Kucinich protests Army training school By Harry R. Weber (SOA) + 20,000 Protest at Fort Benning

Dandelion Salad

By Harry R. Weber
Boston.com
Associated Press Writer
November 18, 2007

Continued…

h/t: ICH

***

Updated: Nov. 19, 2007 2:57 PM CT

Twenty Thousand Protest at Fort Benning: Eleven Face Federal Criminal Trials
By Bill Quigley
t r u t h o u t | Report

Monday 19 November 2007

In what has become the nation’s largest annual gathering for peace and human rights, over twenty thousand people protested outside the gates of Fort Benning, GA, on November 18, 2007. Eleven people were arrested on federal criminal charges and face up to six months in prison.

Fort Benning is the site of the internationally notorious US Army training school for Latin American military and security personnel. For decades it was called the School of the Americas (SOA) – it is now called the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC). The school has graduated hundreds of military officers who have led or participated in nearly every human rights atrocity in the hemisphere. Organizations across the world, including Amnesty International USA, have called for its closure since discovering copies of torture manuals used at the school. In June 2007, 203 members of the US House of Representatives voted to close the scandal-ridden school – six votes shy of the margin of victory.

Thousands listened quietly as Adriana Portillo-Bartow told how her father, stepmother, sister, sister-in-law and two daughters, ages nine and 11, were “disappeared” in Guatemala in a war directed and carried out by graduates of the US Army School of the Americas. Thousands moved towards the gates of the Fort and called out “presente!” as the names of hundreds of other victims of graduates of the school were sung out.

Veterans of WWII, Korea, Vietnam and the never-ending Gulf Wars marched side by side with Catholic sisters and Buddhist monks. Flowers, posters, pictures and thousands of small white crosses bearing the names of people executed by graduates of the school were put on the closed padlocked gates topped with barbed wire. Thousands of college and high school students chanted and prayed Grandmothers for Peace as military loudspeakers blared warnings and law enforcement helicopters hovered overhead. Huge puppets, singing children and drum circles alternated with the spirited calls of priests, rabbis and ministers of many faiths and races. Songs in many languages, indigenous chants, guitars, horns and mountain flutes filled the air.

The eleven people who crossed onto the grounds were arrested by military police. The eleven, ranging in age from 25 to 76, are scheduled for federal criminal trial January 28, 2008, for trespass – punishable by up to six months in federal prison. Over 200 people have served federal prison time for civil disobedience at prior protests – dozens of others arrested have served years of supervised federal probation. The movement to close the school started in 1990 when about 20 people held the first protest outside Fort Benning.

Even if the US government is reluctant to close the school, Latin American countries look like they will do it themselves. Argentina, Bolivia, Costa Rica, Uruguay and Venezuela have announced they are withdrawing their militaries from the school.

Crimes by graduates continue. Colombia recently arrested five high-ranking military officers who received training at the US Army School of Americas and two additional officers who were instructors at WHINSEC. All are charged with providing security and troops for the major drug cartel in Colombia.

Simultaneous protests occurred in Santiago, Chile, Tucson, Arizona – outside of Fort Huachuca – where three people were also arrested and face federal criminal charges, Toronto, Canada, as well as Berkeley and Monterey California.

For more on the movement to close the School of the Americas see www.soaw.org.

——–

Bill is a human rights lawyer and professor at Loyola University New Orleans College of Law. Bill is also a member of the legal collective of School of Americas Watch. Quigley@loyno.edu

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

see

Dennis Kucinich: Light Up Black Friday (video)

Kucinich Charges That American Media Owned By Military Contracters Are Biased And Supports His Claim By Kevin A. Stoda

Preparing for Life After Oil By Michael T. Klare

Dandelion Salad

By Michael T. Klare
ICH
11/18/07 “The Nation

This past May, in an unheralded and almost unnoticed move, the Energy Department signaled a fundamental, near epochal shift in US and indeed world history: we are nearing the end of the Petroleum Age and have entered the Age of Insufficiency. The department stopped talking about “oil” in its projections of future petroleum availability and began speaking of “liquids.” The global output of “liquids,” the department indicated, would rise from 84 million barrels of oil equivalent (mboe) per day in 2005 to a projected 117.7 mboe in 2030 — barely enough to satisfy anticipated world demand of 117.6 mboe. Aside from suggesting the degree to which oil companies have ceased being mere suppliers of petroleum and are now purveyors of a wide variety of liquid products — including synthetic fuels derived from natural gas, corn, coal and other substances — this change hints at something more fundamental: we have entered a new era of intensified energy competition and growing reliance on the use of force to protect overseas sources of petroleum. To appreciate the nature of the change, it is useful to probe a bit deeper into the Energy Department’s curious terminology. “Liquids,” the department explains in its International Energy Outlook for 2007, encompasses “conventional” petroleum as well as “unconventional” liquids — notably tar sands (bitumen), oil shale, biofuels, coal-to-liquids and gas-to-liquids. Once a relatively insignificant component of the energy business, these fuels have come to assume much greater importance as the output of conventional petroleum has faltered. Indeed, the Energy Department projects that unconventional liquids production will jump from a mere 2.4 mboe per day in 2005 to 10.5 in 2030, a fourfold increase. But the real story is not the impressive growth in unconventional fuels but the stagnation in conventional oil output. Looked at from this perspective, it is hard to escape the conclusion that the switch from “oil” to “liquids” in the department’s terminology is a not so subtle attempt to disguise the fact that worldwide oil production is at or near its peak capacity and that we can soon expect a downturn in the global availability of conventional petroleum.

Petroleum is, of course, a finite substance, and geologists have long warned of its ultimate disappearance. The extraction of oil, like that of other nonrenewable resources, will follow a parabolic curve over time. Production rises quickly at first and then gradually slows until approximately half the original supply has been exhausted; at that point, a peak in sustainable output is attained and production begins an irreversible decline until it becomes too expensive to lift what little remains. Most oil geologists believe we have already reached the midway point in the depletion of the world’s original petroleum inheritance and so are nearing a peak in global output; the only real debate is over how close we have come to that point, with some experts claiming we are at the peak now and others saying it is still a few years or maybe a decade away.

Until very recently, Energy Department analysts were firmly in the camp of those wild-eyed optimists who claimed that peak oil was so far in the future that we didn’t really need to give it much thought. Putting aside the science of the matter, the promulgation of such a rose-colored view obviated any need to advocate improvements in automobile fuel efficiency or to accelerate progress on the development of alternative fuels. Given White House priorities, it is hardly surprising that this view prevailed in Washington.

In just the past six months, however, the signs of an imminent peak in conventional oil production have become impossible even for conservative industry analysts to ignore. These have come from the take-no-prisoners world of oil pricing and deal-making, on the one hand, and the analysis of international energy experts, on the other.

Most dramatic, perhaps, has been the spectacular rise in oil prices. The price of light, sweet crude crossed the longstanding psychological barrier of $80 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange for the first time in September, and has since risen to as high as $90. Many reasons have been cited for the rise in crude prices, including unrest in Nigeria’s oil-producing Delta region, pipeline sabotage in Mexico, increased hurricane activity in the Gulf of Mexico and fears of Turkish attacks on Kurdish guerrilla sanctuaries in Iraq. But the underlying reality is that most oil-producing countries are pumping at maximum capacity and finding it increasingly difficult to boost production in the face of rising international demand.

Even a decision by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to boost production by 500,000 barrels per day failed to halt the upward momentum in prices. Concerned that an excessive rise in oil costs would trigger a worldwide recession and lower demand for their products, the OPEC countries agreed to increase their combined output at a meeting in Vienna on September 11. “We think that the market is a little bit high,” explained Kuwait’s acting oil minister, Mohammad al-Olaim. But the move did little to slow the rise in prices. Clearly, OPEC would have to undertake a much larger production increase to alter the market environment, and it is not at all clear that its members possess the capacity to do that — now or in the future.

A warning sign of another sort was provided by Kazakhstan’s August decision to suspend development of the giant Kashagan oil region in its sector of the Caspian Sea, first initiated by a consortium of Western firms in the late ’90s. Kashagan was said to be the most promising oil project since the discovery of oil in Alaska’s Prudhoe Bay in the late ’60s. But the enterprise has encountered enormous technical problems and has yet to produce a barrel of oil. Frustrated by a failure to see any economic benefits from the project, the Kazakh government has cited environmental risks and cost overruns to justify suspending operations and demanding a greater say in the project.

Like the dramatic rise in oil prices, the Kashagan episode is an indication of the oil industry’s growing difficulties in its efforts to boost production in the face of rising demand. “All the oil companies are struggling to grow production,” Peter Hitchens of Teather & Greenwood brokerage told the Wall Street Journal in July. “It’s becoming more and more difficult to bring projects in on time and on budget.”

That this industry debilitation is not a temporary problem but symptomatic of a long-term trend was confirmed in two important studies published this past summer by conservative industry organizations.

The first of these was released July 9 by the International Energy Agency (IEA), an affiliate of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the club of major industrial powers. Titled Medium-Term Oil Market Report, it is a blunt assessment of the global supply-and-demand equation over the 2007-12 period. The news is not good.

Predicting that world economic activity will grow by an average of 4.5 percent per year during this period — much of it driven by unbridled growth in China, India and the Middle East — the report concludes that global oil demand will rise by 2.2 percent per year, pushing world oil consumption from approximately 86 million barrels per day in 2007 to 96 million in 2012. With luck and massive new investment, the oil industry will be able to increase output sufficiently to satisfy the higher level of demand anticipated for 2012 — barely. Beyond that, however, there appears little likelihood that the industry will be able to sustain any increase in demand. “Oil look[s] extremely tight in five years’ time,” the agency declared.

Underlying the report’s general conclusion are a number of specific concerns. Most notably, it points to a worrisome decline in the yield of older fields in non-OPEC countries and a corresponding need for increased output from the OPEC countries, most of which are located in conflict-prone areas of the Middle East and Africa. The numbers involved are staggering. At first blush, it would seem that the need for an extra 10 million barrels per day between now and 2012 would translate into an added 2 million barrels per day in each of the next five years — a conceivably attainable goal. But that doesn’t take into account the decline of older fields. According to the report, the world actually needs an extra 5 million: 3 million to make up for the decline in older fields plus the 2 million in added requirements. This is a daunting and possibly insurmountable challenge, especially when one considers that almost all of the additional petroleum will have to come from Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Angola, Libya, Nigeria, Sudan, Kazakhstan and Venezuela — countries that do not inspire the sort of investor confidence that will be needed to pour hundreds of billions of dollars into new drilling rigs, pipelines and other essential infrastructure.

Similar causes for anxiety can be found in the second major study released last summer, Facing the Hard Truths About Energy, prepared by the National Petroleum Council, a major industry organization. Because it supposedly provided a “balanced” view of the nation’s energy dilemma, the NPC report was widely praised on Capitol Hill and in the media; adding to its luster was the identity of its chief author, former ExxonMobil CEO Lee Raymond.

Like the IEA report, the NPC study starts with the claim that, with the right mix of policies and higher investment, the industry is capable of satisfying US and international oil and natural gas demand. “Fortunately, the world is not running out of energy resources,” the report bravely asserts. But obstacles to the development and delivery of these resources abound, so prudent policies and practices are urgently required. Although “there is no single, easy solution to the multiple challenges we face,” the authors conclude, they are “confident that the prompt adoption of these strategies” will allow the United States to satisfy its long-term energy needs.

Read further into the report, however, and serious doubts emerge. Here again, worries arise from the growing difficulties of extracting oil and gas from less-favorable locations and the geopolitical risks associated with increased reliance on unfriendly and unstable suppliers. According to the NPC (using data acquired from the IEA), an estimated $20 trillion in new infrastructure will be needed over the next twenty-five years to ensure that sufficient energy is available to satisfy anticipated worldwide demand.

The report then states the obvious: “A stable and attractive investment climate will be necessary to attract adequate capital for evolution and expansion of the energy infrastructure.” This is where any astute observer should begin to get truly alarmed, for, as the study notes, no such climate can be expected. As the center of gravity of world oil production shifts decisively to OPEC suppliers and state-centric energy producers like Russia, geopolitical rather than market factors will come to dominate the marketplace.

“These shifts pose profound implications for U.S. interests, strategies, and policy-making,” the NPC report states. “Many of the expected changes could heighten risks to U.S. energy security in a world where U.S. influence is likely to decline as economic power shifts to other nations. In years to come, security threats to the world’s main sources of oil and natural gas may worsen.”

The implications are obvious: major investors are not likely to cough up the trillions of dollars needed to substantially boost production in the years ahead, suggesting that the global output of conventional petroleum will not reach the elevated levels predicted by the Energy Department but will soon begin an irreversible decline.

This conclusion leads to two obvious strategic impulses: first, the government will seek to ease the qualms of major energy investors by promising to protect their overseas investments through the deployment of American military forces; and second, the industry will seek to hedge its bets by shifting an ever-increasing share of its investment funds into the development of nonpetroleum liquids.

The New ‘Washington Consensus’

The need for a vigorous US military role in protecting energy assets abroad has been a major theme in American foreign policy since 1945, when President Roosevelt met with King Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia and promised to protect the kingdom in return for privileged access to Saudi oil.

In the most famous expression of this linkage, President Carter affirmed in January 1980 that the unimpeded flow of Persian Gulf oil is among this country’s vital interests and that to protect this interest, the United States will employ “any means necessary, including military force.” This principle was later cited by President Reagan as the rationale for “reflagging” Kuwaiti oil tankers with the American ensign during the Iran-Iraq War of 1980-88 and protecting them with US warships — a stance that led to sporadic clashes with Iran. The same principle was subsequently invoked by George H.W. Bush as a justification for the Gulf War of 1991.

In considering these past events, it is important to recognize that the use of military force to protect the flow of imported petroleum has generally enjoyed broad bipartisan support in Washington. Initially, this bipartisan outlook was largely focused on the Persian Gulf area, but since 1990, it has been extended to other areas as well. President Clinton eagerly pursued close military ties with the Caspian Sea oil states of Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan after the breakup of the USSR in 1991, while George W. Bush has avidly sought an increased US military presence in Africa’s oil-producing regions, going so far as to favor the establishment of a US Africa Command (Africom) in February.

One might imagine that the current debacle in Iraq would shake this consensus, but there is no evidence that this is so. In fact, the opposite appears to be the case: possibly fearful that the chaos in Iraq will spread to other countries in the Gulf region, senior figures in both parties are calling for a reinvigorated US military role in the protection of foreign energy deliveries.

Perhaps the most explicit expression of this elite consensus is an independent task force report, National Security Consequences of U.S. Oil Dependency, backed by many prominent Democrats and Republicans. It was released by the bipartisan Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), co-chaired by John Deutch, deputy secretary of defense in the Clinton Administration, and James Schlesinger, defense secretary in the Nixon and Ford administrations, in October 2006. The report warns of mounting perils to the safe flow of foreign oil. Concluding that the United States alone has the capacity to protect the global oil trade against the threat of violent obstruction, it argues the need for a strong US military presence in key producing areas and in the sea lanes that carry foreign oil to American shores.

An awareness of this new “Washington consensus” on the need to protect overseas oil supplies with American troops helps explain many recent developments in Washington. Most significant, it illuminates the strategic stance adopted by President Bush in justifying his determination to retain a potent US force in Iraq — and why the Democrats have found it so difficult to contest that stance.

Consider Bush’s September 13 prime-time speech on Iraq. “If we were to be driven out of Iraq,” he prophesied, “extremists of all strains would be emboldened…. Iran would benefit from the chaos and would be encouraged in its efforts to gain nuclear weapons and dominate the region. Extremists could control a key part of the global energy supply.” And then came the kicker: “Whatever political party you belong to, whatever your position on Iraq, we should be able to agree that America has a vital interest in preventing chaos and providing hope in the Middle East.” In other words, Iraq is no longer about democracy or WMDs or terrorism but about maintaining regional stability to ensure the safe flow of petroleum and keep the American economy on an even keel; it was almost as if he was speaking to the bipartisan crowd that backed the CFR report cited above.

It is very clear that the Democrats, or at least mainstream Democrats, are finding it exceedingly difficult to contest this argument head-on. In March, for example, Senator Hillary Clinton told the New York Times that Iraq is “right in the heart of the oil region” and so “it is directly in opposition to our interests” for it to become a failed state or a pawn of Iran. This means, she continued, that it will be necessary to keep some US troops in Iraq indefinitely, to provide logistical and training support to the Iraqi military. Senator Barack Obama has also spoken of the need to maintain a robust US military presence in Iraq and the surrounding area. Thus, while calling for the withdrawal of most US combat brigades from Iraq proper, he has championed an “over-the-horizon force that could prevent chaos in the wider region.”

Given this perspective, it is very hard for mainstream Democrats to challenge Bush when he says that an “enduring” US military presence is needed in Iraq or to change the Administration’s current policy, barring a major military setback or some other unforeseen event. By the same token, it will be hard for the Democrats to avert a US attack on Iran if this can be portrayed as a necessary move to prevent Tehran from threatening the long-term safety of Persian Gulf oil supplies.

Nor can we anticipate a dramatic change in US policy in the Gulf region from the next administration, whether Democratic or Republican. If anything, we should expect an increase in the use of military force to protect the overseas flow of oil, as the threat level rises along with the need for new investment to avert even further reductions in global supplies.

The Rush to Alternative Liquids

Although determined to keep expanding the supply of conventional petroleum for as long as possible, government and industry officials are aware that at some point these efforts will prove increasingly ineffective. They also know that public pressure to reduce carbon dioxide emissions — thus slowing the accumulation of climate-changing greenhouse gases — and to avoid exposure to conflict in the Middle East is sure to increase in the years ahead. Accordingly, they are placing greater emphasis on the development of oil alternatives that can be procured at home or in neighboring Canada.

The new emphasis was first given national attention in Bush’s latest State of the Union address. Stressing energy independence and the need to modernize fuel economy standards, he announced an ambitious plan to increase domestic production of ethanol and other biofuels. The Administration appears to favor several types of petroleum alternatives: ethanol derived from corn stover, switch grass and other nonfood crops (cellulosic ethanol); diesel derived largely from soybeans (biodiesel); and liquids derived from coal (coal-to-liquids), natural gas (gas-to-liquids) and oil shale. All of these methods are being tested in university laboratories and small-scale facilities, and will be applied in larger, commercial-sized ventures in coming years with support from various government agencies.

In February, for example, the Energy Department announced grants totaling $385 million for the construction of six pilot plants to manufacture cellulosic ethanol; when completed in 2012, these “biorefineries” will produce more than 130 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol per year. (The United States already produces large quantities of ethanol by cooking and fermenting corn kernels, a process that consumes vast amounts of energy and squanders a valuable food crop while supplanting only a small share of our petroleum usage; the proposed cellulosic plants would use nonfood biomass as a feedstock and consume far less energy.)

Just as eager to develop petroleum alternatives are the large energy companies, all of which have set up laboratories or divisions to explore future energy options. BP has been especially aggressive; in 2005 it established BP Alternative Energy and set aside $8 billion for this purpose. This past February the new spinoff announced a $500 million grant — possibly the largest of its kind in history — to the University of California, Berkeley, the University of Illinois and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory to establish an Energy Biosciences Institute with the aim of developing biofuels. BP said the institute “is expected to explore the application of bioscience [to] the production of new and cleaner energy, principally fuels for road transport.”

Just about every large oil company is placing a heavy bet on Canadian tar sands — a gooey substance found in Canada’s Alberta province that can be converted into synthetic petroleum — but only with enormous effort and expense. According to the Energy Department, Canadian bitumen production will rise from 1.1 mboe in 2005 to 3.6 mboe in 2030, an increase that is largely expected to be routed to the United States. Hoping to cash in on this bonanza, giant US corporations like Chevron are racing to buy up leases in the bitumen fields of northern Alberta.

But while attractive from a geopolitical perspective, extracting Canadian tar sands is environmentally destructive. It takes vast quantities of energy to recover the bitumen and convert it into a usable liquid, releasing three times as much greenhouse gases as conventional oil production; the resulting process leaves toxic water supplies and empty moonscapes in its wake. Although rarely covered in the US press, opposition in Canada to the environmental damage wreaked by these mammoth operations is growing.

Environmental factors loom large in yet another potential source of liquids being pursued by US energy firms, with strong government support: shale oil, or petroleum liquids pried from immature rock found in the Green River basin of western Colorado, eastern Utah and southern Wyoming. Government geologists claim that shale rock in the United States holds the equivalent of 2.1 trillion barrels of oil — the same as the original world supply of conventional petroleum. However, the only way to recover this alleged treasure is to strip-mine a vast wilderness area and heat the rock to 500 degrees Celsius, creating mountains of waste material in the process. Here too, opposition is growing to this massively destructive assault on the environment. Nevertheless, Shell Oil has established a pilot plant in Rio Blanco County in western Colorado with strong support from the Bush Administration.

Life After the Peak

And so we have a portrait of the global energy situation after the peak of conventional petroleum, with troops being rushed from one oil-producing hot spot to another and a growing share of our transportation fuel being supplied by nonpetroleum liquids of one sort or another. Exactly what form this future energy equation will take cannot be foreseen with precision, but it is obvious that the arduous process will shape American policy debates, domestic and foreign, for a long time.

As this brief assessment suggests, the passing of peak oil will have profound and lasting consequences for this country, with no easy solutions. In facing this future, we must, above all, disavow any simple answers, such as energy “independence” based on the pillage of America’s remaining wilderness areas or the false promise of corn-based ethanol (which can supply only a tiny fraction of our transportation requirements). It is clear, moreover, that many of the fuel alternatives proposed by the Bush Administration pose significant dangers of their own and so should be examined carefully before vast public sums are committed to their development. The safest and most morally defensible course is to repudiate any “consensus” calling for the use of force to protect overseas petroleum supplies and to strive to conserve what remains of the world’s oil by using less of it.

Michael T. Klare is a professor of peace and world security studies at Hampshire College in Amherst, Mass., and the author of Blood and Oil: The Dangers and Consequences of America’s Growing Petroleum Dependency

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Somalia: What the News Failed to Report By Ramzy Baroud

Dandelion Salad

By Ramzy Baroud
11/18/07 “ICH

The people of Somalia are enduring yet another round of suffering as Ethiopian forces wreck havoc in the capital, Mogadishu. Apparently in response to an attack on one of its units, and the dragging of a soldier’s mutilated body through the city’s streets, an Ethiopian mortar reportedly exploded in Mogadishu’s Bakara market on November 9, killing eight civilians. A number of Somalis were also found dead the following day, some believed to have been rounded up by Ethiopian forces the night before.

Nearly 50 civilians have reportedly been killed and 100 wounded in the two-day fighting spree between fighters loyal to the Union of Islamic Courts and government forces and their Ethiopian allies. A report, issued by Human Rights Watch, chastised both Ethiopian troops and ‘insurgents’ for the bloodletting. Peter Takirambudde, the watchdog’s Africa director, was quoted as saying, ‘The international community should condemn these attacks and hold combatants accountable for violations of humanitarian law – including mutilating captured combatants and executing detainees.’ Of course, one cannot realistically expect the international community to take on a constructive involvement in the conflict. Various members of this ‘community’ have already played a most destructive role in Somalia’s 16-year-old civil war, which fragmented a nation that had long struggled to achieve a sense of sovereignty and national cohesion.

To dismiss the war in Somalia as yet another protracted conflict between warlords and insurgents would indeed be unjust because the country’s history has consistently been marred by colonial greed and unwarranted foreign interventions. These gave rise to various proxy governments, militias and local middlemen, working in the interests of those obsessed with the geopolitical importance of the Horn of Africa.

Colonial powers came to appreciate the strategic location of Somalia after the Berlin Conference, which initiated the ‘Scramble for Africa’. The arrival of Britain, France and Italy into Somali lands began in the late 19th century and quickly the area disintegrated into British Somaliland and Italian Somaliland. Both countries sought expand their control, enlisting locals to fight the very wars aimed at their own subjugation.

World War II brought immense devastation to the Somali people, who, out of desperation, coercion or promises of post-war independence, fought on behalf of the warring European powers. Somalia was mandated by the UN as an Italian protectorate in 1949 and achieved independence a decade later in 1960. However, the colonial powers never fully conceded their interests in the country and the Cold War actually invited new players to the scene, including the United States, the Soviet Union and Cuba.

One residue of the colonial legacy involved the Ogaden province of Somalia, which the British empire had granted to the Ethiopian government. The region became the stage of two major wars between Ethiopia and Somalia between 1964 and 1977. Many Somalis still regard Ethiopia as an occupying power and view the policies of Addis Ababa as a continuation of the country’s history of foreign intervention.

The civil war of 1991, largely a result of foreign intervention, clan and tribal loyalties, and lack of internal cohesion, further disfigured Somalia. As stranded civilians became deprived of aid, Somalia was hit by a devastating famine that yielded a humanitarian disaster. The famine served as a pretext for foreign intervention, this time as part of international ‘humanitarian’ missions, starting in December 1992, which also included US troops. The endeavour came to a tragic end in October 1993, when more than 1,000 Somalis and 18 US troops were killed in Mogadishu. Following a hurried US withdrawal, the mainstream media rationalized that the West could not help those who refuse to help themselves; another disfiguration of the fact that the interest of the Somali people was hardly ever a concern for these colonial philanthropists. Since then, the importance of Somalia was relegated in international news media into just another mindless conflict, with no rational context and no end in sight. The truth, however, is that colonial interest in the Horn of Africa has never waned.

The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 provided an impetus for US involvement in the strategic region; only one month after the attacks, Paul Wolfowitz met with various power players in Ethiopia and Somalia, alleging that al-Qaeda terrorists might be using Ras Kamboni and other Somali territories as escape routes. A year later, the US established the Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) to ‘monitor’ developments and to train local militaries in ‘counterterrorism’.

The US contingent was hardly neutral in the ongoing conflict. Reportedly, US troops were involved in aiding Ethiopian forces that entered Somalia in December 2006, citing efforts to track down al-Qaeda suspects. The Ethiopian occupation was justified as a response to a call by Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG), whose legitimacy is questioned. TGF, seen largely as a pro-Ethiopian entity, had been rapidly losing its control over parts of Somalia to the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) which came to prominence in January 2006, taking over the capital and eventually bringing long-sought stability to much of the country. Their attempts engage the US and other Western powers in dialogue failed, however, as a US-backed Ethiopia moved into Somalia in December 2006. On January 7, 2007, the US directly entered the conflict, launching airstrikes using AC-130 gunship. Civilian causalities were reported, but the US refused to accept responsibility for them.

The last intervention devastated the country’s chances of unity. It now stands divided between the transitional government, Ethiopia (both backed by the UN, the US and the African Union) and the Islamic courts (allegedly backed by Eritrea and some Arab Gulf governments). Recently, the UN ruled out any chances for an international peacekeeping force, and the few African countries who promised troops are yet to deliver (with the exception of Uganda).

This situation leaves Somalia once more under the mercy of foreign powers and self-serving internal forces, foreshadowing yet more bloodshed. Our informed support is essential now because the Somali people have suffered enough. Their plight is urgent and it deserves a much deeper understanding, alongside immediate attention.

Ramzy Baroud (www.ramzybaroud.n t) is an author and editor of PalestineChronicle.com. His work has been published in many newspapers and journals worldwide. His latest book is The Second Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a People’s Struggle (Pluto Press, London).

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

US Congress moves toward passage of domestic spy bill by Joe Kay

Dandelion Salad

by Joe Kay
Global Research, November 18, 2007
wsws.org

The US House of Representatives and two different Senate committees have approved competing versions of a bill that would modify a law governing spying on domestic and international communications.

All versions of the bill would expand government spying powers by modifying the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which requires a warrant for electronic surveillance of US citizens. The bills differ on whether or not to grant retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies that participated in the Bush administration’s National Security Agency (NSA) warrantless wiretapping program.

Congressional Democrats are split on whether or not to include the immunity provision, while the administration has pledged to veto any bill that does not include it.

The new bill is intended to replace one passed by a Democratic-controlled Congress in August, which granted the Bush administration all the spying powers it requested. The bill allowed for warrantless domestic wiretapping as long as one of the persons involved in the communication was “reasonably believed to be located outside the Untied States.” That bill is set to expire in February.

In October, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman John Rockefeller IV, a Democrat, forged a compromise with the Bush administration that included an immunity clause and expanded domestic spying powers. The bill, which would essentially extend the legislation passed in August, was overwhelmingly approved by the intelligence committee by a 13-2 vote.

The vote demonstrated that there is broad support within the Democratic Party beyond Rockefeller for the expanded powers and immunity clause. This year, Rockefeller received $42,000 in political donations from Verizon and AT&T, the two main companies targeted by lawsuits for their role in the NSA domestic spying program.

Following Senate procedures, the bill also had to be approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee before coming to a vote in the full Senate. Approval of the same bill that went through the intelligence committee was expected after Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, who also sits on the intelligence committee, indicated her support for the immunity clause. On Thursday, a vote was taken on the committee supporting the inclusion of retroactive immunity, and passed 11-8 with Feinstein and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island joining Republicans to support the provision.

Shortly after that vote, however, Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy called a vote on the bill without the immunity clause. It passed with a party-line 10-9 vote. The Democratic leadership engineered the maneuver after some members threatened to absent themselves from a final vote, denying sufficient numbers to approve the bill.

Also on Thursday, the full House of Representatives passed a parallel bill weakening the provisions of FISA but containing slightly more restrictive requirements than the version passed in August and the one currently supported by the Senate committees. It also does not include immunity for telecommunications companies. The House bill would require “umbrella warrants” for wiretapping involving people in the United States—allowing the government to obtain broad authority for domestic spying. The bill passed 227-189, largely along party lines.

The Bush administration declared the House measure to be unacceptable. A White House statement released Thursday said that it would “dangerously weaken our ability to protect the nation from foreign threats.”

There are still several steps before a final bill is passed by Congress. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid now has the option of choosing either the Intelligence Committee or the Judiciary Committee version to put before the full Senate. If the version without immunity is presented, supporters of immunity will still have the option of putting forward an amendment, which would almost certainly garner majority support in the Senate.

Once the Senate passes a bill, it would have to be reconciled with the House version, and both the House and Senate would have to re-approve the compromise. It would then have to be signed by Bush. The Senate is not expected to vote on a version of the bill until some time in December.

During that period, there is ample room for a rotten compromise of some sort. Given the substantial support within the Democratic Party leadership for an immunity clause, it is likely that a bill including the measure will be included in any final bill that is passed, whether this is done before or after a veto from Bush.

According to a report in the Associated Press, “House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers [Democrat—Michigan] left the door open to an immunity deal but said the White House must first give Congress access to classified documents specifying what the companies did that requires legal immunity.”

Meanwhile, Republican Senator Arlen Specter is pushing for an amendment that would immunize the companies, while calling for current lawsuits to list the government as the defendant instead of the companies. The Bush administration, however, has attempted to cite “national security” to have thrown out any cases involving the domestic spying program.

The question of immunity is significant, both on the specific program of warrantless wiretapping and as a precedent for future collaboration of big business in the illegal activities of the government. There are presently about 40 lawsuits against the telecommunications companies. In one case, a former AT&T employee has testified that the company set up a special room that routed all communications and Internet traffic directly to the NSA.

Democratic and Republican supporters of immunity have cited the potential financial damages to the companies to justify their position. Feinstein declared that companies should not be “held hostage to costly litigation in what is essentially a complaint about administration activities.”

The financial interests of a powerful section of big business are no doubt an important factor. However, the immunity would also be aimed at closing off one of the few remaining avenues for challenging the administration’s illegal actions. The immunity clause approved by the Senate Intelligence Community would not only throw out the civil suits seeking financial damage, but also the suits seeking public disclosure and a court injunction on future spying.

Whatever the divisions over immunity, both political parties accept the premises of the debate—that increased powers are necessary as part of the “war on terror.” Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Thursday, in justifying the House version, “I understand full well the threats to our national security. I understand full well the need for us to have legislation that strikes the proper balance between liberty and security.”

The action on the new spying bill takes place as the Bush administration’s new attorney general, Michael Mukasey, takes over at the Justice Department. Mukasey was approved by the Democratic-controlled Senate earlier this month, despite his refusal to declare waterboarding torture and his support for other antidemocratic policies.

One of Mukasey’s first tasks will be to handle the controversy over domestic spying, and his first classified briefing was on FISA. The White House also moved to grant Justice Department investigators clearance to conduct an inquiry into the spying program, reversing a decision it made earlier this year to deny security clearance.

The decision, which was hailed by Democrats, is intended to contain the controversy by organizing an investigation that will be a whitewash. The New York Times, citing Justice Department officials, reported earlier this week that it is “unlikely” that the investigation “would address directly the question of the legality of the N.S.A. program itself: whether eavesdropping on American soil without court warrants violated the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.”

The intention of both the new legislation and the Justice Department investigation is to place the administration’s domestic spying program on a firmer foundation.

Joe Kay is a frequent contributor to Global Research. Global Research Articles by Joe Kay

The CRG grants permission to cross-post original Global Research articles on community internet sites as long as the text & title are not modified. The source and the author’s copyright must be displayed. For publication of Global Research articles in print or other forms including commercial internet sites, contact: crgeditor@yahoo.com

www.globalresearch.ca contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available to our readers under the provisions of “fair use” in an effort to advance a better understanding of political, economic and social issues. The material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving it for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material for purposes other than “fair use” you must request permission from the copyright owner.

For media inquiries: crgeditor@yahoo.com
© Copyright Joe Kay, wsws.org, 2007
The url address of this article is: www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=7364

 

see

Interview: Naomi Wolf: The End of America (video)

Interview: Naomi Wolf: The End of America (must see video) + Bush on Blackwater USA

Dandelion Salad

talkingsticktv

Interview with Naomi Wolf author of “The End of America: Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot”

Continue reading

Venezuela: The struggle for a united socialist party by Federico Fuentes

Dandelion Salad

by Federico Fuentes

Global Research, November 18, 2007

Green Left Review

Local battalions of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) have been meeting every weekend since August, aiming to organise the 5.7 million aspiring members who enrolled between April and June to join the party-in-formation. Spokespeople and heads of commissions elected by the more than 14,000 battalions have gone on to form socialist circumscriptions, grouping 10 battalions in a given local area, to elect delegates to the party’s founding congress.

The process of forming the party comes in the context of the deepening of Venezuela’s socialist revolution, through a massive push to organise the population by way of communal councils and proposed reforms to the constitution to create a new institutional framework to drive forward this anti-capitalist process.

Within this process, PSUV is envisaged as an essential political instrument to politically organise the popular classes to most effectively fight for their class interests. The party is intended to bring together the worker and farmer base of the revolution with their leadership. Until now, the leadership of the revolutionary process has almost entirely been embodied in the figure of socialist President Hugo Chavez.

On November 6, at a the mass meeting of the Zamora Command, formed to direct the campaign for a “Yes” vote in the upcoming December 2 referendum on constitutional reform, Chavez explained that “fundamental motor” of the campaign will be the PSUV’s battalions. He stated that the campaign would require continuous street mobilisations in order to win the biggest vote possible to defeat the right-wing opponents of the reforms. The opposition has put forward three different strategies to defeat the reforms: a plan of destabilisation, building a “No” vote, and organised abstention.

The left’s response

Many progressive and socialist activists around the world have been excited by the prospects of a new mass revolutionary party in Venezuela, which will aid collective discussion on the direction of the revolution. However, some on the international left have quickly dismissed the PSUV.

One such example is Mike Gonzalez, a leader of the British Socialist Workers Party and its International Socialist Tendency, and the SWP’s key theoretician on Latin American politics. In Australia, groups such as the International Socialist Organisation (which is part of the IST), and Socialist Alternative and Solidarity (which are not, but share the same political tradition) take many of their cues from the SWP.

After spending some time in Venezuela recently, Gonzalez returned to Britain to report in the October Socialist Review that the PSUV was merely “an instrument of presidential power and one in which debate will be virtually impossible”.

Hostile to the revolutionary leadership around Chavez, Gonzalez has decided that the process in Venezuela is simply a question of “top down” organising, counter-posed to a “real” revolution, which is “bottom up”.

Gonzalez argues that the PSUV “has become more or less analogous with the state, so that the expression of doubt can be interpreted as hostility to, or at best scepticism about, the revolution”. He raises the spectre of Stalinism like in the Soviet Union, and of the big bogeyman for the IST — Cuba (which the IST also considers Stalinist).

“There are a lot of Cubans embedded in different parts of the government. Their sympathies probably lie with that group of bureaucrats forging this new instrument”, writes Gonzalez.

“For me, and for most of the people I spoke to”, he adds, “it is clear that [the PSUV] was an initiative from the state and the bureaucracy, not so much of Chavez as of those around Chavez”.

Even before the PSUV’s founding congress, Gonzalez apparently sees no hope for the project to succeed in creating a mass revolutionary socialist party. However, the Venezuelan reality is different to how Gonzalez paints it.

Formation of PSUV

During the presidential election campaign in late 2006, Chavez convened a meeting of the key Chavista parties and individuals to explain that after the election he would call for the formation of a new united party. The parties that supported Chavez election, including both revolutionary and pro-capitalist elements, have been divided. Chavez’s ostensible party, the Movement for a Fifth Republic (MVR), was largely a bureaucratically run electoral vehicle rather than an activist-driven revolutionary party.

Some Chavistas argued that the current parties supporting the Bolivarian revolution should have automatic quotas for the founding congress of a united party. However, Chavez was adamant that all delegates, including himself, would have to be elected from the grassroots.

On December 15, after his overwhelming victory in the presidential elections on a socialist platform, Chavez formally called for the formation of the PSUV. He explained the past practice of top-down decisions and deals on Chavista candidates for elected positions should be changed and “This should all be done from below, from the base. The people should take these decisions, as has been written in our constitution for seven years, except we haven’t done it. Now is the time to start.”

Chavez added, “You will not see me with the same old faces, the same party leaderships — no, that would be a deception”. Such a discourse seems unlikely to have pleased the bureaucratic layers within the government, but rather acted as an impetus for the mass of Venezuelan revolutionaries, who applauded this initiative.

Yet Gonzalez claims that “initially much of the left argued that the PSUV was an exercise in manipulation and that they should continue to build a current outside”. He argues that only after it became clear that “many working class people were attempting to join [the PSUV], this attitude changed … Eventually most of those on the left decided to enter the PSUV to try to build an independent current within it.”

However this is untrue. For instance, within the trade union movement, all of the main currents decided months before enrolment began to join the new party. Even the overwhelming majority of the leadership and rank and file of the C-CURA union tendency, which Gonzalez writes of in glowing terms, voted in March to encourage its members to join PSUV — despite one of its key leaders, Orlando Chirinos, arguing against it.

In the campesino sector, the radical wing of the movement organised in the National Campesino Front Ezequiel Zamora had, by the end of January, agreed to be part of the PSUV.

The overwhelming bulk of the local political and social organisations also threw themselves into the formation of the PSUV. An interesting case is that of the Party of Revolution and Socialism, which, due to its Trotskyist leanings, was pointed to by many like-minded socialist groups internationally as the “real” revolutionary force in Venezuela (ironically this meant it was probably better known outside of Venezuela than inside). After a section of the PSR’s leadership, headed by Chirinos, voted to stay outside the PSUV, the overwhelming bulk of its worker membership left to join the PSUV.

Rather than the left delaying joining, most of these sectors immediately realised there was a need to go into the PSUV to fight to ensure that what would emerge from the process of party formation is a real political instrument of the working people. The number of people who registered to take part in the party was a massive display of the support for such an initiative and the strongly felt desire amongst the Chavista ranks for unity and political organisation.

It is undeniable that a sizeable chunk of the more bureaucratic sectors of Chavismo have thrown their weight into the PSUV in order to best try to control it from above. However, this is hardly surprising. They know that their interests are threatened by a formation that eliminates the distribution of quotas for position and selection of candidates from above and replaces it with real grassroots democracy and revolutionary organisation: a real party, not just another electoral vehicle.

It is important to note that according to a number of revolutionaries, in a clear majority of the battalions across the country grassroots activists have imposed their will on the leftover bureaucratic MVR apparatchiks, winning the elections for spokespeople and heads of commissions.

Because of the number of delegates won by the left-wing of Chavismo, activists feel confident the left will be strongly felt at the founding congress. Moreover, the congress will provide an important opportunity for many revolutionary activists to come together for the first time at this level.

Structure and program

Gonzalez criticises the fact that “neither the structure nor the direction of the party have yet been defined. Instead small national commissions nominated by Chavez have been given the task of defining its character and form”, though he is forced to acknowledge that they will not decide “its programme or aims”.

Gonzalez is particularly opposed to the fact that the local organising units are based on geography, meaning “there are no workplace units and no student units. And given where the barrios are located in the cities, a geographical unit could quite easily embrace a poor district and a middle class area.” Gonzalez proclaims that the problem is that PSUV “was declared from above rather than built from below”.

However Gonzalez’s arguments are designed to justify his predetermined opposition to the PSUV, not engage with the real process of revolutionary struggle within Venezuela.
Of course someone had to set some kind of guidelines for the initial structure — how else would Gonzalez propose the process proceeds? Have the local units just emerge “spontaneously”? Such a conception would be a free kick for the bureaucrats, who would be the best placed to create fake “battalions” and control the election of delegates. The reality that local grassroots activists have in many cases imposed their decisions on the bureaucracy demonstrates that the initial structure, rather than hindering, has facilitated the beginnings of a new grassroots leadership.

While it is true that a national commission has set out this initial framework, nowhere is it excluded that the founding congress can vote to change this. Similarly it will be those elected “from below” who will discuss and debate, in permanent contact with their local battalions, every aspect of the new party: structure, program and principles.

Moreover, student and workplace units are not excluded. In fact a number have been set up at the aluminium factory ALCASA (which Gonzalez says he visited, yet managed to miss this fact), telecommunications company CANTV, manufacturing company INVEVAL and others. While battalions have been formed in middle-class areas, Gonzalez does not explain where the problem with this lies — merely expecting the reader to just accept that this is criminal. Yet surely a new party would aim to organise the revolutionary sectors of this class. There is no evidence produced by Gonzalez to show that somehow having PSUV battalions in middle-class areas will automatically prevent the party from developing a revolutionary socialist program.

The nature of PSUV will not be determined simply by its social composition (and if it was, given the overwhelming working-class membership, it would already be a mass workers’ party) but by its political program — something that must be debated out and not simply imposed on the ranks.

Most importantly, Gonzalez misses the fact that the PSUV’s initial structures did not come from nowhere, nor were they the result of a conspiracy by a clique of bureaucrats. The structures build on the successful mass organisation of the people in the lead-up to the 2004 recall referendum (the Units of Electoral Battle) and the 2006 presidential elections. These structures were true expressions of mass participation and political organisation, rooted directly in the communities and drawing in hundreds of thousands of grassroots leaders, outside of the structures of the official parties, in successful electoral campaigns.

Today it is similar structures that are at the centre of perhaps the most important battle in the Venezuelan process — the referendum on constitution reform. Once again it is the real leaders in the community, who through the authority they have won among the grassroots, who will lead this battle. Furthermore, the discussion around the reforms — which is essentially a programmatic discussion on a mass scale — adds important fuel to the ideological debate taking place within PSUV and Venezuelan society.

Problems and challenges

This is not to say that the first few months of the formation of PSUV have been perfect. There are many problems and dangers (which Green Left Weekly has covered in the past), but none of them have anything to do with those listed by Gonzalez.

There are no simple formulas for revolution or building revolutionary parties, only the reality in which we live and the lessons we can draw from the past. Any process involving 5.7 million people will include steps forwards and steps backward, and will be a process of serious struggle. However it will not be advanced by the simplistic sloganeering and denial of reality exhibited by Gonzalez. He seems determined to write off the PSUV before the party even holds its founding congress, implying that it is preordained that the party cannot be a vehicle to lead the struggle for socialism.

Such a view has also been put forward by another SWP leader, Chris Harman, in International Socialism #114. Harman argues that the PSUV “cannot provide an answer to the chaos [in Venezuela] because it will reflect in itself all the contradictory attitudes within the Chavista ranks”. Not a hint that the struggle for the formation of the PSUV is not just an organisational question but a political one, which will include a struggle for a socialist program and grassroots structures. Such logic is removed from the reality of mass revolutionary politics and divorced from the need to grapple with a revolutionary process that involves not just thousands or hundreds of thousands of people, but millions.

The Venezuelan revolution and the formation of the PSUV open up the possibility of not only serious blows being dealt to capitalism at a global level, but also the possibility of discussing on a mass scale, far beyond the existing revolutionary left, questions of revolution and political organisation.

Today, the revolutionary leadership in Venezuela, headed by Chavez, working together with the historic leadership of Cuba, is not just beginning to turn the tide of history but has opened up an important discussion among the left. This will make clear those who are willing to engage with new revolutionary forces leading the fight against capitalism, and those who close their eyes and continue to follow dead-end schemas that fly in the face of reality.

Federico Fuentes is a part of Green Left Weekly’s Caracas bureau and a member of the Australian Democratic Socialist Perspective, part of the Socialist Alliance.

Global Research Articles by Federico Fuentes
www.globalresearch.ca contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available to our readers under the provisions of “fair use” in an effort to advance a better understanding of political, economic and social issues. The material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving it for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material for purposes other than “fair use” you must request permission from the copyright owner.

For media inquiries: crgeditor@yahoo.com
© Copyright Federico Fuentes, Green Left Review, 2007
The url address of this article is: www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=7361

Friendly Feudalism: The Tibet Myth by Dr. Michael Parenti (01.02.07)

Dandelion Salad

by Dr. Michael Parenti

Global Research, November 18, 2007

Michael Parenti Politcal Archive – 2007-01-02

Expanded and Updated Version

I.
For Lords and Lamas

Along with the blood drenched landscape of religious conflict there is the experience of inner peace and solace that every religion promises, none more so than Buddhism. Standing in marked contrast to the intolerant savagery of other religions, Buddhism is neither fanatical nor dogmatic–so say its adherents. For many of them Buddhism is less a theology and more a meditative and investigative discipline intended to promote an inner harmony and enlightenment while directing us to a path of right living. Generally, the spiritual focus is not only on oneself but on the welfare of others. One tries to put aside egoistic pursuits and gain a deeper understanding of one’s connection to all people and things. “Socially engaged Buddhism” tries to blend individual liberation with responsible social action in order to build an enlightened society.

A glance at history, however, reveals that not all the many and widely varying forms of Buddhism have been free of doctrinal fanaticism, nor free of the violent and exploitative pursuits so characteristic of other religions. In Sri Lanka there is a legendary and almost sacred recorded history about the triumphant battles waged by Buddhist kings of yore. During the twentieth century, Buddhists clashed violently with each other and with non-Buddhists in Thailand, Burma, Korea, Japan, India, and elsewhere. In Sri Lanka, armed battles between Buddhist Sinhalese and Hindu Tamils have taken many lives on both sides. In 1998 the U.S. State Department listed thirty of the world’s most violent and dangerous extremist groups. Over half of them were religious, specifically Muslim, Jewish, and Buddhist. 1

In South Korea, in 1998, thousands of monks of the Chogye Buddhist order fought each other with fists, rocks, fire-bombs, and clubs, in pitched battles that went on for weeks. They were vying for control of the order, the largest in South Korea, with its annual budget of $9.2 million, its millions of dollars worth of property, and the privilege of appointing 1,700 monks to various offices. The brawls damaged the main Buddhist sanctuaries and left dozens of monks injured, some seriously. The Korean public appeared to disdain both factions, feeling that no matter what side took control, “it would use worshippers’ donations for luxurious houses and expensive cars.” 2

As with any religion, squabbles between or within Buddhist sects are often fueled by the material corruption and personal deficiencies of the leadership. For example, in Nagano, Japan, at Zenkoji, the prestigious complex of temples that has hosted Buddhist sects for more than 1,400 years, “a nasty battle” arose between Komatsu the chief priest and the Tacchu, a group of temples nominally under the chief priest’s sway. The Tacchu monks accused Komatsu of selling writings and drawings under the temple’s name for his own gain. They also were appalled by the frequency with which he was seen in the company of women. Komatsu in turn sought to isolate and punish monks who were critical of his leadership. The conflict lasted some five years and made it into the courts. 3

But what of Tibetan Buddhism? Is it not an exception to this sort of strife? And what of the society it helped to create? Many Buddhists maintain that, before the Chinese crackdown in 1959, old Tibet was a spiritually oriented kingdom free from the egotistical lifestyles, empty materialism, and corrupting vices that beset modern industrialized society. Western news media, travel books, novels, and Hollywood films have portrayed the Tibetan theocracy as a veritable Shangri-La. The Dalai Lama himself stated that “the pervasive influence of Buddhism” in Tibet, “amid the wide open spaces of an unspoiled environment resulted in a society dedicated to peace and harmony. We enjoyed freedom and contentment.” 4

A reading of Tibet’s history suggests a somewhat different picture. “Religious conflict was commonplace in old Tibet,” writes one western Buddhist practitioner. “History belies the Shangri-La image of Tibetan lamas and their followers living together in mutual tolerance and nonviolent goodwill. Indeed, the situation was quite different. Old Tibet was much more like Europe during the religious wars of the Counterreformation.” 5 In the thirteenth century, Emperor Kublai Khan created the first Grand Lama, who was to preside over all the other lamas as might a pope over his bishops. Several centuries later, the Emperor of China sent an army into Tibet to support the Grand Lama, an ambitious 25-year-old man, who then gave himself the title of Dalai (Ocean) Lama, ruler of all Tibet. Here is a historical irony: the first Dalai Lama was installed by a Chinese army.

His two previous lama “incarnations” were then retroactively recognized as his predecessors, thereby transforming the 1st Dalai Lama into the 3rd Dalai Lama. This 1st (or 3rd) Dalai Lama seized monasteries that did not belong to his sect, and is believed to have destroyed Buddhist writings that conflicted with his claim to divinity. The Dalai Lama who succeeded him pursued a sybaritic life, enjoying many mistresses, partying with friends, and acting in other ways deemed unfitting for an incarnate deity. For these transgressions he was murdered by his priests. Within 170 years, despite their recognized divine status, five Dalai Lamas were killed by their high priests or other courtiers. 6

For hundreds of years competing Tibetan Buddhist sects engaged in bitterly violent clashes and summary executions. In 1660, the 5th Dalai Lama was faced with a rebellion in Tsang province, the stronghold of the rival Kagyu sect with its high lama known as the Karmapa. The 5th Dalai Lama called for harsh retribution against the rebels, directing the Mongol army to obliterate the male and female lines, and the offspring too “like eggs smashed against rocks…. In short, annihilate any traces of them, even their names.” 7

In 1792, many Kagyu monasteries were confiscated and their monks were forcibly converted to the Gelug sect (the Dalai Lama’s denomination). The Gelug school, known also as the “Yellow Hats,” showed little tolerance or willingness to mix their teachings with other Buddhist sects. In the words of one of their traditional prayers: “Praise to you, violent god of the Yellow Hat teachings/who reduces to particles of dust/ great beings, high officials and ordinary people/ who pollute and corrupt the Gelug doctrine.” 8 An eighteenth-century memoir of a Tibetan general depicts sectarian strife among Buddhists that is as brutal and bloody as any religious conflict might be. 9 This grim history remains largely unvisited by present-day followers of Tibetan Buddhism in the West.

Religions have had a close relationship not only with violence but with economic exploitation. Indeed, it is often the economic exploitation that necessitates the violence. Such was the case with the Tibetan theocracy. Until 1959, when the Dalai Lama last presided over Tibet, most of the arable land was still organized into manorial estates worked by serfs. These estates were owned by two social groups: the rich secular landlords and the rich theocratic lamas. Even a writer sympathetic to the old order allows that “a great deal of real estate belonged to the monasteries, and most of them amassed great riches.” Much of the wealth was accumulated “through active participation in trade, commerce, and money lending.” 10

Drepung monastery was one of the biggest landowners in the world, with its 185 manors, 25,000 serfs, 300 great pastures, and 16,000 herdsmen. The wealth of the monasteries rested in the hands of small numbers of high-ranking lamas. Most ordinary monks lived modestly and had no direct access to great wealth. The Dalai Lama himself “lived richly in the 1000-room, 14-story Potala Palace.” 11

Secular leaders also did well. A notable example was the commander-in-chief of the Tibetan army, a member of the Dalai Lama’s lay Cabinet, who owned 4,000 square kilometers of land and 3,500 serfs. 12 Old Tibet has been misrepresented by some Western admirers as “a nation that required no police force because its people voluntarily observed the laws of karma.” 13 In fact. it had a professional army, albeit a small one, that served mainly as a gendarmerie for the landlords to keep order, protect their property, and hunt down runaway serfs.

Young Tibetan boys were regularly taken from their peasant families and brought into the monasteries to be trained as monks. Once there, they were bonded for life. Tashì-Tsering, a monk, reports that it was common for peasant children to be sexually mistreated in the monasteries. He himself was a victim of repeated rape, beginning at age nine. 14 The monastic estates also conscripted children for lifelong servitude as domestics, dance performers, and soldiers.

In old Tibet there were small numbers of farmers who subsisted as a kind of free peasantry, and perhaps an additional 10,000 people who composed the “middle-class” families of merchants, shopkeepers, and small traders. Thousands of others were beggars. There also were slaves, usually domestic servants, who owned nothing. Their offspring were born into slavery. 15 The majority of the rural population were serfs. Treated little better than slaves, the serfs went without schooling or medical care, They were under a lifetime bond to work the lord’s land–or the monastery’s land–without pay, to repair the lord’s houses, transport his crops, and collect his firewood. They were also expected to provide carrying animals and transportation on demand.16 Their masters told them what crops to grow and what animals to raise. They could not get married without the consent of their lord or lama. And they might easily be separated from their families should their owners lease them out to work in a distant location. 17

As in a free labor system and unlike slavery, the overlords had no responsibility for the serf’s maintenance and no direct interest in his or her survival as an expensive piece of property. The serfs had to support themselves. Yet as in a slave system, they were bound to their masters, guaranteeing a fixed and permanent workforce that could neither organize nor strike nor freely depart as might laborers in a market context. The overlords had the best of both worlds.

One 22-year old woman, herself a runaway serf, reports: “Pretty serf girls were usually taken by the owner as house servants and used as he wished”; they “were just slaves without rights.”18 Serfs needed permission to go anywhere. Landowners had legal authority to capture those who tried to flee. One 24-year old runaway welcomed the Chinese intervention as a “liberation.” He testified that under serfdom he was subjected to incessant toil, hunger, and cold. After his third failed escape, he was merciless beaten by the landlord’s men until blood poured from his nose and mouth. They then poured alcohol and caustic soda on his wounds to increase the pain, he claimed.19

The serfs were taxed upon getting married, taxed for the birth of each child and for every death in the family. They were taxed for planting a tree in their yard and for keeping animals. They were taxed for religious festivals and for public dancing and drumming, for being sent to prison and upon being released. Those who could not find work were taxed for being unemployed, and if they traveled to another village in search of work, they paid a passage tax. When people could not pay, the monasteries lent them money at 20 to 50 percent interest. Some debts were handed down from father to son to grandson. Debtors who could not meet their obligations risked being cast into slavery.20

The theocracy’s religious teachings buttressed its class order. The poor and afflicted were taught that they had brought their troubles upon themselves because of their wicked ways in previous lives. Hence they had to accept the misery of their present existence as a karmic atonement and in anticipation that their lot would improve in their next lifetime. The rich and powerful treated their good fortune as a reward for, and tangible evidence of, virtue in past and present lives.

The Tibetan serfs were something more than superstitious victims, blind to their own oppression. As we have seen, some ran away; others openly resisted, sometimes suffering dire consequences. In feudal Tibet, torture and mutilation–including eye gouging, the pulling out of tongues, hamstringing, and amputation–were favored punishments inflicted upon thieves, and runaway or resistant serfs. Journeying through Tibet in the 1960s, Stuart and Roma Gelder interviewed a former serf, Tsereh Wang Tuei, who had stolen two sheep belonging to a monastery. For this he had both his eyes gouged out and his hand mutilated beyond use. He explains that he no longer is a Buddhist: “When a holy lama told them to blind me I thought there was no good in religion.”21 Since it was against Buddhist teachings to take human life, some offenders were severely lashed and then “left to God” in the freezing night to die. “The parallels between Tibet and medieval Europe are striking,” concludes Tom Grunfeld in his book on Tibet. 22

In 1959, Anna Louise Strong visited an exhibition of torture equipment that had been used by the Tibetan overlords. There were handcuffs of all sizes, including small ones for children, and instruments for cutting off noses and ears, gouging out eyes, breaking off hands, and hamstringing legs. There were hot brands, whips, and special implements for disemboweling. The exhibition presented photographs and testimonies of victims who had been blinded or crippled or suffered amputations for thievery. There was the shepherd whose master owed him a reimbursement in yuan and wheat but refused to pay. So he took one of the master’s cows; for this he had his hands severed. Another herdsman, who opposed having his wife taken from him by his lord, had his hands broken off. There were pictures of Communist activists with noses and upper lips cut off, and a woman who was raped and then had her nose sliced away.23

Earlier visitors to Tibet commented on the theocratic despotism. In 1895, an Englishman, Dr. A. L. Waddell, wrote that the populace was under the “intolerable tyranny of monks” and the devil superstitions they had fashioned to terrorize the people. In 1904 Perceval Landon described the Dalai Lama’s rule as “an engine of oppression.” At about that time, another English traveler, Captain W.F.T. O’Connor, observed that “the great landowners and the priests… exercise each in their own dominion a despotic power from which there is no appeal,” while the people are “oppressed by the most monstrous growth of monasticism and priest-craft.” Tibetan rulers “invented degrading legends and stimulated a spirit of superstition” among the common people. In 1937, another visitor, Spencer Chapman, wrote, “The Lamaist monk does not spend his time in ministering to the people or educating them. . . . The beggar beside the road is nothing to the monk. Knowledge is the jealously guarded prerogative of the monasteries and is used to increase their influence and wealth.”24 As much as we might wish otherwise, feudal theocratic Tibet was a far cry from the romanticized Shangri La so enthusiastically nurtured by Buddhism’s western proselytes.

II. Secularization vs. Spirituality

What happened to Tibet after the Chinese Communists moved into the country in 1951? The treaty of that year provided for ostensible self-governance under the Dalai Lama’s rule but gave China military control and exclusive right to conduct foreign relations. The Chinese were also granted a direct role in internal administration “to promote social reforms.” Among the earliest changes they wrought was to reduce usurious interest rates, and build a few hospitals and roads. At first, they moved slowly, relying mostly on persuasion in an attempt to effect reconstruction. No aristocratic or monastic property was confiscated, and feudal lords continued to reign over their hereditarily bound peasants. “Contrary to popular belief in the West,” claims one observer, the Chinese “took care to show respect for Tibetan culture and religion.”25

Over the centuries the Tibetan lords and lamas had seen Chinese come and go, and had enjoyed good relations with Generalissimo Chiang Kaishek and his reactionary Kuomintang rule in China.26 The approval of the Kuomintang government was needed to validate the choice of the Dalai Lama and Panchen Lama. When the current 14th Dalai Lama was first installed in Lhasa, it was with an armed escort of Chinese troops and an attending Chinese minister, in accordance with centuries-old tradition. What upset the Tibetan lords and lamas in the early 1950s was that these latest Chinese were Communists. It would be only a matter of time, they feared, before the Communists started imposing their collectivist egalitarian schemes upon Tibet.

The issue was joined in 1956-57, when armed Tibetan bands ambushed convoys of the Chinese Peoples Liberation Army. The uprising received extensive assistance from the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), including military training, support camps in Nepal, and numerous airlifts.27 Meanwhile in the United States, the American Society for a Free Asia, a CIA-financed front, energetically publicized the cause of Tibetan resistance, with the Dalai Lama’s eldest brother, Thubtan Norbu, playing an active role in that organization. The Dalai Lama’s second-eldest brother, Gyalo Thondup, established an intelligence operation with the CIA as early as 1951. He later upgraded it into a CIA-trained guerrilla unit whose recruits parachuted back into Tibet.28

Many Tibetan commandos and agents whom the CIA dropped into the country were chiefs of aristocratic clans or the sons of chiefs. Ninety percent of them were never heard from again, according to a report from the CIA itself, meaning they were most likely captured and killed.29 “Many lamas and lay members of the elite and much of the Tibetan army joined the uprising, but in the main the populace did not, assuring its failure,” writes Hugh Deane.30 In their book on Tibet, Ginsburg and Mathos reach a similar conclusion: “As far as can be ascertained, the great bulk of the common people of Lhasa and of the adjoining countryside failed to join in the fighting against the Chinese both when it first began and as it progressed.”31 Eventually the resistance crumbled.

Whatever wrongs and new oppressions introduced by the Chinese after 1959, they did abolish slavery and the Tibetan serfdom system of unpaid labor. They eliminated the many crushing taxes, started work projects, and greatly reduced unemployment and beggary. They established secular schools, thereby breaking the educational monopoly of the monasteries. And they constructed running water and electrical systems in Lhasa.32

Heinrich Harrer (later revealed to have been a sergeant in Hitler’s SS) wrote a bestseller about his experiences in Tibet that was made into a popular Hollywood movie. He reported that the Tibetans who resisted the Chinese “were predominantly nobles, semi-nobles and lamas; they were punished by being made to perform the lowliest tasks, such as laboring on roads and bridges. They were further humiliated by being made to clean up the city before the tourists arrived.” They also had to live in a camp originally reserved for beggars and vagrants–all of which Harrer treats as sure evidence of the dreadful nature of the Chinese occupation.33

By 1961, Chinese occupation authorities expropriated the landed estates owned by lords and lamas. They distributed many thousands of acres to tenant farmers and landless peasants, reorganizing them into hundreds of communes.. Herds once owned by nobility were turned over to collectives of poor shepherds. Improvements were made in the breeding of livestock, and new varieties of vegetables and new strains of wheat and barley were introduced, along with irrigation improvements, all of which reportedly led to an increase in agrarian production.34

Many peasants remained as religious as ever, giving alms to the clergy. But monks who had been conscripted as children into the religious orders were now free to renounce the monastic life, and thousands did, especially the younger ones. The remaining clergy lived on modest government stipends and extra income earned by officiating at prayer services, weddings, and funerals.35

Both the Dalai Lama and his advisor and youngest brother, Tendzin Choegyal, claimed that “more than 1.2 million Tibetans are dead as a result of the Chinese occupation.”36 The official 1953 census–six years before the Chinese crackdown–recorded the entire population residing in Tibet at 1,274,000.37 Other census counts put the population within Tibet at about two million. If the Chinese killed 1.2 million in the early 1960s then almost all of Tibet, would have been depopulated, transformed into a killing field dotted with death camps and mass graves–of which we have no evidence. The thinly distributed Chinese force in Tibet could not have rounded up, hunted down, and exterminated that many people even if it had spent all its time doing nothing else.

Chinese authorities claim to have put an end to floggings, mutilations, and amputations as a form of criminal punishment. They themselves, however, have been charged with acts of brutality by exile Tibetans. The authorities do admit to “mistakes,” particularly during the 1966-76 Cultural Revolution when the persecution of religious beliefs reached a high tide in both China and Tibet. After the uprising in the late 1950s, thousands of Tibetans were incarcerated. During the Great Leap Forward, forced collectivization and grain farming were imposed on the Tibetan peasantry, sometimes with disastrous effect on production. In the late 1970s, China began relaxing controls “and tried to undo some of the damage wrought during the previous two decades.”38

In 1980, the Chinese government initiated reforms reportedly designed to grant Tibet a greater degree of self-rule and self-administration. Tibetans would now be allowed to cultivate private plots, sell their harvest surpluses, decide for themselves what crops to grow, and keep yaks and sheep. Communication with the outside world was again permitted, and frontier controls were eased to permit some Tibetans to visit exiled relatives in India and Nepal.39 By the 1980s many of the principal lamas had begun to shuttle back and forth between China and the exile communities abroad, “restoring their monasteries in Tibet and helping to revitalize Buddhism there.”40

As of 2007 Tibetan Buddhism was still practiced widely and tolerated by officialdom. Religious pilgrimages and other standard forms of worship were allowed but within limits. All monks and nuns had to sign a loyalty pledge that they would not use their religious position to foment secession or dissent. And displaying photos of the Dalai Lama was declared illegal.41

In the 1990s, the Han, the ethnic group comprising over 95 percent of China’s immense population, began moving in substantial numbers into Tibet. On the streets of Lhasa and Shigatse, signs of Han colonization are readily visible. Chinese run the factories and many of the shops and vending stalls. Tall office buildings and large shopping centers have been built with funds that might have been better spent on water treatment plants and housing. Chinese cadres in Tibet too often view their Tibetan neighbors as backward and lazy, in need of economic development and “patriotic education.” During the 1990s Tibetan government employees suspected of harboring nationalist sympathies were purged from office, and campaigns were once again launched to discredit the Dalai Lama. Individual Tibetans reportedly were subjected to arrest, imprisonment, and forced labor for carrying out separatist activities and engaging in “political subversion.” Some were held in administrative detention without adequate food, water, and blankets, subjected to threats, beatings, and other mistreatment.42

Tibetan history, culture, and certainly religion are slighted in schools. Teaching materials, though translated into Tibetan, focus mainly on Chinese history and culture. Chinese family planning regulations allow a three-child limit for Tibetan families. (There is only a one-child limit for Han families throughout China, and a two-child limit for rural Han families whose first child is a girl.) If a Tibetan couple goes over the three-child limit, the excess children can be denied subsidized daycare, health care, housing, and education. These penalties have been enforced irregularly and vary by district.43 None of these child services, it should be noted, were available to Tibetans before the Chinese takeover.

For the rich lamas and secular lords, the Communist intervention was an unmitigated calamity. Most of them fled abroad, as did the Dalai Lama himself, who was assisted in his flight by the CIA. Some discovered to their horror that they would have to work for a living. Many, however, escaped that fate. Throughout the 1960s, the Tibetan exile community was secretly pocketing $1.7 million a year from the CIA, according to documents released by the State Department in 1998. Once this fact was publicized, the Dalai Lama’s organization itself issued a statement admitting that it had received millions of dollars from the CIA during the 1960s to send armed squads of exiles into Tibet to undermine the Maoist revolution. The Dalai Lama’s annual payment from the CIA was $186,000. Indian intelligence also financed both him and other Tibetan exiles. He has refused to say whether he or his brothers worked for the CIA. The agency has also declined to comment.44

In 1995, the News & Observer of Raleigh, North Carolina, carried a frontpage color photograph of the Dalai Lama being embraced by the reactionary Republican senator Jesse Helms, under the headline “Buddhist Captivates Hero of Religious Right.”45 In April 1999, along with Margaret Thatcher, Pope John Paul II, and the first George Bush, the Dalai Lama called upon the British government to release Augusto Pinochet, the former fascist dictator of Chile and a longtime CIA client who was visiting England. The Dalai Lama urged that Pinochet not be forced to go to Spain where he was wanted to stand trial for crimes against humanity.

Into the twenty-first century, via the National Endowment for Democracy and other conduits that are more respectable sounding than the CIA, the U.S. Congress continued to allocate an annual $2 million to Tibetans in India, with additional millions for “democracy activities” within the Tibetan exile community. In addition to these funds, the Dalai Lama received money from financier George Soros.46

Whatever the Dalai Lama’s associations with the CIA and various reactionaries, he did speak often of peace, love, and nonviolence. He himself really cannot be blamed for the abuses of Tibet’s ancien régime, having been but 25 years old when he fled into exile. In a 1994 interview, he went on record as favoring the building of schools and roads in his country. He said the corvée (forced unpaid serf labor) and certain taxes imposed on the peasants were “extremely bad.” And he disliked the way people were saddled with old debts sometimes passed down from generation to generation.47During the half century of living in the western world, he had embraced concepts such as human rights and religious freedom, ideas largely unknown in old Tibet. He even proposed democracy for Tibet, featuring a written constitution and a representative assembly.48

In 1996, the Dalai Lama issued a statement that must have had an unsettling effect on the exile community. It read in part: “Marxism is founded on moral principles, while capitalism is concerned only with gain and profitability.” Marxism fosters “the equitable utilization of the means of production” and cares about “the fate of the working classes” and “the victims of . . . exploitation. For those reasons the system appeals to me, and . . . I think of myself as half-Marxist, half-Buddhist.49

But he also sent a reassuring message to “those who live in abundance”: “It is a good thing to be rich… Those are the fruits for deserving actions, the proof that they have been generous in the past.” And to the poor he offers this admonition: “There is no good reason to become bitter and rebel against those who have property and fortune… It is better to develop a positive attitude.”50

In 2005 the Dalai Lama signed a widely advertised statement along with ten other Nobel Laureates supporting the “inalienable and fundamental human right” of working people throughout the world to form labor unions to protect their interests, in accordance with the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In many countries “this fundamental right is poorly protected and in some it is explicitly banned or brutally suppressed,” the statement read. Burma, China, Colombia, Bosnia, and a few other countries were singled out as among the worst offenders. Even the United States “fails to adequately protect workers’ rights to form unions and bargain collectively. Millions of U.S. workers lack any legal protection to form unions….”51

The Dalai Lama also gave full support to removing the ingrained traditional obstacles that have kept Tibetan nuns from receiving an education. Upon arriving in exile, few nuns could read or write. In Tibet their activities had been devoted to daylong periods of prayer and chants. But in northern India they now began reading Buddhist philosophy and engaging in theological study and debate, activities that in old Tibet had been open only to monks.52

In November 2005 the Dalai Lama spoke at Stanford University on “The Heart of Nonviolence,” but stopped short of a blanket condemnation of all violence. Violent actions that are committed in order to reduce future suffering are not to be condemned, he said, citing World War II as an example of a worthy effort to protect democracy. What of the four years of carnage and mass destruction in Iraq, a war condemned by most of the world—even by a conservative pope–as a blatant violation of international law and a crime against humanity? The Dalai Lama was undecided: “The Iraq war—it’s too early to say, right or wrong.”53 Earlier he had voiced support for the U.S. military intervention against Yugoslavia and, later on, the U.S. military intervention into Afghanistan.54

III. Exit Feudal Theocracy

As the Shangri-La myth would have it, in old Tibet the people lived in contented and tranquil symbiosis with their monastic and secular lords. Rich lamas and poor monks, wealthy landlords and impoverished serfs were all bonded together, mutually sustained by the comforting balm of a deeply spiritual and pacific culture.

One is reminded of the idealized image of feudal Europe presented by latter-day conservative Catholics such as G. K. Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc. For them, medieval Christendom was a world of contented peasants living in the secure embrace of their Church, under the more or less benign protection of their lords.55 Again we are invited to accept a particular culture in its idealized form divorced from its murky material history. This means accepting it as presented by its favored class, by those who profited most from it. The Shangri-La image of Tibet bears no more resemblance to historic actuality than does the pastoral image of medieval Europe.

Seen in all its grim realities, old Tibet confirms the view I expressed in an earlier book, namely that culture is anything but neutral. Culture can operate as a legitimating cover for a host of grave injustices, benefiting a privileged portion of society at great cost to the rest.56 In theocratic feudal Tibet, ruling interests manipulated the traditional culture to fortify their own wealth and power. The theocracy equated rebellious thought and action with satanic influence. It propagated the general presumption of landlord superiority and peasant unworthiness. The rich were represented as deserving their good life, and the lowly poor as deserving their mean existence, all codified in teachings about the karmic residue of virtue and vice accumulated from past lives, presented as part of God’s will.

Were the more affluent lamas just hypocrites who preached one thing and secretly believed another? More likely they were genuinely attached to those beliefs that brought such good results for them. That their theology so perfectly supported their material privileges only strengthened the sincerity with which it was embraced.

It might be said that we denizens of the modern secular world cannot grasp the equations of happiness and pain, contentment and custom, that characterize more traditionally spiritual societies. This is probably true, and it may explain why some of us idealize such societies. But still, a gouged eye is a gouged eye; a flogging is a flogging; and the grinding exploitation of serfs and slaves is a brutal class injustice whatever its cultural wrapping. There is a difference between a spiritual bond and human bondage, even when both exist side by side

Many ordinary Tibetans want the Dalai Lama back in their country, but it appears that relatively few want a return to the social order he represented. A 1999 story in the Washington Post notes that the Dalai Lama continues to be revered in Tibet, but

. . . few Tibetans would welcome a return of the corrupt aristocratic clans that fled with him in 1959 and that comprise the bulk of his advisers. Many Tibetan farmers, for example, have no interest in surrendering the land they gained during China’s land reform to the clans. Tibet’s former slaves say they, too, don’t want their former masters to return to power. “I’ve already lived that life once before,” said Wangchuk, a 67-year-old former slave who was wearing his best clothes for his yearly pilgrimage to Shigatse, one of the holiest sites of Tibetan Buddhism. He said he worshipped the Dalai Lama, but added, “I may not be free under Chinese communism, but I am better off than when I was a slave.”57

It should be noted that the Dalai Lama is not the only highly placed lama chosen in childhood as a reincarnation. One or another reincarnate lama or tulku–a spiritual teacher of special purity elected to be reborn again and again–can be found presiding over most major monasteries. The tulku system is unique to Tibetan Buddhism. Scores of Tibetan lamas claim to be reincarnate tulkus.

The very first tulku was a lama known as the Karmapa who appeared nearly three centuries before the first Dalai Lama. The Karmapa is leader of a Tibetan Buddhist tradition known as the Karma Kagyu. The rise of the Gelugpa sect headed by the Dalai Lama led to a politico-religious rivalry with the Kagyu that has lasted five hundred years and continues to play itself out within the Tibetan exile community today. That the Kagyu sect has grown famously, opening some six hundred new centers around the world in the last thirty-five years, has not helped the situation.

The search for a tulku, Erik Curren reminds us, has not always been conducted in that purely spiritual mode portrayed in certain Hollywood films. “Sometimes monastic officials wanted a child from a powerful local noble family to give the cloister more political clout. Other times they wanted a child from a lower-class family who would have little leverage to influence the child’s upbringing.” On other occasions “a local warlord, the Chinese emperor or even the Dalai Lama’s government in Lhasa might [have tried] to impose its choice of tulku on a monastery for political reasons.”58

Such may have been the case in the selection of the 17th Karmapa, whose monastery-in-exile is situated in Rumtek, in the Indian state of Sikkim. In 1993 the monks of the Karma Kagyu tradition had a candidate of their own choice. The Dalai Lama, along with several dissenting Karma Kagyu leaders (and with the support of the Chinese government!) backed a different boy. The Kagyu monks charged that the Dalai Lama had overstepped his authority in attempting to select a leader for their sect. “Neither his political role nor his position as a lama in his own Gelugpa tradition entitled him to choose the Karmapa, who is a leader of a different tradition…”59 As one of the Kagyu leaders insisted, “Dharma is about thinking for yourself. It is not about automatically following a teacher in all things, no matter how respected that teacher may be. More than anyone else, Buddhists should respect other people’s rights—their human rights and their religious freedom.”60

What followed was a dozen years of conflict in the Tibetan exile community, punctuated by intermittent riots, intimidation, physical attacks, blacklisting, police harassment, litigation, official corruption, and the looting and undermining of the Karmapa’s monastery in Rumtek by supporters of the Gelugpa faction. All this has caused at least one western devotee to wonder if the years of exile were not hastening the moral corrosion of Tibetan Buddhism.61

What is clear is that not all Tibetan Buddhists accept the Dalai Lama as their theological and spiritual mentor. Though he is referred to as the “spiritual leader of Tibet,” many see this title as little more than a formality. It does not give him authority over the four religious schools of Tibet other than his own, “just as calling the U.S. president the ‘leader of the free world’ gives him no role in governing France or Germany.”62

Not all Tibetan exiles are enamoured of the old Shangri-La theocracy. Kim Lewis, who studied healing methods with a Buddhist monk in Berkeley, California, had occasion to talk at length with more than a dozen Tibetan women who lived in the monk’s building. When she asked how they felt about returning to their homeland, the sentiment was unanimously negative. At first, Lewis assumed that their reluctance had to do with the Chinese occupation, but they quickly informed her otherwise. They said they were extremely grateful “not to have to marry 4 or 5 men, be pregnant almost all the time,” or deal with sexually transmitted diseases contacted from a straying husband. The younger women “were delighted to be getting an education, wanted absolutely nothing to do with any religion, and wondered why Americans were so naïve [about Tibet].”63

The women interviewed by Lewis recounted stories of their grandmothers’ ordeals with monks who used them as “wisdom consorts.” By sleeping with the monks, the grandmothers were told, they gained “the means to enlightenment” — after all, the Buddha himself had to be with a woman to reach enlightenment.

The women also mentioned the “rampant” sex that the supposedly spiritual and abstemious monks practiced with each other in the Gelugpa sect. The women who were mothers spoke bitterly about the monastery’s confiscation of their young boys in Tibet. They claimed that when a boy cried for his mother, he would be told “Why do you cry for her, she gave you up–she’s just a woman.”

The monks who were granted political asylum in California applied for public assistance. Lewis, herself a devotee for a time, assisted with the paperwork. She observes that they continue to receive government checks amounting to $550 to $700 per month along with Medicare. In addition, the monks reside rent free in nicely furnished apartments. “They pay no utilities, have free access to the Internet on computers provided for them, along with fax machines, free cell and home phones and cable TV.”

They also receive a monthly payment from their order, along with contributions and dues from their American followers. Some devotees eagerly carry out chores for the monks, including grocery shopping and cleaning their apartments and toilets. These same holy men, Lewis remarks, “have no problem criticizing Americans for their ‘obsession with material things.’”64

To welcome the end of the old feudal theocracy in Tibet is not to applaud everything about Chinese rule in that country. This point is seldom understood by today’s Shangri-La believers in the West. The converse is also true: To denounce the Chinese occupation does not mean we have to romanticize the former feudal régime. Tibetans deserve to be perceived as actual people, not perfected spiritualists or innocent political symbols. “To idealize them,” notes Ma Jian, a dissident Chinese traveler to Tibet (now living in Britain), “is to deny them their humanity.”65

One common complaint among Buddhist followers in the West is that Tibet’s religious culture is being undermined by the Chinese occupation. To some extent this seems to be the case. Many of the monasteries are closed, and much of the theocracy seems to have passed into history. Whether Chinese rule has brought betterment or disaster is not the central issue here. The question is what kind of country was old Tibet. What I am disputing is the supposedly pristine spiritual nature of that pre-invasion culture. We can advocate religious freedom and independence for a new Tibet without having to embrace the mythology about old Tibet. Tibetan feudalism was cloaked in Buddhism, but the two are not to be equated. In reality, old Tibet was not a Paradise Lost. It was a retrograde repressive theocracy of extreme privilege and poverty, a long way from Shangri-La.

Finally, let it be said that if Tibet’s future is to be positioned somewhere within China’s emerging free-market paradise, then this does not bode well for the Tibetans. China boasts a dazzling 8 percent economic growth rate and is emerging as one of the world’s greatest industrial powers. But with economic growth has come an ever deepening gulf between rich and poor. Most Chinese live close to the poverty level or well under it, while a small group of newly brooded capitalists profit hugely in collusion with shady officials. Regional bureaucrats milk the country dry, extorting graft from the populace and looting local treasuries. Land grabbing in cities and countryside by avaricious developers and corrupt officials at the expense of the populace are almost everyday occurrences. Tens of thousands of grassroot protests and disturbances have erupted across the country, usually to be met with unforgiving police force. Corruption is so prevalent, reaching into so many places, that even the normally complacent national leadership was forced to take notice and began moving against it in late 2006.

Workers in China who try to organize labor unions in the corporate dominated “business zones” risk losing their jobs or getting beaten and imprisoned. Millions of business zone workers toil twelve-hour days at subsistence wages. With the health care system now being privatized, free or affordable medical treatment is no longer available for millions. Men have tramped into the cities in search of work, leaving an increasingly impoverished countryside populated by women, children, and the elderly. The suicide rate has increased dramatically, especially among women.66

China’s natural environment is sadly polluted. Most of its fabled rivers and many lakes are dead, producing massive fish die-offs from the billions of tons of industrial emissions and untreated human waste dumped into them. Toxic effluents, including pesticides and herbicides, seep into ground water or directly into irrigation canals. Cancer rates in villages situated along waterways have skyrocketed a thousand-fold. Hundreds of millions of urban residents breathe air rated as dangerously unhealthy, contaminated by industrial growth and the recent addition of millions of automobiles. An estimated 400,000 die prematurely every year from air pollution. Government environmental agencies have no enforcement power to stop polluters, and generally the government ignores or denies such problems, concentrating instead on industrial growth.67

China’s own scientific establishment reports that unless greenhouse gases are curbed, the nation will face massive crop failures along with catastrophic food and water shortages in the years ahead. In 2006-2007 severe drought was already afflicting southwest China.68

If China is the great success story of speedy free market development, and is to be the model and inspiration for Tibet’s future, then old feudal Tibet indeed may start looking a lot better than it actually was.

Michael Parenti received his Ph.D. in political science from Yale University. He has taught at a number of colleges and universities, in the United States and abroad. Some of his writings have been translated into Arabic, Bangla, Chinese, Dutch, French, German, Greek, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Persian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Serbian, Spanish, Swedish and Turkish.

Notes

www.globalresearch.ca contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available to our readers under the provisions of “fair use” in an effort to advance a better understanding of political, economic and social issues. The material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving it for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material for purposes other than “fair use” you must request permission from the copyright owner.

For media inquiries: crgeditor@yahoo.com
© Copyright Michael Parenti, Michael Parenti Politcal Archive, 2007
The url address of this article is: www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=7355

The Ideological Waterloo by Fidel Castro Ruz

Dandelion Salad

by Fidel Castro Ruz
Global Research, November 17, 2007

     I have been working on the many reflections that I have promised. One of them deals with the main ideas of a book by Greenspan, former chairman of the Federal Reserve, making use of his own words. His book clearly reveals how imperialism seeks to continue buying up the world’s natural and human resources with perfumed paper bills.

      Another idea I had consisted in compelling certain individuals to confess the truth about NATO’s war plans. I directly challenged Mr. Aznar and brought pressures to bear on US leaders to have them openly admit their responsibility in the empire’s wars. Some of the documented evidence I presented had not been published before.

      Then the Ibero-American Summit was held and hell broke loose there. Zapatero’s cowardly and untimely remarks, his defense of Aznar, the King of Spain’s abrupt interjection, and the dignified response of the President of Venezuela who, because of technical problems, was unable to hear precisely what the King had said, were an unambiguous display of the genocidal ways and methods of the empire, its accomplices and the anesthetized victims of the Third World.

      Chávez’ talents and debate skills came to the fore in this tense atmosphere.

      Aznar’s twisted soul is best captured by one of his pronouncements. When Chávez asked him what fate was in store, in the neoliberal world, for poor countries such as Haiti, he replied, verbatim: “Those guys are screwed”.

      I know the Bolivarian leader well: he never forgets the words he hears in direct conversation with others.

      I wrote a third reflection on the Ibero-American Summit which I have yet to publish. I am publishing this one, instead, on the eve of President Chávez’ trip to Riad, Saudi Arabia, tomorrow, where he will participate in the OPEC Summit. November 15, 2007.

Global Research Articles by Fidel Castro Ruz
www.globalresearch.ca contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available to our readers under the provisions of “fair use” in an effort to advance a better understanding of political, economic and social issues. The material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving it for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material for purposes other than “fair use” you must request permission from the copyright owner.

For media inquiries: crgeditor@yahoo.com
© Copyright Fidel Castro Ruz, Global Research, 2007
The url address of this article is: www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=7353

Dennis Kucinich: Light Up Black Friday (video)

Dandelion Salad

trichenosis

A Call to Action.
On November 23rd, Kucinich Supporters will join together to donate $100 a peice.

If we can get 100,000 people to donate $100 dollars, we will raise 10 million dollars.

Repost this video everywhere, or better yet, MAKE YOUR OWN!

Let everybody know about the 23rd of November!

Light Up Black Friday!

h/t: Asherp

see

Dennis Kucinich for President – Contribute

Democratic candidates buff green credentials By Cathleen Decker

Dandelion Salad

By Cathleen Decker
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
November 18, 2007

At a Los Angeles forum Dennis Kucinich, Hillary Clinton and John Edwards throw around vows to cut carbon emissions.

A Los Angeles forum on global warming Saturday provided three presidential candidates time to throw around vows to cut carbon emissions, spur a green economy and renew American leadership in the world.

But if the intent was to buff their green credentials, more than anything the gathering thrust into glaring relief the differing approaches of Democrats Dennis J. Kucinich, Hillary Rodham Clinton and John Edwards as each seeks the presidency.

First came Kucinich, the Ohio congressman and presidential longshot, who touted his modest-size house, efficient car and vegan diet as indicators of his personal parsimoniousness and vowed to guarantee an annual income to untold numbers of Americans.

Kucinich had no such difficulty.

Unlike most of the candidate debates so far, where he has been relegated to the sidelines, the format Saturday gave him equal standing. The event, held at the Wadsworth Theatre before hundreds of activists, was sponsored by the online environmental group Grist, as well as a host of other environmental organizations, including the League of Conservation Voters Education Fund.

All of the Democratic and Republican candidates were invited, but only the three showed up. Each offered a 10-minute speech and then answered a panel of questioners, leaving the stage before the next candidate strode on.

Kucinich vowed an administration that would push “massive” spending on mass transit, incentives for renewable energy and environmentally safe construction techniques, and said he would use NASA to press the country to develop “green technologies.” And he contrasted the other candidates’ lifestyles with his — replete with 1,600-square-foot home, dull-if-efficient sedan and restricted diet.

“If you want a leader who can reach out and lift this planet up, then we have to look at: How do you live?” he said.

He offered a precursor of Edwards’ later argument, countering a skeptical question about his ability to thwart the efforts of oil and gas companies to block global warming legislation.

“Imagine a president with no ties to those interest groups,” he said, adding: “Under a Kucinich administration, their control is broken.”

But he appeared to catch even fellow progressives by surprise when he promised to compensate coal miners and others whose livelihoods would be harmed by his environmental policies.

“I’m speaking of a guaranteed annual income,” he said.

“For everybody?” a panelist, looking surprised, asked.

“Absolutely,” Kucinich replied.

Continued…

h/t: Dennis Kucinich for President (Official)

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Kucinich Charges That American Media Owned By Military Contracters Are Biased And Supports His Claim By Kevin A. Stoda

Dandelion Salad

By Kevin A. Stoda, Kuwait
submitted by ALONE
http://www.opednews.com
November 17, 2007 at 15:18:05

Congressman Dennis Kucinich (Ohio, Democratic Party Candidate for President) argued fairly successfully on the Voice of America (VOA) program , Press Conference USA of VOA News Now, this past weekend (Nov. 17, 2007) that the American media is biased against him and its campaign.

This, he claims, is why he is not running at least 3rd or 4th in Democrat election polls already.

When called on the claim by a commentator, Kucinich pointed out quickly that he was the only serious presidential candidate who had not been invited recently to NBC’s Meet the Press.

Earlier Kucinich had noted that this great media bias against his campaign was reflected by the obvious fact that a major defense contractor, who (of course) profits from war, owns a major news network, NBC.

Dennis Kucinich is the only major presidential candidate who was in Congress or Senate in 2003 and voted against the war in Iraq and all the financing for it.

Kucinich also voted against the US Patriot Act and is against the emphasis on labeling millions of peoples illegals “as though they are lesser humans”.

NAFTA

Kucinich suggests that NAFTA and other trade deals have not only worsened the job situation of Americans but, in fact, led to a massive migration northward in lands where labor unions and labor rights enforcement are weaker than in the USA.

In short, Kucinich claimed that many of these “illegal migrants” were forced to flee their homeland due collapse of job market and increase in inflation related to NAFTA’s inception.

This is why he has severe reservations about keeping NAFTA and other trade agreements, i.e. if labor is not protected in the USA and abroad better.

WAR—NOT AS PRIMARY POLICY INSTRUMENT

Kucinich also made clear that besides having maintained a record of voting against non-democratic actions of the current White House, he has stood soundly for cooperation with other states to fight rogue elements around the world.

However, he added that this did not involve invading and taking over whole states who had not attacked America.

Kucinich said this in clarification to the insinuation made by one of the VOA interviewers that he didn’t want America to fight if attacked.

“No”, Kucinich explained, he felt it was very important to take out al-Qaida camps in Afghanistan but not necessarily to take over whole uninvolved regions and peoples, such as the rump of Afghanistan and all of Iraq—which definitely had no Al-Qaida elements in 2003.

MEDIA OWNERSHIP

According to a 2004 review, “Viacom, the owner of CBS, is the second-largest media company in the country. Disney, the owner of ABC, is the fourth. NBC (as a division of G.E.) is the fifth.
However, MSNBC, has an even wider audience as a major internet news service provider. It was General Electric which Kucinich was referring to—but not by name—on Press Conference USA. General Electric is not only involved in shipbuilding but in many facets of arms development and the development of technologies to manage them.

Kucinich was reminding radio listeners and the VOA that access to these media powers determines the messages people receive from their news broadcasters—including the viewers’ and listeners’ access to good information on presidential candidates in a fair way.

NOTES

Dennis Kucinich for President, http://www.dennis4president.com/

Network TV Ownership, http://www.stateofthenewsmedia.org/narrative_networktv_ownership.asp?cat=5&media=4

http://the-teacher.blogspot.com/

KEVIN STODA has been blessed to have either traveled in or worked in nearly 100 countries on five continents over the past two and a half decades. He sees himself as a peace educator and have been a promoter of good economic and social development–making him an enemy of my homelands humongous spending and its focus on using weapons to try and solve global issues.

“I am from Kansas so I also use the pseudonym ‘Kansas’ when I write and publish. I keep two blogs–one with blogger and one with GNN. My writings range from reviews to editorials or to travel observations. I also make recommendations related to policy–having both a strong background in teaching foreign languages and degrees in teaching in history and the social sciences. As a midwesterner, I also write on religion and living out ones faith whether it be as a Christian, Muslim or Buddhist perspective.”

On my own home page, I also provide information for language learners and travelers http://www.geocities.com/eslkevin/, http://the-teacher.blogspot.com/ & http://alone.gnn.tv/

h/t: trademark registration

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.