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Against the grain.

George Bush's Christmas Eve pardon of Iran-contra sleazes Capar Weinberger, Eliott Abrams, Oliver North, Clair George, and Alan Fiers was timed to bury the story beneath the inevitable reprints of "Yes, Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus." With the help of White House spin-artists like Boyden Gray, even a high-toned perjurer like Cap Weinberger could later sound aggrieved, shamelessly accusing Special Prosecutor Lawrence Walsh of mounting a political witchhunt against him.

The fact is, there are 1,700 pages of Weinberger's notes which hang both Cap and George - the very same notes that Weinberger, under oath before Congress, swore never existed. He was caught only when he tried to have the materials archived (at our expense) for his personal use and amour propre. And now Weinberger - who lied to Congress to protect Ronald Reagan from impeachment - has the temerity to paint the special prosecutor as "out of control."

Weinberger is certainly no stranger to prevarication. David Stockman's auto, biography, The Triumph of Politics, documents Weinberger, as Secretary of Defense, and his assistant secretary Frank Carlucci intentionally cooking the Pentagon's books to win their friends in the DOD an extra $80 billion a year. In Stockman's words, this little ride on the gravy train had them "squealing with delight throughout the military-industrial complex."

But in the Age of Reagan, such men were dubbed patriots and granted unlimited air time to serve up Gold War philippics about freedom and democracy (while at the same time arming drug runners and miscreants like the Nicaraguan contras).

And there's the rub. The pundits have expressed a great deal of outrage over George Bush's blatant disregard for the law. But missing from many post-mortems has been the international dimension of Bush's yuletide amnesty. Weinberger and his confederates did indeed hijack the Constitution and arrogate untold powers to the National Security Council, CIA, Pentagon, and State Department. But how many hundreds (yes, hundreds) of thousands of people died at the hands of mercenaries and proxy forces armed and aided by these now-pardoned thugs?

Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Mozambique, Angola, the Philippines - all these and more ran red with blood spilled with their help. So while Serbian leaders are castigated as war criminals by Lawrence Eagleburger, Cap and company are transformed before our very eyes into presidentially pardoned, freedom-loving patriots.

There's also the nagging issue of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, ratified by the U.S. Senate in 1992. It was developed to prevent military presidents and dictators from issuing blanket amnesties for high crimes and atrocities committed by those under their command. When the former leaders of countries like Chile and Argentina dealt blanket pardons to army butchers, the United Nations and World Court acted to help limit impunity in future cases involving violations of human rights and serious crimes committed while in office. Bush's own blanket amnesty - which precludes a trial in open court - is therefore a serious violation of an international agreement accepted by the United States.

Anyone interested in the hotter dimensions of the Cold War and the criminal role of these Foggy Bottom bottom-feeders should read Michael McClintock's brilliant book, Instruments of Statecraft: U.S. Guerilia Warfare, Counter-insurgency, and Counter-terrorism, 1940-1990. Speaking of which, when the hypothetical definitive study of Reagan and Bush's roles in the Iran-contra scandal finally sees the light of day, it won't be because the author had access to certain presidential papers - that is, unless Bill Clinton has the wherewithal to revoke Reagan's Executive Order 12667. This nasty little piece of powermongering grants any president the right of the office's privilege over all papers and documents. In the interests of critical scholarship, it should be trashed.

In the meantime, it will be amusing to watch George Bush pore over the transcripts from his testimony back in 1986 as he prepares to deflect Walsh's scrutiny of his own dirty doings. He would do well to remember Quintillin's Mendacem memorem esse oportet - "It is fitting that a liar should be a man of good memory."

Covert Catechisms

Nicaragua's ultraconservative Catholic hierarchy, which supported the CIA's war of terror against its own country, has been waging its own brand of religiously fueled cultural warfare for the past several years.

After all but dismantling his country's popular church, Archbishop Mguel Obando y Bravo - for years a CIA asset - has helped lobby for new and highly repressive pieces of civil legislation, with the full cooperation of Nicaragua's own pillar of democracy, President Violeta Chammoro. Recently, the country enacted a law making "sodomy" (read: homosexuality) a crime punishable by up to four years in jail.

Nicaragua's new minister of education, Humberto Belli, is a long-time denizen of the Catholic ultraright. In 1982, Belli opened a Michigan-based think-tank called the Puebla Institute, designed to monitor "religious persecution" in Nicaragua. The CIA underwrote Belli's book, Nicaragua: Christians Under Fire, a classic piece of disinformation. Later, Belli was given a teaching post at the fundamentalist Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio.

In 1990, Belli returned to his native country after the election of Violeta Chammoro, promising to bring "traditional values" back to Nicaragua's schoolchildren. Washington liked the idea, so the US. Agency for International Development contributed $12.2 million to Belli's cause.

But according to Emily Gurnon, in a piece written for the December 1992 issue of Moment, that money was used to pay for a civics series which provides unvarnished and explicitly Catholic religious education for over eight million young readers in grades two through 11. The fifth, and sixth-grade textbooks feature a blond and bearded Jesus surrounded by cherub-faced kids. The second-grade reader is prefaced with a prayer: "Help me, Father, with my studies!" The fifth- and sixth-grade texts call divorce a disgrace and abortion murder.

One former American Civil Liberties Union attorney told Gurnon that AID's failure to keep religion out of the civics series was a mistake. Edwin Baker pressed an ACLU suit in 1988 against AID which sought to prevent that agency from funding Orthodox Jewish schools in Israel and Roman Catholic schools in several countries. The judge's subsequent decision in Lamont v. Schultz (later, Lamont v. Woods) declared that AID's funding of religious education abroad violated the establishment clause of the U.S. Constitution. And according to Baker, Belli's covert catechisms do the same.

Zealous Silence

Robert I. Friedman's new book, Zealots for Zion: Inside Israel's West Bank Settlement Movement (Random House), is a remarkable look at what remains one of the most pertinacious obstacles to peace in the Middle East. Apart from a brief (though glowing) review in the New York Times, however, the book has been met with indifference - even hostility - elsewhere. And according to Friedman, this has been especially true of the hundreds of Jewish dailies, weeklies, and monthlies across the country.

"The book has been met by a blanket of silence," Friedman recently told me. "None of the Anglo-Jewish papers on the East Coast will mention it. There was one review of the book in the weekly Jewish Forward, written by Hillel Halkin. But he claimed that the settlements weren't an obstacle to peace - they enhanced it. He even described the settlers as |peace emissaries.'" According to Friedman, Halkin is a respected translator who lives in Jerusalem. But what he failed to tell the editors at Forward was that he is friendly with several of the settlers dealt with (and exposed) by Friedman in Zealots for Zion.

What Friedman finds especially interesting about the reception of his book is the new and current thinking on criticism of Israel within the American Jewish community. "For years, I was seen as a renegade," says Friedman. "When I was after Meir Kahane and the Jewish ultraright, the holy trinity of Jewish neoconservatism - AIPAC, the ADL, and the President's Conference - regularly attacked me as an enemy of Israel and said that I was giving aid and comfort to Israel's enemies.

"Israel was sacrosanct, no matter what you may have felt about the peace process or the Israeli left. Then, after 15 years, Rabin and Labor took power. Rabin is no radical, but at least he called the Palestinians by name instead of simply referring to them as |Arabs,' and even said that they had legitimate national rights. Suddenly, papers like the Baltimore Jewish Times began openly criticizing Rabin. And after Rabin publicly castigated AIPAC for interfering with the peace process, Toby Dershowitz, its press-relations director, called Rabin naive during a press conference organized to respond to the prime minister's charges. Some key AIPAC people are openly supportive of conservative hawks like Benjamin Netanyahu, who'd be worse for peace than Shamir."

Friedman points out that the American Jewish community remains deeply divided on Israel, and that the time and tide has seemingly changed. "In the old days, I was an Israel-basher," notes Friedman. "Now, because I'm identified with the government, what am I? I'm a self-hating Jew with a perverted sense of ethnic identity, or I'm a Trojan horse, or I have no credibility. McCarthyism is alive and well in some Jewish circles in this country."

Friedman has worked on Zealots for Zion since 1977, when he first encountered the settler movements and their often fundamentalist underpinnings. "I was in Israel only two years after the birth of Gush Emunim - the Bloc of the Faithful, a mystical messianic movement. They're only one tendency within the settler movement, but, if they're challenged by the government or threatened with removal, they may retaliate by targeting Arabs or by blowing up the Dome of the Rock, which would send the Muslim world into a frenzy. For these zealots, bloodbaths don't matter. What matters is the messianic process. And still, the government provides financial incentives for these settlers to relocate."

There are currently 144 settlements with a quarter of a million people in them. And according to Friedman, they now hold ten seats in the Knesset. This amounts to 12 percent of the vote - large in any coalition government.

"That was Begin and Sharon's idea in the early 1980s," says Friedman. "If enough people were out there on the settlements, with just enough representation, you could stalemate the democratic process and continue to surround Arab villages and cities, concentrically, to prevent expansion. Now, 60 percent of the West Bank and 34 percent of Gaza are controlled by Israel."

Friedman fears that the fundamentalists and maximalists on both sides will continue feeding off one another until the peace process is irreparably damaged or entirely scuttled. "There's no compromise on either side," remarks Friedman. "And the settler movement is only fanning the flames."

Noughty '90s

I once lost a whole night's sleep to the '90s Channel, an independent and politically progressive cable network. It was showing an independently produced documentary about Valeron, Inc., a tool-and-die company once located in Albany, New York, where hundreds of workers claim to have been fatally poisoned by cobalt dust. Once the, suits started, Valeron became Valenite, skipped off to Riverside, California, and then "relocated" to Mexicali, Mexico - an all-too-familiar pattern in these days of free trade.

It was a riveting piece of video, and I would have never seen it had it not been for the '90s Channel. But this scrappy and independent cable project may soon disappear completely if Telecommunications, Inc., has its way. TCI, perhaps the world's largest cable company, currently leases air time to the channel but has been lobbying for its removal since October 1992. The channel mounted a challenge in court - but, while waiting for word on a settlement, it learned that TCI was about to try another gambit.

When the cable re-regulation bill was passed last summer, Senator Jesse Helms quietly amended it to include a provision allowing operators like TCI to refuse programming deemed "offensive" or "indecent." In Helmspeak, this could mean anything from clips about gays and lesbians to expressions of dissent about God and country. The language is just that vague - and just that dangerous.

Helms, in short, handed the cable industry the right to censor whatever programming it doesn't like, based upon conveniently vague standards of decency. At one time cable operators were bound by the First Amendment and their legal obligation to lease channels; thanks to Jesse Helms, that's no longer the case.

The '90s Channel may prove to be the first casualty of the Helms amendment. Not surprisingly, TCI has never been opposed to the political views expressed on Pat Robertson's "The 700 Club," which is supported by TCI's programming fees. TCI's owners also have a stake in Robertson's The Family Channel, which carries Pastor Pat's more sectarian shows alongside endless reruns of "The Young Riders" and "Little House on the Prairie."

Drop a line to your senator and congressional representative and ask them why the Helms amendment was permitted to pass unopposed. Once upon a time, cable TV was heralded as an information medium unfettered by the corporate censorship imposed by the Big Three networks. This is why the Helms amendment is a significant threat to free speech - and real public access.

Gerry O'Sullivan is senior editor of The Humanist, a book review editor at Z Magazine, and the author (with Edward S. Herman) of The "Terrorism" Industry.
COPYRIGHT 1993 American Humanist Association
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Copyright 1993, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:former President George Bush's pardon of former Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger and the disregard for the Constitution; Iran-Contra affair
Author:O'Sullivan, Gerry
Publication:The Humanist
Article Type:Column
Date:Mar 1, 1993
Previous Article:Welcome to virtual reality.
Next Article:Liberty and its limits.

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