Trump's strategy as a president is to fuel the fears of Americans. The whole country suffers from the aggression and division. People are in need of hearing that decency and courage make sense again. ...more
Exclusive for Truthout/Buzzflash
Only 17 months before BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig suffered a deadly blowout in the Gulf of Mexico, another BP deepwater oil platform also blew out.
You’ve heard and seen much about the Gulf disaster that killed 11 BP workers. If you have not heard about the earlier blowout, it’s because BP has kept the full story under wraps. Nor did BP inform Congress or US safety regulators, and BP, along with its oil industry partners, have preferred to keep it that way.
The earlier blowout occurred in September 2008 on BP’s Central Azeri platform in the Caspian Sea.
As one memo marked “secret” puts it, “Given the explosive potential, BP was quite fortunate to have been able to evacuate everyone safely and to prevent any gas ignition.” The Caspian oil platform was a spark away from exploding, but luck was with the 211 rig workers.
John Kennedy said we are “a nation of immigrants.” That’s the sanitized phrase. We are, in fact, a nation of refugees, who, despite the bastards in white sheets and the know-nothings in Congress, have held open the Golden Door to a dark planet. We are not imperialists and that’s why Bush lies and Cheney lies and, yes, the Clintons lied.
Winston Churchill didn’t lie to the Brits about their empire: He said, These lands belong to the Crown, we own’m and we’ll squeeze the value from them. “Imperialism,” as Karl Marx complained, was a good word in Britain, a word that got you elected in Europe until too recently.
Ignore the fey university hideouts of Europe. Go to Vietnam or to Brazil or to Morocco or to Tibet and you’ll find the same thing: America’s music, America’s freedom of speech, freedom of religion and freedom of spirit and the heartfelt friendship of Americans for others have made the USA truly “the light unto the nations.” Americans are not liked worldwide, but loved-sometimes. I find that weird, but it’s true-and that drives Osama to bombs and madness.
We are a nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to the cause that all men and women are created equal. It’s silly and precious to point out that these ideals have been mangled, abused, ignored and monstered by those with plans to make us an empire. We know that.
America is indeed exceptional. That’s not a boast, that’s a job we have to do. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson burdened us with that exceptionalism in crafting the most important international law signed up until the Geneva Convention: The Alien Torts Act, in which the USA takes onto itself the right to bring civil penalties against any act of torture, political murder and piracy that occurs anywhere in the world. It is now being used in suits brought against Chevron Oil in Ecuador and against IBM for the death of slave laborers in Nazi Germany.
Damn right America is exceptional. It is America that defiantly walked out of the first “world trade organization,” known as the British Empire, announcing, “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal and are ENDOWED BY THE CREATOR with INALIENABLE rights, and AMONG THESE are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
Now, think about that. These rights don’t come from Congress or Kings or Soviets, they come from The Creator, that is, we are born free-and “we” are Sri Lankans as much as Minnesotans. Our rights are “INALIENABLE”: no one, NO ONE, may take them away, not the Ayatollahs of Tehran or Generalissimo Negroponte at the Department of Homeland Security or the kill-o-crats in Baghdad pre- or post- Saddam.
Will the snarling closet imperialists try to turn America from its cause and soul? Damn right they will. That’s why two U.S. military lawyers resigned from their posts at the GuantÃ¡namo prison camp. They wouldn’t put up with Bush-niks tearing up their Constitution. (“We the people” own it, not “them the Republicans.”) In Iran, these two guys would have been shot, in Britain arrested. In America, Bush fears them-that their story would come out-as it did. Only in America could that happen.
No question, the USA holds itself exempt from the legal standards of this world-which are execrable. Whose standard should we adopt? China’s torture standard? Britain’s Secrecy Act as a standard? Switzerland’s Nazi-money-protection standard?
Only in America would a Lyndon Johnson order federal troops to protect Black school kids’ right to attend class. You don’t have to tell me that Johnson then ordered the slaughter of three million Vietnamese-I know, I went to jail to oppose it. But go to Vietnam today and ask what people they most admire? Mention Russians, they laugh; mention Chinese, they may hit you; mention Americans and they say (to my astonishment, I’ll admit), “We love Americans.”
They don’t love Bush. That’s because George Bush is not an American. Look, I didn’t think much of Bill Clinton, and he dropped into some of the worst quasi-imperial habits of the New World Trade Order. But Clinton was also more popular worldwide than the pope and pizza combined because he represented that American sense of giving- a-shit, empathy and sincere friendship which are hallmarks of America’s Manifest Destiny.
Yes, America does have a Manifest Destiny-to Let Freedom Ring-which the evil and greedy and pernicious would twist into a grab for land and resources and ethnic cleansing. And so the Manifest Destiny of the journalists in our shitty little offices in New York and London is to expose these motherfuckers.
Ronald Reagan said, “America is the shining city on the hill.” And he hated it, doing his best to turn it into a dark Calcutta of the helpless. And when that didn’t work, George II tried to drown us in the Mississippi.
Go back to Taos, New Mexico, Voting Precinct 13. What you’ll find there is Pueblo Native war veterans who raise the flag every day and will fight and die for it knowing full well that the fight must also be taken to the pueblo’s racially biased voting booths.
Howard Zinn, a shining historian on our hill, reminds us, “It should be understood that the children of Iraq, of China, and of Africa, children everywhere in the world, have the same right to life as American children.”
Damn right, they do. That’s what Jefferson meant by “inalienable.”
And they won’t get their rights to life and liberty from Osama’s Caliphate of oil states or China’s money-crazed “Communism” nor half of Africa’s neo-colonial presidential Draculas or the puppet princes installed today in Iraq by George Bush.
Bush is so far away from his refugee loser roots that he just doesn’t get what it is to be American. So he steals the one thing that every American is handed off the boat: a chance. When they take away your Social Security and overtime and tell you sleeper cells are sleeping under your staircase, you don’t take a chance, you lose your chance, and the land of opportunity becomes a landscape of fear and suspicion, an armed madhouse.
You want to say that George Bush is an evil sonovabitch? I’d go further: he’s UN-AMERICAN.
And that’s why he lost the election. TWICE.
Greg Palast is the author of the New York Times bestseller, Armed Madhouse: From Baghdad to New Orleans – Sordid Secrets and Strange Tales of a White House Gone Wild from which this is excerpted. Sign up for Palast’s investigative reports at http://www.GregPalast.com
A reader response –
Some of us care. After caring for so many years, I’m tired of the feeling of futility. I watched Grapes of Wrath last night. I was discouraged by the beautiful landscape, devoid of cars and houses, that we no longer
have. And somewhat surprised by the similarity of those thug ranch hands to some of the tactics that still exist today. Although there has been an evolution of caring brought about by presidencies of long ago. They still exist, although conservatives are still trying to turn this nation into a sweatshop.
One thing that keeps coming back to me with regards to almost everything is that we are the final word. The buck stops with the people. Mrs. Joad said that, when she was learning and growing stronger in the end. But what I find so disturbing about this country now. It’s “me”, instead of “we”. We’ve let the comfort that petroleum has brought us turn us into greedy and selfish monsters. Even the kind ones. Kind monsters. Unintended, but nonetheless careless. Too busy to care. Working, breeding, driving,
We get what we deserve. And those who don’t deserve it get it whether they fight it or not. Those who are selfish are dragging us all down.
I know it sounds pathetic. But it is. When will we realize that we’re in Iraq because we don’t demand that we leave. Or demand impeachment now. That “table” Pelosi talks about is ours. Not hers. Although I don’t know
the intricate workings of Washington. I do know that impeachment is not off the table. Global warming is because of us. Not George Bush. And we shouldn’t depend on him to do anything about it.
We’re dependent. And I’ve always been offended by Independence Day since I was just a young adult. We’ve been dependent so long we take it for granted. We take democracy for granted. And we don’t participate. So it’s no longer an independent democracy. Lobbyists even paid our representatives to vote a certain way.
I appreciate the work you do. It takes more than that, though. I’m afraid the people don’t realize that until it’s too late. They’re too busy shopping.
Today I have a nervous feeling in my stomach. I’m finally running out of steam. When one studies and discovers what has really gone on, it takes the wind out of one’s sails to see others who deny those truths. Without truth, what do we have. The truth is so scrambled now that it is one reason why apathy is so rampant.
I’m afraid that it’s still Grapes of Wrath. You are Tom Joad. I am Tom Joad. There is optimism in our potential power. But until we use it, it’s just potential.
I’m sorry for rambling. Especially since you know it all. But sometimes one must vent. And sometimes a voice out of the dark gives light.
Greg Palast investigates for BBC Newsnight –
Chevron: “Nobody has proved that crude causes cancer.”
Wednesday, November 27 – Available on Democracy Now!
BBC Television Newsnight has been able to get close-in film of a new Cofan Indian ritual deep in the heart of the Amazonian rainforest. Known as “The Filing of the Law Suit,” natives of Ecuador’s jungle, decked in feathers and war paint and heavily armed with lawyers, are filmed presenting a new complaint in their litigation seeking $12 billion from Chevron Inc., the international oil goliath.
It would all be a poignant joke – except that the indigenous tribe is suddenly the odds-on favorite to defeat the oil company known for naming its largest tanker, “Condoleezza,” after former Chevron director, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
For Newsnight, reporter Greg Palast, steps (somewhat inelegantly) into a dug-out log canoe to seek out the Cofan in their rainforest village to investigate their allegations. Palast discovers stinking pits of old oil drilling residue leaking into drinking water – and meets farmers whose limbs are covered in pustules.
The Cofan’s leader, Emergildo Criollo, tells Palast that when Texaco Oil, now part of Chevron, came to the village in 1972, it obtained permission to drill by offering the Indians candy and cheese. The indigenous folk threw the funny-selling cheese into the jungle.
Criollo says his three-year son died from oil contamination after, “He went swimming, then began vomiting blood.”
Flying out of the rainforest, past the Andes volcanoes, Palast gets the other side of the story in Ecuador’s capitol, Quito. “It’s the largest fraud in history!” asserts Chevron …more
The Department of Homeland Security, after a five-year hunt for Osama, finally brought charges against... Greg Palast.
As America crawled toward the fifth anniversary of the September 11 attack, Homeland Security charged me and my US producer Matt Pascarella with violating the anti-terror laws. Don't you feel safer?
And I confess: we're guilty. ...more
“Vulture Fund” Company Wins $20 Million Payment from Zambia on $4 Million Debt
Thursday, February 15th, 2007
Listen — Watch — Read the Report — Read the Transcipt
“Vulture fund” companies buy up the debt of poor countries at cheap prices, and then demand payments much higher than the original amount of the debt, often taking poor countries to court when they cannot afford to repay.
Investigative journalist Greg Palast reports on one company that has won the right to collect $20 million from the government of Zambia after buying its debt for $4 million. In his recent State of the Union address, President Bush declared the United States was taking on the challenges of global hunger, poverty and disease, and urged support for debt relief, which he called the best hope for eliminating poverty.
But what exactly are wealthy nations doing to reduce the debt of impoverished countries?
Today we take a close look at companies known as “vulture funds.” Vulture fund companies buy up the debt of poor countries at cheap prices, and then demand payments much higher than the original amount of the debt, often taking poor countries to court when they cannot afford to repay.
For an in-depth look at this issue, we turn to a BBC Newsnight documentary by investigative reporter Greg Palast. Greg Palast’s BBC report on vulture funds. Today a high court judge in London ruled on the case that a vulture fund can extract more than $20 million from Zambia for a debt which it bought for just $4 million. To tell us more about this case and more we now turn to Greg Palast.
LATEST UPDATE — Zambia Loses ‘Vulture Fund’ Case
The BBC Newsnight report was produced by Meirion Jones, BBC London; Rick Rowley, videographer/editor. Investigative research by Matt Pascarella, New York.
A BUZZFLASH INTERVIEW
The White House knew [the levees broke] because the Army Corps of Engineers sent them photographs. Again, I want to emphasize that the White House had the photographs of the levees breaking, and didn’t tell state and local officials who had stopped the evacuation because the hurricane missed New Orleans. Everyone thought they dodged a bullet, but the White House didn’t tell anybody the levees broke and were drowning the city. — Greg Palast
Don’t check the casket. I know he’s back. When I saw those lights flickering out at La Guardia Airport yesterday and heard the eerie shrieks and moans in the dark, broiling subway tunnels, I just knew it: Ken Lay’s alive! We can see his spirit in every flickering lightbulb from Kansas to Queens as we head into America’s annual Blackout season. …more
Updated version of original Big Blackout commentary ...more
When Tony met Enron I was there to witness love at first sight. New Labour was warned about Enron and its number crunchers, Arthur Andersen, after the office of Jack Cunningham, then Tony Blair's Shadow Trade and Industry Secretary, rang me in New York at 5am on 21 September 1995. ...more
For Gtech, an In With The Bush Family is Worth More Than Anything Lottery Players Have in Their Hand
Congratulations to George W Bush and to Camelot on their victories.
More than a year ago, we reported that the Government had decided to let Camelot retain control of the National Flutter in perpetuity. That was two weeks before the formal bidding process began. Despite our announcement, Richard Branson soldiered on, refusing, like the last dinosaur, to heed the voice whispering: ‘Excuse me, but you’re extinct.’ …more
An internal Study Reveals The Price ‘Rescued’ Nations Pay: Dearer Essentials, Worse Poverty and Shorter Lives The Observer
So call me a liar. I was standing in front of the New York Hilton Hotel when the limousine carrying International Monetary Fund director Horst Kohler zoomed by, hitting a bump. Out flew a confidential report, Ecuador Interim Country Assistance Strategy. You suspect that’s not how I got it, but you can trust me that it contains the answer to a puzzling question.
Inside the Hilton, Professor Anthony Giddens told an earnest crowd of London School of Economics alumni that globalisation is a fact, and it is driven by the communicationsIMF revolution’.
Wow. That was an eye-opener. The screeching green-haired freaks outside the hotel demonstrating against the IMF had it all wrong.
Globalisation, Giddens seems to say, is about giving every villager in the Andes a Nokia internet-enabled mobile phone. What puzzled me is why anyone would protest against this happy future.
So I thumbed through my purloined IMF Strategy for Ecuador seeking a chapter on connecting the country’s schools to the world wide web. Instead, I found a secret schedule. By 1 November this year, it says, its government is ordered to raise the price of cooking gas by 80 per cent. It must eliminate 26,000 jobs and halve real wages for the remaining workers by 50 per cent in four steps in months specified by the IMF. It must begin to transfer ownership of its biggest water system to foreign operators by July and grant BP’s Arco subsidiary the right to build and own an oil pipeline over the Andes.
That’s for starters. In all, the IMF’s 167 loan conditions look less like an assistance plan and more like a blueprint for a financial coup d’etat.
The IMF would say it has no choice. Ecuador is broke, thanks to the implosion of its commercial banks. But how did Ecuador, an Opec member with resources to spare, end up in such a pickle?
For that, we have to turn back to 1983, when the IMF forced its government to take over the soured private debts owed by Ecuador’s elite to foreign banks. For this bail-out of US and local financiers, Ecuador borrowed $1.5 billion.
To repay this loan, the IMF dictated price hikes for electricity and other necessities. And when that didn’t drain off enough cash, yet another assistance plan required the state to eliminate 120,000 jobs.
Furthermore, while trying to meet the mountain of IMF obligations, Ecuador foolishly ‘liberalised’ its tiny financial market, cutting local banks loose from government controls and letting private debt and interest rates explode.
Who pushed Ecuador into this nutty romp with free-market banking? Hint: the initials are IMF. It made bank liberalisation a condition of another berserk assistance plan. The facts of this nasty little history come from the IMF report marked: ‘Please do not cite.’ Pretend I didn’t.
The IMF and the World Bank have lent a sticky helping hand to scores of nations. Take Tanzania. Today, 1.4 million people there are getting ready to die. They are the 8 per cent of the nation’s population who have the Aids virus. The financial ‘rescuers’ found a brilliant neo-liberal solution: require Tanzania to charge for hospital visits, previously free. This cut the number of patients treated in the three big public hospitals in the capital, Dar es Salaam, by 53 per cent. The financial cures must be working.
The bodies told Tanzania to charge school fees. Now the bank expresses surprise that school enrolment is down from 80 per cent to 66 per cent.
Altogether the Bank and IMF have 157 other helpful suggestions for Tanzania, and the Tanzanian government secretly agreed last April to adopt them all. It was sign or starve. No developing nation can borrow hard currency without IMF blessing (except China, whose output grows at 5 per cent a year thanks to it studiously following the reverse of IMF policies).
The IMF and World Bank have effectively controlled Tanzania’s economy since 1985. Admittedly, when they took charge they found a socialist nation mired in poverty, disease and debt.
Their experts wasted no time in cutting trade barriers, limiting government subsidies and selling off state industries. This worked wonders. According to bank-watcher Nancy Alexander of the Washington-based Globalisation Challenge Initiative, in just 15 years Tanzania’s GDP has dropped from $309 to $210 per capita, the literacy rate is falling and the rate of abject poverty has jumped to 51 per cent of the population.
Yet somehow the bank has failed to win over the hearts and minds of Tanzanians to its free-market gameplan. Last June, the bank reported in frustration: ‘One legacy of socialism is that most people continue to believe the state has a fundamental role in promoting development and providing social services.’
The World Bank and the IMF were born in 1944 with simple, laudable mandates: between them to fund post-war reconstruction and development projects and lend hard currency to nations left skint by temporary balance of payments deficits.
But in 1980 they seemed to take on an alien form. In the early Eighties, Third World nations, haemorrhaging after the fivefold increases in oil prices and a similar jump in dollar interest payments, brought their begging bowls to the two bodies. But instead of debt relief, they received structural assistance plans listing an average of 114 ‘conditionalities’ in return for capital.
The particulars varied from nation to nation, but in every case, they had to remove trade barriers, sell national assets to foreign investors, slash social spending and make labour ‘flexible’ (that is, crush unions).
Some say the vicious policy change resulted from the election that year of Ronald Reagan as US President, the quickening of Margaret Thatcher’s powers and the beginning of the neo-liberal ascendency. (My own information is that the IMF and World Bank were taken over by a space alien named Larry. It’s obvious that ‘Larry’ Summers, once World Bank chief economist and now US Treasury Secretary, is really a platoon of extra- terrestrials sent to turn much of the human race into a source of cheap protein. But I digress.)
So what have The Aliens accomplished with their e free-market prescriptions? An article by Samuel Brittan in last week’s Financial Times declared that the new world capital markets and free trade have ‘brought about an unprecedented increase in world living standards’. Brittan cites the huge growth in GDP per capita, life expectancy and literacy in the less developed world from 1950 to 1995.
Now hold on a minute. Until 1980, virtually every nation in his survey was either socialist or welfare statist. They were developing on the ‘Import Substitution Model’, by which locally-owned industry was built through government investment and high tariffs, anathema to the neoliberals.
In those dark ages of increasing national government control and ownership (1960-1980), per capita income grew by 73 per cent in Latin America and by 34 per cent in Africa. By comparison, since 1980, Latin American growth has come to a virtual halt, growing by less than 6 per cent over 20 years – and African incomes have declined by 23 per cent.
Now let’s count the corpses. From 1950 to 1980, socialist and statist welfare policies added more than a decade of life expectancy to virtually every nation on the planet. From 1980 to today, life under structural assistance has become brutish and shorter. Since 1985, the total number of illiterate people has risen and life expectancy is falling in 15 African nations. Brittan attributes this to ‘bad luck, [not] the international economic system’. In the former Soviet states, where IMF and World Bank shock plans hold sway, life expectancy has plunged, adding 1.4 million a year to the death rate in Russia alone.
Admittedly, the World Bank and IMF are reforming. The dreaded structural assistance plans have been renamed ‘poverty reduction strategies’. Doesn’t that make you feel better?
Recently, the IMF admitted that ‘in the recent decades, nearly one-fifth of the world population have regressed’ – arguably ‘one of the greatest economic failures of the twentieth century.’ And that, Professor Giddens, is a fact.
Gregory Palast’s other investigative reports can be found at www.gregpalast.com where you can also subscribe to Palast’s column.
Gregory Palast’s column “Inside Corporate America” appears fortnightly in the
Observer’s Business section. Nominated Business Writer of the Year (UK Press
Association – 2000), Investigative Story of the Year (Industrial. Society – 1999), Financial Times David Thomas Prize (1998).
While we were in jail in Washington during the war in Vietnam, my comrades and I spent part of our night as guests of the state singing several choruses of the song, 'Waist Deep in the Big Muddy'. ...more
Scottish Power's troubled takeover of United States electricity company Pacificorp is under further pressure this weekend. Veteran consumer campaigner Ralph Nader is preparing legal action to block it, while tougher limits on profits threatened by US regulators could make the deal unviable. ...more