June 2006

Lessons not learned from history

By Art Goodtimes

ON THE ROAD … It’s been a busy offseason for me … It started with an invited session with Dr. Patty Limerick and the Restoration Institute of Colorado State University in Fort Collins for a twoday workshop on the concept of historic range of variation (HRV) in our national forests, held at the historic Hotel Colorado in Glenwood Springs. The participants were brilliant, the discussions stimulating. Turns out there’s something called a Mid-Atlantic Oscillation that appears to correlate with a 60-year nofire cycle in Western forests. I got to see a fascinating map from CSU’s Dr. Dave Theobold that calculated “Accessibility” from major population centers via the state highway system and guess what place was the most inaccessible in Colorado – yep, San Miguel County … Then back home for the Talking Gourds Spoken Word Festival – a dazzling Opera House weekend of performances, song, poetry, workshop /interactives and the unexpected – like the kickoff guitar licks of local troubadour Bob Beer to the kickass bewitchment of the Denver poetry trio Roc’em Soc’em … Then off to Fort Collins to lecture to Dr. Maria Fernandez- Gimenez’s classes about the Burn Canyon Monitoring Task Force – multiparty community processes being increasingly looked at as the model for future natural-resource issues on public land forests … Then off to New Mexico for a poetry reading in Las Vegas for the new litzine out of Santa Fe, Desert Shovel, and on to Cochise Stronghold in Arizona to visit a friend … Nothing off about it, really. Except that Telluride is mostly deserted of visitors, which suits me fine, so long as ReStore Our World is still open.

GREGORIO … We named my youngest son Gregorio. More ethnic Italian than his dad, who translated the family’s Italian patronymic into English – mirroring the tongue of my mother’s British ancestors. Although my boy’s name, strangely enough, also hints at the Spanish side of her family which traces its roots back to a certain jefe de policia of Monterey, Calif., 1794. It’s a name that stumbles on the tongue of most English speakers. But it’s a proud one. And one that caught my eye when I read a recent story from the Boston Globe about El Salvador – a country much in the news during the Reagan Era and never heard from these days … Auxiliary Bishop Gregorio Rosa Chavez of El Salvador was in Cambridge two months ago to receive the Romero Truth Award from Centro Presente, a Latino immigrant advocacy organization. The award is named for Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero, the Salvadoran cleric assassinated in 1980 by a right-wing death squad. The assassination was part of a 1980-1992 civil war between leftist guerrillas and a U.S.- backed right-wing government that resulted in at least 75,000 deaths and thousands more disappeared. According to Bishop Chavez, what’s happened in Iraq demonstrates that El Salvador was a lesson unlearned. The Reagan and first Bush administrations gave the Salvadoran government $6 billion in economic and military aid during the war. The Catholic Church condemned the killings on both sides but was often threatened by the government because its pleas for human rights for peasants were seen as too far to the left … No amount of governmentcondoned killings mattered to anti-communist hard-liners in Washington, not even the murders of four Maryknoll nuns from the United States and six Jesuit priests. One such hard-liner was then- Defense Secretary Dick Cheney. Intelligence documents released in 1993 indicated that Cheney opposed attempts by members of Congress to withhold military aid to El Salvador during that government's slothful investigation of the murder of the priests. In a 1989 appearance on “This Week with David Brinkley,” Cheney claimed there was “no indication at all” that the Salvadoran government or army were involved. Documents and soldier confessions in the 1990s showed that the killings of the priests and nuns were directly tied to the military, and the Reagan administration suppressed intelligence on state-sponsored terror links. As late as 1990, U.S. military officers were training Salvadoran elites linked to death squads … A decade later, Vice President Cheney turned that legacy upside down, trumping up discredited intelligence to invade Iraq. In the 2004 vice presidential debate, he had the nerve to use El Salvador as an example of what would happen in Afghanistan and Iraq. “I was there as an observer on behalf of the Congress,” he insisted. “And today El Salvador is a whale of a lot better because we held free elections.” … Bishop Chavez, part of the religious vanguard that risked life for peace and elections, remembers a whale of a lot more than Cheney. He remembers U.S. ambassadors denying witness protection and cruelly interrogating people who came forward with information on state-sponsored terror. ''It was really terrible because [U.S.] politics were not based on values and human rights,” said Bishop Chavez. “I had to receive many U.S. delegations, and frequently I got the impression they really did not care about the people. It was painful.” … Added the bishop, “I would say the Salvadoran case is even worse than Iraq. In Iraq, the U.S. sent its army. In the Salvadoran case, the arms came from outside, but the deaths were all Salvadorans.”

THE BEAT GOES ON … I know it’s hard for some people to understand the connections between American prosperity and foreign wars, but the roots of the Iraqi debacle extend back to the murderous proxy wars carried out in El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras, Argentina, Colombia, and Chile over the last few decades. This administration may have a meaner, more deceptive face, but the globalist battle for resource domination has been going on for some time.

SAGE GROUSE … It’s unbelievable how the U.S. Fish & Wildlife could tell us, with a straight face, that Gunnison Sage Grouse numbers are “stablized or improving” across its range here in Southwest Colorado. And then refuse to list it as “endangered,” thus removing it from candidate status and any protection under federal guidelines … Everyone who lives on the Western Slope is quite aware that the bird’s numbers are down significantly from a decade ago (although up slightly with the last nondrought year). And that local entities have been working overtime to do everything to help the bird recover … This decision is a slap in the face of science, yet another example of this administration playing politics with environmental issues ... And I would be embarrassed if I were an employee of the Colorado Division of Wildlife right now, which made this bald-faced lie to the Washington Post about the non-listing decision, “Colorado Division of Wildlife spokesman Tyler Baskfield said the federal agency's decision showed that the state's program and partnerships are working.” … Working politically maybe, but they sure as hell aren’t doing much for the Gunnison Sage Grouse.

CHURCHES SAY NO TO WAR … The World Council of Churches – an international ecumenical body of some 347 Orthodox and Protestant churches and denominations across 120 countries — sharply denounced the U.S.-led war in Iraq several months ago and accused Washington of “raining down terror” on innocent civilians. The group’s American wing apologized to other countries for “the violence, degradation and poverty our nation has sown.” … The statement, issued at the ninth gathering of the World Council since its founding in 1948, also warned that the U.S. was pushing the world toward environmental catastrophe with a “culture of consumption” and its refusal to back international accords to battle global warming … “We lament with special anguish the war in Iraq, launched in deception and violating global norms of justice and human rights,” added the 34 U.S. members of the council.

U.S. REP. RON PAUL … If you haven’t heard of this brave legislator from Texas (Republican in name but Libertarian at heart), I suggest you visit his website (www.house.gov/paul) and read his speech on “Iran: the Next Neocon Target.” It is absolutely point on. … I heard Ron speak at an Eris Society gathering in Vail last year, where I too was a speaker, and where I suggested a coalition on shared issues between Greens and Libertarians. Of course, that idea is too radical for either party. But when it comes to opposing the interventionist foreign-affairs policy of the Neocon cabal that runs this administration, I think both parties are on the same page.

Art Goodtimes is a San Miguel County commissioner.