Issue Number 22 - December 26, 2002

George Bush Blacked-out, Africa must wait
U.S. seized Iraq corporate client list
Rich man's "strike" in Venezuela




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The only thing black George Bush wants to deal with in January is Iraqi oil. What with his Trent Lott troubles, Bush is all Blacked-out. That's the general assessment of Africa Action executive director Salih Booker, responding to the White House decision to postpone the President's January 10 - 17 trip to Senegal, Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa and Mauritius.

"Once again Africa is not a priority for this White House and the Republican rulers on Capitol Hill," said Booker. "They think they've addressed enough Black issues with the
replacement of Lott and they callously dump Africa again. The Bush Administration is disinterested in Africa aside from oil imports and the use of African territory in Washington's war on terrorism."

Secretary of State Colin Powell laid the groundwork for the Bush trip back in September, amid great fanfare. Africa Action's Booker said the postponement demonstrates that the White House is more concerned about making war on Iraq than in fighting the AIDS pandemic. "The U.S. government continues shamelessly to limit funding for AIDS programs in Africa and supports the pharmaceutical companies' efforts to enforce patent laws against poor countries seeking access to affordable medicines," said Booker. He called the decision "wholly unjustified and insensitive to those dying on the frontlines in the War on AIDS, a war more just and important than any war on Iraq, and one which George Bush refuses to acknowledge."

Keeping corporate secrets

When Iraq released its long awaited report to the United Nations, detailing its claims to have abandoned all programs to develop weapons of mass destruction, U.S. personnel physically seized the 12,000-page document from stunned UN officials in New York and whisked it off to Washington. The Iraqi papers were too sensitive, even for the eyes of the four other permanent members of the Security Council, said the Bush men, suggesting that the documents might contain information that would help terrorists build their own weapons.

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan bit his lip and issued a statement calling the U.S. hijacking of UN property "unfortunate." Infuriated at the African's insolence, the U.S. registered its own complaint against Anan.

Last week, Washington returned the Iraqi papers to the UN, minus 8,000 pages. Shortly thereafter, Berlin's left-wing Die Tageszeitung newspaper revealed the information that Washington tried to hide: a list of 150 Western corporations at the heart of Saddam Hussein's arms program, 24 of them American.

Even the most casual observer will note that key players in the U.S. military-industrial complex profited from Iraq's arms programs:

Honeywell, Spectra Physics, Semetex, TI Coating, Unisys, Sperry Corp., Tektronix, Rockwell, Leybold Vacuum Systems, Finnigan-MAT-US, Hewlett-Packard, Dupont, Eastman Kodak, American Type Culture Collection, Alcolac International, Consarc, Carl Zeiss, Cerberus, Electronic Associates, International Computer Systems, Bechtel, EZ Logic Data Systems, Inc., Canberra Industries Inc., Axel Electronics Inc.

Many of these corporations are large contributors to the Republican and Democratic Parties. Most are U.S. defense contractors. One name seemed out of place. We searched for information on the curiously non-threatening American Type Culture Collection:

ATCC is a global nonprofit bioresource center that provides biological products, technical services, and educational programs to private industry, government, and academic organizations around the world. Our mission is to acquire, authenticate, preserve, develop, and distribute biological materials, information, technology, intellectual property, and standards for the advancement, validation, and application of scientific knowledge.

Along with maintaining and distributing biological materials, research is a key part of ATCC's science program. Staff scientists conduct research on both collection-oriented and grant-supported topics, including improved storage and characterization methods, authentication of standards, descriptions of new species, genomics, in vitro cell biology, and disease diagnosis and prevention.

Clearly, ATCC has been a useful resource for Iraq's national health program. Luckily for itself, the non-profit is U.S.-based. In the hands of the Bush men, ATCC's own mission description could be used to place it at the center of Saddam Hussein's biological warfare program. Most Americans wouldn't know the difference - or care.

What the well-dressed striker wears

U.S. media continue to throw around the term "national general strike" to describe the opposition's attempt to provoke and overthrow Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. It is a strange "strike," indeed, organized by rich owners of property and highly paid executives of the state oil company. The disruptions have certainly been "national" in scope, costing the Venezuelan economy as much as $50 million a day. However, the rich man's campaign cannot be considered a "general" anything, directed as it is against a popularly elected government supported by the poor majority of the people. The rich close their businesses, and call it a strike. They send money out of the country, and blame Chavez for the losses to the economy.

American corporate media read the opposition's press releases, drink their wine, and call it reporting. Then they call unnamed U.S. embassy officials and cloak the results as "background." They are likely talking to the American officials who help subsidize the opposition's propaganda, through the National Endowment for Democracy, a quasi-governmental foundation funded by the U.S. Congress.

U.S. media spend most of their time with the overwhelmingly white middle and upper class protestors who hurl racial epithets at Chavez and the dark Venezuelan majority. (See RE-PRINT on African Venezuelans in this issue.) Well-dressed housewives, unused to labor and therefore unfit to "strike" against much of anything, ease their political burdens by blasting cassette recordings of banging pots and pans, the traditional form of protest. When these brave, luxury high-rise dwellers get really angry, they just turn up the volume. This impresses the American media, who often as not don't bother to mention pro-Chavez demonstrations of equal or larger size. The racial aspects of Venezuela's social crisis are rarely explored.

Journalist Greg Palast, a real reporter, described one clash of rival demonstrations. "200,000 blondes marched East through Caracas' shopping corridor along Casanova Avenue. At the same time, half a million brunettes converged on them from the West."

That pretty much tells the tale. Figure out whose side Washington is on.

Increasingly isolated in Latin America - and sidetracked by the Iraq obsession - the U.S. was forced to back away from its demand that Chavez submit to early elections. In a stunning rebuke to Washington, the Organization of American States pointed out that any referendum before August would violate Venezuela's constitution.

According to Chavez supporters, the misnamed "national general strike" shows signs of imminent collapse. Stores in rich neighborhoods have begun opening. What's the point of being rich, if you can't spend your money?

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