Human Rights Internet and the Case of Nicaragua

–Matt Jones is a PhD candidate in the English department at the University  of Connecticut. His work focuses on post-Enlightenment discourse in 18th- and 19th-century British literature. He has contributed to the processing and description of the Laurie S. Wiseberg and Harry Scoble Human Rights Internet and contributes research commentary on the collection to the Human Rights Archives Blog.

Box 107, Fld 2

Box 107, Fld 2

In a 1989 issue of Nicaraguan Perspectives Noam Chomsky discusses the extent of events that, for one reason or another, go unreported by the US media. Asserting that the media are in fact “corporations” themselves, he explains that “this and many other factors influence [the media] to produce a picture of the world that reflects the interests of owners, advertisers, and the privileged elements that occupy managerial positions.” To those aware of the greater American involvement in South America – and elsewhere – this claim would not have constituted a particularly eye-opening revelation. It, presumably, would be even less momentous in our post-Wikileaks society. Of course, what made Chomsky’s piece in Nicaraguan Perspectives informative were the insights of these events that he described, as these were inaccessible to a public reliant upon the Times and the Post for its news. Though Chomsky and many others continue to expose and disseminate information unacknowledged by major American media outlets, there is much more to excavate beyond what can be included in a single essay, or chapter, or op-ed. Continue reading

Foreshadowed warnings and Unlikely Alliances

American foreign policy in the Middle East has long been characterized by uneasy alliances with unlikely partners.  For the last decade, our partners in the region have provided important support to American military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. However, as the wars in both Afghanistan and Iraq come to a close many academics are beginning to question whether certain alliances have been as helpful as many believe. In particular, American support for Saudi Arabia has been unwavering since the 2001 attacks despite the majority of the hijackers’ involved being Saudi nationals.  When compared with the human rights record of Saudi Arabia in basic legal proceedings one begins to question why American foreign policy personnel believe this relationship is beneficial for American image abroad.

In 1996 there was a terrorist attack on the Khobar Towers, a popular apartment building used by foreign military personnel in Khobar Saudi Arabia. Nineteen of those killed were American airmen. In response to this an open letter was written by Chandra Muzaffar (1996), Lessons from the blast: Opposition to US Alliance is strong within the kingdoms middle class.  The letter is very concise but provides an extreme amount of foresight into the future problems with United States involvement in the region. Firstly, it points out that the King of Saudi Arabia is considered the custodian of the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, and because US policy seems to dictate much of the royal families’ actions many are beginning to view the United States as ‘the custodian of the custodian’. Information obtained from the 9/11 Commission report has indicated that many of the hijackers from Saudi Arabia were indeed middle class well- educated persons.

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Sugar and Strife: the Dominican Republic and Caribbean Policies in the 20th Century

United States intervention across the South American continent largely took the form of an ideological proxy war with the Soviet Union. While these military and political conflicts varied in intensity and scope, it could be argued that U.S. engagement was never for the sake of any direct threat to national security. The same, however, cannot be said for the policies employed for the island nations of the Caribbean. While the government had the luxury of forming policy thousands of miles away, the internal affairs of nations such as Cuba, a mere 90 miles from the U.S. coast, were of large import. The Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 had made the security concerns of the Caribbean more salient to both the American public and actors in Washington D.C.

The island nation of Cuba has long been a geopolitical thorn in the side of the United States. As a Spanish colony, Cuba represented a threat to the established “Monroe Doctrine” of western supremacy, and even as Spanish influence waned the American government sought to control the nation through economic and political actions. Following the Revolution of 1959, Fidel Castro assumed power, relations between the two nations deteriorated as his Regime aligned itself with the Soviet Union. In return for economic aid and political support, the island became a strategic position for Soviet military resources, with the Cuban army often acting as a paramilitary group in the proxy wars in South America that I have focused on in my previous posts. U.S. policies regarding Cuba underscored the need for intervention across the Caribbean in order to protect regional security interests.

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April 21 - April 22, 2014
April 21 – April 22, 2014

The Archives and Special Collections in collaboration with the Dodd Center and Booklyn Artists Alliance, are hosting two days of events on War, Struggle and Visual Politics: Art on the Frontlines.  Events will be held in the Dodd Research Center on April 21st and 22nd in conjunction with the Week In Humanities.  Artists Seth Tobocman, Stephen Dupont, Marshall Weber, Chantelle Bateman and Aaron Hughes will be holding talks, workshops and presenting artwork around the focus of politics and activism in art and war.  Students, community members, veterans and artists are encouraged to attend these events to provide a dynamic facilitation of how we utilize art, activism and memory to cope with war.

Art work will be on display in galleries as follows:

Aaron Hughes : Institute for the Humanities : College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Seth Tobocman : Contemporary Art Gallery : School of Fine Art

Stephen Dupont : Coop Bookstore : Downtown Stores

For a full list of events, please follow this link for the Week in Humanities.

U.S. Operations in Bolivia: A Paradox of Policy

As was the case with the majority of the geopolitical proxy wars of the mid- to late-20th century, the case study of U.S. operations in Latin America throughout the cold war largely resemble neo-colonialism. This was the argument employed by Lawrence Whitehead (1969), a renowned scholar of Latin American democratization, who identified U.S.-Bolivian relations as a pure example of such; where the U.S. suborned the local regimes to protect its economic, ideological and national security interests through material aid. Such aid was used to keep sympathetic regimes in power and, further, the threat of curtailing this aid was a well-used manipulative tool that allowed the U.S. to bring regimes to heel.

In the particular instance of Bolivia, the economic and political factors underpinning U.S. operations were two-fold. For one, the nation was home to a considerable quantity of exportable tin that came to surpass silver as its most valuable commodity during World War II. However, it was the political turmoil that gripped Bolivia in the wake of the war that made it of significant concern to the U.S. government. Following a disputed election in 1951, in which the Revolutionary Nationalist Movement (MNR) was denied victory, the group launched a successful revolution in April 1952. A large motivator of this was the abject socioeconomic conditions to be found in Bolivia after generations of laissez-faire government policies and exploitative capitalism. The severe inability for the MNR to combat these issues was seen as an opening for the spread of socialism, thus Bolivia became embroiled in the Cold War power dynamics of the U.S. and U.S.S.R. Continue reading

Differing Views on Zionism

This week’s blog post will mainly focus on differing views of Zionism from within Israel and critics abroad. By contemporary standards, discussing the roots of Zionist ideology is rarely mentioned in the press. Furthermore, many politicians fear discourse that would anger Israeli leaders because US involvement in the region has grown in the past decade. Republicans and Democrats alike have long endorsed Israel, our ally, as a bastion of democracy and freedom in the Middle East.  The first piece examined for this week’s post was The Zionist State and Jewish Identity: a critique produced by the Israeli Revolutionary Action Committee Abroad (1973). This provides a critique of the ideological, cultural, and psychological aspects of Political Zionism. All articles have been written by Israelis who have been struggling against Zionism. image 4

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U.S. Political Leadership & El Salvadorian Policy

Michael Piersall is a senior undergraduate student in Political Science and Human Rights minor. In his blog series, he will study materials available in the Dodd Research Center’s collections to explore American Political Leadership with regards to Cold War activities in Latin America.

As a Political Science major, my academic focus often centers on the decision making process behind government action. As an “American-ist” more specifically, my interest lies in the deliberation and processes of the federal institutions that comprise the United States government. This semester, I have been given the privilege to examine materials in the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center that relate to U.S. governmental actions precipitated by its political hegemony, specifically in Latin America. While these materials are in no way restricted from public access, I deem this a privilege because I am, above all else, a current-affairs wonk; I prefer analyzing events through their perception in contemporary contexts than an isometric historical glance that one can find on, for instance, Wikipedia. Further, my academic orientation towards Human Rights, specifically political and economic rights has provided a lens for additional analysis of the international consequences of U.S. actions.

To that end, I have spent the last few weeks reviewing several documents from the Human Rights Collections that pertain to the U.S. covert operations of the late-1970’s and 1980’s in El Salvador. This assertion of U.S. hegemony is an example of its late 20th Century brand of foreign intervention. Beginning under President Carter, and dramatically expanded under Reagan, this incursion into the domestic affairs took the form of economic, political, and covert wars. Robert Armstrong and Phillip Wheaton, left-leaning journalists for Solidarity Publications, define the two political camps advocating for intervention in El Salvador as either the “Militarists”, bureaucrats in the Department of Defense, the Central Intelligence Agency and other such institutions, and the “Reformists” in offices such as Agency for International Development or the quasi-public American Institute for Free Labor Development, which was created in concert with the AFL-CIO and the funding of the U.S. federal government.

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Beyond Arms: Mercenaries and Foreign Involvement in the Middle East during the 1970’s


      I am a senior Political Science Major, with minors in history and human rights. I initially chose my internship with the Dodd Archives because of its unique holdings. Most famously, the Nuremburg Trial Papers have been examined by many scholars for the fundamental groundwork they laid for human rights advocates. As one of the youngest members of the millennial generation and one of the last children to remember watching the 9/11 attacks on television I feel a certain draw towards researching the Middle East. Furthermore, my involvement with the human rights program at the university has given me a distinctive outlook on international foreign involvement in the Middle East. The Arab Spring began while I was in my first year of undergraduate studies, and has continued to make headlines since. As a historian and political scientist I have noticed that the American population seems to have a short-term memory when it comes to American involvement abroad. I will attempt to remedy this phenomenon through my posts by concentrating on linking historical to contemporary international involvement in the region.

The Arms Trade of the Middle East: A Primer, by Howard H. Frederick

The Arms Trade of the Middle East: A Primer, by Howard H. Frederick

         Towards the end of the 1970’s the Middle East was going through a transformative period. This transformation was facilitated principally by the unrestricted and indiscriminate selling of weapons from the United States and NATO allies and USSR into the region. The Arms Trade of the Middle East: A Primer, by Howard H. Frederick published in 1977 extensively details the arms trade between Western and Soviet regimes to the authoritarian monarchs of the Middle East.

        The underlying problem with the arms trade outlined by Frederick in the periodical is the military industrial complex in place during the Cold War produced a need for selling American weapons around the world to benefit domestic defense contractors. One candid figure quoted by Frederick estimated the sale of one jet fighter earns back more dollars than the sale of one thousand automobiles. However, once weapons are sold to allies or enemies alike they become commodities on the world market. The following excerpt illustrates the totalizing system of the global commodity arms exchange:

Jordan sold American fighter aircraft and defense systems as well as British tanks to South Africa. British arms bought in New Zealand are being used by Irish Republican Army against British soldiers. US arms left over from Vietnam were sold at a Bangkok auction to a French dealer who in turn sold them to the rightist militias in Lebanon. US arms sold to Israel were used by Lebanese rightwing militias.

        -Christian Science Monitor, August 25, 1976

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Punks Freed

Pussy RiotIn a bold move, the Putin administration granted an amnesty releasing 30+ political prisoners from Russian penitentiaries last week.  Included in this band of rogues were members of the Greenpeace activist contingent arrested for disrupting Gazprom’s arctic drilling operations, the former richest man in Russia oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, and the two remaining  jailed members of the Russian feminist punk band Pussy Riot who denounced the church and Putin while taking the stage of a large Orthodox Church in Moscow by force.  Pussy Riot members had been moved to Siberian prisons as a punitive measure.  Many media sources, as well as the prisoners themselves, believe that the amnesty was passed to contradict Russia’s glaringly bad human rights record.  This measure precedes the 2014 Olympics which will be hosted this year in Sochi.  Already large mobilization campaigns have begun to boycott the games because of the discrimination and brutality which LGBTQ communities face in even the most cosmopolitan centers of the country.

In relation to this, punk rock still carries a torch for challenging power through art and subversive culture.  A new collecting area has been initiated for the Alternative Press Collection at the Archives & Special Collections for 1980s and 90s punk rock ephemera.  Still being cataloged, the Joe Snow Punk Rock Collection features show flyers, demos, distro catalogs, photographs, zines and lots and lots of Maximum RocknRoll.  The finding aid will be published in the coming month and is currently available for research.

Contact the curator for more details on the APC Punk Rock Collection.

Homelessness and Unemployment


Two weekends ago in the early hours of Saturday July 20th, two men were severally beaten on the garden bridge at the Mill in Willimantic, CT.  A group of youth armed with baseball bats took to the men, badly injuring one who will remain in long term care at Windham Regional Hospital, the other had his arm broken and severe bruising.  The youth attempted to throw the men from the bridge into the river below.  These men are part of the homeless community of Willimantic which camp along the banks of the river throughout the year.  This attack on the homeless by violent youth in a small depressed mill town reflects a hatred that is inbred through a societal violence of displacement and disparity.  Senseless acts of violence are rarely worth critiquing as this kind of debate relies largely on speculation and assumption.  However, the overwhelming rate of violent crime committed against homeless populations is more than crime of opportunity.  It lies within the perception of human disposability, the unwanted and unnoticed.  The No Freeze shelter of Willimantic is reopening (generally a winter only shelter) this summer in order to provide a safe space for those under threat of attack.  The best way to fight back against these types of crimes is to occupy space frequently.  Public space is for public use, the more foot traffic the more eyes to witness.  Large portions of the town of Willimantic are resurfacing from dereliction, we need spaces like the No Freeze shelter to continue operation to temporarily house people.  Thirdly, working towards community building, as demonstrated in our archival collections, includes prioritizing basic human necessities which a state like Connecticut – having the largest income disparity in the country – needs most of all.

The Archives and Special Collections houses Alternative Press Collection material as well as manuscript collections dealing with homelessness, unemployment and housing. The following are examples of relevant materials:

Barbara B. Kennelly Papers

Connecticut Citizens Action Group Records

Jeremiah J. Driscoll Collection

Capitalism and Unemployment, 1983. APC Pam 892.

Gingrich, Paul. Unemployment: A Radical Analysis of Myth and Fact, (1978).

Hartman, Chester W. Displacement, How to fight it. APC Bk f47

Helstein, Ralph. A Conversation – Jobs, Machines and People, (1964) APC Pam 765.

National Unemployed News, “Housing for People, not Profit,” (1983).

Unemployment and Overproduction, 1932. APC Pam 492

Unemployment and the Machine, International Workers of the World, (1934). APC Pam 170.

Unemployment Must be Abolished!, Interfaith Conference, Washington DC (1940). APC Pam 151.

Unemployed Workers Organizing Committee, Hartford CT. APC File