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PlaNet News & Views

Posted on 10-7-08

Being Screened
By Alan Marston, 9 July 2008
The media has always been leader, from the first scream to the last
screen. What human can resist something that provides power and control?
Rhetorical question, answer, no-one. Even Buddha's first act after
enlightenment was to preach to and win back control of `his followers'.
It's a catch-22. Talking about the media is media. Damn, this is tricky.
That being the case, do the opposite. Whatever the media is showing and
telling, take the opposite view. You may be surprised and please with what
you see.
EG: The Empire Goes To The Movies
By Patrick Irelan
The FARC, Colombia’s largest guerilla army, released 15 hostages to the
Colombian government on July 2. The hostages included Ingrid Betancourt, a
French-Colombian politician, plus 11 other Colombians and 3 U.S.
Warfare of any kind is brutal, and the practice of taking hostages is
especially so. Many individuals and governments therefore viewed this
release of hostages as good news, and these sentiments were expressed with
special emphasis in Venezuela.
The Venezuelan Ministry of Foreign Relations released a statement saying
that “The government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela joins in the
jubilation over the joyous liberation …”
President Hugo Chávez said, “We share the jubilation, we are jubilant and
happy for the liberation of these persons and, in addition, that the
liberation was done without spilling a drop of blood.” Chávez himself had
previously engineered the release of other FARC hostages, and he has asked
FARC to release all hostages, which number somewhere between 700 and 2000.
Displaying more restraint than Chávez, Fidel Castro said, "If I may dare
to suggest something to the FARC guerrillas, it is that they simply, by
whatever means at their disposal, declare that they have unconditionally
freed all the hostages and prisoners still under their control."
According to the government of President Alvaro Uribe, the Colombian army
somehow fooled the guerrillas, dropped to the ground in an unmarked
helicopter, swooped up the captives, and disappeared into the sky above
the rain forest. It all happened with the timing and precision of a motion
Actually, it happened a little too much like a motion picture. Who put up
the money to produce this masterpiece?
According to the Times Online (London), July 4, “Swiss public radio cited
an unidentified source ‘close to the events, reliable and tested many
times in recent years’ as saying the operation had in fact been staged to
cover up the fact that the US and Colombians had paid $20 million for
their freedom.”
On July 5, the Times Online reported that “a senior French expert” had
said that some FARC members had “probably been bought.”
At the Irelan newsroom here in the Middle West, the staff doesn’t think
the Colombian armed forces could rescue a cat from a tree. Despite the
fact that George Bush has passed out billions of dollars worth of military
hardware in Bogotá, the flow of cocaine from Colombia to the USA never
diminishes, and the “war on drugs” never wins a battle. Colombian soldiers
are much better at killing their own civilians, as illustrated in an
article by Chris Kraul in the Los Angeles Times on March 21, 2008. The
setting is Grenada, Colombia.
“Street vendor Israel Rodriguez went fishing last month and never came
back. Two days later, his family found his body buried in a plastic bag,
classified by the Colombian army as a guerrilla fighter killed in battle.”
Kraul learned from human-rights activists that this widespread practice is
called “false positives.” Soldiers kill poor or unemployed civilians and
report them as leftwing guerrillas.
For the military, “The killings are a product of intense pressure to show
results in its U.S.-funded war against leftist insurgents, the activists
Regardless of all this, the hostages released on July 2 are probably still
elated. But what about the hundreds of others still held captive by FARC?
Who will free them?
Both Hugo Chávez and Fidel Castro have asked FARC to release all hostages.
On June 8, Chávez went even further and urged the FARC to end its armed
struggle. “You have become an excuse for the empire to threaten all of
us,” he said. “The guerrilla war is history.”
Castro was more cautious. He denounced the “cruel methods of kidnapping
and holding prisoners in the jungle.” But he did not advise the rebels to
give up their weapons. He remembers past events too well.
James Petras summarized the problem at Venezuelanalysis on July 3.
“Between 1984-89 thousands of FARC guerrillas disarmed and embraced the
electoral struggle.  They ran candidates, elected congressmen and women
and were decimated by the death squads of the Colombian military,
paramilitary and private armies of the oligarchy.  Over 5,000 militants
and leaders were murdered.”
Chávez understands all this. Long before the release of Ingrid Betancourt
and the 14 others, a meeting between Chávez and Uribe had been scheduled
for July 11. I wasn’t invited to attend, but I’ll be eager to read the
news reports.
What do I think about all this? I think the people of Latin America don’t
need me to tell them what to do. I wish that George Bush, Dick Cheney, and
Condi Rice would follow my example. They may not have noticed, but the
empire is showing signs of decay. Nothing, thank God, lasts forever.
Patrick Irelan is a retired high-school teacher. He is the author of A
Firefly in the Night (Ice Cube Press) and Central Standard: A Time, a
Place, a Family (University of Iowa Press). You can contact him at