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.
we treated The Image shabbily? If so, we might have real cause for concern.
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 didnt
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.
we all should wait for a good light to appear, so that she might shine.
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.
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.
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
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.
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!
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.
Crabs in our Barrel
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
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.
it their prime directive. Once you understand it, everything else becomes
Go Near the Basement, Senor
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
African Americans appear as pillars of solidarity.
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
is breaking the mold.
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.
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.
brothers and sisters from the ranchos of Caracas seem to be getting
their act together.
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