My own contribution to the war on terrorism is to promise my New Statesman earnings to anyone who'll kill Bush
A basic rule of life is: never cross a picket line, unless it is the police who are on strike. Then you have to, as a point of principle. Nor should it stop there. Why not volunteer to do a spot of patrolling, randomly photograph the striking officers and in general be sarcastic to them, along the lines of: "This your brazier is it, sir?" and "Got a receipt for it, have you?"
The police won't strike, obviously, but they have planned a demonstration in Whitehall, which all activists and trade unionists should attend. Not out of solidarity, but just to see the look of confusion on the cops' faces as they try to fight back the urge to baton-charge themselves and arrest their own ringleaders. If only the event could be stewarded by ex-miners and print workers . . .
In truth, the police demo will be full of journalists, bemused onlookers and unimaginative placards. Reality doesn't have the sense of justice and symmetry it should have. Reality is dull and often implemented with rapidly moving blunt instruments. Or company cheques made out to "The Republican Party of America".
For those on the receiving end of America's blunt instruments, the words "never cross a picket line" are not spoken glibly. A month ago, I wrote of the death threats received by trade unionists in Cali, Colombia, who, in a stand against corruption and privatisation, occupied the headquarters of the utility company Emcali. They knew there would be a price to pay for standing up to globalisation, and that the right-wing paramilitaries would exact it.
With sickening predictability, the murders have started.
On 11 February, Julio Galeano, a father of three and a member of the "Save Emcali" strike committee, was killed as he left his home. The assassin put a 9mm handgun under his lower left jaw and shot him. As his wife, Viviana, ran for her life, Julio was shot three more times in the face. He was murdered by the paramilitary United Self-Defence Forces of Colombia (AUC).
Last week, I met a group of Julio's friends, who told me about the rise of AUC activity and recruitment drives in the Siloe area, where Julio lived. The "paras" meet on the local football pitch to recruit unemployed young men. The starting pay is £120 a month, a good wage, but the biggest incentive to join the death squads is that, in the neighbouring area of Aqua Blanca, 150 young people have been murdered since August last year because they refused to join the AUC.
The AUC's leader, Carlos Castano, has said that the forces are 70 per cent funded by the cocaine trade. The US Drug Enforcement Agency named him as being involved in money-laundering and the trans-shipment of cocaine. Castano even boasted on his website (www.colombialibre.org) that he had kidnapped and killed Aury Sara Marrugo, a regional president of the oil workers' union. Yet Castano has not even been questioned about this by the Colombians, nor targeted by the forces of the US war on drugs.
Castano's anti-democratic views and activities are not the only things he shares with President Bush. "We have always proclaimed that we are the defenders of business freedom and of the national and international industrial sectors," said Bush in 2000. That doesn't sound too surprising, does it? You wouldn't expect Bush to say any-thing else. But I have to admit, I lied. Bush didn't say those words. They are the words of Carlos Castano. The self-confessed murderer, drug-dealer and death-squad leader stands shoulder to shoulder with Bush on his trade liberalisation agenda.
Sometimes it is hard to tell which one is the murderer with the business agenda and which one is the businessman with the murderous agenda.
Bush has already overseen $2bn in military aid to Colombian brigades with links to the AUC, who share equipment, information and membership with the "paras". Now he plans to give $98m to the Colombian armed forces to protect Occidental Petroleum's Cano Limon oil pipeline. Once again, this money will go to those involved in the worst human rights abuses in the region. Once again, the money will help arm the murderers of trade unionists, human rights activists and peasants.
President Andres Pastrana's ending of talks with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and invasion of the FARC-held demilitarised zone (roughly the size of Switzerland) can only lead to further human rights abuses. As the FARC guerrillas move out of the area, so the "paras" will move in, and the peasants will start to pay the price that Julio paid.
Given that Osama Bin Laden has a price on his head and is wanted dead or alive for organising acts of terrorism, it seems only fair to offer a bounty to anyone who can kill George Bush. After all, he is helping to bankroll the AUC. So my contribution to the war against terrorism is to offer £4,320, my total earnings so far for writing in the New Statesman, to anyone who can bag Bush. You don't have to bring me his head or snack on his heart. Nothing weird, just kill him and send me your bank details c/o the New Statesman.
Having said that, if some would-be assassin wants to give me the option, I'd like him taken out with a lethal papier-mache weapon crafted from flour, water, dictionaries and Enron share certificates. However, these are the finer points of President Bush's demise.
I would obviously settle for him accidentally stabbing himself to death with the pin from his enamel US flag badge.
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