‘9/11 conspiracy questions’: a response to Dr. Dave Baxter

On 14 September 2006 I delivered a public lecture at the University of Guelph, entitled “Manufacturing Terror: 9/11 and the Toronto 17.” A sneering and dismissive assessment of the lecture, or at least of that part of it relating to the events of September 11, 2001, promptly appeared in the campus student newspaper, The Ontarion. Although the letter's author purported to be a member of the university community, no person of that name seems to have been attached to any academic or administrative unit of the University of Guelph; 'Dr. Dave Baxter' may then have been a pseudonym. My response appeared in the Letters column of the next issue of The Ontarion.

An ill-tempered diatribe by Dr. Dave Baxter which appeared among last week’s Letters to the Editor leaves one wondering whether its author is trying harder to expose himself as rude, as ignorant, or as just plain silly.

Dr. Baxter tells us that philosophers and historians, unlike the practitioners of such apparently despised fields “as computer science, engineering and […] English literature,” are “specifically trained to analyze the logical and rational basis of evidentiary events,” and are thus uniquely qualified to make sense of the events of September 11, 2001.

Baxter must have received his own intellectual formation in some other discipline—telepathy perhaps, or judicial astrology—since although he declares himself “sorry to have missed” my public lecture of September 14th, he is nonetheless able to describe its contents as “wildly irresponsible,” as “intellectual hogwash,” and as “anemic posturing.”

Baxter is confident that “no recognized philosopher or historian” can be found among 9/11 skeptics. I’m not going to descend with him into a contest of making idiotic lists of names: if he possessed any serious understanding of either of the disciplines he professes to admire, he would know that arguments from authority haven’t swung much weight among philosophers since the early seventeenth century at least, and that reputable historians have always settled their disputes not by citing big names, or for that matter by pasting cheap polemical labels on one another’s work, but rather through scrupulous critical analyses of the available evidence.

Dr. Baxter wonders what “actual substantive evidence” I might have to support my opinion that 9/11 was an inside job. I’m afraid his rudeness rather takes the edge off any desire I might otherwise have had to educate the man. If he really wants to know, he’ll have to keep an eye out for my next public lecture or essay on the subject. In the mean time, he’ll get much fuller satisfaction from the writings of Michel Chossudovsky, Paul Thompson, David Ray Griffin, Nafeez Mossadeq Ahmed, Michael Ruppert, and Steven Jones which I recommended to my audience on September 14th.

Dr. Baxter might also want to cure himself of what could otherwise become a habit of making misleading appeals to authority. It really won’t do to shut people up by quoting (wholly out of context) the words of Ludwig Wittgenstein: “What we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence.” Those of us who have read more than just the concluding sentence of Wittgenstein’s Tractatus might think his words in proposition 6.5 of that text more relevant: “If a question can be framed at all, it is also possible to answer it.”

The question of whether 9/11 was an instance of US government-organized false-flag terrorism has indeed been framed, and it has been answered as well. As I made abundantly clear to my audience on September 14th, I would like my own answer—and all of the others as well—to be treated not with uncritical credulity but with cautious skepticism. Many of the relevant facts—those relating, for example, to military exercises that disabled the US air defenses on 9/11, to the stated geopolitical motives of the governing elite, and to government cover-ups, disinformation, and destruction of evidence—are securely established and uncontroversial. Other issues, such as the causes of the collapses of three steel-frame skyscrapers in the World Trade Center, are still disputed—and although to my mind the testimonial, photographic, and materials-science evidence of planned demolition is unambiguous, a range of interpretations remains possible.

As Dr. Dave Baxter ought to know, these are issues that scholars and scientists who make any claim to intellectual integrity will seek to resolve through critical inquiry, scientific analysis and scrupulous debate, rather than through vacuous rhetoric, name-calling, and bullying.

Michael Keefer
Professor, School of English and Theatre Studies

The 2006 U.S. Midterms: Another Stolen Election?

First published at the Centre for Research on Globalization (4 November 2006), http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-2006-u-s-midterms-another-stolen-election/3700. Reproduced online at nine other websites.


During the lead-up to the November 7th midterm congressional election, the Republican Party has appeared to be in serious trouble. George W. Bush’s approval ratings have been so consistently low (they’re currently hovering around the mid-30s) that most Republican candidates for seats in the Senate and the House of Representatives have been about as eager to be seen in his company as to fall into the embrace of a carrier of bubonic plague. The Democrats have led by growing margins in every one of the 110 generic opinion polls taken since September 2005, and currently hold a more than 14 percent lead over the Republicans in the “5-poll moving average” used by pollsters as the most reliable guide to trends in public opinion.1

On the reasonable assumption that the Democrats could expect to receive 60 percent of the undecided vote, the noted polling and exit-poll analyst who posts at the Progressive Independent website under the name ‘TruthIsAll’ has calculated their average anticipated share of the November 7th vote, as of October 28th, to be 57.8 percent. He estimates that in an election free from fraud, there is a 97.5 percent probability that Democratic candidates should garner, on average, more that 56.4 percent of the votes cast. Even if the Democrats were to win only half of the undecided vote, they would quite certainly—in a fraud-free election—recover control of the House of Representatives, gaining at least 25 seats. Whether or not they win control of the Senate as well would depend—again assuming a clean election—upon the share of the undecided vote that they receive: the probability that with two-thirds of the undecided vote the Democrats would win control of the Senate is calculated by ‘TruthIsAll’ as 78 percent.2

But it might be premature to get excited over the prospect of the United States ceasing to be a one-party state. For if the Republican party is in trouble with the electorate, American democracy is in a much more parlous condition—thanks largely to the devious machinations of the Bush Republicans. Given the accumulating evidence of large-scale and systematic preparations by the Republicans and their corporate allies for suppression of the Democratic vote, for mis- or non-counting of the vote in Democratic strongholds, and for an unprecedented level of electronic vote-tabulation fraud, the likelihood of these midterm elections being clean is approximately zero.

In the 2000 election, it was only through a combination of Jim Crow vote suppression tactics and a rich array of different methods of vote-count fraud that George W. Bush was able to arrive at a point at which his father’s Supreme Court appointees could push through what has been appropriately described as a judicial coup d’état. His party won control of the Senate in 2002 through what was almost certainly vote-tabulation fraud.3 The 2004 presidential election was marked by fraud on a gigantic scale, not just in Ohio, which ended up being the deciding state, but in many other states as well: by January 2005 there was compelling evidence to show that had the votes been honestly counted, John Kerry would have defeated Bush by a commanding margin.4

My purpose here is not to review yet again the evidence on which these observations are based, but rather to provide a very selective list of recent books, articles and documentary films which assess and analyze the evidence of flagrant Republican breaches of the most fundamental principles of democracy, together with the prospects for a repetition and extension of these fraudulent practices in the 2006 and subsequent elections.

These items are divided into three categories. The first category, “Critical Studies,” includes exemplary work by Steven Freeman (the book he co-authored with Joel Bleifuss is, in my opinion, the single most important of these studies), as well as work by other major contributors to an emerging understanding of the theft of the 2004 election.

In the second section I have listed films, including one by the prize-winning director Dorothy Fadiman, which bring together documentary footage and illuminating interviews with election analysts.

And finally, the short list of items anticipating Republican fraud in the midterm election offers a representative cross-section of current concerns—including evidence of further massive purges of voters’ lists, and evidence from unimpeachable sources that the touch-screen machines manufactured by two of the major suppliers of voting machines, Diebold and Sequoia, have been designed to facilitate electoral fraud.

It’s worth noting, by way of coda, that these skewed machines were hard at work well before election day. According to a report published in the Miami Herald on October 28th, voting machines in Democratic-leaning Broward and Miami-Dade counties in southern Florida had already during the preceding week been detected flipping the choices of early voters from Democratic candidates to Republicans. The problem, as the corporate press likes to insist, must be understood as one of “glitches”—or, more strangely, of a kind of computer fatigue that supposedly induces the video screen “on heavily used machines to slip out of sync” with “the electronics inside.”

Only “conspiracy theorists” or voters rendered “particularly skittish” by “a history of problems at the polls”5 would want to go so far as to suspect that electronic voting machines made by Republican-leaning corporations might be inclined to behave in this way, not because they’re tired or having bad hair days or hissy fits, but because they’ve been programmed to do so.

1. Critical Studies

Baiman, Ron, Kathy Dopp et al. “The Gun is Smoking: 2004 Ohio Precinct-Level Exit Poll Data Show Virtually Irrefutable Evidence of Vote Miscount.” US Count Votes / National Election Data Archive (17 January 2006, revised 23 January 2006), http://www.electionarchive.org/ucvAnalysis/OH/Ohio-Exit-Polls-2004.pdf.

DeLozier, Abbe Waldman, and Vickie Karp, eds. Hacked! High Tech Election Theft in America. Austin, Texas: Truth Enterprises, 2006.

Fitrakis, Bob, and Harvey Wasserman. How the GOP Stole America’s 2004 Election & Is Rigging 2008. Columbus, Ohio: CICJ Books / www.Freepress.org, 2006.

—-, eds. What Happened in Ohio. Columbus, Ohio: CICJ Books / www.Freepress.org, 2006.

Fitrakis, Bob, Steve Rosenfeld and Harvey Wasserman, eds. Did George W. Bush Steal America’s 2004 Election? Essential Documents. Columbus, Ohio: CICJ Books / www.Freepress.org, 2006.

Freeman, Steven F., and Joel Bleifuss. Was the 2004 Presidential Election Stolen? New York: Seven Stories Press, 2006.

Freeman, Steven F. “Who Really Won—and Lost—the 2004 US Presidential Election?” 61st Annual Conference of the American Association for Public Opinion Research, Montréal, 19 May 2006. http://www.appliedresearch.us/sf/Documents/AAPOR060519.pdf.

—-. “Illegitimate election. A key source for Robert F. Kennedy Jr. responds to criticism of his analysis of the 2004 election.” Salon.com (12 June 2006), http://www.salon.com/opinion/feature/2006/06/12/freeman/print.html.

Kennedy, Robert F., Jr. “Was the 2004 Election Stolen?” Rolling Stone (June 2006), http://www.rollingstone.com/news/story/10432334/was_the_2004_election_stolen/Print.

—-. “Will the Next Election Be Hacked?” Rolling Stone (October 2006), http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/story/11717105/robert_f_kennedy_jr_will_the_next_election_be_hacked/print.

Miller, Mark Crispin. Fooled Again: How the Right Stole the 2004 Election & Why They’ll Steal the Next One Too (Unless We Stop Them). New York: Basic Books, 2005.

Palast, Greg. The Best Democracy Money Can Buy. 2nd ed.; New York: Plume, 2004.

—-. Armed Madhouse: Who’s Afraid of Osama Wolf?, China Floats, Bush Sinks, The Scheme to Steal ’08, No Child’s Behind Left, and Other Dispatches from the Front Lines of the Class War. New York: Dutton, 2006.

—-. “Greg Palast Uncovers the ‘Armed Madhouse’ of the Bush Reign of Greed, Fear and Stolen Elections.” A Buzzflash Interview. Buzzflash.com (13 June 2006),http://www.buzzflash.com/interviews/06/06/int06022.html.

Peckarsky, Peter, Ron Baiman, and Robert Fitrakis. “Official States Electronic Voting System Added Votes Never Cast In 2004 Presidential Election: Audit Log Missing.” The Free Press (1 November 2006), http://www.freepress.org/images/departments/2209.pdf.

‘TruthIsAll’. TruthIsAll. The Unanswered Question: Who Really Won in 2004? With an Introduction by Democratic Underground Poster Autorank. http://www.truthisall.net.

2. Documentary Films

Unprecedented: the 2000 Presidential Election. Directed by Richard Ray Pérez and Joan Sekler. http://www.unprecedented.org/UnprecedentedFirstPage.html.

Hacking Democracy. Directed by Simon Ardizzone and Russell Michaels. HBO Documentary Films. http://www.hbo.com/docs/programs/hackingdemocracy/index,html.

Eternal Vigilance: The Fight to Save Our Election System. Directed by David Earnhardt. http://eternalvigilance.us/index.html.

Stealing America: Vote by Vote. Directed by Dorothy Fadiman. http://stealingamerica.org/screenings.html.

Invisible Ballots: A Temptation for Electronic Vote Fraud. Directed by William Gazecki. http://www.realityzone.com/ballots.html.

American Blackout. Directed by Ian Inaba. http://theconnextion.com/american_index.cfm?ArtistID=400.

No Umbrella: Election Day in the City. Directed by Laura Paglin. http://www.noumbrella.org/index.htm.

3. The Next Stolen Election?

Feldman, Ariel J., J. Alex Halderman, and Edward W. Felten. “Security Analysis of the Diebold AccuVote-TS Voting Machine.” Center for Information Technology Policy and Dept. of Computer Science, Princeton University (13 September 2006), http://itpolicy.princeton.edu/voting/ts-paper.pdf.

Fitrakis, Bob, and Harvey Wasserman. “A Loaves & Fishes / Holy Ghost Victory for the GOP in November?” Common Dreams News Center (18 October 2006), http://www.commondreams.org/views06/1018-26.htm.

—-. “Will a shocking new court victory and Karl Rove’s attack on Ohio doom the Democrats nationwide?” The Free Press (2 November 2006); reproduced online at the Centre for Research on Globalization, http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=viewArticle&code=FIT20061102&articleid=3681.

Friedman, Brad. “HERE WE GO AGAIN: ‘Just Push the Yellow Button and Vote as Many Times as You Want’ on Sequoia Touch-Screen Voting Machines!” The Brad Blog (2 November 2006), http://www.bradblog.com/?p=3714.

Harris, Bev. “10-31-06: Reports from the front line… Anyone who can get at the yellow button can ruin the election. It takes no password, no computer knowledge, no equipment.” BlackBoxVoting.org (31 October 2006), http://www.bbvforums.org/cgi-bin/forums/board-auth.cgi?file=/1954/44823.html.

Jones, Doug. Voting and Elections. http://www.cs.uiowa.edu/%7Ejones/voting/.

Kuttner, Robert. “Hampering the Vote.” The Boston Globe (28 October 2006); reproduced online byCommon Dreams News Center (29 October 2006), http://www.commondreams.org/views06/1028-20.htm.

Miller, Mark Crispin. “Our Rigged Elections, Part I: The Elephant in the Polling Booth.” The Washington Spectator (1 October 2006); reproduced online at Truthout.org, http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/101906O.shtml.

—-. “Our Rigged Elections, Part II: The GOP Playbook: How to steal the vote.” The Washington Spectator (15 October 2006); reproduced online at Truthout.org,http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/101906O.shtml.

Solar Bus Election Justice Center. http://election.solarbus.org.

Stokes, Jon “Hannibal”. “How to steal an election by hacking the vote.” Arstechnica.com (25 October 2006), http://arstechnica.com/articles/culture/evoting.ars.

Warren, Kenneth F., and Steve Freeman. “Instructions for Conducting an Election Verification Exit Poll.” ElectionIntegrity.org (29 October 2006), http://www.electionintegrity.org/Do_Your_Own_Exit_Poll.pdf.



1  See ‘TruthIsAll’, “Quantifying the Risk: 2006 Polling Analysis (10/28 Update),” Progressive Independent (28 October 2006), http://www.progressiveindependent.com/dc/dcboard.php?az=show_topicv&forum=120&topic_id=3264.

2  Ibid.

3  One of the more notorious Senate upsets in 2002, Max Cleland’s defeat in Georgia by the chicken-hawk Republican Saxby Chambliss, appeared at the time to be highly suspect. Pre-election polls gave Cleland a 5 percent lead, but Chambliss won by 7 percent in an election that was entirely conducted by Diebold Corporation. In the more recent of his two articles cited below, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. provides evidence from a Diebold insider that immediately prior to the election Diebold’s CEO illegally altered the software in the touch-screen machines which counted the votes.

4  I summarized much of this evidence in my article “The Strange Death of American Democracy: Endgame in Ohio,” Centre for Research on Globalization (24 January 2005), http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=viewArticle&code=KEE20050124&articleid=389. (The opening section of that article contains two small errors: the Scioto Country Club at which Kenneth Blackwell spoke is in Columbus, Ohio, not in Scioto County; and Congressman King’s indiscretion dates not from the day of the election, but from a White House barbecue in 2003—a fact that makes it if anything more incriminating.)

5  Charles Rabin and Darran Simon, “Glitches cited in early voting,” The Miami Herald (28 October 2006), http://www.miami.com/mid/miamiherald/news/state/15869924.htm.

Into the Ring with CounterPunch on 9/11: How Alexander Cockburn, Otherwise So Bright, Blanks Out on 9/11 Evidence

Into the Ring with CounterPunch on 9/11: How Alexander Cockburn, Otherwise So Bright, Blanks Out on 9/11 Evidence

Why have otherwise admirable leftist journalists like Cockburn, Frank, and Johnstone been so strangely averse to attending to the evidence about 9/11 alluded to above? One reason may be that even the hypothesis of state complicity in the events of 9/11 entails confronting the possibility that we are living through a moment of major historical transformation and discontinuity.

Read More

Anatomy of a Hatchet Job: CBC Radio’s “The Current” and Scholars for 9/11 Truth

First published at the Centre for Research on Globalization (29 August 2006), as “Media Disinformation on 911: Anatomy of a Hatchet Job: CBC Radio's “The Current” and Scholars for 9/11 Truth,” http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=viewArticle&code=KEE20060829&articleid=30; also published online at ten other websites in 2006.


Most of us, I would guess, are well aware of the constructed nature of the news and news commentaries fed to us daily by the corporate or “mainstream” media. We’re not surprised to find, in those cases where we have managed to obtain independent knowledge of a subject, that mainstream news stories are often only tenuously connected to what appears to have been the actual series of events. And we’re coming to expect, on the part of the people who construct these news stories and tell us how to interpret them, an increasingly slender respect for such archaic notions as truth, rudimentary ethics, and intellectual integrity.

As Arundhati Roy puts it, “In the ‘free’ market, free speech has become a commodity like everything else—justice, human rights, drinking water, clean air. It’s available only to those who can afford it. And naturally, those who can afford it use free speech to manufacture the kind of product, confect the kind of public opinion, that best suits their purpose.”1

Critical understanding of this kind has been assisted by the spectacular deconstruction in recent years of a whole series of major news stories, which have noisily disintegrated before our eyes—rather in the manner of those self-destructing public sculptures which enjoyed a brief vogue in the latter part of the twentieth century. When those Rube-Goldberg or Heath-Robbins-ish artifacts were exhibited by their creators, they clanked, grunted, heaved, threw off sparks, set themselves on fire, and eventually collapsed into smoking heaps of cogs, wires, pulleys and girders before appreciative audiences of avant-garde cognoscenti.

That’s much what happened in 2003 and since to the corporate media’s narratives about Saddam Hussein’s fearsome weapons of mass destruction, about the supposed reluctance of Bush and Blair to go to war in Iraq, and their supposedly pure and democratic motives when they did. That’s much what’s happening now to the claims advanced by Israel to legitimize its renewed aggressions against the Palestinians and Lebanese. (Hizbollah’s “kidnapping” of two Israeli soldiers rather loses its steam as a casus belli once people learn about Israel’s prior provocations—and about the fact that all the early Israeli statements and press reports identified the soldiers as having been on Lebanese soil when they were captured.)2 It’s happening as well to two somewhat more complex stories that have, until recently, been managing to sustain themselves in the corporate media.

One of these is the story that George W. Bush actually won the 2004 presidential election, and hence has some right to the office he continues to occupy.3 The other is the no less fraudulent story that the terrorist crimes of September 11, 2001 were perpetrated by a gang of Islamist fanatics led by a bearded Saudi in an Afghan cave—rather than being organized (and subsequently covered up) by civilian and military officials at the highest levels of the Bush regime.

Even if the general pattern is well known, one small further example of how the mainstream media typically operate may still be of some interest—not least because it provides an indication of the degree to which publicly-owned broadcasters have been swayed in the same direction as the rest of the corporate media by the often unsubtle pressures exerted on them by corporatist politicians. In the present case, the immediate operators are functionaries within the radio division of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, which as a publicly owned broadcaster provides news that is still in some respects distinguishable from the offerings of the privately-owned media. But savage government cuts followed by internal reorganizations have effectively lobotomized much of CBC Radio’s public affairs programming.

It would seem that the recent and ongoing public disintegration of the 9/11 story has been a matter of concern to CBC functionaries. Existing demolitions of the official 9/11 narrative have gained added weight in recent months from the public interventions of Professors James Fetzer and Steven Jones, co-founders of Scholars for 9/11 Truth, who together with other distinguished scholars and scientists who have joined this group, notably the theologian David Ray Griffin, have been publishing scrupulously researched studies of the 9/11 evidence—and have as well been making increasingly high-profile media appearances across the U.S.

Why should this concern the CBC? Because together with the rest of the Canadian mainstream media, the CBC has taken on the task of swinging Canadian public opinion into support for Canada’s increasingly aggressive participation in the occupation of Afghanistan—a country that was bombed, invaded, and occupied by the United States in 2001 as punishment for giving refuge to Osama bin Laden, the man accused of masterminding the atrocities of 9/11. Obviously enough, if the real organizers of the 9/11 attacks were in fact senior officials of the U.S. government, then that opinion-molding project collapses into rubble.


CBC Radio’s “The Current”

When I learned on August 17, 2006 that “The Current,” CBC Radio’s leading weekday public affairs program, intended to devote a major part of its time on the following day to “conspiracy theory” and the Scholars for 9/11 Truth, I emailed Anna Maria Tremonti, the program’s host. Indicating my own awareness of “the converging conclusions both of many citizen-activists and of researchers from disciplines including mechanical engineering, physics, philosophy, and economics that the attacks of 9/11 were an inside job,” I expressed hope that the program “[would] be treating scholarly investigative research into this subject with the seriousness it deserves.”

I said that I assumed “The Current” would be interviewing one or the other of the co-founders of Scholars for 9/11 Truth, James Fetzer, McKnight University Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at the University of Minnesota, and Steven Jones, Professor of Physics at Brigham Young University. I noted that this group has some Canadian members (myself among them). And I ventured to add my opinion that “‘conspiracy theory’ is in most of its applications a foolish term, which serves primarily to obstruct critical and scientific rationality”; a more helpful term, I said, might be “‘deception theory’—a notion whose roots in Western philosophical and literary culture go back to Plato and to early humanist textual criticism.”

Fishing for an interview? I think not: the program’s contents must long since have been finalized, and I don’t much like stints on radio or television.4 More probably, the teacher in me was working overtime. When one has devoted long hours to critically analyzing a subject, it’s hard to resist passing on some of what one knows.

On the afternoon of August 18, I received a boiler-plate response from Lisa Ayuso at “The Current.” Thanking me for sharing my thoughts on their programming, she informed me that they had interviewed Mark Fenster, provided the website address for the program’s “showlog,” and assured me that my comments would be forwarded “to the staff for their perusal.”

By the time I received this message, I’d already listened to the audio stream of the August 18th edition of “The Current” on the CBC’s website. The entire segment on 9/11 and “conspiracy theory” consisted of a single long interview with an academic whose work in the field of cultural studies I respect—but who was at once arrogantly dismissive of the Scholars for 9/11 Truth and quite astonishingly underinformed about the state of research into the events of 9/11. Since the staff at “The Current” were so amiably willing to peruse the opinions of their listeners, I thought I’d give them something more substantial to chew on. Here’s the text of my second missive, emailed on the evening of August 18.


A second letter to “The Current”

Dear Lisa Ayuso,

Thank you for your response.

I was able to catch Susan Ormiston’s interview with Professor Mark Fenster of the University of Florida this-morning, though only on the audio stream provided by your website—which tantalizingly omitted a couple of segments, making it impossible to guess what the debate involving a member of Scholars for 9/11 Truth that Ormiston and Fenster commented on might have consisted of.

I know Mark Fenster’s book Conspiracy Theory (University of Minnesota Press, 1999): it’s an excellent piece of work, full of fine analyses of what Richard Hofstadter famously called “the paranoid style in American politics.” Fenster has illuminating things to say about subjects like The X-Files, the militia movement, Christofascist apocalyptic thought, and appalling conspiracy fictions like The Turner Diaries. As one might expect of someone with a Ph.D. in communications, he’s well up on contemporary literary and cultural theory, and deploys it interestingly.

But I can’t help wondering why Professor Fenster thought himself qualified to comment on current historical and materials-science research into the events of September 11, 2001, and why he thought it appropriate to conflate this kind of research with the popular-culture paranoia on which he is indeed an expert.

Fenster himself made a point of raising the issue of scholarly credentials when he said of the Scholars for 9/11 Truth that “Their credentials are not quite at the level that one would expect for the sort of blue-ribbon panel—.” Starting his thought afresh, he continued, “And frequently they have expertise, but not necessarily in the areas in which they’re making arguments and making claims.”

Let’s follow up that thought. Fenster advanced some fairly strong claims in the course of his interview—not least in identifying the Scholars for 9/11 Truth as “conspiracy theorists.” As he knows, this is both a disabling rhetorical move and an insult. (In the introduction to his book Conspiracy Theory, he observed that in political discussion, “one can hurl no greater insult than to describe another’s positions as the product of a ‘conspiracy theory’.”)

Fenster somehow knows, then, that the analyses by credentialed physicists and mechanical engineers of the collapses of the Twin Towers and of WTC 7 that have been published on the website of the Scholars for 9/11 Truth (www.st911.org) and in the Journal of 9/11 Studies are rubbish—on a level, one must presume, with crackpot speculations about the Illuminati, or antisemitic fantasies about the ZOG’s black helicopters. And Fenster knows this even though some of these scientists’ 9/11 analyses have been peer-reviewed or refereed—which means that their evidence and arguments have been critically assessed and approved by other scientists and scholars with appropriate expertise.

On the basis of what expertise, I wonder, does Fenster arrive at a conclusion at once so definitive and so insulting?

I wouldn’t guess that he knows much himself about physics, or chemistry, or mechanical engineering. (In remarking on the debate over planned demolition involving an unnamed member of Scholars for 9/11 Truth, Fenster seemed to think that the presence of sulphur compounds in the ruins went against the evidence for demolition: sulphidation and intergranular eutectic melting of structural steel are actually signatures of thermate, which there are other reasons as well to think was used in the demolition of the World Trade Center towers).

Moreover, during his interview Fenster made it very clear that he also knows next to nothing about published research into the material and historical evidence we possess of the events of 9/11. He stated at one point that there was an interesting delay between those events and the point at which “conspiracy theory” interpretations of them began to appear: “the lag was about four to five years,” he said, adding that only after the 2004 U.S. election did conspiratorial interpretations of 9/11 begin to be produced.

Setting aside Professor Fenster’s difficulties with arithmetic (from September 11, 2001 to November 2nd, 2004 is actually just three years and a bit), what he was confessing here—though Susan Ormiston wasn’t up to noticing the fact—is that he’s been asleep at the wheel.

Here are just a few of the critical studies—all of them published prior to the 2004 election, and dealing partly or in whole with 9/11—that Fenster managed not to notice, and has presumably still not got around to reading:

Michel Chossudovsky, War and Globalisation: The Truth Behind September 11 (2002). 
John McMurtry, Value Wars: The Global Market Versus the Life Economy (2002). 
Eric Hufschmid, Painful Questions: An Analysis of the September 11th Attack (2002). 
Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed, The War on Freedom: How and Why America was Attacked, September 11, 2001 (2002).
------, Behind the War on Terror: Western Secret Strategy and the Struggle for Iraq (2003). 
David Ray Griffin, The New Pearl Harbor: Disturbing Questions about the Bush Administration and 9/11 (2004). 
Michael C. Ruppert, Crossing the Rubicon: The Decline of the American Empire at the End of the Age of Oil (2004).

To these one might add Paul Thompson’s 9/11 Timeline, an analytic compilation based wholly on material published in the mainstream media which has been available online, in ever-expanding versions, since 2002, and was recently published in book form.

Fenster might well not agree with some of the interpretations advanced by these writers (Professor McMurtry, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and internationally recognized philosopher, and Professor Griffin, an equally distinguished scholar who has published some two dozen books, are both members of the despised Scholars for 9/11 Truth, and therefore mere conspiracy theorists). But he might find it instructive to engage with the historical evidence—matters of undisputed public record—that are assembled and reflected on in these and other more recent studies of the 9/11 events and their aftermath.

Let me conclude with two suggestions.

I would propose, as a matter of caution if not of intellectual principle, that Professor Fenster make some effort to inform himself about the subject under discussion before he next chooses to make a fool of himself on Canadian national radio.

And I would suggest that the producers of “The Current” try to remember the CBC’s distinguished past as a public and public-interest broadcaster. The network’s reputation is not well served by programs which are so transparently designed to present one opinion only—and that opinion a singularly ill-informed one—on matters of major public and historical interest.

Yours sincerely,…


By way of coda…

Thinking on the evening of August 18 that my correspondence with “The Current” might be of interest to James Fetzer and Steven Jones, I forwarded them a copy of it—and heard back from Professor Fetzer almost at once.

“This is very interesting,” he wrote. “‘The Current’ interviewed me (taped in advance) on Wednesday, 2 August”—for a program that “was supposed to be broadcast on Friday, 4 August, but was ‘bumped’ because of the new ‘terrorist ring’ break-up. I was told they would reschedule and let me know when it would run.”

Fetzer thought this interview had gone very well—in part, he said, because he “took the host’s questions apart.” (For samples of Fetzer’s polite but formidable command of the facts, and of his astute explanations of the appropriate protocols of interpretation, see the links to his recent interviews with various U.S. broadcasters that are provided at the website of Scholars for 9/11 Truth: www.st911.org.) He found it interesting as well—perhaps amusing, if I’m not over-interpreting his brief message—that after spiking an interview that one might guess was a good deal too lucid and well-informed for the CBC’s taste, “The Current” then sought to bury the issue by bringing in another scholar, Fenster, whose name sounds vaguely similar.

So there we have it, folks: just a little something to mull over the next time we hear Anna Maria Tremonti or her clones pontificating on the War on Terror, the vital (if also vehemently unwanted) job that Canada’s soldiers are doing in bringing democracy-at-gunpoint to Afghanistan’s surly inhabitants, or the self-evident follies and inanities of 9/11 research.

It’s not simple ignorance we’re hearing over our national airwaves, but intentional and malicious ignorance; not stupidity alone, but intellectual dishonesty as well.




1  Arundhati Roy, War Talk (Cambridge, Mass.: South End Press, 2003), p. 78.

2  See Joshua Frank, “Kidnapped in Israel or Captured in Lebanon? Official justification for Israel’s invasion on thin ice,” Antiwar.com (25 July 2006), available at the Centre for Research on Globalization, http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=viewArticle&code=FRA20060725&articleid=2813; Trish Shuh, “Operation ‘Change of Location’? How Reports of the July 12th Capture of IDF Soldiers Soon Shifted from Lebanon to Israel,” CounterPunch (15 August 2006), http://www.counterpunch.org/schuh08152006.html; and George Monbiot, “Israel responded to an unprovoked attack by Hizbollah, right? Wrong,” The Guardian (9 August 2006), available at the Centre for Research on Globalization, http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=viewArticle&code=MON20060809&articleid=2926.

3  Early challenges to this fiction included my article “The Strange Death of American Democracy: Endgame in Ohio,” Centre for Research on Globalization (24 January 2005), http://www.globalresearch.ca/articles/KEE501A.html; more recent and more wide-ranging studies include Mark Crispin Miller, Fooled Again (New York: Basic Books, 2005); Steven F. Freeman and Joel Bleifuss, Was the 2004 Presidential Election Stolen? (New York: Seven Stories Press, 2006); and Greg Palast, Armed Madhouse (New York: Dutton, 2006), pp. 187-263.

4  You can blow the dust off a textual critic, but why torment him with microphones? Ruminative pauses that students might interpret as evidence of cogitation are just dead air to media audiences.   

Fraud and Scandal in Haiti’s Presidential Election: Préval’s Victory and the UN’s Disgrace

First published at the Centre for Research on Globalization (3 March 2006), http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=viewArticle&code=KEE20060303&articleid=2061; also published online at ten other websites in 2006.



Nou lèd, Men Nou La!  
     (Haitian proverb: “Think we’re ugly? Tough: We’re Here!”)

Tout moun se moun
     (Lavalas slogan: “All people are people.”)


Haitian voters went to the polls on February 7, 2006 to elect a new president. The election was conducted under the tutelage of the United Nations, which for most of the past two years has been supporting and sustaining Haiti’s flagrantly illegal interim government with an occupation force of over 9,000 soldiers and police.

After a week of increasingly obvious fraud and chicanery in the counting of the vote culminated in the discovery of tens of thousands of ballots smoldering in a dump outside Port-au-Prince, the Provisional Electoral Council (Conseil Électoral Provisoire, CEP) announced on February 15 an arrangement by which René Garcia Préval could be awarded the presidency. The CEP’s decision appears to have been a reluctant one, but the alternative would have been to face increasingly large and vociferous demonstrations from an aroused electorate.

This result is a victory for the Haitian people: Préval, who received more than four times as many votes as the second-place candidate—and also, one must insist, won a clear majority of the votes cast—is quite obviously their choice for president.

But this outcome of an ‘arranged’ victory is also, it would seem, exactly what the anti-democratic forces in this situation were hoping they might achieve. (‘Anti-democratic forces’: this category includes not just the Haitian gangster elite that participated in the overthrow of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide two years ago, but also, to their shame, the US State Department, the US National Endowment for Democracy and the NGOs it has corrupted, the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs, the Organization of American States, and the United Nations.) These agencies knew as well as everyone else that Préval was going to win by a landslide. Their goal appears to have been to secure an outcome that would make it possible for propagandists and pundits to argue, with their habitual dishonesty, that Préval’s victory was in some sense incomplete, or tainted, and that his administration therefore needs to include representation from the more significant defeated parties—who just happen to have been participants or collaborators in the violent overthrow of the Aristide government in February 2004.

But to make sense of these events we need to have some understanding of the country’s history.


1. A history of tyranny—and of resistance

Let’s be clear about two things. The people of Haiti, the vast majority of whom are descended from slaves brought to their island from Africa by the European powers, have an astonishing history of resistance to tyranny. And those European powers—together with their successors in the settler-colony nations of the United States and Canada, and their present-day instigators and abettors in the corporate world and in such corrupt and morally compromised organizations as the United Nations, the Organization of American States, the World Bank, and even some NGOs purportedly devoted to human rights, have acted quite consistently to keep the Haitian population in a condition of abjection, hopeless poverty, and effective enslavement.

Strong words? Why don’t we think for a moment, then, about why Haiti has been for many decades incontestably the poorest nation in the western hemisphere?

Beginning in 1791, Haiti was the site of the hemisphere’s only successful slave rebellion. Under the inspired leadership of Toussaint l’Ouverture, Haitian ex-slaves humbled, in turn, the armies of Spain, Great Britain, and Napoleonic France (whose 35,000-strong expeditionary force was supported by the United States with a contribution of the then-immense sum of $400,000 [Engler and Fenton, 13]). But L’Ouverture was treacherously imprisoned during ‘peace negotiations’, and died in captivity; and although Haiti achieved formal independence in 1804, the country’s first leader, Jean-Jacques Dessalines, was murdered by the Creole elite in a coup d’état—the first of many.

In 1825 France forced Haiti at cannon-point to acknowledge a debt of 150 million francs (a sum with a present-day purchasing power of some 21.7 billion US dollars)—as reimbursement, to former slave-owners in the homeland of Liberté, Égalité, and Fraternité, for the Haitians’ own market value as slaves. According to Yves Engler and Anthony Fenton, the Haitian government was able to pay the first installment of 30 million francs only by closing down every school in the country; they note that in the late 19th century, payments on this literally extortionate debt “consumed as much as 80 percent of Haiti’s national budget.” The final payment was not made until 1947—and then, interestingly enough, to the United States, which in the course of its military occupation of Haiti from 1915 to 1934 had ‘bought’ Haiti’s debt to France (Engler and Fenton, 103-04).

The fact that in the mid-twentieth century the world’s richest democracy took what amounted to slave-trade money from a desperately impoverished nation that had become a minor satrapy in its global empire is, to say the least, instructive. But Haiti had further decades of immiseration to endure between 1957 and 1986 under the brutal US-backed kleptocracy of François ‘Papa Doc’ Duvalier, whose Tonton Macoute death squads operated in full daylight to suppress any whisperings of dissent, and his grotesque son Jean-Claude ‘Baby Doc’, who inherited his father’s thieving propensities together with the murderous apparatus of his dictatorship.

When in 1986 a popular uprising led to the collapse of Baby Doc’s regime, the US Air Force flew him, together with his entourage, into a comfortable retirement in France (the Duvalier family’s stolen fortune was of course already in offshore banks). On February 8, 1986, the day after his departure, CBC Radio News reported that US military cargo planes were disgorging shipments of small arms and ammunition at the Port-au-Prince airport—the motive apparently being to ensure that successors to the Tontons Macoutes would be equipped to deal with any possible outbreak of democracy in a form unpalatable to the CIA or to Haitian recipients of its largesse. (I remember taking note of this report, and also of the fact that after a single appearance on the 8 a.m. news it was edited out of the news stream.)

Not surprisingly, given these preparations, the ensuing process of a post-Duvalier ‘transition to democracy’ went less smoothly than some of its non-CIA American choreographers might have hoped. Writing a new Constitution was one thing; enacting it was something else. Following an abortive election in November 1987 in which “the army and paramilitaries stopped the voting by firing at voting centers, killing at least 34 people,” Leslie François Manigat ascended to the presidency in 1988 (see Concannon, 14 Feb. 2006 for the discreditable details), but was overthrown four months later by a military coup.

In the renewed presidential election of 1990, the US backed a candidate, Marc Bazin, who as a former World Bank official seemed presentable as well as suitably domesticated. But in this election democracy indeed broke out, in a manner unanticipated by American planners. Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a slender, soft-spoken priest whose life’s work had been in ministering to Haiti’s poor, and whose party of the poor was appropriately named Lavalas (meaning “flash flood,” from the French “avalanche”) won the presidency with an overwhelming 66.7 percent of the vote.

When it became clear that Aristide intended to fulfil the campaign promises on which he had been elected, he was overthrown in 1991, after only seven months in office, by a CIA-sponsored coup. However, the fascistic gangsters of the military and of the Front pour l’avancement et le progrès d’Haiti (FRAPH) who took power turned out to be an embarrassment to their American masters. They were openly involved in drug-trafficking, continuing the Duvalier régime’s work in CIA-protected cocaine transshipment between Colombia and Miami (see Chossudovsky). Moreover, they unleashed an appalling campaign of violence. Between 4,000 to 5,000 civilians were murdered, most of them Lavalas activists (see Flynn and Roth; Lemoine); and while “[s]ome 300,000 people became internal refugees, ‘thousands more fled across the border to the Dominican Republic, and more than 60,000 took to the high seas’” (Chossudovsky, quoting the statement of Dina Paul Parks, Executive Director, National Coalition for Haitian Rights, to the US Senate Judiciary Committee, Washington DC, 1 October 2002). To the dismay of the Clinton administration, many of these ‘boat people’ reached the shores of the United States.

In 1994 President Bill Clinton sent 20,000 US troops to Haiti and reinstalled Aristide. However, Clinton was by no means reversing the policies of the Reagan and Bush administrations. Aristide was returned to office only after a prolonged campaign of vilification in the US media, and an equally extended period of bullying by American diplomats, who made it clear that he would be permitted to implement, not his own policies, but rather those of his defeated rival, Bazin. And the globalizing institutions of the so-called ‘Washington Consensus’ went to work in Haiti—among them the World Bank, the US Agency for International Development (AID), the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), and a host of US-funded NGOs and ‘civil society’ groups—their goal being, as Jane Regan wrote in Covert Action Quarterly in 1995, “to impose a neoliberal economic agenda, to undermine grassroots democracy, to create political stability conducive to a good business climate, and to bring Haiti into the new world order appendaged to the U.S. as a source of markets and cheap labor” (quoted by Engler and Fenton, 25).

At the same time, a U.S. promise to disarm the Haitian military and the CIA-funded FRAPH paramilitaries, who had been responsible for mass killings between 1991 and 1994, went unfulfilled. The US instead “confiscated 160,000 documents detailing activities of FRAPH and the military regime, confounding efforts to bring justice and closure to the Haitian people who endured its death squads for three years” (Engler and Fenton, 24; “U.S. Government”).

Having served only two years of his mandate—most of that time under tight US control—Aristide handed over the presidency in 1996 to his associate René Garcia Préval, who had won the 1995 election in another landslide, with 88 percent of the vote.


2. Destabilization and the coup of February 29, 2004

It is not my purpose here to analyze the viciously destructive programs of economic and political destabilization undertaken by the United States and by the international institutions of the Washington Consensus throughout the period of Aristide’s interrupted presidencies and Préval’s first term in office. However, a brief summary is necessary for us to understand what was at stake in the overthrown of Aristide by the US, Canada and France in February 2004, and what has been at stake as well in the 2006 election.

Michel Chossudovsky has documented the catastrophic consequences in Haiti of IMF-imposed “free-market reforms.” These included a 30 percent decline in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) during the period of military rule in 1992-94; the bankrupting of Haiti’s rice farmers and the destruction of the rural peasant-farming economy by the late 1990s through the dumping of US agricultural surpluses of rice, sugar and corn; successive IMF-World Bank-imposed “reforms” of the civil service, which were quite evidently intended to frustrate and nullify Lavalas initiatives in the domain of social policy; and a ruinous increase in fuel prices imposed by the IMF in 2003, which produced a currency devaluation and a 40 percent increase in consumer prices (Chossudovsky).

One no doubt intended consequence of economic policies of this kind is to de-legitimize the elected government that is pushed into assenting to them. Unrelenting pressures to privatize state resources and public services, and to further reduce an already derisory statutory minimum wage, have the parallel function of paralyzing any attempts on the part of progressive politicians to counteract or palliate the miseries inflicted on the population by ‘Washington Consensus’ globalization.

Because both Aristide and Préval tried to resist the implementation of these policies, Haiti was punished by withdrawals of promised loans from international agencies, and the cancellation of aid packages promised by the US, Canada, France and the European Union. At the same time, vigorous steps were taken by organizations like the US National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) to politically destabilize the government by pouring money into organizing and financing “civil society” groups of all kinds. The most prominent recipients of this largesse were opposition political parties and members of umbrella organizations like Group 184 (led by Lebanese-American ‘industrialist’ Andy Apaid, who is reported to have connections with paramilitary groups, and whose sweatshops, selling to the Canadian company Gildan Activewear, supply a large part of the North American T-shirt market—and also defy the statutory minimum wage of $1.50 per day, paying workers less than half that sum [Lemoine]). But other organizations as well, including media outlets, human rights groups, and trade unions, were co-opted into collaboration with the opposition by funding from these sources. (For details of the process, see Barry-Shaw, Chossudovsky, Engler, Sprague, Van Auken, and Engler and Fenton, 47-60; and for documentation of the application of this same destabilization strategy in Venezuela, see Golinger.)

After 2000, a US-imposed embargo on all aid and loans to Haiti was legitimized by claims on the part of the Organization of American States (OAS) that the legislative elections of May 2000, in which Fanmi Lavalas candidates won by large margins, were, as Joanne Mariner, the Deputy Director of the Americas Division of Human Rights Watch put it, not just “profoundly flawed” but marked by a wholly innovative form of electoral fraud. Haitian law stipulates that the winner must receive 50 percent plus one vote; opposition parties and the OAS objected to the results in eight Senate races because the Electoral Council had used only the votes of the top four contenders (in one department, those of the top six contenders) to establish the 50 percent level.

The most commonly cited example was that of two Senate seats in a riding in the North-East department: “In this riding, to get the 50% plus one vote demanded by the OAS, 33,154 votes were needed, while the two FL [Fanmi Lavalas] candidates had won with 32,969 and 30,736 votes respectively, with their closest rival getting about 16,000 votes” (Barry-Shaw; see also Morrell, Mariner). By the Electoral Council’s method of calculation (which the OAS had apparently known of in advance of the elections, and had not objected to), the FL candidates were well over the 50 percent level. But by what seems to be the correct interpretation of Haitian law, they fell short by 185 and 2,418 votes respectively.

Most commentators would agree that even though the Fanmi Lavalas candidates would most probably have won a run-off election, the Electoral Council’s misinterpretation of the law amounted to an impropriety. Whether such a matter called for the extreme consequences of an international aid embargo is another question. (And with respect to the sanctimonious sermonizing about clean elections this episode prompted in the American media, it might be interesting to know how many of the US pundits who choked on this minnow were subsequently able to engorge without hesitation the thorny puffer-fish of George W. Bush’s ‘election’—by Florida fraud and a judicial coup d’état—in November of the same year.)

Jean-Bertrand Aristide was elected to the presidency of Haiti—unlike Bush, in a wholly unambiguous landslide—in November 2000. Following his inauguration, he persuaded seven of the eight contested senators to resign and proposed holding new elections for the disputed positions (Barry-Shaw).

But the opposition, organized by its American puppet-masters under the name Convergence Democratique, was not interested in compromise. And the US government, now controlled by the unelected Bush regime, used its veto powers on the Inter-American Development Bank to block loans to Haiti that, as Paul Farmer notes, were to have provided access to primary health care (40 percent of Haitians “have no access to any primary healthcare, while HIV and tuberculosis rates are by far the highest in Latin America”), and to drinking water (a 2002 British study which evaluated 147 countries according to a “water poverty index” found that “Haiti came last”).

US Congresswoman Barbara Lee judged this veto to be “particularly disturbing since the charter of the IDB specifically states that the bank shall not intervene in the politics of its member states. The Bush administration has decided to leverage political change in a member country by embargoing loans that the Bank has a contractual obligation to disburse” (quoted by Farmer). Still more outrageously, the IDB told Haitians in 2001 “that their government would be required to pay a 0.5% ‘credit commission’ on the entire balance of undisbursed funds, effective 12 months after the date the loans were approved. As of 31 March 2001, Haiti owed the IDB $185,239.75 in ‘commission fees’ for loans it never received” (Farmer). So that, my friends, will teach you to have some respect for legality.

Beginning in July 2001, US-organized and financed paramilitaries headed by former police officer and death-squad leader Guy Philippe conducted raids into Haiti from bases in the Dominican Republic; these included, on December 17, 2001, an attack on the presidential palace in Port-au-Prince; and on May 6, 2003, an attack on the hydroelectric dam at Peligre (Barry-Shaw).

Responsibility for providing diplomatic cover for a coup d’état appears to have been delegated to the Canadian government, whose Minister of La Francophonie, Denis Paradis, convened a meeting of American, French and Canadian officials in Ottawa from January 31 to February 1, 2003 which discussed “Aristide’s possible removal, the potential return of Haiti’s disbanded military, and the option of imposing a Kosovo-like trusteeship on Haiti” (Barry-Shaw; Engler and Fenton, 42-45).

The coup, when it came in February 2004, involved close collaboration among the US-equipped paramilitaries who invaded from the Dominican Republic, and—when it seemed in late February their attack on Port-au-Prince might be faltering—Canadian special forces (the Joint Task Force 2 unit) who occupied the Port-au-Prince airport on February 29, and the US Marines who abducted President Aristide and put him onto a plane bound for the Central African Republic (Barry-Shaw; Engler and Fenton, 17-20).

The appalling human consequences of the coup—among them the persecution, murder, and criminalization of large numbers of Lavalas activists and others who have continued to resist the overthrow of their democracy; and the systematic reversal of those progressive policies that Lavalas administrations had been able to implement (see Barry-Shaw; Engler and Fenton, 71-94; Fenton, 4 Aug. 2004, 21 Nov. 2004, 26 June 2005; Lindsay, 3 Feb. 2006; Maxwell, 19 Feb 2006; Pina, 17 May 2005, 1 Feb. 2006; San Francisco Labor Council).

Despite the unremitting hostility of the United States and its dependencies to democracy in Haiti, the Lavalas governments of Aristide and Préval made substantial gains for ordinary Haitians in education, health care, economic justice, social infrastructure, and justice and human rights (see Flynn and Roth). The people of Haiti have had a taste of democratic empowerment. As the descendants of L’Ouverture, Dessalines, and Charlemagne Peralte, one of the leaders of resistance to the US occupation that began in 1915, they are not willing to be trodden down again into abjection and despair. aiti have had a taste of what Haiti

We can take the fate of one institution as emblematic of the meaning to Haitians of their Lavalas governments, the 2004 coup, and the 2006 election. Laura Flynn and Robert Roth note that “President Aristide created a new medical school in Tabarre, which provided free medical education to 247 students from all parts of the country”; students in this school committed themselves to serving in their own communities after graduating.

After the coup, the US Marines closed the medical school and appropriated its building as a barracks. The Brazilian UN contingent has now installed itself in the building; the school remains closed.

Haitians, who rightly understand this as a gesture of contempt, would like to see their medical school re-opened.


3. Improprieties in the election of February 7, 2006

The most obvious impropriety of the 2006 election resides in the fact that it should, by law, have taken place long ago. As noted by Brian Concannon, Director of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, “Article 149 of the Constitution gives provisional governments 90 days to organize elections, and that period expired on June 1, 2004, without any attempt to hold elections.” During 2005, the Interim Government of Haiti installed by the US, Canada and France after the overthrow of President Aristide postponed elections four times, missing the deadline of February 7, 2006 for transferring power “that it had promised to meet for 21 months” (Concannon, 6 Dec. 2005).

Five days before this presidential election at last took place, the Council on Hemispheric Affairs (COHA), an independent, non-partisan research organization which has been described on the floor of the United States Senate as “one of the nation’s most respected bodies of scholars and policy makers,” released a scathing report declaring that “Haiti’s February 7th election inevitably will occur in a climate of fear and violence, which can in part be blamed upon the failed UN mission to that country.”

In the aftermath, it is clear that the UN must also take a large share of the blame for the fact that the provisions made for the election were quite transparently designed to disenfranchise poor voters—and for the further fact that ballot security (a direct UN responsibility) and vote tabulation were both spectacularly corrupt.


(a) Suppression of parties opposed to the Interim Government of Haiti (IGH)

A number of reports in the corporate media noted, sometimes with surprise but seldom with any attempt at an explanation, that René Préval ran a very muted and low-key campaign.

Brian Concannon observes that one very simple reason for Preval’s near-invisibility was that Haiti’s Interim Government “engaged in a comprehensive program to suppress political activities of the Lavalas movement, where Mr. Préval drew most of his support, in the ten months before the elections.”

Many people were unable to participate in the election, either as candidates or activists, because they had been illegally imprisoned following the 2004 coup: “Political prisoners included Haiti’s last constitutional Prime Minister, a former member of the House of Deputies, the former Minister of the Interior, and dozens of local officials and grassroots activists” (Concannon, 17 Feb. 2006). Guy Philippe, on the other hand, the death squad leader who lead the coup against Aristide in 2004, was free to present himself as a presidential candidate: he won 1.69 percent of the vote (Keane).

Prime Minister Yvon Neptune began a liquids-only hunger strike in protest against his incarceration eight months before the election, and continued to refuse solid foods throughout the election campaign. Another prominent political prisoner, Father Gerard Jean-Juste, who enjoys a moral authority among the Haitian poor comparable to Aristide’s, and who has been repeatedly urged to run for the presidency, was given a “temporary release” and flown to the US just days before the election in order to receive emergency medical treatment for leukemia and pneumonia. It seems clear that the IGH responded to the international outcry over this case only because the celebrated epidemiologist Dr. Paul Farmer, who has run a now world-famous clinic and hospital at Cange in rural Haiti for more than twenty-five years, had examined Jean-Juste in prison and diagnosed his leukemia—and because fifty members of the US Congress had joined the campaign for his release (see Jean-Juste; Maxwell, 13 Feb. 2006).

The normally calm and restrained Council on Hemispheric Affairs had this to say about the prison in which Neptune, Jean-Juste, and other political prisoners have been held:

The UN, the OAS, France, Canada, and the U.S., have been unwilling to intervene in ongoing gross human rights violations affecting the country’s criminal justice system, where every day arbitrary arrests and detentions under the interim government’s villainous former Minister of Justice, Bernard Gousse, strain the human conscience. Only an estimated 2%, of the more than 1,000 detainees taken to the Czarist-like national penitentiary, whose foul conditions cannot be exaggerated, have been legitimately tried and convicted of a crime. Furthermore, the abysmal prison conditions are infamous for being horrendously unsanitary and dangerous for its detainees. Riots and summary executions routinely occur… (COHA).

Arbitrary arrests were supplemented by government-organized attacks on political assemblies during the period leading up to the election. Peaceful pro-Lavalas demonstrations were repeatedly fired upon by the Haitian National Police while UN forces stood by and watched. (Kevin Pina, an American journalist who witnessed one such event and photographed the police snipers, was rewarded with a death threat from the Brazilian officer in command of the UN detachment, who was taped telling him, “You are always making trouble for us. I have taken your picture and I am going to give it to the Haitian police. They will get you” [HIP, “U.N. covers”].)

Campaign events organized by Préval’s Espwa party (the Creole name comes from the French “espoir,” or “hope”) were similarly targeted, to the extent that government-instigated violence made campaigning impossible. Brian Concannon notes that “In January, a pro-government gang destroyed structures erected for a Préval campaign speech in the town of St. Marc, canceling the event. No arrests were made. Violence and threats of violence forced the cancellation of subsequent events, even the campaign’s grand finale the week before the election” (Concannon, 17 Feb. 2006).

What this adds up to is “the use of political terror as a campaign strategy. Over and over again over the past six months [i.e., since June 2005], Haitian police, and even troops from MINUSTAH, the UN mission in Haiti, have gone into neighborhoods known as strongholds of government opponents, killing, maiming and arresting people and destroying houses. In October, MINUSTAH’s top human rights official called the human rights situation in Haiti ‘catastrophic,’ citing summary executions, torture and illegal arrests. Keeping the poor neighborhoods under siege and imprisoning activists keeps government opponents from organizing and campaigning” (Concannon, 6 Dec. 2005).


(b) Vote suppression through the maladministration of voter registration by the IGH, the OAS and MINUSTAH

The Organization of American States (OAS) and the UN’s stabilization mission to Haiti (MINUSTAH) assumed joint responsibility for the election process. According to the Council on Hemispheric Affairs report, “Both organizations have been heavily criticized by Haiti’s Secretary-General of the Provisional Electoral Council, Rosemond Pradel, for failing to carry out their responsibilities.”

The voter registration process was transparently designed to disenfranchise the poor. While for the elections in 2000 René Préval’s administration set up more than 10,000 voter registration centers across the country, the IGH and its international overseers provided fewer than 500. As Brian Concannon writes, “The offices would have been too few and far between for many voters even if they had been evenly distributed. But placement was heavily weighted in favor of areas likely to support the IGH and its allies. Halfway through the registration period, for example, there were three offices in the upscale suburb of Petionville, and the same number in the large and largely roadless Central Plateau Department. In cities, the poor neighborhoods were the last to get registration centers, and Cité Soleil, the largest poor neighborhood of all, never got one” (Concannon, 17 Feb. 2006).

The undersupply and biased distribution of registration centers was compounded by what the COHA report generously calls an “ill-conceived strategy” to provide instructions about registration and voting by radio and television—a plan that collided “with the hard reality that the rural and urban poor systematically lack access to such relative luxuries.”

As a result of these provisions, only 3.5 million out of an estimated 4.2 million eligible voters were registered (COHA; Concannon, 17 Feb. 2006)—a decline of 500,000 from the more than four million voters who were registered in 2000 (Keane). But some of the voters who did manage to register were then no doubt disenfranchised by the late arrival of their voter cards, the distribution of which had not yet begun by December 25, 2005 (COHA).


(c) Vote suppression through the IGH’s and MINUSTAH’s undersupply of voting centers

A further suppression of the votes of poor people was achieved through a parallel undersupply of polling stations, and by delays in the supply to polling stations of necessary materials.

In the 2000 elections, the Préval administration provided more than 12,000 polling centers across the country; in 2006, the UN and the IGH set up only one-fifteenth of that number (see Keane; and “Haitian Political Rights Leader”). As Jonathan Keane noted, “Despite having millions more dollars to spend on this election than in 2000 […], officials claimed that security and fraud concerns were responsible for the reduction.”

On January 17, 2006, Reed Lindsay reported in the Washington Times that critics—some of them members of the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP)—were characterizing the CEP as “so plagued by partisanship and incompetence that it may not be capable of holding free and fair elections.” According to one member of the CEP, Patrick Féquière, “‘We could be in for a fiasco on Feb. 7.’ [….] Mr. Féquière and others point to problems with the 804 voting centers designated by the U.N. peacekeeping mission. They say that too many voters have been assigned to the wrong center and others must walk too far because there are not enough centers. A Dec. 27 report issued by the Washington-based IFES [International Foundation for Election Systems], which is observing the elections with USAID funds, said the accessibility issue ‘threatens to disenfranchise thousands of voters.’ The report says some people will have to walk as many as five hours to vote. But Gerardo Le Chevallier, chief of elections for the United Nations, said, ‘The most people will have to walk is six kilometers’—about 3.75 miles” (Lindsay, 17 Jan. 2006; quoted by Melançon). Unnamed UN officials were elsewhere quoted as saying, of the long walks made necessary by the reduced number of polling stations, “that Haiti’s rural poor are ‘used to it’” (Keane).

In Lindsay’s Washington Times report, we should note, the UN is acknowledged as having taken responsibility for the siting of the voting centers—though Brian Concannon’s account of the effects of vote suppression observable on February 7, which indicates that on election day a grand total of 807 centers were in place, makes the IGH primarily responsible for this feature of the election:

The IGH had limited the voting centers to 807, which would have been inadequate even if the elections had run smoothly (Los Angeles County, with a slightly larger population but only 37% of Haiti’s land area and infinitely better private and public transportation, had about 4,400 polling places in November 2005). But by 1 PM on election day, Reuters’ headline read: ‘Chaos, fraud claims mar Haiti election.’ Most election offices opened late and lacked ballots or other materials; many did not become fully functional until mid-afternoon. Voters arrived at the designated centers to find the center had been moved at the last minute. Many who found the center identified on their voting card waited in line for hours only to be told they could not vote because their names were not on the list. At some centers, tens of thousands were crammed into a single building, creating confusion, and in one case a deadly stampede (Concannon, 17 Feb. 2006).

As with pre-election registration, so also in the allocation of polling stations Cité Soleil received the most egregious mistreatment. The entire community was served by only two voting stations—both, as Concannon notes, “located well outside the neighborhood.” He adds that “One of the two, the Carrefour Aviation site, was transferred at the last minute to a single building where 32,000 voters had to find the right line to wait in without posted instructions, lists of names or an information center” (Concannon, 17 Feb. 2006).

According to UN spokesman David Wimhurst, MINUSTAH was in no way to blame for any of this: its mission was simply “to verify that the voting centers [that] the electoral council had selected physically existed […] it has never been our job to determine the location of voting centers.” The Council on Hemispheric Affairs has denounced this statement as “a blatantly obvious attempt to exonerate MINUSTAH’s clear abdication of responsibility.”

No less blatant, one might add, is what seems a clear piece of obfuscation in a New York Times News Service report of February 14, which informed readers that there were 9,000 polling places in the February 7 election (see Thompson, 14 Feb. 2006).

Is it possible that each of the 807 voting centers contained, on average, eleven distinct precincts? This may have been the case, though I have found no evidence to this effect. (Such an arrangement would only have augmented voters’ confusion—and it would obviously be misleading to describe precincts situated under the same roof as distinct “polling places.”)

Or was the Times reporter, Ginger Thompson, perhaps confusing the number of voting centers with the round number of UN troops and policemen occupying the country?


(d) The story of a fraudulent vote count

The Haiti Information Project predicted on February 8, on the basis of “exit polls and initial results,” that René Garcia Préval would be declared winner “with a handy 63% of the vote,” and anticipated that his nearest rivals, Leslie Manigat and Charles Henri Baker, would receive 13 and 10 percent respectively (HIP, “HIP predicts Préval winner”). This early estimate of Manigat’s and Baker’s shares of the vote turned out to be fairly accurate. But Préval’s share dropped precipitously as the count proceeded.

On Thursday, February 9, the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) announced that with 22 percent of the votes counted, Préval was leading with 62 percent of the vote, while Manigat and Baker trailed with 11 percent and 6 percent. By Saturday evening, however, Préval’s share of the vote was down to 49.61 percent (Concannon, 14 Feb. 2006).

On Sunday, February 12, Reuters reported that results posted that morning on the CEP’s website showed that Préval’s share of the votes counted had dropped to 49.1 percent, while Manigat was in second place with 11.7 percent (Delva, 12 Feb. 2006). On February 13, the New York Times reported these same figures, noting that by this point more than 75 percent of the ballots had been counted, and that Baker, in third place, had 8.2 percent of the tallied vote. The Times report added that “international observers, whose independent samplings of the votes had shown Préval winning well above 50 percent of the vote,” were “stunned” by these results (Thompson, 13 February 2006).

But the Times reporter chose to ignore several other details reported by Reuters.

One of these was a statement on February 12 by Jacques Bernard, the director of the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP), to the effect that while figures on the Council’s website showed Préval with 49.1 percent, he actually had “just under 49 percent.”

If one might guess from this that Bernard was interested in nudging Préval’s numbers downward, other statements in the same article indicate that he was engaged in wholesale vote tabulation fraud. The key evidence is the fact that “a graphic on the Web site generated by computer had Préval at 52 percent, above the majority needed to avoid a runoff”—and that the person in charge of the voting tabulation centre insisted that this, rather than the concurrently displayed figure of 49.1 percent, was the correct number.

According to Reuters journalist Joseph Guyler Delva, “Pierre Richard Duchemin and Patrick Féquière, two of the nine members of the elections council, said the vote tabulation was being manipulated and blamed Bernard. ‘The percent which is given by the graphic is done by the computer according to figures entered by a data operator and the computer can’t lie,’ said Duchemin, who was in charge of the voting tabulation center. He said he had been excluded from viewing data. ‘There is an unwholesome manipulation of the data. Nothing is transparent,’ he said” (Delva, 12 Feb. 2006).

On the same day, Duchemin was reported by the Associated Press as saying that “he needs access to the vote tallies to learn who is behind the alleged manipulation. He’s calling for an investigation” (see “Haitian Official”). Either at this point or subsequently, “The UN Peacekeeping mission was forced to remove the doors to the tabulation center to prevent Mr. Bernard and his advisors from acting secretly” (Concannon, 14 Feb. 2006).

The February 12 Reuters report also quoted Préval’s own gently acerbic comment on the vote tabulation controversy: “‘I went to school and the CEP has given two figures, 52 percent and 49 percent. Now there is a problem,’ said Préval, talking to reporters while sitting on a bench in the village square in his mountain hometown of Marmelade. “Forty-nine percent I don’t pass. Fifty percent I pass’” (Delva, 12 Feb. 2006).

At 7 a.m. on Monday, February 13, Port-au-Prince’s Radio Metropole carried the latest vote tally figures, according to which Préval’s share of the vote had slipped to 48.7 percent. (Some sources reported that the results posted on Monday on the CEP’s website gave Préval 48.76 percent of the vote [see Jacobs, 15 Feb. 2006; Williams, 16 Feb. 2006].) Whatever the exact figure, within a short time massive demonstrations had formed throughout the capital. Major thoroughfares were blocked, sometimes with barricades of burning tires, and a crowd 5,000 strong surged into the Hotel Montana, in the rich suburb of Petionville, where the voting tabulation was being done. Though the hotel was described in the American press as having been “stormed,” no damage was done to the building or its contents, and no-one was harmed: election officials had sensibly stayed away from work, and the tabulation center was locked and empty. Archbishop Desmond Tutu “was a guest at the hotel, saw what happened and said not one item was broken or stolen—pretty remarkable for a crowd of that size that had every reason to be very angry” (Lendman). Some demonstrators did, it seems, enjoy a celebratory swim in the Hotel Montana’s pool (see Thompson, 14 Feb. 2006; and Williams and Regnault).

The only serious violence of the day appears to have occurred in Tabarre, just north of the capital, where Jordanian UN troops, who on February 3 were reported to have fired upon the public hospital in Cité Soleil (see Lindsay, 3 Feb. 2006; quoted by Melançon), opened fire on demonstrators, killing one or perhaps two and wounding several others (see Williams and Regnault, and “Haiti ‘victor’”).

On Tuesday, February 14, René Préval publicly denounced the vote count, declaring that “We are convinced there was massive fraud and gross errors that affected the process,” and citing an independent tabulation by the US National Democratic Institute (the international arm of the Democratic Party), according to which he had won 54 percent of the vote (see “Haiti ‘victor’”).

The NDI’s prompt response that its count did not include blank votes (which by Haitian law must be included in the total when candidates’ percentages are being calculated) was reported by Reuters as though it invalidated Préval’s claim (see “Haiti marks time”).

But are we not supposed to understand elementary arithmetic? Even allowing a high figure of 4.7 percent of the total ballots being blank, it’s evident that the NDI count still gives Préval 51.5 percent of the total ballots.

According to the US government’s propaganda agency Voice of America (whose Port-au-Prince employee Amelia Shaw, in a clear instance of the effacement of whatever distinction once existed in the US media between news and propaganda, was also concurrently reporting for National Public Radio [see “US Propaganda”]), the UN’s spokesman David Wimhurst dismissed the allegations of Préval and other people as unhelpful and inflammatory: “I think they are stirring up trouble. People are making gratuitous claims that are unfounded, and of course the people who voted for the number one candidate are being agitated, organized to go on these demonstrations and put up these roadblocks, and it’s causing chaos in the city and preventing MINUSTAH (U.N. stabilization force) from doing its work and the electoral machine from operating properly.”

This Orwellian declaration was supported in Amelia Shaw’s article by the statement that “International election observers have not reported serious irregularities” (Shaw).

Unless we think of Wimhurst as rehearsing for a future career as a straight man in stand-up comedy, his timing was unfortunate. For within hours of Préval’s statement on February 14, a discovery that had been made by local residents on the previous day in a dump on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince was all over Haitian television: “Local Telemax TV news Tuesday night showed smashed white ballot boxes in a garbage dump, with wads of ballots strewn about. Ballot after ballot was marked for Préval” (Jacobs, 15 Feb. 2006). When Associated Press reporters visited the site, they saw “hundreds of empty ballot boxes, at least one vote tally sheet and several empty bags—numbered and signed by the heads of polling stations—strewn across the fly-infested dump five miles north of Port-au-Prince. ‘That’s extraordinary,’ U.N. spokesman David Wimhurst said” (Selsky).

Reacting with measured anger, the electorate again brought Port-au-Prince “to a standstill” with demonstrations and roadblocks. On Wednesday, February 15, as Reuters reported, crowds poured out “from slums like Cite Soleil and Belair, where Préval has won the same passionate support among Haiti’s poor masses that formed the backbone of Aristide’s political power. Waving burned ballot papers and ballot boxes found in the dump, the protesters chanted, ‘Look what they did with our votes,’ as they marched past the U.S., Canadian and French embassies” (“Haiti marks time”).

Rosemond Pradel, the CEP’s Secretary-General, blamed the UN for this fiasco: “‘The CEP was not handling the ballots,’ Pradel said. He said securing the ballots after they had been cast was the responsibility of the 9,000-strong U.N. force …” (Delva, 14 Feb. 2006). The wretched David Wimhurst was reduced to indicating that “ballots were supposed to have been sealed in bags and placed in a container protected by U.N. troops. ‘It’s not normal to have these ballots there’” (Delva and Loney).

In his attempts to explain how thousands of ballots had ended up smoldering in a dump, Wimhurst revealed that the election had not gone quite as smoothly as the Voice of America might want us to believe: “U.N. spokesman David Wimhurst said the ballots could have come from any of nine polling stations across the country that were ransacked on election day, forcing officials to throw out up to 35,000 votes. At least one voting center was destroyed by people tired of waiting in line, others were destroyed by political factions, he said. Wimhurst said it was possible someone dumped the ransacked ballots to create an appearance of fraud” (Jacobs, 15 Feb. 2006).

But have we not already passed beyond mere appearance into the reality of fraud in an election in which fully one percent of the polling stations are wrecked by “political factions”—a coded reference to anti-democratic paramilitaries? Might one guess that the voting centers ransacked by these people were more likely to have been in pro-Lavalas or pro-Espwa districts than in upscale neighborhoods like Petionville? And what were UN forces doing while the ransacking went on? Standing by, perhaps, to issue death threats to any journalist who might think of recording the events?

And what of the international election observers, who had previously announced that “the vote was legitimate, with no evidence of fraud” (“Préval declared winner”)? If by this time they had gone so far as to take note of irregularities, they weren’t telling anyone: “An official with the European Union, which has election observers in Haiti, said the mission has refrained from commenting. A spokesperson said: ‘The situation is volatile and difficult, and we do not want to make any declaration.’ The Canadian observer group also refused to comment” (“Haiti orders review”).

Why should international observers behave in so remarkably discreet a manner? Mightn’t one expect that the job of being an election observer should entail actually looking at what’s there to be seen, and then telling the world about it?

Brian Concannon resolves the mystery with his characteristic lucidity: “Although there are international observers on the ground, they do not reassure Haitian voters. The observation delegations are organized and funded by the U.S., Canada and France, the three countries that led the overthrow of Haiti’s Constitutional government in February, 2004. With good reason, Haitians wonder whether countries that spent millions of dollars two years ago to remove the President they elected will make much effort to install their latest choice” (Concannon, 14 Feb. 2006).


(e) Details of the vote count

Brian Concannon also provides the best available account of what, in detail, went wrong with the vote count.

If the trashing of ballots by the truckload in a dump outside Port-au-Prince was the most dramatic expression of contempt for democratic proprieties in the February 7 election, a larger-scale and more flagrant form of fraud was the miscoding or the destruction of tally sheets from polling centers. Concannon writes that “254 sheets were destroyed, reportedly, by gangs from political parties opposed to Preval. 504 tally sheets reportedly lack the codes needed to enter them officially. The missing tally sheets probably represent about 190,000 votes—over 9% of the total votes cast—and according to the UN, disproportionately affect the poor areas that support Preval.” The difference between 48.7 percent of the vote and 50 percent is a matter of about 22,500 votes. As Concannon notes, “Mr. Préval would not have needed to win an overwhelming percentage of these 190,000 votes to increase his lead by the 22,500” (Concannon, 17 Feb. 2006).

A large number of ballots—“147,765 votes, over 7% of the total”—were discarded by electoral officials as “null,” that is to say as ballots which do not permit one, in the language of Article 185 of the Electoral Code, to “recognize the intention or political will of the elector.” Concannon identifies a number of factors that no doubt contributed to the casting of null votes: “Presidential ballots were complicated, with 33 candidates, each with a photo, an emblem and the names of the candidate and the party; voters were tired from walking and waiting; some voting was done in the dark by candlelight; and many voters are unused to filling out forms or writing.” But another factor may have been more important: “the decision to nullify was made by local officials handpicked by an Electoral Council that had no representation from Préval’s Lespwa party or Lavalas” (Concannon, 17 Feb. 2006).

Another group of ballots—“85,290, or 4.6% of the total valid votes”—were blank ballots. Concannon observes that “These votes were actually counted against Préval, because under the election law they are included in the total number of valid votes that provides the baseline for the 50% threshold.” The inclusion of blank ballots as valid is a provision designed to allow voters “to show their displeasure with all the candidates by voting for no one” (Concannon, 17 Feb. 2006). Some voters may have been confused enough by the ballots to leave theirs blank. But it is simply not plausible that large numbers of voters would have chosen to endure long walks in the tropical heat, and the indignity of much longer waits outside deliberately inadequate voting centers, for the dubious pleasure of casting a blank ballot. Given that the polling places were staffed by the adherents of parties in whose clear interest it was to dilute Préval’s vote with blank ballots, it seems likely that a high proportion of blank ballots were simply stuffed into the ballot boxes by party functionaries.

Other factors remain imponderable. When a report from the Agence Haïtienne de Presse informs us that an individual “was arrested last week at the Haitian-Dominican border with ballot boxes in his possession that were full of ballots already marked for a candidate of the former opposition to Aristide” (“Port-au-Prince), we have no way of knowing what the scale was of the intended crime—or, more importantly, how many other such individuals may have slipped through with cars or trucks full of ballots for Manigat, Baker, or the murderous Guy Philippe. Nor, failing an investigation of Jacques Bernard’s voting tabulation shenanigans, can we make any precise estimate of his impact on the official tallies.

But shall we try our hand, nonetheless, at estimating what the uncorrupted vote may have been before the election thieves went to work on it? Pierre Duchemin and Patrick Féquière of the CEP accused their Director, Jacques Bernard, of fiddling the vote tabulations—and the action of the UN in removing the doors behind which he had been working in secret lends substance to their accusation. Bernard claimed Préval had just under 49 percent of the vote, while Duchemin insisted that 52 percent was the correct figure. Let’s be Solomonic rather than scientific, and split the difference between Bernard’s 48.7 and Duchemin’s 52 percent. That would give Préval 50.35 percent—enough, by the way, to win the first-round election.

I think it fair to assume that Préval would have won three-quarters of the votes from Lavalas-Lespwa strongholds whose tally sheets were miscoded or destroyed: that would add another 6.75 percent to his share of the vote. And it’s probably not rash to think that 40 percent of the null votes were falsely invalidated Préval ballots: that brings his share to 59.9 percent of the vote. And what if half of the blank ballots were stuffed into the boxes by partisan election officials rather than voters? That would raise Préval’s vote share to within spitting distance of the Haiti Information Project’s February 8 prediction, based on early results and exit polls, that he would take 63 percent of the vote, or the CEP’s February 9 statement that with 22 percent of the votes counted, he had won 62 percent of the total. If, finally, we make the modest assumption that three-quarters of the 35,000 votes that Wimhurst said had to be discarded after voting centers were ransacked were Espwa votes, then Préval’s share of the vote is easily at the 63 percent level.

(Notice, by the way, that in the absence of clear information about the quantity and provenance of the ballots in the dump we haven’t included any speculation as to how they may have affected the count.)

Do these calculations seem fanciful? Then let’s think the issue through from another direction.

In an election in which we know that the interests of the parties associated with the IGH and favored by the occupation forces were furthered by chaotic administration of the deliberately insufficient facilities, and in which we also know that well-to-do communities were much better served on a per capita basis with voting centers than poor communities, it seems probable that the early returns would have tended to come from voting centers in wealthier neighbourhoods—whose clientele would have been less inclined than the electorate at large to support the candidate of the poor.

What then might the statistical odds be of Préval enjoying 62 percent of the first 22 percent of the ballots counted, but only 49.1 percent of the first 75 percent counted? Wouldn’t we expect that his share of the vote should have risen, rather than declined, as the later returns from predominantly poor communities came in?

To produce the result announced by the CEP, Préval’s vote share would have had to plunge, after the first 22 percent of the ballots were counted, by about 18 percent on average, and would have had to hover in the 44 to 45 percent range during the counting of the next 53 percent of the ballots. The likelihood of such a pattern occurring by chance is infinitesimally small. What possible explanation could there be for it, other than grossly fraudulent vote tabulation?


4. The victory ‘arrangement’

The arrangement accepted by the CEP involved dividing up the 85,000 blank ballots among the candidates in proportion to each one’s share of the vote. The solution, as Concannon writes, amounts to an assumption “that the blank votes resulted from confusion, and allocates the votes accordingly. The result is the same as if the CEP simply discarded the blank votes, and treated them the same as null votes” (Concannon, 17 Feb. 2006). Préval’s share of the vote rises to 51.15 percent, and there is no need for a second round election.

In accepting this deal, Préval also apparently gave up his right to a complete tabulation of the vote, and perhaps as well to any investigation of the election’s irregularities. It would have been instructive to see what proportion of the null ballots were improperly nullified; moreover, since all of the ballots were numbered, the provenance of the ballots found in the Cité Soleil dump could have been traced, and the sequence of ballot numbers among the blank ballots might well have provided evidence of ballot-box stuffing.

But Préval may have calculated, Concannon suggests, “that the international community, which had not complained about the inadequate registration and voting facilities, and only lightly complained about the IGH’s political prisoners, would show similar restraint when faced with tabulation irregularities. And he knew that if the first round could be stolen from him, the second round could as well” (Concannon, 17 Feb. 2006).

None of the old enemies have gone away. Condoleezza Rice was quick to say, on Thursday, February 16, that the US wants a stable Haiti, and “has a good record in trying to get Haiti out of the desperate circumstances in which they live” (Jacobs, 16 Feb. 2006). The New York Times, as Brian Concannon acerbically remarked, declared on February 17 that “the election deal ‘tarnishes the democratic legitimacy’ of Préval’s landslide. It recommends that Préval remove the tarnish by ‘reaching out to his opponents’ (e.g. pursuing policies that the voters rejected), and ‘reining in his violence-prone supporters.’ The editorial did not suggest that Mr. Préval’s opponents, many of whom were key players in the violent overthrow of Haiti’s democracy two years ago which led to thousands of deaths, rein in their supporters” (Concannon, 17 Feb. 2006). Stephen Lendman has commented incisively on a further chorus of fatuities and falsehoods that have disgraced the pages of the Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, the Miami Herald, and The Nation, as well as the news reports of National Public Radio. What can one say? There’s a lot of shit piled up in the Augean stables.

The Haitian people, and René Garcia Préval, face an uphill struggle. How they fare in that struggle will be, in part, a measure of our own humanity.




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----. “Independent Journalist Reports on Ongoing Violence in Haiti, Upcoming Elections.” Democracy Now (17 January 2006), http://www.democracynow.org/article.pl?sid=06/01/17/1449228.

----. “UN’s feared blue helmets blamed for Haiti’ attacks.” The Sydney Morning Herald (3 February 2006), http://smh.com.au/news/world/uns-feared-blue-helmets-blamed-for-haiti-attacks/2006/02/03/1138958907410.html.

Mariner, Joanne. “Haiti’s tarnished election results.” Human Rights Watch (26 June 2000), http://www.haiti-info.com/article.php3?id_article=54.

Maxwell, John. “The ‘Pottery Barn Rules’.” Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (13 February 2006), http://www.ijdh.org/articles/article_recent_news_2-13-06.htm.

----. “No more Lavalas, the fire next time?” Haitiaction.net (19 February 2006), http://haitiaction.net/News/JM/2_19_6.html.

Melançon, Benjamin. “Haiti Pre-Election Update.” The Narcosphere (6 February 2006), http://narcosphere.narconews.com/story/2006/2/6/84123/15192.

Morrell, James. “Snatching Defeat from the Jaws of Victory.” Center for International Policy (August 2000), http://ciponline.org/oldiprsnat.htm.

Pina, Kevin. “Open Letter to Human Rights Watch: Stop Dismissing Victims of Haitian Police.” The Black Commentator (17 May 2005), http://www.blackcommentator.com/140/140_pina.html.

----, and Haiti Information Project. “Kevin Pina interviews the most-wanted man in Haiti: Amaral Duclona.” Haitiaction.net (1 February 2006), http://haitiaction.net/News/HIP/2_1_6/2_1_6.html.

“Port-au-Prince is under high security on the eve of the elections, but there are serious concerns about the possibility of massive voter fraud designed to necessitate a second round of the elections.” AHP [Agence Haïtienne de Presse] (6 February 2006), translated by Mike Levy; posted by Dan Feder, “AHP: Fears of Massive Election Fraud in Haiti,” The Narcosphere (7 February 2006), http://narcosphere.narconews.com/story/2006/2/6/84123/15192.

“Préval declared winner in Haiti.” CBC News (16 February 2006), http://www.cbc.ca/story/world/national/2006/02/16/haiti-preval060216.html.

San Francisco Labor Council. “Growing Evidence of a Massacre by UN Occupation Forces in Port-au-Prince Neighborhood of Cité Soleil: Summary of Findings of the US Labor and Human Rights Delegation to Haiti.” Centre for Research on Globalization (14 July 2005), http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=viewArticle&code=20050714&articleid=693.

Selsky, Andrew. “Election Material Found in Haitian Dump.” Associated Press (15 February 2006); available at Yahoo!News (15 February 2006), http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20060215/ap_on_re_la_am_ca/haiti_elections;_ylt=AknTvcLHs9EWMO9pNFaw4GSsONUE;-ylu=X3oDMTA3bjuZGZhBHNlYwM3MjE-.

Shaw, Amelia. “Préval Alleges Fraud, Errors in Haiti Elections.” VOA[Voice of America]News.com (15 February 2006), http://voanews.com/english/2006-02-15-voa1.cfm.

Prague, Jeb. “Coup payoff in Haiti: BO’s ‘smoking gun,’ the $100,000 NED grant.” This Week in Haiti, vol. 23, No. 43 (4-10 January 2006); available at HaitiAction.net (6 January 2006), http://www.haitiaction.net/News/JS/1_6_6.html.

Selsky, Andrew. “Election Material Found in Haitian Dump.” Associated Press (15 February 2006); available at Yahoo!News (15 February 2006), http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20060215/ap_on_re_la_am_ca/haiti_elections;_ylt=AknTvcLHs9EWMO9pNFaw4GSsONUE;-ylu=X3oDMTA3bjuZGZhBHNlYwM3MjE-.

Tayler, Letta. “Préval declared winner: Haitians celebrate after electoral council move helps new leader avoid runoff—but rival blasts maneuver.” Chicago Tribune (17 February 2006), http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/custom/newsroom/ny-wohait174630074feb17,0,461137.story?coll=chi-newsroomoverline-411.

Thompson, Ginger. “Election fraud accusation in Haiti: Outraged voters threaten violence as Préval’s lead shrinks.” New York Times (13 February 2006); available at San Francisco Chronicle (13 February 2006), http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2006/02/13/MNG0OH7GE61.DTL.

----. “Charges of election fraud spark protests by thousands in Haiti.” New York Times News Service (14 February 2006); available at The San Diego Union-Tribune (14 February 2006), http://www.signonsandiego.com/uniontrib/20060214/news_1n14haiti.html.

“U.S. Government Must Return Seized Haitian Documents.” Human Rights News (16 September 1999), http://hrw.org/english/docs/1999/09/16/haiti1641.htm.

“US Propaganda in Haiti: NPR Reporter Amelia Shaw is wearing two hats.” Haitiaction.net (17 February 2006), http://haitiaction.net/News/HNW/2_17_6/2_17_6.html.

Van Auken, Bill. “‘Made in the USA’ election crisis in Haiti.” World Socialist Web Site (15 February 2006), http://www.wsws.org/articles/2006/feb2006/hait-f15.shtml.

Williams, Carol J. “Haiti Officials Scrap Blank Ballots, to Declare Préval Winner of Election.” Los Angeles Times (16 February 2006), http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-haiti16feb16,0,5041973.story?coll=la-headlines-world.

----, and Chantal Regnault. “Suspicions of election fraud spark violent protests in Haiti.” Los Angeles Times (14 February 2006); available at Lawrence Journal-World (14 February 2006), http://www.2.ljworld.com/news/2006/feb/14/suspicions_election_fraud_spark_violent_protests_h/.

Zerbisias, Antonia. “We turned our back on Haiti: Canada is complicit in region’s troubles.” Toronto Star (31 January 2006), http://www.thestar.com/NASApp/cs/ContentServer?pagename=thestar/Layout/Article_Type1&c=Article&cid=1138661412183&call_pageid=968867495754&col=969483191630.

Petrodollars and Nuclear Weapons Proliferation: Understanding the Planned Attack on Iran

This essay was first published by the Centre for Research on Globalization (10 February 2006), http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=viewArticle&code=KEE20060210&articleid=1936; it was also published online at twenty-four other websites in 2006. In the version provided here, typographical errors have been corrected, references to multiple sources have been moved into footnotes, and one small change has been made to the text (accompanied by an explanatory note).


Iran has been in the gun-sights of George W. Bush and his entourage from the moment that he was parachuted into the presidency in November 2000 by his father's Supreme Court.

A year ago there were signs, duly reported by Seymour Hersh and others, that the United States and Israel were working out the targeting details of an aerial attack on Iran that it was anticipated would occur in June 2005.1 But as Michel Chossudovsky wrote in May 2005, widespread reports that George W. Bush had “signed off on” an attack on Iran did not signify that the attack would necessarily occur during the summer of 2005: what the 'signing off' suggested was rather “that the US and Israel [were] 'in a state of readiness' and [were] prepared to launch an attack by June or at a later date. In other words, the decision to launch the attack [had] not been made” (Chossudovsky, May 2005).

Since December 2005, however, there have been much firmer indications both that the planned attack will go ahead in late March 2006, and also that the Cheney-Bush administration intends it to involve the use of nuclear weapons.

It is important to understand the nature and scale of the war crimes that are being planned—and no less important to recognize that, as in the case of the Bush regime's assault on Iraq, the pretexts being advanced to legitimize this intended aggression are entirely fraudulent. Unless the lurid fantasies of people like former Undersecretary for Arms Control and International Security and now Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton count as evidence—and Bolton's pronouncements on the weaponry supposedly possessed by Iraq, North Korea, Cuba and Venezuela show him to be less acquainted with truth than Jean Harlow was with chastity—there is no evidence that Iran has or has ever had any nuclear weapons development program. Claims to the contrary, however loudly they may have been trumpeted by Fox News, CNN, or the New York Times, are demonstrably false.

Nor does there appear to be the remotest possibility, whatever desperate measures the Iranian government might be frightened into by American and Israeli threats of pre-emptive attacks, that Iran would be able to produce nuclear weapons in the near future. On August 2, 2005, the Washington Post reported that according to the most recent National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), which represents a consensus arrived at among US intelligence agencies, “Iran is about a decade away from manufacturing the key ingredient for a nuclear weapon, roughly doubling the previous estimate of five years” (Linzer, quoted by Clark, 28 Jan. 2006).

The coming attack on Iran has nothing whatsoever to do with concerns about the proliferation of nuclear weapons. Its primary motive, as oil analyst William Clark has argued, is rather a determination to ensure that the US dollar remains the sole world currency for oil trading. Iran plans in March 2006 to open a Teheran Oil Bourse in which all trading will be carried out in euros. This poses a direct threat to the status of the US dollar as the principal world reserve currency—and hence also to a trading system in which massive US trade deficits are paid for with paper money whose accepted value resides, as Krassimir Petrov notes, in its being the currency in which international oil trades are denominated. (US dollars are effectively exchangeable for oil in somewhat the way that, prior to 1971, they were at least in theory exchangeable for gold.)

But not only is this planned aggression unconnected to any actual concern over Iranian nuclear weapons. There is in fact some reason to think that the preparations for it have involved deliberate violations by the Bush neo-conservatives of anti-proliferation protocols (and also, necessarily, of US law), and that their long-term planning, in which Turkey's consent to the aggression is a necessary part, has involved a deliberate transfer of nuclear weapons technology to Turkey as a part of the pay-off.

Prior to her public exposure by Karl Rove, Lewis 'Scooter' Libby, and other senior administration officials in July 2003, CIA agent Valerie Plame was reportedly involved in undercover anti-proliferation work focused on transfers of nuclear technology to Turkey that were being carried out by a network of crooked businessmen, arms dealers, and 'rogue' officials within the US government. The leaking of Plame's identity as a CIA agent was undoubtedly an act of revenge for her husband Joseph Wilson's public revelation that one of the key claims used to legitimize the invasion of Iraq, Saddam Hussein's supposed acquisition of uranium ore from Niger, was known to the Bush regime to be groundless. But Plame's exposure also conveniently put an end to her investigative work.

Some of the senior administration officials responsible for that crime of state have long-term diplomatic and military connections to Turkey, and all of them have been employed in what might be called (with a nod to ex-White House speechwriter David Frum) the Cheney-Bolton Axis of Aggression. Thanks to the courage and integrity of former FBI translator Sibel Edmonds, there is evidence dating from 2002 of high-level involvement in the subversion of FBI investigations into arms trafficking with Turkey. The leaking of Valerie Plame's identity as a CIA agent may therefore have been not merely an act of revenge for her husband's contribution to the delegitimizing of one war of aggression, but also a tactical maneuver in preparation for the next one.

George W. Bush made clear his aggressive intentions in relation to Iran in his 2002 State of the Union address; and his regime's record on issues of nuclear proliferation has been, to put it mildly, equivocal. If, as seems plausible, Bush's diplomats had been secretly arranging that Turkey's reward for connivance in an attack on Iran should include its future admission into the charmed circle of nuclear powers, then the meddling interference of servants of the state who, like Plame and Edmonds, were putting themselves or at least their careers at risk in the cause of preventing nuclear weapons proliferation, was not to be tolerated.

The ironies are glaring. The US government is contemplating an unprovoked attack upon Iran that will involve “pre-emptive” use of nuclear weapons against a non-nuclear-weapons-holding state. Although the pretext is that this is necessary to forestall nuclear weapons proliferation, there is evidence to suggest that planning for the attack has involved, very precisely, nuclear weapons proliferation by the United States.

It would appear that this sinister complex of criminality involves one further twist. There have been indications that the planned attack may be immediately preceded (and of course 'legitimized') by another 9/11-type event within the US.

Let us review these issues in sequence.


1. Plans for a conventional and 'tactical' nuclear attack on Iran

On August 1, 2005, Philip Giraldi, an ex-CIA agent and associate of Vincent Cannistraro (the former head of the CIA's counter-intelligence operations and former intelligence director at the National Security Council), published an article entitled “Deep Background” in The American Conservative. The first section of this article carried the following headline: “In Washington it is hardly a secret that the same people in and around the administration who brought you Iraq are preparing to do the same for Iran.” I quote the first section of Giraldi's article in its entirety:

The Pentagon, acting under instructions from Vice President Dick Cheney's office, has tasked the United States Strategic Command (STRATCOM) with drawing up a contingency plan to be employed in response to another 9/11-type terrorist attack on the United States. The plan includes a large-scale air assault on Iran employing both conventional and tactical nuclear weapons. Within Iran there are more that 450 major strategic targets, including numerous suspected nuclear-weapons-program development sites. Many of the targets are hardened or are deep underground and could not be taken out by conventional weapons, hence the nuclear option. As in the case of Iraq, the response is not conditional on Iran actually being involved in the act of terrorism directed against the United States. Several senior Air Force officers involved in the planning are reportedly appalled at the implications of what they are doing—that Iran is being set up for an unprovoked nuclear attack—but no one is prepared to damage his career by posing any objections. (Giraldi)

The implications of this report are breathtaking. First, it indicates on the part of the ruling Cheney faction within the American state a frank in-house acknowledgment that their often-repeated public claims of a connection between Saddam Hussein's regime and the 9/11 attacks are the rubbish that informed people have long known them to be.

At a deeper level, it implies that “9/11-type terrorist attacks” are recognized in Cheney's office and the Pentagon as appropriate means of legitimizing wars of aggression against any country selected for that treatment by the regime and its corporate propaganda-amplification system. (Though the implicit acknowledgment is shocking, the fact itself should come as no surprise, since recent research has shown that the Bush regime was deeply implicated not merely in permitting the attacks of September 11, 2001 to happen, but in actually organizing them.)2

And finally, Giraldi's report suggests that the recent US development of comparatively low-yield nuclear weapons specifically designed to destroy hardened underground facilities, and the recent re-orientation of US nuclear policy to include first-strike or pre-emptive nuclear attacks on non-nuclear powers, were both part of long-range planning for a war on Iran.

Articles published by William Arkin in the Washington Post in May and October 2005 reported on what the US military's STRATCOM calls CONPLAN 8022, a global plan for bombing and missile attacks involving “a nuclear option” anywhere in the world that was tested in an exercise that began on November 1, 2005; the scenario for this exercise scripted a dirty-bomb attack on Mobile, Alabama to which STRATCOM responded with nuclear and conventional strikes on an unnamed east-Asian country that was transparently meant for North Korea.

Jorge Hirsch has outlined the deployment of key administrative personnel and of ideological legitimations in preparation for an attack on Iran (Hirsch, 16 Dec. 2005). And Michel Chossudovsky has described the command structure that has been set up to implement STRATCOM's current plans for pre-emptive 'theatre' nuclear warfare (see Chossudovsky 2006). But it must be emphasized that these plans, as tested in November 2005 in the exercise referred to by Arkin, involve the creation of an impression of what theorists of nuclear war call “proportionality.” An attack on Iran, which would presumably involve the use of significant numbers of extremely 'dirty' earth-penetrating nuclear bombs, might well be made to follow a dirty-bomb attack on the United States, which would be represented in the media as having been carried out by Iranian agents.

Yet as Giraldi indicates, although the bombing of Iran would follow and be represented as a response to “another 9/11-type terrorist attack on the United States,” the planned pattern involves a cynical separation of appearance from reality: “the response is not conditional on Iran actually being involved in [this] act of terrorism....”


2. Earth-Penetrator 'dirty' bombs

Talk about “low-yield” nuclear weapons, by the way, means simply that the most recent US nuclear weapons can be set to detonate with much less than their maximum explosive force. The maximum power of the B61-11 earth-penetrating “bunker-buster” bomb ranges, by different accounts, from 300 to 340 or 400 kilotons.3 (By way of comparison, the bomb dropped on Hiroshima in August, 1945, killing some 80,000 people outright, and a further 60,000 over the next several months due to radiation poisoning and other injuries, had a yield of 15 kilotons.) The lowest yield setting of the BL61-11 is reportedly 0.3 kilotons—equivalent, that is to say, to the detonation of 300 tons of TNT.

But since these new weapons are designed as earth-penetrating “bunker-buster” rather than air-burst bombs, each one can be expected to produce large volumes of very 'dirty' radioactive fallout. Robert Nelson of the Federation of American Scientists writes that even at the low end of the BL61-11 bomb's yield range, “the nuclear blast will simply blow out a huge crater of radioactive material, creating a lethal gamma-radiation field over a large area.” The very intense local fallout will include both “radioactivity from the fission products” and also “large amounts of dirt and debris [that] has been exposed to the intense neutron flux from the nuclear detonation”; the blast cloud produced by such a bomb “typically consists of a narrow column and a broad base surge of air filled with radioactive dust which expands to a radius of over a mile for a 5 kiloton explosion.”

Yet wouldn't the “tactical” and “low-yield” nature of these weapons mean that civilian casualties could be kept to a minimum? A study published in 2005 by the National Research Council on the Effects of Nuclear Earth-Penetrator and Other Weapons offers estimates of the casualties that could be caused by these weapons. According to Conclusion 6 of this report, an attack on or near a densely populated urban area could be expected, depending on the B61-11's yield setting, to kill from several thousand to over a million people. An attack in a remote, lightly populated area might kill as few as several hundred people—or, with a high-yield setting and unfavourable winds, hundreds of thousands.

But what kinds of yield settings might the US military want to use? Conclusion 5 of the NRC report would seem to suggest that genuinely low-yield settings might be possible: the yield required “to destroy a hard and deeply buried target is reduced by a factor of 15 to 25 by enhanced ground-shock coupling if the weapon is detonated a few meters below the surface.” Conclusion 2, however, is more sobering. To have a high probability of destroying a facility 200 meters underground, an earth-penetrating weapon with a yield of 300 kilotons would be required—that is to say, a weapon with twenty times the explosive power of the Hiroshima bomb. Extrapolating from the information the report provides, one might guess that a weapon in the 7-8 kiloton range—with half the power of the Hiroshima bomb—could be deployed against a facility like Natanz, the sensitive parts of which are buried 18 meters underground and protected by reinforced concrete (Beeston). A similar or smaller weapon might be used against the uranium fuel enrichment facility at Esfahan—a city of two million people which is also, by the way, as UNESCO World Heritage City.

The NRC report, it should be noted, was written by a committee, and one that on the issue of civilian casualties seems to have had some difficulty in making up its collective mind. Conclusion 4 of the report informs us that “For the same yield and weather conditions, the number of casualties from an earth-penetrator weapon detonated at a few meters depth is, for all practical purposes, equal to that from a surface burst of the same weapon yield.” But Conclusion 7 tells a different story: “For urban targets, civilian casualties from nuclear earth-penetrator weapons are reduced by a factor of 2 to 10 compared with those from a surface burst having 25 times the yield.”

The most charitable interpretation I can give to Conclusion 7 is that it was composed for a readership of arithmetical illiterates—who the authors assume will be unable to deduce that what is actually being said (assuming a linear relation between yield and casualties) is that an earth-penetrating weapon will cause from 2.5 to 12.5 times more casualties than a surface-burst weapon of the same explosive power.

In light of the fact that the NRC report was commissioned by the United States Congress, we can ourselves conclude that the US government is contemplating, open-eyed, a war of aggression that American planners are fully aware will kill—at the very least—many tens of thousands, and perhaps many hundreds of thousands of civilians.


3. The pretexts

The principal reason being advanced for an attack upon Iran is the claim that Iran is on the verge of becoming a nuclear threat with the capacity and presumably the intention of launching nuclear ballistic-missile attacks upon Israel and even western Europe and the United States.

Iran does possess ballistic missiles, including the Shahab-3, which with a range of 1,300 kilometers is capable of striking Israel, as well as US forces throughout the Middle East. (Why Iran would dream of initiating military aggression against the US or against Israel, which possesses an arsenal of some 200 nuclear warheads, together with multiple means of delivering them, including ballistic missiles, is not explained.)

A fear-mongering article published by The Guardian on January 4, 2006 included the information that the next generation of the Shahab missile “should be capable of reaching Austria and Italy.” The leading sentence of this same article declares that “The Iranian government has been successfully scouring Europe for the sophisticated equipment needed to develop a nuclear bomb, according to the latest western assessment of the country's weapons programmes” (Cobain and Traynor). But neither this article nor a companion piece (Traynor and Cobain) published the same day provides any evidence that Iran actually has a nuclear weapons program, even though both articles were based upon a “report from a leading EU intelligence service,” a “55-page intelligence assessment, dated July 1 2005, [that] draws upon material gathered by British, French, German and Belgian agencies.”

There is in fact very good evidence, in the form of exhaustive inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency since 2003, that Iran does not have and has never had any such program. As the physicist Gordon Prather wrote in September 2005, “after two years of go-anywhere, see-anything inspections, [the IAEA] has found no indication that any special nuclear materials or activities involving them are being—or have been—used in furtherance of a military purpose” (Prather, 27 Sept. 2005).

But what about intentions? The Guardian journalists inform us that “western leaders [...] have long refused to believe Tehran's insistence that it is not interested in developing nuclear weapons and is only trying to develop nuclear power for electricity” (Cobain and Traynor). Perhaps it is time these “western leaders”—George W. Bush, Tony Blair, and whatever rag-tag and bob-tail of lesser luminaries they are dragging after them—began to attend to the facts.

A good place to start might be with William Beeman's and Thomas Stauffer's assessment of the physical evidence for an Iranian nuclear weapons program. (Stauffer, by the way, is a former nuclear engineer and specialist in Middle Eastern energy economics; Beeman directs Brown University's Middle East Studies program; both have conducted research on Iran for three decades.)

Beeman and Stauffer note that Iran has three principal nuclear facilities. Of the first two, a uranium enrichment plant in Natanz and a deuterium research facility in Arak, they remark that “Neither is in operation. The only question of interest is whether these facilities offer a plausible route to the manufacture of plutonium-based nuclear bombs, and the short answer is: They do not.”

Beeman and Stauffer compare the third facility, the PWR pressurized “light-water” reactor under construction at Bushehr, with Israel's heavy-water graphite-moderated plant at Dimona. The Bushehr reactor is designed to maximize power output through long fuel cycles of 30 to 40 months; it will produce plutonium isotopes (PU240, 241 and 242) that are “almost impossible to use in making bombs”; and “the entire reactor will have to shut down—a step that cannot be concealed from satellites, airplanes and other sources—in order to permit the extraction of even a single fuel pin.” Israel's Dimona plant, in contrast, produces the bomb-making isotope PU239; moreover, it “can be re-fueled 'on line,' without shutting down. Thus, high-grade plutonium can be obtained covertly and continuously.”

Claims emanating from the US State Department to the effect that Iran possesses uranium-enrichment centrifuges or covert plutonium-extraction facilities are dismissed by Beeman and Stauffer as implausible, since “the sources are either unidentified or are the same channels which disseminated the stories about Iraq's non-conventional weapons or the so-called chemical and biological weapons plant in Khartoum.”

As Michael T. Klare remarks, the US government's “claim that an attack on Iran would be justified because of its alleged nuclear potential should invite widespread skepticism.” But skeptical intelligence appears to be the last thing one can expect from the corporate media, whose organs report without blinking Condoleezza Rice's threat that “The world will not stand by if Iran continues on the path to a nuclear weapons capability” (see [Rice]), and George W. Bush's equally inane declaration, following the IAEA's vote to refer Iran to the UN Security Council, that “This important step sends a clear message to the regime in Iran that the world will not permit the Iranian regime to gain nuclear weapons” (see [Bush]).

There is much to be said about the sorry process of propagandizing, diplomatic bullying, and behind-the-scenes blackmail and arm-twisting within the IAEA and in other forums—all of it strongly reminiscent of the maneuverings of late 2002 and early 2003—that has led to the present situation, where in early March the Security Council will be called upon, as in the case of Iraq three years ago, to accept and legitimize the falsehoods on which the new war of aggression is to be based. The early stages of this process were lucidly analyzed by Siddharth Varadarajan in three fine articles in September 2005. Its more recent phases have been assessed by Gordon Prather in a series of articles published since mid-September 2005, and also, with equal scrupulousness and ethical urgency, by another well-informed physicist, Jorge Hirsch, who has been publishing essays on the subject since mid-October. I will not repeat here the analyses developed in their articles (the titles of which are included in the list of sources which follows this text). But Varadarajan's recent summary judgment of the diplomatic process is worth quoting: “Each time it appeases Washington's relentless pressure on Iran, the international community is being made to climb higher and higher up a ladder whose final rungs can only be sanctions and war. This is precisely the route the U.S. followed against Iraq in its quest to effect regime change there” (Varadarajan, 1 Feb. 2006).

It is also worth saying something, however briefly, about the media campaign that has accompanied the diplomatic preparations for war. This has included, since mid-2005, accusations that Iran was involved in the terrorist attacks of 9/11, some of whose perpetrators are alleged (by members of the wholly discredited Kean Commission of inquiry into the events of 9/11) to have passed through Iran on their way to the US.4

A more relevant accusation surfaced in November 2005, when the New York Times reported that senior US intelligence officials had briefed IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei and his senior staff on information gleaned from a “stolen Iranian laptop computer” which they said demonstrated that Iran had developed nuclear weapons compact enough to fit onto its Shahab missiles. But as Gordon Prather wrote,

“sources close to the IAEA” said what they had been briefed on appeared to be aerodynamic design work for a ballistic missile reentry vehicle, which certainly couldn't contain a nuke if the Iranians didn't have any. Furthermore, according to David Albright, a sometime consultant to the IAEA, who has actually had access to the “stolen Iranian laptop,” the information on it is all about reentry vehicles and “does not contain words such [as] 'nuclear' and 'nuclear warhead'.” (Prather, 23 Nov. 2005)

Sorry boys: no biscuit.

And yet the object of the exercise was evidently not to persuade the IAEA people, who are not idiots, but rather to get the story into the amplification system of that Mighty Wurlitzer, the corporate media.

This strategy has evidently worked. The New York Times, for example, may have parted company with Judith Miller, the 'star' reporter whose sordid job was to serve as a conduit for Bush regime misinformation during the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq, but in Elaine Sciolino they have a reporter who is no less skilled in passing off neocon propaganda as fact (see Prather, 7 Jan. 2006). The New York Times also gave front-page space in mid-January to an article by Richard Bernstein and Stephen Weisman proposing “that Iran has restarted 'research that could give it technology to create nuclear weapons'” (quoted by Whitney, 17 Jan. 2006). “Perhaps,” Mike Whitney suggests, “the NY Times knows something that the IAEA inspectors don't? If so, they should step forward and reveal the facts.”

The key facts, as Whitney wrote on January 17, are that there is no evidence that Iran has either a nuclear weapons program or centrifuges with which to enrich uranium to weapons-grade concentration. “These are the two issues which should be given greatest consideration in determining whether or not Iran poses a real danger to its neighbors, and yet these are precisely the facts that are absent from the nearly 2,500 articles written on the topic in the last few days.” Add to these the further fact, noted above, that the August 2005 National Intelligence Estimate doubled the time American agencies thought Iran would need to manufacture “the key ingredient for a nuclear weapon” from the previous estimate of five years to a full decade.

Why then is the American public being incited to ever greater anxiety in the face of a weapons program which—on the paranoid and unproven assumption that it actually exists—is if anything a receding rather than a gathering threat?

Fox News has led the way among the non-print media in drum-beating and misinformation—to the extent, as Paul Craig Roberts observes, that a Fox/Opinion Dynamics poll can plausibly report “that 60% of Republicans, 41% of Independents, and 35% of Democrats support using air strikes and ground troops against Iran in order to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.” Worse yet, an LA Times/Bloomberg poll apparently finds that 57% of the respondents “favor military intervention if Iran's government pursues a program that would enable it to build nuclear arms.” Any civilian nuclear power program opens up this possibility (Canada, had it so desired, could have become an independent nuclear-weapons power forty years ago)5—but the function of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty is precisely to open the way to peaceful nuclear power generation, while preventing the further dissemination of nuclear weapons. What the LA Times/Bloomberg poll therefore means, Roberts says, is that “if Iran exercises its rights under the non-proliferation treaty, 57% of Americans support a US military attack on Iran!”

Numbers like these suggest that George W. Bush will indeed get the new war he so desires. And it appears that he will get it soon. As Newt Gingrich declared on Fox News in late January, the matter is so urgent that the attack must happen within the next few months. “According to Gingrich, Iran not only cannot be trusted with nuclear technology, but also Iranians 'cannot be trusted with their oil'” (Roberts).


4. The Euro-denominated Tehran Oil Bourse

Gingrich's wording may sound faintly ludicrous. However, it would appear to be a slanting allusion to the fact that the Iranian government has announced plans to open an Iranian Oil Bourse in March 2006. This Bourse will be in direct competition with the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX) and London's International Petroleum Exchange (IPE)—and unlike them will do business not in US dollars, but in euros. What Gingrich evidently means is that the Iranians cannot be trusted to market their oil and natural gas in a manner that continues to benefit the United States.

Peter Phillips and his colleagues in Project Censored explained very clearly in 2003 how the current US dollar-denominated system of oil and gas marketing provides the US with a highly advantageous system of exchange. In 1971, “President Nixon removed U.S. currency from the gold standard”:

Since then, the world's supply of oil has been traded in U.S. fiat dollars, making the dollar the dominant world reserve currency. Countries must provide the United States with goods and services for dollars—which the United States can freely print. To purchase energy and pay off any IMF debts, countries must hold vast dollar reserves. The world is attached to a currency that one country can produce at will. This means that in addition to controlling world trade, the United States is importing substantial quantities of goods and services for very low relative costs. (Phillips)

As Krassimir Petrov has observed, this amounts to an indirect form of imperial taxation. Unlike previous empires, which extracted direct taxes from their subject-nations, the American empire has “distributed instead its own fiat currency, the U.S. dollar, to other nations in exchange for goods with the intended consequence of inflating and devaluing those dollars and paying back later each dollar with less economic goods—the difference capturing the U.S. imperial tax” (Petrov).

Oil, backed by military power, has provided the rest of the world with a reason for accepting depreciating US dollars and holding ever-increasing amounts of them in reserve. Petrov remarks that in 1972-73 the US made “an iron-clad arrangement with Saudi Arabia to support the power of the House of Saud in exchange for accepting only U.S. dollars for its oil. The rest of OPEC was to follow suit and accept only dollars. Because the world had to buy oil from the Arab oil countries, it had the reason to hold dollars as payment for oil. [....] Even though dollars could no longer be exchanged for gold, they were now exchangeable for oil” (Petrov).

But as Phillips notes, the economic reasons alone for switching to the euro as a reserve currency have been becoming steadily more persuasive: “Because of huge trade deficits, it is estimated that the dollar is currently [in late 2003] overvalued by at least 40 percent. Conversely, the euro-zone does not run huge deficits, uses higher interest rates, and has an increasingly larger share of world trade. As the euro establishes its durability and comes into wider use, the dollar will no longer be the world's only option.” The result will be to make it “easier for other nations to exercise financial leverage against the United States without damaging themselves or the global financial system as a whole.”

Prior to the invasion of Iraq, several analysts suggested that one very obvious motive for that war was the fact that, beginning in November 2000, Iraq had insisted on payment in euros, not dollars, for its oil. In mid-2003, by which time the US had made clear the intended terms of its occupation of Iraq, one such analyst, Coilin Nunan, remarked that it remained “just a theory” that American threats against Iraq had been made on behalf of the petro-dollar system—“but a theory that subsequent U.S. actions have done little to dispel: the U.S. has invaded Iraq and installed its own authority to rule the country, and as soon as Iraqi oil became available to sell on the world market, it was announced that payment would be in dollars only” (Phillips). William Clark writes, more directly, that the invasion was principally about “gaining strategic control over Iraq's hydrocarbon reserves and in so doing maintain[ing] the US dollar as the monopoly currency for the critical international oil market” (Clark, 28 Jan. 2006).

There is currently some debate over the extent to which US war preparations against Iran are motivated by concern for the continued hegemony of the petrodollar (see Nunan). I find the analyses of William Clark and Krassimir Petrov persuasive.

Clark notes that an important obstacle to any major shift in the oil marketing system has been “the lack of a euro-denominated oil pricing standard, or oil 'marker' as it is referred to in the industry.” (The current “oil markers,” in relation to which other internationally traded oil is priced, are Norway Brent crude, West Texas Intermediate crude [WTI], and United Arab Emirates [UAE] Dubai crude—all of them US dollar-denominated). In his opinion, “it is logical to assume the proposed Iranian bourse will usher in a fourth crude oil marker—denominated in the euro currency,” and will thus “remove the main technical obstacle for a broad-based petro-euro system for international oil trades.” This will have the effect of introducing “petrodollar versus petroeuro currency hedging, and fundamentally new dynamics to the biggest market in the world—global oil and gas trades. In essence, the US will no longer be able to effortlessly expand credit via US Treasury bills, and the US dollar's demand/liquidity value will fall” (Clark, 28 Jan. 2006).

An even partial loss of the US dollar's position as the dominant reserve currency for global energy trading would, as Petrov suggests, lead to a sharp decline in its value and an ensuing acceleration of inflation and upward pressure on interest rates, with unpleasant consequences.

At this point, the Fed will find itself between Scylla and Charybdis—between deflation and hyperinflation—it will be forced fast either to take its 'classical medicine' by deflating, whereby it raises interest rates, thus inducing a major economic depression, a collapse in real estate, and an implosion in bond, stock, and derivative markets [...], or alternatively, to take the Weimar way out by inflating, [...] drown[ing] the financial system in liquidity [...] and hyperinflating the economy. (Petrov)

Any attempt, on the other hand, to preserve what Mike Whitney calls the “perfect pyramid-scheme” of America's currency monopoly (Whitney, 23 Jan. 2006) by means of military aggression against Iran is likely to result in equal or greater disruptions to the world economy. American military aggression, which might conceivably include attempts to occupy Iran's oil-producing Khuzestan province and the coastline along the Straits of Hormuz (see Pilger), will not just have appalling consequences for civilians throughout the region; it may also place American forces into situations still more closely analogous than the present stage of the Iraqi resistance to the situation produced in Lebanon by Israel's invasion of that country—which ended in 2000 with Israel's first military defeat (see Salama and Ruster).


5. The involvement of Turkey

One significant difference between the warnings of a coming war circulating in early 2005 and those which have appeared in recent months is the current evidence of feverish diplomatic activity between Washington and Ankara. The NATO powers have evidently been co-opted into Washington's war plans: the so-called EU-3 (France, Germany, and Britain) presented Iran with a negotiating position on the nuclear fuel cycle for Iran's power plants that seemed designed to produce an indignant refusal. As Aijaz Ahmad writes, the European group “was not negotiating; it was relaying to Iran, and to all and sundry, what the U.S. was demanding and threatening to report Iran to the Security Council if the latter did not comply. Everyone knows that Iran had closed its Isphahan facility voluntarily, as a confidence-building measure, expecting some reciprocity, and then re-opened it, in retaliation, after having waited for reciprocity for many months and not getting it—indeed, receiving only escalated demands” (Ahmad).

But according to the well-connected Jürgen Gottslich, writing in Der Spiegel in late December, Iran was not discussed during the new German Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung's recent visit to Washington. Gottslich wrote that “the speculation surrounding an American strike against Iran centers more on developments in Turkey. There has been a definite surge in visits to Ankara by high-ranking National Security personnel from the U.S. and by NATO officials. Within the space of just a few days, FBI Director Robert Mueller, [CIA] Director [Porter] Goss and then NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer visited Turkey.” Condoleezza Rice also flew to Turkey immediately after her December trip to Berlin.

The aim of these visits has quite obviously been to bring Turkey into line with a planned attack on Iran. As Gottslich writes, “On his Istanbul visit, Goss is alleged to have given Turkish security services three dossiers that prove Iranian cooperation with al-Qaeda. In addition, there was a fourth dossier focusing on the current state of Iran's nuclear weapons program.”

But why, beyond the obvious fact of Turkey's shared border with Iran, should Turkey be such an important factor in American war plans? The answer is suggested by an article published by an American academic, Robert Olson, in the June 2002 issue of Middle East Policy. According to Noam Chomsky, Olson “reports that 12 percent of Israel's offensive aircraft are to be 'permanently stationed in Turkey' and have been 'flying reconnaissance flights along Iran's border,' signaling to Iran 'that it would soon be challenged elsewhere by Turkey and its Israeli and American allies'” (Chomsky 159). These Israeli aircraft would evidently take part in any American and Israeli aerial attack on Iran, and Turkish consent would no doubt be necessary for their use in such an act.

What advantages might Turkey hope to gain from its consent? The collaboration of Britain, France and Germany in the cranking up of diplomatic pressure on Iran might suggest that Turkey's much-desired admission to the European Union could have been held out as one carrot—possibly with the argument that participation in an attack on a fundamentalist Islamic state could be one way of calming European fears over the entry of a Muslim nation into the Union. An equally persuasive advantage may have been a secret promise of future admission to the select group of nuclear powers.

Christopher Deliso has assembled evidence both of Turkey's persistent involvement in the smuggling and production of nuclear weapons technology, including centrifuge components and triggering devices (Deliso, 21 Nov. 2005)—and also of the very interesting fact that the key administration officials involved in the outing of Valerie Plame, who was investigating these murky operations, included people, among them Marc Grossman, former US Ambassador to Turkey, who give every appearance of having been centrally involved in the very network of nuclear arms proliferation that the CIA was working to uncover (Deliso, 24 Nov. 2005). Even when supplemented by Sibel Edmonds' indications of high-level collaboration in the frustration by Turkish agents of the FBI's parallel investigations of what appears to be the same network, the evidence remains at best suppositious. And yet despite the inaccessibility of details—which will no doubt remain inaccessible for as long as Dick Cheney, John Bolton and the rest retain the power to frustrate investigations into the activities of their close associates and subordinates—the larger pattern is, to say the least, intriguing. The same highly-placed neoconservatives who have been crying wolf over Iran's non-existent nuclear weapons appear to have been deeply—and lucratively—involved in the trafficking of restricted and forbidden weapons technology into Turkey.

Should this pattern turn out indeed to involve corruption, hypocrisy, and treachery on the grand scale that Deliso's investigative reporting would suggest, is there any reason one should be surprised?

What else, to be frank, would you expect from people such as these?




1  See Hersh; Gush Shalom; Jensen.

2  See Chossudovsky 2002: 51-63, 144-56; Chossudovsky 2005: 51-62, 135-46, 237-61; Griffin 2004: 127-46, 169-201; Griffin 2005: 115-35, 277-91; Marrs 134-37; and Ruppert 309-436.

3  See Nelson; Hirsch, 9 Jan. 2006.

4  See Coman; Hirsch, 28 Dec. 2005; and also, should you believe The 9/11 Commission Report to have any credibility, Griffin 2005.

5  I have added the word “independent” to this sentence in acknowledgment of the fact that for a brief period a half-century ago Canada was what one might call a “satellite nuclear power” (having been persuaded to cancel its domestically designed Mach 2 Avro Arrow interceptors and replace them with Bomarc air defence missiles, which were designed to carry nuclear warheads, and Lockheed Starfighter aircraft, for which nuclear ordnance was also available). My point about Canada's potential as a nuclear power is based on the fact that the Canadian-designed CANDU heavy-water electrical-generation reactors, in operation since the 1960s, are also useful for bomb-making: CANDU reactors sold to India provided that country with the fissile material for its nuclear warheads.   




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The A and B Texts of Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus Revisited

[I]t can now be said with some degree of assurance that the current orthodox view of the A text--that it was printed from the authorial manuscript of Marlowe and a collaborator--is not adequately supported by the textual evidence. Moreover, since the B text is at some points clearly of substantive value, allowing us to correct lacunae and other deficiencies in A, the no less orthodox view that has no textual authority [...] must be rejected.    

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