Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Protecting Sogorea Te by Cindy Sheehan

Recently, I had the opportunity to go to the Bay Area community of Glen Cove to be in solidarity with activists who are currently conducting a standoff with authorities. 
At Glen Cove (in Vallejo, Ca), there is a struggle going on that few people have heard about. According to the official website for the struggle, www.ProtectGlenCove.org:
Glen Cove is a sacred gathering place and burial ground that has been utilized by numerous Native American tribes since at least 1,500 BC. Today, Glen Cove continues to be spiritually important to local Native communities. It is located just south of Vallejo, California along the Carquinez Strait, a natural channel that connects the Sacramento River Delta to the San Francisco Bay. Glen Cove is known as Sogorea Te in Karkin Ohlone language.
 The City of Vallejo (named after General Mariano Vallejo, a Mexican national who was a supporter of native American genocide and the takeover of California by the US) wants to take the 15-acre site—which has already been desecrated by previous local development, and make an unnecessary park out of it—further desecrating one of the few remaining Sacred Sites in California that has not been totally paved over.
The Greater Vallejo Recreation District (GVRD) claims that the land should be developed because it needs to be "enjoyed by all the citizens of Vallejo." Our native brothers and sisters counter with: “Every inch of Vallejo, indeed California, was stolen from us, can’t we have this 15-acres free from further encroachment?”
As of today (June 27), the stand off with the authorities that want to develop has lasted 75 days and the support has wavered between hundreds of supporters on special days and the few dozen I met there yesterday.
California, under Spanish, Mexican and US rule has a long and shameful record of treating our original inhabitants—bounties were even paid for the scalps of Indians—and they were called “savages?”
The holocaust of the native people here reached a fevered pitch after the Gold Rush, where an estimated population of 150,000 indigenous people was reduced to under 30,000--in 1851, California Governor Peter Burnett declared:

“[Unless the Indians are sent east of the Sierras] a War of Extermination will continue to be waged until the Indian race should become extinct…”
I realize that most people reading this never oppressed or killed a member of our original people, but we can stop this continued oppression by lending our support to their current struggles.
Go to the website to read more about it and find out how can you support the stand-off:

Monday, June 27, 2011

"The Bolivarian Revolution is a Beacon of Light" Cindy Sheehan's Interview with Angela Davis

"The Bolivarian Revolution is a Beacon of Light"

Cindy Sheehan’s Interview with Angela Davis

CS: Welcome back to Cindy Sheehan’s soapbox. As I said before the break my special quest is today is Angela Davis.

She is an American Socialist, Philosopher, political activist and retired Professor with the History of Consciousness Department at the University of Santa Cruz. She was the Director of the University’s Feminine Studies Department.

Davis was largely active during the Civil Rights Movement and was associated with the Black Panthers. Her interests are in Feminism, African American studies, Critical theories, Marxism, Popular music and Social Consciousness, and the philosophy and history of punishment and prisons.

She wrote about the FBI and its targeting of the Black Panther Party as a part of its counter intelligence program, cointelpro.

Angela was tried and acquitted of suspected involvement in the Soledad Brothers’ August 1970 abduction and murder of Judge Harold Haley in Marin County California--even though she had purchased the weapons involved, had written letters to one of the prisoners, escaped and became a fugitive from the law after the murders.

Angela Davis was twice a Candidate for Vice Presidential on the Communist Party, USA ticket during the Reagan era.

Since moving in the early 1990’s from party communism to other forms of political commitment she has identified herself as a Democratic Socialist.

Davis is the founder of Critical Resistance, an organization working to abolish the Prison Industrial Complex. She was on the FBI’s 10 most wanted list for a time.

Angela Davis, there is so much confusion between the terms Capitalism, Socialism and Communism. Can you briefly compare and contrast the philosophies?

AD: Perhaps I will begin with Capitalism.

Capitalism is an economic system that is based on the production of profit at the expense of the workers who actually produce the products.

In many ways you can say Capitalism is based on a trick and that trick involves the assumption that workers get paid for what they do. But in actuality, as Marx pointed our many years ago, they are getting paid for their capacity to work, their ability to work, and the difference between what they actually produce and what they get paid is called: profit.

Marx’s definition is the nature of exploitation. It really has nothing to do with a moral judgment against Capitalists. It’s simply the way the Capitalist system works.

Those who already have the capital exploit those who have nothing to sell but their labor power. Then as we move on, Socialism is a system that is not based on the production of profit but rather based on the satisfaction of peoples’ needs, the fulfillment of social needs.

Therefore in a Socialist system it would make no sense at all for there to be profit generated from Health Care. Because Health care would be considered a right, Health Care would be free, and education would be free and housing would cost very little. Housing would be subsidized by the government.

Then Communism I would categorize as the ultimate stage of Socialism.

Of course, it’s been said, using Marx words, Socialism is “from each according to his or her ability and each according to his or her works.”

And Communism would be “from each according to his or her ability to each according to his or her needs.”

That is to say that everyone in a Communist society would have all of their basic needs fulfilled regardless of what their profession is or regardless of whether they are unemployed.

CS: Does a Socialist system lead to Communism?

AD: Well, I would like to think just as Capitalism was or is a moment in history that should be transcended; Capitalism demonstrates needs can be satisfied. It demonstrates the amazing productive power that can be generated by the workers.

Unfortunately that is subordinated to profit. So Socialism would use that productive power to begin to satisfy people’s needs.

And in the beginning one would have a system in which certain things would not cost. But other things would.

In the end one would think that society would be structured so that every ones needs could be fulfilled. So that someone who is disabled would not have to worry about where to get money to attend school or health care.

Yeah, I’m an optimist and I think we still need to move in that direction at least so far in our vision for the future. We should think about countries like Cuba where they have demonstrated that it is possible to build a society in which Health care, education and housing are not subject to profit for the profit motive.

CS: What do you do you think of Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution?

AD: I think that the Bolivarian Revolution under Hugo Chavez in Venezuela is really a beacon of light--mot only for all of Latin America but for the entire hemisphere.

They have demonstrated in Venezuela that is it possible to begin to build a different kind of society—just as Cuba has held out for all of these years—I can remember the Cuban Revolution and the triumph of the Cuban Revolution.

I was in High School so we are talking about 1959, 1960 and here we are in the 21st century and the Cuban Revolution continues to persevere.

So that it is very exciting to see the developments in Venezuela—particularly the sensitivity to people who have little, the poor people, working class people.

And the way in which the abundance of oil in Venezuela is being used to fulfill peoples needs and not to generate profit for corporations, like BP, who were then responsible for polluting the ocean and for destroying marine life.

It’s a real breath of fresh air, it’s a, I think, for those if us who consider ourselves Socialists or Communists for a long time, it has demonstrated that indeed our lives were worthwhile.

CS: We hear a lot that President Obama is a Socialist—especially from the right end of the political spectrum. What do you think about that Angela Davis? Is Obama a socialist?

AD: Well, of course unfortunately what we have seen over the last couple of years since Obama took office is the resurgence of a really vitriolic rightwing resistance and they have learned how to use the old Communist tactics in very vicious ways.

When I first heard these claims that Obama was a Socialist, I thought, “well it would really be wonderful if Obama were a Socialist.” But unfortunately it is in the same tradition as those who called Martin Luther King, Jr a “Socialist.”

I think if we didn’t have that anti-Communist pressure from the right it was be possible for there to be a more effective movement in the direction of Socialism.

CS: Angela, what are your thoughts on so called 21st Century Socialism?

AD: I do think that we need to think in terms of a 21st century Socialist movement in the United States of America. Otherwise we assume that Capitalism is our future.

Since the dismantling of Socialist nations in the early 90”s there has been this assumption that Capitalism is triumphant, that Capitalism is here and will be eternally present in our lives. That’s very sad if we have to think of our future in terms of exploitation.

It’s not only the economic dimension of Capitalism that is so destructive; it’s the ideological dimension that is destructive as well. Capitalism posits the individual as the basic unit of society and to think of a future of individuals fighting to become more powerful Capitalists is very, very sad.

We have to be able to imagine a future in which community means a great deal to us, in which solidarity, in which there is care for those that are less fortunate, in which education is not a commodity, in which a society in which every one has the right to education, and health care, and housing and jobs. So I am holding out for that. I have been struggling since I was a teenager. I guess I might say that I have been struggling too long to give up now.

CS: Here in the United States definitely a stigma is attached to the world “Socialism.” Can you explain that?

AD: The word “Socialism” has such a stigma attached to it because of the media pundits, the rightwing politicians have been able to draw on the old anti-Communism—the notion that communism denotes an evil empire--the idea that it is an anathema to Democracy.

What impresses me, however, is that young people are not always persuaded by the rightwing rhetoric. A recent survey by the Pew Center indicates that young people especially think of Capitalism, (almost a majority) in negative terms and Socialism in more positive terms.

So I think that people are not always incapable of seeing through the lies, and the deceit and the fraudulent representation of Socialism.

Many people are starting to recognize that we need an alternative to Capitalism that thrives on racism, that thrives on exploitation, that has polluted the environment and cares for nothing aside from the amount of money that can be generated from any given project. And it doesn’t care for the future.

Capitalists don’t even mind the fact that there may be no planet available in the coming generations--they’re only interested in the profit that is available in the moment. No sense of history, no sense of past history, no sense of future history.

I suppose I would conclude by saying that I learned long ago that history is really important, that we think of ourselves as agents of history, that we think of ourselves as products of history and, as a matter of fact, Capitalism is a product of history, it came into being in history. And if it came into being in history it should probably go out of existence in history as well.

CS: Angela Davis, as a lifelong teacher do you have a message for young people?

AD: Well, Jose Marti, who was one of the heroes of the Cuban revolution once said that children, our youth, are the future and hope of the world.

My message to young people would be that they follow their sense of adventure—That they follow their need for creativity. Because all of the wonderful things we experience today have been visions and ideas of young people at one point or another.

And I always say, as we grow older, we have to learn that it is the young people who have the new ideas. In that sense we have to learn to follow their leadership when we are talking about the anti-war movement and the need to end the war in Afghanistan as well as Iraq.

When we are talking about anti-racism and the importance of generating a movement that recognized the extent to which structural racism is still a part of our lives here. Particularly with the Prison Industrial Complex given the more than 2 million people who are behind bars the majority of whom are people of color. And in all these movements I see young people taking the decisive steps.

CS: What are your thoughts on the dominant two-party political system here in the United States?

AD: Well my sense has been for a very long time that the two-party systems constricts any real imagination and as long as we have a Democratic Party and a Republican Party, of course that are tied to corporate interests, Capitalist corporate interests, we are never going to be able to move beyond those Capitalist interests.

So as independent politics, I can say many of us voted for Obama. I voted for Obama and I can say it is probably the first time I voted for a Democrat because I have always voted for the Communist, the Socialist, the Peace and Freedom Party candidates or the Green party candidate.

So I think that today more than ever before we have the first African-American in office. We need to emphasize independent politics, we need to emphasis 3rd party politics, we need to emphasis a more radical political vision than would ever be possible under the auspices of the Democratic Party.

CS: Angela Davis, do you have anything else you would like to add for my readers?

AD: Well I suppose the only other thing I would say is that it is so important for people, particularly in the US to question the representation of the dominant media. It is impossible to understand fully. It is impossible to understand what is going on in Venezuela is we rely on CNN, if we rely on the dominant media forces—and to consult independent media. Consult progressive media.

What’s happening in Venezuela is so exciting and it would be wonderful if more people in this country could even participate in that excitement and then begin to imagine what it might be like to transform the United States of America in accordance with a Socialist project.

CS: This interview was made in September of 2010.
Thanks to Angela Davis for her work, dignity and time and thanks to Dede Miller for transcribing the interview!

The interview can be heard at the archives at:

Saturday, June 25, 2011

You Wanna Know What's What in the Middle East?

This is a transcript of an interview I did with journalist, Robert Fisk, in 2010. 
The audio can be heard at:

Thanks to Robert Fisk; and Dede Miller for this transcription.

CS: Robert Fisk, welcome to Cindy Sheehan’s Soapbox. My first question is, what is the likelihood or what do you think is the likelihood that the US or Israel will strike Iran’s nuclear facilities soon?

RF: My crystal ball was broken quite a long while ago. It’s a fact that quite soon after Obama became President he sent some pretty important Generals to Tel Aviv. That’s where the Israeli Ministry of Defense is; it’s not in Jerusalem. To tell them don’t attack Iran; you’re on your own if you want to do it. But of course they won’t be on their own. If the Israelis’ attack Iran the Iranians have said very specifically and militarily it makes complete sense from their point of view, that they would attack US forces in Afghanistan and Iraq and in the Gulf. And the reality is the Americans are still fighting in Iraq. I mean they have 50,000 non-combat troops who have already been in combat 5 times. They can’t take on a third war. They can hardly handle two. So it’s not in America’s interest to have a war with Iran but it may be in Israel’s interest and they would bring Americans in again and so on.

The real issue is, do we really, really think they will develop a nuclear missile or nuclear arms and if they do, does it matter? I mean, you know, if you live in the Middle East, as I do, it’s quite clear if you have a nuclear weapon you’re not going to get invaded. We’re not going to bomb North Korea for example or Pakistan who’s got a bomb. So its quite logical for any Muslim power for example, if you want to prevent invasion or domination or attack by the west is to get hold of a nuclear bomb. Just one.

And anyway, its not crackpots like Ahmadenijad “the President of Iran” who control nuclear weapons. It is much more serious people. And the idea that Iran is going to use them to destroy Israel and the whole of Palestine and then get destroyed them selves is pretty ridiculous. But you know that danger is out there.

One of the things we do have to remember—It shouldn’t be exaggerated—but it shouldn’t be forgotten, is that we do have the most right wing Israeli government in power at the moment. And people like Lieberman the foreign minister; I put them in the same crackpot box as Ahmadinejad and Gahdaffi.

So these are not, just as we have some odd characters in Tehran we have some very odd characters in Jerusalem. Can we rely on them for what we like to call common sense a very western expression? I don’t know. Of course not only will Israel bring in the Americans if attacked by Iran I would find it very odd if Hezbollah, forget Hamas and their tin pot rockets, if Hezbollah did not respond as well as Lebanon. Then of course you are going to have a war involving the Shiites and Americans. I mean in Iraq it’s the Sunni’s; in Afghanistan it’s the Sunni’s. Now you’re going to bring in the Shiite’s as well.

But you know, all along one of the problems here is kind of a, I mean I come backwards and forwards to America all the time. Sometimes fourteen times a year. And somewhere over the Atlantic I fly through this sort of a screen and when I land in Washington or San Francisco or wherever the Middle East is not the place I live in anymore. It is sort of a fantasy world here that people don’t talk about or have much knowledge of. The people who live there know of the history of course, we don’t. So, decisions taken in Washington about Iran and decisions taken in Iran about Washington are often weirdly out of sync.

The Iranian actually understand us much better than we understand them. But that won’t stop an attack on Iran. I rather think there would not be. But then again I have twice been wrong about the fourteen wars I have covered in the Middle East. But the other twelve times I have got it right. So I don’t think there will be at the moment. That’s my feeling but as I said my crystal ball is in little glass pieces all over the floor.

CS: Robert, do you think there is more of likelihood for a war between Israel and Hezbollah in the near future?

RF: I had the dubious pleasure of being present in the last Hezbollah Israeli war in 2006. It ended of course with George Bush claiming the Israelis had won which is another fantasy.

The Israelis know they didn’t win, they were humiliated, their armor was blown to pieces, their soldiers were shot down. They couldn’t defend their own cities. The Hezbollah claimed it was a divine victory.

While I was on the road to Southern Lebanon it didn’t feel much like a divine victory or any other kind to me. But clearly the Israelis lost. I am not sure the Hezbollah won but the Israelis lost.

When I talk to Hezbollah now, and I talk to Hezbollah fighters in the South, not just leadership people put in front of TV cameras they clearly are looking forward to a second round to convince the world that they really did win last time. When I was in Israel a few weeks ago I went to the (INAUDIBLE) Conference which is where all the Israeli political right meet to make speeches.

I flew into Israel to the conference to report on it and met a lot of people who pop up on my TV screen in Beirut raging about Lebanon. I came away with the distinct impression, especially after listening to the Deputy Chief of Staff for the IDF, the Israeli Army, talking about Lebanon, of which she seemed to have very little political grasp. I came away with the distinct impression that the Israelis want to repair that shattered image from 2006 and have another go at Hezbollah. One of the things we always have to remember in these Israeli/Arab wars is that the Israeli Army has actually performed lamentably for decades now. They haven’t won a war in 37 years. 1973 was the last real victory the Israelis won.

The invasion of Lebanon in 1978 petered out in a long bloody occupation. 82’ was a disastrous massacre. The 1993 bombardment was hopeless. 1996 ended in the Qana Massacre. 2006 ended in another massacre. But I think the Israelis want another go and I think Hezbollah wants another go at it. I fear of course as you do that two things will take place. The civilian’s casualties will be grossly disproportionate. Vast areas of Lebanon will be destroyed infrastructure-wise and of course will be rebuilt afterwards. And the State Department, and I absolutely promise you this, the State Department will call on both sides to exercise restraint and both sides will know that they are lying. And the Israelis will tell America to get off side until they end up in another massacre or tragedy and then they will be pleading for a UN ceasefire and then the old UN donkey will clip clop in over the corpses and rubble and we will have another ceasefire until the next war and that’s how it goes on. If that seems cynical it’s because I live there.

CS: Well, since you do live in the area, what do you think the implications are for the massive arms sale to Saudi Arabia and the Emirates from the United States?

RF: Well its laughable, we all know who live in the region the Saudis can’t use this equipment. I mean 60 billion Dollars. Funny, I slipped it into my file. I don’t use Google or the Internet. I have real paper and books. I slipped it into my arms file and out popped another clipping from 12 years ago saying America was going to sell 60 billion dollars worth of arms to Saudi Arabia.

I go to Saudi Arabia. You can see this stuff lying with sheets over it so sand doesn’t get in the works. By and large the Saudis can’t use it as equipment. It has to be used by the Americans or other Air Forces brought in to practice on it. But it’s a prestige thing and part of the relationship of the Saudis to the Americans, you protect us and we’ll buy your weapons, we’ll keep you solvent. Look, quite apart from the oil and that’s how the system works. It’s terribly corrupt, it helps nobody, it does not help the Saudi population. It certainly doesn’t help the Iranians who they think they are defending themselves against, or we have to persuade them they are. It helps the American arms manufacturers; it helps the economy of the weapons manufacturers. Not much else here. But that’s the way the system works. You know, it is one of the awful clichés one of the famous clichés. The famous Eisenhower quote about the Military Industrial Complex is correct and remains correct. Although like Chomsky’s Manufacturers Consent they become so true no one remembers them anymore.

CS: What do you think will be the outcome of the peace talks between the US, Israel and Palestine?

RF: First of all, we were told these latest meetings of Clinton, Obama, Mahmoud Abbas, Netanyahu and, heaven spare us, Blair as well, are the last chance for peace etc, if it was so important why wasn’t it held two months ago or five months ago? Why now?

Why, well because of the mid term elections. This is yet another ploy and as usual the Arabs and Israelis are trotted out to play their roll in the theatre, then they will be put to one side and there will be another war and we will say how did it happen and so forth. No long term plan.

Those days are gone. If you go to the West Bank as I say, I was in the West Bank, Israel and Gaza last week, it’s perfectly obvious that there is no chance for a Palestinian State. There will be a one State solution and the State I think will be called Israel.

And those Palestinian, which remain in the borders of that state which will stretch from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean, they will either disappear and leave to Syria or Europe, or San Francisco or Washington.; Or they will stay and be gassed out or guest workers for the Israelis.

You see the key is what is known as area C. Under the Oslo agreement Area C comprises about 62% of the West Bank a “putative Palestinian State.” In this area Israel has full occupational control. Other areas there’s shared responsibilities. And in one or two particular cities like Ramallah the Palestinians in theory, unless the Israelis stage a raid, are in control.

But area C now is effectively annexed off to Israel. When I went there, for example, quite apart from the fact that Jewish Colonies, which they are, forget the word settlements continue to expand, thicken in size. I was actually traveling with Amir Hass, who of course is the very admirable and fine Israeli journalist from Haaretz.  

All of the villages we went to the Palestinian Muktas met us and served us tea and then they produced this huge file of documents from the Israeli occupational authority in Hebrew. Signed, although the signatures were illegible, saying that this man cannot build another story on his house or else his house will be destroyed. This man cannot build another story. So the families can’t expand, they can’t get married, they of course can go to Jordan, Lebanon, somewhere else. One of the weirdest laws is that the Palestinians in these villages near the sea, 62% cannot dig more than 3 inches into the ground. This is an obvious problem because then they cannot operate sewage or water but they cannot put up electricity poles because you can’t put a pole 3 inches into the ground, it will fall over. So what they’ve done, they’ve got these huge concrete blocks and laid them on the earth and stuck the electricity poles into the concrete block. Now how long do you keep hanging on in the face of what is clearly not only harassment but also is oppression?

When you talk to the Israelis they say “yes, yes, they can not go more than 3 inches in case they put a bomb in the ground.” So clearly area C, 62% of the West Bank, cannot be inside a Palestinian State. This means that as opposed to what we believe which is that Mahmoud Abbas is generously being allowed to negotiate for 22% of mandate Palestine, the original Palestine when the Brits were there, he is actually negotiated for 10.8 to 10.9 percent of Mandate Palestine. And that is a mistake. It is not viable. It is not workable, its not secure, it can’t work.

So I think, you know, the problem is that public opinion, partly because of us journalists and endless waffling of this peace process, it never was a peace process to begin with; they still believe there is hope. That there is light at the end of the tunnel, usual clichés, its gone, Palestine is gone and there isn’t going to be, I don’t believe there will be a Palestinian State.

I think there will one state and it will be called Israel and the project will have been completed. Now whether in the long term you can hold on to them.

I meet Jewish Americans, particularly in California and different parts of America who all but say, they say quite frankly, you know this Middle Eastern thing is a project, Zionist, Israeli, call it what you want, it may or may not work. For them security is here. I think if I was a Jewish American I would stay in America, and I only say that because many Jewish Americans tell me that is their choice too. But the idea that Israel is going to, even if it does effectively take all Arab land, which militarily it has already anyway, the idea that it is going to survive indefinitely we don’t know.

Everything at the end of the day depends on the relationship with the United States and as long as America gives it unconditional, uncritical support to Israel, right or wrong, there will be no peace. And that of course is a danger not just to the Israelis but to the Arabs as well.

There are many Israelis of course who believe this constant colonial expansion is going to destroy their home. I think they are right in saying that, but they are not necessarily a majority. One of the problems you have as a journalist who goes in and out of Israel, I mean I go to Israel from Lebanon via Jordan or Cypress, is that when I arrive you go to Tel Aviv which is a very European City, lovely restaurants, good music, I go to the art gallery, I mean I appreciate lots of the things about Israeli culture and society. And of course I go and seek out all those lefties and liberal Israelis who say the kind of things I want to be said about Israel. But when I get on the bus up to Jerusalem I don’t hear the same voices. There are settlers; there are Israelis who are actually not particularly educated. They may be immigrants from Russia; they haven’t learned Hebrew very well. Their views of Arabs are pretty much what you hear form Hamas about the Israelis.

So it comes down to the old question countless books are written about, what is this country Israel? Who lives in it? Who are these people? And Israelis ask these questions all the time in their newspapers. They are preoccupied by it and rightly so actually. But when you have a country and this crazy political system, I mean, poor old Israelis to have disproportional representation constantly producing these crazed minority governments. This country, with all these nuclear weapons. It’s a pretty sorry situation. I don’t know, I get up every morning in my apartment in Beirut and I hear the palm trees swaying and the Mediterranean sloshing until the cars come and start hooting. I wait and wonder where is the explosion today I ask myself.

The most dangerous thing are our masters, our leaders, the Obamas, the Bushs, the Blairs, the Camerons. They’re still promoting this total fantasy that there can still be peace in the Middle East. And there isn’t going to be. If we continue on this path there will continue to be war. As we have seen since WWII in the Middle East the wars have gotten steadily bigger, wider, worse entangling more and more countries. Now involving directly of course since 9/11 the United States since before 9/11. The days where we can go on colonial adventures and sit happily at home are gone. But we don’t realize that.

CS: You’ve called Ahmadinejad of Iran a “crack pot,” what do you think about Hamas?

RF: I have a very cynical view of Hamas they are very cynical organization and very arrogant.

You see, first of all, let’s run the narrative of history through from the beginning.

In 2006 the Palestinians were urged to have a democratic election. George Bush said “wonderful to have a democracy.” So the Palestinian went to vote, pesky Palestinians voted for the wrong people, they voted for Hamas. They didn’t vote for Hamas because they wanted an Islamic Republic, they voted for Hamas because they were sick and tired of the corruption of Mahmoud Abbas and Arafat and the whole Palestinian old fogies from Fatah.

It was brought home to me once, I was in Jerusalem and I got a call from Fatah “one of our officials’ home has been shelled by an Israeli tank,” I rushed down from my home in Jerusalem. There was the home, there was the hole, there was the Israeli tank. But what struck me when I went into the house amid the rubble was all the gold plated taps in the bathroom. There was the story. You don’t vote for people like that, you vote for people who are clean.

Anyway then, 2007 Hamas takes over very bloodily in the Gaza Strip. And they then will not conform to the Oslo agreement. Their argument of course, which was quite logical, was that the Israelis would not conform. Renegotiating Oslo and all these other places for a long time. But of course Hamas are not going to start out by acknowledging everything that Arafat did and then becoming the PLO or the Palestinian authority. But they’ve got very big heads.

You know it is a very corrupt organization, Hamas. They think they are the Hezbollah of the south. They’re not, they are nothing like Hezbollah. I remember one day there was this very big funeral in Gaza and all the Palestinians were shooting in the air. I remember watching this with a Hezbollah fighter in Lebanon and I said, “Hussein, what do you think of this?” “Well, we sympathize with them because they are martyrs, but why do they waste all of this ammunition?” It was a very interesting example of when you have a professional guerilla army as opposed to this ragtag bunch in Gaza.

Then you see you will remember certain other things, why are they really firing all these stupid tin pot missiles in to Israel to provoke an assault? Okay, you can provoke an assault if you can then fight the Israelis, but they couldn’t fight the Israelis. You know they killed at least 35 alleged Palestinian collaborators but only killed 13 Israelis of whom two were Arab Israelis, by the way. And then they lost 1,300 of there own people, most of them civilians. That is not a great victory. I mean, Hezbollah were very, very cynical and rightly so about Hamas performance. They were arrogant. They thought they could beat the Israelis and they ran away. The Israelis did not find their soldier so he was hid very well.

But Hamas, I’ve been down these tunnels by the way, one of them has got a railway line. The tunnels that go to Egypt. And Egypt, of course, is playing the colonial role of doing what the masters want as well by sealing off Gaza.

But these tunnels, Hamas takes a cut on the profits of at least five million a year. Some people put that at quadruple at 500 million a year and they need that money. The word I hear in Gaza, everybody profits. The Egyptians profit, they are backhanders to the Israelis to make sure they don’t actually bomb all the tunnels cause you’ve got to keep some of them open. So the tunnel system is a massive financial scam and Hamas holds the tap on it.

The reason I think Hamas turns back food when it does come in from Israel is because it is losing its scams on the tunnels. They’re losing taxation you see. So it’s okay, you can bring a few weapons through, you can bring donkeys and paint them like tigers at the zoo. Whatever you want to do. But at the end of the day Hamas is a totally compromised corrupt organization. It’s not the massive terrorist organization that Israel makes it out to be.

I mean Israel; I was in Gaza when Arafat was still pouncing around Beirut pretending to be the center of Arab Nationalism. And I was actually present when the Israeli Gaza commander, because they had a military base in Gaza, a big one, was negotiating with Hamas in a mosque in which I was present, and encouraging Hamas to build more mosques in Gaza as a counter balance to the horrible super terrorist, Arafat, who was up in Beirut. Then of course as we know the super terrorist turned out to be a super statesman and went to the White House on the night Hamas mosques were filled with super terrorists who had been talking to the Israelis.

In 1992-93 Israel expelled hundreds of Palestinians into Lebanon and they were stuck on the border. The Lebanese would not let them in.

There’s a very funny incident there, I used to go and down and talk some every few weeks, see how they were doing, they were cold, living in tents. One day I went there and I mentioned to them that I was going to Israel the next day via Cypress on this occasion. One of them got up; a big bearded man and rushed to a tent. When he came back he said “ Mr. Robert would you like Mr. Perez’ telephone number?” So I said yes, and took it down and it was his home telephone number. So here you go here are the elite of Israeli political society obviously talking to these Hamas men who were being abused on Israeli radio as the worst kind of terrorists in the history of the world. Of course one of the things you must realize is that all these people talk to each other. Hamas talks to the Israelis, the Israelis talk to Hamas. The Israelis talk to the Syrian Secret Service directly, not just through Turkey or wherever. But of course the newspaper version is that little Israel is fighting this vast sea of terrorism. It’s not like that. But this is a good story. It’s easy. It’s not controversial and journalists, they can get away with it so they did.

CS: You’ve lived the Middle East for at least 30 years. What keeps you going in that part of the world?

RF: I supposed observing the folly of mankind is not an easy thing to shake off. It’s not like an addiction but one does,

I can turn on Al Jazeera or even occasionally the BBC and hear the latest statements from Bush or Obama or Blair, they are so outrageous it is almost like a comedy theatre to listen to. A smile does cross my face. But if you really want to know why I really do it. I was 29 when I went to the Middle East. I am 64 now and I am still doing the same job, living in the same house, almost the same salary. I suppose the answer is really like reading a great historical novel. You know, you are reading War and Peace, Battle of Borodino, what would happen to Pierre? You’re reading late in bed and it is almost midnight, and I’ll just finish this chapter. Then you find yourself reading the next chapter. Then you say you will just finish the next chapter. Before you know you look up and see the sun coming through the curtains. It’s dawn and you’ve read all through the night. Cause you want to see what happens next you see. I think that is why I still work as a journalist in the Middle East. I want to know what happens next. It won’t be nice but I just desperate to see what happens in this path of human folly.

CS: We’re making a documentary about Venezuela and the demonization of Chavez and his Bolivarian revolution. You’ve seen the demonization of Arab countries and Arab leaders and it correlates to what’s happening in Venezuela. What do you think the US should be doing in the Middle East?

RF: Look; one of the themes of modern Middle Eastern History is that if you want to be a surviving dictator you’ve got to inaudible Mubarak, King Hussein, Little King Abdullah, inaudible came out to the King of Morocco. The President of Algeria, Gadhafi, now.

If you invade the right countries like Iran 1980 we will support a dictator. We don’t call him a dictator we call him a pro-western strongman on the AP wire. If you invade the wrong country like Kuwait then we will biff them. When King Idriss was overthrown by Gadhafi, the British foreign office wholeheartedly supported this fine young army Colonel called Moammar Gadhafi. We loved him. 

The he got involved in the IRA, then he was involved in the bombing of Berlin night clubs so we biffed him too and had to bomb him. Then he said he was giving up nuclear weapons even though the average Libyan doesn’t seem to know how to repair a lavatory in a Tripoli Hotel, and we love him again, just because he is as much a crackpot as Ahmadinejad and Lieberman of Israel and all the rest.

So we switch on the bestiality system when these people go into bay. And usually when they go into bay, Nasser for instance at the time of nationalization of the Suez, Saddam in Kuwait and so on, is when they’ve donned the clothes of nationalism, have said that they now speak for the Arab people or all the Venezuelan people in the case of Chavez. Then that gets very dangerous because we are the people in the west decide who runs these countries and how they behave.

Egypt is a good example because it has always been obedient. Sadat crossed the canal but he actually did it rather well and after he wanted peace so that was okay with Israel.

But the demonization is easy to switch on and off and usually you use WWII. Saddam became the Hitler of the Tigress and we even called Nasser the Mussolini of the Nile in 1956 during the Suez war. I know the same comments have been made of Chavez as well.

And always when semi-dictators or slightly odd people, and Chavez is a bit odd, we have to admit this, decide that they will do what the people want rather than what the west wants then we will surround them and threaten them and that builds up their stature more and that projects them on to a world stage that makes them friends with Amadinejad and Gadhafi and a host of the worlds crackpot summit forum: Which alas, sometimes I have to cover as a journalist.

But I mean, there is no doubt that American Foreign policy is straightforward. You have your set of dictators and if they step out of line you bat them over the head and hope that they don’t and if they don’t you depose them and they’ll end up hanged like Saddam. But I think that basically what American policy is if you strip it down and look at it from the other point of view. But again, you see we are not talking about the most important issue, which is oil and control of oil. Control of oil doesn’t mean owning it or even owning the rights to explore reserves. It means insuring for the foreseeable future, i.e. eternity that the flow of oil continues at current or future necessary rates. And that of course is what Iraq was about. People can say it was about democracy, weapons of mass destruction and getting rid of Saddam. At the end of the day no matter how awful Saddam was, if the main national export of Iraq was asparagus or potatoes the 82nd Airborne would not have gone to Baghdad and that is a fact.

CS: What about Afghanistan? Why is the US and NATO in Afghanistan?

RF: Because major super powers want to be destroyed in Afghanistan. They always go there and they always get destroyed. The British did it in 1842; they did it again in 1878. We almost did it in 1919. The Russians did it in 1979, got thrown out in 88’ and then we come up in 2001.

Poor old Afghans I keep saying, poor old Afghans. Why are we in Afghanistan? It is preposterous human folly. Well, you know you can look and say gas pipelines from the former Soviet Muslim Republics to Pakistan, etc. I think there is a bit more to this; you see it’s not just about some post 9/11 anger over Al Qaeda.

It was a very odd way in which Taliban had to be destroyed because they wouldn’t give us Bin Laden. Although for a period they may have avoided destruction and we would have turned our backs on Burkas and women’s rights and gender equality and all these other projects, which we have. And indeed we know at one point the Taliban had been courted in Houston of all places because we wanted them to be involved in this wonderful gas project that would bring so much happiness and prosperity to Afghanistan.

I think, in the end you went there because you are an Empire and we were an Empire and the Lion still has a few whiskers. The same applies very much in Iraq. As well as the oil and fantasy in Israel, Empires have to project power. If they are bitten by a mosquito they must kill the mosquito and smash their fist so hard there are no more mosquitoes afterwards.

 The projection of power is the lifeblood of Empires. The Romans did it. The Romans did it more wisely because they regarded everyone outside of their barriers as Barbarians, which is what we do, Taliban, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Al Qaeda. But once they grabbed the country they made all the people citizens of Rome.

I once tried to explain to a CIA officer in Kufa in Iraq that is the Americans had come to Iraq and offered all the Iraqis US passports there’d been no insurgency. The Iraqi’s would not have flooded into JFK. They would have said the Americans really do love us. That would be the end. But of course that would not have a policy that commended itself of the Bush administration or indeed to Mr. Blair. Because we don’t love them, we don’t even care about them. The Romans at least went through the motions.

I’m not recommending crucifixion here but you know Empires work this way. I remember once, this is going to Iraq; South of Baghdad I was investigating the murders of some Red Cross drivers. I was talking to an Iraqi family who I think saw the murder on the horrible, throat-cutting Highway 8. The ground had started to tremble but not the road. It was one of these big Brigade turn overs, largest since WWII. Up the road came this unstoppable, never ending, hour after hour convoy of M1-N1 Abrams Tanks, Bradley fighting armored vehicles, truck after truck, all with soldiers with their rifles pointed out like porcupine quills, shades over their eyes and all these Apache Helicopters over top.

I remember I sat on the side of the road with this poor Iraqi family that is just dumbstruck over this, and thinking, “if I had been a reported two thousand years ago I’d have been a little more to the west in Lebanon and it would have been the tramp of Roman legions I would have heard coming past me endlessly on the road.”

We can go to Baghdad. We will go to Baghdad, and we will send our Armies through the lands of Sumeria where civilization began you see. Empires are real. They breathe. They are very dangerous things just like governments. I think that in a way Afghanistan beckons in this poisonous way to Empires to go and show that they breathe you see.

We have surges now. Surges just mean reinforcements cause we are losing but we build it up into this massive Tsunami like unstoppable force. Like spikes and valleys where it comes down and goes up again, we mean increases in violence and their not going down. That’s the whole problem. But there you go; I think it’s about oil in Iraq. I think it’s about Empire in Iraq and Afghanistan. Who knows in Iran and Venezuela?

I don’t know how you switch it off. Historically there have been foreign invaders or economic collapse. I did Roman history and classics for my first degree, along with Linguistics. I still read about the fall of the Roman Empire. Not the movie or Hollywood version. It is true that the Goths, the Ostrogoths and the Visigoths did a lot of invading of Roman territory but it was the Roman economy that brought it down. It collapsed in basically valueless products. And you know the postal system didn’t work so well and the bread didn’t arrive from Lebanon. So that’s also worth bearing in mind.

It was after all the final death of the British Empire was basically the end of the second World War when Britain went bankrupt and the Americans said, “okay it’s the end of lend lease we want our money please.” The idea that Empires collapse because of bearded men that get into the country on Visas issued by the CIA, or because soldiers get beat in Afghanistan, which like Vietnam does have a very critical point. At the moment the situation is that America and Britain are not losing sufficient numbers to have the serious effect it might otherwise have in the country. I mean it’s nothing like Vietnam casualties. I’m very struck by when I am in America for example that I see in the paper everyday, you know the New York Times, Chronicle, the LA Times, the little list of dead, Spc. So and So, age 24-26, and its almost like people killed in a storm or the flash flood last night. It is like it is a natural disaster now cause it’s not big enough to make an impact.

CS: Tell my listeners the story you told me earlier about Chavez and the leader of Hezbollah, Nasrallah.

RF: What was particularly funny at the time, when the Israeli bombardment of Southern Lebanon ended with the actual flooding the country of cluster bombs we went into the villages, some of which were refuse, heaps of rubble and they stank as the bodies of villagers were still under the rubble. But where the Mukta village leaders had survived, Fisk would always rush up and say, “so what do you think about all this?” And they would always proclaim their everlasting love of Hezbollah. And I’d say, do you like Nasrallah the leader of Hezbollah? They would always say, “we like two people, Nasrallah and Chavez.” I was actually with a Washington Post reporter who would double up with laughter each time. They all said this, they hadn’t been prompted, they actually believed this. I said, “why” to one of them, I can’t remember the name of the place, Rehan? Rihanna? I said to this guy, “why do you like Chavez? “He said, ”because he is really like Nasrallah, he really makes Bush angry.”

CS: While we were in Venezuela we interviewed one of the Deputy Foreign Ministers, Temir Porres, and I asked him if he thought the US Empire would collapse probably sooner than later? His answer was, “I hope so!” What are your thoughts on that?

RF: One of the things we don’t think about, America could if it wanted to be a great source of strength and goodness in the Middle East if it would get rid of it’s obsessions about Democracy, about Israel and actually treat everyone with the same fairness. Including Israel.

You’ve got to remember at the end of the first World War, which was partly fought to destroy the Ottoman Empire, you still had a vast stretch of land from the Mesopotamian Persian border, Iraq and Iran, all the way to the Atlantic, and many US service officers in the State Department who were counsels to the dying Ottoman Empire, places like Beirut, Tripoli, Constantinople, were all petitioning the State Department as were the American NGO’s, (there were missionaries there), to have one modern Arab Nation that would be a Democracy, be like the Democracies of Europe. Which the west would put all it’s treasure and financial and medical help. Not it’s military, but all its economic power to bring in to be one Arab Nation united as a Democracy.

Wilson died; isolationism had set in on Congress and the House. And of course the British and the French had already chopped up the Middle East for themselves under the Sykes-Pekoe agreement and produced this wondrous success story it is today. There was a moment when, and amazingly Arabs far apart from the Israelis still had this buried hope in America. That’s why Obama got away with his initial months of saying, we’re reaching out to Muslim world. Some of them actually believed it. All over again. After all the evidence they believed it.

I went to see Obama in Cairo when he spoke and it’s funny. When you see these guys as opposed to just seeing them on a flat screen you pay more attention to their words and there were lots of tripwires in his speech. The “relocation “of the Palestinians in ‘48 like they got up in the morning and said, “let’s go to Lebanon.” Its heart was in the right place and of course the Arab elites wanted this to work. It was very interesting. When he spoke at Cairo University I got into. The Egyptians present were all members of the pro-regime, pro-American upper middle class elite of society. There was nobody there who was going to be shouting Islamic statements to Obama.

And of course it wasn’t going to happen.


Venezuela Wins!
Cindy Sheehan’s Interview with Temir Porra
(Foreign Vice Minister of Venezuela)

Note: What follows is my March 2010 interview with, Temir Porras. Temir is Vice Foreign Minister of Middle Easter Affairs in Venezuela. The only thing that has really changed since this interview is that the US has invaded the sovereign countries of Pakistan, Yemen and Libya.

CS: Hi, welcome to this Special Audio and video broadcast of Cindy Sheehan’s Soapbox. Our guest today is Temir Porras who is the Vice Minister in charge of Middle Eastern affairs welcome to the soapbox tamir

TP: Thank you Cindy

CS Thank you so much for your time

TP: Thank you

CS: The reason I wanted to have you on the show and on the documentary (book) is to really expose the differences of the foreign policies of the empire, which is the United States of course, and Venezuela. My first question to you will be very easy, How many wars of aggression is Venezuela currently in, in the Middle East?

TP: None!

CS: Okay, and how many wars of aggression is Venezuela currently in anywhere?

TP: None!

CS: And how many wars is Venezuela currently in?

TP: Zero.

CS:  Zero. Okay, that was very easy.

TP: Well, probably one.

CS: One?

TP: The war of aggression on poverty.

CS: Well, we don’t like to call that a war In the United States because that is something that never ends and the resources are just privatized, like the war on drugs which is a similar case down here in South America. Especially that, I know you are not the Charge for South America but there is border skirmishes along the Columbian border are there not?

TP: No, well we don’t have skirmishes between the Venezuelan Army and the Colombian Army. What we have is a very large border, which is about 2,000 kilometers long, and as you know in the United States, Colombia has gone through an internal war for about 60 years. War between the Government, the Guerilla movement and the Paramilitary who have been struggling in an internal conflict for 60 years, and of course Venezuela is a neighboring country has been suffering of the consequences of that war.

Our policy has always been that we have to solve the origins of the problem, which means we have to reach peace in Colombia. Which is why we are opposing all the policies that tend to intensify the conflict in Colombia. But of course, from time to time it is inevitable that the Venezuelan people living in the borderline that they suffer from the consequences be it because there are skirmishes on the Colombian side. Because one of the parties goes through the border to the Venezuelan side. Or the most tremendous and dramatical consequence of that conflict, and that is that there are currently 3 million Colombian citizens living in Venezuela because they are running away from that conflict and they come to Venezuela just to live in peace and normally.

CS: Refugees.

TP: Yes, that’s right.

CS: Well this is a little off the subject of why I brought you here, but it’s really not, George Bush, of course Chavez called him the “Devil.” Most of the people of the world agreed with that, but George Bush wasn’t as aggressive towards Venezuela and South America as Obama seems to be. I mean, Obama has reactivated the 4th Fleet; he has put a lot of troops in Haiti after the earthquake with seems to be excessive for controlling crime that would happen after such a natural disaster. We have troops now in Columbia and we are planning on sending more troops to Columbia. It seems to me that, and one of the reasons it felt so urgent for me to come down here and do this, it seems of course that the United States under the Obama administration is intensifying the hostilities in this part of South America. And, it seems like with the drones flying over, I think the drones and planes may be coming from Columbia but I think maybe also Aruba flying over Venezuelan airspace to provoke some kind of reaction from Venezuela.

TP: Well, our reaction is always a political one. I mean Venezuela is not an aggressive country and we’re not looking for have a war with anybody. But, you’re right. Lets remember nevertheless that during the Bush administration we had a Coup d’ tat in 2002 that was organized and promoted by the Bush administration. So, but it’s true we weren’t really surprised by it because we knew who we were dealing with.

Now as President Chaves has said we have this enigma of the two Obamas. At the beginning and during the campaign, and we were very excited about the outcome of that election because we tend to believe what politicians say. So we truly believed there was a possibility of having a change in the foreign policy at least. That’s what concerns Venezuela with the United States and during the first month of his administration we had what we believed at the time to be a historical moment of President Obama attending, in Trinidad, the summit of the Americas. Attending each and every meeting. Being humble, speaking to each and everyone respectfully, etc, even to President Chavez they had the time to exchange words. But since then lets remember. We had a coup d’ tat in Honduras.

Second, in July we had seven military bases installed in Colombia and they have been saying this is to fight against drug trafficking but given the characteristics of those bases anyone can know that is not the final purpose of those. And, of course Venezuela being criticized and attacked on a daily basis by spokespersons of the Department of State of the United States, being criticized by military spokesman on a daily basis. Once again, we tend to believe that this is a stamp giving by the US Administration to threaten Venezuela because we are an oil rich country, a strategic country for the United States and because the Venezuelan government does not comply with the instructions given by Washington.

So of course we still have hope and we do believe in the American people and their capacity in reacting putting pressure on their government. We still believe that maybe President Obama is maybe somebody more reasonable than President Bush. But so far what we have had does not mean we are having a change. The policy of the Empire is intensifying in South America and I don’t know the reasons. That is the problem of the American people, of the American society to solve. But the truth, the reality is we have had no change with this administration.

CS: Thank you for the explanation of what the Empire is doing here in South America. I think you might have a little more confidence in the American people than I do because there actually was a Coup d’ tat a long time ago in the United States of the ruling class elite and their absolute control of the propaganda and so that’s why this documentary (now, book) is so important to get to the United States to tell the truth and why it’s so urgent. But you are the Vice Minister in charge of Middle Eastern Affairs, which of course is where I think a lot of the US resources, and Empire is being used in my opinion, incorrectly.

Now, Afghanistan and Iraq obviously have US puppet governments installed there. But Venezuela I think has relations with Iran and of course the rhetoric in the United States against Iran has been very, very hostile and they’re working in collaboration with the United States to put tougher sanctions on Iran because they want a nuclear bomb. Which in fact I think that may have been admitted to by Ahmadinejad. Can you tell from a Venezuelan perspective of the relation between the Empire, Iran and Venezuela?

TP: Yes. From a Venezuelan perspective Venezuela has relations with almost every country in the world. That’s the first thing. We do respect the national sovereignty of each and every country in the world. The first big difference of view is that we do not go in to a region to attack other countries to remove or install other governments because Venezuela lives in the Venezuela space. We have relationships with other countries but we do not tend to tell them what to do or go in to their territories to change the course of history or politics. So this is a very very big difference.

The second difference is we do respect the right of every country to organize it’s self internally and externally as they think it is appropriate for their society. Therefore we do have a relationship with Iran as we do have relationships with other countries that are allies of the United States such as Saudi Arabia. I don’t know, even Colombia neighboring Venezuela.

The problem is the United States has been accusing Iran of some amazing things that they tend to be selective in their accusations.

Why don’t we worry, how can we say that Iran is a threat to the United States if the United States has been occupying military, the geo-strategic space surrounding Iran? We should remember that there are US troops in almost every country that surrounds Iran. We should remember that a neighboring country of Iran, which is a strong ally of the United States, has developed a nuclear bomb. That would be Israel. The nuclear program developed by Israel is not more legal than the eventual nuclear program that the United States is accusing Iran of being developed. So, well it is a terrible misunderstanding and there is a huge propaganda given to the western society particularly to the US people. But why do we say, let’s try to do this game? Why don’t we say, why don’t we invert the terms of the accusation and say, well lets worry for the Iranian people who are being threatened by the government of Israel, who has already a bomb, who has invaded Lebanon in 2006, and they’re occupying illegally Syrian territory and Palestine.

So, you know from time to time we think, and it depends on perspective I guess, it is amazing how the terms of a problem can be inverted and of course this crusade that is in progress in the Middle East against the countries that don’t comply to the orders of the Empire are presented to US opinion and to the western societies in such amazing terms.

CS: Well, do you think that the hostile rhetoric, the imposition of sanctions like you pointed out which really hurt the people during the sanction period of the United States on Iraq, at least 2 million civilians died during that sanction period, and of course all it does is strengthen nationalism and the resolve to survive under these horrible sanctions. Do you think that this hostility towards Iran is because of Israel? Is because Israel does feel threatened because Iran is a strong country that might be able to defend it’s self against the aggressions of Israel? Or do you think it is because of natural resources that Iran has?

TP: Both, there is both.

CS: Both?

TP: There is both reasons. Lets remember, the US people should bear in mind, the American People should bear in mind, the fact that in the whole Middle East with the exception of Israel, that Iran is probably the only country that elects it’s officials. There is a political system in Iran. They’re in a Republic. There are elections in Iran. They have seen through the media the huge protests that occurred last year and at the same time there is this contradiction. They say you are living in a dictatorship in Iran. But at the same time you are able to see on the media those protests. You can see that there are different tendencies struggling for power and that they oppose each other in elections. If one of the tendencies is not happy because they lost they go and protest. I don’t know if you can say the same thing for some other countries that I won’t name who are very close geographically to Iran and they are very close allies of the United States. So Iran is a very complex society. I have been to Iran tens of times.

CP: Well we have to realize that whatever system is in place in Iran right now is in direct result of the United States overthrowing a democratically elected government in the early fifties, Mossadegh?

TP: Yes, of course and nowadays Iran is a highly productive economy, is a very complex society where people having different points of view live.

You can find in Iran a strong industry. If you were to find a comparison, I would say in the Middle East Iran is the Brazil of South America. I mean it is a highly populated country, very well trained population, highly educated with a complex political system, with a productive industry and of course a strong armed forces.

So of course when you have an Imperialistic plan for that region Iran is an obstacle to your plans, and Iran has resisted the policies implemented by the United States in the last 30 years. But once again, you say Iran is threatening the US interest but the United States are a thousand kilometers from that region so once again, who is coming to the others region?

The United States is occupying that region and they say Iran is a threat. Iranians live in that region and it is normal that Iran has an importance in that region and has an influence in that region. So once again from a Venezuelan perspective we don’t understand that language. We don’t understand and we don’t share those values and of course we will support Iran in their right for developing their industry, including nuclear program if that nuclear program is not meant to develop a nuclear weapon. But once again let’s remember those who have a weapon in that region are not

Israel has a nuclear weapon and of course Iran has the right to feel threatened by that nuclear weapon in Israel.

CS: I think one of those countries you wouldn’t mention but I will is Egypt. Egypt is, of course, a dictatorship. It’s been a dictatorship for many decades now under Hasni Mubarak. It’s gets the top amounts of military aide from the United States and helps Israel’s oppression of the Palestinian people being the border of Gaza right there. But nobody in the United States is putting sanctions on Egypt. That’s the hypocrisy of the United States—Saudi Arabia is a horribly oppressive and violent society also against the people. One of the reasons I think the Middle East is so destabilized, and I am not the expert, you are, of course is our support of Israel in it’s oppression of the Palestinian people. Many US regimes have said that we are going to solve the Israeli/Palestinian problems. It’s never ever been solved. What is the Venezuelan position on Israel and Palestine?

TP: First of all, Cindy, maybe as a citizen I can have of course have an opinion, as a foreign policy official and that’s a very core difference between the United States and Venezuela. We do respect each and every country. We do respect Egypt as we respect Iran. We can have our private, our own conception of how organizing a democratic society. But it is not to the Venezuelan government to say what the Egyptian government or the Iranian government should do to organize their societies.

CS: That’s the difference from the United States. The United States would say, Iran you have to organize your government this way but Egypt, hands off, you can do whatever you want.

TP: Absolutely

CS: Very selective, the United States is very selective with what dictatorships it supports and what “dictatorships” it overthrows.

TP: Absolutely, and we do not have the definition of democracy and dictatorship that is to be applied to each and every people in the world. We humbly try to build our own democracy and we intend to do it in a sovereign way.

The second thing is that of course Venezuela supports the struggle of the Palestinian people.

Let me very clear because we have been accused of being anti-Semitic because we do support the Palestinian cause and because we have criticized the government of Israel for what we believe is just a horrendous oppression of the Palestinian people.

First in 2006 Israel attacked Lebanon, once again illegally. I have a problem saying “illegally” because I don’t believe there can be legal attacks. And when they say there were civilian casualties in those attacks, I mean, who has the right to kill someone else and who has the right to say that this death is legitimate and the other is the death of an innocent person?

I mean, this was just a military attack an illegal attack that should be condemned by each and every country in the world. But unfortunately the Venezuelan government was almost alone in condemning that attack and we withdrew our ambassador from Israel in 2006 when the Israeli’s attacked Lebanon with no reason.

The second moment was at the beginning of 2009 when Israel massacred Palestinian people in one of the most horrendous war crimes that we have witnessed in this last decade. So that was the moment Venezuela decided to expel the Israeli Ambassador and, of course, to close our embassy in Tel Aviv and break diplomatic relationships with that government. That was in Gaza, when Israel attacked Gaza in January 2009.

So what does it have to do with the Venezuelan government being anti-Semitic? We respect the people of Israel and we hope the people of Israel will be capable of changing the course of their government policy, foreign policy or regional policy or the military policy.

We do have a large Jewish community in Venezuela that we respect and we have relations with but those are Venezuelans. They do not represent the government of Israel.

We do have the right to criticize that government as we have the right to criticize the actions of other governments when we think they are not fair and that they are applying to other countries and peoples when it is not a matter of internal affairs. So Venezuela supports the rights of the Palestinian people, we support the right of the Palestinian people to have their own state, sovereign state not half sovereign state occupied militarily by Israel or other countries.

And of course we believe it is to the Palestinians to build their own state and to solve their own internal problems. We do not believe the intervention of the United States, the European Union, or any other foreign power will bring a solution to that problem because we believe the key to that problem is to tell Israel and the government of Israel to withdraw from the illegally occupied territory.

So the key of the problem is a military occupation and if the western powers, the United Stands and the European Union agree with that policy and support Israel on their military policy in Palestine we will not find a solution. So once again, the solution is the creation of a Palestinian state immediately. We do not have to wait. The Israeli government occupies more and more territory and you know puts the solution a step further, far away from the right solution that should be the Palestinian problem. So, once again, Venezuela supports the Palestinian cause, supports the creation of a Palestinian State and we believe we are in the right of criticizing the Israeli policy in the Middle East supported by the United States and the European Union.

CS: We’ve already talked for 30 minutes. Do you have more time? We haven’t even talked about Afghanistan yet. But this has been super interesting. Just one quick thing before we move on to Afghanistan and off Israel. So if you support a sovereign state that is separate and sovereign from Israel do you also support an Israeli state in Palestine, the right for an Israel state?

TP: Absolutely.

CS: That of course that brings in all kinds of diplomatic nightmares about the right of return and how you are going to partition the state. But we will move on because if that happens that’s far in the future anyway.

CS: Barack Obama actually campaigned on a policy of increasing troops to Afghanistan. Now I don’t want to forget about Iraq because Iraq is still an active military occupation even though we don’t see the number of US troops killed that we would see before.

The Iraqi country is still unstable, Iraqi people are still being killed. Iraqi people have been dispossessed of their lands, their homes. The country has almost become like Israel and Palestine with the walls, partitions and checkpoints that people have to go through to get home. And of course that is a crime to separate people ethnically, religiously and to build walls to separate them.

So, before Barack Obama became President, Afghanistan was the forgotten occupation. Now that he is President Iraq is the forgotten occupation. I don’t want us to forget that, but the US is having some severe attacks, some severe military operations in Afghanistan and of course the CIA is actively drone bombing Pakistan, and we have seen US troops being killed in Pakistan where we are told there are no US troops. But Barack Obama campaigned on sending more troops into Afghanistan.

Since he has become President he has tripled the troop commitment in Afghanistan. 2009 was the most deadly year for US troops, NATO troops and the people of Afghanistan. What is the official Venezuelan policy about Afghanistan? I think I know your answer hearing what you said about Iran, Palestine and Israel. But what would be the official, if you were President of the United States what would you do Tamir?

TP: I would be the first Latino President of the United States.

CS: Then we could all celebrate.

TP: But I would not be happy just because I was the first African American President.

CS: As Obama said, “the change is me”. No, no, no, the change is not the person; the change has to be the policy.

TP: Absolutely, if we have the same policy with a different person what are we changing?

So the official policy of Venezuela is to say that there are no legitimate military occupations. I mean, but some people might say, well in international right there are ways that the UN authorizes military occupations. But once again, when have we seen military occupation the solution to the problem it was meant to solve? Never, of course never.

In the case of Iraq and in the case of Afghanistan we see that things just get worse. Why, because no matter what country you are talking about when you live under foreign occupation you can just intensify the fear, the anger, the sense of humiliation of a people who just want to live normally in their sovereign country and organize their society as they decide to.

Even when they say we can to an occupation to overthrow a dictator that is not your position. That is not for a foreign government to decide that and the people of those countries even in that situation feel humiliated because it is your own nation and your own political problem. So you are not vindicated if someone else comes along and says, “well this is the solution and now you have to live with it.”

Well we see it in the news. We see it day by day that that doesn’t bring a solution that just intensifies the contradictions inside those societies. There’s always when a military occupation occurs the support of a group against another and they intensify the ethnic tensions. That doesn’t bring a solution.

So the official position of Venezuela is that the US military must go immediately from Afghanistan. You can’t justify in the eyes of the world your own national security objectives by creating a war everywhere in the world.

I mean, what kind if national security is that that needs the rest of the world to be dying in each and every corner. This is horrendous.

The United States should interrogate itself and the American people should ask themselves, “why does our security need the rest of the world to be killed or invaded?”

There is something wrong about it. So they should withdraw immediately from Afghanistan. I can’t believe that a President that is talking about change can be elected on the program that promises the increase of a military occupation of a third country.

Of course the increase if military occupation only leads to more deaths, more casualties, more civilians killed, more American Soldiers killed and that is not a solution. They say we in Latin America and Latin American politicians are populists. That they are making promises to the people that are miracles solutions to the problems but that is the most populist thing you can say to your country. That sending more troops will solve the problem. That will only kill more American soldiers and citizens outside of the United States.

CS: Well, that just brings up so many things. Like the US placing missiles in old Soviet block countries. You know it just seem like they are once again isolating and increasing hostilities with what is now Russia.

One last question. The decade plus of military adventure that the old US/Soviet had in Afghanistan of course led to the eventual break up of the USSR the military force that it was before. If the united states keeps on with the policies of occupation Afghanistan is not Iraq it is not going to be easily subdued if it is ever subdues if the USSR could not do it right on their border how the united things it is ever going to do it. Do you think that this could eventual if the United States does not change its policies lead to the downfall of the US military empire?

TP: I hope so. I hope so that the American people will take part in that. It is very important that things happen politically. And that doesn’t mean the United States that doesn’t mean the American nation or the American people. That means the aggressive military policy of the US government. That means the Military industrial complex that rules the industrial policy of the United States.

CS: It rules everything in the United States

TP: And if that happens that will be a result of the will of the American people because it is important that if the empire falls there is a project something comes out of it, not just anarchy. So it is important also as we support national sovereignty of other countries we also support the national sovereignty of the United States. The US people should be proud of their country and proud of the actions and policies of their government. So we believe that’s very important. Now coming to that point, yes, we are living in very, very tough economic times. The world and the whole capitalist system has been in a huge collapse not seen since the crisis of 1929.

Nobody knows where this huge crisis will lead us. So, I believe of course the US government’s money should not be used in financing this incredible and useless and absurd foreign military policy but to finance the needs of the American people who are suffering because they are losing their homes, or losing their jobs. Why not use part of that money to send it over seas? But not as guns and weapons but as cooperation programs, as sovereign and respectful cooperation programs with other countries in the world being in the education, heath care, etc. I think the people in the world would love to make that support from the wealthiest country in the world. The national security of the United States would be better taken care of by doing something like that than sending troops.

So probably the Empire would collapse. But I just hope that collapse will lead to a different political reality in the United States.

CS: Thank you Tamir.

TP: Thank you

CS: Well you heard Temir, people of the United States. He said we need to organize, organize to have a healthy society instead of one that is so violent. Not just violence in our own country but violence around the world.

This interview can be heard at the archives at:

Thanks to Temir for being so generous with his time and thanks to Dede Miller for transcribing the interview.