Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Over There 

Max Blumenthal on the Ukraine elections:
It seems that once again, the mainstream US and European press has been taken by surprise by a democratic regime change engineered by US-based non-profits like Freedom House, Soros' Open Society Institute, the International Republican Institute, National Endowment for Democracy, etc. -- groups which work through overt channels to accomplish what the CIA used to do covertly during the Cold War. Their method of regime change is not yet recognized as widely as it should as the total affront to international efforts at democratization that it is, even though such methods were introduced over a decade ago when Chamorro was essentially installed by the National Endowment for Democracy in Nicaragua; even though it nearly destroyed a democratically elected government in Venezuela in 2002; even though it did destroy a democratically elected government in Haiti in 2003, and even though it will ensure another puppet government in Iraq in 2005.

Sometimes it seems the West encourages democracy in developing countries because it is the easiest political system to manipulate. A war for regime change is unnecessary when elections can be fixed.

But back to the Ukraine. William Rivers Pitt has pulled together some of the better
reporting on Western manipulation of the country's internal political process, though none of the reporting is thorough enough to provide a clear picture of just how these non-profit groups operate. I, of course, recommend reading my piece, "The Other Regime Change," about how the International Republican Institute waged a ten year campaign -- spearheaded by a right-wing Duvalierist operative -- to destroy Aristide in Haiti.
James K. Galbraith on the Ukraine elections:
Personally, I don't know whether the Ukrainian election was really stolen. I don't trust Lugar, Powell or the National Democratic Institute. It's obvious that U.S. foreign policy interests, rather than love of democracy for its own sake, are behind this outcry. Russia backed the other candidate in Ukraine. For Brzezinski, doing damage to Russia is a hobby.

But if the Ukraine standard were applied in Ohio -- as it should be -- then the late lamented U.S. election certainly was stolen. In Ohio, the secretary of state in charge of the elections process was co-chairman of the Bush campaign in the state. He obstructed the vote count systematically -- for instance, by demanding that provisional ballots without birth dates on their envelopes be thrown out, even though there is no requirement for that in state law. He also required that provisional ballots be cast in a voter's home precinct, ensuring that there would be no escape from long lines. Republicans fielded thousands of election challengers to Democratic precincts, mainly to try to intimidate black voters and to slow down the voting process. A recount, demanded and paid for by the Green and Libertarian parties, has been stalled in court, so that it won't possibly upset the certification of Ohio's electoral votes.

In Franklin County, Ohio, there was rampant abuse, with voting machines added in Republican precincts and taken away in Democratic ones, as documented by the Columbus Dispatch. The result was a crippling pileup at the polls; many thousands did not vote because they simply could not afford to wait. I witnessed this with my own eyes. And Sen. Lugar could have, too, for much less than the price of airfare to Kiev.

According to an article by Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman: "The man running the show in Franklin County was Board of Elections Director Matt Damschroder, former head of the county's Republican Party ... Damschroder's official records also show that while desperate poll workers called his office throughout the day, at least 125 machines were held back at the opening of the polls and an additional 68 were never deployed. Thus while thousands of inner city voters stood in the rain, were told their cars would be towed, and were then forced to vote in five minutes or less, Damschroder sat on machines that could have significantly sped the process."

These are the established facts. Eyewitness reports of other forms of abuse include malfunctioning voting machines in Youngstown, a mysterious lockdown of the vote count in Warren County and lesser incidents that run into the thousands. And then there are allegations of irregularities in the count -- how solid these are, one does not know. Taken together, are these enough to change the outcome? No one can say. But the same is true in Kiev. And there, allegations by the defeated opposition are taken in good faith, and are quite enough to satisfy international observers and the government of the United States.
Thom Hartmann on the Ukraine elections:
Ironically, the Democratic Party knows how to highlight election fraud and start national movements to bring down administrations that try to steal elections. A Party-affiliated group has helped do it four times in the past four years.

But not in Ohio, Florida, or anywhere else in the USA.

Instead, the
National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (Madeleine K. Albright, Chairman) has joined up with a similar organization affiliated with the Republican Party (the International Republican Institute - John McCain, Chairman), other NGOs, and US government agencies to support the use of exit polls and statistical analyses to challenge national elections in Ukraine, Serbia, Belarus, and the former Soviet republic of Georgia.

In three of those four nations they succeeded in not only mounting a national challenge, but in reversing the outcomes of elections . . . .

Many Democrats and progressives believe now is the time for national advocacy groups to organize an effort similar to the one our nation has been promulgating in the former Soviet states and the Republicans used in Florida in 2000. The blueprint is laid out in
Ian Traynor's article in the Guardian, and the template is both simple, straightforward, and already demonstrated to work . . . .

But first we must prepare to take on a Republican machine that has already corrupted the electoral process in the past three elections, and knows how to "pull a Ukraine" in any state at any time with single a phone call to Jim Baker or Tom DeLay. In a preemptory move, Republicans are now calling for an end to exit polls in the USA because, as RNC Chairman and former Enron lobbyist Ed Gillespie noted on November 4th, "In 2000 the exit data was wrong on Election Day, in 2002 the exit returns were wrong on Election Day, and in 2004, the exit data were wrong on Election Day - all three times, by the way, in a way that skewed against Republicans and had a dispiriting effect on Republican voters across the country."

Each of those three "skewed" elections was an opportunity for national mobilization.

In 2000 it could have been to highlight the removal from voting rolls in Florida of tens of thousands of African American Democrats. The 2002 election could have revealed the "trade secret" software running non-paper-trail voting machines in Georgia that defied the polls and threw out Max Cleland (helping establish Republican control of the Senate in 2002). And the 2004 election could have again raised questions about voting machines, Florida purge rolls moving to other states, dirty tricks (phone calls to registered Democrats telling them their polling places had changed, etc.), and, as Fitrakis has documented, disclosed patterns of precinct and machine placements in Ohio (and other states) that caused thousands - perhaps hundreds of thousands - of Ohio Kerry voters to give up and leave 10+ hour lines because they had to go to work or pick kids up from school.

Some will suggest this is a dangerous strategy because Republicans will simply organize their own exit polls, PR machine, and national mobilization. To them, I'd point out that this is already happening.
And, courtesy of our venerated colleague Avedon Carol:

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