The Circular World of Colin Powell

The Circular World of Colin Powell


ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes



Mr Colin Powell, despite the evaporation of his celebrated argument for the Bush invasion

of Iraq, is still one of the most trusted people on the planet and certainly

one of the most highly regarded in his native land.



 Book by John Maxwell

How to Make Our Own News: A Primer for Environmentalist and Journalists

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The Circular World of Colin Powell

By John Maxwell


On a chatboard to which I subscribe, one subscriber recently excoriated Mr Butch Stewart for allowing people like me to criticise the new Haitian regime. Another subscriber came to Butch Stewart’s defence: Mr Stewart, she said, was a publisher who does not interfere in the editorial direction of his newspapers, preferring to let democracy take its course. “That Mr. Stewart allows his editors to publish articles that seem not in line with the business interests of his social strata speaks positively for him”.

That is a fact for which I am personally grateful and proud – because the trend has been, as A.J. Liebling said half a century ago – “Freedom of the Press belongs to those who own one.”

In our world, our fundamental rights and freedoms are becoming more and more, part of international commerce, they are being globalised, and the rights no longer belong to the people but to corporate entities, who have bought media properties and in practice, the rights which belong to human beings.

‘No-news’ is Good News!

 The public interest is now for sale to the highest bidder. Human rights are privatised and traded and a collection of corporate interests are increasingly becoming the ‘civil society’ which run things – a monstrous incarnation of faceless entities imposing their fundamentalist and authoritarian prejudices on the rest of us.

Morris Cargill in 1962 stopped writing for the Gleaner for several years, because the then editor, Theodore  Sealy, refused to allow Cargill to defend me (and the freedom of the press) in his column.   Cargill actually disagreed with what I had said but was fiercely  defending my right to say it.

“No-news “has become “good “news. The US media have successfully obscured, for nearly two years, the lies and obfuscations which led that country into war with an Iraq already  divided by no-fly zones,  bled white by a decade of  strategic bombing,  sanctions, malnutrition, depleted uranium and cancer. Today, they are fighting in Fallujah.

It was John Stuart Mill who said more than a century ago, that the time for uncomfortable questions, the occasion for the most serious dissent, was on those occasions when, like the Gadarene swine, humanity took it upon itself to stampede over cliffs of ignorance and incomprehension in almost unanimous hysteria.

And Tom Paine, the man in whose memory this column is named once said “You will do me the justice to remember, that I have always strenuously supported the Right of every Man to his own opinion, however different that opinion might be to mine” (Age of Reason: Tom Paine , 1776).

Freedom of speech is as essential to human life as air and water. But, as US Supreme Court Justice Holmes said nearly a century ago, “Freedom of Speech does not include the right to shout ‘FIRE’ in a crowded theatre.”

My rights are bounded and butted by yours. And the world since 1945, has agreed to recognise that human rights belong to all human beings, and that no person or nation has rights that are superior to those of any other.

Aristide and Lumumba

Mr Colin Powell, despite the evaporation of his celebrated argument for the Bush invasion of Iraq, is still one of the most trusted people on the planet and certainly one of the most highly regarded in his native land. His native land, by an accident of history happens to be the USA and not Jamaica, where his parents were born. Everybody in Jamaica owes his or her freedom in part, to the Haitian revolution, and every black American owes a similar debt. The United States itself owes nearly half its territory to the Haitian revolution.

Ethnic minorities advance their development in many ways, one of which is by helping each other. In their separate diaspora the Jews, the Irish, the Italians, the Jamaicans and everybody else you can think of does it. In hostile territory you stay close to your compatriots – all for one and one for all – as Alexandre Dumas, (a Caribbean black born two years before Haitian independence) wrote in a somewhat different context.

It is Mr Powell’s perceived failure to take up his black man’s burden which so enraged Harry Belafonte, another Jamaican-American, that he denounced Mr Powell as a ‘house-slave’.

But Mr Powell did get help on his way to eminence. He was mentored by another immigrant, a second generation Italian named Frank Carlucci.  Carlucci was Secretary of Defense in the Reagan Administration and is now chairman of the Carlyle Group, a giant investment firm in which the Bush family has interests.  Forty years ago, Carlucci was second secretary in the US Embassy in the Congo, at the time when the US was convinced that the Prime Minister, Patrice Lumumba, was taking the Congo – perhaps all of Africa – into the Communist fold. Lumumba, a film made by a Haitian, Raoul Peck, identifies Frank Carlucci as the embassy official who transmitted President Eisenhower’s  approval of the Embassy’s plan to remove or kill Lumumba, thus decapitating the Congo’s hope of democratic development and instituting the 36 year  kleptocratic tyranny of Mobutu Sese Seko. The filmmaker, Raoul Peck, had fled Haiti to the Congo, to escape the murderous attentions of Papa Doc Duvalier who reigned in Haiti contemporaneously with Mobuto in Zaire (Based on: Carlucci can’t hide his role in ‘Lumumba’: Lucy Komisar, Pacific News Service, Feb 14, 2002).

And it is now Carlucci’s protege, Colin Powell, who bears the responsibility for the decapitation of Haitian democracy.

Sometimes the world is not an oblate spheroid; sometimes it is perfectly circular.

Caricom and Mr Powell

On Monday last, Colin Powell celebrated his 67th birthday in Port au Prince. Mr Powell was there, he said, to “demonstrate [US]  support for Haiti”  and “to help the leadership of Haiti make a new beginning and to build a future of hope for the Haitian people.”

Mr Powell was last in Haiti in 1994 to negotiate a soft landing for American troops. At that time Mr Powell  was sure of the integrity of an agreement he had made  with General  Raoul Cedras, the tyrant then in charge.  Powell said he trusted the ‘soldier’s honour’ of Cedras.  As it proved, Cedras’ soldier’s honour was purely a figure of speech. One hopes that Mr Powell will have better luck this time with La Tortue and his ‘ninja tortues’, some of whom are convicted torturers and mass-murderers.

Mr Powell says he and Mr La Tortue spoke about a ‘truth and reconciliation’ commission and Mr La Tortue even invoked the names of Tutu and Mandela, but gave no further indication that he was serious about this proposal. If he is, a substantial component  of his support will probably be forced to seek asylum in Miami. Mr Powell reported: 

I also said to the prime minister . . . that I will be working hard to reintegrate Haiti into the CARICOM community in the months ahead. I assured the prime minister that all the issues that he has mentioned to you today, the United States will be providing him full support.” Obviously, the full support of the United States will trump any puerile cavilling by the Caricom group, which wants an inquiry into the circumstances of Aristide’s departure.

“I don’t think any purpose would be served by such an inquiry, but the facts are very well known. On that evening, the situation was deteriorating rapidly in the country, especially in Port-au-Prince. We were on the verge of a bloodbath, and President Aristide found himself in great danger. He got in touch with our ambassador, and arrangements were made at his request for him to depart the country … and now I think it is important for all of us to focus on what the Haitian people need now.

In an interview  on Haiti’s Radio Metropole (conducted by Rothchild François, Jr., a  Haitian stringer for the Voice of America)  Mr Powell said: “I think we succeeded in preventing a great loss of life by President Aristide’s resignation and by the introduction of multinational forces.”  If Mr Powell’s “We” means what it seems to, it would appear that President Aristide was not involved in the transfer of power on February 28.

Character Assassination

In relation to CARICOM, here is an exchange from  Mr Powell’s  interview:

MR. FRANÇOIS: Secretary Powell, politically, this government is facing a problem with CARICOM; you know CARICOM doesn’t want to recognize this government, so what do you think about that and how will the US help this government to obtain recognition from CARICOM?

SECRETARY POWELL: I will be working with CARICOM and with the individual nations of CARICOM to let them come to the realization that this government now here is legitimate and represents the desire of the Haitian people. And I hope that over the next couple of months that CARICOM will change its position and welcome Haiti fully into the CARICOM consensus.

Caricom’s wish to discover the truth of Aristide’s removal  is dismissed. Let’s move on – they will  get over it. So too no doubt, will  the Haitian people who have stubbornly persisted in electing Jean Bertrand Aristide, despite all American warnings.

And perhaps we will get over it too,  since in the arbitrament of realpolitik what really counts is that Jamaica’s debt repayments are consuming 76% of our revenues. That statistic destroys courage, resolve, and principle.

We need to get over our legalistic, moralistic, humanistic perhaps even socialistic preoccupation with principle, honour, declarations, treaties, conventions, and solemn undertakings.

Murderers, torturers, rapists and other depraved hooligans now walk the streets of Haiti free, dispensing “justice’ to their enemies –  according to the news agencies.  They are, says Mr La Tortue, not criminals, but ‘freedom fighters’. There will be impunity for the murderers, but for the former President, character assassination is what he deserves and at the hands of Colin Powell.

At the joint press conference with La Tortue, Mr Powell answered a question about a rumoured ‘investigation’ by  suspiciously anonymous ‘prosecutors’ in Miami.

There are inquiries being made by our judicial authorities in the United States to see if there is any evidence of wrongdoing on his part. I will have to wait until our legal authorities and our investigators are finished before offering any comment on whether he might be charged with anything or what action the Haitian government might take. My principal focus and the principal focus of the United States government are on the future, not on the past.

Two things are being said  here:

One:  Aristide is a  very bad man and we don’t like him;  and

Two:  While  there is absolutely no evidence that  Aristide is a bad man we still don’t like him..”

Case closed.

We need to  move on! The turtles are getting hungry!

Copyright 2004 John Maxwell

*   *   *   *   *

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Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America

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According to the author, this society has historically exerted considerable pressure on black females to fit into one of a handful of stereotypes, primarily, the Mammy, the Matriarch or the Jezebel.  The selfless Mammy’s behavior is marked by a slavish devotion to white folks’ domestic concerns, often at the expense of those of her own family’s needs. By contrast, the relatively-hedonistic Jezebel is a sexually-insatiable temptress. And the Matriarch is generally thought of as an emasculating figure who denigrates black men, ala the characters Sapphire and Aunt Esther on the television shows Amos and Andy and Sanford and Son, respectively.     

Professor Perry points out how the propagation of these harmful myths have served the mainstream culture well. For instance, the Mammy suggests that it is almost second nature for black females to feel a maternal instinct towards Caucasian babies.

As for the source of the Jezebel, black women had no control over their own bodies during slavery given that they were being auctioned off and bred to maximize profits. Nonetheless, it was in the interest of plantation owners to propagate the lie that sisters were sluts inclined to mate indiscriminately.

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This memorial to the lynched teen is in the Homeric tradition of poet-as-historian. It is a heroic crown of sonnets in Petrarchan rhyme scheme and, as such, is quite formal not only in form but in language. There are 15 poems in the cycle, the last line of one being the first line of the next, and each of the first lines makes up the entirety of the 15th. This chosen formality brings distance and reflection to readers, but also calls attention to the horrifically ugly events. The language is highly figurative in one sonnet, cruelly graphic in the next. The illustrations echo the representative nature of the poetry, using images from nature and taking advantage of the emotional quality of color. There is an introduction by the author, a page about Emmett Till, and literary and poetical footnotes to the sonnets. The artist also gives detailed reasoning behind his choices. This underpinning information makes this a full experience, eminently teachable from several aspects, including historical and literary—School Library Journal

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

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update 7 January 2012




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