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April 29, 2010

In Your FACE, Dennis Perrin!

This is an intriguing section of The Agronomist, a documentary directed by Jonathan Demme about Haitian radio journalist/weirdo Jean Dominique.

First of all, you can see what a compelling person Dominique was. ("And we profit from this...We went faster...further!") Demme says in the commentary track that he started making the movie just as an excuse to spend time with him.

Secondly, you see that out in the hinterlands of the U.S. empire, it does sometimes make a difference whether the president's a Democrat or Republican. It may be the difference between things being 95% horrible and 100% horrible, but that can be the margin between someone being tortured or not. And perhaps it just means that only 99,500 people are tortured each year instead of 100,000, but that's a pretty big difference for those non-tortured 500.

On the other hand, Dominique was eventually murdered in April, 2000, when Bill Clinton was president.

(Read Savage Mules.)

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at April 29, 2010 09:10 AM

I though Aristide was president in 2000?

and about reporters without Borders...

Posted by: Jenny at April 29, 2010 11:24 AM

I loved this movie....did I read about it on this web site? I also watched "The Emperor's Naked Army Marches On" based on your recommendation. It was fantastic!

I have added many books to my reading list based on TR posts and comments (very many due to NE). It would be cool if there were a centralized reading list!

Posted by: Aaron Datesman at April 29, 2010 11:28 AM

Jean Dominique is a name I will remember. I'll add him to my list of heroes. (I'm looking for a banker to add if anyone can think of a candidate. There are a few lawyers and economists and businessmen, so you wouldn't think it would be so damn hard to come up with a banker.)

I'll have to watch The Agronomist. Like Aaron, I also loved the Emperor's Naked Army Marches On. I thought that was an amazing documentary, almost the film equivalent of Torture in Brazil and the Names Project that led to it. Sometimes crazy is appropriate.

As for substance, those Presidents who do decide to do the right thing have a hell of a time, because the Empire runs on brutality and mendacity and greed (all of which are considered necessary protections of National Security and national interests), and the engine really starts to sputter when you dilute that nasty fuel with human rights or a war to end all wars or the United Nations or detente or an end to the cold war or pretty much any policy intended to promote human values. Typically, Democratic Presidents have pushed those various anti-military policies, and it has caused big trouble for them. Lately they seem to have thrown in the towel on that, either because the forces of militarism are just too strong to politically oppose now, or because nobody really inspiring and courageous can get to be President now, or both.


Posted by: N E at April 29, 2010 03:33 PM

I am grateful for your posting the link to the YouTube and all the information that was contained there.

However, it made me very sad to read the OP's comment that people need to realize how important that 5% difference is between the Republican Presidency and the Democratic one.

So this is what the once great democracy in the world has come down to - we must appreciate that the Big Money Party allows a five percent difference, as that difference might save someone's life.

Okay so I will attempt to appreciate the difference, but I cannot applaud the fact that this is what is left of "democracy" in our nation.

Posted by: Elise Mattu at April 29, 2010 04:04 PM

Secondly, you see that out in the hinterlands of the U.S. empire, it does sometimes make a difference whether the president's a Democrat or Republican.

It sure does, Jon. It's made a big difference for people in Pakistan, for example, since the Obama administration launched more drone strikes in its first year than Bush did in his entire presidency.

...that can be the margin between someone being tortured or not.

Yes, under Obama torture is way down. Of course that's in large part because he prefers to just kill people instead of capturing them, thus avoiding all those sticky issues of detention and treatment and trials. But you can't torture a few eggs if you've already broken them, or something like that.

Posted by: John Caruso at April 29, 2010 04:09 PM

Yes, under Obama torture is way down.

Well, maybe yes, maybe no. I'm pretty sure it's down when directly carried out by the U.S., but what I have in mind here includes all our minions.

Posted by: Jonathan Schwarz at April 29, 2010 04:31 PM

Loved this doc. Really impossible to describe how well made it was.

Posted by: Jack Crow at April 29, 2010 05:27 PM

@Jenny: Aristide was president before and after Preval. Preval was in office from 1996-2001, a full term, succeeded by Aristide who once again was ousted in a coup, in February 2004.

Posted by: Nell at April 29, 2010 06:25 PM

This just makes me tremble with rage at the contemporary deification of Reagan in the US. The Reagan administration did things like this throughout the world, to an extreme extent ("off the charts" in Chomsky's words), successfully destroying a number of decades-old liberation organizations. But now Reagan is sacrosanct in the US, with multiple things named after him in every state, thanks to Grover Norquist's Ronald Reagan Legacy Project.

Posted by: deang at April 29, 2010 06:49 PM

And the difference with regard to human rights between Democrats and Republicans is a pre-Reagan difference. However damaging, Reagan's policies were successfully pursued and their negative effects glossed over, and this perception of success served to push the Democrats and the entire US political scene (and society, really) to the right. It has remained on that trajectory ever since.

Posted by: deang at April 29, 2010 06:56 PM

Elise Mattu

You said ". . . this is what is left of democracy in our nation." . . . "left of democracy"? Err, it's a myth that we ever had that much democracy, and the phenomenon of Democratic disappoints has existed since Woodrow Wilson, maybe even Grover Cleveland (since somebody mentioned Pullman). We're still just inching forward toward bearly tolerable.

Personally, I like a lot of the Democratic Presidents who, up to a point, fought a good fight against imperialism and militarism--notably Wilson, FDR, JFK, and Jimmy Carter. I even like some of the GOP Presidents who to an extent fought the same qualified fight--McKinley, Harding, and even (based only on policies, not character or heart) that no good rotten bastard Nixon (may the Great Spirit forgive me for saying that).

But such Presidents have ALWAYS lost the fight against the MICFiC or National Security State or shadow government or deep state or whatever you want to call it. Which is to say, one way or another, they always fail. When looking at the results produced by the system as a whole, it's hard to disagree with William Appleman Williams or Chomsky about how it has operated for well over a hundred years, regardless of what any particular President wanted. The Constitution was well drafted by James Madison et al to protect elites and prevent an excess of democracy. It's a reactionary document dressed up as idealism.

All that being said, the militarists are way more than 5% worse than those abysmally unsuccessful nonmilitarists. JFK saved millions of lives by not being Barry Goldwater and doing what those crazy nuts in the Pentagon and at Langley wanted. I'm not sure Woodrow Wilson ended up saving many lives, but he tried, and I shudder to think of what Teddy Roosevelt would have done had he still been President at that time. Jimmy Carter did some wrong things and made plenty of mistakes, but more than just a few people paid with their lives for the difference between him and that crew of savages that took over under Reagan. Sure FDR got us in a world war, but until he had his cerebral hemorrhage it was looking like there wouldn't be a Cold War. We really do owe these disappointing, failed Presidents some thanks.

Until there's a structural change to our federal system bringing the Senate and the military and the federal courts under control, it's going to be all uphill all the time. It's too bad something really, really bad will probably have to happen before those kinds of changes have any chance of happening. And it's too bad that a look at our nutso citizenry suggests the happening of really, really bad things is just a matter of time.

Posted by: N E at April 29, 2010 08:45 PM

On reconsideration, Clinton was a Republican.

Posted by: Bob In Pacifica at April 29, 2010 09:49 PM

I'm pretty sure it's down when directly carried out by the U.S., but what I have in mind here includes all our minions.

My point was that whereas Bush was a torturer, Obama's a murderer. If anyone thinks that's an improvement, by all means vote Democratic.

Posted by: John Caruso at April 29, 2010 10:52 PM

I always felt that Clinton was the best damn Republican president in my lifetime.

And John Caruso is right - Obama is killing many more people in Pakistan and Afghanistan (and Yemen) than Bush did. He's way behind in Iraq, however. Over 2,000 combat troops headed to Iraq in September, so who knows what is going to happen there.....

Posted by: Susan at April 29, 2010 11:30 PM

Gee, are we to think that George Bush and Dick Cheney didn't kill any of those million Iraqis but just tortured them all? Or that they they didn't kill the thousands of Afghanis who were killed in 2001 (I'd bet more innocent Afghanis than innocent New Yorkers).

I'm now a little confused about whether people think the war-criminal soldiers or the war-criminal Presidents are actually the more murderous barbarians. I recommend that we not forget the Generals and Admirals and all those nasty warmongers out there in the MICFiC!

Since in the final analysis the bankers benefit most from all this kiling, it's fitting that they get the only lower case letter!

Posted by: N E at April 30, 2010 12:00 AM

He's way behind in Iraq, however.

Maybe, but Clinton took care of the Democratic killing in Iraq with eight years of sanctions. It's a team effort.

Posted by: John Caruso at April 30, 2010 01:08 AM

John Caruso has a good point about those murderous sanctions, and about the team effort behind them--a bipartisan,international team effort. All the real players--not just the US but the EU, Japan, and the corrupt arab elites in Saudi Arabia and the smaller gulf monarchies--stood by ambivalently and let a half million or more Iraqi civilians die as surely as if they had been locked in a room without food until they starved to death. Sometimes you just have to make sacrifices.

Say what you will about the dangers of the Cold War, that probably wouldn't and couldn't have happened before the fall of communism. The commies would have made hay of that, but with them no longer around to take advantage of such opportunities to feed upon understandable popular resentment, it was easy for our distinguished Western global leaders to look the other way and put on some music so they wouldn't have to hear the moaning. And it was even easier to just paint Ramsey Clark as an unpatriotic lunatic and pariah so no one would pay attention to him to him. The Dems are indeed as culpable as anyone for that.

As Presidents go, Clinton was a freak of nature--a sex-crazed eunuch. Though I think Obama's character is better, Langley and the forces allied with it helped put him in the White House, which is why our Secretary of Defense is a long-time Poppy Bush crony and former head of CIA. The anti-war forces in the US are politically weaker than ever, and our militarism is slowly bleeding us to death. But the real danger is that eventually it probably won't be so slowly.

Posted by: N E at April 30, 2010 07:15 AM

N E: "As Presidents go, Clinton was a freak of nature--a sex-crazed eunuch." Not that I'm a fan of Clinton, but what the hell does this mean? For a eunuch, he managed to kill a lot of people, and in the value system of conservatives and liberals alike, that makes him All Man.

Your remarks about the Cold War are equally off-kilter. The great states, including the US, killed millions directly and indirectly before the Cold War was a gleam in Harry Truman's eye.

Posted by: Duncan at April 30, 2010 10:22 AM

Oh, and P.S.: JFK was at least as sex-crazed as Clinton. And he managed to kill a lot of people too. I'd still be scratching my head over your earlier claim that he was a good guy if I didn't know that in your universe Democrats are well-meaning pacifist-wannabe's by ascription.

Posted by: Duncan at April 30, 2010 10:25 AM

"...out in the hinterlands of the U.S. empire, it does sometimes make a difference whether the president's a Democrat or Republican."

I'll admit I still wonder about this, but I'm skeptical. That 95 per cent horrible is somehow better, or at least less bad in some meaningful way is a thing that can't be conclusively disproved.

That makes the goodness of Obama a little like UFOs. I wish you were right, but I doubt it.


The Real News is in the midst of a fund-raiser and they say they have an anonymous benefactor who will match donations through Facebook for a while. Through 5.1, I think.

Posted by: Jonathan Versen at April 30, 2010 12:45 PM

a couple of corrections:

1.the fundraiser(today only, though midnight)will result in funds matched irrespective of whether the donations came through Facebook,

2. the matching rate is 2:1.

Posted by: Jonathan Versen at April 30, 2010 01:13 PM


It seems that you know as much about JFK as that guy who writes 24 and is now doing some sort of smear-JFK miniseries for The History Channel, which is quite the comment on them. You should read JFK: Ordeal in Africa by Richard Mahoney if you don't want to read any of the assassination books, notably Douglass's JFK and the Unspeakable. Knowing history isn't everything--Jane Addams decided scholarship was pretty useless after a point, and her life has been a hell of a lot more useful to others than mine, so I won't disagree--but knowing history is worth a little effort. Quit pretending to know things you don't, like who JFK screwed and didn't screw, and certainly stop believing bullshit just because you heard it somewhere. Even if Chomsky says it (and that he doesn't say). (By the way, Chomsky's essays in For Reasons of State are fantastic.)

As for the Cold War, if you think the death of FDR had no bearing on why that happened, you're mistaken. FDR was the dominant figure in American politics then by a wide margin, and he was opposed to colonialism, imperialism, militarism, racism, elitism, and anti-communism, though most importantly he opposed Wall Street and a permanent US garrison state. FDR's death was a cataclysm, and the removal of Henry Wallace from the Presidential ticket by blackmail in 1944 set the stage for it. (There's even some proof of that blackmail.) That old fox Stalin knew exactly what FDR's death meant, as did Einstein and Leo Szilard. The combined result of the death of FDR and the prior replacement of Wallace as VP by Harry Truman was effectively to turn the country over to the military and the reactionaries in the Democratic Party (the anti-New Dealers)and the red-baiters in the GOP. That limited debate over the course of the next decades effectively to whether we should kill all or just most of the communists in the world. Luckily we never had a clear enough military advantage over the USSR to nuke them and come out of it unscathed, because that's all that prevented it from happening. For an eye-opening on the Pentagon's world view, read To Win a Nuclear War by Michlo Kaku and Daniel Axelrod, foreword by Ramsey Clark, published in 1987. There's plenty in just that one alone to give you a clear understanding of the difference between Truman and James Forrestal and Byrnes and the like on the one hand, and FDR and Henry Wallace on the other.

Even at the start of WWII FDR advocated withdrawal of the French from Indochina and the end of colonialism for the Brits too. He made Churchill apoplectic more than a few times about that, and the US military was more and more squarely at odds with him about post-war plans, especially regarding mandates in the Pacific, in a variety of ways in 1944 and 1945. Long before WWII, the military brass, dominated by egomaniac yahoos like Macarthur and George van Horn Mosely, disliked FDR intensely, and he them. By April 1945, with the post-war international order about to be created, FDR was really a problem. He wanted to create a world they loathed, and he had the charisma, the position, and the reputation to do it.

If you want to go to the beach and read about FDR this summer instead of just posting comments like you already know something about that time, I recommend Allies and Adversaries by Mark Stoler; the Origins of the Korean War by Bruce Cumings, both volumes; Drawing the Line by Carolyn Eisenberg; the Plot to Seize the White House, by Jules Archer (an early New Deal attempt, not during WWII, but important); The Decision to Drop the Atomic bomb by Gar Alperovitz (note that FDR did NOT drop the bomb); Harry S. Truman and the War Scare of 1948 by Frank Kofsky; Blowback by Christopher Simpson; The American Occupation of Japan by Michael Schaller: FDR and the creation of the UN by Hoopes and Brinkley, or even The Second Bill of Rights by Sunsein, notwithstanding his more recent idiocy and insufferable Ivyleagueness.

Or, better still, read some primary source books about FDR's policies and views--As He Saw It (1946), by his son Elliott Roosevelt; The Time for Decision (1944) by Sumner Welles; Germany is Our Problem (1945) by Henry Morgenthau; Reilly of the White House (1947) by FDR's most trusted secret service agent, who saw him up close; A Familly Matter, a remarkable 'novel' written by his son James Roosevelt decades later showing a back-channel relationship with Stalin regarding the atomic bomb that and covert espionage by military intelligence regarding that back-channel); Man of Five Continents by Cornelius Vanderbilt Jr. (1958), a memoir covering "Corny's" friendship with FDR and their shared negative views of the elite they knew so well.

Do enough reading and your opinion of FDR will change. As will your opinion of the Cold War, the military, and how our government works. Really.

Posted by: N E at April 30, 2010 06:17 PM

FDR died before the atom bomb was ready to be dropped.

That aside, one doesn't have to agree with NE on very much to agree that JFK was a lot better than some of his crazed generals. Dr. Strangelove really isn't all that far off, from what I've read. There are war criminals and then there are lunatics who think you can win a nuclear war and it makes a difference to billions of people which sort of person has his finger on the button.

Posted by: Donald Johnson at April 30, 2010 08:22 PM

Donald Johnson

Yes, FDR died before the bomb was dropped. He died before Tokyo was firebombed too. Not that he was perfect, mind you, but there was no way that he would have used the atomic bomb. You really should buy James Roosevelt's little "novel" A Family Matter for a few bucks (including shipping) to get a better feel for how a person can know that. Or you can read Alperovitz's book and a couple others, or read about Einstein and Szilard. It isn't too hard to understand FDR or why he was better than Truman et al.

As to JFK, it's even easier. He was asked to use nukes and refused. Nothing speculative about that. He got his head blown off too, not that Duncan will ever have the good taste to consider the possibility that Marilyn Monroe didn't do it. Or Castro dressed in drag as Marilyn Monroe. Or, Donald, maybe some aliens.

(Sorry about that, but I get annoyed by how scared you are to sit next to me at lunch.)

Posted by: N E at April 30, 2010 10:25 PM

The fact that he's white was hardly of consequence. Poor guy.

Posted by: En Ming Hee at May 1, 2010 03:26 AM

Don't ever forget that the Democratic party is just as concerned with American hegemony as the Republican party is.

Posted by: Edward at May 1, 2010 07:40 PM

Dahmer killed x and Gacy killed y. If x differs in quantity to y, than yes, it makes a difference to those numbers that are within that difference.

But ONLY if your only choice is to empower either Dahmer or Gacy to keep killing people. I don't imagine that the people that would survive vis-a-vis one choice versus the other would really support that empowerment.

Posted by: Rojo at May 2, 2010 05:58 AM

Come on, Dahmer was an independent!

Posted by: N E at May 2, 2010 07:21 AM

NE, I'm quite open about my desire not to sit next to you at lunch. I agree that there's a really big important difference between JFK and someone like Curtis LeMay and that's even from my POV, where I don't think much of JFK.

Posted by: Donald Johnson at May 2, 2010 03:41 PM

Why thank you Donald, I'll save a seat for you! Just remember that all that great stuff LBJ did (despite himself) was JFK's program, which LBJ put into practice to ward off a political challenge from RFK.

Plus, no nuclear war. Gotta like that.

Posted by: N E at May 2, 2010 04:36 PM

N E, you need to make a master reading list webpage with your notes & annotations. So that when people notice they've the spare time or interest to read books like that, they don't have to rely on a felicitous thread happening at A Tiny Revolution that very week.

Honestly, if you're actually interested in having people read these books, you need to do this., for instance, is an easy interface to work with.

Posted by: Cloud at May 2, 2010 06:26 PM