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Archive for the ‘Latin America’ Category

Dirty Wars Trailer: JSOC in Action

It has been quite a few years now since Jeremy Scahill told the world about Blackwater and its nefarious actions, but now he is set to be back on people’s minds bothering administrations in an attempt to bring truth to the people: Dirty Wars follows investigative reporter Jeremy Scahill into the heart of America’s covert wars, from Afghanistan to Yemen, Somalia and beyond. Part political thriller and part detective story, Dirty Wars is a gripping journey into one of the most important and underreported stories of our time (29 November 2013).

The freelance journalist and researcher Dawn Paley tells us that “Scahill’s latest book, Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield [, released on 23 April] . . .  is a valuable volume for those wishing to better understand how current and past events in Mexico and Central and South America connect to the so-called war on terror. A must-read for anyone wanting to learn more about the US drone wars and targeted kill programs, Dirty Wars is a bit slow going off the top, but before long, Scahill introduces compelling characters and provides readers with access to entire families who have been adversely impacted by US war policies in Yemen and elsewhere. Dirty Wars also contains a number of items of specific interest to folks whose interests lie south of the US border. Using carefully gathered evidence, Dirty Wars makes it clear that American military campaigns do little more than exacerbate existing situations. Sadly, this is as true in the Western hemisphere as it is in the Middle East. Scahill carefully documents how the militaristic approach taken by the US government towards perceived terror threats in Somalia, Yemen and elsewhere has served to drive up the influence of local armed groups”.[1]

As such, Scahill wants to create a new meaning for the term ‘dirty wars’, which has been in use since the seventies to describe “state repression against political opponents, trade unionists and civilians in the Southern Cone (Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay, Brazil and Bolivia)”,[ii] as Paley reminds us. Scahill’s Dirty Wars clearly refer to what is happening today, as the U.S. is flexing its covert military muscle. On the film’s dedicated website this can be read: “Investigative reporter Jeremy Scahill stumbles upon a US night raid gone badly wrong in a remote corner of Afghanistan, where a witness swears to having seen American soldiers digging bullets out of the bodies of pregnant dead women. Scahill’s investigation leads him to unravel the secret manoeuvres of the shadowy and powerful Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) as he is drawn into a world of covert operations unknown to the public and carried out across the globe by men who do not exist on paper and may never appear before Congress. In military jargon, JSOC teams “find, fix, and finish” their targets, who are selected through a secret process. No target is off limits for Obama’s “kill list,” including US citizens. From Afghanistan to Yemen and Somalia, as well as back home in New York where he tries to piece the puzzle together, Scahill meets with Special Forces operators, military generals and US-backed warlords who go on camera and on the record—some for the first time. He tracks down the survivors of targeted assassinations and drone strikes, including the family of the first American citizen being hunted by his own government. Described as “a mystery thriller as compelling as any feature film” by The Huffington Post, Dirty Wars is also a New York Times Bestselling book (Serpent’s Tail publishers) by Jeremy Scahill on the same topic, exhaustively researched and footnoted”.[3]

[1] Dawn Paley, “Scahill’s ‘Dirty Wars’ Offers Lessons for Latin America” Upside Down World (10 July 2013). http://upsidedownworld.org/main/international-archives-60/4370-scahills-dirty-wars-offers-lessons-for-latin-america.

[2] Dawn Paley, “Scahill’s ‘Dirty Wars’ Offers Lessons for Latin America”.

[3] “FILM SYNOPSIS” Dirty Wars. http://dirtywars.org/blog.

South of the Border, 2010 (O. Stone)

South of the Border is a 2009 documentary film directed by Oliver Stone. The documentary premiered at the 2009 Venice Film Festival. Writer for the project Tariq Ali calls the documentary “a political road movie”. Stone stated that he hopes the film will help people better understand a leader who is wrongly ridiculed “as a strongman, as a buffoon, as a clown”. The film has Stone and his crew travel from the Caribbean down the spine of the Andes in an attempt to explain the “phenomenon” of Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez, and account for the continent’s “pink tide” leftward tilt. A key feature is also Venezuela’s recent Bolivarian revolution and Latin America’s political progress in the 21st century. In addition to Chávez, Stone sought to flesh out several other Latin American presidents whose policies and personalities generally get limited, or according to Stone, biased media attention in the United States and Europe, notably: Evo Morales of Bolivia; Cristina Kirchner and former president Néstor Kirchner of Argentina; Rafael Correa of Ecuador; Raúl Castro of Cuba; Fernando Lugo of Paraguay; and Lula da Silva of Brazil.

Breaking the Set: John Perkins & Economic Hit Men

Quite some years ago, John Perkins’ book Confessions of an Economic Hit Man hit the bookstands Here is Abby Martin interviewing the author about how corporations are determining the world order, and how assassins take out those who challenge the system.

Since the publication of his Confessions, Perkins has been actively trying to spread the word by means of lectures, book tours and publishing more books on the topic. Originally published in 2004, I read it in 2007 at about the time when Naomi Klein’s magisterial Shock Doctrine was also causing its own minor shockwaves in book shops across the world.

Perkins defines his topic as follows: “Economic hit men (EHMs) are highly-paid professionals who cheat countries around the globe out of trillions of dollars. They funnel money from the World Bank, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and other foreign “aid” organizations into the coffers of huge corporations and the pockets of a few wealthy families who control the planet’s natural resources. Their tools included fraudulent financial reports, rigged elections, payoffs, extortion, sex, and murder. They play a game as old as empire, but one that has taken on new and terrifying dimensions during this time of globalization”.[i]  While reading Perkins’ tome I oftentimes wondered about the veracity of his claims – his description of the way in which corporations run the world seems like a straightforward proposition that is all but explained in great detail by Naomi Klein’s take on the Chicago School’s influence on world affairs and by her own coinage of the term Disaster Capitalism – and particularly Perkins’ self-confessed role in certain key episodes. In 2006, the Washington Post’s op-ed columnist Sebastian Mallaby wrote a critical piece on Perkins and EHM. In fact, Mallaby even calls the author a “frothing conspiracy theorist, a vainglorious peddler of nonsense”.[2]

Rather than questioning Perkins’ personal role in the business of EHM and their affairs, Mallaby uses his piece to defend the “corporatocracy”, calling them “neither evil nor omnipotent”.[3]  He goes on to say that “the truth is that corporations do not rule the world, and intensifying global competition has rendered them more vulnerable. Since the mid-1970s, when Perkins was touring the world as a hit man, fully half of the top 100 American industrial corporations have disappeared from that list. So what is this corporatocracy that Perkins fears? Is it the failing General Motors? Or vanished international banks such as S.G. Warburg? Or is it perhaps Chas. T. Main, Perkins’s own employer in his hit-man days, which was swallowed up by a rival years ago?”.[4]

Rather than criticise Perkins for his possibly inflated sense of his own importance as an EHM, Mallaby turns out to be merely defending the corporatocracy and its Neo-Colonialist actions around the world, succinctly summarised in the term Globalization. The first decade of this century has shown us how effective Disaster Capitalism can be and that nowadays, the powers-that-be do not even need to use EHM anymore, but that wars are simply declared, leading the way to immense profits and other lucrative deals. In this context, Robert Greenwald’s Iraq for Sale is enlightening as well as frightening to watch.[5]

Returning to Perkins and his coinage EHM, the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State released a statement on 2 February 2006: ‘Perkins claims that the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) recruited him to be an “economic hit man,” who deliberately entrapped foreign countries in unmanageable amounts of debt so they would be beholden to the United States. This appears to be a total fabrication . . . Perkins is apparently not aware that the National Security Agency is a cryptological (codemaking and codebreaking) organization, not an economic organization.  It has two missions:

• Designing cipher systems that protect the integrity of U.S. information systems; and

• Searching for weaknesses in adversaries’ systems and codes.

Neither of these missions involves anything remotely resembling placing economists at private companies in order to increase the debt of foreign countries . . . Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, which Perkins says has been translated into some 20 languages, is popular because it is an exciting, first-person, cloak-and-dagger tale that plays to popular images about alleged U.S. economic exploitation of Third World countries.  Perkins raises legitimate questions about the impacts of economic growth and modernization on developing countries and indigenous peoples. But his claim that he was acting as an “economic hit man” at the behest of the NSA appears to be a total fantasy’.[6]  Is Perkins merely a conman exploiting legitimate criticism of the corporatocracy to further his own interests or was he really active as an EHM at one time???


[1] “Confessions of an Economic Hit Man” Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confessions_of_an_Economic_Hit_Man.

[2] Sebastian Mallaby, “The Facts Behind the ‘Confessions’” The Washington Post (27 February 2006). http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/02/26/AR2006022601265.html.

[3] Sebastian Mallaby, “The Facts Behind the ‘Confessions’”.

[4] Sebastian Mallaby, “The Facts Behind the ‘Confessions’”.

[5] Cfr. “Iraq for Sale: The War Profiteers” A Pseudo-Ottoman Blog (30 April 2012). https://sitanbul.wordpress.com/2012/04/30/iraq-for-sale-the-war-profiteers/.

[6] “Confessions — or Fantasies — of an Economic Hit Man?” Archive (02 February 2006). http://www.america.gov/st/washfile-english/2006/February/20060202155604atlahtnevel6.165713e-02.html.

Viva Chavez!!!

Hugo Chávez defeats opposition rival Henrique Capriles in the Venezuelan presidential election, with thousands of his supporters celebrating on the streets of Caracas. Chávez, a socialist whose so-called Bolivarian Revolution places him in firm opposition to the USA, won with 54 per cent of the vote (8 Oct 2012).