Saturday, January 30, 2010

Zinn on War on Terror and Terror of the Ruling Class

Haiti's Geological Fate

The Fateful Geological Prize Called Haiti
by F. William Engdahl
Global Research, January 30, 2010

A born-again neo-conservative US business wheeler-dealer preacher claims Haitians are condemned for making a literal ‘pact with the Devil.’

Venezuelan, Nicaraguan, Bolivian, French and Swiss rescue organizations accuse the US military of refusing landing rights to planes bearing necessary medicines and urgently needed potable water to the millions of Haitians stricken, injured and homeless.

Behind the smoke, rubble and unending drama of human tragedy in the hapless Caribbean country, a drama is in full play for control of what geophysicists believe may be one of the world’s richest zones for hydrocarbons-oil and gas outside the Middle East, possibly orders of magnitude greater than that of nearby Venezuela.

Haiti, and the larger island of Hispaniola of which it is a part, has the geological fate that it straddles one of the world’s most active geological zones, where the deepwater plates of three huge structures relentlessly rub against one another—the intersection of the North American, South American and Caribbean tectonic plates. Below the ocean and the waters of the Caribbean, these plates consist of an oceanic crust some 3 to 6 miles thick, floating atop an adjacent mantle. Haiti also lies at the edge of the region known as the Bermuda Triangle, a vast area in the Caribbean subject to bizarre and unexplained disturbances.

This vast mass of underwater plates are in constant motion, rubbing against each other along lines analogous to cracks in a broken porcelain vase that has been reglued. The earth’s tectonic plates typically move at a rate 50 to 100 mm annually in relation to one another, and are the origin of earthquakes and of volcanoes. The regions of convergence of such plates are also areas where vast volumes of oil and gas can be pushed upwards from the Earth’s mantle. The geophysics surrounding the convergence of the three plates that run more or less directly beneath Port-au-Prince make the region prone to earthquakes such as the one that struck Haiti with devastating ferocity on January 12.

A relevant Texas geological project

Leaving aside the relevant question of how well in advance the Pentagon and US scientists knew the quake was about to occur, and what Pentagon plans were being laid before January 12, another issue emerges around the events in Haiti that might help explain the bizarre behavior to date of the major ‘rescue’ players—the United States, France and Canada. Aside from being prone to violent earthquakes, Haiti also happens to lie in a zone that, due to the unusual geographical intersection of its three tectonic plates, might well be straddling one of the world’s largest unexplored zones of oil and gas, as well as of valuable rare strategic minerals.

The vast oil reserves of the Persian Gulf and of the region from the Red Sea into the Gulf of Aden are at a similar convergence zone of large tectonic plates, as are such oil-rich zones as Indonesia and the waters off the coast of California. In short, in terms of the physics of the earth, precisely such intersections of tectonic masses as run directly beneath Haiti have a remarkable tendency to be the sites of vast treasures of minerals, as well as oil and gas, throughout the world.

Notably, in 2005, a year after the Bush-Cheney Administration de facto deposed the democratically elected President of Haiti, Jean-Baptiste Aristide, a team of geologists from the Institute for Geophysics at the University of Texas began an ambitious and thorough two-phase mapping of all geological data of the Caribbean Basins. The project is due to be completed in 2011. Directed by Dr. Paul Mann, it is called “Caribbean Basins, Tectonics and Hydrocarbons.” It is all about determining as precisely as possible the relation between tectonic plates in the Caribbean and the potential for hydrocarbons—oil and gas.

Notably, the sponsors of the multi-million dollar research project under Mann are the world’s largest oil companies, including Chevron, ExxonMobil, the Anglo-Dutch Shell and BHP Billiton.[1] Curiously enough, the project is the first comprehensive geological mapping of a region that, one would have thought, would have been a priority decades ago for the US oil majors. Given the immense, existing oil production off Mexico, Louisiana, and the entire Caribbean, as well as its proximity to the United States – not to mention the US focus on its own energy security – it is surprising that the region had not been mapped earlier. Now it emerges that major oil companies were at least generally aware of the huge oil potential of the region long ago, but apparently decided to keep it quiet.

Cuba’s Super-giant find

Evidence that the US Administration may well have more in mind for Haiti than the improvement of the lot of the devastated Haitian people can be found in nearby waters off Cuba, directly across from Port-au-Prince. In October 2008 a consortium of oil companies led by Spain’s Repsol, together with Cuba's state oil company, Cubapetroleo, announced discovery of one of the world’s largest oilfields in the deep water off Cuba. It is what oil geologists call a ‘Super-giant’ field. Estimates are that the Cuban field contains as much as 20 billion barrels of oil, making it the twelfth Super-giant oilfield discovered since 1996. The discovery also likely makes Cuba a new high-priority target for Pentagon destabilization and other nasty operations.

No doubt to the dismay of Washington, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev flew to Havana one month after the Cuban giant oil find to sign an agreement with acting-President Raul Castro for Russian oil companies to explore and develop Cuban oil.[2]

Medvedev’s Russia-Cuba oil agreements came only a week after the visit of Chinese President Hu Jintao to meet the recuperating Fidel Castro and his brother Raul. The Chinese President signed an agreement to modernize Cuban ports and discussed Chinese purchase of Cuban raw materials. No doubt the mammoth new Cuban oil discovery was high on the Chinese agenda with Cuba.[3] On November 5, 2008, just prior to the Chinese President’s trip to Cuba and other Latin American countries, the Chinese government issued their first ever policy paper on the future of China’s relations with Latin America and Caribbean nations, elevating these bilateral relations to a new level of strategic importance. [4]

The Cuba Super-giant oil find also leaves the advocates of ‘Peak Oil’ theory with more egg on the face. Shortly before the Bush-Blair decision to invade and occupy Iraq, a theory made the rounds of cyberspace, that sometime after 2010, the world would reach an absolute “peak” in world oil production, initiating a period of decline with drastic social and economic implications. Its prominent spokesmen, including retired oil geologist Colin Campbell and Texas oil banker Matt Simmons, claimed that there had not been a single new Super-giant oil discovery since 1976, or thereabouts, and that new fields found over the past two decades had been “tiny” compared with the earlier giant discoveries in Saudi Arabia, Prudhoe Bay, Daquing in China and elsewhere. [5]

It is critical to note that, more than half a century ago, a group of Russian and Ukrainian geophysicists, working in state secrecy, confirmed that hydrocarbons originated deep in the earth’s mantle under conditions similar to a giant burning cauldron at extreme temperature and pressure. They demonstrated that, contrary to US and accepted Western ‘mainstream’ geology, hydrocarbons were not the result of dead dinosaur detritus concentrated and compressed and somehow transformed into oil and gas millions of years ago, nor of algae or other biological material.[6]

The Russian and Ukrainian geophysicists then proved that the oil or gas produced in the earth’s mantle was pushed upwards along faults or cracks in the earth as close to the surface as pressures permitted. The process was analogous to the production of molten lava in volcanoes. It means that the ability to find oil is limited, relatively speaking, only by the ability to identify deep fissures and complex geological activity conducive to bringing the oil out from deep in the earth. It seems that the waters of the Caribbean, especially those off Cuba and its neighbor Haiti, are just such a region of concentrated hydrocarbons (oil and gas) that have found their way upwards close to the surface, perhaps in a magnitude comparable to a new Saudi Arabia.[7]

Haiti, a new Saudi Arabia?

The remarkable geography of Haiti and Cuba and the discovery of world-class oil reserves in the waters off Cuba lend credence to anecdotal accounts of major oil discoveries in several parts of Haitian territory. It also could explain why two Bush Presidents and now special UN Haiti Envoy Bill Clinton have made Haiti such a priority. As well, it could explain why Washington and its NGO’s moved so quickly to remove-- twice-- the democratically elected President Aristide, whose economic program for Haiti included, among other items, proposals for developing Haitian natural resources for the benefit of the Haitian people.

In March 2004, some months before the University of Texas and American Big Oil launched their ambitious mapping of the hydrocarbon potentials of the Caribbean, a Haitian writer, Dr. Georges Michel, published online an article titled ‘Oil in Haiti.’ In it, Michel wrote,

… .[I]t has been no secret that deep in the earthy bowels of the two states that share the island of Haiti and the surrounding waters that there are significant, still untapped deposits of oil. One knows not why they are still untapped. Since the early twentieth century, the physical and political map of the island of Haiti, erected in 1908 by Messrs. Alexander Poujol and Henry Thomasset, reported a major oil reservoir in Haiti near the source of the Rio Todo El Mondo, Tributary Right Artibonite River, better known today as the River Thomonde. [8]

According to a June 2008 article by Roberson Alphonse in the Haitian paper, Le Nouvelliste en Haiti, “The signs, (indicators), justifying the explorations of oil (black gold) in Haiti are encouraging. In the middle of the oil shock, some 4 companies want official licenses from the Haitian State to drill for oil.”

At the time, oil prices were climbing above $140 a barrel -- on manipulations by various Wall Street banks. Alphonse’s article quoted Dieusuel Anglade, the Haitian State Director of the Office of Mining and Energy, telling the Haitian press: "We've received four requests for oil exploration permits…We have had encouraging indicators to justify the pursuit of the exploration of black gold (oil), which had stopped in 1979."[9]

Alphonse reported the findings from a 1979 geological study in Haiti of 11 exploratory oil wells drilled at the Plaine du Cul-de-sac on the Plateau Central and at L'ile de La Gonaive: “Surface (tentative) indicators for oil were found at the Southern peninsula and on the North coast, explained the engineer Anglade, who strongly believes in the immediate commercial viability of these explorations.”[10]

Journalist Alphonse cites an August 16, 1979 memo by Haitian attorney Francois Lamothe, in which he noted that “five big wells were drilled” down to depths of 9000 feet and that a sample that “underwent a physical-chemical analysis in Munich, Germany” had “revealed tracks of oil.” [11]

Despite the promising 1979 results in Haiti, Dr. Georges Michel reported that, “the big multinational oil companies operating in Haiti pushed for the discovered deposits not to be exploited.” [12] Oil exploration in and offshore Haiti ground to a sudden halt as a result.

Similar if less precise reports claiming that Haitian oil reserves could be vastly larger than those of Venezuela have appeared in Haitian websites. [13] Then in 2010 the financial news site Bloomberg News carried the following:

The Jan. 12 earthquake was on a fault line that passes near potential gas reserves, said Stephen Pierce, a geologist who worked in the region for 30 years for companies that included the former Mobil Corp. The quake may have cracked rock formations along the fault, allowing gas or oil to temporarily seep toward the surface, he said Monday in a telephone interview. ‘A geologist, callous as it may seem, tracing that fault zone from Port-au-Prince to the border looking for gas and oil seeps, may find a structure that hasn't been drilled,’ said Pierce, exploration manager at Zion Oil & Gas Inc., a Dallas-based company that's drilling in Israel. [14]

In an interview with a Santo Domingo online paper, Leopoldo Espaillat Nanita, former head of the Dominican Petroleum Refinery (REFIDOMSA) stated, “there is a multinational conspiracy to illegally take the mineral resources of the Haitian people.” [15] Haiti’s minerals include gold, the valuable strategic metal iridium and oil, apparently lots of it.

Aristide’s development plans

Marguerite Laurent ('Ezili Dantò'), president of the Haitian Lawyers’ Leadership Network (HLLN) who served as attorney for the deposed Aristide, notes that when Aristide was President -- up until his US-backed ouster during the Bush era in 2004 -- he had developed and published in book form his national development plans. These plans included, for the first time, a detailed list of known sites where the resources of Haiti were located. The publication of the plan sparked a national debate over Haitian radio and in the media about the future of the country. Aristide’s plan was to implement a public-private partnership to ensure that the development of Haiti’s oil, gold and other valuable resources would benefit the national economy and the broader population, and not merely the five Haitian oligarchic families and their US backers, the so-called Chimeres or gangsters. [16]

Since the ouster of Aristide in 2004, Haiti has been an occupied country, with a dubiously-elected President, Rene Preval, a controversial follower of IMF privatization mandates and reportedly tied to the Chimeres or Haitian oligarchs who backed the removal of Aristide. Notably, the US State Department refuses to permit the return of Aristide from South African exile.

Now, in the wake of the devastating earthquake of January 12, the United States military has taken control of Haiti’s four airports and presently has some 20,000 troops in the country. Journalists and international aid organizations have accused the US military of being more concerned with imposing military control, which it prefers to call “security,” than with bringing urgently needed water, food and medicine from the airport sites to the population.

A US military occupation of Haiti under the guise of earthquake disaster ‘relief’ would give Washington and private business interests tied to it a geopolitical prize of the first order. Prior to the January 12 quake, the US Embassy in Port-au-Prince was the fifth largest US embassy in the world, comparable to its embassies in such geopolitically strategic places as Berlin and Beijing.[17] With huge new oil finds off Cuba being exploited by Russian companies, with clear indications that Haiti contains similar vast untapped oil as well as gold, copper, uranium and iridium, with Hugo Chavez’ Venezuela as a neighbor to the south of Haiti, a return of Aristide or any popular leader committed to developing the resources for the people of Haiti, -- the poorest nation in the Americas -- would constitute a devastating blow to the world’s sole Superpower. The fact that in the aftermath of the earthquake, UN Haiti Special Envoy Bill Clinton joined forces with Aristide foe George W. Bush to create something called the Clinton-Bush Haiti Fund ought to give everyone pause.

According to Marguerite Laurent ('Ezili Dantò') of the Haitian Lawyers’ Leadership Network, under the guise of emergency relief work, the US, France and Canada are engaged in a balkanization of the island for future mineral control. She reports rumors that Canada wants the North of Haiti where Canadian mining interests are already present. The US wants Port-au-Prince and the island of La Gonaive just offshore – an area identified in Aristide’s development book as having vast oil resources, and which is bitterly contested by France. She further states that China, with UN veto power over the de facto UN-occupied country, may have something to say against such a US-France-Canada carve up of the vast wealth of the nation. [18]


1 Paul Mann, Caribbean Basins, Tectonic Plates & Hydrocarbons, Institute for Geophysics, The University of Texas at Austin, accessed in .

2 Rory Carroll, Medvedev and Castro meet to rebuild Russia-Cuba relations, London Guardian, November 28, 2008 accessed in

3 Julian Gavaghan, Comrades in arms: When China’s President Hu met a frail Fidel Castro, London Daily Mail, November 19, 2008, accessed in

4 Peoples’ Daily Online, China issues first policy paper on Latin America, Caribbean region, November 5, 2008, accessed in .

5 Matthew R. Simmons, The World’s Giant Oilfields, Simmons & Co. International, Houston, accessed in .

6 Anton Kolesnikov, et al, Methane-derived hydrocarbons produced under upper-mantle conditions, Nature Geoscience, July 26, 2009.

7 F. William Engdahl, War and Peak Oil—Confessions of an ‘ex’ Peak Oil believer, Global Research, September 26, 2007, accessed in .

8 Dr. Georges Michel, Oil in Haiti, English translation from French, Pétrole en Haiti, March 27, 2004, accessed in .

9 Roberson Alphonse, Drill, and then pump the oil of Haiti! 4 oil companies request oil drilling permits, translated from the original French, June 27, 2008, accessed in

10 Ibid.

11 Ibid. The full text indicated that, “five big wells were drilled at Porto Suel (Maissade) of a depth of 9000 feet, at Bebernal, 9000 feet, at Bois-Carradeux (Ouest), at Dumornay, on the road Route Frare and close to the Chemin de Fer of Saint-Marc. A sample, a ‘carrot’ (oil reservoir) drilled up from the well of Saint-Marc in the Artibonite underwent a physical-chemical analysis in Munich, Germany, at the request of Mr. Broth. ‘The result of the analysis was returned on October 11, 1979 and revealed tracks of oil,’ confided the engineer, Willy Clemens, who had gone to Germany.”

12 Dr. Georges Michel, op. cit.

13 Marguerite Laurent, Haiti is full of oil, say Ginette and Daniel Mathurin, Radio Metropole, Jan 28, 2008, accessed in

14 Jim Polson, Haiti earthquake may have exposed gas, aiding economy, Bloomberg News, January 26, 2010.

15 Espaillat Nanita revela en Haiti existen grandes recursos de oro y otros minerals,, 17 November, 2009, accessed in .

16 The Aristide development plan was contained in the book published in Haiti in 2000, Investir dans l’Human. Livre Blanc de Fanmi Lavalas sous la Direction de Jean-Bertrand Aristide, Port-au-Prince, Imprimerie Henri Deschamps, 2000. It contained detailed maps, tables, graphics, and a national development plan for 2004 “covering agriculture, environment, commerce and industry, the financial sector, infrastructure, education, culture, health, women's issues, and issues in the public sector.” In 2004, using NGOs and the UN and a vicious propaganda campaign to vilify Aristide, the Bush administration got rid of the elected President.

17 Cynthia McKinney, Haiti: An Unwelcome Katrina Redux, Global Research, January 19, 2010, accessed in

18 Marguerite Laurent (Ezili Danto), Did mining and oil drilling trigger the Haiti earthquake?, OpEd, January 23, 2010, accessed in

F. William Engdahl is a frequent contributor to Global Research. Global Research Articles by F. William Engdahl

In the West Bank's stony hills, Palestine is slowly dying

In the West Bank's stony hills, Palestine is slowly dying

In the richest of the Occupied lands, Israeli bureaucracy is driving Palestinians out of their homes. Robert Fisk reports from Jiftlik

Palestinian women huddle amid their belongings after Israeli forces demolished their homes in the West Bank village of Khirbet Tana, near Nablus earlier this month

Area C doesn't sound very ominous. A land of stone-sprinkled grey hills and soft green valleys, it's part of the wreckage of the equally wrecked Oslo Agreement, accounting for 60 per cent of the Israeli-occupied West Bank that was eventually supposed to be handed over to its Palestinian inhabitants.

But look at the statistics and leaf through the pile of demolition orders lying on the table in front of Abed Kasab, head of the village council in Jiftlik, and it all looks like ethnic cleansing via bureaucracy. Perverse might be the word for the paperwork involved. Obscene appear to be the results.

Palestinian houses that cannot be permitted to stand, roofs that must be taken down, wells closed, sewage systems demolished; in one village, I even saw a primitive electricity system in which Palestinians must sink their electrical poles cemented into concrete blocks standing on the surface of the dirt road. To place the poles in the earth would ensure their destruction – no Palestinian can dig a hole more than 40cm below the ground.

But let's return to the bureaucracy. "Ro'i" – if that is indeed the Israeli official's name, for it is difficult to decipher – signed a batch of demolition papers for Jiftlik last December, all duly delivered, in Arabic and Hebrew, to Mr Kasab. There are 21 of them, running – non-sequentially – from numbers 143912 through 145059, all from "The High Planning Council Monitoring [sic] Sub-Committee of the Civil Administration for the Area of Judea and Samaria". Judea and Samaria – for ordinary folk – is the occupied West Bank. The first communication is dated 8 December, 2009, the last 17 December.

And as Mr Kasab puts it, that's the least of his problems. Palestinian requests to build houses are either delayed for years or refused; houses built without permission are ruthlessly torn down; corrugated iron roofs have to be camouflaged with plastic sheets in the hope the "Civil Administration" won't deem them an extra floor – in which case "Ro'i's" lads will be round to rip the lot off the top of the house.

In Area C, there are up to 150,000 Palestinians and 300,000 Jewish colonists living – illegally under international law – in 120 official settlements and 100 "unapproved" settlements or, in the language we must use these days, "illegal outposts"; illegal under Israeli as well as international law, that is – as opposed to the 120 internationally illegal colonies which are legal under Israeli law. Jewish settlers, needless to say, don't have problems with planning permission.

The winter sun blazes through the door of Mr Kasab's office and cigarette smoke drifts through the room as the angry men of Jiftlik shout their grievances. "I don't mind if you print my name, I am so angry, I will take the consequences," he says. "Breathing is the only thing we don't need a permit for – yet!" The rhetoric is tired, but the fury is real. "Buildings, new roads, reservoirs, we have been waiting three years to get permits. We cannot get a permit for a new health clinic. We are short of water for both human and agricultural use. Getting permission to rehabilitate the water system costs 70,000 Israeli shekels [about £14,000] – it costs more than the rehabilitation system itself."

A drive along the wild roads of Area C – from the outskirts of Jerusalem to the semi-humid basin of the Jordan valley – runs through dark hills and bare, stony valleys lined with deep, ancient caves, until, further east, lie the fields of the Palestinians and the Jewish settlers' palm groves – electrified fences round the groves – and the mud or stone huts of Palestinian sheep farmers. This paradise is a double illusion. One group of inhabitants, the Israelis, may remember their history and live in paradise. The smaller group, the Palestinian Arabs, are able to look across these wonderful lands and remember their history – but they are already out of paradise and into limbo.

Even the western NGOs working in Area C find their work for Palestinians blocked by the Israelis. This is not just a "hitch" in the "peace process" – whatever that is – but an international scandal. Oxfam, for example, asked the Israelis for a permit to build a 300m2 capacity below-ground reservoir along with 700m of underground 4in pipes for the thousands of Palestinians living around Jiftlik. It was refused. They then gave notice that they intended to construct an above-ground installation of two glass-fibre tanks, an above-ground pipe and booster pump. They were told they would need a permit even though the pipes were above ground – and they were refused a permit. As a last resort, Oxfam is now distributing rooftop water tanks.

I came across an even more outrageous example of this apartheid-by-permit in the village of Zbeidat, where the European Union's humanitarian aid division installed 18 waste water systems to prevent the hamlet's vile-smelling sewage running through the gardens and across the main road into the fields. The £80,000 system – a series of 40ft shafts regularly flushed out by sewage trucks – was duly installed because the location lay inside Area B, where no planning permission was required.

Yet now the aid workers have been told by the Israelis that work "must stop" on six of the 18 shafts – a prelude to their demolition, although already they are already built beside the road – because part of the village stands in Area C. Needless to say, no one – neither Palestinians nor Israelis – knows the exact borderline between B and C. Thus around £20,000 of European money has been thrown away by the Israeli "Civil Administration".

But in one way, this storm of permission and non-permission papers is intended to obscure the terrible reality of Area C. Many Israeli activists as well as western NGOs suspect Israel intends to force the Palestinians here to leave their lands and homes and villages and depart into the wretchedness of Areas B and A. B is jointly controlled by Israeli military and civil authorities and Palestinian police, and A by the witless Palestinian Authority of Mahmoud Abbas. Thus would the Palestinians be left to argue over a mere 40 per cent of the occupied West Bank – in itself a tiny fraction of the 22 per cent of Mandated Palestine over which the equally useless Yasser Arafat once hoped to rule. Add to this the designation of 18 per cent of Area C as "closed military areas" by the Israelis and add another 3 per cent preposterously designated as a "nature reserve" – it would be interesting to know what kind of animals roam there – and the result is simple: even without demolition orders, Palestinians cannot build in 70 per cent of Area C.

Along one road, I discovered a series of large concrete blocks erected by the Israeli army in front of Palestinian shacks. "Danger – Firing Area" was printed on each in Hebrew, Arabic and English. "Entrance Forbidden." What are the Palestinians living here supposed to do? Area C, it should be added, is the richest of the occupied Palestinian lands, with cheese production and animal farms. Many of the 5,000 souls in Jiftlik have been refugees already, their families fled lands to the west of Jerusalem – in present-day Israel – in 1947 and 1948. Their tragedy has not yet ended, of course. What price Palestine?

Friday, January 29, 2010

Remembering Zinn

A Memory of Howard
Posted on Jan 27, 2010

By Daniel Ellsberg

I just learned that my friend Howard Zinn died today. Earlier this morning, I was being interviewed by the Boston Phoenix, in connection with the February release of a documentary in which he is featured prominently. The interviewer asked me who my own heroes were, and I had no hesitation in answering, first, “Howard Zinn.”

Just weeks ago, after watching the film, I woke up thinking that I had never told him how much he meant to me. For once in my life, I acted on that thought in a timely way. I sent him an e-mail in which I said, among other things, what I had often told others: that he was, “in my opinion, the best human being I’ve ever known. The best example of what a human can be, and can do with their life.”

Our first meeting was at Faneuil Hall in Boston in early 1971, where we both spoke against the indictments of Eqbal Ahmad and Phil Berrigan for “conspiring to kidnap Henry Kissinger.” We marched with the rest of the crowd to make citizens’ arrests at the Boston office of the FBI. Later that spring, we went with our affinity group (including Noam Chomsky, Cindy Fredericks, Marilyn Young, Mark Ptashne, Zelda Gamson, Fred Branfman and Mitch Goodman), to the May Day actions blocking traffic in Washington (“If they won’t stop the war, we’ll stop the government”). Howard tells that story in the film, and I tell it at greater length in my memoir, “Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers.” But for reasons of space, I had to cut out the next section in which Howard—who had been arrested in D.C. after most of the rest of us had gone elsewhere—came back to Boston for a rally and a blockade of the Federal Building. I’ve never published that story, so here it is, an outtake from my manuscript:

A day later, Howard Zinn was the last speaker at a large rally in Boston Common. I was at the back of a huge crowd, listening to him over loudspeakers. Twenty-seven years later, I can remember some of what he said. “On May Day in Washington, thousands of us were arrested for disturbing the peace. But there is no peace. We were really arrested because we were disturbing the war.”

He said, “If Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton had been walking the streets of Georgetown yesterday, they would have been arrested. Arrested for being young.”

At the end of his comments, he said: “I want to speak now to some of the members of this audience, the plainclothes policemen among us, the military intelligence agents who are assigned to do surveillance. You are taking the part of secret police, spying on your fellow Americans. You should not be doing what you are doing. You should rethink it, and stop. You do not have to carry out orders that go against the grain of what it means to be an American.”

Those last weren’t his exact words, but that was the spirit of them. He was to pay for that comment the next day, when we were sitting side by side in a blockade of the Federal Building in Boston. We had a circle of people all the way around the building, shoulder to shoulder, so no one could get in or out except by stepping over us. Behind us were crowds of people with posters who were supporting us but who hadn’t chosen to risk arrest. In front of us, keeping us from getting any closer to the main entrance to the building, was a line of policemen, with a large formation of police behind them. All the police had large plastic masks tilted back on their heads and they were carrying long black clubs, about four feet long, like large baseball bats. Later the lawyers told us that city police regulations outlawed the use of batons that long.

But at first the relations with the police were almost friendly. We sat down impudently at the very feet of the policemen who were guarding the entrance, filling in the line that disappeared around the sides until someone came from the rear of the building and announced over a bullhorn, “The blockade is complete. We’ve surrounded the building!” There was a cheer from the crowd behind us, and more people joined us in sitting until the circle was two or three deep.

We expected them to start arresting us, but for a while the police did nothing. They could have manhandled a passage through the line and kept it open for employees to go in or out, but for some reason they didn’t. We thought maybe they really sympathized with our protest, and this was their way of joining in. As the morning wore on, people took apples and crackers and bottles of water out of their pockets and packs and shared them around, and they always offered some to the police standing in front of us. The police always refused, but they seemed to appreciate the offer.

Then one of the officers came over to Howard and said, “You’re Professor Zinn, aren’t you?” Howard said yes, and the officer reached down and shook his hand enthusiastically. He said, “I heard you lecture at the Police Academy. A lot of us here did. That was a wonderful lecture.” Howard had been asked to speak to them about the role of dissent and civil disobedience in American history. Several other policemen came over to pay their respects to Howard and thank him for his lecture. The mood seemed quite a bit different from Washington.

Then a line of employees emerged from the building, wearing coats and ties or dresses. Their arms were raised and they were holding cards in their raised hands. As they circled past us, they held out the cards so we could see what they were: ID cards, showing they were federal employees. They were making the peace sign with their other hands, they were circling around the building to show solidarity with what we were doing. Their spokesman said over a bullhorn, “We want this war to be over, too! Thank you for what you are doing! Keep it up.” Photographers, including police, were scrambling to take pictures of them, and some of them held up their ID cards so they would get in the picture. It was the high point of the day.

A little while after the employees had gone back inside the building, there was a sudden shift in the mood of the police. An order had been passed. The bloc of police in the center of the square got into tight formation and lowered their plastic helmets. The police standing right in front of us, over us, straightened up, adjusted their uniforms and lowered their masks. Apparently the time had come to start arrests. The supporters who didn’t want to be arrested fell back.

But there was no arrest warning. There was a whistle, and the line of police began inching forward, black batons raised upright. They were going to walk through us or over us, push us back. The man in front of us, who had been talking to Howard about his lecture a little earlier, muttered to us under his breath, “Leave! Now! Quick, get up.” He was warning, not menacing us.

Howard and I looked at each other. We’d come expecting to get arrested. It didn’t seem right to just get up and move because someone told us to, without arresting us. We stayed where we were. No one else left either. Boots were touching our shoes. The voice over our heads whispered intensely, “Move! Please. For God’s sake, move!” Knees in uniform pressed our knees. I saw a club coming down. I put my hands over my head, fists clenched, and a four-foot baton hit my wrist, hard. Another one hit my shoulder.

I rolled over, keeping my arms over my head, got up and moved back a few yards. Howard was being hauled off by several policemen. One had Howard’s arms pinned behind him, another had jerked his head back by the hair. Someone had ripped his shirt in two, there was blood on his bare chest. A moment before he had been sitting next to me, and I waited for someone to do the same to me, but no one did. I didn’t see anyone else getting arrested. But no one was sitting anymore, the line had been broken, disintegrated. Those who had been sitting hadn’t moved very far, they were standing like me a few yards back, looking around, holding themselves where they’d been clubbed. The police had stopped moving. They stood in a line, helmets still down, slapping their batons against their hands. Their adrenaline was still up, but they were standing in place.

Blood was running down my hand, covering the back of my hand. I was wearing a heavy watch, and it had taken the force of the blow. The baton had smashed the crystal and driven pieces of glass into my wrist. Blood was dripping off my fingers. Someone gave me a handkerchief to wrap around my wrist and told me to raise my arm. The handkerchief got soaked quickly and blood was running down my arm while I looked for a first-aid station that was supposed to be at the back of the crowd, in a corner of the square. I finally found it, and someone picked the glass out of my arm and put a thick bandage around it.

I went back to the protest. My shoulder was aching. The police were standing where they had stopped, and the blockade had reformed, people were sitting 10 yards back from where they had been before. There seemed to be more people sitting, not fewer. Many of the supporters had joined in. But it was quiet. No one was speaking loudly, no laughing. People were waiting for the police to move forward again. They weren’t expecting any longer to get arrested.

Only three or four people had been picked out of the line to be arrested before. The police had made a decision (it turned out) to arrest only the “leaders,” not to give us the publicity of arrests and trials. Howard hadn’t been an organizer of this action, he was just participating like the rest of us, but from the way they treated him when they pulled him out of the line, his comments directly to the police in the rally the day before must have rubbed someone the wrong way.

I found Roz Zinn, Howard’s wife, sitting in the line on the side at right angles to where Howard and I had been before. I sat down between her and their housemate, a woman her age. They had been in support before until they had seen what happened to Howard.

Looking at the police in formation, with their uniforms and clubs, guns on their hips, I felt naked. I knew that it was an illusion in combat to think you were protected because you were carrying a weapon, but it was an illusion that worked. For the first time, I was very conscious of being unarmed. At last, in my own country, I understood what a Vietnamese villager must have felt at what the Marines called a “county fair,” when the Marines rounded up everyone they could find in a hamlet—all women, children and old people never draft- or VC-age young men—to be questioned one at a time in a tent, meanwhile passing out candy to the kids and giving vaccinations. Winning hearts and minds, trying to recruit informers. No one among the villagers knowing what the soldiers, in their combat gear, would do next, or which of them might be detained.

We sat and talked and waited for the police to come again. They lowered their helmets and formed up. The two women I was with were both older than I was. I moved my body in front of them, to take the first blows. I felt a hand on my elbow. “Excuse me, I was sitting there,” the woman who shared the Zinns’ house said to me, with a cold look. She hadn’t come there that day and sat down, she told me later, to be protected by me. I apologized and scrambled back, behind them.

No one moved. The police didn’t move, either. They stood in formation facing us, plastic masks over their faces, for quite a while. But they didn’t come forward again. They had kept open a passage in front for the employees inside to leave after 5, and eventually the police left, and we left.

* * *

There was a happier story to tell, slightly more than one month later. On Saturday night, June 12, 1971, we had a date with Howard and Roz to see “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” in Harvard Square. But that morning I learned from someone at The New York Times that—without having alerted me—The Times was about to start publishing the top secret documents I had given them that evening. That meant I might get a visit from the FBI at any moment; and for once, I had copies of the papers in my apartment, because I planned to send them to Sen. Mike Gravel for his filibuster against the draft.

From “Secrets” (p. 386):

“I had to get the documents out of our apartment. I called the Zinns, who had been planning to come by our apartment later to join us for the movie, and asked if we could come by their place in Newton [Mass.] instead. I took the papers in a box in the trunk of our car. They weren’t the ideal people to avoid attracting the attention of the FBI. Howard had been in charge of managing antiwar activist Daniel Berrigan’s movements underground while he was eluding the FBI for months (so from that practical point of view he was an ideal person to hide something from them), and it could be assumed that his phone was tapped, even if he wasn’t under regular surveillance. However, I didn’t know whom else to turn to that Saturday afternoon. Anyway, I had given Howard a large section of the study already, to read as a historian; he’d kept it in his office at Boston University. As I expected, they said yes immediately. Howard helped me bring up the box from the car.

“We drove back to Harvard Square for the movie. The Zinns had never seen ‘Butch Cassidy’ before. It held up for all of us. Afterward we bought ice-cream cones at Brigham’s and went back to our apartment. Finally Howard and Roz went home before it was time for the early edition of the Sunday New York Times to arrive at the subway kiosk below the square. Around midnight Patricia and I went over to the square and bought a couple of copies. We came up the stairs into Harvard Square reading the front page, with the three-column story about the secret archive, feeling very good.”

Daniel Ellsberg
is a lecturer, writer and activist and the former American military analyst employed by the RAND Corporation who, in 1971, released the Pentagon Papers to The New York Times.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

America's Disappearing Babies

US babies mysteriously shrinking

* 16:15 26 January 2010 by Ewen Callaway

Birthweights in the US are falling but no one knows why, according to a study of 36.8 million infants born between 1990 and 2005.

A 52-gram drop in the weight of full-term singletons – from an average of 3.441 to 3.389 kilograms – has left Emily Oken's team at Harvard Medical School scratching their heads. It can't be accounted for by an increase in caesarean sections or induced labours, which shorten gestation. What's more, women in the US now smoke less and gain more weight during pregnancy, which should make babies heavier. Oken suggests that unmeasured factors, such as diet or exercise, could explain why babies are being born lighter.

"For your average baby, 50 grams probably makes no difference at all," she stresses. But those born substantially lighter could be at increased risk of heart disease and diabetes later in life.

Journal reference: Obstetrics & Gynecology, DOI: 10.1097/aog.0b013e3181cbd5f5

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Sunday, January 24, 2010

Haiti Waiting

Sunday, Jan 24 2010 9PM 2°C 12AM 2°C 5-Day Forecast
Aid piling up at UN's 'cold beer' compound as red tape keeps aid from desperate Haitians - while UN staff have wi-fi and a bar

By Caroline Graham
Last updated at 10:32 AM on 24th January 2010

It is a tale of two cities. One has ice-cold beers, internet access, thousands of men and billions of dollars’ worth of gleaming machinery, together with piles of food, blankets, generators and other aid relief from around the globe.

This is the heavily fortified US-controlled Port-au-Prince airport and neighbouring United Nations compound.

The other is the devastated city of Port-au-Prince, where the stench of death fills the air and starving people are in utter despair, still in need of the basic necessities of food, water, shelter and medical care.

Never, in more than 20 years of covering disasters, has the void between the might and power of the Westernised world and the penniless and pitiful people they have been mobilised to ‘save’ been so glaringly obvious to me.

Haiti earthquake - starving survivors reduced to eating grass The eyes of the world are on Haiti but at the epicentre of the earthquake that shattered her country, Anite Bertrand wonders why they cannot seem to see her.

By Nick Allen in Leogane
Published: 10:30PM GMT 23 Jan 2010

Anite Bertrand and her son Milky (pictured) who have so little food they have to survive on tree leaves at a ramshackle camp. Photo: Michael Dominic
Nearly two weeks after the devastation was unleashed, she has received no aid, her home is an open patch of grass under a tree, and her only food the leaves that fall from branches overhead.

"We have nothing so we pick up the leaves, boil them in water from the river and eat them," she says. "No-one has come to help us and we cannot live like this. It is not possible to live on leaves."

Yesterday the government of Haiti announced through the United Nations that the search and rescue phase of the relief effort was being formally scaled down, in order to concentrate on bringing food, water and medical help to the earthquake's survivors.

For those around Leogane, the dirt poor coastal farming town where the most powerful tremors were felt, such help is desperately needed. It is just 20 miles from the capital, Port au Prince. Yet like so many other corners of the earthquake zone - none of them far-flung - it has received only minimal assistance so far.

Mrs Bertrand's seven-year-old son Milky sat quietly nearby, his eyes wide with hunger, and an enormous right-angled gash on the top of his head, as she recalled the horrors of the previous 11 days.
US Forces in Haiti to Grow to 20,000

Army News — By American Forces Press Service on January 21, 2010 at 7:41 pm

WASHINGTON: Roughly 20,000 U.S. troops will be supporting relief efforts in Haiti by Jan. 24, military officials said, adding to the 13,000-strong American force currently there.

Comprising the force will be the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit, the 82nd Airborne Division's 2nd Brigade and thousands of other troops operating afloat off the Haitian coast and on shore, distributing provisions, assisting in medical operations and helping to maintain security. Some 2,200 Marines of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit are slated to arrive within 48 hours, military officials said.

"The 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit is a huge part of enabling us to extend our reach to places around the country that may need our assistance but we just haven't been there yet," Army Lt. Gen. P.K. Keen, the top U.S. commander in Haiti, said on The Pentagon Channel today.

The additional forces come as international aid continues pouring into Haiti following a magnitude 7 earthquake that struck Jan. 12, creating what an official called one of the greatest humanitarian emergencies in the history of the Americas.

Why Is The US Military Occupying Four Airports In Haiti?
By politicaltheatrics
Published: January 21, 2010

The United States is now operating at four airports to ferry aid and relief supplies to quake-devastated Haiti, a senior US military commander said Thursday.
In addition to the Caribbean nation’s main port of entry, Port-au- Prince airport, US forces were also now at work at airports in the coastal city of Jacmel.
They were also operating in the neighboring Dominican Republic at San Isidro and Barahona, US Southern Command chief General Douglas Fraser said.

Around 11,000 US military personnel are currently controlling the operations both on the ground and offshore aboard US Navy and Coast Guard vessels, and another 4,000 US troops are expected to arrive in the coming days.

The Americans’ controlling of the aid operations has raised tensions with some countries. Bolivia and Venezuela have criticized its heavy presence and France earlier expressed annoyance after aid planes were delayed from landing.

French Secretary of State for Cooperation Alain Joyandet called on the United Nations to clarify the US role in Haiti, saying the priority was “helping Haiti, not occupying Haiti.”

Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) has complained that five of its planes carrying a total of 85 tons of medical and relief supplies have been diverted from Port-au-Prince to the Dominican Republic since January 14, although one of its planes was allowed to land this week.
Soldiers in Haiti told to stop handing out food

By Jim Michaels - USA TODAY
Posted : Wednesday Jan 20, 2010 21:40:25 EST
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Food handouts were shut off Tuesday to thousands of people at a tent city here when the main U.S. aid agency said the Army should not be distributing the packages.

It was not known whether the action reflected a high-level policy decision at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) or confusion in a city where dozens of entities are involved in aid efforts.

“We are not supposed to get rations unless approved by AID,” Maj. Larry Jordan said.
Jordan said that approval was revoked; water was not included in the USAID decision, so the troops continued to hand out bottles of water. The State Department and USAID did not respond to requests for comment.

Jordan has been at the airport supervising distribution of individual food packages and bottled water since his arrival last week. Each package provides enough calories to sustain a person for a day.

The food is flown by helicopter to points throughout the capital and distributed by paratroopers of the 82nd Airborne Division. At the tent city, set up at a golf course, more than 10,000 people displaced by the Haitian earthquake lay under makeshift tents. Each day, hundreds of people, many young children, line up for a meal.

Tuesday morning, the helicopters came only with water. Soldiers carried boxes of water in the hot sun and supervised Haitian volunteers who handed the supplies out.