White House Protest Corps


Obama should have kept his mouth shut
June 19, 2010, 2:07 am
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CounterPunch Diary

http://www.counterpunch.org/cockburn06182010.html

He Should Have Kept His Mouth Shut

By ALEXANDER COCKBURN

The French have a phrase, “He missed an excellent opportunity to keep his mouth shut.” That’s certainly true of Obama last Tuesday when he rolled out a big gun from the arsenal of White House crisis management, an Oval Office address. Excluding FDR’s  radio chats of the 1930s, there’s scant evidence  across the past forty years that as a venue for rallying the nation, the presidential sanctum did Obama’s predecessors  as president much good. In Obama’s case many of his stoutest supporters in the press could say little in its favor. Obama would have been advised to say nothing and leave the nation to the evening’s main business, the NBA playoffs.

It was certainly the worst rally-the-nation speech by a US president I’ve ever watched, and that includes Nixon’s cornered-rat addresses of the early 1970s and – an ominous parallel —  Jimmy Carter’s fireside chat on April1977, four months into his presidency, in the Oval Office promoting his plan for Energy Independence. To dramatize the need for conservation Carter wore a cardigan. He said the crusade for energy reduction was “the moral equivalent of war.”  As he said these words he clenched his fist. America was not impressed, but more than they were on Tuesday.

Asked a couple of weeks ago  about the president’s apparent inability to project anger, his pr man, Robert Gibbs said the president had been clenching his jaw. Better that he had continued clenching, and thus been unable to open it to unleash that  windy  homily, ripe with cliché, bare of specifics and without even the pummeling of BP that everyone had been looking forward to. Of course Obama said that there will be a set-aside clean-up and compensation fund  financed by BP. He  tossed the word “recklessness” in BP’s direction. But these were timid little puff-ball punches. There was no mailed fist within the glove, just wadded tissue paper.

Unlike wars and slumps, where a president can invoke inside knowledge proving victory or recovery are imminent, the singularity of this crisis is that there’s no inside story, no disputing the central disastrous facts except to suggest and then have confirmed that they are even worse that BP or the US government admits.

The minimum quantity of crude oil spurting out of the broken riser pipe now up around 60,000 bbd, heading towards the estimate by the Perdue scientists of around 90,000bbd, which is apparently what an internal BP memo suggested back in the immediate aftermath of the explosion on April 20.

There is absolutely no imminent prospect of this situation improving over the immediate future and a distinct possibility it could last the rest of the year and conceivably the rest of Obama’s first term – which in this eventuality will also be his last.

Since there are no immediate solutions to what Obama is now calling the worst environmental crisis in America’s history, and 71 per cent of Americans  polled by Gallup over last  weekend think Obama has not shown enough toughness towards BP,  you would have thought that Obama would have waited to report on what in fact did happen the very next day – the announcement of BP’s $20 billion escrow fund managed by an independent administrator, plus the withholding of BP’s quarterly dividend.  But no. Apparently Rahm Emanuel and the others thought it better to give vapid words a day’s lead over substantive news.

The speech left no banality unturned, from the ritual blue ribbon commission to investigate why the April 20 disaster took place, to the pledge of  a shake-up in federal agencies that had previously been gofers for the oil industry, to the final empty personal guarantee that cleanup efforts will restore the Gulf not just to where it was before this accident happened but to where it was years ago.

Every president since Nixon has tried to sell an energy plan. Carter wore his cardigan and America laughed and turned up the heaters in their SUVs. The only one to yield any tangible results was Reagan’s consummated pledge to rip the Carter-installed solar system off the roof of the White House.

Obama mumbled about windmills and solar panels and renewable energy and ending America’s dependence on fossil fuels.  He barely touched on his energy bill, becalmed in the Congress because Senate leader Harry Reid has told him it will never pass. He didn’t even allude to his actual energy plan which is to accelerate deep-sea drilling (on hold till the blue ribbon commission gives the green light, which it will), issue federal insurance guarantees for a new generation of nuclear plants, sponsor “clean coal” and bail out the ethanol industry.

Nuclear power could make the BP catastrophe look like chickenfeed. So-called “clean, low-sulfur coal”, mined by mountain-top removal, is an environmental disaster. The ethanol industry has long been a big financial backer of Obama and is now in crisis because of over-production of corn, from which the ethanol is distilled.  At the moment the federal government limits the amount of ethanol than can be sold at the pump to 10 per cent of every gallon. Obama may raise the percentage to 15 per cent. The US now has about 250 million motor vehicles.  As Robert Bryce  has pointed out on this site, of that number, “only about 7.5 million are designed to burn gasoline containing more than 10 percent ethanol. And there is evidence that even that much ethanol may be too much. Last year, Toyota recalled more than 200,00 Lexus vehicles due to internal component corrosion that was caused by ethanol-blended fuel.”

Obama could not only lose the important Lexus-owner vote, but also earn the undying hatred of  every American with a mowing machine, a snowblower, or a leafblower. 15 per cent ethanol in the gas means they may not be able to fire up these devices. That’s a hefty chunk of the electorate. You lose the lawn-mower vote, you lose the suburbs.

Obama’s terrible speech showed that even now the White House hasn’t managed to get any productive hold  on the disaster turning the Gulf of Mexico into a sludge pond. Obama doesn’t get it. Rahm Emanuel doesn’t get it. The speech writers don’t get it. At the end of his speech Obama turned to God and told Americans to pray. Here’s a meeting of minds with BP, since the oil company says the blowout was an act of God.

Even God won’t be able to bail out Obama if he  goes on like this.

Remembering Bill Christison

I met Bill Christison and his wife Kathy, both of them former CIA officers, on the high seas off Mazatlan on a Nation cruise in December of 2001. Bill had been pretty high up in the Agency and at one point had been the official charged with discharging national threat assessments and the like into the armor-plated cerebellum of President Gerald Ford.

Bill, a Princeton grad, had joined the CIA in 1950, and served on the analysis side of the Agency for 28 years. From the early 1970s he served as National Intelligence Officer (principal adviser to the Director of Central Intelligence on certain areas) for, at various times, Southeast Asia, South Asia and Africa. Before he retired in 1979 he was Director of the CIA’s Office of Regional and Political Analysis, a 250-person unit. He’d met Kathy when they were both doing tours in Saigon.

After leaving the Agency they settled in Santa Fe and began their journey to the left, an itinerary on which they were well advanced by the time I met up with them and invited them to write for CounterPunch.

We published Bill’s first big piece on March 4, 2002, under the title “Former Senior CIA Officer: Why the War on Terror Won’t Work.”  The piece, which created quite a stir,  listed six root causes of terrorism, beginning,

“My number one root cause is the support by the U.S. over recent years for the policies of Israel with respect to the Palestinians, and the belief among Arabs and Muslims that the United States is as much to blame as Israel itself for the continuing, almost 35-year-long Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.”

My number two root cause is the present drive of the United States to spread its hegemony and its version of big-corporation, free enterprise globalization around the world. …. The gap between rich and poor nations, and rich and poor people within most of the nations, has grown wider during the last 20 years of globalization or, more precisely, the U.S. version of globalization.

Bill’s other prime causes of terrorism included the sanctions on Iraq and daily bombings; the continued presence of US troops in Saudi Arabia and the indiscriminate use of air power, with “missiles launched from a great distance, and now even on drone aircraft with no humans on board…But while few Americans get killed, sizable numbers of other nationalities do.”

This was just over six months after the attacks of September 11, 2001, and Bill’s calm and rational analysis was a huge relief and inspiration for many, after week upon week of ideological saturation bombing in the main stream press.  He followed it up a couple of months later with a series  on what a rational US foreign policy would look like.  He and his wife Kathy, whose chief topic has been Palestine, became important and popular contributors to CounterPunch.

Bill was heading into his late 70s by now, but he was as frisky as a 20-year old as he and Kathy kept up a fierce schedule of talks in the south west and across the US, along with trips to the Middle East, often in somewhat grueling and even perilous circumstances.

He got more radical with each advancing year and chafed sometimes when Jeffrey and I expressed reservations about some of his strategies for direct action.

Kathy told us a few weeks ago that Bill had fallen victim to a rapidly advancing neurological condition – and on Sunday, June 13, he died in Santa Fe at the age of 81.  He was a noble soul and used his later years with an idealism and energy that we should all envy and hope to emulate.

A Deadly 9/11 Cover-Up

In our latest newsletter, hot off the press – What do the W.R. Grace Company, the Trade Towers, Libby Montana and asbestos have in common? Andrea Peacock weaves the fatal threads together in a brilliant investigation. The terrible bottom line:

“If asbestos-related diseases begin showing up in rescue workers and others exposed at Ground Zero in the next few years, there’s little doctors can do about it. There’s medication to ease the symptoms of asbestosis – in which scar tissue caused by asbestos fibers gradually suffocates victims – but no cure. Those with lung disease can forestall the inevitable decline by taking care of themselves: quit smoking, get plenty of exercise to keep their lung capacity as high as possible. It could take another 30 years for mesothelioma cases to manifest – an asbestos-related lung cancer that kills fast once it hits. The full legacy of that day, for which W.R. Grace now bears some responsibility, will be unfolding for decades.“

Also in this  powerful edition: After a mine disaster in western Siberia Russian workers rise up. Boris Kagarlitsky describes the social explosion. Jeffrey Blankfort reviews Quicksand,  the book the Israel lobby doesn’t want you to read.

I urge you to  subscribe now!

Alexander Cockburn can be reached at alexandercockburn@asis.com.

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From Julian Assange to Helen Thomas: Going After the Wrong People
June 14, 2010, 5:42 pm
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http://www.counterpunch.org/lindorff06142010.html

From Julian Assange to Helen Thomas

Going After the Wrong People

By DAVE LINDORFF

What does it say about the the American government, its president, and its military today, that the the largest military/intelligence organization in the history of mankind has launched a global manhunt for Julian Assange, head of the Wikileaks organization? And what does it say about corporate American journalists that they attack the only real journalist in the White House press corps, when she alone has shown the guts to speak truth?

The Hunt for Julian Assange

Consider first the case of Wikileaks founder Assange, whom Daniel Ellsberg, the man who leaked the Pentagon Papers, warns is in danger, if found, of being snuffed by the Pentagon’s search teams. First of all, let’s be clear here: he is “guilty” of no crime, but only of doing what American journalists should have done long ago: exposing the crimes of the US government. His Wikileaks famously leaked the military video showing that the crew of a helicopter gunship in Iraq in 2007 had shot up and killed a group of innocent Iraqi civilians, including two Reuters journalists, and laughed and mocked the victims as they were slaughtered. Now the same whistleblower website threatens to release hundreds of thousands of State Department cables that, among other things, reportedly include embarrassing comments by US officials about foreign leaders.

How is it, mainstream journalists ought to be asking but aren’t, that the Pentagon can unleash its vast intelligence resources to hunt down the Australian-born Assange, but cannot bring itself to devote those same resources and commitment to hunting down Osama Bin Laden, the man they claim is behind not only the attacks on the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon itself, but also the resistance to US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan?

I’m not sure which is the bigger scandal here: the Pentagon’s grotesque misallocation of resources, or the media’s unwillingness to point it out.

There is no indication or claim by the government that Wikileaks has paid anyone anything to reveal US secrets–in fact the government claims it isn’t even interested in arresting Asange, just in “trying to convince him” not to release those cables. (Sure. I believe that like I believe the government wants fair hearings at its secret military tribunals in Guantanamo.) The secrets he has disclosed have been volunteered to Wikileaks by government and military whistleblowers, one of whom, Army intelligence specialist Bradley Manning, is now under arrest in Kuwait, a US client state where there are no protections against torture. Note that even what Manning did should not be considered a crime in any just, open society. He didn’t endanger US security as claimed; rather, he revealed a possible crime–the killing of civilians by US forces–that the government itself was covering up and refusing to investigate. (He says he tried to pursue justice within the military chain of command and was ignored, which is why he turned to Wikileaks.)

In any event, one thing is obvious. The Obama administration is becoming downright Nixonian in its efforts to silence internal dissent, and this time, what is left of a mainstream corporate media no longer have any interest in standing up to this kind of incipient fascism.

It remains to the likes of brave souls like Assange and to the independent and alternative media journalists who stand with him, to resist. Here’s hoping Assange keeps safe and well hidden, and that he and his Wikileaks compatriots continue to expose the ugly secrets of the American Empire.

The Attack on Helen Thomas

And then we have the sorry case of veteran senior White House correspondent Helen Thomas, who was just kneecapped by her own colleagues.

The truth is that when Thomas was ambushed by David Nesenoff, the Zionist rabbi with the camera, and asked for her opinion “about Israel,” she said nothing wrong. Her reply, in which she said the people occupying Palestine should “get out” and “go home,” was clearly a reference not to Israel, but to the Palestinian occupied territories, and that makes a world of difference.

Note that Rabbi Nesenoff’s question was, “Any comments about Israel?” and Thomas’s response was, “Tell them (Israel) to get out of Palestine.” She’s referring to Israel getting out of Palestinian territory. How do we know this? Because subsequently, she says, “Remember, these people are occupied and it’s their land.”

The people of Israel–Israelis and Israeli Palestinians–are clearly not “occupied.” Israel is many things, but it is not an occupied country. Who is occupied? The people of Gaza and the West Bank. So what Thomas is doing here is what most people do, including even many Israelis, which is referring to the Palestinian occupied territories by the shorthand of the term “Palestine.” (I do this myself all the time in discussions of the issue.) It’s true that some hard-core anti-Zionists refer to the whole of Israel and Palestine as “occupied Palestine,” just as some hard-core Zionists refer to the whole of the occupied territoris as Eretz Israel or Greater Israel– in the same way that some Native Americans refer to all of America as stolen land–but there has never been any evidence that Thomas is in that camp.

And once this is understood, what Thomas says could not be construed by any honest person as being anti-semitic. She is saying they (Israel, or Israelis living in the Palestinian territories) should “go home,”, and she is saying those “occupiers” should “go home” to “Poland, Germany and America and everywhere else.”

In fact, that’s quite a valid opinion (and one that I and even many Israelis who are sick of living in a perpetual state of war share). Many of the settlers who have been stealing Palestinian land under the protection of a brutal Israeli Defense Force and with the encouragement of a hard-line Zionist government, in fact do hail from outside Israel. They are immigrants from Brooklyn and other parts of the US, from Russia, and from other European countries, and Israel has actually been encouraging them to immigrate to Israel and then settle in the occupied territories. They have no legal or moral right to be in the occupied territories, and their presence there is intended by the Israeli government to create “facts on the ground” that make a Palestinian state impossible and any peace settlement with Palestinians impossible.

Thomas was clearly not referring to Israel as an “occupied territory.” She is an experienced reporter on international affairs and knows that such a definition of the Israeli state would make no sense to anyone but the most irredentist Arabist. Moreover, a woman who has Jewish friends and colleagues, she is well aware that many Israeli Jews are native to the Middle East, and even trace their ancestry to the pre-Israel Palestine, while many more are second, third or fourth-generation natives of the nation founded in 1948. As such they have as much right to be stay where they are and to call it home as do the whites living in South Africa on stolen Africans’ land, or white Americans living today on stolen Indian land. Thomas was certainly not saying that those people should “go back” to countries like Poland or America, where they never lived, though that’s what her critics are claiming.

And Thomas is absolutely correct in saying that the Israeli Jews living in those territories must “go back” to wherever they came from, if there is ever to be peace in the Middle East. Look, I know a Palestinian green card holder in the US. He told me how when he was a child, his home was stolen by Israelis and is now occupied by an Israeli settler family. He says his father kept the deed to his stolen home framed on the wall. Now, here in the US, following his father’s death, he has the deed hung prominently on his own wall, and he says his oldest son will someday have that same deed framed on his wall. As long as this kind of injustice survives–an injustice no different from the Nazi thefts of Jewish property, which Jewish families today, here and in Israel, are still trying to win compensation for from German and Austrian governments–how can there be any peace in Israel and Palestine?

Clearly such a view falls outside the narrow band of acceptable discourse that is permitted in our corporate media, and it certainly is not a position taken by any but a handful of our national politicians, in thrall as they all seem to be to the Zionist lobby and the money doled out by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

Thomas’s “colleagues” in the White House press corps, who have been so quick to drum out an 89-year-old woman from their club (and Zionists like Bush-era White House flak Ari Fleischer), should be ashamed of themselves. They know she is no anti-semite, and know she was doing what they all do from time to time: using the term Palestine in a shorthand way to refer to the occupied territories. The haste with which they exiled her from their fraternity has nothing to do with their feigned outrage, and everything to do with her feisty insistence on doing what they should all have been doing but haven’t done for years: actually ask challenging, embarrassing questions about domestic and international policy of the president and the his press secretary.

Ashamed too, should be those on the left who have defended Thomas so half-heartedly, saying she should be “forgiven,” but predicating their lame defense by saying she was “stupid” or “clumsy” or “wrong” to have made what they claim was a “hurtful” or even “bigoted” statement.

Thomas should never have apologized for her statement. She should have stuck to it.

Dave Lindorff is a Philadelphia-based journalist and columnist at www.thiscantbehappening.net. His latest book is “The Case for Impeachment” (St. Martin’s Press, 2006 and now available in paperback). He can be reached at dlindorff@mindspring.com



Haiti: Dumping Ground of the Caribbean

Haiti and Toxic Waste

http://www.counterpunch.org/cohen01222010.html

By MITCHEL COHEN

Two decades ago, the garbage barge, the Khian Sea, with no place in the U.S. willing to accept its garbage, left the territorial waters of the United States and began circling the oceans in search of a country willing to accept its cargo: 14,000 tons of toxic incinerator ash. First it went to the Bahamas, then to the Dominican Republic, Honduras, Bermuda, Guinea Bissau and the Netherlands Antilles. Wherever it went, people gathered to protest its arrival. No one wanted the millions of pounds of Philadelphia municipal incinerator ash dumped in their country.

Desperate to unload, the ship’s crew lied about their cargo, hoping to catch a government unawares. Sometimes they identified the ash as “construction material”; other times they said it was “road fill,” and still others “muddy waste.” But environmental experts were generally one step ahead in notifying the recipients; no one would take it. That is, until it got to Haiti. There, U.S.-backed dictator Baby Doc Duvalier issued a permit for the garbage, which was by now being called “fertilizer,” and four thousand tons of the ash was dumped onto the beach in the town of Gonaives.

It didn’t take long for public outcry to force Haiti’s officials to suddenly “realize” they weren’t getting fertilizer. They canceled the import permit and ordered the waste returned to the ship. But the Khian Sea slipped away in the night, leaving thousands of tons toxic ash on the beach.

For two years more the Khian Sea chugged from country to country trying to dispose of the remaining 10,000 tons of Philadelphia ash. The crew even painted over the barge’s name — not once, but twice. Still, no one was fooled into taking its toxic cargo. A crew member later testified that the waste was finally dumped into the Indian Ocean.

The activist environmental group, Greenpeace, pressured the U.S. government to test the “fertilizer.” The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Greenpeace found it contained 1,800 pounds of arsenic, 4,300 pounds of cadmium, and 435,000 pounds of lead, dioxin and other toxins. But no one would clean it up.

The cost of the cleanup at Gonaives had been estimated to be around $300,000. Philadelphia’s $130 million budget surplus would more than cover it, but Philadelphia lawyer Ed Rendell — then mayor of that city and later Chairman of the Democratic National Committee — refused to put up the funds. Joseph Paolino, whose company (Joseph Paolino and Sons) had contracted to transport the waste ash aboard the infamous Khian Sea garbage barge owned by Amalgamated Shipping, refused as well.

In July of 1992, the U.S. Justice Department — under pressure from environmental groups throughout the world — finally filed indictments against two waste traders who had shipped and dumped the 14,000 tons of Philadelphia incinerator ash. Similar indictments were brought against three individuals and four corporations who illegally exported 3,000 tons of hazardous waste to Bangladesh and Australia, also labeled as “fertilizer.” But none of the waste traders were charged with dumping their toxic cargo at sea, nor even with falsely labeling it as fertilizer and abandoning it on the beaches of Haiti, Bangladesh, and Australia. They were charged only with lying to a grand jury. (“Indictments Announced in Philadelphia’s Haiti Ash Scandal; Greenpeace Calls for Immediate Cleanup,” Greenpeace News, July 14, 1992, and “Philadelphia and U.S. EPA Get Unexpected Ash Packets,” Greenpeace Waste Trade Update, March 22, 1991.)

A month earlier, similar watered-down indictments were announced against three individuals and four corporations who illegally exported 3,000 tons of hazardous waste to Bangladesh and Australia, also labelled as “fertilizer.” Meanwhile, the government stonewalled, for years; it took more than a decade for the U.S. government to clean up the waste.

U.S. law was interpreted to protect the dumpers, not the dumped on. Unwilling recipients of toxic wastes are offered no recourse. In recent years, much of the waste from industrialized countries is exported openly, under the name of “recycled material.” These are touted as “fuel” for incinerators generating energy in poor countries. “Once a waste is designated as ‘recyclable’ it is exempt from U.S. toxic waste law and can be bought and sold as if it were ice cream. Slags, sludges, and even dusts captured on pollution control filters are being bagged up and shipped abroad,” writes Peter Montague in Rachel’s Weekly. “These wastes may contain significant quantities of valuable metals, such as zinc, but they also can and do contain significant quantities of toxic by-products such as cadmium, lead and dioxins. The ‘recycling’ loophole in U.S. toxic waste law is big enough to float a barge through, and many barges are floating through it uncounted.”

Every year, thousands of tons of “recycled” waste from the U.S., deceptively labeled as “fertilizer,” are plowed into farms, beaches and deserts in Bangladesh, Haiti, Somalia, Brazil and dozens of other countries. The Clinton administration followed former President George Bush’s lead in allowing U.S. corporations to mix incinerator ash and other wastes containing high concentrations of lead, cadmium and mercury with agricultural chemicals and are sold to (or dumped in) unsuspecting or uncaring agencies and governments throughout the world. (Greenpeace Toxic Trade Campaign, “United States Blocks Efforts to Prohibit Global Waste Dumping by Industrial States,” December 2, 1992.)

These dangerous chemicals are considered “inert,” since they play no active role as “fertilizer” — although they are very active in causing cancers and other diseases. Under U.S. law, ingredients designated as “inert” are not required to be labeled nor reported to the buyer.

President Clinton — expanding the policies of his ignominious predecessors — continued to obstruct the rest of the world from regulating the disastrous international trade in hazardous wastes. At a critical March 21-25 1994 international conference in Geneva, the United States stood with only a handful of waste-producing countries against the entire world in opposing a resolution banning the shipment of hazardous wastes to non-industrialized countries.

Shadowy covert operations figures spent the next two decades promoting schemes involving the shipment to Haiti of U.S. toxic wastes.

In November 1993, Time Magazine reported that a former U.S. government operative had detailed “an elaborate plan to tap U.S. aid funds for low-interest loans that would be used to transport New York City garbage to Haiti, where it would be processed into mulch to fertilize plants bioengineered to provide high-quality paper pulp. ‘We could collect $38 a ton for the garbage,’ claims [Henry] Womack … who helped oversee construction of the base that the Reagan Administration-backed contras used to stage attacks against the Sandinista government in Nicaragua.” Womack has similar dreams for Haiti: “We’d make a bundle, and the government could get enough to pay the whole army’s salaries.” (Jill Smolowe, “With Friends Like These: A Host of Shadowy Figures is Helping Haiti’s Military Rulers Hatch a Plot to Sideline Aristide Permanently,” Time Magazine, November 8, 1993.) Womack lived in a South Miami house with a couple: the sister of Michel François, who headed the death squads in Haiti and served as chief of its national police, and her husband.

Although most agents are not usually as candid as Womack, such plans are common. In August 1991, for example, Almany Enterprises, a company also headquartered in Miami, proposed shipping 30 million tons of incinerator ash from various U.S. cities to Panama over the subsequent four years. Almany would pay the government only $6.50 per ton of toxic waste received in Panama. The ash is believed to be highly contaminated with cadmium, copper, lead and zinc. Almany proposed to landfill the ash in marshlands near the free zone of Colon. Dozens of similar schemes are rampant. Throughout the Caribbean and Central America the devastating health crisis is exacerbated — if not directly caused — by international capital’s “recycling” of toxic wastes. (Indeed, Haitian women who have emigrated to the U.S. have been found to have double or triple the cervical cancer rates as women born in the U.S.)

Said Ehrl LaFontant of the Haiti Communications Project: “Instead of repatriating Haitian refugees to Haiti, the U.S. government should repatriate this toxic waste back to its own country.”

Toxic waste dumping in Haiti was, after all, a lucrative source of income for the Duvalier dictatorship. Former Haitian despot Duvalier profited handsomely in his relationship with the U.S., to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars. That relationship included allowing U.S. toxic fertilizer to be dumped in Haiti, at the expense of the Haitian people.

Duvalier’s U.S.-based lawyer, Ron Brown, also did well, economically, by their relationship. In the early 1980s, Brown was a partner at the powerful Washington law firm of Patton, Boggs & Blow. Duvalier secured his services by paying him $150,000 as a retainer, and Brown went to work for the brutal dictator on Capitol Hill. Before his death while flying over Yugoslavia and scouting U.S. investment opportunities, Brown had been personally linked to Lillian Madsen, who had married into an extremely wealthy Haitian family with vast holdings in coffee and beer. (She later divorced.) Madsen lived in an expensive Washington townhouse that had been purchased for her in 1992 by the commerce secretary himself and by his son, D.C. lobbyist Michael Brown. The Madsens were major backers of Duvalier and among the main domestic financial backers of the September 1991 coup against elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Brown uttered nary a word to support the return of Aristide and democracy to Haiti, nor did he protest the U.S.’s toxic practices there.

Brown also represented Fritz Bennett, the brother of Michelle Bennett Duvalier, wife of the deposed dictator, when the brother was arrested in Puerto Rico for trafficking in narcotics. (Michelle Duvalier’s touch with reality herself can be somewhat shaky, as when, in exile, she said: “Flee Haiti? Why do you say we were fleeing Haiti? The president and I decided it was time to leave. Nobody can ever say we had to leave Haiti. We wanted to go.”)

Brown was also the subject of a scandal involving Vietnamese businessman Nguyen Van Hao, who was the Deputy Prime Minister for Economic Development under the corrupt U.S.-backed Saigon dictatorship in the early 1970s. Hao alleged that Brown agreed to be paid $700,000 in exchange for his help in lifting a trade embargo against Vietnam. Hao, who previously lived in Haiti, and Brown had a mutual Haitian friend, Marc Butch Ashton — Lillian Madsen’s brother-in-law. Ashton was a financial advisor to Baby Doc. A large landholder and owner of Haiti Citrus, a lime exporter, Ashton allegedly used a squad of 40 Tonton Macoutes death squads to guard his properties. Poor farmers who leased their land to Haiti Citrus say they were intimidated and tortured by Ashton’s thugs when they tried to get better terms. (Counterpunch, December, 1993)

Brown himself detailed his services to Duvalier in a nine-page memo. Brown’s letter, written in French on Patton, Boggs & Blow letterhead, blamed Monsieur Le President’s problems on an unfair image created by the U.S. media. As to his efforts on Haiti’s behalf, Brown wrote that “We continue to dedicate a considerable amount of time to the improvement of relations between the Republic of Haiti and members of congress and the American government, with the goal of substantially increasing American aid to Haiti. Early success in this regard,” crowed Brown, “is essentially the result of our Washington team.” (Counterpunch, December 1993)

Brown also informed Duvalier that he was looking after Haiti’s long-term interests by maintaining good relations with leading American political figures:

“While we have always enjoyed excellent relations with the government of President Reagan, we have also established personal contacts with almost all the Democratic candidates in order to ensure that we continue to have access to the White House regardless of who wins the presidential election in 1984.” Brown boasted that his “leading role in the Democratic National Committee has served us in these efforts, while a certain number of my colleagues in the Republican Party assure the permanence of our access and the excellence of our relations with the government of President Reagan.”

Juan Gonzalez, writing in the New York Daily News, continued the story:

“When Brown wrote his memo, Amnesty International had accused the Duvalier regime of torture, detentions without trial and `disappearances’.

“Here is some of what Brown reported to Baby Doc:

” ‘Despite the unfair image of Haiti by the American media, and despite the opposition expressed by some members of Congress, it is certain that today … a growing number of people — both members of Congress and government officials — stand ready to defend the interests of Haiti. This … is essentially due to the work of our Washington team. …

” ‘We continue to pay a great deal of attention to the Black Caucus and to other liberal members of Congress … [who] are now, thanks to our efforts, ready to help. Although some of them continue to make negative comments about Haiti, all, without exception, have proved to be cooperative on the issue of aid.’ “

Brown was reporting on his success in getting Congress to say one thing but do another. On foreign aid, he proved more than worth his annual retainer. While he represented Haiti, annual U.S. assistance increased from $35 million to $55 million.

Brown offered not a word in the memo about human rights.

Brown went on to serve as President Clinton’s Secretary of Commerce, which is one of the agencies that oversees toxic waste shipments and promotes corporate investment in Haiti, particularly in the notorious assembly zones established by the International Monetary Fund’s structural adjustment program there. (The assembly zones were populated by the IMF’s removal of 1/3rd of the rural population from their lands, now to be used for export crops to the U.S. and elsewhere).

In his confirmation hearings before the Senate, Brown was not asked a single question concerning toxic wastes, nor of his relationship with the Duvalier dictatorship.

Mitchel Cohen hosts “Steal This Radio,” a weekly show on http://www.NYTalkRadio.net, and is the Chair of WBAI radio’s (99.5-FM) “Local Station Board”. He works with the Brooklyn Greens / Green Party.