Two deaths in two days underscore simultaneously the heights of hypocrisy reached by the Bush administration, and the depth of sentiment in opposition to its policies. 23-year-old Carlo Giuliani was shot while protesting corporate globalization in which capital flows to nations that are the most willing to exploit workers and diminish environmental standards. 5,000 miles away, virtually unnoticed, James Howard Hatfield, author of Fortunate Son, a biography of George W. Bush that his campaign helped cause to be withdrawn from publication, committed suicide. The book cites evidence of a Bush cocaine conviction in 1972.
Giuliani was one of up to 100,000 demonstrators in Genoa, Italy, expressing opposition to the meeting of industrialized nations known as the G8. He was apparently part of a small group of protesters who advocated violent methods, and had participated in burning cars and battling police. Nonetheless it was not clear why the Italian police were armed with live ammunition. In the face of similar protests by the growing anti-globalization movement at the World Trade Organization meetings in Seattle in 1999, and the recent European summit in Gothenburg, Sweden, police used air guns with non-lethal marble-sized rubber bullets. British Prime Minister Tony Blair dismissed the demonstrators as "a travelling circus of anarchists." In reality only a small fraction of the demonstrators are true anarchists, advocating violent confrontation. Most fall into two other groups: pacifists including gay groups, labor organizations, and church groups, and the "whites" who support civil disobedience, including a number of socialist and communist organizations. Expressing a somewhat more sympathetic view, and before hearing of the fatality, French President Jacques Chirac observed, "One hundred thousand people don't get upset unless there is a problem in their hearts and spirits"
Groups protesting in Genoa include:
- World Revolution
- WOMBLES - White Overalls Movement Building Libertarian Effective Struggles
- Globalise Resistance
- Green Party (UK)
- Drop the Debt
- Ya Basta (IT) - Italian Anarchists
- Destroy the International Monetary Fund
- Christian Aid - an agency of the churches of the UK and Ireland
- Rising Tide - activist organization concerned with climate change
Bush and Italian President Silvio Berlusconi are ready targets for the anti-capitalist protests. Both might rightly be accused of trying to run their countries like sports teams, each having owned one -- Bush a part owner of the Texas Rangers baseball team, Berlusconi the AC Milan soccer club. Each is a former businessman, although Berlusconi's credentials are more legitimate than Bush. Bush administration officials' ties to corporations that are major contributors to the Republican party continue to make news, while Berlusconi has been prosecuted without success for financial misconduct, including allegations that early real estate ventures were financed with mob money. As reported elsewhere in The Dubya Report, a Bush stock transaction in 1990 during the administration of "Poppy" Bush may have constituted securities fraud, but was never investigated by the SEC .
Quite apart from these personal reflections of the exploitive corporate behavior that the demonstrators are protesting, conflicts within the G8 meetings themselves highlight some of the same issues: poverty, global warming, and the environment. Despite continued criticism from European leaders, Bush has refused to back down on his rejection of the Kyoto treaty on global warming and his administration has offered no concrete alternatives. The missile defense system is also under discussion; following Bush's last visit to Europe, Russian president Putin warned that continued development could trigger another arms race. (Putin's inclusion in the gathering of industrialized nations turns the moniker from G7 to G8.)
Meanwhile in Springdale, AK, the body of author James Hatfield was found in a hotel room Thursday, victim of an apparent drug overdose. Following up on allegations first reported by Salon.com Hatfield's book suggests that Bush was convicted of cocaine possession in 1972 and ordered to perform community service. When contacted by Salon.com, the director of the Martin Luther King community center, in Houston, TX, where Bush reportedly did his service, would not explicitly deny the story.
"I'm not getting all bent to that bag of worms," she is reported to have said. "You know Texas has some killer bees here? I don't want to be one of them. I'm not gonna be one of them, and I'm not getting all bent to this political fight," adding, "When he announced what his welfare-reform program was going to be [during his gubernatorial campaign] he did it from my office." Asked if that was the only time he had been to the center, the center director responded "I didn't say that. I'm not even getting off into what you're asking me about ... I've been called by over 50 people and I can't help it because I've been on this job for a long time and I know just about everybody in Houston and all the leaders in Texas. I'm not getting off into anything about George except he's the governor of Texas and during his campaign he did his welfare reform at my office. That's all I'm gonna say about George W. Bush."
Fortunate Son was criticized and eventually withdrawn from publication when it was revealed that Hatfield had a criminal record, despite no apparent relevance to the Bush biography. The book was subsequently published by Soft Skull Press, and a second edition was released recently. In a preface to the second edition, publisher Sander Hicks reveals that Hatfield's sources for the story of Bush's arrest for cocaine possession were Bush advisor Karl Rove, and then personnel director Clay Johnson. After Rove reportedly met Hatfield at Lake Eufaula, OK and subsequently discussed the cocaine arrest on the phone, confidential information concerning Hatfield's criminal conviction was provided to the Dallas Morning News. Hatfield's initial denial of the Morning News story led to widespread dismissal of his book by the mainstream media. The Bush campaign never explicitly denied the allegations, refusing to "dignify ... rumors with a response." Mark Crispin Miller, author of The Bush Dyslexicon, and the foreword to the second edition of Fortunate Son, told Salon.com yesterday, "Now that Jim Hatfield is gone, those journalists who were so quick to side against him should now take another look at all he had to say about the man who has been made our president.
These deaths bring two aspects of the Bush administration into focus. From environmental deregulation to the tax cut, Bush administration policies can be counted on, in Jim Wright's words to "[enrich] some segment of big business at the expense of workers, consumers or public health. And among the major financial beneficiaries can always be discovered a number of big-scale campaign contributors." Domestically and internationally these policies will promote the widening gap between rich and poor that many of the Genoa demonstrators were protesting. At the same time, while trying, as reported in Monday's U.S. News, to "steer public debate toward gauzy notions of cultural conservatism and personal responsibility," the administration lies about everything from the effects of policies on ordinary citizens, to potential financial gains from policy decisions by cabinet members and advisors, to the chief executive's past.
Stanley, Alessandra and David E. Sanger "Italian Protester Is Killed by Police at Genoa Meeting" NY Times 21 Jul. 2001
Tempest, Matthew "Genoa: who are the protesters?" Guardian UK 20 Jul. 2001
"Violence erupts again in Genoa" Guardian UK 21 Jul. 2001
"Author of Bush biography commits suicide" Associated Press 20 Jul. 2001
York, Anthony "Bush biographer commits suicide" Salon.com 20 Jul. 2001
Walsh, Kenneth T. "A brand new front in the culture wars" U.S.News 20 Jul. 2001
Stanley, Alessandra. "Vatican Radiation? Body Snatchers? This Is Italy?" NY Times 20 Mar. 20, 2001