From: Co-Publisher Glen Ford

To: Readers

Dear Reader,

We noted that our letter concerning Condoleezza Rice and her fellow Image Icon, Geraldo Rivera, was the most-read page of the May 8 issue. Naturally, this called for deep thought and introspection.

Had we treated The Image shabbily? If so, we might have real cause for concern. Among some practioners of Islam, for example, mullahs are empowered to issue fatwas, or directives of action to the faithful. Do members of the Awards Committee of the NAACP issue fatwas against excessive sarcasm? Is there a prescribed penalty for offending an Image Awardee? We didn’t know.

After much anguish and soul searching, and to be on the safe side, has decided as a matter of policy to avoid casting Rice, the esteemed former Chevron director, in a bad light.

Indeed, we all should wait for a good light to appear, so that she might shine. 

Condo-lateral Damage

We now understand that, if Rice’s Icon is tarnished, little children will suffer. Their elders at the NAACP have told them that Rice is someone to emulate.  It was all on TV, so it must be true.

Above all, we must be on guard against those who would treat Rice as a token jobholder in the Bush administration, or anything so vulgar as that. From now on, will take the National Security Advisor at her word. She means what she says and has full authority to say it. 

Therefore, when Rice told the press “I don’t think anybody could have predicted that…they would try to use an airplane as a missile, a hijacked airplane as a missile,” she was speaking the truth about al Qaida as she saw it from her lofty national security perch.  Clearly, Rice is an honest and humble person.  Since she can’t predict such things, she assumes that nobody else can.  That’s very considerate of her.  She deserves credit.

It would be unfair to contrast Rice’s remarks with those of FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III, who finally acknowledged that the September 11 disaster might have been prevented if the bureau had handled its information, differently.  After all, Mueller had only been on the job a few days when the attacks occurred, so he’s confessing to something that he had no control over.  Anybody can do that. 

Rice, on the other hand, is privy to every secret that U.S. intelligence possesses. So, when she tells us that she’s incapable of connecting dots, you’ve got to admire her forthrightness. Rice’s high moral standards prevent her from shifting blame to others. Leave the Icon alone!

It would be unethical and downright mean to point out that Algerian political soul mates of Osama bin Laden tried to use a hijacked French airliner as a missile to destroy the Eiffel Tower, in 1994, an event reported at the time in the New York Times and the rest of the major world press. I read about it, myself. But in Rice’s defense, I ask you: When did Condoleezza Rice ever claim to read newspapers on a daily basis?  Never!  Besides, she was busy doing her job at Chevron back then, keeping her eyes on the oil.  For heaven’s sake, she’s a Sovietologist, not an Arabist!  We should all close ranks around the Image.

No Crabs in our Barrel

Let us not engage in “crabs in a barrel” racial politics.  It would be a crime to single out Rice for special criticism, to pull her down after her long climb to the top, just because some African Americans have invested her with Role Model status.  We should take Rice at face value, and assume that her political beliefs and goals are identical to those of the rest of the Bush administration. That’s all she asks. She’s a team player.

Good. That’s settled. Unfortunately, it is inevitable that shrill voices will continue to speculate on why the U.S. is so vulnerable to terror or, for that matter, the international drug trade. We at hope that, as the 9/11 story unfolds in coming weeks and months, the public will finally comprehend what Bush, Cheney, Condoleezza, and the Enron folks have been trying to tell us all along: They will do nothing, nothing, that might impede the free flow of trade and cash.

Call it their prime directive. Once you understand it, everything else becomes crystal clear.

Don’t Go Near the Basement, Senor

The real story of the failed Venezuelan coup was unveiled by the British Broadcasting Corporation’s Newsnight division, May 13.  Condoleezza won’t tell you this version, and neither will the major U.S. media.  The New York Times and Washington Post cheered the plotters on, joining the White House in mourning when what was clearly a CIA-backed plan went awry. 

The BBC, however, is the one of the most respected news outfits in the world.  Its credibility trumps the U.S. corporate media many times over. The tale Newsnight pieced together is more fantastic than any Hollywood script, and uplifts the human spirit.  It’s also true.

First, the background.

Big Oil was plenty mad at Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez; quite enough reason for the White House to want him out of office.  Back in 1973, Venezuela broke with Arab members of OPEC, ultimately disrupting their oil embargo. The U.S. did not believe that Chavez, elected by a landslide in 1999 on the strength of Venezuela’s poor and non-white majority, could be counted on to repeat the favor if Arab anger at U.S. support for Israel leads to another shutoff.  Chavez had to go.

Some elements of the military joined up with the venal white oligarchy that Chavez, a former paratrooper officer, had displaced from power.  When gunfire broke out at demonstrations organized by big business, the President was arrested and taken to an island prison, where he expected to be killed.  Instead, within 48 hours Chavez was back at the Presidential Palace.

Those are the bare bones facts.  The BBC story, however, reads like a big budget movie. Enter, Stage Left, two previously unheralded heroes: Ali Rodriguez and Jose Baduel.  Skulking in the shadows, Stage Right, is Pedro Carmona, the villainous leader of the oligarchs, a very unattractive old fascist.

Ali Rodriguez was once a leftist Venezuelan guerilla.  He’s now executive director of OPEC, headquartered in Vienna and in a position to know if the oil companies are anticipating big events. Rodriguez alerted the leader of his native country to the plot, giving President Chavez time to contact his allies in the army’s paratrooper units. The U.S., Rodriguez informed Chavez in a telephone conversation, was encouraging the plotters. A few days later, the coup was launched, just as Rodriguez had warned. Unfriendly officers took Chavez away.

A military faction chose Carmona as interim President, and the old reprobate immediately planted himself at Chavez’s desk. In gleeful haste, he shut down the legislature, dismissed the judiciary, and tore up the constitution, while breathlessly telephoning orders for the arrest of everyone associated with the imprisoned Chavez.

Meanwhile, the poor swarmed out of the barrios, or “ranchos.” Chavez’s supporters suffered scores of casualties at the hands of the oligarch-controlled Caracas police but succeeded in surrounding the Presidential Palace.

Carmona heard the roars and chants of the mostly mestizo, mulatto and black crowd, by now numbering several hundred thousand.  He knew he was trapped.  The phone rang.

It was Jose Baduel, a paratrooper officer loyal to President Chavez.  Baduel told Carmona that hundreds of soldiers were concealed in basement corridors just beneath the usurper’s feet.  Carmona had 24 hours to return Chavez to the palace—alive.  The coup was over.

No More, Conquistador

The events of April make for a good movie, but even better history.  It is difficult to overstate the hemispheric importance of the coup’s defeat.  CIA-haters got a rare chance to gloat over the agency’s embarrassment, but the over-arching significance of the restoration of Hugo Chavez lies in the non-white majority’s assertion of will.  First, they elected Chavez as their own representative and spokesman.  Then, when he was snatched away, they put him back in office. 

Throughout Latin America, non-white majorities have historically allowed themselves to be divided and subdivided into powerlessness.  White elites rule by zealously—often murderously—defending their complexional privileges.  Their governing priority is to preserve the linkage between color and class in their societies.  People of African, indigenous and mixed race often accept and sometimes revel in a hair and skin based demographic slicing-and-dicing process so exacting that it appears ridiculous to U.S. Blacks.  Each group is subdivided into mini-ethnicities. The colored majority often acts as if it were a collection of tiny, helpless minorities.

By comparison, African Americans appear as pillars of solidarity.

The Latin white elite have no racial identity problem; it is the dark poor who go by subtitles. In this grotesque contest, self-conscious white minorities hoard the bulk of social and material wealth across the width and breath of Latin America. At times, the pale elite seems to prevail by default.

Venezuela is breaking the mold.

Enter With Attitude

A New York Times reporter caught the essence of emerging Venezuelan racial realities in a June 2 article. A rich couple, stranded near a poor rancho at the time of the April coup, tried to conceal themselves. The woman darkened her fair face with makeup….” A local “Chavista” hid them from her neighbors.  “Imagine a couple of Rockefellers seeking overnight refuge in a Bedford-Stuyvesant apartment in the middle of a riot,” wrote the Times reporter, a white American woman who understood that race was paramount, that night.

If for no more than self-serving reasons, we should applaud the militancy of Caracas’ dark shantytowns during the April crisis. Latin America’s people are flowing into African American turf, daily.  U.S. Blacks cannot afford to be politically undermined by newcomers harboring excessive deference to white privilege.  It is in our interest that Latin Americans arrive on U.S. shores with the proper attitude. 

The brothers and sisters from the ranchos of Caracas seem to be getting their act together.

Very truly yours,

Glen Ford, Co-Publisher

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Link to BBC Newsnight


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Other Commentaries in this issue:

Tar Baby Outrage!: Racism and Corruption at the Redstone Arsenal

Did the Green Party Betray Black America: by Dr. Jonathan David Farley, Guest Commentator

A Law That Gives Racists Something to Fear:by Chief Deputy U.S. Marshal Matthew Fogg, Guest Commentator

Commentaries in previous issues :

Condoleezza & Geraldo, a Fine Pair: The Role Models' Burden

Hard Right Cash Defeated in Black City - This Time
Ultra-Conservative Favorite Cory Booker Loses in Newark, New Jersey

Newark: The First Domino? - The Hard Right Tests its National Black Strategy

Fruit of the Poisoned Tree: The Hard Right's Plan to Capture Newark NJ - April 5, 2002

A Letter from Harvard: "How to spot a "Black Trojan Horse." Dr. Martin Kilson, Guest Commentator

Reparations Part One: The True Value of Some Land and an Animal

The Living Wage Movement: A New Beginning - Bread, Power and Civil Rights in 19 Languages

Rep. Cynthia McKinney's Statement on the Events of September 11: The need for an investigation of the events surrounding September11 is as obvious as is the need for an investigation of the Enron debacle.

Make The Amendment: How to Get the U.S. Government Out of the International Drug Trade

Psychologically Unfit: The U.S. Can't Handle the Death Penalty

Linquistic Profiling: By Patrice D. Johnson, guest commentator