Category Archives: Panama

In the Eye of the Eagle: From Strict Catholic School to Adventures in Rainforests

A slow, tacking flight: float then flap. Then a pirouette and it has swung on to a different tack, following another seam through the moor as if it is tracking a scent. It is like a disembodied spirit searching for its host…” — description of the strongest of all harriers, the goshawk, by James Macdonald Lockhart in his book, Raptor: A Journey Through Birds

We’re watching a female red-tail hawk rejecting the smaller male’s romantic overtures barely 50 yards overhead.

There it is. Ahh, the male has full extension. So does his girlfriend. I see this every day from here. This courting ritual . . . testing each other’s loyalty. Watching them in a talon lock, spiraling down, now that’s an amazing sight.

I’m with Chris Hatten on his 10 acres overlooking the Siletz estuary along a gravel road. Saying he lives for that typical red-tail hawk behavior would be an understatement. His passion for raptors has taken him to many parts of the globe, and those trips involved exhilaration, danger, risks to his life, and the trials and tribulations of living primitively in tropical zones which Westerners sometimes deridingly call undeveloped countries or third world nations.

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 Wild Harpy eagle being recaptured and treated after being shot in leg, northern Guatemala.

We are traipsing around his property where Chris is ninety percent finished with a two-story 1,400 square foot home, a modern efficient house he’s been building for two years from a kit out of Lynnwood, Washington.

He told me he’ll never do that again – building a full-sized house.

The 42-year-old Hatten got a hold of my name when he found out I write about Oregon coastal people with compellingly interesting lives. He is in the midst of witnessing adjoining land (more than a hundred acres) to his property about to be clear-cut – forested hillside owned by Hancock Timber Resource Group, part of John Hancock Insurance (now owned by a Canadian group, Manulife Financial).

When he first bought the land eight years ago, representatives of Hancock told him that the company had so much timberland it would take years, maybe a decade, to get to this piece of property.

We discuss how Lincoln City and Lincoln County might prevent a clear cut from the side of the hill all the way down to Highway 101. “It’s amazing to witness in this coastal area — that depends on tourism — all this land clear-cut as far as the eye can see.”

The red-tail hawk pair circles above us again, while a Merlin flits about alighting on a big Doug fir.

When he first saw the property — an old homestead which was once a producing dairy farm — Chris said two eagles cawed above where he was standing, which for a bird-man is a positive omen and spiritual sign of good health. He calls his place “The Double-Eagle.”

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Hands on bio blitz Northern Brazil.

Non-Traditional Student Backpacks into Jungles

He’s not living in the house, per se, but rather he has a tent he calls home. “I feel suffocated inside four walls. I want to hear animals, hear the wind, be on the ground.” He’s hoping to rent out the house.

His current kip is set up near a black bear den, where mother bruin and her two cubs share an area he is willing to stay away from. “The mother bear and I have an understanding. We don’t bother each other.”

He’s part Doctor Dolittle, part Jim Fowler (from Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom), and part John Muir. My own intersections with blokes and women around the world like him have put me eye-to-eye with pygmy elephants in Vietnam, great hammerheads off Baja, king cobras in Thailand, schools of barracudas off Honduras, and a pack of 20 javelina chasing me along the Arizona-Mexico border.

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Jaguar rescue northern Belize.

Hatten’s wildlife adventures indeed take it up a few notches.

“When I finished high school, I wanted to follow my dreams.” That was at Saint Mary’s in Salem, a school that was so constricting to Chris he had already been saving up dollars for a one-way ticket out of the country.

He had started working young – aged 8 – picking zucchini and broccoli in fields near where his family of six lived. “You feel invincible when you are young. You’re also more adaptable and more resilient.”

He ended up in Malaysia which then turned into trekking throughout Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, East Timor, and even down south to Darwin, Australia.

Those two years, from age 17 to 19, are enough to fill two thick memoirs. Upon returning to Salem, he applied to the National Park service and bought a one-way ticket to Alaska, working the trails in small groups who lived in tents and cleared trails with 19-Century equipment – saws, shovels, picks, pry bars.

With his cash stake growing, he headed back south, by mountain bike, along the Prudhoe-Dalton Highway. He hit Prince George, Vancouver Island, and stopped in the Olympics.

He then worked summers and attended Chemeketa College in Salem.

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Finding small spot fire Colombia River Gorge, Oregon, working for U.S.F.S.

Homeless-but-inspired at Evergreen State College

He wanted to study temperature rainforests, so he showed up unannounced hoping for an audience with a well-known scientist and faculty member — Dr. Nalini Nadkarni, who is an expert in temperate forests and sap maples. Chris had read the book she co-authored, Forest Canopies.

Before showing up to Evergreen, Chris had developed a sling-shot contraption to propel ropes into forest canopy. He barged into Nadkarni’s office with his invention. She was surprised Chris wasn’t already student, but she quickly made sure he enrolled in the environmental studies program.

Spending his last dollar on tuition, Chris resorted to sleeping in a tent and inside his 1988 Honda Civic while using campus rec department showers. He told me he received free produce on Tuesdays when the farmer’s market would pass out vegetables and fruit after a day’s sales.

Another faculty member, Dr. Steve Herman, motivated Chris to really delve into ornithology. Chris recalls coastal dune ecology trips, from Olympia in motor pool vans, all the way into the southern reaches of Baja. “We looked at every dune system from Baja all the way back north to Florence.”

The ornithologist Herman was also a tango aficionado, and Chris recalled the professor announcing to his students many times, in the middle of dunes in Mexico, it was time for some tango lessons. “He told us there was more to life than just science.”

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Educational Harpy eagle to take into classrooms Panama city, Panama, has one blind eye, could not be released into wild.

Adventures and Misadventures of a Bird Fanatic

My life’s work has been to produce scientists who will seek to protect wildness. But I also just really enjoy teaching people about birds. I’ve been lucky to get to do that for a very long time.

— Steve Herman, Evergreen State College faculty emeritus Steve Herman, 2017

Chris laments the lack of real stretches of wilderness in Oregon, most notably along our coast. These are postage stamp areas, he emphasizes, around Drift Creek, Rock Creek, Cape Perpetua, but “it’s abysmal.”

We have the Cascades in Washington and the Great Bear Rainforest in British Columbia, and lots of wilderness in Alaska. But really, nothing along the Pacific in Oregon.

After camping in the forest around Evergreen College, Chris still had the travel bug bad. On one foray, he went to Thailand, studying the mangrove forests there. He traveled with Thai army anti-poaching teams who went after poachers. He came across poachers’ camps, witnessed firefights and saw a few poachers laid out dead. “The captain gave me a pistol and one bullet. He said the torture would be so bad if I got captured by tiger poachers that I’d beg for a bullet.”

He’s worked on the island of Hawaii with the USGS focusing on a biocomplexity project looking at how mosquitoes are moving higher and higher because of global warming. The consequences are pretty connected to other invasives – pigs introduced to the islands several centuries ago – disturbing the entire natural ecosystem.

Pigs chew down the ferns, and places that have never seen pooled water before are now wet troughs where mosquitoes can now breed.

Those insects carry avian malaria, and alas, endangered honey creepers can’t adjust to the mosquitoes like their cousins elsewhere who have evolved over millennia to just rub off the insects. The honey creeper is being decimated by this minor but monumental change.

Peregrine Fund

Right after matriculating from Evergreen with a bachelor’s of science, Chris ended up in Panama, working throughout Central America rehabilitating, breeding and introducing Harpy Eagles – the biggest forest eagle in the world with a wingspan of six and a half feet – into their native jungle habitat.

These are massive birds. They dwarf our American bald eagle, for sure. My job was to follow them when the fledglings were grown and released.

He acted like an adult Harpy who catches prey and puts it in the trees for the youngster to eat and learn some hunting skills. Frozen rats, GPS backpack transmitter fashioned on the birds, and orienteering throughout Belize and Southern Mexico were his tools.

It sort of blew me away that here I was living the dream of studying birds in a rainforest.

Territorial ranges for these birds spread into Honduras and south to Colombia. Wild Harpies eat sloth, aunt eaters, howler monkeys, even giant Military Macaws.

He ended up in the Petén, Tikal (originally dating back 2000 years), one of Central America’s premier Mayan archeological and tourist sites.

His role was to study the orange-breasted falcon, a tropical raptor which is both endangered and stealth. “We got to live on top of pyramids off limits to anyone else,” he says, since the bird was using the pyramids as nesting and breeding grounds.

He recalled tiring of the tourists down below repeating the fact that one of the Star Wars movies was filmed here – “I got tired of hearing, ‘Wow, is this really where Yavin 4,  A New Hope, was filmed? We’re really here.’”

Imagine respecting this ancient Mayan capital, and studying amazing raptors as the antithesis of goofy tourista comments.

No 9 to 5 Working Stiff

He tells me that his idols are people like Jane Goodall and David Attenborough. While he went to school in a conservative Catholic setting where his peers were mostly farm kids —  and some were already pregnant and married (before graduation), his family was not of the same stripe.

“We were like the people in the movie ‘Little Miss Sunshine,’’’ he says with a laugh. His parents took the brood to the Oregon Coast a lot, and that 1976 yellow VW van’s starter was always going out. “I remember we had my sister and mom blocking the intersections in places like Lincoln City while we pushed the van to get it started.”

He’s got a brother, Steve, an RN in Portland, and another Portland-based brother, Mark, owner of a micro-car shop. His older sister, Amy, is a newspaper journalist in Grand Junction, Colorado – a real lifer, with the written word coursing through her blood. She’s encouraged Chris to write down his story.

Their mother went to UC-Berkley, and has been a public education teacher for over 25 years. Their father (divorced when he was 12) got into real estate but is now living in New Zealand.

That one-way ticket to Singapore that got him into Southeast Asia, ended with him running out of money after a year, but he was able to get to Darwin, Australia, by paying a fishing boat in East Timor to get him down under illegally. He spent time picking Aussie Chardonnay grapes to stake himself in order to see that continent.

He was blown away by the kangaroo migration, a scene that involved a few million ‘roos kicking up great clouds of red dust. He ended up going through Alice Springs to see the sacred Uluru (formally known as Ayers Rock). He met undocumented immigrants from El Salvador and Greece while making money picking oranges.

We talk about some frightening times in our travels, and per usual, the worst incidents involved criminals or bad hombres, not with wildlife. For Chris, his close call with death occurred in Guatemala where he, his female supervisor (a Panamanian) and another raptor specialist were confronted by men on horses, brandishing machetes and leading tracker dogs.

“’We’ll let you live if you give us the woman.’ That’s what they gave us as our option.” The bird team went back into the jungle, the two male researchers buried their female companion with leaves, and then Chris and the other guy took off running all night long.

The banditos chased them through the jungle. He laughed saying they ran virtually blind in places where eyelash vipers (one bite, and three steps and you’re dead), coral snakes and tropical rattlesnakes lived in abundance.

“It’s a very creepy feeling being hunted by men with dogs.” Luckily, the female team member headed out the opposite direction, with a radio. All in a day’s work for environmentalists.

That’s saying, “all in a day’s work,” is ominous since we both talk about how most indigenous and local environmental leaders in so many countries have been murdered by loggers, miners, oil men, ranchers, and coca processors (many times executed by paid-for military soldiers).

Never Return or There Will Be Tears

Two telling quotes from world-renown traveler and writer, Paul Theroux, strike me as apropos for a story about Chris Hatten:

Tourists don’t know where they’ve been, travelers don’t know where they’re going.

You go away for a long time and return a different person – you never come all the way back.

We talk about a crackling campfire being the original TV, and how being out in wilderness with 5 or 10 people for an extended period gets one really connected to working with people and counting on them to be friends and support.

“It’s tough going back to places I’ve been,” he says with great lamentation. In Borneo, a return trip years later discombobulated him. “The rainforest is being plowed over daily. I couldn’t tell where I was walking miles and miles through palm oil plantations. It was as if the jungle had been swallowed up.”

What once was a vibrant, multilayered super rich and diverse place of amazing flora and fauna has been turned into a virtual desert of a monocrop.

This reality is some of the once most abundant and ecologically distinct places on earth are no longer that. “This is the problem with any wildlife reintroduction program. You can breed captive animals like, for instance, the orangutan but there’s nowhere to release them. Everywhere is stripped of jungle, healthy habitat.”

The concept of rewilding any place is becoming more and more theoretical.

We climb the hill where the clear-cut will occur. Chris and I talk about a serious outdoor education center – a place where Lincoln County students could show up for one, two or three days of outdoor learning. We’re serious about reframing the role of schools and what youth need to have in order to be engaged and desirous of learning.

That theoretical school could be right here, with Chris as the lead outdoor/ecological instructor.

All those trees, terrestrial animals, avian creatures, smack dab on an estuary leading to a bay which leads to the Pacific is highly unique – and a perfect place from which to really get hands on learning as the core curriculum.

We imagine young people learning the history, geology, biology, and ecology of where they live. Elders in the woods teaching them how to smoke salmon, how to build a lean-to, how to see outside the frame of consumption/purchasing/screen-time.

Interestingly, while Chris has no desire to have children, he has taught tropical biology/ecology to an international student body at the Richmond Vale Academy on the island of Saint Vincent (part of the Grenadines).

Koreans, Russians, Venezuelans, Peruvians and Vincennes learned organic farming, bio-fuel production, solar power design, how to grow passion and star fruit. There is even a little horse program in the school, founded by two Danes.

Chris said that the local population is taught about medicinal plants, recycling and responsible waste disposal. “Everything used to be wrapped in banana leaves in their grandparents’ time. Now there is all this single-use plastic waste littering the island.

Like the dynamic rainforest that once carpeted the Central Coast – with herds of elk, wolves, grizzlies and myriad other species – much of the world is being bulldozed over, dammed and mined. Wildlife leave, stop breeding, never repopulate fractured areas where human activities are the norm.

But given that, when I asked Chris where he might like to go now, he mentioned Croatia, his mother’s side of the family roots. He may have swum with 60-foot-long whale sharks and kayaked over orcas, but Chris is still jazzed up about raptors – maybe he’d end up on the Croatian island of Cres which is a refuge for the spectacular griffon vulture.

“Nature has a purpose beyond anything an extraction-based society puts its monetary value on trees. We have to show young people there is value to natural ecosystems beyond extracting everything for a profit.”

One-Minute Q and A

Paul Haeder: What is your life philosophy?

Chris Hatten: Make the best use of your time. Time is short.

PH: How do we fix this extractive “resources” system that is so rapacious?

CH: We need to value forests for the many multitude of services they provide, not just quick rotations. Forests are not the same as fields of crops.

PH: Give any young person currently in high school, say, in Lincoln County, advice on what they might get out of life if they took your advice? What’s that advice?

CH: Get off your phone, lift up your head, see the world for yourself as it really is, then make necessary changes to it and yourself.

PH: What’s one of the most interesting things you’ve experienced — what, where, when, why, how?

CH: I have had very poor people offer to give me all they had in several different countries. Strangers have come to my aid with no thought of reward.

PH: In a nutshell, define the Timber Unity movement to say someone new to Oregon.

CH: They are people who mostly work in rural Oregon in resource extraction industries and believe they are forgotten.

PH: If you were to have a tombstone, what would be on it once you kick the bucket?

CH: “Lived.”

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Running in step, at sunset on the beach with horse St. Vincent and Grenadines

Did John Bolton Light the Fuse of the UK-Iranian Tanker Crisis? 

The Panama registered Grace 1 tanker after British Royal Marines from 42 Commando took part in the seizure of an Iranian oil tanker in the Gibraltar Strait. Photograph: Ministry of Defence/RAF/EPA

The notice required the Gibraltar government to detain any such ship for at least 72 hours if it entered “British Gibraltar Territorial Waters.” Significantly, however, the video statement by Gibraltar’s chief minister Fabian Picardo on July 4 explaining the seizure of the Grace 1 made no such claim and avoided any mention of the precise location of the ship when it was seized.

There is a good reason why the chief minister chose not to draw attention to the issue of the ship’s location: it is virtually impossible that the ship was in British Gibraltar territorial waters at any time before being boarded. The UK claims territorial waters of three nautical miles from its coast, whereas the Strait of Gibraltar is 7.5 nautical miles wide at its narrowest point. That would make the limit of UK territory just north of the middle of the Strait.

But international straits must have clearly defined and separated shipping lanes going in different directions. The Grace 1 was in the shipping lane heading east toward the Mediterranean, which is south of the lane for ships heading west toward the Atlantic and thus clearly closer to the coast of Morocco than to the coast of Gibraltar, as can be seen from this live view of typical ship traffic through the strait. So it is quite implausible that the Grace 1 strayed out of its shipping lane into British territorial waters at any time before it was boarded.

But even if the ship had done so, that would not have given the UK  “jurisdiction” over the Grace 1 and allowed it to legally seize the ship. Such a move clearly violates the global treaty governing the issue—the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Articles 37 through 44 of that agreement, ratified by 167 states, including the UK and the European Union, establish a “regime of transit passage” for international straits like the Strait of Gibraltar that guarantees freedom of navigation for merchant ships. The rules of that regime explicitly forbid states bordering the strait from interfering with the transit passage of a merchant ship, with very narrowly defined exceptions.

These articles allow coastal states to adopt regulations relating to safety of navigation, pollution control, prevention of fishing, and “loading or unloading any commodity in contravention of customs, fiscal, immigration  or sanitary laws and regulations” of bordering states—but for no other reason. The British seizure and detention of the Grace 1 was clearly not related to any of these concerns and thus a violation of the treaty.

The evidence indicates, moreover, that the UK’s actions were part of a broader scheme coordinated with the Trump administration to tighten pressure on Iran’s economy by reducing Iran’s ability to export goods.

The statement by Gibraltar’s chief minister said the decision to seize the ship was taken after the receipt of “information” that provided “reasonable grounds” for suspicion that it was carrying oil destined for Syria’s Banyas refinery. That suggested the intelligence had come from a government that neither he nor the British wished to reveal.

BBC defense correspondent Jonathan Beale reported: “[I]t appears the intelligence came from the United States.” Acting Spanish Foreign Minister Joseph Borrell commented on July 4 that the British seizure had followed “a demand from the United States to the UK.” On July 19, Reuters London correspondent Guy Falconbridge reported, “[S]everal diplomatic sources said the United States asked the UK to seize the vessel.”

Detailed evidence of Bolton deep involvement in the British plan to seize the Iranian tanker has surfaced in reporting on the withdrawal of Panamanian flag status for the Grace 1.

Panama was the flag state for many of the Iranian-owned vessels carrying various items exported by Iran. But when the Trump administration reinstated economic sanctions against Iran in October 2018, it included prohibitions on industry services such as insurance and reinsurance. This decision was accompanied by political pressure on Panama to withdraw Panamanian flag status from 59 Iranian vessels, many of which were owned by Iranian state-affiliated companies. Without such flag status, the Iranian-owned vessels could not get insurance for shipments by freighter.

That move was aimed at discouraging ports, canal operators, and private firms from allowing Iranian tankers to use their facilities. The State Department’s Brian Hook, who is in charge of the sanctions, warned those entities last November that the Trump administration believed they would be responsible for the costs of an accident involving a self-insured Iranian tanker.

But the Grace 1 was a special case, because it still had Panamanian flag status when it began its long journey around the Southern tip of Africa on the way to the Mediterranean. That trip began in late May, according to Automatic Identification System data cited by Riviera Maritime Media. It was no coincidence that the Panamanian Maritime Authority delisted the Grace 1 on May 29—just as the ship was beginning its journey. That decision came immediately after Panama’s National Security Council issued an alert claiming that the Iranian-owned tanker “may be participating in terrorism financing in supporting the destabilization activities of some regimes led by terrorist groups.”

The Panamanian body did not cite any evidence that the Grace 1 had ever been linked to terrorism.

The role of Panama’s National Security Council signaled Bolton’s hand, since he would have been the point of contact with that body. The result of his maneuvering was to leave the Grace 1 without the protection of flag status necessary to sail or visit a port in the middle of its journey. This in conjunction with the British seizure of the ship was yet another episode in the extraordinary American effort to deprive Iran of the most basic sovereign right to participate in the global economy.

Now that Iran has detained a British ship in order to force the UK to release the Grace 1, the British Foreign Ministry will claim that its seizure of the Iranian ship was entirely legitimate. The actual facts, however, put that charge under serious suspicion.

  • First published at the American Conservative.
  • What Dead GIs Would Say To the World on Memorial Day About Being Praised As Heroes

    A lot of people in Third World nations previously invaded, currently being invaded, or suffering sanctions and the threat of invasion by Americans, will be watching telecasts via satellite of festive celebrations on Memorial Day in the great United States of America.

    Telecasted news coverage of the Memorial Day holiday in the USA will show video clips of parades and speeches glorifying America’s military and sanctifying war itself, obscuring the mourning of the deceased soldiers by families and friends. Many people watching in countries Americans invaded, will surely be wincing, their gaze turning serious and solemn, as they hear American GIs, who died while dutifully taking part in the killing, maiming and destroying in dozens of smaller countries all around the world, praised as heroes.

    Many people watching the telecast in the countries Americans invaded will have gotten to know these mostly young American men who died invading their country in a deeper and more poignant sense than even their own parents. For example, of the two and a half million uniformed Americans, who were sent to Vietnam, hundreds of thousands mingled with Vietnamese up close in following out criminal orders and experienced a variety of emotions, some feeling guilt, shame and anger about the horrific suffering they were creating within a soft-spoken Buddhist population.  Final body count statistics show fifteen Vietnamese defenders killed for every one American GI killed – imagine how many Americans GIs felt about this sickening ratio which they were perpetrating. This author, during Veterans For Peace meetings, has heard members speak personally of never-forgotten-atrocities they were pained to take part in. I remember one veteran telling of picking up the cap of a Vietcong his unit had killed and finding a picture of what must have been the Vietcong’s wife and child secured in the cap’s lining, and thinking ‘we just created another orphan and widow.’ The citizens of nations bombarded and invaded must sometimes wonder what the dead American soldiers being thanked and praised on Memorial Day by politicians and generals, would say if they could speak out from their graves.

    Your author can well imagine what his four basic training bunk buddies, whose bodies were thrown into a hole somewhere in North Korea, would say about being thanked for dying for their country every Memorial Day. During sixteen weeks of basic training, how very full of life and fun they were, as most 18 or 19 olds are. Likable Ed, Joe, Bob and Bill found themselves in a very poor country – people speaking a language they could not understand – in mortal combat with Koreans in their Korea. They were told they were fighting communism, but they would have realized while dead in that hole that they were sent to die to protect capitalism, colonial capitalism, the opposite of freedom for most of the world. They would have been pissed to know criminal media portrays them as just so stupid to have been suckered into killing fellow human beings and dying young – for who and for what?

    Granted that many who died in military action, remained to the end duped and loyal to the propaganda they had been fed, gung-ho to kill anyone designated as ‘communist’ or ‘terrorist,’ but a much greater multitude of those GIs who lost their lives in combat in someone else’s country, had come to see the truth of an imperialist USA, ruled by its wealthy speculative investors on Wall Street, who use the nation’s armed forces, as Martin Luther King said, “to make atrocity wars and covert violence to protect unjust predatory investments overseas.”1

    Let’s suppose these hundreds of thousands of savvy dead Americans chose someone well spoken from their midst to be a spokesperson for all of them – the dead GIs who died fighting citizens of some country far from America – dead GIs who finally lost faith in their countrymen, their ministers, priests and rabbis, their universities.

    Further suppose that having lost faith in their own countrymen, who had sent them to a ignominious death, these angry dead Americans had their spokesperson speak to the whole world, and especially to that great majority of humanity living in the Third World in nations once attacked or being attacked by Americans in uniform today, figuring that only the people in the nations attacked are capable of uniting and using their huge numerical superiority to halt America’s blood lust. Here below, in this author’s imagination, is what this intelligent phantom spokesperson for the dead GIs might best say:

    (What Dead GIs Would Say To the World on Memorial Day About Being Praised For Their ‘Heroic Sacrifice’ – if They Could)

    On Memorial Day, while our family and friends mourn our permanent absence, conglomerate-owned criminal media, having used our patriotism to have us fight unjust wars based on fake news and lies, now hypes our humiliating death as beautiful military service. All this unctuous praise is heard from commentators whose TV channels deceived us into participating in senseless massacres of millions of innocent human beings right inside their own beloved countries.

    We expect those who mourn us as fallen comrades, must do so in bitter heartbreak and anger. For more than a half century, all of us veterans, both living and dead, were tricked into criminal disservice, in many cases genocidal disservice, to our country and humanity. While only some relatively few of us paid with our lives for our ignorance and naive belief in our country’s honorability, tens of thousands of living veterans are physical or mental cripples.

    Confronted with constant indoctrination to love of war by fear promoting corporate mass disinformation media, veterans, who have survived, must remember that we who have paid the highly profiled ‘ultimate sacrifice’ [read threw away our lives for worst than nil] were sent to our death by capitalists to make money on the deaths of those we were killing. Our own vastly smaller number of deaths are praised as heroic, but the death of millions we were sent to attack are carefully never mentioned.

    Whether we gave our lives in that ‘good war’ against the fascism that American industrialists and bankers seeking huge profits helped build up by rearming Germany, or died during the invasion and occupation of Iraq, which presidential candidate Obama fluffed off as “a dumb war,” our politicians pat our families on the back with the same ‘compassionate’ thank you.

    For whether we died fighting the powerful land, sea and air forces that had attacked and declared war on our country, or died after being lied to and deceived into committing war crimes in near defenseless small nations, it makes no difference to Wall Street. The Street makes money either way – from the death and destruction of a ‘good’ and officially declared war, or atrocious crimes against humanity and crimes against peace.

    Whether we lose a war, after murdering millions of Vietnamese, Laotians and Cambodians, or stalemate, after bringing death to  three million Koreans, our deaths are considered to have contributed to saving all those millions from having to live under communist governments.  We note that our government today, ironically enjoys lucrative trade, and has the warm relations, with the communist governments of China and Vietnam.  Today, no one repeats the slogan ‘better dead (like us), than red!‘

    Whether some hundreds of us died killing Afghanis in Afghanistan to be better able to chase the Saudi Arabian, Osama bin Laden for years, or merely a dozen of us fell during the manslaughter of a thousand Panamanians, who stood in the way of America’s successful capture of their former CIA enrolled drug dealing President, we receive the same gratitude from the industrial-military-complex during commercial TV programing

    Whether we were two dozen, dying during our invasion of the Dominican Republic to prevent the restoration of democracy and their elected but overthrown President, or three hundred blown away in our sleep by a suicide truck bomber in Lebanon, we all died in government issued clothes and were worthy of a thank you from the Presidential advisors whose plans our commanding generals were carrying out (for the profits of Wall Street scions).

    Whether we fell serving atrocities happening before our very eyes or were victims of errant friendly fire, we receive the same level of appreciation from politicians and media. They hold us up as exemplary, to entice ever new bamboozled young men and women recruits to aspire to similar glorification.

    We, the guilt ridden American military dead, appeal to the good people in all the nations invaded by Americans and Europeans to effect the same level of solidarity that the racist neocolonial speculative investment banker driven imperialists of the countries of mostly Caucasian population display2, and bring their five centuries of genocidal plunder to an end earlier than otherwise.

    Confronted with constant indoctrination to love war by fear promoting corporate mass disinformation media, veterans, who have survived, must remember that we who have paid the highly profiled ‘ultimate sacrifice’ [read threw away our lives for worst than nil], are watching from our graves as criminal media portrays us as just so God damned willing to have forgone forty or fifty years of mornings, love, friendship, sunsets, and the sheer exhilaration of being alive, to have been shot like pig in a poke or shredded by some stupid land mine, as some mentally challenged moral failures as human beings chart the value of their dividends and derivatives watching the stock market figures while their hired CIA criminals keep their beholden politicians and media personalities in line.

    And just one more thing. Let the Third World understand that that dippy ‘why me worry,’ Mr. and Mrs. average American overwhelmed with their personal enjoyments, it is they who are responsible for the murderous crimes of their US government. They, yes, the American-entertainment/news-advertising-TV-mesmerized public, glued to the flashing screens of idiot boxes, and suckered by charming commentators reading them the fake news from the prompter above their TV camera, unseen on the screen being watched.  They are responsible for all the deaths of the millions we were ordered to kill. Some day they will hear that Martin Luther King held all of them, that is, all Americans and himself responsible, not reelected government officials.3 The US  President is just one public servant, don’t let Americans shrug their responsibility off on him foolishly, for his being so highly profiled in the criminally collaborating fake news networks.

    On Memorial Days no one should focus obsequiously on us. We paid both the price of our ignorance and our parents and teachers indifference to their citizen responsibilities.  Though they saw a good deal of the death and dying on TV they had no or too little compassion to act. Quite apart from the loving attention of dear families and acquaintances, we voiceless dead veterans despise your media anchors feigned pious interest in ‘honoring’ our cadavers.

    Let a Third World in solidarity get Americans to join the human race and mourn the people we were sent to kill but fell in love with before dying ourselves. Everyone who died, died because of American indifference. Those millions of innocent beautiful people that we killed in their own beloved country, be it Korea, Vietnam, Laos, Congo, Guatemala, Cambodia, Dominican Republic, Lebanon, Panama, Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Yemen, Libya, and Syria, their dead children now belong to America more than to their parents. Americans violently took these children from their parents and sunshine and games, saw to these children never growing up to be men and women (oh, collaterally, of course).

    Former US Attorney General Ramsey Clark in his book The Fire This Time: US War Crimes in the Gulf wrote, and has since kept repeating, “the greatest crime since World War II has been US foreign policy.” America’s most famous defector from the war establishment would, of course, would be gratified to hear this spoken of by activists who present themselves as anti-imperialists and protest their government’s deadly use of America’s Armed Forces on innocent populations overseas, but do not tell the whole truth; namely, that the atrocities they protest are in reality prosecutable crimes against humanity and crimes against peace under the Nuremberg Principles of International Law, which former US Attorney General Ramsey Clark reminds us, are part of the law of the land by Article Six of the United States Constitution.

    This is why the spokesperson for the GIs, who died in warfare on innocent populations directed an appeal to Majority Humanity in the ever targeted for plunder Third World and not to intellectuals and professors of the still plundering First World. It is the beautiful ordinary people of the Third World, less neutered by commercialized modernity, who will eventually throw forth leaders, who will not continue the mesmerizing diplomatic gentlemen’s agreement not to ever mention the law in regard to the First World’s free handed destruction of country after country of the former outrightly colonial Third World.

    Crimes are meant to be prosecuted, and criminals made to pay for what they have done! Otherwise, how on earth will the US-led Western speculative investors in profitable genocidal crimes against humanity ever stop investing in the massive murder of millions of children in their own beloved countries, often as not in their own homes in Korea, Vietnam, Laos, Congo, Guatemala, Cambodia, Dominican Republic, Lebanon, Panama, Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Yemen, Libya, and Syria, just to name some of the nations in which lives have been taken to a total of tens of millions in order to maintain, as Martin Luther King cried out, “unjust predatory investments.”3

    1. Martin Luther King’s New York Sermon that shook the world, “Beyond Vietnam – a Time to Break Silence“.
    2. Every single nation of majority Caucasian population, even tiny Lichtenstein, Andorra and Monaco, is a member nation of the coalition that murderously occupies Afghanistan.
    3. Ibid.

    Shakespeare said it best

    Much ado about nothing.

    That’s the “Russian interference” in the 2016 American election.

    A group of Russians operating from a building in St. Petersburg, we are told in a February 16 US government indictment, sent out tweets, Facebook and YouTube postings, etc. to gain support for Trump and hurt Clinton even though most of these messages did not even mention Trump or Clinton; and many were sent out before Trump was even a candidate.

    The Russian-interference indictment is predicated, apparently, on the idea that the United States is a backward, Third-World, Banana Republic, easily manipulated.

    If the Democrats think it’s so easy and so effective to sway voters in the United States why didn’t the party do better?

    At times the indictment tells us that the online advertising campaign, led by the shadowy Internet Research Agency of Russia, was meant to divide the American people, not influence the 2016 election. The Russians supposedly wished to cause “divisiveness” in the American people, particularly around controversial issues such as immigration, politics, energy policy, climate change, and race. “The indictment alleges that the Russian conspirators want to promote discord in the United States and undermine public confidence in democracy,” said Rod J. Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general overseeing the inquiry. “We must not allow them to succeed.”1

    Imagine that – the American people, whom we all know are living in blissful harmony and fraternity without any noticeable anger or hatred, would become divided! Damn those Russkis!

    After the election of Trump as president in November 2016, the defendants “used false U.S. personas to organize and coordinate U.S. political rallies in support of then president-elect Trump, while simultaneously using other false U.S. personas to organize and coordinate U.S. political rallies protesting the results of the 2016 U.S. presidential election.”

    The indictment also states that defendants in New York organized a demonstration designed to “show your support for President-Elect Donald Trump” held on or about November 12, 2016. At the same time, defendants and their co-conspirators, organized another rally in New York called “Trump is NOT my President”.

    Much of the indictment and the news reports of the past year are replete with such contradictions, lending credence to the suggestion that what actually lay behind the events was a “click-bait” scheme wherein certain individuals earned money based on the number of times a particular website is accessed. The mastermind behind this scheme is reported to be a Russian named Yevgeny Prigozhin of the above-named Internet Research Agency, which is named in the indictment.2

    The Russian operation began four years ago, well before Trump entered the presidential race, a fact that he quickly seized on in his defense. “Russia started their anti-US campaign in 2014, long before I announced that I would run for President,” he wrote on Twitter. “The results of the election were not impacted. The Trump campaign did nothing wrong – no collusion!”

    Point 95 of the Indictment summarizes the “click-bait” scheme as follows:

    Defendants and their co-conspirators also used the accounts to receive money from real U.S. persons in exchange for posting promotions and advertisements on the ORGANIZATION-controlled social media pages. Defendants and their co-conspirators typically charged certain U.S. merchants and U.S. social media sites between 25 and 50 U.S. dollars per post for promotional content on their popular false U.S. persona accounts, including Being Patriotic, Defend the 2nd, and Blacktivist.

    Although there’s no doubt that the Kremlin favored Trump over Clinton, the whole “Russian influence” storm may be based on a misunderstanding of commercial activities of a Russian marketing company in US social networks.

    Here’s some Real interference in election campaigns

    [Slightly abridged version of chapter 18 in William Blum’s Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower; see it for notes]

    Philippines, 1950s:

    Flagrant manipulation by the CIA of the nation’s political life, featuring stage-managed elections with extensive disinformation campaigns, heavy financing of candidates, writing their speeches, drugging the drinks of one of the opponents of the CIA-supported candidate so he would appear incoherent; plotting the assassination of another candidate. The oblivious New York Times declared that “It is not without reason that the Philippines has been called “democracy’s showcase in Asia”.

    Italy, 1948-1970s:

    Multifarious campaigns to repeatedly sabotage the electoral chances of the Communist Party and ensure the election of the Christian Democrats, long-favored by Washington.

    Lebanon, 1950s:

    The CIA provided funds to support the campaigns of President Camille Chamoun and selected parliamentary candidates; other funds were targeted against candidates who had shown less than total enchantment with US interference in Lebanese politics.

    Indonesia, 1955:

    A million dollars were dispensed by the CIA to a centrist coalition’s electoral campaign in a bid to cut into the support for President Sukarno’s party and the Indonesian Communist Party.

    Vietnam, 1955:

    The US was instrumental in South Vietnam canceling the elections scheduled to unify North and South because of the certainty that the North Vietnamese communist leader, Ho Chi Minh, would easily win.

    British Guiana/Guyana, 1953-64:

    For 11 years, two of the oldest democracies in the world, Great Britain and the United States, went to great lengths to prevent Cheddi Jagan – three times the democratically elected leader – from occupying his office. Using a wide variety of tactics – from general strikes and disinformation to terrorism and British legalisms – the US and Britain forced Jagan out of office twice during this period.

    Japan, 1958-1970s:

    The CIA emptied the US treasury of millions to finance the conservative Liberal Democratic Party in parliamentary elections, “on a seat-by-seat basis”, while doing what it could to weaken and undermine its opposition, the Japanese Socialist Party. The 1961-63 edition of the State Department’s annual Foreign Relations of the United States, published in 1996, includes an unprecedented disclaimer that, because of material left out, a committee of distinguished historians thinks “this published compilation does not constitute a ‘thorough, accurate, and reliable documentary record of major United States foreign policy decisions’” as required by law. The deleted material involved US actions from 1958-1960 in Japan, according to the State Department’s historian.

    Nepal, 1959:

    By the CIA’s own admission, it carried out an unspecified “covert action” on behalf of B.P. Koirala to help his Nepali Congress Party win the national parliamentary election. It was Nepal’s first national election ever, and the CIA was there to initiate them into the wonderful workings of democracy.

    Laos, 1960:

    CIA agents stuffed ballot boxes to help a hand-picked strongman, Phoumi Nosavan, set up a pro-American government.

    Brazil, 1962:

    The CIA and the Agency for International Development expended millions of dollars in federal and state elections in support of candidates opposed to leftist President João Goulart, who won anyway.

    Dominican Republic, 1962:

    In October 1962, two months before election day, US Ambassador John Bartlow Martin got together with the candidates of the two major parties and handed them a written notice, in Spanish and English, which he had prepared. It read in part: “The loser in the forthcoming election will, as soon as the election result is known, publicly congratulate the winner, publicly recognize him as the President of all the Dominican people, and publicly call upon his own supporters to so recognize him. … Before taking office, the winner will offer Cabinet seats to members of the loser’s party. (They may decline).”

    As matters turned out, the winner, Juan Bosch, was ousted in a military coup seven months later, a slap in the face of democracy which neither Martin nor any other American official did anything about.

    Guatemala, 1963:

    The US overthrew the regime of General Miguel Ydigoras because he was planning to step down in 1964, leaving the door open to an election; an election that Washington feared would be won by the former president, liberal reformer and critic of US foreign policy, Juan José Arévalo. Ydigoras’s replacement made no mention of elections.

    Bolivia, 1966:

    The CIA bestowed $600,000 upon President René Barrientos and lesser sums to several right-wing parties in a successful effort to influence the outcome of national elections. Gulf Oil contributed two hundred thousand more to Barrientos.

    Chile, 1964-70:

    Major US interventions into national elections in 1964 and 1970, and congressional elections in the intervening years. Socialist Salvador Allende fell victim in 1964, but won in 1970 despite a multimillion-dollar CIA operation against him. The Agency then orchestrated his downfall in a 1973 military coup.

    Portugal, 1974-5:

    In the years following the coup in 1974 by military officers who talked like socialists, the CIA revved up its propaganda machine while funneling many millions of dollars to support “moderate” candidates, in particular Mario Soares and his (so-called) Socialist Party. At the same time, the Agency enlisted social-democratic parties of Western Europe to provide further funds and support to Soares. It worked. The Socialist Party became the dominant power.

    Australia, 1974-75:

    Despite providing considerable support for the opposition, the United States failed to defeat the Labor Party, which was strongly against the US war in Vietnam and CIA meddling in Australia. The CIA then used “legal” methods to unseat the man who won the election, Edward Gough Whitlam.

    Jamaica, 1976:

    A CIA campaign to defeat social democrat Michael Manley’s bid for reelection, featuring disinformation, arms shipments, labor unrest, economic destabilization, financial support for the opposition, and attempts upon Manley’s life. Despite it all, he was victorious.

    Panama, 1984, 1989:

    In 1984, the CIA helped finance a highly questionable presidential electoral victory for one of Manuel Noriega’s men. The opposition cried “fraud”, but the new president was welcomed at the White House. By 1989, Noriega was no longer a Washington favorite, so the CIA provided more than $10 million dollars to his electoral opponents.

    Nicaragua, 1984, 1990:

    In 1984, the United States, trying to discredit the legitimacy of the Sandinista government’s scheduled election, covertly persuaded the leading opposition coalition to not take part. A few days before election day, some other rightist parties on the ballot revealed that US diplomats had been pressing them to drop out of the race as well. The CIA also tried to split the Sandinista leadership by placing phoney full-page ads in neighboring countries. But the Sandinistas won handily in a very fair election monitored by hundreds of international observers.

    Six years later, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), Washington’s specially created stand-in for the CIA, poured in millions of dollars to defeat Daniel Ortega and the Sandinistas in the February elections. NED helped organize the Nicaraguan opposition, UNO, building up the parties and organizations that formed and supported this coalition.

    Perhaps most telling of all, the Nicaraguan people were made painfully aware that a victory by the Sandinistas would mean a continuation of the relentlessly devastating war being waged against them by Washington through their proxy army, the Contras.

    Haiti, 1987-1988:

    After the Duvalier dictatorship came to an end in 1986, the country prepared for its first free elections ever. However, Haiti’s main trade union leader declared that Washington was working to undermine the left. US aid organizations, he said, were encouraging people in the countryside to identify and reject the entire left as “communist”. Meanwhile, the CIA was involved in a range of support for selected candidates until the US Senate Intelligence Committee ordered the Agency to cease its covert electoral action.

    Bulgaria, 1990-1991 and Albania, 1991-1992:

    With no regard for the fragility of these nascent democracies, the US interfered broadly in their elections and orchestrated the ousting of their elected socialist governments.

    Russia, 1996:

    For four months (March-June), a group of veteran American political consultants worked secretly in Moscow in support of Boris Yeltsin’s presidential campaign. Boris Yeltsin was being counted on to run with the globalized-free market ball and it was imperative that he cross the goal line. The Americans emphasized sophisticated methods of message development, polling, focus groups, crowd staging, direct-mailing, etc., and advised against public debates with the Communists. Most of all they encouraged the Yeltsin campaign to “go negative” against the Communists, painting frightening pictures of what the Communists would do if they took power, including much civic upheaval and violence, and, of course, a return to the worst of Stalinism. Before the Americans came on board, Yeltsin was favored by only six percent of the electorate. In the first round of voting, he edged the Communists 35 percent to 32, and was victorious in the second round 54 to 40 percent.

    Mongolia, 1996:

    The National Endowment for Democracy worked for several years with the opposition to the governing Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party (MPRR, the former Communists) who had won the 1992 election to achieve a very surprising electoral victory. In the six-year period leading up to the 1996 elections, NED spent close to a million dollars in a country with a population of some 2.5 million, the most significant result of which was to unite the opposition into a new coalition, the National Democratic Union. Borrowing from Newt Gingrich’s Contract With America, the NED drafted a “Contract With the Mongolian Voter”, which called for private property rights, a free press and the encouragement of foreign investment. The MPRR had already instituted Western-style economic reforms, which had led to widespread poverty and wiped out much of the communist social safety net. But the new government promised to accelerate the reforms, including the privatization of housing. By 1998 it was reported that the US National Security Agency had set up electronic listening posts in Outer Mongolia to intercept Chinese army communications, and the Mongolian intelligence service was using nomads to gather intelligence in China itself.

    Bosnia, 1998:

    Effectively an American protectorate, with Carlos Westendorp – the Spanish diplomat appointed to enforce Washington’s offspring: the 1995 Dayton peace accords – as the colonial Governor-General. Before the September elections for a host of offices, Westendorp removed 14 Croatian candidates from the ballot because of alleged biased coverage aired in Bosnia by neighboring Croatia’s state television and politicking by ethnic Croat army soldiers. After the election, Westendorp fired the elected president of the Bosnian Serb Republic, accusing him of creating instability. In this scenario those who appeared to support what the US and other Western powers wished were called “moderates”, and allowed to run for and remain in office. Those who had other thoughts were labeled “hard-liners”, and ran the risk of a different fate. When Westendorp was chosen to assume this position of “high representative” in Bosnia in May 1997, The Guardian of London wrote that “The US secretary of state, Madeleine Albright, praised the choice. But some critics already fear that Mr. Westendorp will prove too lightweight and end up as a cipher in American hands.”

    Nicaragua, 2001

    Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega was once again a marked man. US State Department officials tried their best to publicly associate him with terrorism, including just after September 11 had taken place, and to shamelessly accuse Sandinista leaders of all manner of violations of human rights, civil rights, and democracy. The US ambassador literally campaigned for Ortega’s opponent, Enrique Bolaños. A senior analyst in Nicaragua for Gallup, the international pollsters, was moved to declare: “Never in my whole life have I seen a sitting ambassador get publicly involved in a sovereign country’s electoral process, nor have I ever heard of it.”

    At the close of the campaign, Bolaños announced: “If Ortega comes to power, that would provoke a closing of aid and investment, difficulties with exports, visas and family remittances. I’m not just saying this. The United States says this, too. We cannot close our eyes and risk our well-being and work. Say yes to Nicaragua, say no to terrorism.”

    In the end, the Sandinistas lost the election by about ten percentage points after steadily leading in the polls during much of the campaign.

    Bolivia, 2002

    The American bête noire here was Evo Morales, Amerindian, former member of Congress, socialist, running on an anti-neoliberal, anti-big business, and anti-coca eradication campaign. The US Ambassador declared: “The Bolivian electorate must consider the consequences of choosing leaders somehow connected with drug trafficking and terrorism.” Following September 11, painting Officially Designated Enemies with the terrorist brush was de rigueur US foreign policy rhetoric.

    The US Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs warned that American aid to the country would be in danger if Mr. Morales was chosen. Then the ambassador and other US officials met with key figures from Bolivia’s main political parties in an effort to shore up support for Morales’s opponent, Sanchez de Lozada. Morales lost the vote.

    Slovakia, 2002

    To defeat Vladimir Meciar, former prime minister, a man who did not share Washington’s weltanschauung about globalization, the US ambassador explicitly warned the Slovakian people that electing him would hurt their chances of entry into the European Union and NATO. The US ambassador to NATO then arrived and issued his own warning. The National Endowment for Democracy was also on hand to influence the election. Meciar lost.

    El Salvador, 2004

    Washington’s target in this election was Schafik Handal, candidate of the FMLN, the leftist former guerrilla group. He said he would withdraw El Salvador’s 380 troops from Iraq as well as reviewing other pro-US policies; he would also take another look at the privatizations of Salvadoran industries, and would reinstate diplomatic relations with Cuba. His opponent was Tony Saca of the incumbent Arena Party, a pro-US, pro-free market organization of the extreme right, which in the bloody civil war days had featured death squads and the infamous assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero.

    During a February visit to the country, the US Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, met with all the presidential candidates except Handal. He warned of possible repercussions in US-Salvadoran relations if Handal were elected. Three Republican congressmen threatened to block the renewal of annual work visas for some 300,000 Salvadorans in the United States if El Salvador opted for the FMLN. And Congressman Thomas Tancredo of Colorado stated that if the FMLN won, “it could mean a radical change” in US policy on remittances to El Salvador.

    Washington’s attitude was exploited by Arena and the generally conservative Salvadoran press, who mounted a scare campaign, and it became widely believed that a Handal victory could result in mass deportations of Salvadorans from the United States and a drop in remittances. Arena won the election with about 57 percent of the vote to some 36 percent for the FMLN.

    After the election, the US ambassador declared that Washington’s policies concerning immigration and remittances had nothing to do with any election in El Salvador. There appears to be no record of such a statement being made in public before the election when it might have had a profound positive effect for the FMLN.

    Afghanistan, 2004

    The US ambassador to Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, went around putting great pressure on one candidate after another to withdraw from the presidential race so as to insure the victory for Washington’s man, the incumbent, Hamid Karzai in the October election. There was nothing particularly subtle about it. Khalilzad told each one what he wanted and then asked them what they needed. Karzai, a long-time resident in the United States, was described by the Washington Post as “a known and respected figure at the State Department and National Security Council and on Capitol Hill.”

    “Our hearts have been broken because we thought we could have beaten Mr. Karzai if this had been a true election,” said Sayed Mustafa Sadat Ophyani, campaign manager for Younis Qanooni, Karzai’s leading rival. “But it is not. Mr. Khalilzad is putting a lot of pressure on us and does not allow us to fight a good election campaign.”.

    None of the major candidates actually withdrew from the election, which Karzai won with about 56 percent of the votes.

    The Cold War Forever

    On March 7 British police said that a former Russian double agent, Sergei Skripal, and his daughter Yulia were found unconscious on a bench in Salisbury, a city southwest of London. The police said that Skripal had been “targeted specifically” with a nerve agent. Skripal was jailed in Russia in 2006 for passing state secrets to Britain. He was released in 2010 as part of a spy swap.

    Because nerve agents are complex to make, they are typically not made by individuals, but rather by states. British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has said that the Skripal case had “echoes” of what happened to Alexander Litvinenko, a former KGB Operative who British officials believe was poisoned in London by Russian agents in 2006, becoming the first victim of lethal polonium-210-induced acute radiation syndrome. Before he died, he spoke about the misdeeds of the Russian secret service and delivered public deathbed accusations that Russian president Vladimir Putin was behind his unusual malady.

    Because of this the Skripal poisoning looks like an open-and-shut case.

    But hold on. Skripal was sent to Britain by the Russian government eight years ago in an exchange of spies. Why would they want to kill him now, and with Putin’s election coming up? And with the quadrennial football (soccer) World Cup coming up soon to be played in Russia. Moscow is very proud of this, publicizing it every day on their international television stations (RT in the US). A murder like this could surely put a serious damper on the Moscow festivities. Boris Johnson has already dropped a threat: “Thinking ahead to the World Cup this July, this summer, I think it would be very difficult to imagine that UK representation at that event could go ahead in the normal way and we would certainly have to consider that.”3 It was totally predictable.

    Because political opposition is weak, and no obvious threat to the ruling United Russia Party, what would the government gain by an assassination of an opposition figure?

    So if Russia is not responsible for Skripal’s poisoning, who is? Well, I have an idea. I can’t give you the full name of the guilty party, but its initials are CIA. US-Russian Cold Wars produce unmitigated animosity. As but one example, the United States boycotted the Olympics that were held in the Soviet Union in 1980, because of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The Soviet Union then boycotted the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles.

    Ideology and Evolution

    New York Times editorial page editor James Bennet recently declared: “I think we are pro-capitalism. The New York Times is in favor of capitalism because it has been the greatest engine of, it’s been the greatest anti-poverty program and engine of progress that we’ve seen.”4 The man is correct as far as he goes. But there are two historical factors that enter into this discussion that he fails to consider:

      1. Socialism may well have surpassed capitalism as an anti-poverty program and engine of progress if the United States and other capitalist powers had not subverted, destabilized, invaded, and/or overthrown every halfway serious attempt at socialism in the world. Not one socialist-oriented government, from Cuba and Vietnam in the 1960s, to Nicaragua and Chile in the 1970s, to Bulgaria and Yugoslavia in the 1990s, to Haiti and Venezuela in the 2000s has been allowed to rise or fall based on its own merits or lack of same, or allowed to relax its guard against the ever-threatening capital imperialists.
      2. Evolution: Social and economic systems have evolved along with human beings. Humankind has roughly gone from slavery to feudalism to capitalism. There’s no reason to assume that this evolution has come to a grinding halt, particularly given the deep-seated needs of the world in the face of one overwhelming problem after another, most caused by putting profit before people.
    1. New York Times, February 16, 2018.
    2. Mueller Indictment – The “Russian Influence” Is A Commercial Marketing Scheme,” Moon of Alabama, February 17, 2018.
    3. The Independent (London), March 6, 2018.
    4. Huffington Post, February 27, 2018.

    Puppet of History: Panama’s Manuel Noriega

    Bush appeared on television to praise the invading troops and to say his cowardly vision – all that a wimp with an inferiority complex could be capable of.

    — Manuel Noriega on George H. W. Bush

    The late General Manuel Antonio Noriega has done more to demonstrate the bipolar nature of US foreign policy in the Americas than any single, historically anointed individual. In its tendency to veer between outraged morality and cynical cold steel Realpolitik, US foreign policy found in Noriega a thermometer of sorts, though the temperature readings were often confused.

    When it suited Washington, Noriega was the CIA’s man in Panama, a glorified errand boy who got above his station.  Then, the winds turned, leaving Noriega high and dry. It was not that he wasn’t a serial human rights abuser, though this was used against him in due course. (The role of the US School of the Americas, located in Panama till 1984, remains a memorably disturbing stain behind various Latin American death squads.)

    What mattered was his cultivation, in time, of a network of power interests and influences across Latin America, including Havana. His lukewarm response to assisting Washington in that dirty conflict against Nicaragua with the aid of the Contra army sounded another nail into coffin. Then came the drugs and the dance with the Colombian cartels.

    Noriega would subsequently claim in his memoirs that Colonel Oliver L. North had requested he mine Nicaraguan harbours as a willing servant of Washington’s interests.  The General preferred to ignore him.  He was no longer in favour in the morally weary halls of Washington.  He had to be gotten rid off.

    The US invasion of Panama in December 1989 was typically imperial: brute force masquerading as moral mission. The ground had been softened by a massive campaign singling out Noriega’s human rights abuses, and the threat to American lives. Provocations by US soldiers were initiated.  Few media outlets in the United States bothered to question the accounts, humming to the sound of government press releases.

    Noriega, and Panama, had become symbols of convenient outrage and props for the projection of US power in the closing chapters of the Cold War.  (The previous month, the Berlin Wall had fallen, the Iron Curtain rapidly parting.)

    In purely power terms, the General had stepped out of turn, having helped himself to the largesse of US interests and Latin American favour.  He would simultaneously supply secrets about Cuba to US authorities while happily selling Fidel Castro thousands of Panamanian passports to be used by Cuban agents.

    Murray Kempton captured this predicament well: “To feed off the United States is to subject yourself to all sorts of inconveniences from a Senate where Jesse Helms arraigns your friendship with Fidel Castro one day and Christopher Dodd your human records the next.”  These subtleties evaporate before the decision to transact with the Medellín and Cali cartels, liberating the subject “from even the lightest chains of ideology.”

    Would this caricatured, cartoon villain be able to withstand the US?  Initial suggestions were made that Noriega might manage to bring about another quagmire for US forces.  The “Dignity Battalions” were taken as representatives of genuine patriotic worth.  But there was little getting away from the fact that an Uncle was providing some stern discipline for a pygmy relation.  The invasion resulted in a good deal of slaughter.

    The Medellín temptation was powerful, assuming a galloping temptation that supplied Noriega with cash and power broking prestige.  The Senate subcommittee on narcotics and terrorism fielded material about Noriega’s conversion to the narcotics market in the late 1980s.  The tainted Ramon Lillian Rodriguez was a source of ratting inspiration, explaining to the Committee chaired by Senator John Kerry that Noriega had assumed money laundering responsibilities while also supplying Panamanian security forces to the cartels. The golem had gotten out hand.

    The more astute operatives would have worked out that he was never controllable in the least.  Furtive sexual encounters do not necessarily suggest understanding, let alone influence.  Links forged in 1976 with George H. W. Bush, who was then the director of Central Intelligence, were not blood insured covenants, but understandings of interest.  But no US leadership can keep unctuousness out for long.  There is always an understanding about who sets the terms.

    After the invasion commenced, Noriega fled to the Apostolic Nunciature of the Holy See.  A reluctant Monsignor Jose Sebastian Laboa relented to the imposition, having had next to no time to consult the higher-ups in the Vatican. US special forces, in the meantime, were charged with the task of capturing the diminished figure.

    What followed was an ignominious effort to force Laboa’s hand.  The State Department hectored him; military operatives rained psychological warfare upon the compound. Laboa, in time, decided that the church’s promise of sanctuary needed to be reneged – by dissimulation if necessary. Surrender was a foregone, bitter conclusion.

    Noriega would subsequently face a farcical and poorly conducted trial.  (Resorting to 40 convicted drug traffickers as witnesses for the prosecution is treacherous ground indeed.)  In 1992, he was sentenced to 40 years in Florida as prisoner No. 41586, convicted on cocaine trafficking charges, racketeering and money laundering.

    Subsequent in absentia trials took place in Panama (the execution of soldiers in the 1989 coup attempt) and France (money-laundering). His release in the US lead to extradition battles that landed him first in France, then back in Panama.

    Was he being punished for being too American, the showman who went just a touch too far?  Ultimately, the puppet can never be permitted to be the puppet master.

    Chained Together in Hell

    Manuel Noriega, former president of Panama, died in prison this week at 83 after decades in custody. What exactly was his crime? He was a monster who turned on his enabler: George Herbert Walker Bush. Though Bush, 92, is not yet technically dead, he and Noriega will soon be chained together in Hell for all eternity.

    George H.W. Bush was born not merely into wealth and privilege but into the elite financial fraternity that built the modern American national security state. His father, Prescott, along with Allen and John Foster Dulles, invested heavily in Nazi Germany, before and after the rise of Hitler. Under the Trading with the Enemy Act, the U.S. government seized the Union Banking Corporation for harboring millions in Nazi money. Prescott Bush was one of the bank’s six directors. Other companies Prescott was involved with also had their assets seized by the government.

    But Prescott skated away, later becoming a U.S. Senator from Connecticut and a frequent golfing partner of President Eisenhower. The Dulles brothers suffered no adverse consequences from their profitable Nazi collusion either. John Foster, who served on the board of I.G. Farben, the builder of Auschwitz, became Eisenhower’s Secretary of State. Allen, who transacted billions of dollars of business with Nazi Germany in Switzerland, later headed up the CIA.

    Like his father before him and his son after him, George Herbert Walker Bush went from prep school into Skull and Bones at Yale, ground zero for CIA recruitment. Armed with a sense of entitlement, immunity, and family money, Bush started Zapata Petroleum, later Zapata Offshore, which drilled wells off Cuba and Kuwait. Zapata’s lack of profitability led some Bush chroniclers to speculate that Zapata may have operated as an “intelligence front.” J. Edgar Hoover’s 1963 memo referring to “Mr. George Bush of the Central Intelligence Agency” seems to confirm his early intelligence role, though Bush and the CIA denied it.

    Bush quit Zapata to enter Texas politics. When he lost a U.S. Senate race President Nixon appointed him Ambassador to the United Nations. In 1973 Nixon made Bush chairman of the Republican National Committee, as the presidency succumbed to Watergate. After Nixon resigned in August 1974, the new president, Ford, sent Bush to represent the United States in China, far from Watergate fallout. Late in 1975 Ford nominated Bush to be CIA Director. But his nomination met with resistance.

    Watergate revelations of CIA aid to White House domestic political operations made the agency vulnerable to attack. Senator Frank Church, who led the Senate probe, called the CIA a “rogue elephant” and a “self-generating enterprise” that was “trying to control other countries through the covert manipulation of their affairs.”

    After contentious confirmation hearings, Bush became the CIA Director. But neither he nor President Ford had any appetite for reform. Bush’s protective approach to the CIA gave the embattled agency breathing room and a lasting gratitude to George Herbert Walker Bush. The new CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, bears his name. It was then that Bush first met Manuel Noriega.

    Noriega was born poor in Panama City in 1934. He went to military school and rose through the ranks of the National Guard. As a junior officer he took courses at the School of the Americas, then headquartered in the U.S. Panama Canal Zone. He became a supporter of Omar Torrijos, who led a 1968 coup against the President of Panama and made Noriega chief of military intelligence. As president, Torrijos negotiated a treaty with U.S. President Jimmy Carter ensuring that control of the Panama Canal Zone would revert to Panama in 1999.

    By the time Noriega met Bush in 1976, he had already been on the CIA payroll for years. He acted as a conduit for U.S. money and weapons to the Contra militants in Nicaragua. He allowed the CIA to establish listening posts in Panama and assisted the Salvadoran government against leftist rebels there. The U.S. had known about Noriega’s drug trafficking since the 1960s, but shielded him from investigation.

    Later, a U.S. Senate Subcommittee concluded that:

    Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Noriega was able to manipulate U.S. policy toward his country, while skillfully accumulating near-absolute power in Panama. It is clear that each U.S. government agency which had a relationship with Noriega turned a blind eye to his corruption and drug dealing, even as he was emerging as a key player on behalf of the Medellin Cartel…

    No one’s eye was blinder to Noriega’s criminality than that of George Herbert Walker Bush, who increased Noriega’s salary, despite his unsavory reputation. When Carter became president in 1977 he replaced Bush at the CIA with Admiral Stansfield Turner, who promptly fired Noriega. But when Reagan won the White House in 1980, with Bush as his vice president, Bush made sure the CIA rehired the Panamanian.

    By the time Noriega became Panama’s dictator in 1983, the Reagan-Bush administration was paying him $165,000 to $200,000 annually. Noriega proved helpful as Reagan expanded his secret war against Nicaragua’s Sandinista government in the 1980s, keeping a smooth flow through Panama of arms to the Contras. Weakened by his advanced age and advancing dementia, and the bullet he took during an attempt on his life, Ronald Reagan left a power vacuum in the White House that Bush and his smooth Houston lawyer pal, James Baker, were happy to fill.

    As Bush prepared to run for president in 1987, a Newsweek cover story on him entitled “Fighting the Wimp Factor,” highlighted his image problem. He decided to attack Manuel Noriega. Noriega’s power had begun to weaken. His strongest U.S. allies – William Casey and Oliver North – were gone. He was indicted in Florida for drug trafficking. Reagan offered to drop the indictments if Noriega left Panama. But Bush and Baker did not want to be seen cutting deals with a drug dictator and looking wimpy.

    At midnight, December 19, 1989, President George Herbert Walker Bush sent 26,000 U.S. troops – in the largest combat operation since Vietnam – to invade Panama, for the ostensible reason of bringing Manual Noriega to trial in the United States on drug charges and liberating Panama from his dictatorship. Mainstream American media broadcast the Bush claims without comment. Nor did they contest the official U.S. figure of 250 deaths from the attack.

    Barbara Trent’s 1993 Oscar-winning documentary, The Panama Deception, revealed a very different reality in Panama. Her film shows the terrible physical destruction in Panama’s working-class neighborhoods. She discovered that the dead actually numbered between 2,500 and 4,000, along with 18,000 residents forced into detention centers and another 7,000 arrested without charges. She shows some of the mass graves where U.S. forces dumped thousands of bodies and interviewed detainees still warehoused in Panama years after the invasion. What Bush called a “liberation” she exposed as a gratuitous massacre.

    Trent also uncovered the real reason for the invasion: to destroy the Panama Defense Forces (PDF), thus stopping the gradual turnover of the Panama Canal to the Panamanians, scheduled to begin ten days after the invasion. By the terms of the treaty, signed by President Carter in 1978, the United States would cede sovereignty of the canal to Panama unless Panama was incapable of defending it.

    Having destroyed the PDF, the United States passed a law in 1991 to ensure continued U.S. presence in the Canal Zone on the grounds that Panama could not defend it. Chutzpah of a high order. Trent also learned that U.S. forces used the invasion to test new, unheard-of weapons on the Panamanian people, a kind of dress rehearsal for the Persian Gulf War the following year.

    Trent’s powerful, important film is available to view in its entirety right now on YouTube. It’s a scathing indictment, not only of U.S. government hypocrisy and brutality, but of the complicit U.S. media that will not and does not question the deceptive, murderous practices of our government. PBS refused to screen Trent’s film, but as many Americans as possible need to see it. Its messages remain urgent.

    Noriega hid in the Vatican embassy for several days after the Bush invasion, finally surrendering to spend the rest of his life in prison. For his cynicism and his vanity, using a massive invasion and the murder of thousands of Panamanians to distract from the economic problems of his presidency and dispel the onus of “the wimp factor,” George Herbert Walker Bush deserves to be remembered as a war criminal and an extreme violator of human rights, a disgrace to the presidency and to the species.

    *****

    On our next episode of Chained Together in Hell, Bill Clinton will be affixed to Janet Reno, his co-conspirator in the unnecessary 1993 massacre of 76 people in Waco, Texas, including 16 children under the age of 10. On his other side, Clinton will be chained to Madeleine Albright, who said that a U.S. blockade of Iraq that killed half a million Iraqi children was “worth it.” Reno and Albright are two of the very few women Clinton did not covet while on this earth.