Wednesday, December 15

The Politics of Jesus

There's no shame in being liberal
August 3, 2004

There they go again. Devoid of ideas, running from the record of failure on the economy and national security, President Bush and his campaign are going negative again, trying to label John Kerry rather than level with Americans.

Now the refrain is that Kerry and Edwards are too ''liberal'' for America. Democrats tend to duck when such charges are leveled. Clinton dressed up as a ''New Democrat,'' trying to separate himself rhetorically. Reformers now call themselves ''progressives,'' trying to avoid the label.

Frankly, I think it's time for people to stand up.

Think about it: A conservative Christian is a contradiction in terms. Christ wasn't a conservative. He fed the hungry simply because they were hungry. He didn't require that they go to work first. He healed the sick, simply because they were sick. He didn't push them into an insurance company, or let the drug companies gouge them on prices. Jesus was a liberal; Herod was the conservative.

Moses was the liberal; Pharaoh was the conservative. Abolitionists were liberals; slave owners were the conservatives. Mandela is a liberal; the South African apartheid leaders were the conservatives. That's why conservative Dick Cheney supported apartheid over Mandela, and approved of keeping Mandela in prison.

The Suffragettes were liberals; those who opposed the vote for women were conservatives. Martin Luther King was a liberal; the segregationists were conservatives. He wanted to end racial discrimination; they wanted to conserve it.

Advocates of national health care are liberals; George W. Bush, the HMOs and drug companies are the conservatives. They profit from the current system and want to conserve it from reforms that would make health care affordable for all Americans.

America was a liberal idea. Washington and Jefferson were the liberals; King George was the conservative. America was founded on the proposition that ''We the people'' were endowed with inalienable rights -- including life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And when oppressed by an unjust ruler, we had the right to declare our independence and establish our own form of government.

And America was built by liberals -- by dissenters, by those persecuted for their religion or their race. The Statute of Liberty doesn't say, ''Send me your privileged, your wealthy, your powerful yearning to conserve their fortunes.'' It says, ''Send me your tired, your poor, your humble yearning to breathe free.''

Today the choices are equally clear. Bush and Cheney argue for tax cuts for the wealthy; they want to consolidate the wealth and power of the ''have mores'' that the president calls ''my base.''
Liberals are for rolling back tax cuts for the rich and investing in education so every child gets a fair shot. Conservatives would conserve the two Americas: one system of education, health care and retirement security for the powerful, and one for the rest of us. Liberals would make certain that everyone has the right to a high-quality education, to affordable health care, to a decent retirement.

Bush wants to cut guaranteed benefits under Social Security while privatizing it; liberals want to save Social Security so that all Americans have a basic floor beneath their feet.
Bush is against a minimum wage; liberals want to raise the minimum wage. Bush wants to weaken the 40-hour week and reduce those eligible for overtime; liberals want to make certain workers get paid overtime if they have to work more than 40 hours a week.

You can pick your side -- liberal or conservative, for change or for the status quo, for the poor or for the privileged. For me, I stand with Christ against Herod; Moses against the Pharaoh; the abolitionists against the slaveholders; King against the segregationists, the Suffragettes against the male politicians; the many against the few, and liberals against this crowd in the White House.

But whatever you choose, the next time Bush and Cheney rail about Kerry being too liberal, remember that America was a liberal idea from the start.

Lashawn Barber Counters
Jesus Was A Liberal

“Reverend” Jesse Jackson makes some ignorant and incorrect assertions in his latest column, but I want to focus on one: the crack about Jesus being a liberal. I cringe not at the idea that my Lord and Savior is a Democrat; I cringe because Jackson, a professing Christian, deliberately panders to those with little or no understanding of who Jesus is and what the Bible reveals about him.

People unfamiliar with the Bible tend to select verses and principles out of context to support a particular position. But Scripture must be compared with Scripture and interpreted in light of the whole Bible. There is no excuse for a so-called reverend, particularly one who attended seminary (didn’t finish), to make such errors. For political gain, however, he seems willing to deceive the unsuspecting about the nature of God. Jackson writes:

"Think about it: A conservative Christian is a contradiction in terms. Christ wasn’t a conservative. He fed the hungry simply because they were hungry. He didn’t require that they go to work first. He healed the sick, simply because they were sick. He didn’t push them into an insurance company, or let the drug companies gouge them on prices. Jesus was a liberal; Herod was the conservative."

Implicit is the common notion that conservatives don’t care about the poor. Liberals think they’ve cornered the market on compassion simply because they advocate bigger government programs to do the caring and feeding. To sum up the difference between liberal compassion and true compassion, I’ll borrow an old saying: “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

(If “Jesus was a liberal", as Jackson says, I wonder what he’d have to say about the other attributes of liberalism, such as sexual permissiveness, advocating homosexual “marriage", killing unborn babies or discriminating against people based on their race.)

While I believe non-political conservative values, such as promoting traditional families, self-restraint, self-reliance (physical, not spiritual), to name a few, are biblical attributes, I don’t dispute that some liberals mean well when they contend that feeding the hungry just because they’re hungry is what Jesus would do. It is true, but not the way they think.

As Jackson knows, liberal, conservative, libertarian, constitutionalist, etc., are labels we fallen humans came up with to describe our political ideology. Labels are just a quick way to describe where we are on an imaginary political line.

In that regard, I’ll dispense with political labels and use spiritual ones: believers, unbelievers, saved and unsaved. According to the Bible, which I believe is inerrant, infallible and God-breathed, we are dead in our sins. That is, we are incapable of recognizing the need for salvation. From the first disobedience in the Garden of Eden, every person born is a sinner. We are rebels through and through.

But a person is “saved” from God’s wrath once he’s acknowledged his sinful condition, confessed his sins, admitted his unworthiness and turns away from his sins. He’s asked God for mercy and forgiveness and acknowledged the need of a Savior: Christ crucified on the cross. In all of these things the repentent person has faith, and in his infinite mercy, God forgives. Read more here.
Jesus did many things in his 3-year ministry. With righteous indignation, he threw out traders and money-changers conducting business in God’s temple, fed the hungry and cared for and about the downtrodden. But that’s not all he did or ultimately why he came.
This is where the unbelieving miss a crucial point. Christ wasn’t a traveling doctor or soup kitchen volunteer walking about the countryside curing ailments and filling bellies with loaves of bread and fish. He was extending an offer to heal spiritual sickness and provide the bread of life — Himself — to satisfy spiritual hunger. The portrait of a “liberal” Jesus misses these points entirely.

Christ indeed fed the poor. The poor in spirit. Christ said, “I am the bread of life….Your forefathers ate the manna in the desert, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever.”

Some people don’t believe that Jesus was anything other than a man. They say Jesus was a good teacher, a wise philosopher and an all-around great guy but ignore the fact that this “good teacher” claimed to be the Son of God. He claimed authority to judge sin, not merely to point it out. Such authority is given to no mere man.

In his boldness, Christ told the unbelieving Jews that if they indeed knew God, they’d also know him because he and God were one. He even claimed to be the “I AM” himself, the name of the God of the Old Testament. Jesus is also the Lamb slain to pay for the sins of those he came to save. He will return to deliver God’s wrath on an unrepentant world. Isn’t it interesting that people who claim Jesus was a liberal skip over this part?

I certainly didn’t expect Jesse Jackson to say all this in a 650-word column, but a little hint would have been nice.

To heal our spiritual sickness and hunger is why Christ came into the world, and I pray that Jesse Jackson knows it. If he really believes that the God of the Bible approves of deception and deliberate misapplication of Scripture, I truly feel sorry for him. A man who once believed abortion was murder has let his political ambition take precedence over truth.

This is compassion: I pray that God has mercy on him.

Summary on Vision Circle
August 06, 2004
Jesus was WHAT?

Jesse Jackson argues that Jesus was a liberal. La Shawn tears into him, with Michael King picking up the rear.

On the one hand, they are definitely correct to critique Jackson. Jesus was no more a liberal than Malcolm X would be a supporter of Clarence Thomas. The language we speak, much less terms like "liberal" or "conservative" didn't even exist during the time Jesus lived.


It is clear to me that Jesus was a champion of the poor. Not simply in the spiritual sense, as LaShawn argues, but in the material sense. Now it could be that he did so because they were the most spiritually bereft. But this doesn't quite play out in The New Testament. Jesus notes time and again that the poor, the meek, are actually closer to God than their rich counterparts are--which seems to go against the claim that we are all sinners equally. It is clear that he nourished and helped them. It is also clear that he NEVER turned his back on them.

Furthermore, Jesus was fully invested in emending Jewish law. When I say "emend" here I am not making a term up...I mean that he was actually attempting to bring the law back in line with the Law. Given that the Jewish faith was also a system of governance, I don't see how you could say that Jesus was above "politics." In as much as he sought to change the material world, so as to save the people in it, I don't see how his movement could be anything OTHER than political.

I think Jackson would've been better off saying that Jesus wasn't conservative. Not in the contemporary sense of the word. Nor even in the historical sense of the word. He would've been a lot closer to the mark. Oral Roberts, Jimmy Swaggart, Pat Robertson, and the scions of the Moral Majority have used Christianity as a way to put a sheen of legitimacy on their record. It's wrong and Christians everywhere should be ashamed.

Oh. One more thing. When Jackson says:

"The Suffragettes were liberals; those who opposed the vote for women were conservatives. Martin Luther King was a liberal; the segregationists were conservatives. He wanted to end racial discrimination; they wanted to conserve it. "

...he's right. It is also true that many of the segregationists were Democrats...but don't get it twisted. Partisan preference (also known as party id) is very different from political ideology. One can be a Liberal Republican (though this is becoming a bit hard) just as one can be a Conservative Democrat (ask Zell Miller about this one).

Monday, December 13

A Message From Michael

I received this message from Michael Moore today.

I have a lot of mixed feelings about Moore. I think that he's done as much harm, if not more, than he's done good for the democratic party and the democratic process. I don't believe that "corporations are the enemy" anymore than I believe that government is inherently ineffective or ineffecient (it can be, but it doesn't have to be). I don't neccesarily believe in the zero-sum quotient of federal/governmental power vs personal freedom. I believe that jobs require companies, yes even corporations - that the infrastructure to allow those companies to florish as well as the oversight to protect consumers and workers requires a vigilant and responsible government and an agressively independant, free, but fair, press. I believe in fair-trade, and that sometimes such trade may cause jobs to migrate overseas in the short-term, but in the long term such migration is really just competition and that competition can spawn innovation, progress and a better standard of living for people all over the globe even if it does mean Flint Michagan becomes a ghost town in the meantime.

I doubt Moore believes any of this.

He's not even a democrat, he's actually is what Bill O'Reilly claims to be - an independant. I don't neccesarily like or agree with the imagery he provides here - of democrats as abuse victims -- but I do agree that they need to stop trying to change their behavior and try to appease Republicans, because the Right has taken over the Republican Party and the do rule it with an iron-clad - and extremely abusive - fist. Trying to talk them down isn't going to work, they are too far gone. I myself don't to any of my so-called "friends" of the Republican stripe anymore. There's no point. No amount of truth or logic will change them. We have to focus on the people who haven't been drinking the cool-aid and rally them together.

It's the only way.

It doesn't matter if they're in the majority or minority - they simply need to continue to hold their head up and make themselves heard. They need to do more than simply say - "Right Wing Neo-Con Republican Bad: We Good" - they need to prove it.

After the election I talked about "Revenge". But I wasn't talking about any type of physical retaliation. No. I meant that we need to harness the fire of outrage and indignation that burns bright within any American, or world citizen, who still believes in the true foundations of justice and freedom that this country was founded upon, not the bone-headed jingoism of the right and direct it into positive action and opposition.

Stop being ashamed of being a "Liberal" - and make people realize, make yourself realize, that the core of being "Liberal" is being a person who is willing to defend and promote Liberty!

I also fully believe that the rise of the neo-cons is ultimately a good thing. I believe that they are going to so completely FUCK THINGS UP, that the total bankrupcy of thier ideology will become plain for all to see and will drive them from legitimate power for decades once all the dust is settled.

That will be our ultimate revenge.

It may take years. It may take decades, as this right-wing/neo-con/fundamentalist monster wasn't built in a day.

But that day will come.

And it will be sweet.


A Message from Michael Moore:

Dear Friends,

It is no surprise that the Republicans are sore winners. They have spent the better part of the past month beating their chests, threatening to send to Siberia any Republican who doesn’t toe the line (poor Arlen Specter), and promising everything short of martial law if the Democrats don’t do what they are told.

What’s worse is to watch the pathetic sight of the DLC (the conservative, pro-corporate group of Democrats) apologizing for being Democrats and promising to “purge” the party of the likes of, well, all of US! Their comments are so hilarious and really not even worth recognizing but the media is paying so much attention to them, I thought it might be worth doing a little reality check.

The most people the DLC is able to get out to an event of theirs is about 200 at their annual dinner (where you have to pay thousands of dollars to get in).
Contrast this with the following:
* Total Members of Move On: More than 2,000,000
* Total Attendance at Vote for Change Concerts: An estimated 280,000
* Total Union Members in U.S.: Around 16,000,000
* Total Number of People Who Have Seen “Fahrenheit 9/11”: Over 50 million
* Total Number of You Reading This: Perhaps 10 million or more

The days of trying to move the Democratic Party to the right are over. We lost a very close election (a one-state difference) by running the #1 liberal in the Senate. Not bad. The country is shifting in our direction, not to the right. But the country was attacked and people were scared.

They were manipulated with fear. And America has never thrown a sitting president out during wartime. That’s the facts. Oh, and our candidate could have run a better campaign (but we’ll have that discussion another day).

In the meantime, while we reflect on what went wrong, I would like to pass on to you an essay that a friend who works with abuse victims sent to me. It was written by a woman who has spent years working as an advocate for victims of domestic abuse and she sees many parallels between her work and the reaction of many Democrats to last month’s election. Her name is Mel Giles and here is what she had to say…

    Watch Dan Rather apologize for not getting his facts straight, humiliated before the eyes of America, voluntarily undermining his credibility and career of over thirty years. Observe Donna Brazille squirm as she is ridiculed by Bay Buchanan, and pronounced irrelevant and nearly non-existent. Listen as Donna and Nancy Pelosi and Senator Charles Schumer take to the airwaves saying that they have to go back to the drawing board and learn from their mistakes and try to be better, more likable, more appealing, have a stronger message, speak to morality. Watch them awkwardly quote the bible, trying to speak the ‘new’ language of America. Surf the blogs, and read the comments of dismayed, discombobulated, confused individuals trying to figure out what they did wrong. Hear the cacophony of voices, crying out, "Why did they beat me?"

    And then ask anyone who has ever worked in a domestic violence shelter if they have heard this before.

    They will tell you: Every single day.

    The answer is quite simple. They beat us because they are abusers. We can call it hate. We can call it fear. We can say it is unfair. But we are looped into the cycle of violence, and we need to start calling the dominating side what they are: abusive. And we need to recognize that we are the victims of verbal, mental, and even, in the case of Iraq, physical violence.

    As victims we can't stop asking ourselves what we did wrong. We can't seem to grasp that they will keep hitting us and beating us as long as we keep sticking around and asking ourselves what we are doing to deserve the beating.

    Listen to George Bush say that the will of God excuses his behavior. Listen, as he refuses to take responsibility, or express remorse, or even once, admit a mistake. Watch him strut, and tell us that he will only work with those who agree with him, and that each of us is only allowed one question (soon, it will be none at all; abusers hit hard when questioned; the press corps can tell you that). See him surround himself with only those who pledge oaths of allegiance. Hear him tell us that if we will only listen and do as he says and agree with his every utterance, all will go well for us (it won't; we will never be worthy).

    And watch the Democratic Party leadership walk on eggshells, try to meet him, please him, wash the windows better, get out that spot, distance themselves from gays and civil rights. See the Democrats cry for the attention and affection and approval of the President and his followers. Watch us squirm. Watch us descend into a world of crazy-making, where logic does not work and the other side tells us we are nuts when we rely on facts. A world where, worst of all, we begin to believe we are crazy.

    How to break free? Again, the answer is quite simple.

    First, you must admit you are a victim. Then, you must declare the state of affairs unacceptable.

    Next, you must promise to protect yourself and everyone around you that is being victimized.

    You don't do this by responding to their demands, or becoming more like them, or engaging in logical conversation, or trying to persuade them that you are right. You also don't do this by going catatonic and resigned, by closing up your ears and eyes and covering your head and submitting to the blows, figuring its over faster and hurts less if you don't resist and fight back.
    Instead, you walk away. You find other folks like yourself, 57 million of them, who are hurting, broken, and beating themselves up. You tell them what you've learned, and that you aren't going to take it anymore. You stand tall, with 57 million people at your side and behind you, and you look right into the eyes of the abuser and you tell him to go to hell. Then you walk out the door, taking the kids and gays and minorities with you, and you start a new life. The new life is hard.

    But it's better than the abuse.

    We have a mandate to be as radical and liberal and steadfast as we need to be. The progressive beliefs and social justice we stand for, our core, must not be altered. We are 57 million strong. We are building from the bottom up. We are meeting, on the net, in church basements, at work, in small groups, and right now, we are crying, because we are trying to break free and we don't know how.

    Any battered woman in America, any oppressed person around the globe who has defied her oppressor will tell you this: There is nothing wrong with you. You are in good company. You are safe. You are not alone. You are strong. You must change only one thing: Stop responding to the abuser.

    Don't let him dictate the terms or frame the debate (he'll win, not because he's right, but because force works). Sure, we can build a better grassroots campaign, cultivate and raise up better leaders, reform the election system to make it fail-proof, stick to our message, learn from the strategy of the other side. But we absolutely must dispense with the notion that we are weak, godless, cowardly, disorganized, crazy, too liberal, naive, amoral, "loose,” irrelevant, outmoded, stupid and soon to be extinct. We have the mandate of the world to back us, and the legacy of oppressed people throughout history.

    Even if you do everything right, they'll hit you anyway. Look at the poor souls who voted for this nonsense. They are working for six dollars an hour if they are working at all, their children are dying overseas and suffering from lack of health care and a depleted environment and a shoddy education.

    And they don't even know they are being hit.

How true. And that is our challenge over the next couple of years; to hold out our hand to those being hit the hardest and help them leave behind a party that only seeks to keep beating them, their children, and the kid next door who’s on his way to Iraq.


Michael Moore

Sunday, December 12

Hillbilly Armor: Padding as fast as they can?

Armor Holdings Could Boost Humvee Armor Output 22% (Update2)

Dec. 9 (Bloomberg) -- Armor Holdings Inc., the sole supplier of protective plates for the Humvee military vehicles used in Iraq, said it could increase output by as much as 22 percent per month with no investment and is awaiting an order from the Army.

U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said yesterday the Army was working as fast as it can and supply is dictated by ``a matter of physics, not a matter of money.''

Jacksonville, Florida-based Armor Holdings last month told the Army it could add armor to as many as 550 of the trucks a month, up from 450 vehicles now, Robert Mecredy, president of the company's aerospace and defense group said in a telephone interview today.

``We're prepared to build 50 to 100 vehicles more per month,'' Mecredy said in the interview. ``I've told the customer that and I stand ready to do that.''

Insurgent attacks on the vehicles with homemade bombs and rocket-propelled grenades are accounting for as much as half of the more than 1,000 U.S. deaths and 9,000 U.S. wounded in Iraq, according to Congressional estimates.

President George W. Bush said concerns raised by soldiers in questions to Rumsfeld yesterday in Kuwait are being addressed,'' Bush said in response to a reporter's question. ``We expect our troops to have the best possible equipment. If I were a soldier overseas wanting to defend my country I'd want to ask the Secretary of Defense the same question, and that is are we getting the best'' equipment, he said. ``They deserve the best.''

`Hillbilly Armor'

U.S. troops preparing for deployment to Iraq told Rumsfeld yesterday they are salvaging armor from landfills to install ``hillbilly armor'' on their Humvees. Rumsfeld replied that ``you have to go to war with the Army you have.''

Armor Holdings has already boosted output from 60 vehicles a month a year ago, said Mecredy, 58. As a result of the increased output, Armor Holdings has cut the price for the armor its supplies for the trucks to $58,000 per vehicle, from $72,000 per vehicle a year ago, Mecredy said.

Shares of Armor Holdings rose 66 cents, or 1.6 percent in New York Stock Exchange composite trading at 11:34 a.m.

When he was asked about current production yesterday, Rumsfeld wasn't sure of the exact figure saying ``it's something like 400 a month are being done.''

``It's a matter of production and capability of doing it,'' Rumsfeld, 72, said.

Tesia William, a spokeswoman for the Army Materiel Command, which handles the armored Humvee program, had no immediate comment on the status of orders.

Production of the armor needs to be coordinated with output of the actual trucks by AM General LLC of South Bend, Indiana, Mecredy said. AM General spokesman Lee Woodward also said that truck output could also be increased.

``If they ordered more trucks, we'd build more trucks,'' Woodward said. ``We're not close to capacity. It might take some time to ramp up but we can do it.''

Woodward declined to provide exact details on production capacity.

The main reason there isn't enough armor is because the military has underestimated its own needs, said Meghan Keck, spokeswoman for Senator Evan Bayh, an Indiana Democrat. Bayh wrote a letter to Rumsfeld in October calling for a more accurate estimate of Humvee needs.

``If the Army would be up front about the number of Humvees needed, the companies would be able to set their production accordingly to meet the need,'' Keck said in a phone interview.

To contact the reporter on this story:
Edmond Lococo in Boston at

20 Amazing Facts about Voting in the U.S.A.

20 Amazing Facts about Voting in the U.S.A.
By Alicia

Go to Original

Did you know....

  1. 80% of all votes in America are counted by only two companies: Diebold and ES&S.

  2. There is no federal agency with regulatory authority or oversight of the U.S. voting machine industry.

  3. The vice-president of Diebold and the president of ES&S are brothers.

  4. The chairman and CEO of Diebold is a major Bush campaign organizer and donor who wrote in 2003 that he was "committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president next year."

  5. Republican Senator Chuck Hagel used to be chairman of ES&S. He became Senator based on votes counted by ES&S machines.

  6. Republican Senator Chuck Hagel, long-connected with the Bush family, was recently caught lying about his ownership of ES&S by the Senate Ethics Committee.

  7. Senator Chuck Hagel was on a short list of George W. Bush's vice-presidential candidates.

  8. ES&S is the largest voting machine manufacturer in the U.S. and counts almost 60% of all U.S. votes.

  9. Diebold's new touch screen voting machines have no paper trail of any votes. In other words, there is no way to verify that the data coming out of the machine is the same as what was legitimately put in by voters.

  10. Diebold also makes ATMs, checkout scanners, and ticket machines, all of which log each transaction and can generate a paper trail.

  11. Diebold is based in Ohio.

  12. Diebold employed 5 convicted felons as senior managers and developers to help write the central compiler computer code that counted 50% of the votes in 30 states.,2645,61640,00.html

  13. Jeff Dean, Diebold's Senior Vice-President and senior programmer on Diebold's central compiler code, was convicted of 23 counts of felony theft in the first degree.

  14. Diebold Senior Vice-President Jeff Dean was convicted of planting back doors in his software and using a "high degree of sophistication" to evade detection over a period of 2 years.

  15. None of the international election observers were allowed in the polls in Ohio.

  16. California banned the use of Diebold machines because the security was so bad. Despite Diebold's claims that the audit logs could not be hacked, a chimpanzee was able to do it. (See the movie here.),2645,63298,00.html

  17. 30% of all U.S. votes are carried out on unverifiable touch screen voting machines with no paper trail.

  18. All - not some - but all the voting machine errors detected and reported in Florida went in favor of Bush or Republican candidates.,2645,65757,00.html

  19. The governor of the state of Florida, Jeb Bush, is the President's brother.

  20. Serious voting anomalies in Florida - again always favoring Bush - have been mathematically demonstrated and experts are recommending further investigation.,10801,97614,00.html

Legal challenge to Ohio results filed!

This week a lawsuit challenging the election results in Ohio as being fraudulent is being filed by a coalition including members of Libertarian, Green Party and disenfranchised voters. This suit alleges that widespread fraud took place in many Ohio counties, voters in poor and ethnic areas were forced to wait for hours in the rain due to a lack of voting machines, the discrepancies between exit poll numbers as well as the possibility that some votes were either manually or electronically switched from Kerry to Bush.

Real Audio of C-Span Discussion with Attorney Cliff Arnebeck

Abu Ghraib was part of Official US Policy on Torture?

Published on Sunday, December 12, 2004 by The Sunday Herald (Scotland)

Victim of Latin American Torture Claims Abu Ghraib Abuse was Official US Policy
by Andrew McLeod

FOR many Latin American victims of torture, the infamous pictures of abuse at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison brought back not only chilling recollections of their own experiences, but also confirmed what they have long maintained: that their torturers were following interrogation guidelines set by the US Army School of the Americas (SOA).

"I had flashbacks when I saw the guy with the hood [at Abu Ghraib]," says Carlos Mauricio, a Salvadorean who was tortured in 1983. Founder of Stop Impunity, a group that seeks to prosecute human rights violators, dismisses as a "whitewash" the Bush administration's view that Abu Ghraib abuse was the work of a few US army misfits.

"What happened at Abu Ghraib was torture by the book; they were implementing US policy," Mauricio, 51, told the Sunday Herald.

"The US military deny they teach torture and say it happens in Latin America because soldiers have always been brutal. But what happened at Abu Ghraib belies this."

Among the SOA's 60,000 graduates are former dictators Manuel Noriega and Omar Torrijos of Panama, Leopoldo Galtieri and Roberto Viola of Argentina, Juan Velasco Alvarado of Peru, Guillermo Rodriguez of Ecuador and Hugo Banzer Suarez of Bolivia. Lower-ranking graduates were involved in the 1980 assassination of Salvadorean Archbishop Oscar Romero and the massacre of 900 civilians at El Mozote, El Salvador, in 1980.

Between 1946 and 1984 the SOA was based in Panama, the former headquarters of the US Southern Command. In 1977, the school was relocated to Fort Benning, Georgia, but in the face of international criticism it was closed by the Clinton administration in December 2000 - only to be reopened a month later on the same site under a new name, the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Co-operation (WHINSEC).

The SOA website says it still exists "only for historical purposes" and gives a glowing account of its services to Latin American military officers. WHINSEC's website claims its broad principles are to ensure peace of the Western Hemisphere and promote human welfare through inter-American cooperation that is fully grounded in international law.

Mauricio, who last month led a protest march outside WHINSEC - which drew thousands of activists, including actors Martin Sheen and Susan Sarandon - disputes this.

"The name change is just a public relations exercise. They still teach sniping and counter-insurgency tactics there. There are currently more Colombian students at the school than from any other country - and Colombia has the worst human rights record in Latin America."

The Salvadorean, who says he was targeted "because I was an educator and they don't like any opposition," was fortunate in that he survived his ordeal and was able to flee to the US later that year. There he obtained master's degrees in molecular genetics and adult education at San Francisco State University. He is now a biology teacher at a San Francisco high school.

But he is not at ease, having suffered permanent emotional and physical injuries as a result of the abuse, including broken ribs, an injured eye and persistent pain in his shoulders, joints and chest. In 1989, he heard of the murder in El Salvador of six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and her daughter. A US congressional task force found that some of the soldiers involved in the killings had been trained at the School of the Americas - and Mauricio felt he had to act.

In 2002 he and two other Salvadorean victims won a landmark ruling in a Florida court against two former Salvadorean ministers of defence. The defendants - both of whom are retired and live in Florida and one of whom, General Jose Guillermo Garcia, was a graduate of the School of the Americas - have lodged appeals.

"This is a life commitment," says Mauricio. "I was lucky to survive and I want to make sure that others don't suffer."

He has worked closely with School of the Americas Watch (SOAW), founded by Father Roy Bourgeois, a Catholic priest who became a critic of US policy in Latin America when four US churchwomen were raped and murdered by Salvadorean soldiers in 1980. SOAW says its aim is to educate the US public about the implications of military training on the poor and to remove obstacles to peace in Latin America.

Mauricio is not alone in seeing Abu Ghraib torture as consistent with US military intelligence teaching.

Writing in the Toronto Globe and Mail, Miles Schuman, a physician who documented torture for the Canadian Centre for Victims of Torture, said "the black hood covering the faces of naked prisoners in Abu Ghraib was known as la capucha in Guatemalan and Salvadorean torture chambers. The metal bed frame to which the naked and hooded detainee was bound in a crucifix position at Abu Ghraib was la cama for a former Chilean patient."

Two declassified CIA interrogation manuals - Human Resource Exploitation Training Manual, 1983, and KUBARK Counterintelligence Interrogation, 1963, released by the National Security Archive in May - add weight to Mauricio and Schuman's allegations.

The 1963 manual suggests that when planning an interrogation room, "the choice of methods to be used depends on the characteristics of the interviewee - the electric current should be known in advance, so that transformers or other modifying devices will be on hand if needed."

The NSA says a decade of training between 1966 and 1976 was halted by the Carter administration for fear it would contribute to human rights violations in other countries, but it was restored by the Reagan administration in 1982. And despite toned-down manuals appearing in the mid-1980s, hundreds of unaltered manuals were used in Latin America for at least another decade - notably by the US and Argentine-trained Honduran Battalion 316 during the tenure of US ambassador to Honduras John Negroponte, who is now the US envoy to Baghdad.