Tomado de: www.guardian.co.uk
Armed checkpoints, embedded reporters in flak jackets, brutal suppression of peaceful demonstrators. Baghdad? No, Miami
Wednesday November 26, 2003
In December 1990, President George Bush Sr travelled through South America to sell the continent on a bold new dream: "A free trade system that links all of the Americas." Addressing the Argentine Congress, he said that the plan, later to be named the Free Trade Area of the Americas, would be "our hemisphere's new declaration of interdependence the brilliant new dawn of a splendid new world."
Last week, Bush's two sons joined forces to try to usher in that new world by holding the FTAA negotiations in Florida. This is the state that Governor Jeb Bush vowed to "deliver" to his brother during the 2000 presidential elections, even if that meant keeping many African-Americans from exercising their right to vote. Now Jeb was vowing to hand his brother the coveted trade deal, even if that meant keeping thousands from exercising their right to protest.
Despite the brothers' best efforts, the dream of a hemisphere united into a single free-market economy died last week - killed not by demonstrators in Miami but by the populations of Argentina, Brazil and Bolivia, who let their politicians know that if they sign away more power to foreign multinationals, they may as well not come home.
The Brazilians brokered a compromise that makes the agreement a pick-and-choose affair, allowing governments to sign on to the parts they like and refuse the ones they don't. Washington will continue to bully countries into sweeping trade contracts on the model of the North American Free Trade Agreement, but there will be no single, unified deal.
Inside the Inter-Continental hotel, it was being called "FTAA lite". Outside, we experienced something heavier: "War lite". The more control the US trade representatives lost at the negotiating table, the more raw power the police exerted on the streets.
Small, peaceful demonstrations were attacked with extreme force; organisations were infiltrated by undercover officers who used stun guns; buses of union members were prevented from joining permitted marches; people were beaten with batons; activists had guns pointed at their heads at checkpoints.
Police violence outside trade summits is not new; what was striking about Miami was how divorced the security response was from anything resembling an actual threat. From an activist perspective, the protests were small and obedient, an understandable response to weeks of police intimidation.
The FTAA Summit in Miami represents the official homecoming of the "war on terror". The latest techniques honed in Iraq - from a Hollywoodised military to a militarised media - have now been used on a grand scale in a major US city. "This should be a model for homeland defence," the Miami mayor, Manny Diaz, said of the security operation that brought together over 40 law-enforcement agencies, from the FBI to the Department of Fish and Wildlife.
For the Miami model to work, the police had to establish a connection between legitimate activists and dangerous terrorists. Enter the Miami police chief, John Timoney, an avowed enemy of activist "punks", who classified FTAA opponents as "outsiders coming in to terrorise and vandalise our city".
With the activists recast as dangerous aliens, Miami became eligible for the open tap of public money irrigating the "war on terror". In fact, $8.5m spent on security during the FTAA meeting came out of the $87bn Bush extracted from Congress for Iraq last month.
But more was borrowed from the Iraq war than just money. Miami police also invited reporters to "embed" with them in armoured vehicles and helicopters. As in Iraq, most reporters embraced their role as pseudo soldiers with zeal, suiting up in combat helmets and flak jackets.
The resulting media coverage was the familiar wartime combination of dramatic images and non-information. We know, thanks to an "embed" from the Miami Herald, that Timoney was working so hard hunting down troublemakers that by 3:30pm on Thursday "he had eaten only a banana and a cookie since 6am".
Local TV stations didn't cover the protests so much as hover over them. Their helicopters showed images of confrontations, but instead of hearing the voices on the streets - voices pleading with police to stop shooting and clearly following orders to disperse - we heard only from police officials and perky news anchors commiserating with the boys on the front line.
Meanwhile, independent journalists who dared to do their jobs and film the police violence up close were actively targeted. "She's not with us," one officer told another as they grabbed Ana Nogueira, a correspondent with Pacifica Radio's Democracy Now! who was covering a peaceful protest outside the Miami-Dade county jail. When the police established that Nogueira was "not with us" (ie neither an embedded reporter nor undercover cop) she was hauled away and charged.
The Miami model of dealing with domestic dissent reaches far beyond a single meeting. On Sunday, the New York Times reported on a leaked FBI bulletin revealing "a coordinated, nationwide effort to collect intelligence" on the anti-war movement. The memorandum singles out lawful protest activities. Anthony Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, said the document revealed that "the FBI is targeting Americans who are engaged in lawful protest. The line between terrorism and legitimate civil disobedience is blurred."
We can expect more of these tactics on the homeland front. Just as civil liberties violations escalated when Washington lost control over the FTAA process, so will repression increase as Bush faces the ultimate threat: losing control over the White House.
Already, Jim Wilkinson, director of strategic communications at US Central Command in Doha, Qatar (the operation that gave the world the Jessica Lynch rescue), has moved to New York to head up media operations for the Republican National Convention. "We're looking at embedding reporters," he told the New York Observer of his plans to use some of the Iraq tricks during the convention. "We're looking at new and interesting camera angles."
The war is coming home.