James Ridgeway

James Ridgeway

In 1965, James Ridgeway helped launch the modern muckraking era by revealing that General Motors had hired private eyes to spy on an obscure consumer advocate named Ralph Nader. He worked for many years at the Village Voice, has written 16 books, and has codirected Blood in the Face, a film about the far right. In 2012, he was named a Soros Justice Media Fellow.

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Saddam's Execution: You Call that Justice?

| Thu Jan. 4, 2007 10:33 AM PST

With all the tough talk from Congressional Democrats about the myriad investigations they are set to launch, their first order of business should be to look into just how and why the U.S. turned over its most important P.O.W., Saddam Hussein, to a death squad for barbaric execution.

Here is how Juan Cole, the respected Middle East scholar, described the situation this morning:

A Ministry of Interior official admitted to Reuters on Wednesday that Saddam's execution was carried out by militiamen rather than by IM security guards, as planned. It is alleged that militiamen infiltrated the guards. That is, the earlier Sunni charges that Saddam was handed over to the Mahdi Army of Muqtada al-Sadr for execution were more or less correct….

Even the noose that hanged Saddam has ended up in the possession of Muqtada al-Sadr. A Kuwaiti businessman is trying to buy it as a memento. Saddam killed Muqtada's father and also invaded Kuwait.

People will say, of course, that this was just another internal Iraqi matter over which the U.S. had no say. Nobody believes that. Saddam was a U.S. prisoner, sentenced to death, who was turned over by U.S. authorities to a paramilitary death squad. The White House, for its part, calls this justice.

There is a theory, needless to say, that the execution was all part of some Byzantine deal whereby al-Sadr, after getting off abusing Saddam at the execution, will now act as an intermediary with the Sunnis to end the civil war. Meanwhile, al-Sadr's militiamen may get another chance to mock two more Iraqi prisoners. Next in line for the gallows are Saddam Hussein's half-brother Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti and former chief judge Awad al-Bandar.

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After Castro

| Thu Dec. 14, 2006 9:00 AM PST

With Fidel Castro at death's door, Miami is frothing at the mouth. The authorities are bracing for the worst, anticpating that the leader's death could send an armada of row boats into the seas between Miami and Cuba, as some Cubans rush home to reclaim lost businesses and properties and others to foment a guerrilla war against the weakened regime. "The message we want to send is, 'Do not throw yourself to the waters,'" Amos Rojas Jr., the South Florida regional director of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement said yesterday. "'Be patient, the trip is very dangerous.'"

What happens in Cuba when Castro dies is in no way predictable. Today the nation is tied into an economic coalition with Venezuela and China. In addition to its important supplies of nickel, used in the manufacture of various types of specialty steels, there are solid signs of an oil field off its north coast. If so, energy independence could be in sight. (In fact, the Caribbean is becoming something of an energy trove—and not necessarily just for the U.S. Trinidad is the center of a major gas field which currently is providing gas for LNG shipments to the east coast of the U.S. where the demand for gas is steadily increasing.)

If the Democrats control the Congress—and with South Dakota Senator Tim Johnson's sudden illness yesterday this is no longer assured—U.S. policy toward Cuba is not likely to change much. In all likelihood it will continue along the same lines it has since 1959, when Secretary of State Christian Herter declared "economic warfare" on Cuba, cutting off the sugar trade and its fuel supply. The idea, as Ricardo Alarcon, Cuba's vice president recently put it in an article printed in Counterpunch, has been "to bring about hunger, misery and desperation among the people of Cuba."

A State Department analysis in April 1960 said that since "the majority of Cubans support Castro, the only foreseeable means of alienating internal support is through disenchantment and disaffection based on economic dissatisfaction and hardship." To weaken the economic life of Cuba there was a need to take a "positive position which would call forth a line of action while as adroit and inconspicuous as possible makes the greatest inroads in denying money and supplies to Cuba, to decrease monetary and real wages, to bring about hunger, desperation and overthrow of government."

The policy didn't work. After 46 years of ceaseless machinations to kill or topple Castro, the U.S. has gotten nowhere. In 2004, the Bush administration's Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba put out a report that insisted the Castro government was about to collapse, after which a U.S. transition team could effect an occupation and remake the place in the democratic image of the U.S. — just like in Iraq.

However, as Wayne Smith, a former U.S. diplomat who served in Cuba and who has extensive knowledge of U.S.-Cuban relations, noted, instead of collapsing, the Cuban economy "has shown strong signs of reinvigoration. Even the CIA gives it a growth rate of 8 percent."

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