The Politics of Ersatz Gentility
May 22, 2005
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The Politics of Ersatz Gentility

Common Sense #467

by John Maxwell

It wasn't a good week for US foreign policy, nor was it a good a good week for George Bush. It wasn't a good week for Jamaica and it certainly wasn't a good week for Haiti.

But when last has Haiti had a good week?

In Jamaica the fires of hysteria are burning bright. The private sector is shutting down business across Jamaica to protest against criminal violence. The criminals, no doubt, will be enormously impressed.

On Wednesday the Haitians commemorated that day in 1803 when Dessalines finally managed to unite all the Haitian rebels under his leadership and a new flag. Then began the final campaign to chase the French out of Saint Domingue and to establish the new nation of Haiti. For the first time at last, every man woman and child was entitled to the fabled Rights of Man. The French and the American colonists had declared that in their realms all were equal although slavery persisted for years in French colonies and for nearly a century longer in the US.

It was the Haitians who abolished plantation slavery and recognised every human being, women and men as equals in every respect.

As I have argued before now, that was a fatal mistake. Thomas Jefferson, father of Amerian democracy and father of several half-breed children by his black mistress, Sally Hemmings, was a genuine American gentleman who foresaw great danger if the contagion of black freedom were allowed to spread to the United States. Facing the same sort of problem that Dwight Eisenhower faced in Cuba two centuries later, he took the same course and embargoed trade with the turbnulent Caribbeans who spoke so eloquently of, and fought so determinedly, for freedom.

A hundred years later another US Secretary of State, the the creationist William Jennings Bryan was astounded at "the idea of niggers speaking French." He too, sent in the Marines to rule and create an army which was to abuse and terrorise the people of Haiti for most of the twentieth century.

Nearly a century after that, Colin Powell (descendant of Jamaicans liberated in large part because the British feared another Haiti in Jamaica) sent troops in to kidnap the freely elected President of Haiti and to restore, once again, the rule of unlettered goons and their rich, infamous and elite sponsors

As I write, the Haitian Prime Minister is caged without reason, charge or trial, on the point of death. He gives to his American, French and Canadian captors the same response Dessalines gave to the French two centuries ago: Liberty or Death!

Meanwhile the American Governor of Haiti, Ambassador Foley, backed by the racist troika of Bolton, Noriega and Reich, is busy pretending that he neither sees, hears nor smells any evil in Haiti and he speaks no evil, because he cannot speak at all without giving the game away.

In the United States, Noriega and Reich were last week frantically attempting damage control as elements of the normally quiescent and compliant press managed to summon the nerve to advise the President that, no, he really should not give asylum to one of the most notorious and bloody terrorists of the last century, Luis Posada Carriles. Posada, having lain low, undisturbed, in Florida for two months, decided that the coast was clear and gave a press conference in Miami. That was the straw that spooked the official flacks and led to the authorities 'discovering' Posada's hidey-hole. They could have found it earlier had they thought to phone Havana.

It was in Havana, of course, that the best laid plans of Reich and Noriega went haywire. While they were suggesting to the press that of course, the US would not extradite Posada (if he actually existed) to Venezuela because Venezuela was too close to Cuba, the Cubans were telling the world that they didn't want Posada; they simply wanted him to face justice in Venezuela where he had plotted his most heinous crime. Posada was a member of Venezuela's secret police, and that connection and Otto Reich, then US Ambassador to Venezuela helped get him off the hook. Reich is now in check, as it were, immobilised by Fidel Castro's successful campaign to expose the whole panorama of official lies, deceit and bloody violence in which Posada once freely operated. And suddenly, there have also appeared people from Central America who can speak, with feeling, if not in agony, about Mr Posada's role in torturing them and others in the dirty wars of twenty years ago.

Mr Posada embodies the contradiction which most of the world sees in US foreign policy but which the US media, subscribing to some ersatz concept of civility and gentility, refuses to recognise. Like Queen Victoria, they don't mind what the government does, as long as it doesn't do it in the street and frighten the consumers. And, as FDR said,of Somoza, "He is a sonofabitch, but he's our sonofabitch"

Newsflash: Christian eats Lions

Into this climate of denial, poisonous euphemism and hypocrisy last week strode a Scotsman, a member of the British parliament named George Galloway. He had been traduced by the chairman of the US Senate sub-committee on Investigations, a rising rightwing star called Norm Coleman.

Coleman is determined to make a name for himself and he has played to the Republican radical right by abusing, among others Kofi Annan, Secretary General of the United Nations. Mr Coleman saw in the Oil for Food scandal the opprrtunity for months of headlines although he was perfectly aware that a serious inquiry was already in progress under a man far better qualified than almost anybody to undertake such a task, Paul Volcker, former chairman iJhe US Federal Reserve.

Mr Galloway was taunted by Mr Coleman when Galloway protested, from London, that the Ciommittee had not asked him anything about their so-called evidence before finding him guilty of fraud, misprision of fraud and consorting for money with the enemy. Mr Coleman it seemed, was salivating at the prospect of Mr Galloway appearing before him to be exposed and shamed.

I remember, when I was about seven years old, my father telling me about Joe Louis then world heavyweight champion who the American press thought was going to be beaten on points if he fought Billy Conn, then the latest Great White Hope. The conventional wisdom was that Conn would jab and run, jab and run, scoring points and compiling an unbeatable lead. Joe Louis, never the most communicative of men was asked what he thought about that scenario. After a minute or two Louis opined: "He can run, but he can't hide"

Coleman was Billy Conn to Galloway's Joe Louis. Galloway went on the attack from the beginning, exposing what he called a schoolboy 'howler' in Coleman's evidence which made it clear how ignorant Coleman was about the Oil for Food Programme. He taunted Coleman, a former District Attorney him for his 'cavalier attitude to the law". He denied the charges forcefully and made it obvious that they were based on the same manufctured evidence which had miracolously been unearthed in the chaos of Baghdad after the fall.

He went much further, attacking the smokescreen of lies behind which he said, the United States policy was hiding. He launched into the Congress, for not having the courage to expose the gigantic financial scandals of occupied Iraq, in which the US/coalition administration was unable to account for 8 billion dollars in Iraqi money and hundreds of millions more absorbed by Halliburton.

He was merciless and thorough, like Joe Louis in his destruction of Max Schmeling Throughout Mr Galloway's assault, Mr Coleman, his voice cracking occasionally, may have been wishing he were somewhere else. Nobody, it was clear, had ever spoken to him like that, although, as a lawyer, he should have realised that someone who is libelled has the right to fire back as vigorously and trenchantly as he chooses.

After the drubbing was over Coleman told reporters that he had questions about Mr Galloway's credibility.

For me, there were no question about Mr Coleman's credibility. He had none.

Mr Galloway was in his element as he said he had been an opponent of Saddam Hussein when British and American governments and businessmen were selling the dictator guns and poison gas

"You have my name on lists provided to you by the Duelfer inquiry, provided to him by the convicted bank robber, and fraudster and conman Ahmed Chalabi who many people to their credit in your country now realise played a decisive role in leading your country into the disaster in Iraq

"Senator, in everything I said about Iraq I turned out to be right and you turned out to be wrong and 100,000 have paid with their lives, 1,600 of them American soldiers sent to their deaths on a pack of lies"

It was powerful stuff, accurate and important, but if most Americans hear about it it will probably be another generation, from their history books. In the Orwellian world of George Bush and the Republican party, freedom and truth are strictly relative. The Administration condemns "abuses of human rights", especially in Cuba, while it supports a tyrant in Uzbekistan who has been known to boil his enemies alive. The US sends him suspected terrorists for questioning. ignoring his grisly record. President Karimov and the US President's spokesman are both agreed that the opposition in Uzbekistan are terrorists. Just as Mr Posada was a freedom fighter while people like Aristide and Yvon Neptun, if not terrorists are about as close as you can get.

And of course, Aristide, like George Galloway, was accused of high crimes and misdemeanour which Mr Powell promised more than a year ago, were soon be exposed. Aristide, like Saddam has already been exposed. Mr Aristide has already been secretly photographed - like Saddam, - in his underwear. That sort of exposure holds no terrors for him. The one thing that surprises me is that that photograph has not yet appeared on CNN.


John Maxwell

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