Progressive Calendar 05.07.07
From: David Shove (
Date: Mon, 7 May 2007 07:03:34 -0700 (PDT)
            P R O G R E S S I V E   C A L E N D A R    05.07.07

1. Circuit City rally 5.07 5pm
2. Green Party/Edina  5.07 6:30pm
3. Sami/Iraq/art      5.07 7pm
4. Plan UHG protest   5.07 7pm
5. Films/Sundance     5.07 8pm

6. Ty Moore/YAWR/KFAI 5.08 11am
7. Yuck Dungy         5.08 4:30pm
8. Soft drinks suck   5.08 5pm
9. Ag/food book       5.08 5:30pm
10. Dixi Chicks/film  5.08 6:30pm

11. Kevin Zeese - The Democrats cave to Bush; time for a summer of action
12. Carla Blank - American massacres and the media: a deeper look
13. P Navarrete - John Pilger: Washington's war on democracy

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From: Lydia Howell <lhowell [at]>
Subject: Circuit City rally 5.07 5pm

Send Circuit City A Message
Help bring attention to Circuit City's poor corporate behavior.

Join us at the Circuit City store in Roseville, Minn., at 5 p.m. Monday,
May 7. The store is located at 1750 Highway 36 W Street B (Take Fairview
Ave. exit from Highway 36).

Tell Circuit City, "An injury to one is an injury to all."

These days, the Circuit City hiring policy seems to be, "Good Worker?
You're Fired. Cheap worker? You're hired."

On March 28, in a move the company called "realigning its cost and expense
structure," Circuit City fired 3,400 store employees because they were
being paid hourly wages above the national retail average. New workers
were hired at lower pay. Meanwhile, Circuit City's executives are making
money hand over fist.

Stewart Acuff, organizing director of the AFL-CIO, will join us at the
Circuit City store in Roseville, Minn., at 5 p.m. Monday, May 7, to bring
attention to poor corporate behavior in our community. The store is
located at 1750 Highway 36 W Street B (Take Fairview Ave exit from Highway

Here's a look at the company's latest executive compensation numbers:
Philip Schoonover, president, chair and CEO: $7,561,375; Michael Foss,
executive vice president, CFO: $5,011,798; George D. Clark Jr., executive
vice president, president---retail stores: $3,204,133; Fiona P. Dias,
executive vice president, chief marketing officer: $3,124,509; and Douglas
T. Moore, executive vice president, chief merchandising officer:

While Circuit City's executives pull in millions of dollars a year, the
company is firing employees for making more per hour than the national
average. It just doesn't seem fair.

The Minnesota AFL-CIO also calls on Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.) to sponsor
the Employee Free Choice Act, which would level the playing field for
workers like those at Circuit City and help rebuild America's middle
class. Please call Sen. Coleman today at 1-800-774-8941 and encourage him
to support the bill.

Once again, please join the Minnesota AFL-CIO at the Circuit City store in
Roseville at 5 p.m. Monday, May 7.

Help send a message to Circuit City: "An injury to one is an injury to all."

In solidarity, Working Families e-Activist Network, AFL-CIO

--------2 of 13--------

From: David Strand <mncivil [at]>
Subject: Green Party/Edina 5.07 6:30pm

Among numerous discussion items at this GP meeting will be the Edina 4th
of July parade and Green involvement as well as many other issue action

Green Party of Edina Member Meeting
Monday May 7, 2007
6:30 pm - 8:00 pm
Repeats:   This event repeats every month on the first Monday.
Edina Community Library - Small Meeting Room
5280 Grandview Square

--------3 of 13--------

From: wamm <wamm [at]>
Subject: Sami/Iraq/art 5.07 7pm

Iraqi-American Sami Rasouli +  Iraqi Art: NW Neighbors for Peace

Monday May 7, 7:00 P.M.St. Joseph's Parish, 8701 36th Avenue North
(Southwest corner of 36th and Boone), New Hope.  Original art by Iraqi
artists and children will be for sale; proceeds will be divided between
the individual artists and the Peacemaker Teams. Free and open to the
public. Sponsored by: Northwest Neighbors for Peace. FFI: Email
<nwn4p [at]> or call 763-546-5368.

--------4 of 13--------

From: Stefanie Levi <stefalala [at]>
Subject: Plan UHG protest 5.07 7pm

There is a DIRECT ACTION ORGANIZING MEETING taking place at MY HOME 3833
12TH AVE SO MPLS on THIS MONDAY, MAY 7, 2007 from 7-9 P. M.

This meeting is to plan for whatever actions we will do at the United
Health Group board meeting on 29 May, 2007. We will meet out at UHG in
Minnetonka that morning at 8:00; their meeting begins an hour later. We
ant folks to be out there together, early on that day so we can be
well-coordinated with our actions.

Several very cool ideas for direct action were discussd at our May monthly
UHCAN meeting. It was clear we need more time to plan the event.

SO...PLEASE COME to the planning meeting this Monday. If you can't attend
this meeting, but still want to be involved in, or support in any way, our
direct actions at UHG on the 29th, please call or email Joel Albers.
My (Stefanie Levi's) phone number is: 612-822-2974

--------5 of 13--------

From: Charles Underwood <charleyunderwood [at]>
Subject: Films/Sundance 5.07 8pm

Monday, 5.7, film "Sir! No Sir!" at 8 pm and film "The Ground Truth" at 9:30
pm on the Sundance Channel, your television.  (Invite a few dozen friends
who don't get cable.)

--------6 of 13--------

From: Lydia Howell <lhowell [at]>
Subject: Ty Moore/YAWR/KFAI 5.08 11am

Tue.May 8, 11 am on KFAI's "Catalyst:politics & culture", hosted by Lydia
Howell; a conversation with Ty Moore of Youth Against war & racism (YAWR)
talking about the counter-military encampment this weekend at the State
Capitol. He'll also update on efforts to limit recruiters' access to
students and what happened at the St. Paul School board. Hear some
wonderful poems by the great IWW/anti0war singer-songwriter Utah Phillips
about NOT joining the military and more!

--------7 of 13--------

From: David Strand <mncivil [at]>
Subject: Yuck Dungy 5.08 4:30pm

Protest and Petition

The Queer Student Cultural Center will be holding a silent protest in
front of Mariucci Arena in response to the University of Minnesota¢s
Alumni Association (UMAA) honoring of Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy.
The protest will take place on Tuesday, May 8, from 4:30pm to 8:30pm on
the front lawn of Mariucci Arena.

We have also started a petition to voice our opposition to honoring
somebody who actively discriminates against any group of individuals. If
you would like to sign the petition, or would like more information please
stop by the QSCC in Room 205 of Coffman Memorial Union. Any further
questions can be directed to our office at 612-626-2344.

--------8 of 13--------

From: Eric Angell <eric-angell [at]>
Subject: Soft drinks suck 5.08 5pm

St. Paul Neighborhood Network (SPNN 15) viewers:

"Our World In Depth" cablecasts at 5 pm and midnight each Tuesday and 10
am each Wednesday in St. Paul.  All households with basic cable can watch.

** 5/8 and 5/9 ** "Coke and Pepsi: Hard Questions for Soft Drinks" w/Sanat
Mohanty from India, Gerardo Cajamarca from Colombia and Merideth Cleary
interpreting.  Hosted by Eric Angell.

--------9 of 13--------

From: Dara Syrkin <dsyrkin [at]>
Subject: Ag/food book 5.08 5:30pm

Raking Through Books presents a discussion with Gary Holthaus about his
book, From the Farm to the Table, What All Americans Need to Know about
Agriculture. Holthaus spent years talking to farm families in Minnesota
and gathering their stories-about politics, economics, agrarian work ethic
and the choices we all make when we buy food.  Join Gary to discuss his
book, research, sustainability, and eating in America.

Free and open to the public.  Don't worry about having read the book, just
come and discuss literature and the topics at hand!

Raking Through Books takes place at Kieran's Irish Pub, 330 2nd Ave. S.,
Minneapolis, from 5:30 to 7 p.m.

Raking Through Books is a monthly book club cosponsored by the Loft, The
Rake magazine, Kieran's Irish Pub, U of M Bookstores, Peace Coffee and
KFAI Radio.

Dara Syrkin The Loft Literary Center Member Services Coordinator and
Associate Editor 612-215-2575

--------10 of 13--------

From: patty <pattypax [at]>
Subject: Dixi Chicks/film 5.08 6:30pm

Hi, Next Tuesday, May 8, we will see the film, Shut Up and Sing about the
Dixi Chicks.  The film chronicles the lives of the Dixi Chicks from 2003
to 2006.  From being maligned as "traitors" and "peaceniks" byt the Bush
Administration, the right wing and red-nicks to winning 5 Grammies, this
film shows how personal attacks can occur along side of personal growth.

Pax Salons ( ) are held (unless otherwise
noted in advance): Tuesdays, 6:30 to 8:30 pm. Mad Hatter's Tea House, 943
W 7th, St Paul, MN

Salons are free but donations encouraged for program and treats.
Call 651-227-3228 or 651-227-2511 for information.

-------11 of 13--------

Time for a Summer of Action
The Democrats Cave to Bush
May 4, 2007

In reaction to President Bush's veto the Democrats are reportedly caving
in to give him a Iraq War funding without any obligation to end the war.
They are making Bush "the decider" once again. It seems that rather than
having a lame duck president we have a lame Congress. The only thing that
will end the war is constant, organized and focused pressure from
Americans who oppose the war.

Two peace moms have called on anti-war activists to come to Washington, DC
after Mother's Day. Cindy Sheehan is organizing a "Mother of a March" on
May 14, 2007. She is inviting "all mothers and all people who have
mothers" to join her. This will be the kick-off to a "Summer of Action,"
being spearheaded by Marine Mom Tina Richards. This summer peace activists
will swarm Congress from May 14 to July 31 to urge an end to the war. You
can see an interview of Tina Richards about the "Summer of Action" here.

The last few months have shown that we can move Congress toward the view
that the war must end. When the Democrats came to power they said "we will
not use the power of the purse to end the war." Now, they have moved from
that position to passing a bill that opposes Bush enough for him to veto
it. They did not include ending the war on their first 100 hours
agenda - now it is an issue they cannot avoid.

More work is needed peace advocated need to consistently stiffen the spine
of Congress so they have the courage to do what the people want - end the
war. As the 2008 election approaches the power of the anti-war voter
becomes greater, especially if it is organized and focused.

Cindy Sheehan says "The Camp Casey Peace Institute is calling for a march
on Congress on Monday, May 14th to demand an end to the war and an end to
the Bush Regime." The marchers will meet at the Ellipse at noon in front
of the White House. For more information see

Tina Richards has been working in Washington, DC for the past several
months and she has seen the power that one committed person can have on
the nation's capitol. You can see more about Tina on her website, and you can register to join us in the
"Summer of Action" in Washington, DC.

We want peace advocates to come and join us not only in traditional
lobbying but in "extraordinary lobbying." The "Summer of Action" will
build on the successful efforts of activists in DC and around the country
who have been engaging in "extraordinary lobbying" by occupying offices,
protesting in the Halls of Congress and sending a consistent message to
end the war. It will build on the Occupation Project, Voices for Creative
Non-Violence, and the Declaration of Peace. Already, key anti-war groups
are supporting this effort including United For Peace and Justice and
Voters For Peace.

Bring people from your local peace group and plan an office occupation or
a demonstration inside one of the congressional office buildings as part
of the "Summer of Action." Or, come alone and join our ongoing efforts to
pressure Congress. To get some ideas of the types of events you can
organize visit They have been documenting many of the
DC events and will be doing so throughout the "Summer of Action."

Republicans saw the power of the peace vote in 2006 when they lost
majority power and some of their leading incumbents - senators like
George Allen and Rick Santorum who thought they had an easy re-election
and were considering running for president - were defeated. And Democrats
saw anti-war candidates win primary and general elections that were
unexpected. Democrats know they were elected to end the war. If they fail
to fulfill that mandate they will find themselves facing angry voters. In
2008 incumbents will be held accountable for the war if they vote to fund
the war.

The summer of 2007 will be a historical one that will be noted as the
turning point in efforts to end the war. The very visible and dramatic
activities of organized citizens swarming on Washington in the "Summer of
Action" will be seen as one of the key steps taken by the peace movement
to end the war. Come to the Capitol and be a part of history.

Kevin Zeese is the director of DemocracyRising.US and a co-founder of

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[The reason we don't believe America can ever commit crimes is that
they/we have systematically "forgotten" our past crimes. An evil
arranged innocence. And then onward to greater and greater crimes. -ed]

A Deeper Look
American Massacres and the Media
May 5 / 6, 2007

The mass media coverage of how 33 students were fatally shot and at least
15 injured on the Virginia Tech campus in Blacksburg, Virginia, was
punctuated by phrases such as, "the worst massacre in U.S. history." or as
the New York Times put it, the "Worst U.S. Gun Rampage." CNN called it the
"Deadliest Killing Spree in U.S. history." This was followed by San
Francisco Fox affiliate KTVU Channel 2's claim that it was "the worst
massacre ever in the United States."

TV text and commentary did not qualify these claims, and at least one
Virginia Tech student, an Asian American himself, echoed the phrase when
interviewed on national television, pondering his presence at the "worst
massacre in U.S. history."

In reality, an accurate investigation of mass killings of this magnitude
would quickly reveal that the Virginia Tech massacre, as horrendous as it
was, was not the worst massacre to occur on U.S. soil. Before Blacksburg,
there were many bloodier massacres. Here are just some massacres that took
place on mainland U.S. soil in the 19th and 20th centuries, which involved
guns and where more than 33 people were known to be killed:

--In 1832, the junction of the Bad Axe and Mississippi Rivers, at Saukenuk
(now Rock Island, Illinois), was site of the extermination of at least 300
Sac (Plains Indians also known as Sauk) men, women and children, and 20
whites. The government was so determined to remove the Saks from the small
portion of their ancestral homelands that they were attempting to withhold
from white settlers, that 1,300 federal troops under General Samuel
Whiteside and the Illinois state militia - including Lieutenant Jefferson
Davis, Captain Abraham Lincoln, and Colonel Zachary Taylor-carried out
eight hours of mayhem against 500 Indians who were already in retreat.

--In 1857, at Mountain Meadows, Utah, between 100 to 140 white settlers
were massacred at their camp site, after falling for a false offer of
truce to end five days of fighting. The victims were emigrating in covered
wagons to California from Arkansas, and their temporary encampment was in
Mormon territory, as the Mormons had migrated from Illinois to settle the
Great Salt Lake Valley in 1846, and President Milliard Fillmore had
appointed their leader, Brigham Young, as territorial governor in 1850.
There have been many charges and counter charges of cover-ups over the
years, but the essentials of an 1859 investigation, led by U.S. Army
Brevot Major James H. Carleton, concluded that Mormons dressed as Paiute
Indians were the perpetrators of this slaughter of men, women and
children, where "every skull had been shot through with rifle or pistol
bullets." The Paiute Indians denied any involvement, and a 1999
archeological excavation at the memorial site found skeletons confirming
Major Carleton's report.

--In 1860, Bret Harte, a well-known California writer, had just began his
career, working as a local newspaper reporter in Arcata, California (a
town then known as Union). Harte was expelled from Humboldt County because
he recorded the Gunther Island Massacre of Wiyot Indians, committed on
February 26, 1860, when a small group of white men murdered between 60 to
200 Wiyot men, women and children. The massacre was encouraged by a local
newspaper. Extermination was once the official policy of the California
government toward Native Americans, as Governor Peter H. Burnett stated in
1851: "That a war of extermination will continue to be waged between the
two races until the Indian race becomes extinct, must be expected"

--On April 12, 1864, at Fort Pillow, near Memphis, Tennessee, Confederate
troops under General Nathan Forrest massacred 227 black and white Union
troops with such ferocity that an eyewitness Confederate soldier said,
"blood, human blood, stood about in pools and brains could have been
gathered up in any quantity. General Forrest ordered them shot down like
dogs and the carnage continued. Finally our men became sick of blood and
the firing ceased."

--On April 13, 1873, 350 miles northwest of New Orleans in Colfax, Grand
Parish, Louisiana, 280 blacks were victims of a group of armed white men
that included members of the White League and the Ku Klux Klan. Known as
the Colfax Massacre, it was said to be sparked by contested local
elections, although more generally its cause was white opposition to
Reconstruction, which in 1875 resulted in United States v. Cruikshank, an
important basis of future gun control legislation, because it allows that
"the federal government had no power to protect citizens against private
action (not committed by federal or state government authorities) that
deprived them of their constitutional rights under the 14th Amendment."
(quote from "The Racist Origins of US Gun Control" by Steve Ekwall)

--In the 1880s, when anti-Chinese sentiment was rampant throughout the
western United States after the 1882 enactment of the first Chinese
Exclusion Act, two massacres of more than 30 Chinese immigrant workers
occurred. In 1885, in riots against Chinese miners employed by the Union
Pacific Railroad to work their coal mines at Rock Springs, Wyoming, more
than 40 Chinese Americans were robbed, shot, and burned by a mob of white
miners, who also burned the "Chinatown" village to the ground. The white
miners, still angry that the Chinese miners had been brought in ten years
earlier as strike breakers, disputed the right of the Chinese to work the
mine's more profitable veins. Federal troops had to be brought in to
protect the surviving Chinese workers, and no one ever was convicted of
these crimes. In 1887, at Hells Canyon on the Snake River in Wallowa
County, Oregon, a gang of at least 7 white horse thieves robbed, shot or
otherwise murdered and mutilated at least 31 or 34 Chinese immigrants who
six months previously had set up camp to mine gold there. Many bodies
remained unfound until months later, when another group of Chinese
immigrants arrived to mine gold in the area. Although 3 people were
brought to trial for the crimes in Oregon, no one was convicted. The
National Archives holds diplomatic correspondence between representatives
of the Chinese and U.S. governments, showing the U.S. authorities agreed
to make financial compensations for loss of life and property in these and
other 1880s incidents, to be received by the victims' families. In 2005,
the Hells Canyon area was renamed Chinese Massacre Cove to honor those

--In 1913, during another nationally publicized action known as the Ludlow
Massacre, over 66 people were killed, including eleven children and two
women who were burned alive. Sparked by a strike against the Rockefeller
family-owned Colorado Fuel and Iron Corporation by the mostly foreign born
Serb, Greek and Italian coal miners after one of their union organizers
was murdered, it eventually involved the Colorado National Guard, imported
strikebreakers, and sympathetic walk-outs by union miners throughout the
state. The union never was recognized by the company, and a U.S.
Congressional committee investigation failed to result in indictments of
any militiaman or mine guard.

--In 1921, a year when 64 lynchings were reported, the African American
Greenwood business district of Tulsa, Oklahoma, was the site of shooting
deaths of at least 40 people, most of whom are black, although the actual
- but undocumented - death toll is said to be closer to 300. This site was
then known as the "Negro's Wall Street," and was home to 15,000 people and
191 businesses. The rampage took the form of a riot, and was caused by
economic tensions, particularly sparked by an article in the Tulsa Tribune
regarding an alleged rape incident between a black shoe shiner and a white
elevator operator - a rape that never occurred. Because of this riot,
Tulsa became the first U.S. city to be bombed from the air, when police
dropped dynamite from private planes to break it up. Whites took
possession of most of the land, and the site has become part of Oklahoma
State University's Tulsa campus.

--In 1971, at Attica State Correctional Facility, a federal
maximum-security prison in upstate New York, 1,300 inmates staged a
revolt, said to be sparked by news that George Jackson, a member of the
Black Panthers, had been killed by guards at California's San Quentin
State Prison during an alleged escape. Four days of negotiations about
inmates' rights ended when Governor Nelson Rockefeller called in 500 state
troopers and police. Helicopters dropped pepper gas, and over 2,000
bullets were fired into the yard where hostages, inmates, and guards
huddled together, killing 31 prisoners and 9 guards. Guards violently
assaulted the surviving prisoners with clubs in the aftermath of what is
said to be the bloodiest suppression of an inmate uprising in U.S. history

The reporting of the Virginia Tech massacre reveals that an ignorance of
American history is not only a problem effecting American students but
extends to our most influential newsrooms, even those with archives
extending back to the 1800s. The New York Times' referring to Virginia
Tech as the "Worst U.S. gun rampage" encouraged other newspapers to follow
their lead. This is how public myths are begun. Present on the Times'
editorial staff is Brent Staples, a black writer who is an expert on the
Tulsa massacre. There is no excuse for such historical amnesia on the part
of those who have taken upon themselves the serious task of informing the

Post script:

At this May 11th revision/expansion of the Op-Ed that originally appeared
May 2 in the San Francisco Chronicle and on CounterPunch, I continue to
find, and readers continue to send, other U.S. massacres of the Virginia
Tech scale or greater, some obscured by time, some well known. I have not
had time to fully research many of these events, but thought it might be
helpful, however overwhelming, to acknowledge these investigations:

In 1862 the U.S. government hung 38 innocent Dakota people in Mankato,
Minnesota, under an order from President Abraham Lincoln that was and
still is the largest mass execution in U.S. history.

In the 1887 massacre at Thibodaux, Louisiana, the Louisiana militia and
vigilante bands of "prominent citizens" killed between 30 to 2000 black
sugar plantation workers and their families after about 9000 black and
1000 white workers staged a strike at sugar plantations in St. Mary,
Terrebonne, and Lafourche parishes. The strike was organized by the
Knights of Labor, a national labor union representing both white and black
workers, to raise workers' wages from $1.00 to $1.25 per day.

In the 1890 massacre at Wounded Knee, a Sioux reservation in present day
South Dakota, more than 300 unarmed men, women, and children, mostly
Lakota Sioux followers of the Ghost Dance, were killed by U.S. military
troops while practicing religious services. The victims were dumped in a
mass grave. Writer and historian Gerald Vizenor said in Rediscovering

"The massacre of the Sioux at Wounded Knee in 1890 marked a moment of
profound transformation in the narrative of America and its native
population, who within a decade would see their numbers drop to historic
lows. The story of America over the last hundred years in some ways starts
here; the American story is in crucial ways the story of those who have
been marginalized, attacked, destroyed, or held captive, and have survived
to remember, bear witness, create, innovate, and contribute."

In 1993 the FBI and the Christian Branch Davidian sect, a religious group
that lived in a compound in Waco, Texas, engaged in a standoff. Following
the shooting of 4 agents by Branch Davidians, the sect's compound caught
fire. More than 80 members of the sect were killed, including children.
Although later investigations indicate the Branch Davidians had placed
highly flammable materials in the compound, suggesting a mass suicide may
have been planned, in 1999 the FBI admitted to its possible use of
pyrotechnic tear-gas canisters. "Remember Waco!" became an anthem of the
radical right, inspiring more acts of mass violence, especially the
bombing of the Federal Building in Oklahoma City on the 2nd anniversary of
Waco in 1995, which ex-U.S. soldier Timothy McVeigh admitted was plotted
to avenge the Branch Davidians' deaths.

Carla Blank is the author of "Rediscovering America" (Three Rivers Press,

[Alfred E Newman says "What, me guilty?"   -ed]

--------13 of 13--------

John Pilger: Washington's war on democracy
Pablo Navarrete
4 May 2007

John Pilger is an award-winning journalist, author and documentary
filmmaker, who began his career in 1958 in his homeland, Australia, before
moving to London in the 1960s. He has been a foreign correspondent and a
front-line war reporter, beginning with the Vietnam War in 1967. He is an
impassioned critic of foreign military and economic adventures by Western

"It is too easy", Pilger says, "for Western journalists to see humanity in
terms of its usefulness to "our" interests and to follow government
agendas that ordain good and bad tyrants, worthy and unworthy victims and
present "our" policies as always benign when the opposite is usually true.
It's the journalist's job, first of all, to look in the mirror of his own

Pilger also believes a journalist ought to be a guardian of the public
memory and often quotes Milan Kundera: "The struggle of people against
power is the struggle of memory against forgetting".

In a career that has produced more than 55 television documentaries,
Pilger's first major film for the cinema, The War on Democracy, will be
released in Britain on May 11. Pilger spent several weeks filming in
Venezuela and The War on Democracy contains an exclusive interview with
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.


Could you begin by telling us what your new film The War on Democracy is

I happened to watch [US President] George Bush's second inauguration
address in which he pledged to "bring democracy to the world". He
mentioned the words "democracy" and "liberty" 21 times. It was a very
important speech because, unlike the purple prose of previous presidents
(Ronald Reagan excluded), he left no doubt that he was stripping noble
concepts like "democracy" and "liberty" of their true meaning -
government, for, by and of the people.

I wanted to make a film that illuminated this disguised truth - that the
United States has long waged a war on democracy behind a facade of
propaganda designed to contort the intellect and morality of Americans and
the rest of us. For many of your readers, this is known. However, for
others in the West, the propaganda that has masked Washington's ambitions
has been entrenched, with its roots in the incessant celebration of World
War II, the "good war", then "victory" in the Cold War. For these people,
the "goodness" of US power represents "us". Thanks to Bush and his cabal,
and to [British Prime Minister Tony] Blair, the scales have fallen from
millions of eyes. I would like The War on Democracy to contribute
something to this awakening.

The film is about the power of empire and of people. It was shot in
Venezuela, Bolivia, Chile and the United States, and is set also in
Guatemala and Nicaragua. It tells the story of "America's backyard", the
dismissive term given to all of Latin America. It traces the struggle of
indigenous people - first against the Spanish, then against European
immigrants who reinforced the old elite.

Our filming was concentrated in the barrios where the continent's
"invisible people" live in hillside shanties that defy gravity. It tells,
above all, a very positive story: that of the rise of popular social
movements that have brought to power governments promising to stand up to
those who control national wealth and to the imperial master. Venezuela
has taken the lead, and a highlight of the film is a rare face-to-face
interview with President Hugo Chavez whose own developing political
consciousness, and sense of history (and good humour), are evident.

The film investigates the 2002 coup d'etat against Chavez and casts it in
a contemporary context. It also describes the differences between
Venezuela and Cuba, and the shift in economic and political power since
Chavez was first elected. In Bolivia, the recent, tumultuous past is told
through quite remarkable testimony from ordinary people, including those
who fought against the piracy of their resources. In Chile, the film looks
behind the mask of this apparently modern, prosperous "model" democracy
and finds powerful, active ghosts.

In the United States, the testimony of those who ran the "backyard" echo
those who run that other backyard, Iraq; sometimes they are the same
people. Chris Martin (my fellow director) and I believe The War on
Democracy is well timed. We hope people will see it as another way of
seeing the world: as a metaphor for understanding a wider war on democracy
and the universal struggle of ordinary people, from Venezuela to Vietnam,
Palestine to Guatemala.

As you say, Latin America has often been described as the US's backyard.
How important is Latin America for the US in the global context?

Latin America's strategic importance is often dismissed. That's because it
is so important. Read Greg Grandin's recent, excellent history (I
interview him in the film) in which he makes the case that Latin America
has been Washington's "workshop" for developing and honing and rewarding
its imperial impulses elsewhere. For example, when the US "retreated" from
South-East Asia, where did its "democracy builders" go to reclaim their
"vision"? Latin America. The result was the murderous assaults on
Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala, and the darkness of "Operation
Condor" in the southern cone. This was Ronald Reagan's "war on terror",
which of course was a war of terror that provided basic training for those
now running the Bush/Cheney "long war" in the Middle East and elsewhere.

Noam Chomsky recently said that after five centuries of European
conquests, Latin America was reasserting its independence. Do you agree
with this?

Yes, I agree. It's humbling for someone coming from prosperous Europe to
witness the poorest taking charge of their lives, with people rarely
asking, as we in the West often ask, "What can I do?" They know what to
do. In Cochabamba, Bolivia, the population barricaded their city until
they began to take control of their water. In El Alto, perhaps the poorest
city on the continent, people stood against a repressive regime until it
fell. This is not to suggest that complete independence has been won.
Venezuela's economy, for example, is still very much a "neoliberal"
economy that continues to reward those with capital. The changes made
under Chavez are extraordinary - in grassroots democracy, health care,
education and the sheer uplifting of people's lives - but true equity and
social justice and freedom from corruption remain distant goals.
Venezuela's well-off complain endlessly that their economic power has been
diminished; it hasn't; economic growth has never been higher, business has
never been better. What the rich no longer own is the government. And when
the majority own the economy, true independence will be in sight. That's
true everywhere.

US deputy secretary of state John Negroponte, recently called Venezuelan
President Hugo Chavez "a threat to democracy" in Latin America. What are
you views on this?

This is Orwellian, like "war is peace". Negroponte, whose record of
overseeing Washington.s terrorism in Central America is infamous, is right
about Hugo Chavez in one respect. Chavez is a "threat" - he's the threat
of an example to others that independence from Washington is actually

President Chavez talks about building "socialism of the 21st century" in
Venezuela. To what extent do you think this project is different to the
socialist experiences in the 20th century?

In the time I spent with Chavez, what struck me was how
un-self-consciously he demonstrated his own developing political
awareness. I was intrigued to watch a man who is as much an educator as a
leader. He will arrive at a school or a water project where local people
are gathered and under his arm will be half a dozen books - Orwell,
Chomsky, Dickens, Victor Hugo. He'll proceed to quote from them and relate
them to the condition of his audience. What he's clearly doing is building
ordinary people's confidence in themselves. At the same, he's building his
own political confidence and his understanding of the exercise of power.

I doubt that he began as a socialist when he won power in 1998 - which
makes his political journey all the more interesting. Clearly, he was
always a reformer who paid respect to his impoverished roots. Certainly,
the Venezuelan economy today is not socialist; perhaps it's on the way to
becoming something like the social economy of Britain under the reforming
Attlee Labour government. He is probably what Europeans used to be proud
to call themselves: a social democrat. Look, this game of labels is pretty
pointless; he is an original and he inspires; so let's see where the
Bolivarian project goes. True power for enduring change can only be
sustained at the grassroots, and Chavez's strength is that he has inspired
ordinary people to believe in alternatives to the old venal order. We have
nothing like this spirit in Britain, where more and more people can't be
bothered to vote any more. It's a lesson of hope, at the very least.

[The War on Democracy will be released in British cinemas on June 15. It
will be released in Australia in September 2007. For more information
visit or
Reprinted from]

From: Comment & Analysis,Green Left Weekly issue #708 9 May 2007.


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