Thursday, July 02, 2009

Chalmers Johnson, Baseless Expenditures

Along with postcards of cowboys riding jackalopes and giant berries on flatcars, there's a brand new entry in the American gigantism sweepstakes: an embassy complex to be built in Islamabad, Pakistan, for -- if you assume the normal cost overruns on such projects -- what's likely to be close to a billion dollars. If that doesn't make the U.S. number one in the imperial hubris footrace for all eternity, what will? The question is: with its projected "large military and intelligence contingent," and its "surge" of diplomats, will that embassy also issue the largest visas on the planet?

Here's the strange thing: The embassy story was broken at the end of May by the superb journalists at McClatchy News (in this case, Warren P. Stroebel and Saeed Shah). As part of what Shah, in the Christian Science Monitor, estimates as a staggering "$2-billion-plus price tag on a revamped diplomatic presence for the United States in Afghanistan and Pakistan," they reported that an appropriation of $736 million for embassy construction had quietly made its way through both houses of Congress without a peep from anyone. This news, however, seemed to plunge off a steep cliff into a deep well of silence. Indicative as the Obama administration's decision to build such an imperial monstrosity may be of a longer-term commitment to a wider war in the Af-Pak (as in Afghanistan-Pakistan) theater of operations, it evidently proved of no interest to anyone here.

The story was not widely picked up or played up significantly. Despite the fact that major news operations have been bolstering their staffs in Pakistan, there has been no further reporting on the appropriation, the plans for the embassy, or what it all might mean. As far as I can tell, nowhere in the United States did a mainstream editorial page decry, challenge, or even discuss the development. Charlie Rose didn't gather experts to consider it, nor did the Newshour with Jim Lehrer seem to think it worth exploring. Letters of outrage at the thought of those desperately needed funds heading Islamabad-wards didn't pour into local newspapers (perhaps because few knew it was happening and those who did saw it as just another humdrum story about making the U.S. safer in a dangerous world). I've seen no obvious congressional attempts to oppose the passage of the money. The general attitude is evidently: Been there, done that (in Iraq, as a matter of fact, in the Bush years).

Maybe in a world where near-trillion-dollar bailouts are the norm, a mere three-quarters of a billion for a fortress of an embassy seems like so much chump change, the sort of news that only Democracy Now! would even consider significant. Fortunately, Chalmers Johnson, author of The Blowback Trilogy, and an expert on U.S. military bases abroad, did notice, understood its significance, and has now put it in his gun sights. (Catch my TomDispatch audio interview with Johnson about our Empire of Bases by clicking here). Tom

How to Deal with America's Empire of Bases

A Modest Proposal for Garrisoned Lands
By Chalmers Johnson

The U.S. Empire of Bases -- at $102 billion a year already the world's costliest military enterprise -- just got a good deal more expensive. As a start, on May 27th, we learned that the State Department will build a new "embassy" in Islamabad, Pakistan, which at $736 million will be the second priciest ever constructed, only $4 million less, if cost overruns don't occur, than the Vatican-City-sized one the Bush administration put up in Baghdad. The State Department was also reportedly planning to buy the five-star Pearl Continental Hotel (complete with pool) in Peshawar, near the border with Afghanistan, to use as a consulate and living quarters for its staff there.

Unfortunately for such plans, on June 9th Pakistani militants rammed a truck filled with explosives into the hotel, killing 18 occupants, wounding at least 55, and collapsing one entire wing of the structure. There has been no news since about whether the State Department is still going ahead with the purchase.

Whatever the costs turn out to be, they will not be included in our already bloated military budget, even though none of these structures is designed to be a true embassy -- a place, that is, where local people come for visas and American officials represent the commercial and diplomatic interests of their country. Instead these so-called embassies will actually be walled compounds, akin to medieval fortresses, where American spies, soldiers, intelligence officials, and diplomats try to keep an eye on hostile populations in a region at war. One can predict with certainty that they will house a large contingent of Marines and include roof-top helicopter pads for quick get-aways.

While it may be comforting for State Department employees working in dangerous places to know that they have some physical protection, it must also be obvious to them, as well as the people in the countries where they serve, that they will now be visibly part of an in-your-face American imperial presence. We shouldn't be surprised when militants attacking the U.S. find one of our base-like embassies, however heavily guarded, an easier target than a large military base.

And what is being done about those military bases anyway -- now close to 800 of them dotted across the globe in other people's countries? Even as Congress and the Obama administration wrangle over the cost of bank bailouts, a new health plan, pollution controls, and other much needed domestic expenditures, no one suggests that closing some of these unpopular, expensive imperial enclaves might be a good way to save some money.

Instead, they are evidently about to become even more expensive. On June 23rd, we learned that Kyrgyzstan, the former Central Asian Soviet Republic which, back in February 2009, announced that it was going to kick the U.S. military out of Manas Air Base (used since 2001 as a staging area for the Afghan War), has been persuaded to let us stay. But here's the catch: In return for doing us that favor, the annual rent Washington pays for use of the base will more than triple from $17.4 million to $60 million, with millions more to go into promised improvements in airport facilities and other financial sweeteners. All this because the Obama administration, having committed itself to a widening war in the region, is convinced it needs this base to store and trans-ship supplies to Afghanistan.

I suspect this development will not go unnoticed in other countries where Americans are also unpopular occupiers. For example, the Ecuadorians have told us to leave Manta Air Base by this November. Of course, they have their pride to consider, not to speak of the fact that they don't like American soldiers mucking about in Colombia and Peru. Nonetheless, they could probably use a spot more money.

And what about the Japanese who, for more than 57 years, have been paying big bucks to host American bases on their soil? Recently, they reached a deal with Washington to move some American Marines from bases on Okinawa to the U.S. territory of Guam. In the process, however, they were forced to shell out not only for the cost of the Marines' removal, but also to build new facilities on Guam for their arrival. Is it possible that they will now take a cue from the government of Kyrgyzstan and just tell the Americans to get out and pay for it themselves? Or might they at least stop funding the same American military personnel who regularly rape Japanese women (at the rate of about two per month) and make life miserable for whoever lives near the 38 U.S. bases on Okinawa. This is certainly what the Okinawans have been hoping and praying for ever since we arrived in 1945.

In fact, I have a suggestion for other countries that are getting a bit weary of the American military presence on their soil: cash in now, before it's too late. Either up the ante or tell the Americans to go home. I encourage this behavior because I'm convinced that the U.S. Empire of Bases will soon enough bankrupt our country, and so -- on the analogy of a financial bubble or a pyramid scheme -- if you're an investor, it's better to get your money out while you still can.

This is, of course, something that has occurred to the Chinese and other financiers of the American national debt. Only they're cashing in quietly and slowly in order not to tank the dollar while they're still holding onto such a bundle of them. Make no mistake, though: whether we're being bled rapidly or slowly, we are bleeding; and hanging onto our military empire and all the bases that go with it will ultimately spell the end of the United States as we know it.

Count on this, future generations of Americans traveling abroad decades from now won't find the landscape dotted with near-billion-dollar "embassies."

Chalmers Johnson is the author of The Blowback Trilogy -- Blowback (2000), The Sorrows of Empire (2004), and Nemesis (2006), all published by Metropolitan Books. Check out a TomDispatch audio interview with Johnson about the U.S. Empire of Bases by clicking here.

Copyright 2009 Chalmers Johnson

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Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Pirates of the Mediterranean Israel Kidnaps Peace Boat Crew

On June 30, the government of Israel committed an act of piracy when the Israeli Navy in international waters illegally boarded the “Spirit of Humanity,” kidnapped its 21-person crew from 11 countries, including former US Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney and Nobel Laureate Mairead MaGuire, and confiscated the cargo of medical supplies, olive trees, reconstruction materials, and children’s toys that were on the way to the Mediterranean coast of Gaza. The “Spirit of Humanity,” along with the kidnapped 21 persons, is being towed to Israel as I write.

Gaza has been described as the “world’s largest concentration camp.” It is home to 1.5 million Palestinians who were driven by force of American-supplied Israeli arms out of their homes, off their farms, and out of their villages so that Israel could steal their land and make the Palestinian land available to Israeli settlers.

What we have been witnessing for 60 years is a replay in modern times, despite the United Nations and laws strictly preventing Israel’s theft of Palestine, of the 17th, 18th, and 19th century theft of American Indian lands by US settlers. An Israeli government spokesman recently rebuked the President of the United States, a country, the Israeli said, who stole all of its land from Indians, for complaining about Israel’s theft of Palestine.

I knew the “Spirit of Humanity” would fall to Israeli piracy the minute I received on June 25 from an official of an Israeli peace organization a “public advisory” that the government of Cyprus had withheld permission for the “Spirit of Humanity” to leave for Gaza. The US State Department had advised that “The Israeli Foreign Ministry informed U.S. officials at the American Embassy in Tel Aviv that Israel still considers Gaza an area of conflict and that any boats attempting to sail to Gaza will not be permitted to reach its destination.” The “Spirit of Humanity” obtained permission to leave Cyprus when all aboard signed a waiver absolving Cyprus of all responsibility for the crew’s safety at the hands of the Israelis.

As President Obama has called for humanitarian aid to be sent to Gaza, and as the International Red Cross has damned the inhumanity of Israel’s blockade of Gaza, the question that immediately comes to mind is why did not the United States send sufficient US Navy escort to see the “Spirit of Humanity” safely through international waters to Gaza? We send ships against Somalian pirates, why not against Israeli ones?

We all know the answer. The US talks a good “human rights” game, but never delivers--especially if the human rights abuser is Israel. After all, Israel owns the US Congress and President Obama. Israel even has an Israeli citizen and former member of the Israeli Defense Forces as the Chief-of-Staff in Obama’s White House. Israel owns millions of American “Christian Zionists” and “rapture evangelicans.” When it comes to Israel, the American government is a puppet state. It does what it is told.

Macho Americans might stand tall, but not when Israel snaps its fingers.

Israel, of course, will get away with a mere act of piracy. After all, Israel has been getting away with its war crimes and violations of international law for 60 years. If the UN tries to do anything, the US will veto it, as the US has done for decades.

What will happen to the kidnapped foreign nationals? Most likely they will be released and sent back to their respective countries. Israel, of course, will keep the stolen “Spirit of Humanity” to foreclose any further attempts by human rights activists to run Israel’s inhumane blockade of Gaza.

On the other hand, Israel might declare its captives to be terrorists on the ground that the Gazans elected in a free election Hamas as their government. Hamas, unlike Israel, is declared to be a terrorist organization by the puppet American State Department in Washington. Thus the human rights activists onboard the “Spirit of Humanity” are aiding and abetting terrorists by delivering goods to them. The US Department of Justice (sic) prosecutes American citizens and charities for sending aid to Palestinians on the grounds that Palestinians, if not everyone a terrorist, are governed by terrorists.

I wouldn’t be surprised if a Nobel Laureate and a former member of the US House of Representatives, along with the rest of the crew, are handed over to the Americans for indefinite detention and for torturing and waterboarding in the American torture facility at Bagram. I am certain that “Homeland Security” and the US Government are desperate to be rid of all of critics, and knocking off a Nobel Laureate and a member of the House sets a precedent for getting rid of the rest of us.

Meanwhile, California, which has become a failed state, has been denied bailout money from Washington. Israel, which has been a failed state for 60 years, can, unlike the American state of California, always count of Washington to deliver the money and the weapons to keep Israel going.

The same week that “our” government in Washington told the Governor of California “not one red cent,” President Barak Obama handed over $2.775 billion to Israel.

Online Journal (June 29) reported that the handover to Israel of the unemployed Americans’ tax dollars took place in a “tiny Capitol room” to which members of the press were denied access. I mean, really, who wants the media writing about US taxpayer dollars for Israel’s nuclear weapons while Americans are being kicked out of their homes. Not that, of course, the “Christian” supporters of Israel would mind.

Unlike every other recipient of US military largesse, Israel is permitted to bypass the Pentagon and to deal directly with US suppliers. Consequently, the Israel Lobby’s influence multiplies, because military suppliers fight for Israel in congressional committees in order to get Israel’s business. This lets Israel turn the screws on Iran. According to Grant F. Smith writing in Online Journal, Republican US Representative Mark Steven from Illinois has received $221,000 in campaign contributions from Israel political action committees (PACs). Therefore, it was a sure thing that he would introduce legislation preventing the Import-Export bank from providing loan guarantees to countries doing business with Iran.

Americans think that they are a superpower, but in fact they are a stupor-power. A puppet state if truth be known.

There is a great deal of evidence (see Jonathan Cook's excellent piece) that Israel is a child abuser. “God’s Chosen People” routinely abuses captured Palestinian children. The Israelis also abuse Palestinian children by shooting them down in the streets.

Don’t take my word for it. The Geneva-based Defense for Children International says, according to Time Magazine, that “the ill-treatment and torture of Palestinian child prisoners appears to be widespread, systematic and institutionalized, suggesting complicity at all levels of the political and military chain of command.”

According to Time Magazine, “Often, children suffer lasting traumas from jail. Says Saleh Nazzal from the Palestinian Ministry of Prisoner Affairs, ‘When soldiers burst into a house and drag away a child, he loses his feeling of being protected by his family. He comes back from prison alienated from his family, his friends. They don’t like going back to school or even leaving the house. They start wetting their beds.’ Says Mona Zaghrout, a YMCA counselor who helps kids returning from prison: ‘They come out of prison thinking and acting like they are men. Their childhood is gone.’ And they often turn to another father figure--the armed militant groups fighting the Israeli occupation.’”

And so it goes. There’s no money for California, or for Americans’ health care, or for the several million Americans who have lost their homes and are homeless, because Israel needs it. Israel need the Americans’ taxpayers money to that it can create even more enemies, and, therefore, need more American money to spend with the American armament industries to oppress more Palestinians and to make more enemies, requiring more American money to protect Israel from its folly and its evil.

And the brainwashed American public goes along year after year.

Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration. He is coauthor of The Tyranny of Good Intentions.He can be reached at:

Paul Craig Roberts is a frequent contributor to Global Research. Global Research Articles by Paul Craig Roberts

Kurt Sonnenfeld : Exclusive interview 9/11 FEMA videographer at Ground Zero goes public

As official videographer for the U.S. government, Kurt Sonnenfeld was detailed to Ground Zero on September 11, 2001, where he spent one month filming 29 tapes: "What I saw at certain moments and in certain places ... is very disturbing!" He never handed them over to the authorities and has been persecuted ever since. Kurt Sonnenfeld lives in exile in Argentina, where he wrote "El Perseguido" (the persecuted). His recently-published book tells the story of his unending nightmare and drives another nail into the coffin of the government’s account of the 9/11 events. Below is an exclusive interview by The Voltaire Network.

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Kurt Sonnenfeld and unidentified search and rescue specialist in subterranean void beneath Ground Zero.


Kurt Sonnenfeld graduated from the University of Colorado (USA) with studies in International Affairs and Economics, as well as in Literature and Philosophy. He worked for the United States government as official videographer and served as Director of Broadcast Operations for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)’s National Emergency Response Team. Additionally, Kurt Sonnenfeld was contracted by several other governmental agencies and programs for classified and “sensitive” operations at military and scientific installations throughout the United States.

On September 11, 2001, the area known as “Ground Zero” was sealed from the public eye. Sonnenfeld, however, was given unrestricted access enabling him to document for the investigation (that never took place) and provide some “sanitized” pool video to virtually every news network in the world. The tapes that reveal some of the anomalies which he discovered at Ground Zero are still in his possession.

Accused of a crime that did not occur in a manifest frame-up scenario, especially in light of ensuing events [1], Kurt Sonnenfeld has been persecuted across continents. After several years of fear, injustice and isolation, he has decided to take a public stand against the Government’s official story and is prepared to submit his material to the close scrutiny of reliable experts.

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Kurt Sonnenfeld


Voltaire Network: Your autobiographical book titled "El Perseguido" (the persecuted) was recently published in Argentina where you live in exile since 2003. Tell us who is persecuting you.

Kurt Sonnenfeld: Although it is autobiographical, it is not my life story. Rather it is a history of the extraordinary events that have happened to me and my family at the hands of U.S. authorities over the course of more than seven years, spanning two hemispheres, after my tour of duty at Ground Zero and becoming an inconvenient witness.

Voltaire Network: You explained that your request for refugee status within the terms of the Geneva 1951 Convention is still being considered by the Argentinean Senate, while in 2005 you were granted political asylum, albeit, on a provisional basis. That probably makes you the first U.S. citizen in that situation! And no doubt the first U.S. Government official with direct exposure to the events surrounding September 11, 2001 who has “blown the whistle”. Is this what drove you into exile?

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With wife Paula, testifying before Senate

Kurt Sonnenfeld: A refugee is a person who has been forced to leave (or stay away from) his or her country for reasons of persecution. It’s undeniable that many people have been persecuted unfairly as a result of the quasi-fascist laws and policies brought about by the shock of September 11, 2001, and they deserve refugee status. But the fact is, requesting refugee status is a risky and dangerous step to take. America is the world’s only remaining “superpower”, and dissent has been effectively repressed. Any person who requests refugee status on political grounds is by nature making an extreme statement of dissent. And if your request is denied, what do you do? Once you make the request, there can be no going back.

Personally, I wasn’t forced to leave the United States, and I certainly did not “flee”. At the time I was still fairly oblivious to what was actually brewing against me. I hadn’t connected the dots yet; so that when I left in early 2003 I had every intention of returning. I came to Argentina for a short respite; to try to recuperate after all that had happened to me. I travelled here freely, with my own passport, using my own credit cards. But because of an incredible series of events, I have since been forced into exile, and I haven’t been back.

Voltaire Network: What type of events are you referring to?

Kurt Sonnenfeld: I’ve suffered false accusations for “crimes” that demonstrably did not happen, abusive imprisonment and torture as a result of those accusations, as well as outrageous calumnies against my reputation, death threats, kidnap attempts and several other violations of civil and human rights as denounced by numerous international accords. My return to the United States would not only be a continuation of those violations, but would be aggregated by the separation - perhaps permanent - from my wife and three-year old twin daughters, the only thing remaining that I have to live for. And then, after the impossibility of receiving a fair trial for a crime that did not happen, I could be subject to the death penalty.

Voltaire Network: In 2005, the U.S. Government lodged a request to have you extradited, which was turned down by a Federal Judge. Then, in 2007, the Argentinean Supreme Court – in a show of integrity and independence - turned down the U.S. appeal, but your Government persisted. Can you shed some light on the situation ?

Kurt Sonnenfeld: In 2008, the US government appealed again, this time with absolutely no legal foundation, to the Supreme Court, which will surely uphold the two already unassailable rulings made by the Federal Judge.

In one of those rulings, it was also noted that there were too many “sombras”, or shadows, surrounding my case. There were many, many obvious fabrications in the extradition order sent here by US authorities, and, thankfully, we were able prove that. The fact that there were so many fabrications has actually served to support my request for asylum. We were also able to show that we had been subject to a prolonged campaign of harassment and intimidation from US intelligence services. As a result, since my family has been assigned round-the-clock police protection. As one senator has noted about my case: “It is their behavior that belies their true motivations”.

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Sonnenfeld and his family are frequently harassed, followed, and photographed, as shown in this photo.

Voltaire Network: They want you pretty badly for a “crime that did not happen”! How do you account for such doggedness? As a FEMA official, you must have been trusted by your government. At what point did the situation capsize?

Kurt Sonnenfeld: In hindsight, I realize now that the situation had capsized some time before I actually became aware that it had capsized. Initially, the false accusation against me was completely irrational, and I was totally destroyed by it. It is incredibly difficult to have suffered the loss of someone you love to suicide, but to then be accused of it is too much to bear. The case was dismissed based on a mountain of evidence that overwhelmingly absolved me (Nancy, my wife, had left behind a suicide note and a journal of suicidal writings ; she had a family history of suicide ; etc.). The prosecution was 100% sure of my innocence before requesting the dismissal of charge.

But the sustained incarceration even AFTER it was indicated that I was to be freed was what proved to me that something was happening under the surface. I was held in jail for FOUR MONTHS after my lawyers were informed that the case was to be dismissed and was finally released in June 2002. During that time, an amazing series of strange events began to occur. While still being held, I had a telephone conversation with FEMA officials in an effort to resolve the issue, but I realized that I was considered “compromised”. I was told it had been agreed that “the agency had to be protected”, especially in light of the upheaval that was threatening with the implementation of the “Patriot Act” and the expected usurpation that would come with the new Department of Homeland Security. After all the dangers I had risked, all hardship and difficulties I had endured for them for almost 10 years, I felt betrayed. It left a void in my soul.

Because of their abandonment, I told them I didn’t have the tapes, that I gave them to “some bureaucrat” in New York, and that they would have to wait until I was released to retrieve any other documents in my possession. Soon after that conversation, my house was “seized”, the locks were changed, and men were observed by neighbors entering my house, though there is no record in the court of their entry, as would be required. When I was finally released, I discovered that my office had been ransacked, my computer was missing, and that my tape library in my basement had been dug through and several were missing. Men were constantly parked on the street near my house, my security system was “hacked” more than once, outdoor security lights were unscrewed, etc., to the point that I went to stay with some friends at their condo in the mountains, which was then ALSO broken into.

Anyone who looks for the truth recognizes that there has been an amazing series of irregularities in this case and that an appalling injustice is being carried out on me and my loved ones. This intense campaign to return me to American soil is a false pretext for other darker motives.

Voltaire Network: You have suggested that you observed things at Ground Zero that did not tally with the official account. Did you do or say anything to arouse suspicion in this respect?

Kurt Sonnenfeld: In that same telephone call I said that I would “go public”, not only with my suspicions about the events surrounding September 11, 2001, but about several contracts I had worked on in the past.

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Sonnenfeld at Ground Zero, investigating a “void” beneath fallen steel beams.

Voltaire Network: What are your suspicions based on?

Kurt Sonnenfeld: There were many things, in hindsight, that were disturbing at Ground Zero. It was odd to me that I was dispatched to go to New York even before the second plane hit the South Tower, while the media was still reporting only that a “small plane” had collided with the North Tower — far too small of a catastrophe at that point to involve FEMA . FEMA was mobilized within minutes, whereas it took ten days for it to deploy to New Orleans to respond to Hurricane Katrina, even with abundant advance warning! It was odd to me that all cameras were so fiercely prohibited within the secured perimeter of Ground Zero, that the entire area was declared a crime scene and yet the “evidence” within that crime scene was so rapidly removed and destroyed. And then it was very odd to me when I learned that FEMA and several other federal agencies had already moved into position at their command center at Pier 92 on September 10th, one day before the attacks!

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Rubber landing-gear tyres visible in evidence container marked “FBI Plane Parts Only.”

We are asked to believe that all four of the “indestructible” black boxes of the two jets that struck the twin towers were never found because they were completely vaporized, yet I have footage of the rubber wheels of the landing gear nearly undamaged, as well as the seats, parts of the fuselage and a jet turbine that were absolutely not vaporized. This being said, I do find it rather odd that such objects could have survived fairly intact the type of destruction that turned most of the Twin Towers into thin dust. And I definitely harbor some doubts about the authenticity of the “jet” turbine, far too small to have come from one of the Boeings!

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“Boeing” jet turbine at Fresh Kills island landfill.

What happened with Building 7 is incredibly suspicious. I have video that shows how curiously small the rubble pile was, and how the buildings to either side were untouched by Building Seven when it collapsed. It had not been hit by an airplane; it had suffered only minor injuries when the Twin Towers collapsed, and there were only small fires on a couple of floors. There’s no way that building could have imploded the way it did without controlled demolition. Yet the collapse of Building 7 was hardly mentioned by the mainstream media and suspiciously ignored by the 911 Commission.

Voltaire Network: Reportedly, the underground levels of WTC7 contained sensitive and undoubtedly compromising archival material. Did you come across any of it?

Kurt Sonnenfeld: The Secret Service, the Department of Defense, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Internal Revenue Service, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Office of Emergency Management’s “Crisis Center” occupied huge amounts of space there, spanning several floors of the building. Other federal agencies had offices there as well. After September 11, it was discovered that concealed within Building Seven was the largest clandestine domestic station of the Central Intelligence Agency outside of Washington DC, a base of operations from which to spy on diplomats of the United Nations and to conduct counterterrorism and counterintelligence missions.

There was no underground parking level at Seven World Trade Center. And there was no underground vault. Instead, the federal agencies at Building Seven stored their vehicles, documents and evidence in the building of their associates across the street. Beneath the plaza level of US Customs House (Building 6) was a large underground garage, separated off from the rest of the complex’s underground area and guarded under tight security. This was where the various government services parked their bomb-proofed cars and armored limousines, counterfeit taxi cabs and telephone company trucks used for undercover surveillance and covert operations, specialized vans and other vehicles. Also within that secured parking area was access to the sub-level vault of Building 6.

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Approaching the entrance to the sub-level areas of Building 6

When the North Tower fell, the US Customs House (Building 6) was crushed and totally incinerated. Much of the underground levels beneath it were also destroyed. But there were voids. And it was into one of those voids, recently uncovered, that I descended with a special Task Force to investigate. It was there we found the security antechamber to the vault, badly damaged. At the far end of the security office was the wide steel door to the vault, a combination code keypad in the cinderblock wall beside it. But the wall was cracked and partially crumbled, and the door was sprung partially open. So we checked inside with our flashlights. Except for several rows of empty shelves, there was nothing in the vault but dust and debris. It had been emptied. Why was it empty? And when could it have been emptied?

Voltaire Network: Is this what set alarm bells ringing for you?

Kurt Sonnenfeld: Yes, but not immediately. With so much chaos, it was difficult to think. It was only after digesting everything that the “alarm bells” went off.

Building Six was evacuated within twelve minutes after the first airplane struck the North Tower. The streets were immediately clogged with fire trucks, police cars and blocked traffic, and the vault was large enough, 15 meters by 15 meters by my estimate, to necessitate at least a big truck to carry out its contents. And after the towers fell and destroyed most of the parking level, a mission to recover the contents of the vault would have been impossible. The vault had to have been emptied before the attack.

I’ve described all of this extensively in my book, and it’s apparent that things of importance were taken out of harm’s way before the attacks. For example, the CIA didn’t seem too concerned about their losses. After the existence of their clandestine office in Building Seven was discovered, an agency spokesman told the newspapers that a special team had been dispatched to scour the rubble in search of secret documents and intelligence reports, though there were millions, if not billions of pages floating in the streets. Nevertheless, the spokesman was confident. “There shouldn’t be too much paper around,” he said.

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The bizarre hollowed-out vestiges of The US Customs House (Building Six)

And Customs at first claimed that everything was destroyed. That the heat was so intense that everything in the evidence safe had been baked to ash. But some months later, they announced that they had broken up a huge Colombian narco-trafficking and money-laundering ring after miraculously recovering crucial evidence from the safe, including surveillance photos and heat-sensitive cassette tapes of monitored calls. And when they moved in to their new building at 1 Penn Plaza in Manhattan, they proudly hung on the lobby wall their Commissioner’s Citation Plaque and their big round US Customs Service ensign, also miraculously recovered, in pristine condition, from their crushed and cremated former office building at the World Trade Center.

Voltaire Network: You weren’t alone on the Ground Zero assignment. Did the others notice the same anomalies? Do you know whether they have they also been harassed?

Kurt Sonnenfeld: Actually there were a few people on two different excursions that I know about. Some of us even discussed it afterwards. They know who they are and I hope that they will come forward, but I’m sure they have strong apprehensions as to what will happen to them if they do. I will leave it to them to decide, but there is strength in numbers.

Voltaire Network: With the publication of your book, you have become a "whistleblower" – yet another step on which there is no going back! There must be many people with inside knowledge about what really happened or did not happen on that fateful day. Yet, hardly any have stepped up to the plate and certainly no one who was directly involved in an official capacity. This is what makes your case so compelling. Judging from your ordeal, it is not difficult to imagine what is holding such people back.

Kurt Sonnenfeld: Actually, there are several other very smart and credible people blowing whistles, too. And they are being discredited and ignored. Some are being harassed and persecuted, as I am.

People are gripped by fear. Everybody knows that if you question US authority you will have problems in some way or another. At minimum you will be discredited and dehumanized. Most likely you’ll find yourself indicted for something completely unrelated, like tax evasion — or something even worse, as in my case. Look at what happened to Secret Service whistle-blower Abraham Bolden, for example, or to chess master Bobby Fischer after he showed his disdain for the US. There are countless other examples. In the past I asked friends and associates to speak out for me to counter all the lies being planted in the media, and all of them were terrified as to the ramifications to themselves and their families.

Voltaire Network: To what degree would your discoveries at Ground Zero expose the government’s involvement in those events? Are you familiar with the investigations that have been carried out by numerous scientists and qualified professionals which not only corroborate your own findings but, in some instances, far exceed them? Do you regard such people as "conspiracy nuts"?

Kurt Sonnenfeld: At the highest levels in Washington, DC, someone knew what was going to happen. They wanted a war so badly that they at least let it happen and most likely even helped it happen.

Sometimes it seems to me that the “nuts” are those who hold to what they’ve been told with an almost religious fervor despite all of the evidence to the contrary — the ones who won’t even consider that there was a conspiracy. There are so many anomalies to the “official” investigation that you can’t blame it on oversight or incompetence. I am familiar with the scientists and qualified professionals to whom you refer, and their findings are convincing, credible, and presented according to scientific protocol — in stark contrast to the findings of the “official” investigation. In addition, numerous intelligence agents and government officials have now come forward with their very informed opinions that the 911 Commission was a farce at best or a cover-up at worst. My experience at Ground Zero is but one more piece of the puzzle.

Voltaire Network: Those events are nearly 8 years behind us. Do you consider that uncovering the truth about 9/11 continues to be an important objective? Why?

Kurt Sonnenfeld: It is of absolute importance. And it will be equally as important in 10 years, or even 50 years if the truth still has not been exposed. It is an important objective because, at this point in history, many people are too credulous to whatever “authority” tells them and too willing to follow. People in a state of shock seek guidance. People who are afraid are manipulable. And being able to manipulate the masses results in unimaginable benefits to a lot of very rich and very powerful people. War is incredibly expensive, but the money has to go somewhere. War is very profitable for the very few. And somehow their sons always end up in Washington DC, making the decisions and writing the budgets, while the sons of the poor and the poorly-connected always end up on the enemy lines, taking their orders and fighting their battles. The enormous black-budget of the US Department of Defense represents an unlimited money machine for the military-industrial complex, figuring in the multi-trillions of dollars, and it will continue to be so until the masses wake up, recuperate their skepticism and demand accountability. Wars (and false pretexts for war) will not cease until the people realize the true motive of war and stop believing “official” explanations.

Voltaire Network: What is referred to as the 9/11 Truth Movement, has been asking for a new, independent investigation into those events. Do you think that the Obama Administration holds out some hope in this respect?

Kurt Sonnenfeld: I really hope so, but I’m skeptical. Why would the leadership of any established government willingly undertake any action that would result in a serious compromise to their authority? They will prefer to maintain the status quo and leave the things the way they are. The conductor of the train has been changed, but has the train changed its course? I doubt it. The push has to come from the public, not only domestically, but internationally, like your group is doing.

Voltaire Network: A number of human rights and activist groups are supporting your plight, not least Peace Nobel Prize winner Adolfo Pérez Esquivel. How have the Argentinean people in general responded to your situation?

Kurt Sonnenfeld: With an incredible outpouring of support. The military dictatorship is still fresh in the collective memory of most of the people here, along with the knowledge that the dictatorship (along with the other South American dictatorships at the time) was backed by the CIA, directed at the time by George Bush Senior. They remember well the torture centers, the secret prisons, the thousands of people “disappeared” for their opinions, the living in daily fear. They know that the United States today will do the same thing if they consider it beneficial, that they will invade a country to achieve their political and economic interests and then manipulate the media with fabricated “causus belli” to justify their conquests.

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Kurt Sonnenfeld with Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, Nobel Peace Prize 1980

My family and I are honored to have Adolfo Pérez Esquiveland his advisors at Servicio de Paz y Justicia (SERPAJ) among our dearest friends. We have worked together on many causes, including the rights of refugees, the rights of women, for children without families and children with HIV/AIDS. We are also honored to have the support of the Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo; Madres de Plaza de Mayo, Línea Fundadora; Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (CELS); Asamblea Permanente de Derechos Humanos (APDH); Familiares de Detenidos y Desaparecidos por Razones Políticas; Asociación de Mujeres, Migrantes y Refugiados Argentina (AMUMRA); Comisión de Derechos Humanos de la Honorable Cámara de Diputados de la Provincia de Buenos Aires; Secretaría de Derechos Humanos de la Nación; and the Programa Nacional Anti-Impunidad. On an international level, Amicus Curiae have been presented in our favor by REPRIEVE of Great Britain, along with the collaboration of NIZKOR of Spain and Belgium. In addition, my wife, Paula, and I have been received in the Congress by La Comisión de Derechos Humanos y Garantías de la Honorable Cámara de Diputados de La Nación.

Voltaire Network: As we said, deciding to write this book and to go public was a huge step. What pushed you to do it?

Kurt Sonnenfeld: To save my family. And to let the world know that things are not what they seem.

Voltaire Network: Last but not least: what will you do with your tapes?

Kurt Sonnenfeld: I am convinced that my tapes reveal many more anomalies than I am capable of recognizing given my limited qualifications. I will therefore cooperate in any way that I can with serious and reliable experts in a common endeavour to expose the truth.

Voltaire Network: Thank you very much !

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Lies & Illusions: UPDATE on The Iraqi Charade.


This is an update on my previous post " An Iraqi Charade". I may be in a bulimic writing mood, so be it.

This is a detailed update on the Iraqi charade or you may also call it - HOW THE PROPAGANDA DISCOURSE IS CONSTRUCTED.

In that other post I argued the following :

- the puppet government will market 30th of June - day of "withdrawal" of American troops as a victory day for national sovereignty. When there is NO Sovereignty in Iraq.

- I also said the Al-Qaeda/insurgents argument will pop up over and over again

- And I asked the reader to pay notice to the usage of words in this propaganda set up

I now want to illustrate my points in bold red ink and/or in capital letters by cutting and pasting extracts from an article that just appeared and that will confirm the points I tried making.

Title : Baghdad to party as US forces pull out.

Look at the title. Baghdad to PARTY as US forces PULL OUT.

Any lay person reading this will believe - wow fantastic, the Iraqis have regained their country - and they are going to celebrate too.

Iraqis are preparing for a massive party in Baghdad to celebrate the imminent withdrawal of US troops from cities, towns and villages, as the conflict-torn nation takes sole charge of its security.


No mention whatsoever of the troops pulling back to their over 15 American military bases spread over the whole of IRAQ. No mention that US troops will be redeployed around the cities, and that some cities will not see any US pull back of troops. They try giving the impression that there is total withdrawal from every city, village and town..

Now look at the other sentence - takes SOLE charge of its security. With over 150'000 armed americans roaming around, being on call. Yeah right !

Festivities to mark "a day of national sovereignty" will start at 6pm (1500 GMT) in Zawra Park, the biggest in the capital, with singers and poets kicking off proceedings before music groups take to the stage.

MARK A DAY OF NATIONAL SOVEREIGNTY. How can one have national sovereignty when there are over 150'000 american soldiers around and when the Iraqi army cannot even defend its own territory against any external aggression ?

And look at that psychological bit - the word FESTIVITIES/Celebration with poets, singers all gathered in a park. Again the making of an illusion of Joy and Happiness in Iraq, carefully constructed by the Americans and the puppet government to make believe that the Occupation has ended on the 30th of June.

"Baghdad to party" - when not more than 2 days ago, over 350 Iraqis died in a series of blasts blamed on the sectarian parties themselves and on their ministries and their security forces and on Iran exporting its internal conflict to Baghdad.

What an insult to the Iraqis and how cheap their blood has become !

The US pullout, under a bilateral security accord signed last year, will be completed on Tuesday, which has been declared a national holiday.


In the wake of several massive bombings that have killed more than 200 people this month, however, security forces are out in force in the capital and motorcycles, favoured by some bombers, have been banned from the streets.


In a measure of the seriousness of the threat, all police and army leave has been cancelled.

THE SERIOUSNESS OF THE THREAT. So who doesn't want a national sovereignty day in Iraq ?

"Our expectation is that maybe some criminals will try to continue their attacks," said Major General Abdul Karim Khalaf, the interior ministry's operations director and spokesman.


"That is why orders came from the highest level of the prime minister that our forces should be 100 percent on the ground until further notice."

100% on the ground until further notice ? Why don't they declare MARTIAL LAW. THAT SHOULD DO THE TRICK TO CELEBRATE NATIONAL SOVEREIGNTY DAY

Iraqi Premier Nuri al-Maliki warned earlier this month that insurgent groups and militias were likely to step up attacks in the run-up to the June 30 deadline in a bid to undermine confidence in Iraq's own security forces...

insurgents groups and militias - OK. NOW WE KNOW WHO THE REAL CRIMINALS ARE. INSURGENT GROUPS. THAT FAMOUS WORD - INSURGENT GROUPS. Let's see what transpires later in the text...

...Maliki and senior government officials have since insisted that Iraq's 750,000 soldiers and police can defend the nation against attacks attributed to Al-Qaeda-linked insurgents and forces loyal to ousted dictator Saddam Hussein.

OK, now it is clear who the criminals are - AL QAEDA AND SADDAMISTS. (They just happen to be Arab Sunnis , AS PER the U.S admin and Iran's definitions - but that's only a coincidence right ?)

"We assure you of Iraqi forces' readiness for the mission, despite some security violations, and we assure you that we are now more stable and steady," Maliki said after last week's attack in Sadr City...

NO MENTION OF THE MILITIAS REFERRED TO EARLIER ON, BECAUSE SADR CITY IS FULLY MADE OF MILITIAS. But militias are Shiites, hence even though they are mentioned, it stops there. No elaboration on the "criminal" militias. Only the AQ and Saddamists - i.e Arab Sunnis are singled out as the criminals.

This is ONE way of how Sectarianism previously sold " as the oppression of the Shiites under Sunni rule " works -- a lie still bought by the anti -war craps , and by their spokesmen, this what the likes of Cockburn, the Arab leftist shits, the Chomskys disciples ingest daily and this is what they still try to feed you daily...
This is only ONE aspect of how the lie of "liberation" operates...

The recent attacks were part of "a plan that aims to awaken sectarianism, create chaos, abort the political process and prevent Iraqi people from standing on their own feet," he said.


Only a small number of US forces in training and advisory roles will remain in urban areas, with the bulk of American troops in Iraq...quartered elsewhere.

"Will remain in urban areas and the bulk of troops in Iraq quartered elsewhere..."

Which urban areas ? quartered elsewhere ? where exactly`? they are still in Iraq.

Again this is trying to induce the belief that american troops will no longer be physically present in Iraq but only in a very limited number. This is a perfect case of how the term WITHDRAWAL has been used for propaganda purposes - to sell the idea of national sovereignty.

The June 30 withdrawal from cities, towns and villages is the prelude to a complete American pullout by the end of 2011.

Pay attention to the above paragraph because it tries to conferr the belief that the Americans are actually leaving Iraq by the end of 2011, and that they have accomplished the set goals. Which they have partly. The removal of Saddam Hussein's regime and the handing it over to parties loyal to Iran. But what will happen to the tens of American bases and the hugest American embassy in the middle east made of more than 5'000 staff ? I suppose these will not withdraw. So "Liberation" meant 3 things then - 1) regime change so 2) a huge American foot is set in Iraq and 3) its partition and handing it over in parts to Iran.

Although the Iraqi police and army remain fledgling forces, they have in recent months steadily taken control of military bases, checkpoints and patrols that used to be manned by Americans.

Oh I see. So, where will the american troops retreat to ? will they vanish into thin air ? Oh no, they will be" quartered elsewhere"...where elsewhere ? in their military bases in Iraq. So how many military bases are they in reality ? Quite a lot if they can be shared with the 750'000 Iraqi police and army. And how many checkpoints and patrols ? Hundreds presumably...

This is how the "security" illusion has been marketed to the public. It takes thousands of checkpoints, military bases and patrols to guarantee security in Iraq. What does that tell you ? It tells me that someone, somewhere has been resisting hard and long... re-read that last sentence, will you ?

Iraq has also set up a joint operations centre -- the Joint Military Operations Coordination Committee, based at Baghdad airport -- which must give its approval before a US unit can intervene.

This paragraph is referring to the Iraqi dirty brigade I mentioned in one my previous posts. The Americans like to call it "elite guards".
This "dirty brigade" as Iraqis like to call it is under direct control of the Americans and operates from Baghdad airport which used to be the HQ for what was called the "dirty gang" - The dirty gang was made of -- American intelligence, Israeli intelligence, high security contractors, mercenaries, Iraqi-Iranian agents... ask Chalabi, he will tell you who the dirty gang is.

Now it is replaced by the dirty brigade which is under direct American control and which is apart from the police and the Iraqi army. It is a cell of "elite guards". Notice how they used the SAME term of the previous regime's special forces - used to be called " elite republican guards".

It this spin, it is referred to not as the dirty brigade or elite guards but as JOINT MILITARY OPERATIONS COORDINATION COMMITTEE.

The Status of Forces Agreement, which set the June 30 deadline for a US pullback, says US commanders must gain permission from Iraqi authorities to conduct operations, but American troops retain a unilateral right to "legitimate self-defence".

Oh I love this last bit. The SOFA security agreement has to be voted upon through a national referendum before it takes effect. This has not been done. In other words the SOFA agreement has been IMPOSED upon the Iraqi people by the sectarian Iranian government and by the Americans. .
And now look at this twist -" U.S commanders must gain permission from Iraqi authorities to conduct operations."

MUST GAIN PERMISSION - Again marketing the sovereingty ILLUSION

Now look at the second sentence that immediately follows - TO CONDUCT OPERATIONS.



"Legitimate self-defence" against whom ? --- against Al-Qaeda and Saddamists is the official version. The truth is they retain the right to "...self-defence" against attacks from the Legitimate Iraqi Resistance. This is the only legitimate thing in Iraq today. The Iraqi Resistance.


So what happened to their "WITHDRAWAL" ? There is no withdrawal. They are not going anywhere.

Also look for the psychological feed/twist/ message. It is most important.

The Americans will ask for permission from the Iraqi government to conduct operations in legitimate self defense.

My, they are such a humble nice bunch. You are left with the impression that they really have come to liberate Iraq. In their minds, they did. They "liberated" Iraq from "Saddam Hussein and his regime". Something that the DIRTY, DIRTY LEFT - Western and ARAB, tacitly agreed with.

They are really such a kind, generous people. They liberated Iraq (no mention of millions dead and exiled) and now they have handed the country to the "Iraqi government". Over 150'000 of them nice guys will still hang around for a couple of years as advisors, to train and reconstruct...because they really care for the Iraqis so much.

And being such nice guys - they also need to protect themselves in "legitimate self defence" in Iraq. A country they have occupied by bombing it with the size of 5 Hiroshimas and murdering millions and unleashing the most sectarian racist chauvinistic elements be it Kurdish or of Iranian origins or Iraqis with utmost loyalty to Iran.


This really is a VERY,VERY, DIRTY Occupation, one of the DIRTIEST IN HISTORY.Vietnam and others are NOTHING in comparison. And it has not stopped stinking to high heavens, since...


Honduras: What’s Behind the Coup? by Nikolas Kozloff

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Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Which do you prefer, the official version of U.S. foreign policy in Latin America or the more hidden story? If you were reading the New York Times then you probably got the impression that the military coup which just took place in the small Central American nation of Honduras had everything to do with President Manuel Zelaya’s bid to extend presidential term limits. In a superficial explanation of events, correspondent Elisabeth Malkin wrote “The military offered no public explanation for its actions, but the Supreme Court issued a statement saying that the military had acted to defend the law” against Zelaya who had spoken out against the constitution.

In Honduras, presidents are limited to a single four year term but Zelaya had called for a constitutional referendum which, he hoped, would change the law so he could stand for reelection. The move however inflamed critics who claimed that the President had no right to try to change the law. When the military refused to help organize the vote, Zelaya fired a top military commander. Things escalated from there and on Sunday the military removed Zelaya from power. Thus goes the official Times version, which gives the impression that the political conflict in Honduras boils down to a simple disagreement about the limits of presidential power.

When reading the Times and its coup coverage in Latin America, a healthy degree of skepticism is in order. Let’s not forget the case of the 2002 coup in Venezuela which briefly removed President Hugo Chávez from power. At the time, the Times shamelessly parroted the official White House version of events, writing “Venezuelan democracy is no longer threatened by a would-be dictator…[because] the military intervened and handed power to a respected business leader [Pedro Carmona, the “dictator for a day”].” A scant two days later following popular protests, Chávez was back in power and the Times was forced to apologize. “Forcibly unseating a democratically elected leader, no matter how bad he may be, is never something to cheer,” the Times wrote begrudgingly.

Perhaps not wanting to be caught flat footed again, the Times proceeded a bit more cautiously this time round in its coup coverage. In a second article published today, the paper provides a bit more context to the Honduran story, remarking that the U.S. has had longstanding military ties to the Honduran military. The piece however gives the Obama administration the benefit of the doubt, repeating a high up administration’s claim that the White House was not involved in the coup and was genuinely surprised when the military moved to depose the President.

Perhaps Obama is telling the truth and the U.S. wasn’t involved. Or perhaps not --- Chávez has claimed that the hand of U.S. imperialism was at work in Honduras. I don’t endorse either version of events at this point but I do believe the Times has overlooked vital facts which could shed light on the recent political turbulence.

In a long piece which I published yesterday about the coup I went over some of this important history, pointing out for example that Zelaya was a withering critic of official U.S. drug policy, opened up diplomatic channels to the island nation of Cuba, pursued a tight diplomatic alliance with Hugo Chávez of Venezuela and even sent an audacious, strongly worded personal letter to Obama in December of last year in which the Honduran accused the U.S. of pursuing interventionist policies in Latin America and needlessly punishing Cuba through its longstanding economic embargo. Needless to say, the Times chose to gloss over much of these facts. Moreover the paper of record has failed to fully examine the role of Roberto Micheletti, Honduras’ new president.

Who is Roberto Micheletti?

A former Congressman, Micheletti is a long time fixture on the domestic political scene. A member of Zelaya’s own Liberal Party, he studied business administration in the United States and worked as the CEO of Honduras’ own state telecommunications company. Up until two days ago Micheletti was the President of Honduras’ National Congress. All these details aside, what’s most important to know is that Micheletti has been a long time foe of Zelaya’s diplomatic alliance with leftist Hugo Chávez.

At first, it looked like Micheletti would get along fine with Zelaya, a politician who promoted free trade with the United States. But as the so-called “Pink Tide” of left regimes came to power in South and Central America, Zelaya became increasingly more politically independent. What really set the two on a political collision course however was Zelaya’s move to bring Honduras into the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (known by its Spanish acronym ALBA), an alliance of leftist Latin American and Caribbean nations headed by Chávez. The regional trade group including Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua, Bolivia and Dominica seeks to counteract corporately-friendly U.S-backed free trade schemes. Since its founding in 2004, ALBA countries have promoted joint factories and banks, an emergency food fund, and exchanges of cheap Venezuelan oil for food, housing, and educational investment.

Traditionally, Honduras has been known for its right wing politics and its close ties to the U.S. The third poorest country in the hemisphere, Honduras has long been home to powerful U.S. fruit companies. The military has looked out for business interests, liquidating any challenge to the social order by the likes of organized labor for example. Given the pervasive conservatism of Honduran politics, it’s no surprise that when Zelaya moved to cultivate an alliance with Chávez the maneuver outraged the Honduran business sector and galvanized the media against the president.

The Ford Imbroglio

It wasn’t long before diplomatic relations with the U.S. started to fall to pieces. In the middle of July, 2008 Zelaya went to Managua and met with Chávez to celebrate the 29th anniversary of the fall of Nicaragua’s Somoza dictatorship. Shortly afterwards, Chávez confirmed that Honduras would join in the ALBA scheme. In a sharp retort to the insolent Zelaya, outgoing U.S. Ambassador to Honduras Charles Ford said that a large portion of remittances sent by U.S.-based Hondurans back to their home country were the product of illicit drug trafficking. Ford added that he frequently felt intimidated during his three year stint serving in Honduras.

Incensed, Zelaya charged that the U.S. was the “chief cause” of drug smuggling in Latin America and the Caribbean. Ford was being “belligerent,” Zelaya affirmed, simply because Honduras had pursued diplomatic relations with Caracas, Havana and Managua. Just because Honduras received U.S. aid, Zelaya said, did not mean that his country was a “vassal” of its northern benefactor. Moving on from his feudal rhetoric, Zelaya accused the U.S. of promoting coup d’etats, invasions and uprisings across Central America. He added that Ford had suggested that Honduras provide political asylum for the anti-Castro terrorist Luis Posasa Carriles, an offer which Zelaya flatly rejected.

Defending his new found friend Chávez against the Honduran right, Zelaya said he shared the Venezuelan’s antipathy towards superpowers which sought to impose their will on other countries “like when Ambassador Charles Ford asked me through the State Department to give a visa to Luis Posada Carriles.” The Honduran Foreign Minister said that his country had sent a formal letter of protest to the U.S. government, adding that Ford’s remarks were unacceptable.

Needless to say, it wasn’t long before Micheletti joined others in criticizing Zelaya’s moves to join ALBA. The President of the Honduran Congress also called on Zelaya to show more respect towards Ambassador Ford. “I believe we have the obligation to be close with the country to our north because he is our friend and will continue to be so,” Micheletti said. The politician also sought to delay Zelaya’s moves to have Honduras join Chávez’s Petrocaribe program which would provide Venezuelan oil to the Central American nation at subsidized prices, and he also vowed to hold up passage of ALBA in Congress. ALBA, Micheletti declared, would not pass Congress and would wind up as a “dead letter.”

The ALBA Debate

Facing political opposition, Zelaya indignantly declared that he did not legally need to consult Congress to pass the ALBA accord with Chávez. That in turn set up a confrontation with Congress and one legislator even remarked that he was thinking about introducing a motion which would declare Zelaya a usurper and mentally unfit to serve as president. By this point the Honduran private sector was going into hysterics with one powerful association charging that ALBA would constitute “a political and military alliance which would ideologically conspire against free trade, the exercise of individual liberty and societal free choice.”

Insinuating himself further into contentious local politics, Chávez went to Tegucigalpa where he spoke before a crowd of 50,000 unionists, women’s groups, farmers and indigenous peoples. Venezuela, Chávez said, would guarantee cheap oil to Honduras for “at least 100 years.” Infuriating the local elite, Chávez declared that Hondurans who opposed ALBA were “sellouts.” Hardly content to stop there, Chávez lambasted the Honduran press which he labeled pitiyanquis (little Yanqui imitators) and “abject hand-lickers of the Yanquis.” The outburst led Micheletti and members of Congress to denounce Chávez for being “disrespectful” and “vulgar.”

With Honduran society becoming increasingly polarized over Chávez and ALBA, Zelaya moved to mollify his political enemy in Congress. In October, the President of Congress agreed to sign the ALBA agreement and in exchange Zelaya offered his political support to Micheletti who was intent on running for president in 2009. In exchange for joining ALBA, Venezuela offered to buy Honduran bonds worth $100 million with proceeds spent on housing for the poor. Chávez also offered a $30 million credit line for farming, 100 tractors, and 4 million low-energy light bulbs. Cuba would send technicians to help install them, in addition to more doctors and literacy teachers. Relations continued to deteriorate with the U.S. and in December, 2008 Zelaya sent a strongly worded letter to Obama criticizing the conduct of U.S. ambassadors, amongst other issues [see my last article for a fuller discussion of the note].

Micheletti’s Towering Ambition

Ultimately Micheletti came up short in his bid to get his party’s nomination, losing out to ex-Vice President Elvin Ernesto Santos. When Zelaya declared his intention to proceed with the constitutional referendum which would allow him to stand for reelection, Santos opposed the move as illegal. Micheletti however won out in the ensuing power struggle: following Sunday’s coup d’etat Congress declared the veteran politician Honduras’ next President.

In a press conference after being sworn in, Micheletti said that if Zelaya “returns without the support of [the Venezuelan president] Mr. Hugo Chávez, then we will receive him warmly.” Asked whether Honduras would continue to participate in ALBA, Micheletti remarked, “I believe that first we are going to revise what ALBA has produced for Hondurans.”

As a political figure Micheletti is very reminiscent of another coup plotter, Pedro Carmona. In April, 2002 this politically well connected businessman briefly became Venezuela’s “dictator for a day.” With the support of Washington and the New York Times, Carmona held on until Chávez was reinstated with the help of the military and angry protesters in the streets of Caracas. Could history be repeating itself now in Central America? Today, the New York Times presents Washington’s point of view concerning events on the ground in Honduras without delving too deeply into the political context or Micheletti’s possible motivations.

Nikolas Kozloff is the author of Hugo Chávez: Oil, Politics and the Challenge to the U.S. (Palgrave, 2006) and Revolution! South America and the Rise of the New Left (Palgrave, 2008). Check out his Web site at

Honduras: Old Coup Strategy, Different Stage

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Written by Michael Fox
Monday, 29 June 2009

Coup in Honduras. Photo: Miguel Yuste, El Pais.
The Presidential residence is surrounded; the president is kidnapped and flown out of the country. The opposition says the president has resigned and a conservative pro-business leader is appointed de-facto president, immediately shutting down the state television and cracking down on the dissidence. Unconfirmed reports say arrest warrants have been issued for all mayors in support of the defunct government. Thousands take to the streets, but the mainstream television stations report nothing.

No, this is not Venezuela in 2002. Nor is it Haiti, 2004. It’s Honduras, 2009, but roughly the same story is once again being told, on a different stage with different actors. But that difference could mean everything.

Even as of halfway through last week, both the Civic Council of Indigenous and Grassroots Organizations of Honduras (COPINH) and Honduran President Jose Manuel Zelaya Rosales had already denounced the impending coup.

For months, Zelaya had been planning a non-binding consultative referendum to take place this Sunday that would have asked the Honduran people if the issue of a 2010 constitutional assembly should be added to the ballot of this November’s upcoming elections.

Then, last week, a politically motivated Honduran Supreme Court ruled the referendum "illegal." General Romeo Vásquez Velásquez, head of the Armed Forces, refused to distribute the ballot boxes. Last Thursday, June 25th, Zelaya removed the general from his post, and accompanied by members of the country’s grassroots social movements, Zelaya went personally to recover the 15,000 ballot boxes.

But Defense Minister Ángel Edmundo Orellana resigned in solidarity with Vásquez Velásquez and soldiers took to the streets. An emergency session of the Organization of American States (OAS) was called to evaluate the deteriorating situation.

Despite opposition in the National Congress, the Supreme Court, the majority of the major parties, the chamber of commerce, and the Catholic Church, Zelaya was steadfast. Supported by the grassroots movements, the non-binding referendum would go on.

Just a day later, the world has changed.

President Zelaya is now in Nicaragua, after having been "kidnapped", and thrown on a plane to Costa Rica in the early hours of Sunday morning. The head of the National Congress, Roberto Micheletti was sworn in as de facto President of Honduras on Sunday afternoon, declaring, "I did not reach this position because of a coup. I am here because of an absolutely legal transition process."

Like Pedro Carmona—the head of the Venezuelan chamber of commerce, Fedecameras, who took power when Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez was briefly ousted on April 11, 2002—Micheletti received a round of applause as he was sworn in. Like Carmona, outside, the people protested.

But unlike Carmona, the rest of the planet doesn’t buy it. That is the difference. Not one country has recognized the de facto Micheletti government. On Sunday, the U.S. ambassador to Honduras declared, "The only president the United States recognizes is President Manuel Zelaya."

U.S. Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton declared, "The action taken against Honduran President Mel Zelaya violates the precepts of the Inter-American Democratic Charter, and thus should be condemned by all."

The OAS, which held an emergency meeting on Sunday afternoon, issued a resolution condemning the coup and calling for the immediate reinstatement of Zelaya as president. The president of the United Nations General Assembly, Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann, called the Honduran military intervention a "criminal action".

Although the Micheletti government has not been recognized, that hasn’t stopped the international media from acting as though it has. CNN online is airing an interview with the conservative former Venezuelan Ambassador Diego Arria, who blames not the military, but Zelaya for "attempting a coup against the [Honduran] constitution".

The BBC asked their English-speaking readers in Honduras if they thought the Honduran Constitution should be changed. By reading many of the comments, it would also appear as though Zelaya was the criminal: "The events that ocurred today ARE NOT an attack to the Honduran democracy. There is no coup in Honduras. Finally we have peace in our country."

Many in opposition to Sunday’s non-binding referendum feared Zelaya was attempting to alter the constitution in order to eliminate term limits and be re-elected beyond the end of his term early next year. Brazil’s largest media chain, Rede Globo, echoed the fears in an article on Sunday evening.

Nevertheless, Sunday’s non-binding referendum was simply meant to test the waters for the possibility for a referendum for a Venezuela-style Constitutional Assembly. Since the 1999 Constitution, Ecuador and Bolivia have followed, holding Constitutional Assemblies in each of their countries and passing democratically written constitutions with large participation. Zelaya’s re-election was not on Sunday’s ballot.

"Today's proposed referendum was non-binding and merely consultative. Thus no one could argue that allowing it to go forward could cause irreparable harm," said Mark Weisbrot, co-director of the Washington-based Center for Economic and Policy Research on Sunday. "There was no excuse for the Honduran military to intervene, regardless of the constitutional issues at stake."

Meanwhile, in Honduras, thousands have been in the streets protesting.

COPINH wrote in a communiqué, "We tell everyone that the Honduran people are carrying out large demonstrations, actions in their communities, in the municipalities; there are occupations of bridges, and a protest in front of the presidential residence, among others. From the lands of Lempira, Morazán and Visitación Padilla, we call on the Honduran people in general to demonstrate in defense of their rights and of real and direct democracy for the people, to the fascists we say that they will NOT silence us, that this cowardly act will turn back on them, with great force."

Mexico-based reporter, Kristin Bricker, has been reporting for Narco News that according to Radio Es Lo De Menos, the military has set up roadblocks all over the country in an attempt to prevent Zelaya supporters from reaching the capital. The soldiers are also reportedly attempting to shut down public transportation.

Honduran labor leader Ángel Alvarado told TeleSUR that he has called a national strike for Monday in Honduras to protest of the coup. According to Daniel Ortega, President of Nicaragua, the Honduran military has closed the border between the two countries.

Only time will tell what course the next few days will bring, but the around the clock coverage by Telesur, and the immediate international solidarity echoed around the globe may have changed the face of military coup d’etats in Latin America.

Only a few short decades ago, military dictatorships ruled much of the region, and in Central America, those that weren’t, were steeped in brutal civil wars. In less than 24 hours after the Honduran coup, President Zelaya was joined by the countries of the progressive trading block, the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas, (ALBA) in Nicaragua for an emergency presidential summit. The Presidents of Ecuador, Rafael Correa; Venezuela, Hugo Chávez; Bolivia, Evo Morales; Nicaragua, Daniel Ortega and others joined together with Zelaya and demanded the Honduran president be returned to power.

This is the new face of Latin America, and only with this international solidarity, and overwhelming repudiation against the blatant disregard for the rule of law, will these actions be isolated, overturned and hopefully never again repeated.

That is the difference. It is the same story as before. Told with similar actors—some of whom even studied at the School of the Americas in Ft. Benning, Georgia — only this time we live in a different age; under a shifting geo-political backdrop. On the presidential level, the coup has been denounced across the planet, and governments are standing behind Zelaya. On the local level, Honduras’ Radio Es Lo De Menos has called on international activists to march on Honduran embassies across the globe. There is a necessary active roll for all to play. The difference could mean everything.

Like in Venezuela, where the people remember the way they flooded into the streets to demand the return of their President Hugo Chavez just two days after he had been taken from office, "Every April 11th has its April 13th".

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