Cockburn on Colombia

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Journalist Alexander Cockburn actually managed to get his two cents’ worth into the opinion section of the LOS ANGELES TIMES (albeit under the heading “Column Left,” lest any readers be taken unawares).

Cockburn sharply criticizes US funding of the Colombian regime. He points out the inconsitencies of US foreign policy regarding the tactics used by government sponsored thugs and paramilitaries in their fight against rebel armies. In Kosovo, the US was ostensibly so morally outraged by the estimated 1,000 deaths that occurred there in 1998 as to threaten, and then carry out, a massive bombing campaign. In Colombia, where human rights groups report 3,832 political murders were carried out in 1998 — most of them by the army, police, or right-wing paramiliary groups — the response has been to give even more money to the government.

Most of the money is supplied for the war on Colombian cocaine, but as most of the coca is grown in rebel-held territory, the distinction between attacking drug zones and rebel zones is almost nil. Although the Colombian military is already scheduled to receive $289 million in aid this year (only Israel and Egypt get more money from the US), Drug “czar” Gen. Barry McCaffrey wants an additional $1 billion, about half of which, Cockburn estimates, would be spent on the war in Colombia.

Cockburn predicts that, should this trend continue, the US will be responsible for creating “another Guatamala,” with the US government funding and supporting yet another murderous Latin American regime.


Read this after you’ve eaten

Aug. 4, 1999

If the film “Babe” made you swear off pork for good, get ready to say adios to that filet mignon. Normally, we reserve this space for articles printed elsewhere on the Web. But today, we make an exception for perhaps the most gall-raising, vomitous story to come out of the grand muckraking biz since Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle.”

COUNTERPUNCH, one our favorite print pugilists, features as its main story this week, “Inside Big Meat.” The article details conditions inside the IBP Inc. slaughterhouse in Pasco, Wash. Plant supervisors run the conveyor belts there so fast that meat cutters are unable to clean all of the cow feces and other rank bodily substances off the meat as it goes by. Further, say IBP employees, cows are processed so quickly that sometimes they are not even killed or stunned before being sent down the line, howling as they are skinned and dismembered while still conscious.

Workers complained to management that the production quotas and speeded-up processing line was compromising their safety as well as consumer health. When they threatened a strike, a number of them we fired. That led to a general strike by 800 of the employees, who managed to get a pay increase but no let up in quotas and line speeds.

Now the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service is investigating the plant for possible violations of worker safety, meat quality, and animal cruelty laws. One law being applied in the investigation is the Humane Slaughter Act of 1958, which bars slaughterhouses from butchering conscious animals.

IBP is owned by ArcherDaniels & Midland (ADM), “supermarket to the world.” Sen. Phil Gramm’s wife Wendy is on IBP’s board of directors, as is the former assistant secretary of agriculture for meat inspection.

Back to those burgers, folks.

Here’s a story on the strike from Pasco’s local paper, THE TRI-CITY HERALD:

You can read some of COUNTERPUNCH online at:


Lack of evidence in China spy case

Aug. 3, 1999

Amid widespread hysteria about China’s alleged theft of classified US nuclear technology, one fact has been ignored: the lack of solid evidence against Wen Ho Lee, the Los Alamos scientist accused of passing the military secrets along to the Chinese. Lee, who Sen. Don Nickles said was responsible for “the most serious case of espionage” in US history, was more likely the victim of “neo-McCarthyite Republicans who see the Chinese menace everywhere” and who would use the scandal to gain political ground in November’s election, reports THE NATION.

Lee’s guilt has been virtually assumed by most of Washington and the press, despite the fact that according to The Nation most of the evidence against him is circumstantial and based on illegal leaks. Cited as proof of his misdeeds was the fact that Lee had downloaded classified nuclear codes onto his personal computer. Not cited was the fact that he was working on an archiving project; it was his job to download such information.

Overzealous Democrats — namely Energy Secretary Bill Richardson — share the blame for the Lee fiasco, as do several reporters, especially at The New York Times, which The Nation accuses of turning “farfetched leaks into lead stories without taking the time to do balanced reporting.” Christopher Cox, whose House committee produced the much-anticipated Cox report in May, may have put it best: “Two conclusions are not merited [by the contents of the report]. One, that he’s innocent, and two, that he’s guilty.”


Gerber swears off
frankenfoods, sort of

Aug. 2, 1999 Gerber announced today that it would stop using genetically altered ingredients in its baby food, according to the ASSOCIATED PRESS. H.J. Heinz Co. has followed suit. The move came after a Greenpeace campaign charging that the altered soy, corn, and other foods in Gerber products are untested and could be dangerous.

The promise may not protect American babies completely, however. According to a WALL STREET JOURNAL report, Gerber said its parent company, Novartis, ensured Gerber only that all baby food produced for Switzerland would be free of genetically altered foods, but that it could not make the same assurance for baby food bound for American markets.



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