"Ain't Gonna Study War No More"

My Photo
Location: Brooklyn, New York, United States

Right-To-Life Party, Christian, Anti-War, Pro-Life, Bible Fundamentalist, Egalitarian, Libertarian Left

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Forced Abortions in America: The Hidden Epidemic

Forced Abortions in America: The Hidden Epidemic

Springfield, IL (July 12, 2004) -- The epidemic of coerced, unwanted abortions is rarely reported. Yet every week, thousands of girls and women face threats and abuse from people who want them to abort without regard for their own feelings or desires.

A homeless woman was denied shelter until she submitted to an unwanted abortion . . . a teen was ridiculed by a school counselor and bussed to the abortion clinic . . . a daughter was pushed into an abortion clinic at gunpoint by her mother . . . a girlfriend was injected with an abortifacient outside a parking garage . . . a 13-year-old was returned to her molester after her abortion . . . three sisters were raped repeatedly by their father and forced into abortions for nearly a decade . . . a wife miscarried after her husband jumped on her stomach to force an abortion . . . a waitress was fired after refusing to have an abortion.

The headlines above represent just a few of the many women who were offered only one choice--abortion. They are just a few of the hundreds of appalling stories of abuse, violence and manipulation that are found in the Elliot Institute's 21-page special report, "Forced Abortion in America."

"Forced Abortion in America" is part of a larger series of materials being prepared by the Elliot Institute's Michleen Collins, examining ways in which legalized abortion has exposed women to unwanted, unnecessary, and dangerous abortions. It includes citations to research showing that 30 to 60 percent of women having abortions feel pressured to do so by other persons.

Release of the report coincides with the launch of a petition drive by a coalition of national post-abortion ministries asking both the Republican and Democratic national committees to adopt language in their national platforms condemning coerced abortions.

The free special report includes numerous examples of girls forced to undergo unwanted abortions by parents, sexual molesters, school officials, employers, and others. The report also examines how pregnant women who refuse to abort face increasing levels of abuse and violence intended to intimidate or cause miscarriage. This violence against pregnant women has escalated to the point that the leading cause of death among pregnant women today is homicide. Dozens of cases of women who have been shot, stabbed, choked, burned, or bombed for refusing to abort are also included in the report.

"Forced Abortions in America" can be downloaded from www.afterabortion.info/petition.

Crying Wolf in the War Against Terror

Crying Wolf in the War Against Terror

By Andrew Cohen
Los Angeles Times

Monday 16 August 2004

The feds face a stunning blow to credibility by releasing a long-jailed U.S. citizen.
"Never mind," the feds now say to Yaser Esam Hamdi, the alleged enemy combatant whose case was decided in June by the U.S. Supreme Court. Never mind that we threw you into the brig and then fought like wildcats to deprive you of fundamental constitutional rights. Never mind that we told federal judges that you were a dangerous enemy of the United States.

Now, it seems, the government is negotiating with Hamdi's attorneys for his release from confinement. According to reports, Hamdi would renounce his U.S. citizenship, move to Saudi Arabia and accept some travel restrictions, as well as some monitoring by Saudi officials, in exchange for his freedom. In addition, he may have to agree not to file a civil rights lawsuit against the federal government.

If all Hamdi has to worry about is going forward into his new life of freedom, it would be a remarkable turnaround for a man who for years now the government has sworn is a terrorist. It would be a shocking admission from the government that there is not now, and probably never has been, a viable criminal case against Hamdi. And it would cause a stunning and long-lasting loss of credibility for the representations that government lawyers and military officials make in these sorts of terror law cases.

The Justice Department is spinning the talks between Hamdi's attorneys and federal lawyers as a routine exercise in the release of prisoners in wartime. But it is fairly clear that such talks did not take place before the Supreme Court rode to Hamdi's rescue a couple of months ago by requiring his captors to give him some rights.

If Hamdi is such a minor threat today that he can go back to the Middle East without a trial or any other proceeding, it's hard not to wonder whether the government has been crying wolf all these years.

The government, remember, told a federal appeals panel in June 2002 that "Hamdi's background and experience, particularly in the Middle East, Afghanistan and Pakistan, suggest considerable knowledge of Taliban and Al Qaeda training and operations." Government lawyers told the Supreme Court itself as late as April that Hamdi's continued detention (without charges) was necessary and appropriate. Why? Because, the feds said, Hamdi was captured when his Taliban unit surrendered to Northern Alliance forces and, at the time of his capture, Hamdi had an AK-47 rifle.

Since Sept. 11, many American citizens have been indicted and prosecuted in the domestic war on terrorism for less sinister conduct (remember the Lackawanna 6?). But apparently no case ever will be brought against Hamdi. No, he did his time without a judge or a jury finding proof against him beyond a reasonable doubt.

And now that his case and his cause have become an embarrassment, now that the Supreme Court smacked down the executive branch's power grab, the feds have decided that they are better off just moving on.

When you think about that, and you think about what the Constitution is supposed to protect us against, Hamdi's story is a scary one even during this time of terror.

And it reminds me of the story of another U.S. citizen who was captured by the Northern Alliance while hanging out with the Taliban in the months after the 9/11 attacks. I wonder today what John Walker Lindh thinks of this governmental change of heart about Hamdi. Unlike Hamdi, Lindh was never deemed an enemy combatant and immediately deprived of his rights. Instead, he was indicted and prosecuted and is now spending 20 years in a federal prison after pleading guilty to aiding a terrorist organization. Lindh's attorneys are following this development very closely because of the similarities between their client and Hamdi. They hope the government gives Lindh the same reconsideration it has extended to Hamdi.

Nothing the Supreme Court declared in the Hamdi case in June requires the government to take the action it took. All the court did was declare that Hamdi is entitled to some form of constitutional due process. The government could satisfy that obligation to Hamdi, the court suggested, by some form of military review process. But apparently Hamdi won't have to endure such a process.

So don't blame the justices if you see Hamdi whooping it up in Riyadh sometime next year. And don't blame Lindh for shaking his head at the unequal treatment these two cases represent. This isn't supposed to happen in a nation ruled by law.

Bill: CIA Could Arrest US Citizens

Bill: CIA Could Arrest US Citizens


President Bush's nominee to head the CIA supports legislation that would give the president new authority to direct CIA agents to conduct law-enforcement operations inside the United States—including arresting American citizens.

Rep. Porter Goss introduced the legislation in June. The "intelligence reform" bill would create dramatic change in the US intelligence structure by giving the director of Central Intelligence (DCI) broad new powers to oversee its various components scattered throughout the government.

However, less publicized is language in the bill that would also redefine the authority of the DCI in such a way as to substantially alter or possibly overturn a 57-year-old ban on the CIA conducting operations inside the United States.

Civil-liberties advocates are concerned about the language in the bill. It also today prompted one former top CIA official to describe it as a potentially “dramatic� change in the guidelines that have governed U.S. intelligence operations for more than a half century, Newsweek reports.

If this is freedom, what does repression look like?
As long as one man is in prison, no man is free!

U.S. Bombs Najaf/ al-Sadr Snubs Delegation

U.S. bombs Najaf militants;
al-Sadr snubs peace delegation

Crisis dominates Iraq’s National Conference
A U.S. tank patrols the empty streets of the besieged city of Najaf on Tuesday.
MSNBC News Services

Updated: 4:22 p.m. ET Aug. 17, 2004BAGHDAD, Iraq - A U.S. warplane bombed near Najaf’s vast cemetery as fighting with Shiite militants intensified Tuesday. An Iraqi delegation brought a peace proposal aimed at ending the standoff in the holy city, but the militants’ leader refused to meet with it.
A national conference in Baghdad that was meant to be a landmark step toward democracy was extended for another day, to Wednesday, as delegates sought to give the peace mission by the Iraqi political and religious leaders a chance. But Muqtada al-Sadr, the radical Shiite Muslim cleric leading the uprising in Najaf, turned them away “because of continued aggression by the Americans,� an aide said.
The peace proposal offered amnesty and a place in the political process for al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army militiamen if they put down their arms and left Najaf’s holy sites, including the Imam Ali Shrine, where fighters have taken refuge.

“The demands of the committee are impossible,� said an aide to al-Sadr, Sheik Ali Smeisim. “The shrine compound must be in the hands of the religious authorities. They are asking us to leave Najaf while we are the sons of Najaf.�
Violence in the capital also rattled the National Conference in Baghdad. A mortar round exploded on street several miles away in central Baghdad, killing seven people and wounding 35 others, according to the Health Ministry. Two other explosions, closer by, shook the conference center itself, slightly injuring at least two people.
Explosions and gunfire were heard in the streets of Najaf, 100 miles south of Baghdad, throughout the day, and U.S. troops entered the flashpoint Old City neighborhood, the stronghold of fighters loyal to al-Sadr.

At least one plane dropped bombs in the area of the cemetery, where al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army militia has been battling U.S. forces. It was not clear whether the strike hit inside or near the sprawling necropolis.

The clashes Tuesday killed three people and wound 15 others, all of them civilians, according to Sadiq al-Shaibany, a rescue worker. Two of the deaths occurred when gunfire hit the office of the Badr Brigades, the militia of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, which is not involved in the fighting, said Ridha Taqi, an official of the Supreme Council.

Soldier killed
Meanwhile, the military announced that a U.S. soldier was killed in an attack a day earlier in Baghdad, when insurgents fired rocket-propelled grenades at armored vehicles, disabling several of them, in an eastern part of the city.

At least 935 U.S. service members have been killed in Iraq since March 2003.

The fighting in Najaf has overshadowed the National Conference, which was supposed to be a revolutionary moment in Iraq’s democratic transformation, an unprecedented gathering of 1,300 Iraqis from all ethnic and religious groups for vigorous debate over their country’s course.

Tuesday’s mortar attack on the busy central Rasheed Street was the second such deadly attack since the conference began Sunday. The explosion set a building on fire and smashed the front of a barbershop. Blood mixed with shards of glass on the street as firefighters hosed charred cars.

Two blasts also shook the convention center where the conference is being held in Baghdad’s heavily barricaded Green Zone. A soldier and a civilian security guard were slightly injured, the military said.

Ali al-Yassiry, Another aide to al-Sadr who was at the conference to talk to U.N. officials about the Najaf violence, said he also was slightly injured in the blast.

The interim government of Prime Minister Ayad Allawi came into office in June facing a persistent 16-month-old insurgency led by Sunni Muslims in Baghdad and to the north and the west. The eruption of violence in the south with al-Sadr’s militiamen since Aug. 5 has only added to his problems.

Had al-Sadr agreed to stand down, the conference would have succeeded in turning a crisis into a startling, symbolic victory showing the potential power of communal solutions in post-Saddam Iraq.

But with his rejection, the conflict will have distracted attention from other pressing issues and damaged conference organizers’ efforts to project an optimistic image of national unity.

The Najaf violence “has really affected progress� at the National Conference, said one delegate, Ahmad al-Hayali.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan also has offered to play “a facilitating role� to help end the Najaf violence if all sides agree, U.N. spokesman Fred Eckhard said Monday.

He said the decision came after Annan spoke to Secretary of State Colin Powell, Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi and the new U.N. envoy to Iraq, Ashraf Jehangir Qazi.

In other incidents:

Iraqi police freed a Jordanian hostage in a raid south of Baghdad, detaining three men, a police spokesman said. The Jordanian, Samer Tamaallah Hussein Tamaallah, was kidnapped two weeks ago.
A U.S. unmanned reconnaissance aircraft, an MQ-1 Predator, crashed north of Baghdad, the military said. The cause was being investigated.
Militants attacked an Italian patrol in the southern city of Nasiriyah, where al-Sadr gunmen have been active. Three Italian soldiers were wounded.
A British soldier was killed and another was wounded during fighting with al-Sadr loyalists in the southern city of Basra, the British army said.
Najaf’s police chief, Maj. Gen. Ghalib al-Jazaari, said Monday that al-Sadr fighters broke into his family’s house in Basra, beat up his sisters and kidnapped his handicapped, 80-year-old father.
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to .com - News

Gary Leupp%3A Attack on Najaf

Hussein is entombed, not with his father, but in Karbala. But according to Shiite tradition, an even more remarkable figure rests under the golden dome of the Ali Shrine: Adam, the first man. A son of Noah, who refused to enter the ark, died in Najaf, and here the patriarch Abraham and his son Isaac once bought a parcel of land now called the Valley of Peace. This is the sprawling Wadi al-Salaam cemetery (the world's largest) that adjoins the shrine. Pilgrimage to Najaf will supposedly bring 70,000 Muslims immediate entry into Paradise. Najaf was home to Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini for twelve years. It was a target of Saddam Hussein during the Shiite rebellion after the 1991 Gulf War, in which the first President Bush encouraged the Shiites to rise up, only to abandon them ignominiously. (In that episode the shrine was looted and bombed, although soon repaired by the Baathist regime.) Ayatollah Mohammad Sadiq al-Sadr, Muqtada al-Sadr's father, was assassinated here in 1999. In short, Najaf is a hub of mythology, tradition, and historical memories of injustice, resistance and martyrdom that inevitably affect its significance as a military target. Especially when Shiite resistance fighters take refuge there, and use it as a base of operations against unwelcome infidel troops.

Shiites constitute about 10% of the world's Muslims, and are the majority population in Iran (93%) and Azerbaijan (61%). They comprise large communities in India and Pakistan (over 50 million total), but are the majority in only two Arab nations, tiny Bahrain (65%) and Iraq (60%). In Iraqi Shiism, the Arab and Indo-Iranian worlds intersect, and by chance the holiest site of Shiism is located in a proud Arab country, next door to the Shiite powerhouse of Iran, and now surrounded by foreign invaders. The latter, under fire from the general population, come to hate, fear and disparage the Iraqis and, regardless of the orders they receive from their officers, cannot be expected to treat Muslim sites with sensitivity and deference.

"We Do Not Wish to Get Involved with the Mosque"

It is of course, official U.S. policy to avoid damaging the Ali Shrine. "We do not in any way wish to get involved with the mosque," says Secretary of State Colin Powell. "It's a very holy place for all Shia." But how can U.S. forces and their token allies, occupying Najaf and the rest of Iraq, not "get involved" with a prime symbol of the identity of the invaded population? Especially when 1000 members of al-Sadr's Mahdi Army are holed up in and around Najaf's Old City, demanding U.S. withdrawal, and amnesty for the militiamen, as the price for their own retreat?

Blaming continued attacks on the Mahdi Army, U.S. forces broke a cease-fire August 2 in Kufa, next to Najaf, and an earlier agreement not to attempt to arrest al-Sadr. The cleric's forces responded by seizing 18 Iraqi police officers, while in Basra the Mahdi Army declared a jihad against British forces that had arrested four al-Sadr supporters two days earlier. Even so, al-Sadr called for a restoration of a truce signed in June; but this was rejected by the U.S.-appointed governor of Najaf. "Major operations to destroy [al-Sadr's] militia have begun," announced Marine Major David Holahan, of the 1st Battalion, 4th Marines Regiment, while the U.S. and British press promoted the Najaf operation as the "final" assault on the Mahdi Army. "This is one battle we really do feel we can win," a U.S. diplomat told the Telegraph. On August 5, ostensibly responding to attacks on themselves and an Iraqi police station launched from the Valley of Peace by the Mahdi Army, U.S. forces moved into the graveyard, later claiming 300 enemy dead.

The First Shiite Uprising

This was not their first encounter with the Mahdi forces; in April, the U.S. military conducted "Operation Iron Saber" against this militia requiring an extension of tours of duty of the 1st Armored Division. ("The operation will continue until the goal of eliminating and disarming al-Sadr's militia is met," announced a Polish forces spokesman, adding, "I think that will take place soon." That was three months ago.) But why did they attack this group, which needless to say had no connection to 9-11, or to al-Qaeda, or Saddam Hussein, or any previously mentioned target of the "War on Terror"? Al-Sadr, the son of a renowned and beloved cleric killed (hence martyred) by Saddam, whose power base is a huge slum area with a population of two million in Baghdad---a district now named Sadr City---had been in the crosshairs of the occupation for many months. This is because he had denounced it from the outset, and demanded that the foreign troops withdraw or face a jihad. In April, before the sham "handover of power," his newspaper was banned, a top aide arrested, and a warrant for his arrest issued months earlier suddenly made public. (The charges were connected with the killing of Grand Ayatollah Amd al-Majid al-Khoei, a pro-U.S. cleric flown in from London during the invasion and pegged to administer Najaf. Al-Khoei, whom senior Shiite cleric al-Sistani refused to meet, and who was insulted by common people in the streets of the city, was blown to bits outside the Ali Shrine in April 2003.)

Not cowed by the measures against him, the 30ish al-Sadr turned from peaceful protest to active, armed resistance, as his popularity soared. In May, according to a poll conducted by the "Coalition Provisional Authority" itself, he was viewed favorably by 68% of the Iraqis, and the figure has doubtless risen since. After taking significant casualties in Operation Iron Saber, the U.S. agreed to a cease-fire in June. Al-Sadr urged his forces to leave Najaf and announced plans to enter the planned presidential race. In the course of this operation, machinegun fire from some source produced four twelve by eight inch holes in the golden dome of the shrine; U.S. forces accused the Mahdi Army of shooting up their own holy site, but many doubted this. Iron Saber, according to U.S. forces, killed several thousand militiamen and was a great success. But it didn't rid the U.S. and its allies of this troublesome priest.

Negotiations Fail

On August 10 residents of the central section of Najaf were ordered to evacuate; soon Najaf became a ghost town. Meanwhile tens of thousands rallied in protest in five Iraqi cities, and in Iran, Bahrain, Lebanon, Pakistan and elsewhere. In their minds, Najaf's holy places were already under attack. According to the Washington Post, about 10,000 Iraqis arrived in the city Saturday to defend the shrine. These included Sunnis and Sunni clerics from Fallujah expressing solidarity. The leadership of Shiite Iran has strongly condemned U.S. moves on the shrine, and the Sunni organization, the Muslim Scholars Board, has issued a fatwa ordering police from cooperating with occupying forces.

The assault paused Friday as al-Sadr's representatives negotiated with the U.S.-installed President Iyad Allawi for an end to the confrontation. One reads conflicting reports about why the talks failed. Some suggest that Allawi's national security advisor Mowaffak Rubaie sought to meet al-Sadr, who refused; others state that al-Sadr wished to meet with Rubaie, but could not. Al-Sadr spokesman Qais al-Khazali said a deal had been reached and signed when "we were surprised that they [Allawi's negotiators] got instructions from Dr. Allawi to leave." http://www.sundayherald.com/44094 An anonymous western diplomat quoted in the Boston Globe says that talks failed because Allawi had made al-Sadr a "relatively generous" offer, including clemency for the outstanding murder charge, but al-Sadr, as mentioned above, demanded a U.S. withdrawal and amnesty for his militiamen. Perhaps an agreement was vetoed by a third party; U.S. officials have opposed granting amnesty to anyone who has killed or injured U.S. troops. In any case, when the talks broke down, U.S. officials indicated that, on instructions from Allawi, Iraqi rather than U.S. forces (six of whom have already died in this operation) would attend to the destruction of the militia. American military officers praised this as a politically wise decision.

U.S. Forces in a Bind

This tactical decision to deploy Iraqis against Iraqis seems not to have eroded support for the Mahdi Army's resistance or opposition to U.S. behavior in Najaf. The residents of Sunni Fajullah, recalling the assistance that Shiites have given them in their resistance to the occupation, have demonstrated in support of al-Sadr and sent forces to his aid in the holy city. The occupation-appointed deputy governor of Najaf, and over half the provincial council, have resigned in protest. Even one of the two U.S.-appointed deputy presidents, Ibrahim Jaafari, has called on "multinational forces to leave Najaf."

On Sunday, of the 1300 delegates to the national conference in Baghdad to select a provisional legislature, over 100 walked out in protest, one stating, "as long as there are air strikes and shelling [in Najaf], we can't have a conference." Many Iraqis fear the U.S. will, Powell's words notwithstanding, "get involved with the mosque," and by inflicting damage upon it, open the gates of hell upon themselves and all complicit in the occupation. 4000 Iraqi security forces in Najaf had defected to al-Sadr's army by Saturday.

Officials of the Iraqi "defense ministry" told Knight Ridder on Sunday that "more than 100 Iraqi national guardsmen and a battalion of Iraqi soldiers chose to quit rather than attack fellow Iraqis in a city that includes some of the holiest sites in Shiite Islam." One high-ranking officer said, "We received a report that a whole battalion (in Najaf) threw down their rifles. We expected this, and we expect it again and again." Perhaps the politically wise decision of using Iraqi rather than U.S. forces just won't work. That would explain why all foreign reporters (except those embedded with the U.S. military) were ordered out of Najaf Sunday. (Al-Jazeera had already been booted for biased reporting. Fox remains.)

Al-Sadr's only real rival for popular support, Grand Ayatollah Ali Hussein Sistani, is in London recovering from a heart operation, urging restraint on both sides and likely undercutting his own moral authority and nationalist credentials in the process. While Shiite opposition to the occupation has been growing for months, the confrontation at the shrine has drawn a clear line between the Shiites and the Coalition now operating through a puppet regime. Even if, as reported, many in Najaf are tiring of al-Sadr's methods, which threaten the business stemming from religious pilgrimage; and even if ranking clerics in Iran are distancing themselves from the Mahdi Army; the second Shiite uprising in four months may well constitute a neocon's "nightmare scenario." Particularly if it widens into a broader patriotic uprising, and thence into an even wider international-Muslim confrontation with the American-dominated foreign forces. On the other hand, the presence of Syrians and Iranians (reported by the Telegraph) may embolden the more audacious warmongers to use setbacks in Iraq to justify further regime-change projects in the region. More Rumsfeldian "creative chaos."


That creative chaos to date has involved the sacking of the Baghdad Museum, the sexual torture of innocents in Adu Ghraib and other prisons, lingering denial of basic utilities and services, the deaths of at least 11,000 civilians, breakdown in security, rampant crime including kidnapping and rape, ineptly improvised and constantly changing administrative institutions, ongoing attacks crippling the oil industry. All of this might be leading to some apocalyptic climax, glorious as the golden dome of Imam Ali's shrine. But of what sort?

Even if among the occupied, some (confused, disoriented, naively optimistic) initially thought the foreigners might bring liberation, these must now conclude---through harsh experience---that liberation is not conferred but rather won. The Mahdi Army cannot, in my view, really liberate anyone with its fundamentalist religious agenda, and this, perhaps, many of its adherents will come to understand. But for the time being, it presents the imperialists with their thorniest challenge. The warriors of this jihad know that their countrymen will desert, or defect to themselves, rather than serve the infidels in Najaf. The original sin of the occupation is that it is, after all, an occupation. Worse, one based on lies. Justified after the fact, after the bogus rationales were all discredited, by the boast, "We overthrew a dictator," the occupation now faces the jihadis' charge that it is worse even than Saddam. (The occupier puzzles at the charge. Aren't we rebuilding schools? he thinks, not realizing that Iraq once had the finest school system in the Arab world, and small need for its reconstruction---until somebody, for reasons some think worth it, damaged it and so much else.)

Worse than Saddam. From the minarets of the mosque joining heaven and earth, the muezzin calls out that charge, and in a land of martyred imams, it resonates powerfully among the oppressed.

Gary Leupp is Professor of History at Tufts University, and Adjunct Professor of Comparative Religion. He is the author of Servants, Shophands and Laborers in in the Cities of Tokugawa Japan; Male Colors: The Construction of Homosexuality in Tokugawa Japan; and Interracial Intimacy in Japan: Western Men and Japanese Women, 1543-1900. He is also a contributor to CounterPunch's merciless chronicle of the wars on Iraq, Afghanistan and Yugoslavia, Imperial Crusades.

He can be reached at: gleupp@granite.tufts.edu

004.html">Gary Leupp%3A Attack on Najaf

Chavez, the Poor Man's Survivor
By Jefferson Morleywashingtonpost.com Staff WriterTuesday, August 17, 2004; 11:14 AM
Hugo Chavez survives again.
The leftist president of Venezuela, backed by 58 percent of voters, easily rebuffed a recall referendum on Sunday. In the course of his political career, the 48-year-old former military officer has endured jail time and overcome two well-funded electoral rivals, an abortive military coup, a general strike and, now, a well-funded, internationally supported campaign to end his presidential term early. Chavez's reputation as a populist survivor is getting burnished in the international online media, if not in Venezuela itself.
Chavez's victory, if it survives allegations of fraud from the opposition, "would be a fillip for those campaigning against US influence in the region and a big success for leftwingers, including Fidel Castro, president of Cuba," notes the Financial Times.
The London daily describes Chavez as "an out-spoken critic of the 'neo-liberal' economic policies supported by Washington." But the FT acknowledged his pragmatic side as well, noting Chavez's government "has met foreign debt payments and maintained reasonable relations with multinational companies in the oil, telecommunications and other sectors."
As a result, even TalCual (in Spanish), an independent Caracas daily often critical of Chavez, reported Monday that his victory "dispelled doubts about the stability of the world's fifth largest petroleum exporter and contributed to calm," at least temporarily, in oil and stock markets.
"I ask that we give a prayer to God thanking him for this victory that is clean, transparent, and forceful," Chavez declared Monday morning while speaking from the balcony of the presidential palace, according to a report in Colombia's El Tiempo (in Spanish) newspaper.
In the Spanish-speaking world, Chavez's allies were quick to claim victory. Cuba's Granma (in Spanish), the government-controlled daily, hailed Chavez's "transcendental victory," saying it represented the worst setback yet for Chavez's adversaries and was a sign of growing popular support for his so-called Bolivarian revolution. (Chavez is a great admirer of Simon Bolivar, the 19th century general who fought for the independence of Latin America.)
Argentina's left-wing president, Nestor Kirchner, sent congratulations to Chavez, according to El Nacional (in Spanish), another anti-Chavez daily in Caracas. El Universal (in Spanish) carried a wire service story that the leader of El Salvador's leftist political party, a former guerrilla fighter, had done the same.
In Spain, El Mundo (in Spanish) reported the country's center-left government had also sent its congratulations. (The Madrid daily reported that 95 percent of Venezuelan expatriates in that country had voted for recalling Chavez.)
The overconfidence of Chavez's foes—a diverse collection of middle- and upper-class political forces with tacit support from the United States —was exemplified by the columnist Omar Estacio writing in El Universal, a fiercely anti-Chavez daily. On the day of the voting, Estacio predicted Chavez's foes would prevail by a wide margin and soon be dancing in the streets "without attacking or offending anyone."
Less than 24 hours later, the federal electoral commission had reported Chavez had won by 16 percentage points and the opposition was calling for demonstrations, not dancing. By late Monday afternoon, El Universal reported that four opposition protestors had been wounded (one later died) by unidentified, but presumably pro-Chavez, gunmen at a rally.
A statement from former U.S. president Jimmy Carter that his observation team had not detected significant fraud was picked up by the Guardian of London and the Chinese news agency, Xinhua.net .
Chavez's success, including his penchant for rhetorically confronting the United States, has not gone unnoticed in other oil-exporting countries in the Middle East either.
Al-Jazeera.net credited Chavez with an "ambitious program of wealth redistribution" aimed at helping the 80 percent of Venezuelans who live in poverty.
"To the majority of Venezuelans -- mainly the impoverished -- Chavez became a hero," said the Qatar-based cable news network. An Arab student studying in the Netherlands told the BBC, "that most of the Arabs look at Venezuela with envy! We hope one day we will have our own Chavez."
"It remains to be seen whether the result referendum will calm the situation in Venezuela for the remainder of Mr. Chavez' term in office," cautioned Radio Netherlands.
The Dutch broadcast network quoted one analyst who said that, "those who suspect that Mr. Chavez is planning a Cuban-style dictatorship will continue to do so, and the people in the slums who voted for him will still support his revolution of the poor. … [W]ith this result it's very improbable that the opposition is going to accept the current situation".
Many Venezuelans shared the same view.
In a voluntary online survey, Tal Cual asked readers to chose from three statements about the future of Venezuela.
As of Tuesday morning, 26 percent said they expected reduced political conflict, 29 percent expected the economy to improve and 44 percent said they expected everything to stay the same.
In other words, Hugo Chavez's survival skills will probably be tested again.
Print This Article
E-Mail This Article
RSS Feed

Permission to Republish
© 2004 Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive

Iraqi Conference on Election Plan Sinks Into Chaos By John Burns New York Times
Monday August 16, 2004
BAGHDAD, Iraq, Aug. 15 - A conference of more than 1,100 Iraqis chosen to take the country a crucial step further toward constitutional democracy convened in Baghdad on Sunday under siege-like conditions, only to be thrown into disorder by delegates staging angry protests against the American-led military operation in the Shiite holy city of Najaf.
After an opening speech by Iraq's interim prime minister, Ayad Allawi, delegates leapt out of their seats demanding the conference be suspended. One Shiite delegate stormed the stage before being forced back, shouting, "We demand that military operations in Najaf stop immediately!"
Shortly afterward, two mortar shells fired at the area where the meeting was being held landed in a bus and truck terminal nearby, killing 2 people and wounding at least 17.
The three-day conference, called to elect a 100-member commission that is to organize elections in January and hold veto powers over decrees passed by the Allawi government, was not halted. But reporters who had been told to wear flak jackets and helmets when entering the convention center complex past American tanks were frantically waved back from the center's plate glass windows as the mortar shells exploded, shaking the complex and rattling the windows.
In many ways, the scene seemed like a metaphor for America's problems in Iraq, with the rebel attacks that have spread to virtually every Sunni and Shiite town across this country of 25 million threatening to overwhelm plans for three rounds of national elections next year, ending with a fully elected government in January 2006.
Just as American troops in Najaf have failed so far to quell an uprising by a rebel Shiite cleric, Moktada al-Sadr, so on Sunday's showing here, American political plans for Iraq remain hostage to the violence that has made much of the country enemy territory for the Americans.
The fighting in Najaf, which resumed Sunday after the Allawi government walked out of truce talks, is part of a wider insurrection across southern Iraq by militiamen loyal to Mr. Sadr, who has cast himself as a tribune of the Shiite underclass and as the leader of a national resistance movement against American troops.
The signs in Najaf were of preparations for yet another attempt to force Mr. Sadr and a force of perhaps 1,000 men from his Mahdi Army militia to relinquish control of the Imam Ali Mosque, Shiism's holiest shrine, and by defeating them there, to begin rolling back the challenge he poses to plans to stabilize the country.
After a day of sporadic gunfire and explosions that shook Najaf's Old City, with the mosque at its center, reporters said they had seen American tanks blocking almost every street leading to the shrine, some as little as 1,000 yards away.
American commanders spoke of tightening the cordon they threw around the Old City last week, but of leaving any attempt to move into the immediate vicinity of the shrine to the Iraqi forces that Prime Minister Allawi said Saturday would now carry the brunt of the Najaf fighting.
By using Iraqi troops, Dr. Allawi and the American officials who are his partners in Baghdad hope to avoid the eruption of fury among Iraq's majority Shiites - and across the wider Shiite world, particularly in Iran - if American troops were seen to have damaged or desecrated the mosque, which is revered as the burial place of Imam Ali, Shiism's founding saint.
In a further sign that a new push against Mr. Sadr might be imminent, the Allawi government ordered the expulsion of all reporters working in Najaf, Iraqis as well as Westerners, and even warned Najaf residents working as freelancers for Western news outlets to cease work.
"I received orders from the interior minister, who demands that all local, Arab and foreign journalists leave the hotel and the city within two hours," Gen. Ghaleb al-Jazairi, Najaf's police chief, told newsmen at the hotel on the edge of the Old City that has become a news media headquarters. He gave as his reason the government's inability to protect the journalists if major new battles erupted.
Taken together, the events in Baghdad and Najaf appeared to catch Iraq at a new tipping point. Many Iraqis believe that events in the days ahead are likely to signal as clearly as anything in recent months whether the wider American enterprise in Iraq can emerge from a seemingly endless sequence of reverses and achieve at least a part of what President Bush and other advocates of the war have said they are seeking here. That is the midwifing of a new, peaceful, democratic Iraq - or, contrarily, a further descent into bloodshed and chaos, at a continuing heavy cost in Iraqi and American lives.
From modest beginnings 16 months ago, when American troops toppled Saddam Hussein, Mr. Sadr has used every confrontation with United States forces to build his political following, and his militia, to the point that he now boasts of being able to thwart attempts to build a Western-style democracy, and to fundamentally disrupt the $18 billion American reconstruction program.
For months, American officials have said Mr. Sadr's challenge must be overcome if he is not to imperil all they have worked for here. The sense now, in the heavily guarded compound beside the Tigris River where the American Embassy works side by side with United States military commanders and top officials of the Allawi government, is that the moment may have arrived.
Deliberately killing or capturing Mr. Sadr, as American commanders vowed during an earlier Sadr insurrection in April, has now been ruled out, American officials say, since the cleric, if harmed in circumstances for which the Americans could be blamed, could become more of a rallying point among his following.
With Mr. Sadr believed to be entrenched with his militia in the Najaf shrine, or somewhere in areas of the Old City controlled by the militia, the need not to harm him personally has added extra complexity to American military planning. But a greater problem is the political one.
American officials have been hoping for months that moderate Shiite leaders would coalesce in a condemnation of Mr. Sadr's resort to arms. But this time, as in April, there has been mostly silence from those leaders, even from those who privately excoriate the cleric as a rabble-rousing upstart who has defiled a 1,000-year tradition by making an armory of the Imam Ali shrine.
With the conference in Baghdad, Dr. Allawi and the Americans saw an opportunity to demonstrate that, the violence across the country notwithstanding, it was possible to proceed with the timetable for democracy laid down earlier this year, when Iraq was still formally an occupied country. As well, in the context of the uprising in Najaf and the Sadr militia's attacks elsewhere, they wanted to show that a large number of politically active Iraqis - Shiites a majority among them - would defy threats of violence from Mr. Sadr's fighters and other insurgent groups and attend the gathering.
By that measure, Iraqi and American officials said, they counted the conference a success, just for the fact that it had convened.
For weeks, at caucuses across the country, thousands of Iraqis competed for election to the conference, and for the say it would give them in shaping the country's political future. A two-week postponement of the gathering, ordered in hope of broadening participation, did not yield any breakthroughs, particularly in persuading influential Sunni Muslim groups like the Muslim Clerics Association, or Mr. Sadr, to abandon their boycott of the process.
Still, the turnout exceeded the goal of at least 1,000 delegates, including some from Najaf and the other cities now roiled by Mr. Sadr's uprisings.
Yet the conference's opening day was dominated not by discussion of the coming elections or of the many other issues that confront Iraq, including the ruined economy, but by delegates' demands for an end to American and Iraqi military operations against Mr. Sadr. In speech after speech on Sunday, delegates called on Dr. Allawi to stop the fighting.
In an attempt to regain control, conference organizers established a committee to draft a resolution on Najaf, and it was carried to Dr. Allawi by a small group of delegates.
A larger group of about 100 threatened to walk out over the issue, but eventually relented. "Nobody withdrew, and that was all there was to it," said Fouad Masoum, the conference's principal organizer.
Dr. Allawi, a 59-year-old physician who came to the prime minister's post with a reputation for toughness, made a brief opening address to the gathering that suggested that he had little intention of backing down over Najaf, which he visited a week ago, vowing "no negotiations or truce" with Mr. Sadr.
"Your blessed gathering here is a challenge for the forces of evil and tyranny that want to destroy this country and this assembly," he told delegates. With that, he quickly withdrew to his offices 500 yards away, avoiding the clamorous protests that ensued on the conference floor.
His compromise was to meet with the conference delegation, led by Hussein al-Sadr, a Shiite cleric and distant relative of Moktada al-Sadr who, like Dr. Allawi, spent years in exile in London, escaping the repression of Mr. Hussein.
On the conference floor, Hussein al-Sadr had taken an ambiguous position, as have many Shiite religious leaders, saying that military operations in Najaf should end, but that somehow "the government should enforce its control over all of Iraq."
That appeared to cut little ice with Dr. Allawi, a Shiite, who scheduled a news conference in the convention center at the end of the day's discussions, then abruptly canceled it.
In his place, he sent a junior minister, Wael Abdul Latif, who reiterated the government's demand that the Sadr militiamen disarm and quit Najaf, or face a showdown with Iraqi troops. He said Dr. Allawi had not yet given the order for the operation to begin, but implied that it might not be long in coming if Mr. Sadr failed to send word that he was ready to negotiate seriously on the government's terms.
"We call on everyone who is in the shrine to vacate it," he said. "There is an open door, but it will not remain open for very long."
Sabrina Tavernise contributed reporting for this article.
Jump to TO Features for Tuesday August 17, 2004
Today's TO Features -------------- William Rivers Pitt Brain Dead, Made of Money, No Future at All Dozens of Blasts Rock Najaf; 3 American Troops Killed Bob Herbert Suppress the Black Vote in Florida? Greg Palast Dick Cheney, Hugo Chavez and Bill Clinton's Band Trial of Mercenary Bounty-Hunter Embarrasses U.S. Bush Accused of Exploiting Hurricane Charlie Al Gore Who's to Blame for Global Warming? Laura Martel "The Stakes in the Election Were Not Chavez Himself" Bloodshed Continues in Sudan and Burundi Newsday 1.3 Billion Reasons to Worry about Oil Robert Bryce America's Achilles' Heel Text Messages for Critical Masses Family of Iraq Torture Whistleblower Threatened F.B.I. Harassing Political Activists Delegation Dispatched to Meet with Sadr Police Fire at Reporters as U.S. Tanks Roll up to Shrine Iraqi Conference on Election Plan Sinks into Chaos Chavez Appears Victorious in Venezuela t r u t h o u t Home
(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. t r u t h o u t has no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of this article nor is t r u t h o u t endorsed or sponsored by the originator.)
Print This Story E-mail This Story

© : t r u t h o u t 2004