Issue Number 14 - October 17, 2002




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The Four Eunuchs of War

History will render its immutable judgment on U.S. Representatives Harold Ford, Jr., William Jefferson, Albert Wynn and Sanford Bishop. These men are like the Sultan's eunuchs, for whom submission is a trait of character; the mere presence of Power dominates them, completely.

They bowed to George Bush's declaration of permanent, unilateral war for no remotely defensible reason. Their fear is self-generated, automatic.

Ford, Jefferson and Wynn represent safe, solid Black-majority districts, dependably anti-war and anti-Bush. Only Bishop's district is less than majority-Black, although it is also considered safely Democratic.

Blacks as percentage of district voting age population:
William Jefferson (LA) 61%
Harold Ford, Jr. (TN) 59%
Albert Wynn (MD) 58%
Sanford Bishop (GA) 45%

The rest of the 36 voting members of the Congressional Black Caucus defended Black America's political legacy, voting No. Rep. Barbara Lee (CA) led half of her CBC colleagues in support of her "alternative to war" resolution, demonstrating once again that African Americans are the core of the forces of peace and justice in the U.S.

Except for Ford, Wynn, Jefferson and Bishop. Three of the four are all but invulnerable to direct coercion by the White House. They have stained Black people's honor, voluntarily.

Their betrayal at this historic moment will be remembered as the true testament to their characters.

The most dangerous game

Democrats complain that Bush is trying to obscure the dark clouds that hang over the U.S. economy. It's worse than that; the gloom is global. According to The Observer, of London, "European markets have collapsed even further, wiping out nearly half of the value of European corporations in this year alone." Japan, it is clear, has no idea how to maintain the structures built after World War Two, which lie in tatters, threatening that nation's social order to its core.

Serious European economists are making comparisons with the Thirties, when a worldwide boom went bust. Such talk is considered near-treason in the U.S., where corporate economists directly tied to the machinations of the market are the only voices deemed worthy of media coverage. Their mumbling and/or silence on the "slump" with no end in sight is the gloomiest signal of all.

does not favor Chicken Little stories about falling skies; economies are what people kill for, and no one should relish the thought of global slaughter.

However, it does appear that the system may be running out of ways to export its contradictions. The developing world can no longer be force-fed International Monetary Fund arrangements that were intended to give Western capital opportunities to reproduce itself in ever-multiplying quantities. Yet the game cannot go on, except under these terms. Even normally compliant native elites are regurgitating on the Old Order; it is killing them - the immediate cause of the crisis that has flattened Argentina and threatens every country in Latin America.

Africa, having never been allowed to rise, provides no serious markets suitable to international finance's purposes. And the Japanese engine has sputtered out of the East Asian economies.

Those who look beyond the minutia of current war-talk, to describe the international crisis as a cutthroat brawl over mineral and oil resources, may not be looking far enough. The truly yawning abyss appears to be a structural dilemma. The house that capital built could pancake, surplus oil oozing from crumbled schemes based on speculations that have simply run out of space.

When Old Orders unravel, it tends to happen quickly and without hope of repair. It may be that American captains of capital, peering into the chasm with no bottom, have become desperate enough to sweep the board clean and start a new game - with guns to the heads of all the other players, making up new rules along the way.

Smack, Blow, and Blowback

"Blowback" is another term for unintended consequences. No honest person doubts that September 11 was "blowback" from the CIA's arming of Muslim zealots in Afghanistan, beginning in the late Seventies under Peace Prize winner Jimmy Carter. Heroin's comeback on U.S. streets during the same period was "blowback," as is the current heroin plague. The ongoing cocaine epidemic is directly traceable to the CIA's Latin American criminal enterprises.

The agency's mission to destabilize the late Michael Manley's government in Jamaica, more than two decades ago, is blowing back in murderous fashion on the streets and roads of the island. At the time of this writing, nearly 50 people had been murdered in the run-up to the October 16 elections. Although the gunmen of the "garrison communities" of Kingston and other cities do battle in Jamaica Labour Party green and People's National Party orange, the warfare appears to more resemble Crips and Bloods than Left vs. Right. Most observers view the current violence as an extension of drug turf wars.

The CIA is widely believed to have introduced large-scale urban warfare into Jamaican politics in 1980 in its zeal to unseat Michael Manley, thought to be too friendly with Fidel Castro. 844 people were killed in the last two weeks of the campaign. The JLP's Edward Seaga (spelled "CIA-ga" in graffiti of the time) achieved a bloody victory, as did the IMF.

The PNP has been back in power for the last three governments and, with the election expected to be close, Seaga's knock is going rat-tat-tat, again. Only now, it is the drug trade, rather than the terms of relations between nations, that is at issue. Politicized youth have become narco-gangsters. Blowback.

And back again

Abandoning all pretense, the U.S. has begun training a battalion of Colombian commandos for war against leftist guerillas. Previously, U.S. Special Forces and contract mercenaries operated under the fiction that they were helping the Colombian army combat the drug trade - the last thing on the minds of both the Americans and their clients in Bogota.

The Green Berets have already trained a 2,000-member brigade for "anti-drug" warfare, which is undoubtedly identical to anti-guerilla warfare. The brigade's mission was to attack in areas where the poppy fields are controlled by guerillas, who tax the peasants who grow the poppies that are processed into cocaine by allies of the government who then ship the stuff to the U.S.

These relationships are apparently confusing to the narcotics police, 78 of whom were busted for stealing millions of dollars in U.S anti-drug money. The former head of the anti-drug unit was among those indicted, along with 22 colonels and majors.

The rightwing guerillas originally hired by rich ranchers (like the current president of Colombia's family) to guard their cocaine operations from leftist incursion have forgotten their mission, entirely. The mercenaries started using and selling the crop, and have split into three factions, each quite dangerous, one of which is charged with shipping 17 tons of cocaine to the U.S.

The Bush people have placed the rightwing mercenary group on a list of terrorist organizations. However, thousands of the group's former (or present?) troops constitute the government's only hold on large parts of the countryside. At least until recently, they guarded sections of U.S. oil company pipelines, now being handed over to freshly equipped army units.

The U.S sends Colombia $2 billion in assorted aid each year. 500 tons of cocaine and 10 tons of heroin flow in the other direction. Bigtime Blowback.

Lethally stupid

George Bush's inability to articulate simple ideas may lead some observers to believe that the failure is the President's, alone; that his collective administration knows what its doing, even if the chief is fuzzy on most things. Not true.

Scared of germ warfare? The administration and its allies on Capitol Hill want you to be, and promise to end the danger by ending Saddam Hussein's life. Yet just last month, the same U.S. government pulled the plug on years of negotiations to strengthen the Biological Weapons Convention, the international apparatus to eliminate germ warfare. Washington disagrees with, among other things, inspections protocols - the U.S. wants to limit them. (Sound familiar?) At U.S insistence, negotiations have been put off until 2006.

Among the most deadly viruses is smallpox, which can be introduced in the air or in liquid form. Bush health officials favor making smallpox vaccines available to limited numbers of the public, but "only after some 10 million health workers were immunized and a vaccine was licensed for general use, possibly in 2004," according to the Washington Post.

A large chunk of those health workers belong to unions, but nobody in the administration is talking to their leaders. It is unthinkable that health care workers in New York City hospitals, for example, would even consider being inoculated without the input of their union leadership. Does that mean that the Bush administration is not serious about a mass inoculation plan? Maybe. More likely, they simply don't know what they are doing. (See our interview with Henry Nicholas, President of the National Union of Hospital and Health Care Employees, in this issue.)

The absolute fraudulence of Bush's Homeland Security proposals is evident in the debate over federal employee protections. Having resisted creation of anything resembling a Homeland Security Department during the months immediately after September 11 - the Bush men called such proposals "bureaucratic" responses - the administration suddenly shifted gears as corporate scandals and intelligence failures hit the headlines. In a matter of weeks and to much diversionary fanfare, the White House decided to pile 170,000 employees into the new department, while keeping the FBI and the CIA outside of the umbrella!

The net effect was to threaten dislocation of a large portion of the federal bureaucracy, leaving untouched the actual guarantors of security against foreign attack. Then, the administration showed its real agenda: bust the unions.

Tens of thousands of the Homeland Security Department's employees would lose many of their Civil Service protections under the President's scheme. Naturally, the unions resisted, allowing Bush to claim that Democrats are soft on national security. As a result of Bush's aggressive stance, the department's future was put in jeopardy. Actually, Bush never wanted it, anyway.

Such are the antics of the world's sole superpower in time of war.

Get down to the nitty gritty

Cynthia McKinney forces went to court to overturn her August defeat in an open Democratic primary. "The issue is that black Democratic voters in the 4th District had their voting rights interfered with and violated," said attorney J.M. Raffauf, who is suing the Georgia Secretary of State and elections officials of DeKalb and Gwinnett counties. "Malicious crossover voting occurs when one party invades another party's primary to sabotage that party's choice of its own nominee for political office," the suit contends.

Republican whites piled on the numbers and the Hard Right filled up the campaign coffers of victorious Democratic Trojan Horse candidate Denise Majette; there is no question of that. With Black "supermajority" congressional districts soon to be a thing of the past, even substantial Black majorities may be vulnerable to effective disenfranchisement in open primary states. However, opponents of open primaries cannot count on the automatic support of organized labor which, like most lobbying groups, values its ability to deliver votes in both major party primaries. Some open primary systems enhance labor's power to reward and punish Republicans and Democrats, by concentrating the faithful during crucial contests.

These are among the nuts and bolts of the U.S. electoral system, which sometimes weds progressive forces to undemocratic mechanisms. Quick fixes, such as transitory lower court decisions, seldom yield a lasting result when entrenched interests are involved. We would pass along political scientist Ron Walters' advice to Black politicians seeking to make their districts safe for a progressive agenda: "They should have the sense to know that they need good organizers and that cultivating their organization is more important than many of the appearance-type responsibilities they often adopt."

In other words, Organize, organize, organize. There is no magic wand, incantation, statute, or court ruling.

The historical window

The demographic sea change sweeping the nation will drown those Black politicians who do not begin at once to make common cause with the ever-arriving Hispanics. The manner of their political incorporation into the United States will have fundamental impacts on the future of African Americans. If Hispanics join us in substantial numbers, we become more powerful; if they turn elsewhere, we will be more isolated than ever, a smaller proportion of the nation, and far weaker.

Black America begins with an advantage that must not be squandered: the ability to guide the newcomers through the twisting corridors that the non-privileged must negotiate in their quest for power. Such assistance should be offered as a friend and ally, and is no more of a gamble than the political bets we routinely place with the descendants of slaveholders.

Recent numbers are favorable. A poll released this month shows Hispanics are most concerned about many of the same, core issues as African Americans. The Washington Post reported:

Asked to name the most important issues, 58 percent said education, 39 percent said the economy, and 23 percent said health care and Medicare. Among Hispanic immigrants, education was even more important, with 68 percent citing education as their top issue, compared with 50 percent of native-born Hispanic voters.

According to the poll, conducted by the Pew Hispanic Center and the Kaiser Family Foundation, 55 percent of Hispanics are willing to pay more taxes for better government services.

Republican pollsters call these kinds of responders "Government Hispanics," as opposed to "Opportunity Hispanics": those who identify with low tax, low service, GOP messages. The "Government Hispanics" are in the strong majority, and tend to vote Democratic in congressional elections, although they do not share Black antipathy to George Bush.

They will learn. Black political leaders must be part of the process of Hispanic political assimilation, especially in those jurisdictions in which the two groups are thrown together. Narrow defense of the prerequisites of Black power - no matter how hard-won - can lead to unnecessary rivalry with Hispanics that will immediately be exploited by the well-financed, "Opportunity" crowd. We could see the rise of more Latino Trojan Horses, before we can corral our own.

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