Trust-fund terrorist

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Lori Berenson, 2015

Born in 1969, Lori Berenson grew up in New York City, the adored, privileged daughter of two college professors. Her tendency to be a “social justice” nag manifested itself early. In her freshman year at MIT, when a dryer broke down, “she was adamant that the replacement shouldn’t be from General Electric because of the company’s involvement in producing nuclear weapons.” Around that time, she traveled with an all-female group of Quakers, apparently pro-Sandinista radicals, to Nicaragua, which was then experiencing a civil war. She also made a couple of visits to El Salvador, which was also, at the time, torn by civil war, and where, she later saidI got a sense that the world was much bigger and the suffering was much worse than I had thought.”

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A building at MIT

Soon Berenson had dropped out of MIT in order to work full time for a Communist-linked Salvadoran “liberation front” while living off the $50,000 trust fund her parents had set up for her education. Dad and Mom raised no protest. “You had to see Lori and her enthusiasm, her concern,” Mom later explained. “Look, we’re academics. Education is very important to us. But Lori thought, `How can I be here reading a book when there are people who need help?’ What can you say?”

Soon after relocating to El Salvador, Berenson wed her first husband. But the marriage disintegrated within a few months, as did her passion for continuing work in El Salvador. You see, the violence ended, and her “liberation front” signed a peace accord with the government. “She had such huge hopes, but then after the accords, it became clear that they weren’t going to be fulfilled,” husband #1 later told the Village Voice. Get it? Berenson claimed to be working for peace, but when peace actually was achieved she was disappointed. She wanted to be where the action was. 

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An MRTA get-together

So she moved on to another place where there was still terrorist violence – Peru. By the time she’d settled in Lima, the Túpac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA) had already run up a long rap sheet of terrorist acts, from kidnappings to bank robberies to assassinations. Berenson didn’t just sign up with the MRTA: she rented a mansion in a prosperous Lima neighborhood that her fellow terrorists used as a safe house and as a storage depot for weapons and ammunition.

Over two decades later, Berenson offered this explanation as to why she’d exchanged MIT for MRTA:

I decided that I was not in agreement with the type of academia work I’d be able—you know, you could, yeah, get a degree, and then you become part of the system. And I thought that becoming part of the system somehow—you know, I mean, other people are able to use that to—and to use it very well to the benefit of social justice, but others tend to be absorbed by the system. And I didn’t want to be part of—absorbed by the system. I also, you know, had a very different—at the time, I sort of started seeing that the world has a lot less to do with what you learn in school than what you learn in life, and that the meaning of degrees is—shouldn’t be that. So it was—in part, it was my way of saying, you know, I don’t believe in this type of system.

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Alberto Fujimori

Once enrolled in MRTA, Berenson posed as a journalist to gain access to the Peruvian Congress, where her “photographer,” actually a fellow MRTA member, gathered information about the building layout and security as part of a plan to storm the building, take members of Congress hostage, and exchange them for MRTA prisoners. But Berenson and her new comrades never had a chance to pull off this caper: in November 1995, she was arrested and charged with terrorism; in a police raid on the safe house, three MRTA members and one police officer were killed.

In the wake of Berenson’s arrest, then Peruvian president Alberto Fujimori described her on TV as “la gringa terrorista” – a name that has stuck ever since. She was tried by a secret military court – her absurd defense was that she hadn’t known that the people living in her house were members of the MRTA or that they were stockpiling weapons there – and was sentenced her to life in prison.

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Berenson haranguing the press, 1996

After her sentencing, Berenson appeared at a press conference that is now famous in Peru. One report described her as “looking feral, her hair wild and her eyes possessed,” and says that she went “berserk on camera.” Another account put it this way: “her face twisted with anger, she marched onstage screaming.” Screeching at journalists about “hunger” and “misery” and “injustice” and “institutional violence” in Peru, Berenson insisted that the MRTA was not a gang of “criminal terrorists” but “a revolutionary movement.”

This image of Berenson as a savage, shrieking wackjob has stuck in the minds of Peruvians ever since. In the years that followed her incarceration, Berenson’s mother repeatedly insisted that this wasn’t the real Lori – that her daughter had been abused and traumatized in prison and was temporarily discombobulated. But a woman who had known Berenson back at MIT saw a picture of Berenson ranting at the media and said she immediately “recognized the expression on her face.”

More tomorrow. 

Raising Kaine

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Tim Kaine

We have to admit that until Hillary Clinton chose him as her running mate, Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia was not on our radar. Yet a look back at various articles about him over the years has helped mightily to bring him into focus. Our attention was drawn, in particular, to the story of his youthful sojourn in Honduras.

A 2005 profile in the Washington Post put it this way: “teaching at a fledgling Jesuit school in El Progreso gave his life direction, inspiring him to public service and rekindling his devotion to Catholicism.” In a 2010 CNN interview, Kaine told Candy Crowley that he “was at Harvard Law School and didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life.” So he “took a year off and worked with Jesuit missionaries in Honduras.”

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Their new book

New York Times article by Jason Horowitz that appeared this past September 2 focused entirely on Kaine’s Honduras episode. Headlined “In Honduras, a Spiritual and Political Awakening for Tim Kaine,” the article, in familiar Times fashion, painted America as the bad guy (“Around him, the United States-backed military dictatorship hunted Marxists and cracked down on the Catholic clergy for preaching empowerment to peasant farmers.”) and Kaine’s Jesuit friends, who were devotees of liberation theology, as heroes:

Honduran military leaders, American officials and even Pope John Paul II viewed liberation theology suspiciously, as dangerously injecting Marxist beliefs into religious teaching. But the strong social-justice message of liberation theology helped set Mr. Kaine on a left-veering career path in which he fought as a lawyer against housing discrimination, became a liberal mayor, and rose as a Spanish-speaking governor and senator with an enduring focus on Latin America.

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Ken Blackwell

An article by Ken Blackwell that appeared in The Hill on September 9 helped put the egregious Times spin into perspective. Blackwell – a former mayor of Cincinnati, Secretary of State of Ohio, and ambassador to the UN Commission on Human Rights – summed up liberation theology very succinctly: its advocates preached peace, but ran guns. As Blackwell noted, documents since uncovered in the Soviet and East German archives have made it clear that liberation theology was nothing more or less than a cynical Kremlin tool, its purpose being to undermine papal influence among the Latin American masses and thus render them more susceptible to Communist belief.

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Father Jim Carney, 1982

One champion of liberation theology was too radical even for the other members of the radical religious community to which he belonged in pro-Soviet Nicaragua. Blackwell identifies this radical priest as an American Jesuit named Father Jim Carney. This is the same man who, as the Times explained, was such a hero to Kaine that the future senator “hopped off a bus in northern Nicaragua, walked miles to Father Carney’s remote parish and spent a memorable evening listening to the priest describe ‘both getting pushed around by the military and getting pushed around by the church.’”

What, exactly, made Carney a hero to the likes of Kaine? The Times, eager as it was to paint a picture of a noble liberal politician whose conscience was forged amidst the religious conflicts of Reagan-era Central America, delicately avoided the uncomfortable details. Blackwell didn’t. He spelled out the hard facts:

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Jose Reyes Mata

In 1983, Carney was part of a 96-man unit that invaded Honduras to bring the Nicaraguan Communist revolution there too. The insurgents were Cuban and Nicaraguan trained and led by Jose Reyes Mata, Cuban-educated, and Honduras’ top Marxist. Reyes Mata had previously served with Che Guevara in Bolivia.

Lest it be forgotten exactly what kind of masters Carney was serving, let us point out that Nicaragua was governed at the time by the Sandinistas – a group founded by KGB man Carlos Fonseca and funded lavishly by the Kremlin, Castro, and East Germany. As Blackwell vividly explained, moreover, the insurgency in which Carney took part was ruthless:

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Carlos Fonseca

Some prisoners were executed by being hacked to death, or by being flayed alive. Others had family members sexually assaulted in front of them. By every measure, the atrocities the Sandinistas committed were far worse than the dictatorship they had replaced.

What blocked them from total victory was the Reagan administration and the Catholic Church.

This, then, was the man whom Kaine was determined to befriend – and whom he has continued, throughout his political career, to cite as a personal moral exemplar and spiritual guide.

John Pilger’s “great game”

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John Pilger

How better to introduce John Pilger than to quote from a notorious piece he published in The Guardian in July of 2002? The piece in question, we hasten to point out, isn’t much more appalling that many of the other things he’s written during his more than half-century-long career. But it certainly is representative, and it spells out his worldview with considerable – and disgusting – clarity.

“It is 10 months since 11 September,” he wrote

and still the great charade plays on. Having appropriated our shocked response to that momentous day, the rulers of the world have since ground our language into a paean of cliches and lies about the ‘war on terrorism’ – when the most enduring menace, and source of terror, is them….There is no war on terrorism; it is the great game speeded up. The difference is the rampant nature of the superpower, ensuring infinite dangers for us all.

Those sentences pretty much sum up Pilger’s worldview. Everything that happens in the world can be explained by a single, overarching, black-and-white narrative: the West, with the U.S. at its helm, is an evil force, poisoned by cutthroat capitalism, bloodthirsty imperialism, and an abiding illusion of freedom (Pilger refers to America and its allies as “societies that call themselves free”) and motivated by an unflagging lust to overpower and control the rest of the planet.

johnpilgerThis is the aforementioned “great game.” Every non-Western nation is a victim of this game; every non-Western people is virtuous; every non-Western culture is superior to the West.

All the tensions in the Middle East, therefore, are the fault of Israel, which is nothing more or less than a terrorist outpost of the West, run by the likes of “supreme terrorist Ariel Sharon.” (“[T]he Zionist state,” Pilger has written, “remains the cause of more regional grievance and sheer terror than all the Muslim states combined.”) Hamas, Hezbollah, all of them, are only reactive forces, lashing out in defensive response to the West’s vicious assaults.

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With Hugo Chavez

In the same way, Castro is a hero, and Cuban freedom fighters are terrorists. Today’s Japan is “very ultra-nationalist…the kind of Israel of Asia, for the United States,” while today’s Communist China is an innocuous country that seeks only to develop its economy without Western interference. The Sandinistas in Nicaragua were saints; their opponents were demons. When it comes to sheer wickedness, the worst Taliban fanatics, in Pilger’s view, have nothing on “the Christian Right fundamentalists running the plutocracy in Washington.” Ukraine’s 2014 democratic revolution was “Washington’s putsch in Kiev,” and it turned Ukraine “into a CIA theme park right next to Russia.”

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Ho Chi Minh

On and on it goes. Ho Chi Minh was a good guy; the U.S. waged the Vietnam War not just against North Vietnam but against all of Vietnam, “north and south, communist and non-communist.” (No mention, of course, of Ho’s epic brutality, of the pernicious role of China, or of the dark reality of Communism in postwar Vietnam.)

Even Osama bin Laden himself was not so horrible compared to the real bad guys: “Al-Qaeda’s training camps in Afghanistan,” wrote Pilger, “were kindergartens compared with the world’s leading university of terrorism at Fort Benning in Georgia.” Yes, he actually wrote that. All too often, his stuff reads like some kind of parody of knee-jerk anti-Americanism. 

Who is this clown? We’ll dig deeper tomorrow.

Bernie’s economics

The image of Bernie Sanders as a lovable kook – a cranky but harmless Communist grandpa – was perhaps cemented for all time by Larry David’s hilarious impersonation of the Vermont pol on Saturday Night Live on October 17.

But there’s nothing funny about the real Sanders’s politics. He’s been representing the people of the Green Mountain State in Washington for nearly a quarter century – serving as the state’s only House member from 1991 to 2007 and as Senator since 2007. Although he’s running for President as a Democrat, he’s never been belonged to either party, and has served longer on Capitol Hill without a party affiliation than anyone else, ever.

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-VT, gestures as he speaks at the Californi Democrats State Convention in Sacramento, Calif., Saturday, April 30, 2011. Sanders called on Democrats to work together to stop what he calls the GOP's attack on the middle class.(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
Bernie Sanders

He calls himself a “democratic socialist” and says he admires the political systems in the Nordic countries. We’re not the first observers to point out that his image of the Nordic countries seems hopelessly stuck in the past – but, then, his politics in general seem hopelessly stuck in the past. Although born in 1941, he brings to mind the raving New York Communists of the 1930s, who, from the safety of America, cheered Uncle Joe Stalin, turning a blind eye to the Gulag, the show trials, and the Ukrainian famine, and forgiving him for the shock of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact as soon as Hitler invaded Russia. Listening to Sanders, you’d think socialism had never been tried – you’d think, in fact, that the entire twentieth century had never happened, and its horrific lessons never been learned.

Vermont is a pretty blue state, but Sanders is so far left that one suspects that for many voters there, a vote for him in a House or Senate election may not necessarily represent an affirmation of his entire worldview but may, instead, be a way of getting their little corner of the country noticed, and – just maybe – an attempt to shake things up, to give the two-party system a poke in the eye. One Sanders on Capitol Hill, in any event, doesn’t endanger the prosperity or security of the Republic. But the idea of Sanders as a serious presidential candidate is something else again. And the fact that he’s drawing huge, enthusiastic crowds – and getting standing ovations on programs like Bill Maher’s Real Time – is deeply worrying.

This is, after all, a guy who supported the Sandinistas in Nicaragua, praised their “very deep convictions,” met with their leader, Daniel Ortega, and – while serving as mayor of Burlington, Vermont, before his entry into national politics – arranged for his burg and Nicaragua’s capital, Managua, to be “sister cities.”

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Beautiful downtown Yaroslavl

This is a guy who honeymooned in the Soviet Union – specifically, in the glamorous tourist mecca (not!) of Yaroslavl, which he also made a “sister city” of Burlington. This is a guy who vacationed in Cuba in 1989, met with the mayor of Havana, and tried unsuccessfully to arrange a tête-à-tête with Fidel Castro – whom he admires greatly, insisting “that he educated [Cubans’] kids, gave their kids healthcare, totally transformed the society,” and saying that “just because Ronald Reagan dislikes” Castro and his cronies “doesn’t mean that people in their own nations feel the same way.”

This is a guy who, during his years as mayor, reportedly had “a socialism-inspired softball team…called the ‘People’s Republic of Burlington.’” This is a guy who, before getting into politics, “wrote, produced, and sold ‘radical film strips’ and other education materials to schools about people like Eugene Debs.” (In fact, Sanders “still has a portrait of Debs on the wall of his Senate office, and calls him a ‘hero of mine.’”)

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Empty supermarket shelves in the socialist paradise of Venezuela

At a time, moreover, when chavismo has emptied Venezuela’s supermarket shelves and rendered the bolívar virtually worthless, Sanders has nothing to say about that disaster – which is a direct result of the kind of socialist policies he calls for – but is busy complaining on the campaign trail about the “choice of 23 underarm spray deodorants or of 18 different pairs of sneakers” that America offers at a time when, as he claims, “children are hungry in this country.”

In short, he’s a guy who doesn’t understand economics. He’s a guy for whom the real-world consequences of implementing economic policies matter less than the ideological impulse underlying those policies. And that ideology? It’s an ideology that’s led him, throughout his career, to embrace tyrants and belittle liberty.

Joe Stiglitz, Soros “point man”

Yesterday we started looking at Joseph Stiglitz, the massively influential Columbia University economist who derides “American-style capitalism” while preaching government intervention as the key to prosperity. We ended up by stating that while Stiglitz has been called a liberal, it really makes more sense to call him a socialist. Why?

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The Socialist International Commission on Global Financial Issues. Stiglitz can be seen along the right side of the table, leaning forward, between the windows

Well, to begin with, quite simply, he’s a card-carrying member of the Socialist International. In 2008, he chaired a Socialist International commission charged with “tackling the global financial crisis.” The commission’s other members included not just socialists but out-and-out Communists from around the world.

UNStiglitz is also a fervent enthusiast for the UN, a supporter for a dramatic increase in its power, and an advocate for the view that the U.S. and other sovereign states should be subordinated to that power. He’s one of those people who believe, perversely, that when you scrape together the (at best) dicey representatives of a hundred or so corrupt, poor, unfree, incompetently managed nations and pack them into a building on First Avenue in Manhattan, they magically turn into a body of wise, noble, upright sages who are equipt to restructure the world order – and reorder the world economy. Among the UN officials with whom Stiglitz has closely collaborated is Miguel D’Escoto, a hard-line Marxist who was foreign minister for the Communist Sandinista regime in Nicaragua, who won the USSR’s Lenin Peace Prize, who’s an outspoken enemy of both the U.S. and Israel, who has publicly hugged Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad – and who, a few years back, appointed Stiglitz “to chair a high-level U.N. task force to review the global financial system.”

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Miguel D’Escoto

As great as Stiglitz’s enthusiasm for the UN is his contempt for the International Monetary Fund. In his 2002 book Globalization and Its Discontents, according to Irwin M. Stelzer, Stiglitz “almost equates the consequences of policy failures by the International Monetary Fund with the consequences of Nazi Germany’s final solution.” What, in Stiglitz’s view, needs to be done to fix the IMF? Easy: give more power to the African countries that are the chief beneficiaries of its largesse. As Stelzer put it, “in a perfect world it would be sensible to confer more power on the recipients of IMF assistance so that the funds might be deployed more effectively. But we don’t live in that world. Ours is one in which kleptocratic African regimes impoverish their nations with a combination of misrule, military adventures, and policies that discourage inward investment.”

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George Soros

Then there’s Stiglitz’s connection to George Soros, the far-left multibillionaire who is actively seeking to use his wealth to transform the world – and, not least, as we’ve seen in previous posts on this site, diminish American power and American freedom. Soros, as Cliff Kincaid has observed, “wants to phase out the U.S. dollar as the international reserve currency and bring the U.S. into a system of international socialism, with new and more powerful global agencies deciding our economic and financial fate.” And who is Soros’s “point man” on this alarming project? None other than Joe Stiglitz – who, as head of a Soros-funded NGO called the Initiative for Policy Dialogue, is fighting for the institution of “a new international currency” and of an international taxation system.

Yes, you read that right: an international taxation system.

More tomorrow.