The Globe and Mail’s recent coverage of Rwanda has been schizophrenic. While South African-based correspondent Geoffrey York has done important work detailing how Paul Kagame’s government has assassinated its opponents and contributed to violence in Eastern Congo, columnist Gerald Caplan has justified its repression and echoed Kigali’s position on regional conflicts.
At the start of January York reported on two new books describing the totalitarian nature of President Kagame’s regime. “Village informers”, wrote York. “Re-education camps. Networks of spies on the streets. Routine surveillance of the entire population. The crushing of the independent media and all political opposition. A ruler who changes the constitution to extend his power after ruling for two decades. It sounds like North Korea, or the totalitarian days of China under Mao. But this is the African nation of Rwanda – a long-time favourite of Western governments and a major beneficiary of millions of dollars in Canadian government support.”
A year and a half ago York wrote an explosive investigation headlined “Inside the plots to kill Rwanda’s dissidents”, which provided compelling evidence that the regime had extended its assassination program, killing (or attempting to) a number of its former top officials who were living in South Africa. Since the initial investigation York has also reported on Rwandan dissidents who’ve had to flee Belgium for their safety and revealed that Ottawa failed to act after UN and Spanish court investigations concluded Canadian priests Guy Pinard and Claude Simard were killed by soldiers loyal to Kagame in the mid-1990s.
At the end of 2012 York reported on Rwanda reasserting control over the mineral rich Eastern Congo. In one of a number of insightful articles York described how “Rwandan sponsored” M23 rebels “hold power by terror and violence.” The rebel group added “a [new] layer of administrators, informers, police and other operatives” in and around the city of Goma in part to “bolster” its “grip on the trade in ‘blood minerals’.” (In 1996 Rwandan forces marched 1,500 km to topple the regime in Kinshasa and then re-invaded after the Congolese government it installed expelled Rwandan troops. This led to an eight-country war between 1998 and 2003, which left millions dead.)
While York has done what investigative journalists are supposed to do — comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable — unfortunately the Globe also publishes regular columns by an author who seems to strive for the exact opposite in the case of Rwanda.
Gerald Caplan recently wrote about political conflict in Burundi, invoking Kagame’s rhetoric of “genocide” all the while ignoring Rwanda’s role in organizing armed opposition to the Burundian government. In support of Kigali’s aggressive regional posture, Caplan continues to repeat Kagame’s rationale for unleashing mayhem in the Congo two decades after the mass killing of Rwandan Tutsi (and Hutu) in 1994. In a 2014 column he wrote: “In the Congo former génocidaires lead a violent anti-Kagame militia dedicated to ‘finishing the work’ of the hundred days.”
In another column Caplan justified the arrest of presidential opponent Victoire Ingabire and criticized the Law Society of Upper Canada after it called for the release of her American lawyer, who was also imprisoned.
And strangely, for a former NDP strategist, Caplan has sought to muzzle media that disagree with the current government’s version of Rwandan history. In 2014 he signed an open letter condemning the BBC documentary Rwanda’s Untold Story and a year earlier wrote a piece about lobbying the University of Toronto to remove the Taylor Report, a program on campus radio, from air because it hosted critics of the Rwandan government.
Caplan has failed to inform readers about his ties to the regime in Kigali. He started an organization with Rwanda’s current Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo and said he stays at her family’s hotel when visiting the country. Caplan has also spoken at a number of events in Kigali and New York organized by the Rwandan government.
So, who to believe? York or Caplan? Is Kagame a saint or dictator?
My money is on the investigative journalist.
In describing what she calls a lack of symmetry in recent escalations in Israel and the West Bank, Canadian-Palestinian artist and PhD student Rehab Nazzal told The Real News, “You have the Israeli occupation forces armed with all forms of weapons, and you have the youth, mainly the youth in their 20s, mostly they were born during what’s called, between quotations, the peace process.”
Nazzal is describing Palestinians born during the Oslo Accord negotiations of the 1990s, who have been protesting across Israel, the occupied West Bank and Gaza since the summer–and suffering for it.
Since 1 October 2015, 155 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces. 24 Israelis have been also been killed, many in stabbing or car ramming attacks.
Nazzal was photographing an Israeli skunk truck in the West Bank–an armored crowd control vehicle that shoots putrid water–when an Israeli sniper shot and wounded her on 11 December, 2015. Medics were prevented from attending to her because rounds of teargas were shot consecutively at them by Israeli forces.
She is recovering still in the West Bank, and plans to continue her Canadian federal government research council-funded research into “non-lethal” and crowd-control weapons.
Nazal contextualizes her shooting among the countless other shootings across the West Bank. “I am one of over 16,000 Palestinians who were injured during the past three months. Among these, over 6,000 with live bullets. Just yesterday, here in my neighborhood where I am now, there were tens of Palestinians who were injured, one seriously with live bullets, and one was killed. He was shot in the chest and was killed yesterday. Today was his funeral. And the city is just buried with tear gas and all forms of aggression,” she said.
She continues to speak about the inequity of aggression between Palestinian youths throwing stones and Israeli forces quelling the demonstrations with live bullets and the inability of nations–even her own nation–to act. “It’s very difficult. And the worst part of it, that the world is silent.”
According to Nazzal’s lawyer Dimitri Lascaris, there is little legal recourse to take because of “something called a State Unity Pact, which effectively bars a lawsuit against the government of Israel or any other government for human rights violations,” Lascaris said, clarifying that he is referring to the Canadian courts. He adds that what is “appalling about this law is that it does not provide immunity for states when they engage in commercial activities. But they could commit crimes against humanity, war crimes, you know, some of the most heinous offenses under international human rights law, and they’re completely immune from suit in the domestic courts of our country.”
Nazzal and Lascaris do intend to painstakingly document the event of Nazzal’s shooting, and in particular the impediment of medics by Israeli forces. And using political power, Lascaris said, “we’re going to call upon the government of Justin Trudeau to fulfill its promise of a more principled foreign policy than the predecessor Harper government, which was absolutely and unequivocally committed to supporting the government of Israel, no matter what atrocities it committed.”
As yet, the new Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau has not provided a statement of support for the Palestinian struggle and continues to remain a close ally of Israel.
Trudeau is also principally opposed to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, a Palestinian civil society-led grassroots movement to call on companies to end their complicity with the Israeli occupation.
Nazzal describes her disappointment with the Canadian government’s lack of response–she is a Canadian citizen–as well as the lack of response from the Canadian ambassador to Israel.
“Not even a condemnation to what happened… If we suppose that the Israeli soldiers don’t know I am a researcher doing work, but I am an unarmed civilian and standing away, far from protesters, even this, we haven’t heard any word… from the Canadian ambassador in Israel or the foreign minister.
Which brings that hypocrisy to our human rights violations in other countries. Why, why Israel is not being questioned. I am, again, a Canadian citizen. I have my career, my children there. I have my life there. Yeah, I am just in disbelief, as well.”
Canadians should be hanging their heads in shame.
Our government is guilty of the most egregious criminal acts as defined by Nuremberg Principles, and we are bona fide members of the State Sponsors of Terrorism club.
When our government bombs the sovereign state of Syria without the consent of President al-Assad and without United Nations Security Council approval, we are committing war crimes of the highest order.
When we support and fund foreign mercenary terrorists that are invading Syria, we are state sponsors of terrorism. There are no “moderate” terrorists. The mercenaries are all being paid and enabled by the West and its allies, including Turkey (a NATO member), Wahhabi Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Jordan.
On all counts we are guilty. We are war criminals and state sponsors of terrorism.
The popular refrain that “Assad must go”, echoed by Canada’s Defense Minister, Harjit Sajjan, is in itself an endorsement of criminality. Regime change operations are criminal according to international law.
A soft power complex that disseminates lies and confusion is seemingly sufficient to make gullible western audiences accept criminality, even as the pretexts for previous illegal invasions invariably reveal themselves to be self-serving fabrications.
Hussein didn’t have WMD, but Western sanctions before the pre-meditated Iraq invasion willfully destroyed water treatment facilities and subsequently killed almost two million people, including about half a million children.
Gaddafi wasn’t “bombing his own people” or destroying Libya. The West and its proxies did the killing. The bombing in Libya – in support of al Qaeda ground troops – targeted and destroyed civilian infrastructure, including the Great Man-Made River Project. The bombs and the foreign terrorist ground troops killed Libyans, including Gadaffi, but Western propagandists and “confusion mongers” always portray an inverted version of reality to justify their atrocities.
Likewise for Assad – he is defending his country from foreign terrorists, not “killing his own people” – the Western invaders are killing Assad’s people.
Assad is not starving his own people either. Recently the discredited Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) fabricated a story alleging that Assad was starving people in Madaya. Evidence has recently emerged, however, that Western-supported rebels have been stockpiling food and selling it to civilians at exorbitant prices. Again, Western military forces target civilians – with a view to killing and/or demoralizing them—for “strategic” purposes. Vanessa Beeley decodes the intentional misrepresentation of the Madaya psy op. by listing investigative questions that should have been asked to find the truth, but were not.
War crimes perpetrated by the West are always dressed in mantles of respectability. MSM spokespeople, all of whom have conflicts of interest, paint civilian murders as “collateral damage”. Some commentators use the phrase “collateral murder”, but more accurately the military doctrine of slaughtering civilians is mass murder. The 9/11 wars are all pre-meditated, the false pretexts are carefully manufactured by State Departments, Public Relations agencies, and intelligence agencies, and the mass murder is intentional. The 9/11 wars generate unforeseen developments, but the invasions and occupations were not and are not “mistakes”, as some commentators would have us believe.
NATO destroys, loots, and creates chaos so that it can impose its hegemony. Again, it’s an inversion of the ridiculous lie of “spreading democracy”. The destruction also serves to create waves of refugees that serve to destabilize other countries — Europe is arguably being destabilized with a view to keeping the EU subservient to the U.S oligarch interests. Interestingly, countries not being “sacrificed” include Israel and Wahhabi Saudi Arabia – and neither country is accepting refugees/imperial crime victims either.
All of these pre-meditated invasions point to a larger picture. Humanity is being sacrificed for the illusory benefit of the criminal 1% transnational oligarch class. If Western populations were to awaken to the barbaric crimes being perpetrated in their names, they would rightly bow their heads in shame.
The shame would be a strong foundation for shaking off the shackles of lies and war propaganda, and for withdrawing our consent to these crimes against humanity.
The lead, Western warmaking/regime-change countries intervening in northern Iraq and Syria held a strategy conference of their ministers of war in Paris on January 20. The meeting made waves in Canada because Ottawa was not invited to attend.
The meeting of ministers of the United States, Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Australia and the Netherlands discussed ongoing plans for intervention in Syria and Iraq. Canada is fully engaged in that intervention, more so than some of the other countries attending in Paris. For example, neither Italy or Germany have fighter aircraft engaged in bombings. But Canada was not invited to the party because Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made a promise during the national election campaign of October 19, 2015 that, if elected, his government would withdraw its six fighter-bomber jets from the U.S.-led warmaking alliance and instead focus on ground operations, including training of allied Iraqi and Kurdish forces.
The decision not to invite Canada was likely taken by U.S. Secretary of Defense (sic) Ashton Carter. Never mind that the new Trudeau government is not keeping its electoral promise or that, to the contrary, it has promised to step up its military presence in northern Iraq. No, for the U.S. government, any deviation from its lead in the imperialist war agenda is punishable by shunning.
The U.S. views the Canadian electoral promise as a weak-kneed sop. It cares not a whiff about the war-weary Canadian public, repelled by Canada’s failed military intervention in Afghanistan. That intervention goes back to late 2001. 158 Canadian soldiers died in combat in Afghanistan. At least 59 of those who served have killed themselves upon their return, while, shamefully, the previous Conservative government in Ottawa did all it could to reduce to a minimum disability payments to injured, returned soldiers.
The U.S. snub is intended as a warning to the Trudeau government just in case any of its members are actually considering keeping their election promise. It needn’t worry, there is no evidence that any are doing so. Also, importantly, the snub is serving as a rallying cry for pro-war ideologues in Canada who never liked the election promise in the first place and now want it definitively buried.
The enclosed opinion article in the Globe and Mail is exactly the kind of knee-jerk, pro-war backlash that the U.S. government wanted to foment. The writer, David Bercuson, is a well-known military academic in Canada. He directs his criticisms not at the United States government for snubbing its loyal ally but at the Trudeau government for giving the U.S. a reason to do so.
Bercuson wrote a commentary last month in the Globe saying that Prime Minister Trudeau was asking for trouble with his allies by making flaky election promises over war and intervention in the Middle East.
Columnist Thomas Walkom of the Toronto Star, Canada’s largest circulation newspaper, provides a different view of the snub in a January 18 column. He calls it a “welcome snub”. He says, “Trudeau’s Liberals won power on a pledge to end Canada’s combat mission in Iraq and Syria — in the air and on the ground. If they are serious about this, why should we expect the Americans to include Ottawa in their combat deliberations?
“More to the point, why should we want to be included?”
Ottawa is lucky to have carte blanche, more or less, in working out the subtleties of its desired intervention in Iraq and Syria. The two large opposition parties in Parliament support military intervention in the Middle East, differing only on how that should be done. Meanwhile, antiwar forces are weak and marginalized. Years of confusion over the regime change agenda of the imperialist countries in the in Africa and the Middle East (Mali, Libya, Egypt, Syria) combined now with utter disarray in the face of the anti-Russia drive of NATO have left antiwar forces marginalized.
Opposition to the proposed nuclear waste facility by Lake Huron continues to grow. By the end of 2015, at least 182 communities (representing more than 22 million people) on both sides of the U.S.-Canada border have adopted resolutions opposing the plan by Ontario Power Generation to build a deep geological repository (DGR) for storage of low- and intermediate-level radioactive nuclear waste.
A Canadian federal panel approved the nuclear waste dump in May 2015, accepting testimony that Lake Huron would be large enough to dilute any radioactive pollution that might leak from the DGR.
The immediate outcry on both sides of the border prompted the Conservative government of Stephen Harper to postpone any decision until Dec. 1, 2015, after the Oct. 19 federal election – in which they were booted out of office. The new government of Liberal Justin Trudeau then pushed that decision to March 1, 2016, after a dozen members of Michigan’s congressional delegation urged the new prime minister to deny the construction permits necessary for the storage facility to be built.
Meanwhile, American efforts to engage the International Joint Commision (IJC), which oversees boundary waters’ issues, have come to naught. As the IJC’s Public Information Officer Frank Bevacqua told me by email, both the Canadian and U.S. federal governments would have to ask the IJC to intervene on the issue. “The IJC does not review proposals for site-specific projects [like the DGR] unless asked to do so by both governments,” he said.
That means a final decision on the DGR may reside with a small First Nations community.
First Nation Decision
The proposed DGR would be located on the territory of the Saugeen First Nation, which is in the process of evaluating the proposal. The Saugeen First Nation has a promise from Ontario Power Generation to not proceed without their support. As Saugeen Chief Vernon Roote told Indian Country Today Media Network (ICTMN) in December, “Ontario Power Generation had given us their commitment that they will not proceed unless they have community support. That’s a letter that we have on file.” 
Saugeen First Nation negotiator (and former Chief) Randall Kahgee told ICTMN that “we are starting to build some momentum on the community engagement process.” The Saugeen leaders are determining how to gauge the community voice, whether by polling or by vote at public gatherings, and have already held some engagement sessions on the issue. 
Randall Kahgee told ICTMN, “For the communities, this is not just about the deep geological repository but also about the nuclear waste problem within our territory. We have always insisted that while this problem is not of our own design, we must be part of shaping the solution. Gone are the days when our people, communities and Nation are left on the outside looking in within our own territory. These are complex issues that will force us to really ask ourselves what does it mean to be stewards of the land. The opportunity to be able to shape the discourse on these matters is both exciting and frightening at the same time.” 
The Saugeen First Nation is especially concerned about simply moving the proposed facility into somebody else’s backyard. “We might not be the best of friends when we push nuclear waste on our brothers’ and sisters’ territory,” he told ICTMN.
The proposal by provincial Crown corporation Ontario Power Generation (OPG) is for at least 7 million cubic feet of nuclear wastes from Ontario nuclear power plants to be buried in chambers drilled into limestone 2,231 feet below the surface and under the Bruce nuclear site at Kincardine, Ontario. The waste to be entombed in the DGR would come from the Bruce, Pickering and Darlington nuclear sites in Ontario – currently home to 18 Candu reactors.
The eight nuclear reactors at the Bruce site (the world’s largest nuclear station) are leased from OPG by a private company called Bruce Power, whose major shareholders/partners include TransCanada Corp. – better known for its tarsands pipeline projects. (TransCanada earns more than one-third of its profits from power-generation.) Bruce Power pays OPG for storage of nuclear wastes, which are currently stored and monitored above-ground on site. 
In December, Bruce Power announced that it will invest $13 billion to refurbish the Bruce site, overhauling six of the eight reactors on Lake Huron beginning in 2020.  Just weeks later, OPG announced a $12.8 billion refurbishment of four nuclear reactors at Darlington, while extending the life of its ageing Pickering nuclear power plant on Lake Ontario.  The Pickering move requires public hearings and approval from the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, but Ontario’s Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli has voiced his approval and touted the nuclear industry as “emissions-free,” while ignoring the issue of nuclear wastes.
OPG, Bruce Power, and the Ontario government are obviously onside with the Canadian Nuclear Association lobby, whose president and CEO John Barrett is using the COP21 Paris Climate Agreement to push for nuclear expansion. In an op-ed for The Globe and Mail, Barrett declared that “it is time to recognize the contribution – current and potential – of nuclear power in curbing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions worldwide,” and he stated that Canada, with its uranium mining and nuclear reactor technology, is “ready to play an international leadership role on climate change.” 
Barrett, in turn, is onside with the billionaires now pushing nuclear energy expansion worldwide: Richard Branson (Virgin Group), Peter Thiel (PayPal co-founder), Bill Gates and Paul Allen (Microsoft co-founders), and Jeff Bezos (Amazon) have all endorsed nuclear energy as the solution to climate change.  As well, scientists James Hansen, Kerry Emmanuel, Ken Caldeira and Tom Wigley have recently called for building 115 new reactors per year as “the only viable path forward”.  They dismiss nuclear waste as “trivial” and claim that there “are technical means to dispose of this small amount of waste safely.”
In that case, the resulting nuclear waste should be stored in their basements and under the billionaires’ mansions, rather than near bodies of water like the Great Lakes, which provide 40 million people with their drinking water.
 Konnie Lemay, “Saugeen Nation May Be Final Word in Nuclear Waste Storage Next to Lake Huron,” Indian Country Today Media Network, December 11, 2015.
 Joyce Nelson, “Nuclear Dump Controversy,” Watershed Sentinel, Sept.-Oct., 2015.
 Robert Benzie, “Bruce Power to invest $13 billion to refurbish nuclear station on Lake Huron,” Toronto Star, December 3, 2015.
 Rob Ferguson, “Ontario Power Generation to spend $12.8 billion refurbishing four Darlington nuclear reactors,” Toronto Star, January 11, 2016.
 John Barrett, “Nuclear power is key to decarbonization, and Canada can lead the way,” The Globe and Mail, December 16, 2015.
 Emily Schwartz Greco, “A Big Fat Radioactive Lie,” Other words.org, December 4, 2015.
Joyce Nelson is an award-winning Canadian freelance writer/researcher working on her sixth book.
Letter written to the CBC ombdusman by an informed member of the public in Canada, enraged by the blatant anti Syrian stance in the CBC reporting of the Madaya “starvation” situation.
I have counted The Current and CBC news as among the most reliable sources of news and information we have. I consider myself an informed listener and I consult with many and diverse news sources to get the fullest and clearest understanding of world affairs possible.
That’s why it is disappointing, and sometimes infuriating when I hear the CBC reduced to an echo chamber and propaganda conveyance when it comes to news from the Middle East.
The CBC’s use of unreliable and unverified sources and information that presents and thus promotes only one side of events, and a distorted one at that, is shocking to me. Is it due to cutbacks that you are unable to have investigative reporting from conflict areas that reports on all sides of an event, or is there something more sinister going on exercising editorial control over what Canadians are allowed to hear from the Middle East via our national broadcaster?
Specifically, I was very upset to hear The Current’s Jan 8th report with Lyse Doucet on the situation in Madaya, Syria that gave a completely distorted and misinformed picture of the siege of this town (and several others that are getting zero news coverage).
The presenter relied on only one source, a citizen journalist named Rami Jarrah who works for the George Soros funded ANA Press, and is a self-avowed advocate and spokesperson for the terrorist factions, disingenuously called “the opposition” by uncritical media, that has the town of Madaya and several others in the West and North of Syria under militant siege. It is these Islamist militants–Ahrar al Sham and al Qaeda– that seized the food aid delivered by the ICRC last October–meant to last for 2 months–and is keeping the towns people on starvation rations, stockpiling the food then trying to sell it to the towns people for obscene prices.
Why isn’t that being reported on?
It is the militants that are refusing to let the townspeople leave to find refuge in safe zones. It is these militants who are starving and killing them. These Islamist militants, “the opposition” as propagandists call them, are using the starving people under their control to deceive the world, including the use of now exposed deceptive pictures of starving people stolen from the internet to foment outrage–pictures that are uncritically and irresponsibly used by media outlets like the CBC as some kind of “proof” that the Assad regime is responsible for this suffering.
While these areas of conflict are surrounded by government forces, it is the terrorists occupying the villages that are not surrendering and continue to use people as human shields ad for propaganda. Did The Current or is the CBC news desk presenting any of this balance at all to your stories on Syria? No. You are being played, and worse are a willing participant in a one-sided, anti-Syrian government, pro-Syria destruction campaign.
Why fake pictures?
These are the questions you should be asking. The answer is because Jarrah and these “humanitarian interventionists” are using and abusing these civilians to enlist more western involvement.
You are not listening to any of the voices coming from inside Syria because you seem to value those minority voices outside Syria that are vying for overthrow of the government and seek to grasp power for themselves in lockstep with western hegemonic agendas.
Thus you are not doing your job.
What you are promoting, maybe inadvertently, maybe not, is for Syria to be devastated by NATO the way Iraq and Libya were, and not for the human rights of the people of Syria.
So shame on you.
This is despicable and my respect for the CBC has diminished significantly.
I urge the CBC to return to it’s roots of unbiased investigative journalism and be committed to the truth so that I can feel confidence again to tune into CBC news and trust we are getting the best information.
Balance your blatantly biased sources with “the other side”– the Syrian government that is backed by the vast majority of Syrian people, and the Syrian doctors and activists that are actually working to free their country from the terrorists!! Listen to the Syrians INSIDE SYRIA!
Why would you NOT do that?
The better part of a decade ago, I described the Toronto Star‘s Mitch Potter as “a canary in the mineshaft of liberal Canadian racism.” A piece on 1948 Palestine published in a recent edition of The Star shows the canary very close to asphyxiating.
Since Potter insists he was within his rights to describe Palestinian fighters in Gaza as “lemming-like,” he’ll surely forgive the metaphor.
The article, entitled “The Toronto man who saved Nazareth,” celebrates the heritage of Ben Dunkelman, the most prominent Canadian to travel to 1948 Palestine to support the Zionist war effort. In more than 2500 words spread across The Star‘s “Insight” section, Potter and his editors transform this Canadian’s role in occupying Palestinian communities into fodder for patriotism. “What he did was bring his hard-earned Canadian military professionalism to help organize a chaotic fighting force and help set down the rules of engagement,” the Star quotes one of a number of friendly sources as explaining. “And that included saying, ‘No, we will not expel civilians.'”
The record of this “gentle giant of a man,” as Potter introduces Dunkelman, is well documented. The son of the founder of Ontario retail giant Tip Top Tailors and a veteran of the Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada, Dunkelman was not an obscure figure. In Canada, he was an eminent member of the country’s community of patriotic respectables. In Palestine, he was a participant in the mass expulsion of Palestinians from the Galilee, commanding troops who repeatedly massacred civilians.
Dunkelman’s record of Canadian patriotism and Zionist colonization has long made for a popular sell. He has been happily remembered as “a Canadian and Israeli war hero,” as The Globe and Mail once described him. His basic character should be apparent to anyone who picks up his autobiography, Dual Allegiance.
Potter’s article for The Star pines over lost pages of this book without conveying to readers its utterly thuggish tone. The first five pages, to give you a sense, move from a description of a fight Dunkelman picked with a Palestinian (“Kneeling astride him, I began hitting him again and again, until his body went limp”) to boyhood reminiscences that feature a young Dunkelman in Toronto, soon to enroll in Upper Canada College, “waving a little Union Jack.” A lovely patriotic tale.
In Palestine, Dunkelman did not stop at beating Palestinians with his fists. In the summer and autumn of 1948, he served as commander of the Seventh (Armoured) Brigade of the newly established Israel Defence Forces (IDF). This is a representative sample of how Potter now presents this history to The Star‘s readership: “Named to lead Israel’s 7th Brigade in the final phase of the 1948 war, Dunkelman pushed methodically — and almost bloodlessly — through the Galilee with a series of nighttime flanking movements, eventually ending at the Litani River in Lebanon. He quite literally shaped borders, delivering territory Israel might not otherwise hold today.”
One of the Seventh Brigade’s “nighttime flanking movements,” on October 29-30, 1948, brought the Palestinian village of Safsaf under Dunkelman’s command. A Palestinian woman from Safsaf, Umm Shahadah al-Salih, described what happened the next morning. Villagers were ordered to assemble in file around two houses to the north of the village.
“As we lined up, a few Jewish soldiers ordered four girls to accompany them to carry water for the soldiers. Instead, they took them to our empty houses and raped them. About 70 of our men were blindfolded and shot to death, one after the other, in front of us. The soldiers took their bodies and threw them on the cement covering of the village’s spring and dumped sand on them.”
If Potter’s editors can cough up subway fare to Yonge and Bloor, he can read this and other accounts for free at the local library, in Nafez Nazzal’s The Palestinian Exodus from Galilee, 1948. The Seventh Brigade’s trail of death, destruction and mass displacement of Palestinians from the Galilee into Lebanon is detailed authoritatively by Nazzal.
But right, this is a Canadian discussion of Palestine. Surely, Palestinians can’t be trusted! Unfortunately for Potter and The Star, more than mistrust of Palestinian testimony would be needed to make their whitewashing of these massacres halfway credible. In 1978, the year that Nazzal’s study was published, Israel began declassifying documents on these events. The Israeli record tells much the same story.
Israel Galili had been chief of staff of the Haganah, the main precursor to the IDF. In a declassified November 11, 1948 briefing cited by Israeli historian Benny Morris, Galili described the conduct of Dunkelman’s men in Safsaf. He spoke of the fate of “52 men tied with a rope and dropped into a well and shot,” and of three cases of rape, including of a 14-year-old girl. He also described large-scale killing of civilians by the Seventh Brigade in the villages of Saliha, Jish, and Sa’sa’. In Sa’sa’, Galili said, Dunkelman’s troops committed “mass murder” and then forced all remaining survivors out: “The whole village was expelled.”
Palestinian witnesses recount the most horrifying details. One survivor of the occupation of Safsaf recalled the stabbing of a pregnant woman with a bayonet. The witness lived out his life in the Ayn Al-Hilweh refugee camp in Lebanon; his testimony was kept alive by his nephew and cited in Ilan Pappé’s The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine. In his memoirs, Dunkelman admits to authorizing looting by his forces, but predictably does not discuss most abuses. He does, however, proudly relate how one of his units set a landmark in the summer of 1948 with “the first bayonet charge ever mounted by the Israeli Army.” Facing an Arab position in the central Galilee, the company commander “ordered his men to fix bayonets; then, yelling like banshees, they rushed the Arab positions. When the astonished Arabs saw what was coming up the hill at them, they kicked off their boots and fled in terror.”
We don’t know much about specific atrocities with bayonets. We do know that Operation Hiram, during which Dunkelman’s troops carried out severe atrocities, helped push Palestinians out of the Upper Galilee en masse. On October 31, Dunkelman received an order from the IDF’s northern command spelling out this objective: “The inhabitants should be assisted to leave the conquered areas,” Dunkelman was instructed.
Here massacres by Dunkelman’s troops played their part. “What happened at Safsaf and Jish no doubt reached the villagers of Ras al Ahmar, ‘Alma, Deishum and al Malikiya hours before the Seventh Brigade’s columns,” writes Morris. “These villages, apart from ‘Alma, seem to have been completely or largely empty when the IDF arrived.” A week and a half into November 1948, an IDF intelligence report observed that “more than 50,000 new refugees” had crossed the border into Lebanon as a result of Operation Hiram.
Dunkelman — cue Potter’s praise — did not order expulsions in every Palestinian community that his forces occupied. He specifically opposed the (widespread) expulsion of Palestinian Christians by Israeli forces. When in July 1948 his troops occupied one of the main Christian centres in Palestine, the city of Nazareth, he spared it the harsher treatment he accorded to predominantly Muslim villages in its vicinity.
Potter is effusive with praise! He laments to The Star‘s readership that Dunkelman “won no medals for refusing to molest civilians” in Nazareth, but takes the opportunity to trumpet Canadian civility: “Transpose that morality to the modern era and imagine how the U.S. military interrogations at Abu Ghraib might have played out with a Dunkelman in command.” If those held at gunpoint were Muslims? Should we really follow this thread? “In many of the Palestinian oral histories that have now come to the fore,” observes Ilan Pappé, “few brigade names appear. However, Brigade Seven is mentioned again and again, together with such adjectives as ‘terrorist’ and ‘barbarous.'”
Israel has not declassified enough documentation for us to know for certain whether Dunkelman ordered his troops to massacre Palestinian civilians in line with instructions from higher-level IDF officers, took the initiative himself, or left the details to lower levels of command. But there is no record of him taking any action to discipline the culprits. By all accepted standards, he is therefore among them. Only the best liberal patriots want to award war criminals prizes for each possible war crime they didn’t commit.
Introducing a co-edited volume entitled Nakba: Palestine, 1948, and the Claims of Memory, Lila Abu-Lughod and Ahmad Sa’di explore the challenges of asserting Palestinian memory “under the conditions of its silencing by the thundering story of Zionism.” Engaging with 1948 as a landmark of enduring trauma, both individual and collective, may not be simple. But one can imagine an alternate universe in which Canadian journalists made a respectable effort. In which some attempt was made to look to the kind of work assembled by Abu-Lughod and Sa’di, to consider the recorded memories of those who lives were uprooted by Dunkelman’s troops, to bring their experiences into this history.
Instead, The Star basks in patriotic self-satisfaction and ignores the evidence.
This is not just a question of professional standards, or of historical accuracy. As Abu-Lughod and Sa’di argue, “the Nakba is not over yet.” It was Israel’s current defence minister, Moshe Ya’alon, who described Israel’s twenty-first-century assaults on Palestinians as “the second half of 1948.” How this war is represented abroad can affect its continuation into the present. I haven’t paid much attention to Potter’s work since his distortions of Israel’s 2006 assaults on Gaza and Lebanon. But it seems he’s decided to whitewash past and present attacks on the Palestinians in much the same spirit.
People in Canada need to demand better. In the coming period, we will have to face the fact that the end of the Harper years did not spell an end to Canadian support for Israel’s perpetual warfare against the Palestinian people. The liberal patriotic impulse is to bury this problem in comforting myths: to pretend that even in its support for Israel, Canadian liberalism shines. This requires nothing less than falsification of the record. An open discussion of the realities of Palestine will raise troubling questions about local burdens of responsibility. If this is what drives so many opinion-makers to avoid it, it is also what makes it urgent.
Dan Freeman-Maloy is an activist and writer based in Montreal. For a more detailed review of the record of Western recruits in 1948 Palestine, see this article of his from the Journal of Palestine Studies.
Resolution severely criticises the “Occupying Power”
Can this be true?
Something important and, freedom lovers may think, rather wonderful seems to have happened at the United Nations, and it went largely unreported in mainstream media. The UN General Assembly approved a draft resolution ‘Permanent sovereignty of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and of the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan over their natural resources’ (document A/70/480).
It was adopted by 164 to 5 against (Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, United States), with 10 abstentions (Australia, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Honduras, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, South Sudan, Togo, Tonga, Vanuatu).
What’s so wonderful? The draft resolution pulls no punches and must have thoroughly annoyed the insatiable state of Israel, which has evil designs on the natural resources – oil, gas and water – belonging to its neighbours. The resolution is long but nicely crafted, and is reproduced here pretty much in its entirety as an aide-memoire of Israel’s long history of contemptuous disregard for its obligations.
The General Assembly,
Recalling its resolution 69/241 of 19 December 2014, and taking note of Economic and Social Council resolution 2015/17 of 20 July 2015,
Recalling also its resolutions 58/292 of 6 May 2004 and 59/251 of 22 December 2004,
Reaffirming the principle of the permanent sovereignty of peoples under foreign occupation over their natural resources,
Guided by the principles of the Charter of the United Nations, affirming the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by force, and recalling relevant Security Council resolutions, including resolutions 242 (1967) of 22 November 1967, 465 (1980) of 1 March 1980 and 497 (1981) of 17 December 1981,
Recalling its resolution 2625 (XXV) of 24 October 1970,
Reaffirming the applicability of the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, of 12 August 1949, to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and other Arab territories occupied by Israel since 1967,
Recalling, in this regard, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and affirming that these human rights instruments must be respected in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, as well as in the occupied Syrian Golan,
Recalling also the advisory opinion rendered on 9 July 2004 by the International Court of Justice on the legal consequences of the construction of a wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and recalling further its resolutions ES-10/15 of 20 July 2004 and ES-10/17 of 15 December 2006,
Recalling further its resolution 67/19 of 29 November 2012,
Taking note of the accession by Palestine to several human rights treaties and the core humanitarian law treaties, as well as to other international treaties,
Expressing its concern about the exploitation by Israel, the occupying Power, of the natural resources of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and other Arab territories occupied by Israel since 1967,
Expressing its grave concern about the extensive destruction by Israel, the occupying Power, of agricultural land and orchards in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including the uprooting of a vast number of fruit-bearing trees and the destruction of farms and greenhouses, and the grave environmental and economic impact in this regard,
Expressing its grave concern also about the widespread destruction caused by Israel, the occupying Power, to vital infrastructure, including water pipelines, sewage networks and electricity networks, in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, in particular in the Gaza Strip during the military operations of July and August 2014, which, inter alia, has polluted the environment and negatively affect the functioning of water and sanitation systems and the water supply and other natural resources of the Palestinian people, and stressing the urgency of the reconstruction and development of water and other vital civilian infrastructure, including the project for the desalination facility for the Gaza Strip,
Expressing its grave concern further about the negative impact on the environment and on reconstruction and development efforts of the thousands of items of unexploded ordnance that remain in the Gaza Strip as a result of the conflict in July and August 2014,
Recalling the 2009 report by the United Nations Environment Programme regarding the grave environmental situation in the Gaza Strip, and the 2012 report, “Gaza in 2020: A liveable place?”, by the United Nations country team in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and stressing the need for follow-up to the recommendations contained therein,
Deploring the detrimental impact of the Israeli settlements on Palestinian and other Arab natural resources, especially as a result of the confiscation of land and the forced diversion of water resources, including the destruction of orchards and crops and the seizure of water well by Israeli settlers, and of the dire socioeconomic consequences in this regard,
Recalling the report of the independent international fact-finding mission to investigate the implications of the Israeli settlements on the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of the Palestinian people throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem,
Aware of the detrimental impact on Palestinian natural resources being caused by the unlawful construction of the wall by Israel, the occupying Power, in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including in and around East Jerusalem, and of its grave effect as well on the economic and social conditions of the Palestinian people,
Stressing the urgency of achieving without delay an end to the Israeli occupation that began in 1967 and a just, lasting and comprehensive peace settlement on all tracks, on the basis of Security Council resolutions 242 (1967), 338 (1973) of 22 October 1973, 425 (1978) of 19 March 1978 and 1397 (2002) of 12 March 2002, the principle of land for peace, the Arab Peace Initiative and the Quartet performance-based road map to a permanent two-State solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as endorsed by the Security Council in its resolution 1515 (2003) of 19 November 2003 and supported by the Council in its resolution 1850 (2008) of 16 December 2008,
Stressing also, in this regard, the need for respect for the obligation upon Israel under the road map to freeze settlement activity, including so-called “natural growth”, and to dismantle all settlement outposts erected since March 2001,
Stressing further the need for respect and preservation of the territorial unity, contiguity and integrity of all of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem,
Recalling the need to end all acts of violence, including acts of terror, provocation, incitement and destruction,
Taking note of the report prepared by the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia on the economic and social repercussions of the Israeli occupation on the living conditions of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and of the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan, as transmitted by the Secretary-General,
Reaffirms the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people and of the population of the occupied Syrian Golan over their natural resources, including land, water and energy resources;
Demands that Israel, the occupying Power, cease the exploitation, damage, cause of loss or depletion and endangerment of the natural resources in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and in the occupied Syrian Golan;
Recognizes the right of the Palestinian people to claim restitution as a result of any exploitation, damage, loss or depletion or endangerment of their natural resources resulting from illegal measures taken by Israel, the occupying Power, and Israeli settlers in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and expresses the hope that this issue will be dealt with within the framework of the final status negotiations between the Palestinian and Israeli sides;
Stresses that the wall and settlements being constructed by Israel in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including in and around East Jerusalem, are contrary to international law and are seriously depriving the Palestinian people of their natural resources, and calls in this regard for full compliance with the legal obligations affirmed in the 9 July 2004 advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice and in relevant United Nations resolutions, including General Assembly resolution ES-10/15;
Calls upon Israel, the occupying Power, to comply strictly with its obligations under international law, including international humanitarian law, and to cease immediately and completely all policies and measures aimed at the alteration of the character and status of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem;
Also calls upon Israel, the occupying Power, to bring a halt to all actions, including those perpetrated by Israeli settlers, harming the environment, including the dumping of all kinds of waste materials, in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and in the occupied Syrian Golan, which gravely threaten their natural resources, namely water and land resources, and which pose an environmental, sanitation and health threat to the civilian populations;
Further calls upon Israel to cease its destruction of vital infrastructure, including water pipelines, sewage networks and electricity networks, which, inter alia, has a negative impact on the natural resources of the Palestinian people, stresses the urgent need to advance reconstruction and development projects in this regard, including in the Gaza Strip, and calls for support for the necessary efforts in this regard, in line with the commitments made at, inter alia, the Cairo International Conference on Palestine: Reconstructing Gaza, held on 12 October 2014;
Calls upon Israel, the occupying Power, to remove all obstacles to the implementation of critical environmental projects, including sewage treatment plants in the Gaza Strip and the reconstruction and development of water infrastructure, including the project for the desalination facility for the Gaza Strip;
Calls for the immediate and safe removal of all unexploded ordnance in the Gaza Strip and for support for the efforts of the United Nations Mine Action Service in this regard, and welcomes the efforts exerted by the Service to date;
Encourages all States and international organizations to continue to actively pursue policies to ensure respect for their obligations under international law with regard to all illegal Israeli practices and measures in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, particularly Israeli settlement activities and the exploitation of natural resources;
Requests the Secretary-General to report to the General Assembly at its seventy-first session on the implementation of the present resolution, including with regard to the cumulative impact of the exploitation, damage and depletion by Israel of natural resources in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and in the occupied Syrian Golan, and decides to include in the provisional agenda of its seventy-first session the item entitled “Permanent sovereignty of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and of the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan over their natural resources”.
This is strong stuff. But given the UN’s record will the action ever suit the words?
Astonishingly, the Israel-adoring UK government voted for it. Let us make a mental note of those 5 countries – Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, United States – which claim to be freedom loving but are evidently bent on denying the poor Palestinians theirs. And the birdbrained 10 – Australia, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Honduras, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, South Sudan, Togo, Tonga, Vanuatu – which are so lackadaisically uncommitted to the principle of universal human rights that they sat on the fence. Maybe international civil society would like to prod them with a sharp BDS stick to concentrate their minds.
At least one country, happily, is taking a tough line – Brazil, which, says the BBC, has yet to approve the appointment four months ago of Israel’s new ambassador. Not only is the new man, Dani Dayan, a former chairman of the Yesha Council which promotes illegal Israeli settlements on stolen Palestinian lands, but Israeli prime minister Netanyahu broke the news of the appointment on Twitter before telling Brazil, according to reports.
As even Netanyahu must know, the transfer by an occupier of part of its own population into territory it occupies is considered a war crime, so why should Brazil play host to a foreigner with such a vile record? Israel is threatening to downgrade relations to “secondary level” if Brazil does not give approval to the appointment. And Israeli deputy foreign minister Tzipi Hotovely says that Dayan would not be replaced if his appointment isn’t accepted.
Since Brazil is Israel’s largest trading partner in South America you’d think the Israelis would watch their manners. The Brazilians, hopefully, won’t allow themselves to pushed around by Tel Aviv’s insufferable thugs.
The big lie is a propaganda technique generally employed when telling the truth would be unfavorable to your side. It goes like this: never admit doing any wrong and instead always insist on a story that portrays your side as the good guys. What really happened is irrelevant. The key is repetition. Do it often enough and loudly enough until most people believe you.
While the big lie is most often associated with authoritarian governments, its use is actually quite widespread. For example, the Montreal Gazette recently published a front page article claiming Jewish students at Concordia University were “feeling like the target of a hate campaign.” The reason cited, as far as this writer can tell, was simply that many students were standing in solidarity with Palestinians.
At the end of November, the student group Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights organized BDS Week. Without citing a single incident of actual racism, the Gazette painted a picture of the discussion series as hateful. Reporter Karen Seidman simply quoted an individual decrying “a hostile environment on campus” and another who denounced “speakers slandering Israeli tactics and spewing hate.”
In her article, Seidman also labeled a referendum held last year in which undergraduates voted to support the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel as “contentious” and downplayed its significance by saying only “a tiny fraction” of the overall student body participated.
So why is this a big lie?
First, the side favored is portrayed as a victim of “hate” with no evidence presented except criticism of the Israeli state causing hurt feelings. Second, and most important, the article blissfully ignores any historical background that would present Palestinian sympathizers in a positive light or even provide context for what they are doing.
It abjectly fails to even get any comment from any supporter of BDS. The reporter writes that she tried and failed to get a comment from the organizers, but it should surely not be beyond a reporter’s ability to get an alternative pro-BDS voice.
And while portraying a rather modest week of solidarity events as hateful, the reporter also ignores how a well-funded Concordia institute has engaged in an effort to erase Palestinians from historical memory.
In 2011, multibillionaire David Azrieli gave Concordia $5 million to set up the Azrieli Institute of Israel Studies.
The institute established the first minor degree program in Israel studies at a Canadian university.
This wasn’t a disinterested, apolitical donation. Azrieli, an Israeli-Canadian real estate magnate who died last year, was a staunch defender of Israel. He did not hide his affiliation, happily asserting that “I am a Zionist and I love the country.”
During the Nakba, the 1948 ethnic cleansing of Palestine, he was an officer in a largely Anglo-Saxon brigade of the Haganah, a Zionist military force. Led by Major Ben Dunkelman, a Canadian veteran of the Second World War, the Seventh Brigade played a leading role in the infamous Operation Hiram.
Dozens of villages in the north of Palestine were depopulated and destroyed during that offensive.
The operation, initiated in October 1948, included several massacres of Palestinian villagers.
As many as 94 Palestinians were killed in the village of Saliha alone. A Jewish National Fund official, Yosef Nahmani, noted in his diary that between 50 and 60 peasants in Safsaf were killed and buried in a pit after the village’s inhabitants “had raised a white flag.”
In his book The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, the Israeli historian Ilan Pappe notes that few brigade names appear in the oral testimonies that have been gathered about the Nakba: “However, Brigade Seven is mentioned again and again, together with such adjectives as ‘terrorists’ and ‘barbarous.’”
Since opening at Concordia, the Azrieli Institute has proven a potent advocate for Israel on campus.
In June, the institute hosted the Association for Israel Studies’ annual conference.
After attending the conference, the right-wing Israeli academic Gerald Steinberg described Azrieli’s $5 million donation as part of a “counterattack” against pro-Palestinian activism at Concordia.
The institute is largely designed to erase Palestinians from their historical connection to their homeland. Its website fails to even mention the word Palestine.
In a December 2014 letter to the Montreal Gazette, Nakina Stratos noted: “Browsing through the website of the Azrieli Institute of Israel Studies, I was not able to find the words ‘Palestine’ or ‘Palestinian people.’ How can an institute that teaches about the history of Israel not mention Palestine on its website? This, to me, intersects with the far-right Israeli narrative, which is a total confiscation of Palestinian history, and an attempt to erase the concept of Palestine from the dictionary of the Middle East.”
But rather than investigate how Palestinian students feel about a richly endowed university institute that erases their existence, the Gazette’s education reporter chose to focus on assertions of persecution by those who would do the erasing.
The perpetrators of oppression and their supporters instead become victims. Those who stand up for the oppressed are portrayed as bullies.
That is the big lie at work.
A recent Globe and Mail article (reprinted on Rabble.ca) by Gerald Caplan detailing Canadian relations with Uganda made me mad.
It was not so much for what’s in the article, but rather what it ignores, which is reality. Any progressive author writing about Canada’s foreign affairs betrays his readers if he ignores the bad this country has done and feeds the benevolent Canadian foreign-policy myth.
“Canadians have had ties to Uganda for many decades”, writes Caplan, a self-described “Africa scholar” citing the establishment of diplomatic relations soon after independence. He also mentions many Canadians who “found their way to the country” amidst instability and the federal government taking in Asians expelled by Idi Amin. The former NDP strategist points to some private Canadian aid initiatives in the country and details a Canadian lawyer’s contribution to a suit over the Ugandan government’s failure to provide basic maternal health services, which may violate the Constitution.
But, Caplan completely ignores the unsavory – and much more consequential – role Canada has played in the East African country.
For example, he could have at least mentioned this country’s role during the “scramble for Africa” when Canadians actively participated in subjugating various peoples and stealing their land. This is necessary to acknowledge if we are ever to build a decent foreign policy.
In the late 1800s a number of Canadian military men helped survey possible rail routes from the East African Coast to Lake Victoria Nyanza on the border between modern Uganda and Kenya. The objective was to strengthen Britain’s grip over recalcitrant indigenous groups and to better integrate the area into the Empire’s North East Africa-India corridor.
Beginning in 1913 dozens of Canadian missionaries helped the colonial authority penetrate Ugandan societies and undermine indigenous customs. The preeminent figure was John Forbes who was a bishop and coadjutor vicar apostolic, making him second in charge of over 30 mission posts in Uganda. A 1929 biography describes his “good relations” with British colonial authorities and the “important services Forbes rendered the authorities of the Protectorate.”
In 1918 Forbes participated in a major conference in the colony, organized by Governor Robert Coryndon in the hopes of spurring indigenous wage work. The Vaudreuil, Québec, native wrote home that “it’s a big question. The European planters in our area, who cultivate coffee, cotton and rubber need workers for their exploitation. But the workforce is rare. Our Negroes are happy to eat bananas and with a few bits of cotton or bark for clothes, are not excited to put themselves at the service of the planters and work all day for a meager salary.”
British officials subsidized the White Fathers schools as part of a bid to expand the indigenous workforce.
Canadians were also part of the British colonial authority. Royal Military College of Canada graduate Godfrey Rhodes became chief engineer and general manager of Kenya and Uganda Railways and Harbours in 1928. The Victoria, BC, native was in Uganda for over a decade and was followed by Walter Bazley, a colonial administrator in Bunyoro from 1950 to 1963 (after Ugandan independence, Bazley joined the Canadian public service).
Throughout British rule Ottawa recognized London’s authority over Uganda. After fighting in the 1898 – 1902 Boer War Henry Rivington Poussette was appointed Canada’s first trade commissioner in Africa with “jurisdiction extending from the Cape to the Zambesi, including Uganda.”
Poussette and future trade representatives helped Canadian companies profit from European rule in Africa. By independence Toronto-based Bata shoes controlled most of the footwear market in Uganda while a decade before the end of British rule Falconbridge acquired a 70% stake in the Kilembe copper-cobalt mine in western Uganda. In a joint partnership with the London controlled Colonial Development Corporation, the Toronto company’s highly profitable mine produced more than $250 million ($1 billion today) worth of copper yet paid no income tax until its capital was fully recovered in 1965. In 1968, post-independence leader Milton Obote increased the country’s copper export tax and then moved to gain majority control of the mine. Falconbridge quickly stripped out $6 million in special dividend payments and threatened to withdraw its management from the country.
Falconbridge: Portrait of a Canadian Mining Multinational explains:
Although Kilembe Copper was both profitable and socially important in the Ugandan economy, this did not prevent the Falconbridge group from withdrawing capital as rapidly as possible just before president Obote forced it to sell Uganda a controlling interest in 1970. The implication was that its management team would be withdrawn entirely if the government did not restore Falconbridge’s majority ownership. Dislocation in the lives of Ugandan people was a price the company seemed willing to pay in this tug-of-war over the profits from Uganda’s resources.
The Kilembe mine also contaminated Elizabeth National Park and tailings seeped into Lake George, near Uganda’s western border with the Congo.
Upon taking office, General Idi Amin returned control of the Kilembe mine to Falconbridge. (This was maintained for several years, after which Amin returned the mine to his government.) He had managed to overthrow Obote’s government in January 1971 with the aid of Britain, Israel and the US. A British Foreign Office memo noted that Obote’s nationalizations, which also included Bata, had “serious implications for British business in Uganda and Africa generally… other countries will be tempted to try and get away with similar measures with more damaging consequences for British investment and trade.”
While this country’s “Africa scholars” have largely ignored Canada’s position towards Amin’s rise to power, the available documentation suggests Ottawa passively supported the putsch. On three occasions during the early days of the coup (between January 26 and February 3, 1971) the Pierre Trudeau government responded to inquiries from opposition MPs about developments in Uganda and whether Canada would grant diplomatic recognition to the new regime. Within a week of Obote’s ouster, both External Affairs Minister Mitchell Sharp and Prime Minister Trudeau passed up these opportunities to denounce Amin’s usurpation of power. They remained silent as Amin suspended various provisions of the Ugandan Constitution and declared himself President, Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, Army Chief of Staff and Chief of Air Staff. They failed to condemn a leader, now infamous, for plunging the nation into a torrent of violence.
In African Pearls and Poisons: Idi Amin’s Uganda; Kenya; Zaire’s Pygmies, Alberta bureaucrat Leo Louis Jacques describes a conversation he had with the CIDA liaison officer in Uganda who facilitated his 1971-73 appointment to the Uganda College of Commerce. Asked whether the change in government would affect his CIDA-funded position, the aid agency’s liaison officer in Uganda, Catrina Porter, answered Jacques thusly: “‘Yes, there was a coup on January 25th, 1971 and it was a move that promises to be an improvement. The new administration favours Democracy and Western Civilization’s Democracy, while the former one favoured the Communists.’ I [Jacques] said, ‘I understand the present government is being run by the Ugandan army under the control of a General named Idi Amin Dada. What is he like?’ Porter said ‘General Amin’s gone on record as saying he loves Canada and the Commonwealth. He also vowed that his country of Uganda would have democratic elections soon. The British and Americans have recognized him as the Ugandan government and so do we.’”
Two years after the coup the Canadian High Commissioner in Nairobi visited to ask Amin to reverse his plan to nationalize Bata shoes. After the meeting, the High Commissioner cabled Ottawa that he was largely successful with Bata and also mentioned that “KILEMBE MINES (70 PERCENT FALCONBRIDGE OWNED) IS DOING WELL.”
But, just in case you think it’s just our unsavoury history that Caplan ignores, there’s more. He also also ignores more recent developments such as SNC Lavalin’s alleged bribery in the country, Montréal-based Canarail’s contribution to a disastrous World Bank sponsored privatization of the Kenya and Uganda railway systems or Ottawa’s “logistical support and some funding for the Uganda led [military] force” dispatched to Somalia to do Washington’s dirty work.
Why did this article make me so mad? Because it’s part of a pattern of the social democratic Left ignoring how Canadian corporations and governments impoverish the Global South. Too often social democrat intellectuals dim, rather than enlighten, progressives’ understanding of Canada’s role in the world.
To preserve his position at the Globe and Mail and CBC Caplan may feel he needs to feed the benevolent Canadian foreign-policy myth. But, he should at least show some decency and spare Rabble.ca from this nonsense.
The Extraordinary Trial of Arthur Topham: Part 3
On November 7, Arthur Topham was convicted of inciting hatred against a racial group, the Jewish people. Mr. Topham maintains a website, Radical Free Press, in which he publishes and comments upon various documents. These documents include The Elders of the Protocols of Zion, various anti-Zionist texts, and a tract entitled Germany Must Perish, first published in 1941 and then satirized by Mr. Topham as Israel Must Perish.
Mr. Topham’s defense rested primarily on the theory that his writing was not directed at Jews as a race or religion, but rather at the politics espoused by a number of Jewish people. The best discussion of this topic is by Gilad Atzmon, contained in his book, The Wandering Who?. The basic take away for considering the implications of Mr. Topham’s criminal conviction is that some people conflate Judaism as a religion, an ethnic heritage AND with a political view, not always consistent, that generally favors Israel’s perceived benefit.
Canada has a lobby entitled Center for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) that lobbies the Canadian government on behalf of Israel. Mr. Rudner, who had lodged various complaints about Mr. Topham in the past and was the Crown’s expert in Mr. Topham’s case, has worked for CIJA or its predecessor for 15 years. So the Crown relied upon the testimony of a man who lobbies for Israel (clearly a political entity) for proof of anti Semitic content and potential harm to Jewish people. His appearance in tiny Quesnel is testimony to the political importance that his organization places on silencing Mr. Topham. (The original witness scheduled to testify, Mr. Farber was a former colleague of Rudner’s, and apparently the two are close enough that Mr. Rudner’s written testimony was an exact duplicate of Mr. Farber’s original.)
Since Mr. Topham was accused of anti-Semitism, let’s look at the term. The quote below is from the Holocaust Encyclopedia, published and maintained by the United States Holocaust Museum so it is probably safe to assume that this is a standard definition.
The word antisemitism means prejudice against or hatred of Jews. The Holocaust, the state-sponsored persecution and
murder of European Jews by Nazi Germany and its collaborators between 1933and 1945, is history’s most extreme example of antisemitism. In 1879, German journalist Wilhelm Marr originated the term antisemitism, denoting the hatred of Jews, and also hatred of various liberal, cosmopolitan, and international political trends of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries often associated with Jews. The trends under attack included equal civil rights, constitutional democracy, free trade, socialism, finance capitalism, and pacifism.
Interesting that, in the first paragraph of its section on anti-Semitism, the encyclopedia blends together the concepts of ‘hatred of the Jews’ with opposition to various political and social movements generally associated with Jews. This is puzzling. Is it anti-Semitism to oppose socialism or is it anti-Semitic to oppose finance capitalism? While one could oppose both, it would be impossible to espouse either view without rejecting the other. I assume the author did not intend to imply that opposition to socialism, for instance, is anti-Semitic even if such opposition is from a fellow Jew.
I bring this up because this is precisely what I believe happened in Mr. Topham’s case. Mr. Topham was charged with two counts of inciting hatred over different periods of time. The jury found him guilty on the first count and not guilty on the second. Of course there are many possible explanations for a split verdict (none of which the jury is allowed to discuss even after trial without committing what the judge termed a ‘criminal’ offense). The observers, including myself, tended to believe that the discrepancy in the verdicts was a result of the text Germany Must Perish and its satirization by Mr. Topham in Israel Must Perish, a text that appeared on his website during the period for which Mr. Topham was found guilty.
The original text of Germany Must Perish was written in 1941 by Theodore Kaufman, an American Jewish man. The text was originally self-published, but was apparently advertized and reviewed by the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and Time magazine. In any case, the publication was well known enough to have been read in Germany and was cited by Hitler and Goebbels as evidence of the bad intention of the Jews. The book is horrendous. Its semi-literate ravings are a ridiculous indictment of the German people and their warlike nature. Kaufman advocates sterilization of the Germans as the only possible remedy. At best, the author is confusing all Germans with Nazis, but that is not what the book says. Mr. Topham’s satire in which he substitutes the words ‘Israel’ for Germany and ‘Zionists’ for Germans helps to make the original text comprehensible. The satire hopefully provides some insight into how these words might have been viewed by Germans in 1941. The proof that the works were effective but the satire was not understood, is that Mr. Topham faced criminal charges for aping Kaufman’s words.
In its case, the Crown made the point that Israel Must Perish was a horrible text. The Crown argued that the fact that the words were originally written by a Jewish man to indict the Germans did not kosher the text. “Jews,” the Crown said, “could write anti-Semitic things too.” Presumably her next case will be against a Jew for inciting hatred against the Jewish people. Mr. Topham was making a political point. I believe he was trying to convey the idea that Israel and Zionists could seem very much like Germans and Nazism in 1941. It is not necessary to agree with Mr. Topham’s point to understand it.
If I am right and it was this text that caused Mr. Topham’s conviction, then that is an important indictment against Canada’s admirable attempts to limit ‘hate’ speech while allowing freedom of political speech. Mr. Topham’s criminal conviction may well have been the result of a misunderstanding that Mr. Topham was criticizing Israel and Zionism and not Jews as a race. Germany and Israel are political constructs, Germans may not be, but Zionists, or those who support establishment of the state of Israel are, by definition, espousing a political cause. So, Mr. Topham criticized the political cause of the Zionists. Is there a way in which Canada’s laws would allow Mr. Topham’s political views to find an outlet? Perhaps Canada ought to make criticism of Israel legally off limits so that Canadians may adjust their behavior accordingly.
Eve Mykytyn graduated from Boston University School of Law and was admitted to bar of the state of New York.
The U.S. National Security Agency accessed the internal communications of Venezuela’s state-owned oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela and acquired sensitive data it planned to exploit in order to spy on the company’s top officials, according to a highly classified NSA document that reveals the operation was carried out in concert with the U.S. embassy in Caracas.
The March 2011 document, labeled, “top secret,” and provided by former NSA contractor-turned-whistleblower Edward Snowden, is being reported on in an exclusive partnership between teleSUR and The Intercept.
Drafted by an NSA signals development analyst, the document explains that PDVSA’s network, already compromised by U.S. intelligence, was further infiltrated after an NSA review in late 2010 – during President Barack Obama’s first term, which would suggest he ordered or at least authorized the operation – “showed telltale signs that things were getting stagnant on the Venezuelan Energy target set.” Most intelligence “was coming from warranted collection,” which likely refers to communications that were intercepted as they passed across U.S. soil. According to the analyst, “what little was coming from other collectors,” or warrantless surveillance, “was pretty sparse.”
Beyond efforts to infiltrate Venezuela’s most important company, the leaked NSA document highlights the existence of a secretive joint operation between the NSA and the Central Intelligence Agency operating out of the U.S. embassy in Caracas. A fortress-like building just a few kilometers from PDVSA headquarters, the embassy sits on the top of a hill that gives those inside a commanding view of the Venezuelan capital.
Last year, Der Spiegel published top-secret documents detailing the state-of-the-art surveillance equipment that the NSA and CIA deploy to embassies around the world. That intelligence on PDVSA had grown “stagnant” was concerning to the U.S. intelligence community for a number of reasons, which its powerful surveillance capabilities could help address.
“Venezuela has some of the largest oil and natural gas reserves in the world,” the NSA document states, with revenue from oil and gas accounting “for roughly one third of GDP” and “more than half of all government revenues.”
“To understand PDVSA,” the NSA analyst explains, “is to understand the economic heart of Venezuela.”
Increasing surveillance on the leadership of PDVSA, the most important company in a South American nation seen as hostile to U.S. corporate interests, was a priority for the undisclosed NSA division to which the analyst reported. “Plainly speaking,” the analyst writes, they “wanted PDVSA information at the highest possible levels of the corporation – namely, the president and members of the Board of Directors.”
Given a task, the analyst got to work and, with the help of “sheer luck,” found his task easier than expected.
It began simply enough: with a visit to PDVSA’s website, “where I clicked on ‘Leadership’ and wrote down the names of the principals who would become my target list.” From there, the analyst “dumped the names” into PINWALE, the NSA’s primary database of previously intercepted digital communications, automatically culled using a dictionary of search terms called “selectors.” It was an almost immediate success.
In addition to email traffic, the analyst came across over 10,000 employee contact profiles full of email addresses, phone numbers, and other useful targeting information, including the usernames and passwords for over 900 PDVSA employees. One profile the analyst found was for Rafael Ramirez, PDVSA’s president from 2004 to 2014 and Venezuela’s current envoy to the United Nations. A similar entry turned up for Luis Vierma, the company’s former vice president of exploration and production.
“Now, even my old eyes could see that these things were a goldmine,” the analyst wrote. The entries were full of “work, home, and cell phones, email addresses, LOTS!” This type of information, referred to internally as “selectors,” can then be “tasked” across the NSA’s wide array of surveillance tools so that any relevant communications will be saved.
According to the analyst, the man to whom he reported “was thrilled!” But “it is what happened next that really made our day.”
“As I was analyzing the metadata,” the analyst explains, “I clicked on the ‘From IP’ and noticed something peculiar,” all of the employee profile, “over 10,000 of them, came from the same IP!!!” That, the analyst determined, meant “I had been looking at internal PDVSA comms all this time!!! I fired off a few emails to F6 here and in Caracas, and they confirmed it!”
“Metadata” is a broad term that can include the phone numbers a target has dialed, the duration of the call and from where it was placed, as well as the Wi-Fi networks used to access the Internet, the websites visited and the times accessed. That information can then be used to identify the user.
F6 is the NSA code name for a joint operation with the CIA known as the Special Collection Service, based in Beltsville, Maryland – and with agents posing as diplomats in dozens of U.S. embassies around the world, including Caracas, Bogota and Brasilia.
In 2013, Der Spiegel reported that it was this unit of the U.S. intelligence bureaucracy that had installed, within the U.S. embassy in Berlin, “sophisticated listening devices with which they can intercept virtually every popular method of communication: cellular signals, wireless networks and satellite communication.” The article suggested this is likely how the U.S. tapped into German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cellphone.
SCS at the U.S. embassy in Caracas played an active role throughout the espionage activities described in the NSA document. “I have been coordinating with Caracas,” the NSA analyst states, “who have been surveying their environment and sticking the results into XKEYSCORE.”
XKEYSCORE, as reported by The Intercept, processes a continuous “flow of Internet traffic from fiber optic cables that make up the backbone of the world’s communication network,” storing the data for 72 hours on a “rolling buffer” and “sweep[ing] up countless people’s Internet searches, emails, documents, usernames and passwords.”
The NSA’s combined databases are, essentially, “a very ugly version of Google with half the world’s information in it,” explained Matthew Green, a professor at the Johns Hopkins Information Security Institute, in an email. “They’re capturing so much information from their cable taps, that even the NSA analysts don’t know what they’ve got,” he added, “an analyst has to occasionally step in and manually dig through the data” to see if the information they want has already been collected.
That is exactly what the NSA analyst did in the case of PDVSA, which turned up even more leads to expand their collection efforts.
“I have been lucky enough to find several juicy pdf documents in there,” the NSA analyst wrote, “one of which has just been made a report.”
That report, dated January 2011, suggests a familiarity with the finances of PDVSA beyond that which was public knowledge, noting a decline in the theft and loss of oil.
“In addition, I have discovered a string that carries user ID’s and their passwords, and have recovered over 900 unique user/password combinations” the analyst wrote, which he forwarded to the NSA’s elite hacking team, Targeted Access Operations, along with other useful information and a “targeting request to see if we can pwn this network and especially, the boxes of PDVSA’s leadership.”
“Pwn,” in this context, means to successfully hack and gain full access to a computer or network. “Pwning” a computer, or “box,” would allow the hacker to monitor a user’s every keystroke.
A History of US Interest in Venezuelan Affairs
PDVSA has long been a target of U.S. intelligence agencies and the subject of intense scrutiny from U.S. diplomats. A February 17, 2009, cable, sent from the U.S. ambassador in Caracas to Washington and obtained by WikiLeaks, shows that PDVSA employees, were probed during visa interviews about their company’s internal operations. The embassy was particularly interested in the PDVSA’s strategy concerning litigation over Venezuela’s 2007 nationalization of the Cerro Negro oil project – and billions of dollars in assets owned by U.S. oil giant ExxonMobil.
“According to a PDVSA employee interviewed following his visa renewal, PDVSA is aggressively preparing its international arbitration case against ExxonMobil,” the cable notes.
A year before, U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters that the U.S. government “fully support the efforts of ExxonMobil to get a just and fair compensation package for their assets.” But, he added, “We are not involved in that dispute.”
ExxonMobil is also at the center of a border dispute between Guyana and Venezuela. In May 2015, the company announced it had made a “significant oil discovery” in an offshore location claimed by both countries. The U.S. ambassador to Guyana has offered support for that country’s claim.
More recently, the U.S. government has begun leaking information to media about allegations against top Venezuelan officials.
In October, The Wall Street Journal reported in a piece, “U.S. Investigates Venezuelan Oil Giant,” that “agents from the Department of Homeland Security, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other agencies” had recently met to discuss “various PDVSA-related probes.” The “wide-ranging investigations” reportedly have to do with whether former PDVSA President Rafael Ramirez and other executives accepted bribes.
Leaked news of the investigations came less than two months before Dec. 6 parliamentary elections in Venezuela. Ramirez, for his part, has rejected the accusations, which he claims are part of a “new campaign that wants to claim from us the recovery and revolutionary transformation of PDVSA.” Thanks to Chavez, he added, Venezuela’s oil belongs to “the people.”
In its piece on the accusations against him, The Wall Street Journal notes that during Ramirez’s time in office PDVSA became “an arm of the late President Hugo Chavez’s socialist revolution,” with money made from the sale of petroleum used “to pay for housing, appliances and food for the poor.”
The former PDVSA president is not the only Venezuelan official to be accused of corruption by the U.S. government. In May 2015, the U.S. Department of Justice accused Diosdado Cabello, president of the Venezuelan National Assembly, of being involved in cocaine trafficking and money laundering. Former Interior Minister Tarek El Aissami, the former director of military intelligence, Hugo Carvajal, and Nestor Reverol, head of the National Guard, have also faced similar accusations from the U.S. government.
None of these accusations against high-ranking Venezuelan officials has led to any indictments.
The timing of the charges, made in the court of public opinion rather than a courthouse, has led some to believe there’s another motive.
“These people despise us,” Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said in October. He and his supporters argue the goal of the U.S. government’s selective leaks is to undermine his party ahead of the upcoming elections, helping install a right-wing opposition seen as friendlier to U.S. interests. “They believe that we belong to them.”
Loose Standards for NSA Intelligence Sharing
Ulterior motives or not, by the NSA’s own admission the intelligence it gathers on foreign targets may be disseminated widely among U.S. officials who may have more than justice on their minds.
According to a guide issued by the NSA on January 12, 2015, the communications of non-U.S. persons may be captured in bulk and retained if they are said to contain information concerning a plot against the United States or evidence of, “Transnational criminal threats, including illicit finance and sanctions evasion.” Any intelligence that is gathered may then be passed on to other agencies, such as the DEA, if it “is related to a crime that has been, is being, or is about to be committed.”
Spying for the sole purpose of protecting the interests of a corporation is ostensibly not allowed, though there are exceptions that do allow for what might be termed economic espionage.
“The collection of foreign private commercial information or trade secrets is authorized only to protect nation the national security of the United States or its partners and allies,” the agency states. It is not supposed to collect such information “to afford a competitive advantage to U.S. companies and U.S. business sectors commercially.” However, “Certain economic purposes, such as identifying trade or sanctions violations or government influence or direction, shall not constitute competitive advantage.”
In May 2011, two months after the leaked document was published in NSA’s internal newsletter, the U.S. State Department announced it was imposing sanctions on PDVSA – a state-owned enterprise, or one that could be said to be subject to “government influence or direction” – for business it conducted with the Islamic Republic of Iran between December 2010 and March 2011. The department did not say how it obtained information about the transactions, allegedly worth US$50 million.
Intelligence gathered with one stated purpose can also serve another, and the NSA’s already liberal rules on the sharing of what it gathers can also be bent in times of perceived emergency.
“If, due to unanticipated or extraordinary circumstances, NSA determines that it must take action in apparent departure from these procedures to protect the national security of the United States, such action may be taken” – after either consulting other branches of the intelligence bureaucracy. “If there is insufficient time for approval,” however, it may unilaterally take action.
Beyond the obvious importance of oil, leaked diplomatic cables show PDVSA was also on the U.S. radar because of its importance to Venezuela’s left-wing government. In 2009, another diplomatic cable obtained by WikiLeaks shows the U.S. embassy in Caracas viewed PDVSA as crucial to the political operations of long-time foe and former President Hugo Chavez. In April 2002, Chavez was briefly overthrown in a coup that, according to The New York Times, as many as 200 officials in the George W. Bush administration – briefed by the CIA – knew about days before it was carried out.
The Venezuelan government was not informed of the plot.
“Since the December 2002-February 2003 oil sector strike, PDVSA has put itself at the service of President Chavez’s Bolivarian revolution, funding everything from domestic programs to Chavez’s geopolitical endeavors,” the 2009 cable states.
Why might that be a problem, from the U.S. government’s perspective? Another missive from the U.S. embassy in Caracas, this one sent in 2010, sheds some light: Chavez “appears determined to shape the hemisphere according to his vision of ‘socialism in the 21st century,’” it states, “a vision that is almost the mirror image of what the United States seeks.”
There was a time when not so long ago when the U.S. had an ally in Venezuela, one that shared its vision for the hemisphere – and invited a U.S. firm run by former U.S. intelligence officials to directly administer its information technology operations.
Amid a push for privatization under former Venezuelan President Rafael Caldera, in January 1997 PDVSA decided to outsource its IT system to a joint a company called Information, Business and Technology, or INTESA – the product of a joint venture between the oil company, which owned a 40 percent share of the new corporation, and the major U.S.-based defense contractor Science Applications International Corporation, or SAIC, which controlled 60 percent.
SAIC has close, long-standing ties to the U.S. intelligence community. At the time of its dealings with Venezuela, the company’s director was retired Admiral Bobby Inman. Before coming to SAIC, Inman served as the U.S. Director of Naval Intelligence and Vice Director of the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency. Inman also served as deputy director of the CIA and, from 1977 to 1981, as director of the NSA.
In his book, “Changing Venezuela by Taking Power: The History and Policies of the Chavez Government,” author Gregory Wilpert notes that Inman was far from the only former intelligence official working for SAIC in a leadership role. Joining him were two former U.S. Secretaries of Defense, William Perry and Melvin Laird, a former director of the CIA, John Deutsch, and a former head of both the CIA and the Defense Department, Robert Gates. The company that those men controlled, INTESA, was given the job of managing “all of PDVSA’s data processing needs.”
In 2002, Venezuela, now led by a government seeking to roll back the privatizations of its predecessor, chose not to renew SAIC’s contract for another five years, a decision the company protested to the U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation, which insures the overseas investments of U.S. corporations. In 2004, the U.S. agency ruled that by canceling its contract with SAIC the Venezuelan government had “expropriated” the company’s investment.
However, before that ruling, and before its operations were reincorporated by PDVSA, the company that SAIC controlled, INTESA, played a key role in an opposition-led strike aimed at shutting down the Venezuelan oil industry. In December 2002, eight months after the failed coup attempt and the same month its contract was set to expire, INTESA, the Venezuelan Ministry of Communication and Information alleges, “exercised its ability to control our computers by paralyzing the charge, discharge, and storage of crude at different terminals within the national grid.” The government alleges INTESA, which possessed the codes needed to access those terminals, refused to allow non-striking PDVSA employees access to the company’s control systems.
“The result,” Wilpert noted, “was that PDVSA could not transfer its data processing to new systems, nor could it process its orders for invoices for oil shipments. PDVSA ended up having to process such things manually because passwords and the general computing infrastructure were unavailable, causing the strike to be much more damaging to the company than it would have been if the data processing had been in PDVSA’s hands.”
PDVSA’s IT operations would become a strictly internal affair soon thereafter, though one never truly free from the prying eyes of hostile outsiders.