September 2010

Over all the Western world, September 11th is a particular day associated with a particular event – the horrendous terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon that left nearly 3,000 innocent civilians dead in 2001. It is remembered yearly, and sometimes it is marred with controversy. This year, the 9th Anniversary involved a divide between some Christians and some Muslims on the planned development of a complex in Ground Zero (which is close to where the Twin Towers once were) which includes a Mosque, and a lunatic Pastor wanting to burn Korans in public.

Yet, little do we hear about September 11th of 1973, where in Chile, which prided itself as the best democracy in Latin America, a non-expected savage coup ousted democratically elected Salvatore Allende and forced the brutal colonel Augusto Pinochet on the Chilean people.

During the first weeks of the coup, over 3,000 people were murdered, 80,000 arrested (most of them also tortured) and 200,000 refugees had to flee the country.

I will not go into the details of the coup. One can easily find information about it. The US itself has repeatedly condemned Pinochet’s brutality. It also has, conveniently distanced itself from the dictator. In reality however, it was behind his every move. The man behind the whole plan was not Chilean but North American, an economist. His name is Milton Friedman. The link between Friedman and Pinochet however, was rarely exposed on mainstream American media.

Friedman believed in a free market. Us Europeans consider the USA as the leader of laissez faire capitalism, or better still ‘savage capitalism’. Yet, for Friedman this was not enough. What he believed in was complete non intervention from the government. Absolutely no public spending, and above all abolishing any kind of Trade Union or labour movement. Not even the USA was ready for that, so he turned his eyes on Chile. Chilean students were invited for his economic classes in this doctrine of a completely free market. They became known as the Chicago Boys. Most of them would occupy the most senior positions in Pinochet’s government.

Everything went wrong for Friedman when in 1970 the people of Chile elected democratically Salvatore Allende – a socialist. Allende had to go, but that was not enough. There was always the risk that he would be replaced by some other socialist, and Friedman and the Chicago Boys knew too well that socialism was very strong in Chile.

Thus the campaign of terror, a cleansing based not on ethnicity but political ideology. On this however, Friedman and the Boys kept a low profile. They only gave economic advice. Only Pinochet and his regime were responsible for the atrocities. At least that’s how they made it appear.

In reality, the Chicago Boys were behind the terror all the time. They had even studied other violent coups and learned lesson from them. For example from the overthrowing of Suharto in Indonesia they learnt they should slash the dead victims stomachs before throwing them into the river. They drown quicker, and a huge amount of floating bodies in the river wasn’t good in front of the media.

Orlando Letelier, a former minister in Allende’s government knew this too well. After escaping to the US he wrote a controversial article on the close relationship between the terror and the economic policies on The Nation. Three weeks after the article was published, Letelier was the victim of a remote controlled car bomb. The truth had to be silenced.

Why is this all relevant? Am I trying to minimize the suffering of September 11th, 2001? Definitely not. It is relevant because right now there are people with extreme power who still want to implement Friedman’s wishes. And where better than Iraq or Afghanistan? Where unlike the case of Chile, the leaders are not democratically elected and already hated by the majority of the people.
Most of us consider the ‘war on terror’ as a ‘war for oil’. Yet, it could be even more than that. It might also be a war for exporting ideology. That Iraq and Afghanistan are laboratories for experimenting Friedman’s ideology, like Chile was. Does this sound too far fetched? Not when the most senior officials when George W Bush started the war, Donald Rumsfield and Dick Cheney are disciples of Friedman’s ideology, the former having been a very close friend of the late Milton Friedman. Not when the torture of terrorist suspects is based on exactly the same models (sometimes improved) used in Pinochet’s torture chambers.


What is Islam?

Doh…. A religion, no?

Fair enough. However the question is not as ridiculous as it seems. Not after I read or hear phrases starting with “Islam does …”, or “Under Islam…

Many people in the West have come to think of Islam and Muslims as a homogeneous mass. They are not, and this is better explain by replying to the following question:

What is Christianity?

I’m sure that every Christian would answer by describing his own brand of Christianity, which may even differ from that of the person next to him in church, let alone from Christians all over the world.

Does Christianity approve the following?:

1) Divorce
2) Donating blood
3) Dictatorship
4) Murdering doctors about to perform an abortion
5) Homosexuality
6) Stealing if you are hungry

Any answer which includes the words ‘yes’ or ‘no’ in it is wrong. There are so many different visions and sub-groups all falling under the label of Christianity that while one thing would be a definite yes for a group, it could be a definite no for another, while another group of Christians might think it’s irrelevant.

Now let’s apply the same thinking towards Muslims. Is it Ok to stone an adulterer? Once again a yes or a no answer is wrong. In Iran it is the most obvious thing to do. In Turkey it is illegal to stone someone. Yet, even in Iran there are a lot of Muslims who are against stoning, and in Turkey you will probably find a few who agree with it.

A particular redneck is at the time of writing preparing to burn some 100 Korans in public. Pastor Jones thinks he is giving a message to ‘Islam’, that he is against violence and terrorism. His actions have brought condemnation from all over the world, starting with General Petraeus who is commanding US troops in Afghanistan, as well as the the Catholic Pope.

However, what Mr Jones doesn’t seem to know is that he is literally fighting windmills, since there is no such thing as ‘Islam’. That the absolute majority of those he wants to offend by burning the Koran are already against violence and terrorism.

If I was a redneck like the Pastor myself, I would advocate for burning Bibles as a protest. However, as much as I don’t think Muslims are a homogeneous group, neither do I think so for Christians. If this Pastor is stupid and intolerant, it would be unfair to say he represents Christians. As much as it would be unfair if I say Mohammed Atta represents Muslims

The year 1999 will definitely not be forgotten by the five Bulgarian nurses and Palestinian doctor wrongly accused on one of the most heinous crimes possible – deliberately infecting over 400 Libyan children with HIV. The evidence of their innocence is surmounting, from the clearly visible effects of torture they underwent in the Libyan prisons while they signed their “confessions”, to the witness of International scientists that said clearly the virus must have been present at least a year before the accused started working in the Hospital.

1999 was just the beginning of these six people’s nightmare. In 2004, the medics were sentenced to death. The nightmare ended in 2007 after the Bulgarian government forked out millions of dollars in compensation for each infected child to the Libyan authorities. The medics were declared as innocent within less than 45 minutes they set foot on Bulgarian territory.

Why did this frame up take place? The most probable reason is that these medics were used as a scapegoat to cover up the lack of hi-gene and professionalism in Libyan hospitals, the real reason why the virus had spread.

Dictator Gaddafi and his regime literally had the cake and are it. Not only did they cover up their mess (in front of the people of Libya with the controlled media, not the International community), but used it as an opportunity to extort millions of dollars from the Bulgarian government (with the help of some other countries).

Do I blame the Bulgarian government for giving up to this extortion? Hardly so. Just like a father whose child had been kidnapped forking out the money was the only way to save five nationals and another innocent human being from death.

Obviously this was a victory for the Libyan regime. In fact they learnt the lesson – extortion pays big time – and are doing it again, this time in different circumstances. During a visit to Italy, Colonel Gaddafi made a controversial speech scaring European with millions of ‘poor and ignorant’ Africans invading it, unless it does something. That something is once again extortion. Give me €500 a year to protect my borders, he asked the EU and I’ll ‘protect’ you from the Barbaric invasion.

Anyone with some common sense would not fall into this trap. Unlike the Bulgarian government, if the EU forked money to the Dictator, this time it would not take place to uphold the life of country nationals, but to deny the rights of non-Libyan Africans refugees to seek asylum. One should also include the fact that considering the extreme corruption that takes place in Libyan institutions many people will still ‘leak in’ if they have some cash.

By the time of writing EU officials have shunned these proposals or at least have been non-committed. Except for one country’s foreign minister. Our own Dr Tonio Borg, has told us it takes two to tango. In other words that we should appease Colonel Gaddafi and fork out the extortion money.

While writing this, it still hasn’t completely sunk in that apart from the disrespect for human rights, Dr Borg is putting Malta’s position towards Libya like that of a small Sicilian restaurant owner in front of a Mafia Don.

Thanks, but no thanks Dr Borg.