Passing these two items along, since they tend to concentrate on what
Americans don't hear about today's war... The first deals with a little
80s history, while the second is a report from Robert Fisk a longtime
Middle-East correspondent for the Independent (UK).
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Subject: Weisbrot / Fisk; Nicaragua / Terror; Nov 9
Date: Thu, 08 Nov 2001 18:17:30 -0800
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What Everyone Should Know About Nicaragua
by Mark Weisbrot
The United States' first post-September 11 foray into Latin American
politics -- in Nicaragua's election -- provides a glimpse of how
Washington's new "counter-terrorism" policy may play out in this region.
Conservative candidate Enrique Bolanos defeated the Sandinistas' Daniel
Ortega, in an election that had been cast as too close to call. US
officials publicly warned against a Sandinista victory, accusing them of
"links to terrorism," and openly supported Bolanos.
But to understand the meaning of these events, we need a bit more
history than most press accounts are providing. The Sandinistas took
their name from Augusto Cesar Sandino, a Nicaraguan who led a guerilla
war from 1927-33 against US Marines who had invaded his country. T
he Marines finally left in 1933, but not before setting up a National
Guard, led by Anastasio Somoza Garcia, to run the country. Sandino was
murdered by the Guard, and Somoza established a family dictatorship that
ruled the country with US support until the Sandinista-led revolution in
When Anastasio Jr. fled to Miami -- our haven for retired dictators --
in 1979, Nicaraguans celebrated the departure of "the last Marine." Tens
of thousands of people had been killed in the insurrection, as Somoza's
air force bombed poor residential neighborhoods of Managua, figuring
that all of the people living there were his enemies.
Partly because of the church-based, pacifist background of the
organizations that joined their movement, the Sandinistas broke with the
pattern of modern revolutions and rejected vengeance. They set a 30-year
maximum sentence, even for the most vicious of their former tormentors
But their enemies in Washington were not so forgiving. While the
Sandinistas were rebuilding the war-ravaged economy -- it quickly
reached the highest growth rate of Central America -- Washington was
planning violence. While the Sandinistas built health clinics and waged
literacy campaigns that won international acclaim and awards from the
United Nations, the Reagan Administration built an army to overthrow the
The "Contras" as they were called -- from the Spanish for
counter-revolutionaries -- were recruited, armed, trained, and paid by
the CIA. They waged war not so much against the Nicaraguan army as
against "soft targets:" teachers, health care workers, elected officials
(a CIA-prepared manual actually advocated their assassination).
They blew up bridges and health clinics, and with help from a US trade
embargo beginning in 1985, destroyed the economy of Nicaragua.
The Sandinistas took the United States to the World Court for its
terrorist actions -- the same Court where the US had won a judgment
against Iran just a few years earlier, for the taking of American
hostages. The Court ruled in favor of Nicaragua, ordering reparations
estimated at $17 billion. The US refused to recognize the Court's
In 1984 there were elections in Nicaragua. Over 400 observers from 40
countries, including the Latin American Studies Association of scholars
from the United States, found that the election was basically free and
Although there was no doubt the country had voted for the Sandinistas --
including Ortega as president -- Washington continued its violent
efforts to overthrow the democratically elected government. But the
Contras' extreme brutality sickened many Americans, especially among the
Within a couple of years a grassroots movement persuaded Congress to cut
off funding to the Contras. That's when Oliver North and his friends
sought out creative new sources of financing, such as illegal arms sales
to Iran -- leading to the Iran-Contra scandal.
By 1990 the Nicaraguans had suffered more than they could take from the
war and economic embargo, and so when President George Bush I made it
clear that their misery would continue until the Sandinistas were voted
out of office, a majority cried uncle.
Washington got the government it wanted, but of course it did not end
Nicaragua's suffering. A decade of IMF and World Bank tutelage has left
Nicaraguans with the most crushing debt burden in the hemisphere, 70
percent of its people in poverty, and -- alone among Latin Americans --
less income per person than they had 40 years ago.
Bolanos' victory assures a grim future, although neither Ortega nor the
Sandinistas represent the kind of hope that they did 20 years ago. It is
not surprising that Nicaraguans would, after once again hearing the
threats from the North, decide they could not afford another Sandinista
But as the ignorant and depraved breathe their sighs of relief in
Washington, they would do well to consider the warning of John F.
Kennedy: "Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make
violent revolution inevitable."
Mark Weisbrot is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy
Research (www.cepr.net), in Washington, DC.
Hypocrisy, Hatred And The War On Terror
by Robert Fisk
"Air campaign"? "Coalition forces"? "War on terror"? How much longer
must we go on enduring these lies? There is no "campaign" -- merely an
air bombardment of the poorest and most broken country in the world by
the world's richest and most sophisticated nation. No MIGs have taken to
the skies to do battle with the American B-52s or F-18s. The only
ammunition soaring into the air over Kabul comes from Russian
anti-aircraft guns manufactured around 1943.
Coalition? Hands up who's seen the Luftwaffe in the skies over Kandahar,
or the Italian air force or the French air force over Herat. Or even the
Pakistani air force. The Americans are bombing Afghanistan with a few
British missiles thrown in. "Coalition" indeed.
Then there's the "war on terror". When are we moving on to bomb the
Jaffna peninsula? Or Chechnya -- which we have already left in Vladimir
Putin's bloody hands?
I even seem to recall a massive terrorist car bomb that exploded in
Beirut in 1985 -- targeting Sayed Hassan Nasrallah, the spiritual
inspiration to the Hezbollah, who now appears to be back on Washington's
hit list -- and which missed Nasrallah but slaughtered 85 innocent
Lebanese civilians. Years later, Carl Bernstein revealed in his book,
Veil, that the CIA was behind the bomb after the Saudis agreed to fund
the operation. So will the US President George Bush be hunting down the
CIA murderers involved? The hell he will.
So why on earth are all my chums on CNN and Sky and the BBC rabbiting on
about the "air campaign", "coalition forces" and the "war on terror"? Do
they think their viewers believe this twaddle?
Certainly Muslims don't. In fact, you don't have to spend long in
Pakistan to realize that the Pakistani press gives an infinitely more
truthful and balanced account of the "war" -- publishing work by local
intellectuals, historians and opposition writers along with Taliban
comments and pro-government statements as well as syndicated Western
analyses -- than The New York Times; and all this, remember, in a
You only have to spend a few weeks in the Middle East and the
subcontinent to realize why Tony Blair's interviews on al-Jazeera and
Larry King Live don't amount to a hill of beans.
The Beirut daily As-Safir ran a widely-praised editorial asking why an
Arab who wanted to express the anger and humiliation of millions of
other Arabs was forced to do so from a cave in a non-Arab country. The
implication, of course, was that this -- rather than the crimes against
humanity on 11 September -- was the reason for America's determination
to liquidate Osama bin Laden.
Far more persuasive has been a series of articles in the Pakistani press
on the outrageous treatment of Muslims arrested in the United States in
the aftermath of the September atrocities.
One such article should suffice. Headlined "Hate crime victim's diary",
in The News of Lahore, it outlined the suffering of Hasnain Javed, who
was arrested in Alabama on 19 September with an expired visa. In prison
in Mississippi, he was beaten up by a prisoner who also broke his tooth.
Then, long after he had sounded the warden's alarm bell, more men beat
him against a wall with the words: "Hey bin Laden, this is the first
round. There are going to be 10 rounds like this." There are dozens of
other such stories in the Pakistani press and most of them appear to be
Again, Muslims have been outraged by the hypocrisy of the West's
supposed "respect" for Islam. We are not, so we have informed the world,
going to suspend military operations in Afghanistan during the holy
fasting month of Ramadan. After all, the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq conflict
continued during Ramadan. So have Arab-Israeli conflicts. True enough.
But why, then, did we make such a show of suspending bombing on the
first Friday of the bombardment last month out of our "respect" for
Islam? Because we were more respectful then than now? Or because -- the
Taliban remaining unbroken -- we've decided to forget about all that
"I can see why you want to separate bin Laden from our religion," a
Peshawar journalist said to me a few days ago. "Of course you want to
tell us that this isn't a religious war, but Mr Robert, please, please
stop telling us how much you respect Islam."
There is another disturbing argument I hear in Pakistan. If, as Mr Bush
claims, the attacks on New York and Washington were an assault on
"civilization", why shouldn't Muslims regard an attack on Afghanistan as
a war on Islam?
The Pakistanis swiftly spotted the hypocrisy of the Australians. While
itching to get into the fight against Mr bin Laden, the Australians have
sent armed troops to force destitute Afghan refugees out of their
The Aussies want to bomb Afghanistan -- but they don't want to save the
Afghans. Pakistan, it should be added, hosts 2.5 million Afghan
refugees. Needless to say, this discrepancy doesn't get much of an
airing on our satellite channels. Indeed, I have never heard so much
fury directed at journalists as I have in Pakistan these past few weeks.
Nor am I surprised.
What, after all, are we supposed to make of the so-called "liberal"
American television journalist Geraldo Rivera who is just moving to Fox
TV, a Murdoch channel? "I'm feeling more patriotic than at any time in
my life, itching for justice, or maybe just revenge," he announced this
"And this catharsis I've gone through has caused me to reassess what I
do for a living." This is truly chilling stuff. Here is an American
journalist actually revealing that he's possibly "itching for revenge".
Infinitely more shameful -- and unethical -- were the disgraceful words
of Walter Isaacson, the chairman of CNN, to his staff. Showing the
misery of Afghanistan ran the risk of promoting enemy propaganda, he
"It seems perverse to focus too much on the casualties or hardship in
Afghanistan ... we must talk about how the Taliban are using civilian
shields and how the Taliban have harbored the terrorists responsible for
killing close up to 5,000 innocent people."
Mr Isaacson was an unimaginative boss of Time magazine but these latest
words will do more to damage the supposed impartiality of CNN than
anything on the air in recent years.
Perverse? Why perverse? Why are Afghan casualties so far down Mr
Isaacson's compassion? Or is Mr Isaacson just following the lead set
down for him a few days earlier by the White House spokesman Ari
Fleischer, who portentously announced to the Washington press corps that
in times like these "people have to watch what they say and watch what
Needless to say, CNN has caved in to the US government's demand not to
broadcast Mr bin Laden's words in toto lest they contain "coded
messages". But the coded messages go out on television every hour. They
are "air campaign", "coalition forces" and "war on terror".
[ 2001 Independent Digital (UK) Ltd]
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