Allende was then chosen by Chile’s Chamber of Deputies, as allowed by Chilean law in such circumstances.

Similar laws govern contested votes in other democratic countries. Earning a minority of votes, for example, our own Bush “lost” the election in 2000, but was lawfully sworn in. I seriously doubt Robert’s would argue Bush “did not win.”

Going on, by Roberts, one could be forgiven for concluding that Allende was the Big Bad Wolf and Pinochet Little Red Riding Hood, not the other way around. But since I don’t have the “Chamber of Deputies” report Roberts cites, nor do I know where to find it, I won’t contest his vile depiction of Allende, despite his spirited and unambiguous partisanship.

Roberts claims that Chile’s own Chamber of Deputies ultimately severely censured Allende for, in essence, veering totalitarian – persecuting opponents of his government with arrests, jail sentences, and torture, while allowing armed thugs who supported the regime to terrorize the population at will; constricting the other branches of government; illegally seizing private property, contravening freedom of the press by illegal closings and economic pressure against opposition media, and creating and maintaining a series of seditious organizations which exercised an extralegal authority found neither in the constitution nor in the law, etc.

Roberts’ allegations may be entirely true, or they may partly be rhetorical. But whatever they are, they most certainly also apply as much to Pinochet. And since the winners write the history, we’ll have a hell of a time really knowing for sure. But Roberts’ selective presentation of Chile’s history according to its winners can scarcely be considered the final word, especially in view of newly declassified files to which Roberts does not refer.

In fact, what Roberts ignores may be the key to the whole sordid history of Chile in that era. For during Allende’s entire presidency, the USA was not merely engaged in limply extending a feeble lifeline to freedom and democracy in Chile; it was actively engaged in a muscular and costly covert conspiracy to destroy Allende that the Nixon administration waged under his customary cloak of deceit, an endeavor Roberts leaves out of the discussion.

Based on newly unsealed files, many that Roberts may never have seen, the National Security Archives’ Peter Kornbluh has written about a few of those lies and conspiracies in a book, The Pinochet File – A Declassified Dossier on Atrocity and Accountability. He writes:

Only a few months after ordering massive efforts to undermine Allende’s administration, Nixon falsely asserted in his 1971 State of the Union address that “we are prepared to have the kind of relationship with the Chilean government that it is prepared to have with us.” Three years after recommending a program of action against Allende that “might lead to … his collapse or overthrow,” Kissinger testified before the senate Foreign Relations Committee in September 1973 that “the intent of the United States was not to destabilize or subvert [Allende] but to keep in being opposition political parties … Our concern was with the election of 1976 and not at all with a coup in 1973 about which we knew nothing and with which we had nothing to do….”

Alas, information about Nixon’s covert war in Chile is incomplete because, it comes as no surprise, the CIA is still stonewalling. But the general outline is clear and mostly available on-line. One of the better sources for the “old” information, that from the Church Committee in 1976, can be found at the Federation of American Scientists’ Web site. Once there, one can jump to III E: E. Covert Action During the Allende Years, 1970-1973.

Church disclosed a massive covert effort to destroy Chile’s economy, blaming the calamitous conditions it helped create on “socialism” or “communism.” This is not to say command economies are vibrant; they aren’t. But with so much meddling in Allende’s economy, we really don’t know what it might have been capable of.

Kornbluh also described a massive U.S. propaganda campaign that used the relatively free press Allende allowed as a vehicle for undermining Allende. (I say “relatively,” because it was vastly freer than Pinochet’s.) One of Roberts’ charges was that Allende threatened the press and yet Allende allowed a considerable amount of press freedom. That included the freedom he gave an extremely powerful, CIA-funded, opposition newspaper, El Mercurio, which published without interruption. Daily, El Mercurio pounded out vehemently anti-Allende, CIA propaganda. The full outline of the fascinating El Mercurio story was published, again by Kornbluh, in the Columbia Journalism Review, available on-line here.

By contrast, when Pinochet toppled Allende, he shut down all opposition papers and thereafter one heard not so much as a murmur from the palpitating hearts of the Champions of the Free Press in Washington. One gets no hint of this history from Roberts and, who knows?, he may not even know of it.

Other interesting bits of realpolitik are available online here. The titles of the cables that flew between Santiago and Washington at the time offer a telling glimpse of what the USA was really doing, as compared with what the Administration was saying it was doing:

Examples:

  • CIA, Cable Transmissions on Coup Plotting, October 18, 1970
  • CIA, Operating Guidance Cable on Coup Plotting, October 16, 1970
  • Department of State, US Embassy Cables on the Election of Salvador Allende and Efforts to Block his Assumption of the Presidency, September 5-22, 1970

Roberts seems to have come a long way if he is able to be as clear-eyed as he is about recent government skullduggery. It’s too bad his view of Chile isn’t leavened a bit with recent government disclosures of our skullduggery in Chile, to say nothing of the shocking disclosures in Frank Church’s report from nearly 30 years ago.

Nevertheless, I can’t deny that Roberts sure has Chilean officials saying bad things about Allende. But given what we’ve learned, it is not outside the realm of possibility that our very own CIA, which was so active in propagandizing Chile from within, is at least part author of Chile’s “Chamber of Deputies” report that so damns Allende. If so, it would scarcely be the first time the Agency got away with a dirty trick of that magnitude.

~ Gary Aguilar, San Francisco

Paul Craig Roberts replies:

Aguilar, like the two Canadians, hasn’t a clue what he is talking about. He even admits it. He says he doesn’t know the censure of Allende by the Chamber of Deputies, which picked Allende out of the three candidates with almost equal votes after Allende agreed to respect the constitution and abide by it. He has not read the censure on which I reported and which calls for the Chilean military to overthrow Allende.

With Aguilar, Chilean law becomes “Roberts’ claims.” Wow. This guy should work for Cheney-Bush-Rumsfeld. Even better, Aguilar turns the Chamber of Deputies censure of Allende into Roberts’ “vile depiction of Allende”! Double wow. This guy is better than Perle and Wolfowitz combined.

Where do these people come from? They know nothing except Soviet propaganda that was pawned off on the left wing. What is really hilarious is that they simultaneously want to blame the U.S. for Allende’s overthrow out of one side of their mouths and then blame Pinochet out of the other side of their mouths. If the U.S. is guilty and Pinochet nothing but a CIA pawn, what is the point of going after Pinochet? Why not go after the real villains?

Aguilar is ignorant beyond belief. The Chamber of Deputies censures Allende for muzzling the press and Aguilar alleges there was a relatively free press under Allende.

Chile’s economy was destabilized by Allende’s policies. Allende was overthrown by his own excesses. This is what the book by myself and Karen Araujo, Chile: Two Visions – The Allende-Pinochet Era, published in Spanish in Chile in 2000, shows. We spent five years researching the story, two of which were spent in Chile. My coauthor lived in Chile during part of the Allende-Pinochet period. We searched out and interviewed many of the former terrorists. We interviewed Pinochet and the former military government. We interviewed members of the Chamber of Deputies, businessmen, housewives, journalists, and read the newspaper archives. I am absolutely certain that I know 1,000 times more about the Allende-Pinochet era than Aguilar, who is not even familiar with the most important document of the period.

As I have said before, the left wing is as brainwashed and ignorant as Bush’s right wing. No one knows anything. Each side knows only its own propaganda. And each side will continue to revel in the ignorance of its propaganda. The left wing is no more willing to be bothered with facts than the Bush administration or the right-wing talk radio brownshirts. Both Left and Right are lost in ignorance.


China-Bashing for Beginners

Leon Hadar as an “antiwar” advocate?

Why are this guy’s pro-China free-trade pandering spread under the Antiwar.com banner?

He’s only pro-business and clearly China’s military occupations and oppression of the Tibetan and Uighur peoples and China’s state-planned exploitation of their natural resources don’t even register on Hadar’s human rights radar.

China is an authoritarian one-party state with a mixture of ultra-nationalistic “domestic” policies with an increasingly fascist economy replacing communism. It is in a state of continuous war: de facto wars involving military occupations to destroy the national identities of occupied nations; and a propagandistic war and massive military buildup aimed at democratic Taiwan.

Hadar offers no criticism of China’s militaristic imperial behavior nor of its awful human rights record; his only war is against impediments to unbridled business with this modern-era Nazi-state.

If the philosophy of Antiwar.com is meant to involve even a modicum of humanism and objecting to the terrorizing of occupied peoples, this site’s authors should realize that Hadar is a pro-globalization business hawk with no other principles than pure capitalism.

~ T. Aikku

Leon Hadar replies:

It’s true, I’m pro-globalization and pro-business in the sense that I believe that the spread of free markets worldwide, including in China, is the most effective way to promote individual political and economic rights as well as peace. My piece didn’t touch upon China’s conduct in Tibet or its human rights behavior, which I abhor. But I also think that the economic isolation of China would only help strengthen the power of the state and slow down the process of political and economic liberalization. I assume that the reader doesn’t advocate “regime change” in Beijing a la Iraq. In any case, my piece focused on the way that defense hawks and economic nationalists, led by the same people that brought us the war in Iraq, are now trying to push for an aggressive militaristic approach towards China, and in that context, advance the notion that China is planning to strangle the American economy through the use of the “oil weapon.” The goal of these China-bashers is to create the conditions for a war between China and the United States. I’m opposed to that, which means that I’m, well, antiwar.


Common Sense About India?

In his essay “Common Sense About India” Alan Block writes: “An open society is inevitably vulnerable, especially to somebody willing to die to kill others.” This seems to imply that police states are less prone to such attacks. Such statements, I am sure contrary to the author’s intentions, give more ammunition to those who would like to curtail our liberties in the name of the war on terror. Many countries where most of the terrorist activities take place can hardly be called open societies. Let me mention a few: Afghanistan, India, Iraq, Israel, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri-Lanka, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe. Need I list more?

The bottom line is that each terrorism case should be treated as a criminal case and dealt with in the same way as we deal with other crimes. Finding a potential terrorist is as hard as finding a potential murderer before he commits the crime, regardless of how open or closed a society is.

~ Manzerm

Alan Bock replies:

The writer certainly has a point. In reading the letter I almost wondered if I had forgotten to include the sentences that followed, but in rereading my piece I saw that they were, indeed, there:

“But an open society, as Great Britain is demonstrating once again, is remarkably resilient, perhaps even strengthened by adversity. Becoming a suspicious surveillance society is not only unnecessary, it could be counterproductive.”

I don’t know if that was enough to neutralize those who yearn to curtail our liberties in the misnamed “war on terror”; indeed, some are so eager to curtail our liberties that the “war” can be viewed as a pretext for a curtailment that they desire for other reasons I am not equipped to analyze without a psychological examination. But it should have been enough to indicate that I don’t share that desire. If I inadvertently provided ammunition for such people, I apologize.

The writer’s examples of closed societies that nonetheless have experienced terrorist acts are well taken. They illustrate what I suggested in shorthand, that taking on aspects of a police state can indeed be counterproductive.


Iraq: What Are We Fighting For?

Hi Justin,

If the translated constitution you posted in this article is suspect to some then the Iraqi Interim Constitution posted on the CPA Web site should leave no doubt that Iraq is an Islamic Republic.

Article 3

(A) This Law is the Supreme Law of the land and shall be binding in all parts of Iraq without exception. No amendment to this Law may be made except by a three-fourths majority of the members of the National Assembly and the unanimous approval of the Presidency Council. Likewise, no amendment may be made that could abridge in any way the rights of the Iraqi people cited in Chapter Two; extend the transitional period beyond the time-frame cited in this Law; delay the holding of elections to a new assembly; reduce the powers of the regions or governorates; or affect Islam, or any other religions or sects and their rites.

(B) Any legal provision that conflicts with this Law is null and void. …

Article 7

A) Islam is the official religion of the State and is to be considered a source of legislation. No law that contradicts the universally agreed tenets of Islam, the principles of democracy, or the rights cited in Chapter Two of this Law may be enacted during the transitional period. This Law respects the Islamic identity of the majority of the Iraqi people and guarantees the full religious rights of all individuals to freedom of religious belief and practice.

(B) Iraq is a country of many nationalities, and the Arab people in Iraq are an inseparable part of the Arab nation.

If Islam is the official state religion and they can’t pass laws that violate Islam, then the rest of this document is meaningless.

~ Gary Davis


General Westmoreland’s Incomplete Obit

I did combat duty while Westmoreland was the big boss in Vietnam. At least he/we reasonably believed we were fighting monolithic communism – set on world domination. Wrong – in retrospect. But no one in 2002/3 should have believed Saddam was any threat to America. He had been castrated and contained well before our invasion. Any examination of the prewar”intelligence” even that presented by Fox News was unpersuasive as to WMD or al-Qaeda connections.

~ RT Carpenter, Lynn Haven, Florida


Balkan Express

Thanks to Nebojsa Malic we are every week informed about the events in ex-Yugoslavia. I am surprised that the world is not interested in that boiling point in Europe. The events in former Yugoslavia are listed in a general section under “Europe.” I believe that there is much more going on there at the moment.

If I wanted to be more precise, I would say that the tragedy of Yugoslavia is on the world’s conscience. Does anybody remember the Krajina Serbs and that nobody has been punished yet and sent to Hague? The most ethnically clean country in Europe today is Croatia, and Serbian province of Kosovo where Serbs live in ghettos. Does anybody care?

~ Rhoda D.

Nebojsa Malic replies:

With everything else going on in the world, I’m not too surprised the Balkans is being ignored. If anything, the Empire wants to use it as “proof of victory,” and move on to other things. It will be up to the people there to live with the consequences, as usual. With the 10th anniversary of Operation Storm, I plan to write something about the plight of “Croatian” Serbs, so watch Balkan Express for updates.


Patrick J. ‘Bulldog’ Fitzgerald, American Insurgent

In an otherwise fine article, Justin inaccurately described the “criminal intent” element of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act. It is a mistake that many lay commentators have made.

Specifically, the legal issue is “specific intent.” Raimondo asserts that under the statute “the outer must know the agent is a covert operative must be motivated by a desire to obstruct or otherwise damage U.S. national security interests.” However, that is plainly not what the statute requires:

Disclosure of information by persons having or having had access to classified information that identifies covert agent whoever, having or having had authorized access to classified information that identifies a covert agent, intentionally discloses any information identifying such covert agent to any individual not authorized to receive classified information, knowing that the information disclosed so identifies such covert agent and that the United States is taking affirmative measures to conceal such covert agent’s intelligence relationship to the United States, shall be fined not more than $50,000 or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both.

The intent requirement of this statute, is no different than that prosecutors routinely encounter in other criminal statutes and routinely satisfy.

The intent required under this provision of the Espionage Act, for instance, is identical. Indeed the statute in the Plame matter appears to have been modeled on this and other similar laws:

18 USCS ยง 793 (05)

Gathering, transmitting, or losing defense information

(d) Whoever, lawfully having possession of, access to, control over, or being entrusted with any document, writing, code book, signal book, sketch…. relating to the national defense, …willfully communicates, delivers, transmits or causes to be communicated, delivered, or transmitted or attempts to communicate… or cause to be communicated… to a person not entitled to receive it… Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both…

Rove’s attorneys know the truth won’t set their client free, but, as Justin so aptly put it, in their client’s world “nonsense is truth.” The argument that the statute placing Rove at peril of prison has some super-double-secret specific intent requirement is nonsense indeed.

~ John McCutchen, Esq.


Judith Miller: Hearsted on Her Own Petard

Justin Raimondo is entitled to a little gloating at the current fate of War Party shill Judith Miller, now in jail for not revealing her sources. I’ve found the antics of “General Judy” every bit as repulsive.

Yet Justin also risks falling into the same mindset as those who endorse the secret-search and library-patron provisions of the “Patriot” Act, on the grounds that the feds have been judicious in never, or rarely, making use of them yet. (Or so those at Justice have testified to Congress, if we can believe them.)

Patrick Fitzgerald may have been relatively restrained in reserving the full weight of his investigative powers, and his favored position before the judge involved, for only the most recalcitrant of reporters. Yet did Fitzgerald use this pressuring and imprisonment of Miller as a last resort? When all other reasonable avenues of inquiry had been exhausted? That condition on such efforts makes all the difference in preventing the suppression of a prosecutor’s enemies. And Justin doesn’t talk about this.

Breaking the presumed shield of reporter confidentiality is no less a potential abuse of government power due to its not being in the Constitution or federal statutes. (Many in Congress are promoting legislation to join 31 states in making such a presumption of a shield into a matter of law.)

A society’s constitution relies on many unwritten mores. Justin should know this, being a student of Hayek and Rothbard. The presumption of confidentiality with lawyers, spouses, religious advisers, and journalists is part of what’s become expected, and relied upon, as a sizable counterweight to the powers of prosecutors and grand juries.

Fitzgerald is being praised for his choices. What if one of his colleagues pressured Justin to reveal a source for an Antiwar.com original article? Would the principals of this Web site have any principled leg to stand on?

When you endorse the application of arbitrary power, even against a scumbag such as Judith Miller, you shouldn’t be surprised to one day see it being turned upon yourself. I would rue that day, and be outraged, if it ever happened to anyone involved with Antiwar.com. Given Justin’s attitude, however, I also would not at all be surprised.

~ Steve Reed, Los Angeles

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