The Art of Terror Management

21 February 2005 |

Sword Play

By Chris Floyd [February 18, 2005 ]

'You had to attack civilians, the people, women, children, innocent people, unknown people far removed from any political game. The reason was quite simple: to force ... the public to turn to the state to ask for greater security."

This was the essence of Operation Gladio, a decades-long covert campaign of terrorism and deceit directed by the intelligence services of the West -- against their own populations. Hundreds of innocent people were killed or maimed in terrorist attacks -- on train stations, supermarkets, cafes and offices -- which were then blamed on "leftist subversives" or other political opponents. The purpose, as stated above in sworn testimony by Gladio agent Vincenzo Vinciguerra, was to demonize designated enemies and frighten the public into supporting ever-increasing powers for government leaders -- and their elitist cronies.

First revealed by Italian Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti in 1991, Gladio (from the Latin for "sword") is still protected to this day by its founding patrons, the CIA and MI6. Yet parliamentary investigations in Italy, Switzerland and Belgium have shaken out a few fragments of the truth over the years. These have been gathered in a new book, "NATO's Secret Armies: Operation Gladio and Terrorism in Western Europe," by Daniele Ganser, as Lila Rajiva reports on CommonDreams.org.

Originally set up as a network of clandestine cells to be activated behind the lines in the event of a Soviet invasion of Western Europe, Gladio quickly expanded into a tool for political repression and manipulation, directed by NATO and Washington. Using right-wing militias, underworld figures, government provocateurs and secret military units, Gladio not only carried out widespread terrorism, assassinations and electoral subversion in democratic states such as Italy, France and West Germany, but also bolstered fascist tyrannies in Spain and Portugal, abetted the military coup in Greece and aided Turkey's repression of the Kurds.

Among the "smoking guns" unearthed by Ganser is a Pentagon document, Field Manual FM 30-31B, which details the methodology for launching terrorist attacks in nations that "do not react with sufficient effectiveness" against "communist subversion." Ironically, the manual states that the most dangerous moment comes when leftist groups "renounce the use of force" and embrace the democratic process. It is then that "U.S. army intelligence must have the means of launching special operations which will convince Host Country Governments and public opinion of the reality of the insurgent danger." Naturally, these peace-throttling "special operations must remain strictly secret," the document warns.

Indeed, it would not do for the families of the 85 people ripped apart by the Aug. 2, 1980 bombing of the Bologna train station to know that their loved ones had been murdered by "men inside Italian state institutions and ... men linked to the structures of United States intelligence," as the Italian Senate concluded after its investigation in 2000.

The Bologna atrocity is an example of what Gladio's masters called "the strategy of tension" -- fomenting fear to keep populations in thrall to "strong leaders" who will protect the nation from the ever-present terrorist threat. And as Rajiva notes, this strategy wasn't limited to Western Europe. It was applied, with gruesome effectiveness, in Central America by the Reagan and Bush administrations. During the 1980s, right-wing death squads, guerrilla armies and state security forces -- armed, trained and supplied by the United States -- murdered tens of thousands of people throughout the region, often acting with particular savagery at those times when peaceful solutions to the conflicts seemed about to take hold.

Last month, it was widely reported that the Pentagon is considering a similar program in Iraq. What was not reported, however -- except in the Iraqi press -- is that at least one pro-occupation death squad is already in operation. Just days after the Pentagon plans were revealed, a new militant group, "Saraya Iraqna," began offering big wads of American cash for insurgent scalps -- up to $50,000, the Iraqi paper Al Ittihad reports. "Our activity will not be selective," the group promised. In other words, anyone they consider an enemy of the state will be fair game.

Strangely enough, just as it appears that the Pentagon is establishing Gladio-style operations in Iraq, there has been a sudden rash of terrorist attacks on outrageously provocative civilian targets, such as hospitals and schools, the Guardian reports. Coming just after national elections in which the majority faction supported slates calling for a speedy end to the American occupation, the shift toward high-profile civilian slaughter has underscored the "urgent need" for U.S. forces to remain on the scene indefinitely, to provide security against the ever-present terrorist threat. Meanwhile, the Bushists continue constructing their long-sought permanent bases in Iraq: citadels to protect the oil that incoming Iraqi officials are promising to sell off to American corporations -- and launching pads for new forays in geopolitical domination.

Perhaps it's just a coincidence. But the U.S. elite's history of directing and fomenting terrorist attacks against friendly populations is so extensive -- indeed, so ingrained and accepted -- that it calls into question the origin of every terrorist act that roils the world. With each fresh atrocity, we're forced to ask: Was it the work of "genuine" terrorists or a "black op" by intelligence agencies -- or both?

While not infallible, the ancient Latin question is still the best guide to penetrating the bloody murk of modern terrorism: Cui bono? Who benefits? Whose powers and policies are enhanced by the attack? For it is indisputable that the "strategy of tension" means power and profit for those who claim to possess the key to "security." And from the halls of the Kremlin to the banks of the Potomac, this cynical strategy is the ruling ideology of our times.

"Didn't We Get Rid of Those People Years Ago?"

12 February 2005 |

Reflections on Empire and Uppity Indians

By TIM WISE

I should have known better than to listen in to the conversation immediately to my left, sitting as I was in the Northwest Airlines World Club, in Detroit. Unlike most of the folks who have paid their $450 for an annual membership--which entitles one to little more than some free booze, cheese, crackers and coffee, along with a comfy chair between flights--I am hardly, after all, the typical "business traveler." I usually spend my time in such places, hastily composing one or another radical screed (like this one), while waiting to fly somewhere to deliver a speech that will, in some small way, move forward the cause of social transformation.

This is not the purpose for which the guy talking about mutual funds in the cubicle next to me, is here.

But this time, I couldn't avoid hearing the discussion between the two men, appropriately white and with matching blue suits and red power ties, whose familiarity with a bottle of scotch had apparently reached intimate proportions.

They were ruminating on the recent goings on at the University of Colorado, where Ethnic Studies professor, Ward Churchill is under siege for an article he composed back in the immediate aftermath of 9/11; an essay in which Churchill sought to explain that a nation really ought not be surprised when its policies abroad--which have resulted in the slaughter of millions of innocent civilians--cause some in those nations to "push back" and seek to exact a similar collective death upon the people of that first country.

While Churchill's essay was indelicate in places, it was hardly more so than any of the bloodthirsty things said by representatives of the state or the denizens of talk radio around that same time--folks who were itching to level Afghanistan, turn the Arab world into a parking lot, or, as Bill O'Reilly put it, put a bullet to the heads of any Afghans who weren't sufficiently supportive of our ousting the Taliban for them.

I remember reading Ward's missive at the time, and being bothered by the "little Eichmanns" reference (for those who worked in the World Trade Center), not because I thought Churchill actually believed these folks deserved to die, but because I knew the statement would be taken out of context and used to smear not only him, but the larger left of which we are both a part. In other words, Ward was perhaps guilty of naiveté, assuming that people are far more capable of discerning nuance and irony than they really are.

But to the two men in the World Club, he was guilty of a lot more than that. To them, Churchill's most egregious crime was not having died, "like all the other Indians."

I shit you not. One of the men, fuming about the article that now has Ward facing down the barrel of a Board of Trustees looking for any reason to fire him, despite tenure, turned to the other and said: "Just when you thought we'd killed all the Indians, one pops up talkin' some shit like this, and reminds you that we didn't finish the job after all."

White guy number two laughs, in fact, damn near spits Dewar's and soda all over the leather barca lounger he's plopped down in, finding this affable romanticizing of genocide to be the funniest fucking thing he has apparently had the luxury of hearing, at least since the last time he and his buddies sat around in a sports bar, farting, and trading jokes about fags, or some such thing.

I was stunned, because just one day before, I had speculated, only half-seriously, during an interview with KPFK in Los Angeles, that this anti-Indian sentiment might lay beneath some of the vitriol aimed Ward's way. After all, the attacks on him have seemed so personal, so vicious, so much worse than even the histrionics normally leveled at white leftists like Chomsky, or Parenti, or Zinn, who said much the same thing about 9/11 after that fateful day. The bombast has seemed to include an unhealthy dose of racial resentment--absolute rage--at the notion that a person of color and an Indian no less, should dare to condemn the American empire.

"Didn't we get rid of those people years ago?" One can almost hear the refrain, as if broadcast from a loudspeaker.

"Goddamit, be silent," comes the stare from others, or the words themselves.

"Don't make us go all Trail of Tears on your ass. Don't make us send out those smallpox-infected blankets again. Remember, we still got some of that stuff in a vial at the Centers for Disease Control. Do NOT make us break that shit out, 'cuz we'll do it."

"Oh the ingratitude! Here we are, honoring your ancestors by naming sports mascots after your people, and this is how one of yours repays us? Oh, hell no, not today Chief!"

Even having concluded that racism was part of the reason for the overwrought reaction to Churchill, I was utterly unprepared to hear my suspicions confirmed in such a manner; probably because I've grown so accustomed to white people lying about their racist views, going out of their way in fact to deny them, at least around others. As such, I couldn't even think of what to say. My inclination was to ask for the guy's business card, pretending to have liked his comment, and then send his address and phone number to the American Indian Movement, so they could harass his pretty white ass for a few months. But in the end, all I did was glare, a gesture the meaning of which I'm sure was lost on them both, lubricated as they were on second-rate blended whiskey.

And while these two guys might not be representative of the masses of people so driven to distraction by Churchill's commentary, I have little doubt but that, like the rest of the teeming hordes out to see him fired, they regularly shrug off comments about civilian deaths being justified, when made by representatives of their own side. More to the point, they glibly accept, as a consequence of war, the deaths themselves (not merely talk about them) as justified, as in Iraq, where even the lowest of low-ball estimates places the numbers of these around 15,000, and where the highest reach above 100,000.

So what? they might say, in a tone and manner little different from that echoed in the caves of Afghanistan that have served as a home for bin Laden all these years.

They surely are not bothered by pundit Ann Coulter's recent comments, to the effect that we should "nuke North Korea," so as to "send a message" to the rest of the world, and because it would be, in her words, "fun."

They are not bothered by the comments of nationally syndicated talk show host Jay Severin last year, to the effect that the U.S. should tell the Arab world that unless "they" stop killing our troops in Iraq, we will drop nuclear weapons throughout the region, destroying all of the holiest sites of Islam, and killing ten million people, without batting an eye.

They were not bothered when former Secretary of State Madeline Albright rationalized the deaths of a half million children in Iraq as a result of Western sanctions, by saying that those deaths had been "worth it."

Dead people of color, the world over, or right here in the U.S., whose ashes they step over every time they walk out the door of their homes, mean nothing to them. Their deaths are cause for no tears, no contrition, no recompense, and certainly have never served to disqualify those responsible (or those who applaud the carnage) from positions of authority, in colleges, or government. Nor will schools now move to block dear Madame Albright from speaking on their campuses, as happened to Ward; nor will Ann Coulter find herself a pariah for fantasizing about the incineration of folks whose only crime was to be born North Korean.

But Ward Churchill, who has merely laid out the facts about America's murderous ways around the globe--facts that have not been disputed even once by any of his critics--is to be silenced. Those who do the deed are cheered, re-elected and get buildings named after them. Those who merely tell of their exploits and suggest that perhaps there may be consequences, get crushed.

This is what happens, in a nation built on lies from the beginning; whose empire has been constructed on the sands of self-delusion; whose inability to tell the truth about itself has now become the stuff of farce. Our lack of self-awareness, not to mention the way in which Americans pride ourselves on how little we know about the world, and how reflexively patriotic we can be, would all be funny were it not so miserably pathetic, and ultimately so dangerous.

The sickest irony of the entire episode with Churchill is this, of course: namely, if there is anyone whose views and actions lead to the inevitable conclusion that the civilians in the World Trade Center were legitimate, if unfortunate targets, it is the President of the United States. It is he, whose doctrine of "preventative" warfare, assumes by definition that it is acceptable to target buildings that house offices tied to the government and military apparatus of one's enemy, which, indeed the WTC did, and which of course describes the Pentagon in its entirety.

It is Bush whose "shock and awe" invasion of Iraq was planned, even though all agreed that thousands of civilians would die in the process. And if such a mentality is acceptable for Americans--one that reduces innocent civilians to mere collateral damage and shrugs at their untimely demise as if they were the sad but inevitable consequence of modern warfare--then surely we must extend the same courtesy of barbarism to every nation or group on earth with a bone to pick.

So the squealing of those on the right when it comes to Churchill--persons who wholeheartedly endorse the notion of America's right to bomb other nations, even if innocents will be killed, and knowing full well that they will be--does nothing so much as call to mind the line from Shakespeare, that "methinks the lady doth protest too much." Or perhaps the psychological concept of projection, whereby the patient displaces their own sickness onto others, finding in them the very flaws and pathologies to which the patient him or herself has been given over.

We're sort of like the national equivalent of a child, whose mommy and daddy are trying desperately, against all hope, to maintain the child's belief in Santa or the Easter Bunny, or even the tooth fairy. And we rage against any who seek to dispel the myths out of a desire to protect our children's "innocence." While such deceptions are perhaps excusable when dealing with the fantasies of real children, one would hope that a nation run by full-grown men and women would ask a bit more of itself; would find truth more valuable a commodity than innocence; would recognize that, as James Baldwin explained, "Those who insist on maintaining their innocence, long after that innocence has died, turn themselves into monsters."

And so we have: a monster that sees no evil and hears no evil, unless it comes from the despised "other," and who in the process perpetrates its own version of the thing daily.

Tim Wise is the author of two new books: White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son (Soft Skull Press, 2005), and Affirmative Action: Racial Preference in Black and White (Routledge: 2005). He can be reached at: timjwisemsn.com

Lost Files, Memories and Handwriting

06 February 2005 |

History by Laptop

By ROBERT FISK
The Independent

The laptop has done bad things to us. I've spent the past year writing a history of the Middle East which has proved to me--quite apart from the folly of man--that the computer has not necessarily helped our writing or our research into the sins of our fathers.

As a journalist who still refuses to use e-mail--forcing people to write real letters cuts down the amount of ungrammatical and often abusive messages we receive--I would say that, wouldn't I? But, along with two researchers, I've ploughed through 338,000 documents in my library for my book--my reporter's notebooks, newspapers, magazines, clippings, government statements, letters, photocopies of First World War archives and photographs--and I cannot escape the fact that the laptop has helped to destroy my files, my memories and, indeed, my handwriting.

My notebooks of the Lebanese civil war in the late 1970s are written in a graceful easy-to-read script, a pale blue fountain pen moving in a stately way across the page. My notes of the 2003 American invasion of Iraq are illegible--except to myself--because I cannot keep pace with the speed of the laptop. I no longer write words, I have discovered. I represent them--that is to say I draw their likeness, which I cannot read but which I must construe when transcribing them. I should add at once that this very article is being handwritten on an Air France jet from Beirut and even now, as I write, I find I am skipping letters, words, and expressions because I know what I want to say--but it is no longer there on the page.

What a relief to go back to my reports on the 1979-80 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. They were punched out on telex machines--those wonderful clunkers that perforated tapes--even though, today, the wafer-thin paper falls to pieces in my hands. I remember a Kabul post office official using a welding iron to cement the H back on to his machine--Conor O'Clery of The Irish Times is my witness--but I have every memorandum and every report I sent to my then employers at The Times.

Today, we use telephones--or e-mails which are easy to delete--but my telexed messages to London in those terrible years of war, just as in the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq conflict, tell their own tale. When I was filing reports from Cairo or Riyadh, a foreign desk "blooper"--a last paragraph cut, an inelegantly phrased headline--was easy for a foreign correspondent to forgive. But emerging from Iran's front lines at Fao--guns, shellfire and corpses--and I found it difficult to see a dropped comma as anything but an act of treachery by The Times. Pity the poor foreign desk. And the correspondent.

Of course, there are ridiculous moments in this historical "search for truth". My two researchers, after only three days of work, could not understand why they constantly felt hungry at mid-morning--until we realised that between 1976 and 1990, the only way I catalogued my flights around the Middle East was by noting the destination and date on my airline lunch menus. Three days of foie gras, caviar and champagne was too much for my two brave friends to read. For my part, I did not, for many weeks, understand the deep depression in which I would go to bed--or wake--after hours of writing.

The answer was simple: the written notebooks and telex tapes--taken together--became an archive of suffering, of torture and despair. As a journalist, you can catalogue this on a daily basis, go back to your hotel and forget and start again next day. But when I put the telex tape and the notebooks together, they became a dreadful, utterly convicting testimony of inhumanity.

Telexed copy dies out in my files in the late 1980s and computer records suddenly arrive. But they don't work. While I always kept a "hard copy" of my reports for The Independent, I assumed that the blessed internet would preserve the prose which I had supposedly hammered out on the anvil of literature. Not so. Many websites contain only those pieces of "fiskery" which their owners approved of; others, however legal, simply missed out reports that seemed unemotional. I am always amused by the number of institutions which telephone me in Beirut each week to check on quotations, dates or facts. Google cannot help them. They assume--usually correctly--that the Fisk Memorial Library (all on paper) can. And they are right.

Of course, I have discovered other, equally discredited "facts". For years, I have been describing the meeting which Newsweek's Tony Clifton had with Saddam Hussein in the late 1970s, in which he was driven by Saddam himself--after telling the Great Leader that some Iraqis might not like him--into the centre of Baghdad. "Ask anyone here if they love their President," Saddam Hussein told Clifton. I reported this in The Independent. I have my files.

But Clifton told me last year that this was not correct. He had indeed interviewed Saddam Hussein--but the Iraqi president had merely laughed at Clifton's question and told him to talk to any Iraqis he wished. He never drove him into town. Ouch.

The first US pro-consul to Iraq, retired General Jay Garner, spent much of his time deriding Saddam Hussein. But my researchers dug up an interview I had with Garner--when he was protecting the Kurds of northern Iraq in 1991--in which he repeatedly stressed how the West must "respect" Saddam's government and Iraq's "sovereign territory". My researchers' attacks on Google failed to discover this remarkable story. Thank God for my notes.

I'm not a Luddite. I do remember pounding some Churchillian prose on to telex tape in the luxurious lobby of the Damascus Sheraton Hotel--which had an indoor pond--after a mind-numbingly boring Arab summit. I also recall looking up--and seeing my paper tape literally floating away across the Sheraton's artificial lake.

E-mails, we are now told, will revive the art of the historian. I doubt it. It is easy to delete e-mails and--if governments are generous enough to keep them for archivists--historians will need a well-paid army of researchers to prowl through this ocean. In other words, historians will need to be rich in order to write.

As for me, I have my dad's First World War snapshots--taken by himself--and the last appeal of the young Australian soldier (like my dad, 19 years old) whom he was told to execute for murder. And I have my dad's long-dead testimony that he refused to shoot the young Australian--the signature on the firing party's report is not Second Lieutenant William Fisk--and Bill Fisk's memory of his punishment, digging up the corpses of British soldiers on the Western Front to put them in the official war graves, remains. Had it been an e-mail, who knows who would have deleted it?

Mumbai's Man-Made Tsunami

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By P. SAINATH

Number of homes damaged by the tsunami in Nagapattinam: 30,300. Number of homes destroyed by the Congress-NCP Government in Mumbai: 84,000.

How agonized we are about how people die. How untroubled we are by how they live.

Maharashtra's Chief Minister, Vilasrao Deshmukh, says every Chief Minister would like to leave behind a legacy. His own, he believes, will be that of the man who cleaned up Mumbai. Mr. Deshmukh, in short, wishes to be remembered.

He will be. His Government wiped out 6,300 homes on a single day. This is a record the Israeli army would be proud to match on a busy afternoon in the occupied territories.

The Mumbai mass evictions - now on hold - reflected well an elite mindset towards the deprived that fully matured in the 1990s. It is a lot about how we see the poor today. About a view marked by contempt for the rights and suffering of ordinary people. Unless that suffering is certified as genuine by the rest of us.

Mr. Deshmukh now says the destruction of "some" houses was "an accident". Not intended. Which perhaps places his Government in the category of natural calamity. However, most of Mumbai's beautiful people, some of whom attended `tsunami dinners' after expressing satisfaction over the city's mass demolitions, are firmly with their Chief Minister. No one from that fraternity has `adopted' a demolished slum for adoring cameras. Nor organized relief operations for people, including many babies shivering without shelter, in one of the coldest winters.

Instead, Mumbai's elite now feels the need to carry the logic forward. Last year, 11 prominent Maharashtrians moved the Bombay High Court to bar slum dwellers from voting. This year, the city's Municipal Corporation itself asked the Chief Electoral Officer to drop residents of the demolished slums from the voters' lists. (A curious move in a society contemplating voting rights for NRIs and PIOs.) No one uses the real word - disenfranchisement. But it is what they mean. One way or the other, take away their vote. That should teach them they cannot live amongst us.

It would also blunt the one weapon ordinary Indians have and use. Unlike, say, their American counterparts, the Indian poor have the audacity to believe their votes can change things. They certainly did that right here. Mumbai's slum dwellers played a critical role in defeating the BJP-Shiv Sena in the 2004 Assembly polls. (Quite a few local leaders of the Congress know this well and are fearful of a backlash. What if slum folk attempt similar adventures the next time around?)

Of course, excluding large numbers from voting involves minor problems of constitutional rights. But the avant garde amongst the elite have found the answer to that one: criminalize them. That would be a good start. "Book them for trying to steal public property" is one bright idea. The Mumbai police have obligingly promised criminal trespass cases against dazed victims hanging around their razed homes. Satisfying, but annoyingly it would still leave them with the right to vote.

Maybe India will move towards - as on most other things - the American model. As a Human Rights Watch Sentencing Project report shows, 1.4 million African-American men - 13 per cent of their total number - are denied voting rights because of their criminal records. As many as 15 American States bar former felons from voting even after they have completed serving their sentences.

In Alabama and Florida, nearly one in every three African-American men is permanently disenfranchised. In six other States the ratio is one in four. All this in states with significant African-American minorities. As the report notes, no other democracy denies as many people the right to vote because of their criminal records. A feat that could be eclipsed in India if the current mindset towards the poor goes the distance.

America has around two million human beings behind bars - more than any other nation in the world. Of these, 63 per cent are African-American and Hispanic. Consider that these two groups together form only 25 per cent of the population. You are far more likely to go to prison - and lose your vote - if you are African-American. Substitute poor for African-American and it is an idea much of India's and Mumbai's elite would go for.

Total disdain for even the foreseeable future is another element of this mindset. According to a UN Habitat report, one in every three human beings could live in a slum by 2030. Many of them Indians. Imagine how many voters we could do away with by criminalizing slum dwellers. Just "reform" the laws. Adopt the Mumbai idea nationwide - and India will be demolishing more homes than it has ever built.

"Many people will be inconvenienced and will have to make sacrifices if the city has to develop..." says the Chief Minister. The city's builder and real estate mafia will not be amongst those inconvenienced. The sacrifices are to be made by the poor. The power of those driving the process is immense. The protests and appeals of the slum folk themselves are simply dismissed. Those of some 28 slum dwellers organizations, housing rights and human rights bodies, political parties and trade unions are sought to be played down. It was anxiety over the fallout (at far higher levels of the Congress in New Delhi) that led to some slowing down of the demolitions. And to Mr. Deshmukh's admission of "accidental" evictions.

Class interests are asserting themselves across the major parties here. The Congress elite is far more in tune with Bal Thackeray on this issue than it is with its own panicking base. The Sena chief has praised the Government for the terror visited on the slum populace. This is also one issue that unites the otherwise bickering Nationalist Congress Party and Congress. Hopefully, the coalition of a large number of organizations protesting the action will create a basis for some relief and resistance.

A crucial part of the mindset is the idea that promises made to the poor have no meaning. It matters little that millions of such people in Mumbai helped the Congress win a State it would surely have lost. At the Centre too, that party came to power riding a wave of popular anger against the policies of the National Democratic Alliance Government. And then quickly buried its anti-"India Shining" campaign. Today, a Montek Singh Ahulwalia can signal moves towards the privatisation of water without batting an eyelid. All earlier assurances on not making life harder for the deprived mean nothing. That was an election. This is reality.

That is why the better off - anyway miniscule in numbers - hardly bother to vote. The rich run governments by other means. Not by electing them. When governments have reneged on their most fundamental promises in the past 15 years, the media have welcomed this as "pragmatic". It is pragmatic to lie to the poor. It is also pragmatic to break your commitment to the 1993 United Nations resolution which terms forced evictions "a gross violation of human rights".

A vivid symbol of the pragmatic new world was the Sensex soaring to a record peak - at the height of the tsunami damage. This phenomenon was repeated across most of the tsunami-hit nations as "markets sensed" a windfall in reconstruction spending.

The mindset is visible in our dealings with tsunami-hit citizens, too. We are now in the process of converting people's entitlements into our charity. Health care, access to clean water, sanitation, schools - all these might now happen because of our generosity. Not because human beings are entitled to them. You might get a house because we feel sorry half your family was washed away. Not by right of your citizenship of a decent nation and society.

There is one thing larger than Mr. Deshmukh's bulldozers: The process by which millions are uprooted from the countryside and forced to seek a living in the nearest city. What India is building is not an employment guarantee but an unemployment guarantee. As agriculture collapses and people vote with their feet, the Deshmukh Doctrine is the best we can think of. Mopping the floors with the taps all open and running.

The Indian elite wants a society geared up to deal with disasters that may or may not strike once in a hundred years but shows no urgency at all when it comes to ongoing misery not caused by nature. Towards the destruction of the livelihoods of millions by policy and human agency.

We want effective and advanced planning for events distant and hard to predict. But reject planning for the near future in favor of `the market', which alone should be the one true guide. We want to build walls against the sea all along the coast after having done away with nature's own - the mangroves and sand dunes. Maybe we will build walls around Mumbai next to keep the plebeians out. Mr. Deshmukh's legacy would then be forever secure.

P. Sainath is the rural affairs editor of The Hindu and the author of Everybody Loves a Good Drought. He can be reached at: psainath@vsnl.com