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The following is my latest piece for Al Jazeera:
On February 14, over 350 inmates at La Granja penitentiary in Comayagua, Honduras perished in a fire – the latest in a series of obstacles to existence among the Honduran prison population, which has over the years been subjected to various incinerations and massacres as well as to floodwaters from Hurricane Mitch.
On February 17, the prominent Honduran newspaper El Heraldo, mouthpiece of the elite and champion of the 2009 coup d’état against President Manuel Zelaya, announced that there were innumerable hypotheses as to the origins of the blaze, among them conspiracy theories and material worthy of “crime novels”. After reviewing such possibilities as that the “delinquents” had set the fire to facilitate a prison break or to register their distaste with a new law permitting the extradition of persons affiliated with organised crime, the author of the article observed:
“Meanwhile, extremist persons have dared to accuse the government of being behind events like Comayagua, with the aim of ‘eliminating’ ‘undesirable’ gang members. This group of people is referring to [the circumstances of] two prison fires in 2003 and 2004”. [quotation marks in original]
The following is my latest article for Al Jazeera:
Prior to his death in 2003, my grandfather – a former intelligence officer in the US military and a veteran of D-Day, Korea, and Vietnam – experienced regular flashbacks to his bellicose career.
These manifested themselves in various ways, such as via his suspicion that the other inhabitants of his assisted-living facility were using their oxygen tanks for communist purposes. In other cases, the ideological foundations of perceived threats were less readily detectable, and he exhibited intermittent concern about potential plots being concocted by the Mexican Air Force.
Another recurring fear was that of being dropped from a helicopter by ex-Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega, who had in his pre-dictatorial incarnation as director of military intelligence under Omar Torrijos been a frequent visitor to my grandfather, himself the director of intelligence from 1971-76 for the US Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), then headquartered in the Panama Canal Zone. The visits often took place in the “Tunnel”, the local US nuclear bunker at Ancon Hill, which was equipped with numerous amenities useful in the event of Armageddon, such as air conditioning, a church, and an SUV-sized paper shredder.
Though accused by some of orchestrating Torrijos’ death in a plane crash, Noriega was not known for dropping human beings from aircraft into bodies of water – the practice of which art was generally restricted to US-backed dictators in the Southern Cone and was concurrent with the curriculum of the US-run School of the Americas, also located in the Canal Zone. According to my grandfather, however, Noriega dabbled in the application of such techniques as well, capitalising on the convenient proximity of the Bay of Panama prior to being deposed by the US invasion of 1989.
The following is my latest piece for Al Jazeera:
In early July, the US Congressional Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence held a hearing entitled “Hezbollah in Latin America – Implications for US Homeland Security“.
The line-up of witnesses consisted of Roger Noriega, visiting fellow at the neoconservative American Enterprise Institute; Douglas Farah, senior fellow at the International Assessment and Strategy Center; Ilan Berman, vice president of the American Foreign Policy Council and journal editor for the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs; and Brown University professor Dr. Melani Cammett, the only testifier who bothered to provide an accurate history of Hezbollah and to refrain from referring to the Lebanese political party and resistance movement as a terrorist organisation directed by Iran.
Cammett’s co-witnesses more than made up for her dearth of creativity. Given the quality of what is consistently allowed to pass as evidence of the threat posed to the US by the supposed love affair between Iran and leftist Latin American regimes, it is perhaps only surprising that the first three expert-propagandists did not invoke Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s joke in the Oliver Stone documentary “South of the Border” – in reference to a corn-processing facility – that, “This is where we build the Iranian atomic bomb.”
Stripped of its facetious intent, the comment would have proved an able companion to the clique’s existing arsenal of justifications for increased US militarisation of Latin America as well as potential military manoeuvrings against Iran.
For those who may not be aware, Roger Noriega is the head of an Al Qaeda cell in Washington, D.C., and moonlights as the subcommander of the 17th front of the FARC. A member of Evo Morales’ network of secret boyfriends, Noriega orchestrated the 2004 school siege in Beslan and was once sighted at the helm of a Somali pirate ship. Obviously, he is also simultaneously the cousin and brother of former Panamanian dictator and drug trafficker extraordinaire Manuel Noriega.
Okay, none of the above is true. Roger Noriega is merely a former USAID satrap, former U.S. Ambassador to the Organization of American States, and former Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs who has participated in diplomatic endeavors ranging from Iran-Contra to the 2004 coup against Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Currently a visiting fellow at the neoconservative American Enterprise Institute and managing director of the Visión Américas lobbying firm, he regularly churns out fear-mongering Cold War-worthy dispatches on Latin America that contain approximately as much truth—and intrigue—as the previous paragraph.
Noriega’s latest alert regarding terroristic narco-communism, entitled “Honduran Leader’s Secret Pact with Hugo Chávez”, appears on FoxNews.com and a number of compatible venues. Amusingly, the Americas Forum has misidentified the secretive Honduran leader in its website reproduction of the article under the title “Honduras: Mel Zelaya’s Secret Pact with Hugo Chavez”.
In response to the ongoing teachers’ strike in Honduras, the demands of which include an end to the privatization of public education, the illegitimate Honduran government that came to power following the 2009 coup against President Mel Zelaya has declared the strike illegal, threatened to fire striking teachers and to possibly dissolve teachers’ unions.
In typical fashion, the obsequious Honduran media has been trotting out propaganda headlines, such as today’s top news in El Heraldo: “Counterfeit dollars financing teacher protests.” In the body of the article, we of course discover that the possibility that fake money is arriving from abroad to fuel the strike is merely (supposedly) being investigated by authorities.
Defense Minister Marlon Pascua is quoted as saying:
I can’t definitively point to a specific country, but you all can imagine who might be interested in financing these kinds of operations in Honduras in order to sow unrest and anxiety.”
For the benefit of the unimaginative, El Heraldo subtly specifies that Pascua “did not dare confirm whether he was talking about Venezuela or [other] UNASUR countries.”
During a visit to Nicaragua not so long ago, I spent a good deal of time speaking with a former Sandinista fighter, now a bank security guard in the town of San Juan del Sur, who was disillusioned with Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega and what he referred to as Ortega’s abandonment of Sandinista revolutionary ideals.
It was as if, the security guard said, the dead no longer mattered when one was in power.
The death toll of over one thousand in Libya has provided the Nicaraguan leader with a second opportunity for revolutionary abandonment, and Nicaragua’s opposition daily La Prensa reports Ortega’s affirmation of total solidarity with Muammar Gaddafi at the United Nations yesterday.
According to the paper, Ortega condemned “speculation by western media, which through exaggerated and contradictory news reports incite violence and [set the stage for] foreign intervention” (see Fidel Castro’s warning of an impending NATO invasion of Libya). (more…)
A recent FoxNews.com dispatch from the “America’s Third War” series—this one entitled “Fighting Drug Cartels in Guatemala” (read: “Encouraging Drug Cartels in Guatemala Such That They Might Then Be Fought”)—ends on a warning note underscoring how America’s Third War is intimately linked to the first two:
U.S. officials who specialize in counter-narcotics worry that Al Qaeda will soon realize the porous nature of the Central American-U.S. corridor”.
My question is: when?
Is Al Qaeda oblivious to the U.S. news? For how many years must the media hype this threat before it registers?
It has already been proven that Islamic extremists are compatible with Latin American socialists, drug cartels, and other excuses for U.S. militarization. Former U.S. Marine Corps officer Oliver North confirmed in a 2006 FoxNews.com column entitled “Back Door to Terror”:
Since 9-11-01, Americans living along the U.S.-Mexican border have been warning that our porous frontier is a back door for terrorist entry into this country”.