Co-editors: Seán Mac Mathúna • John Heathcote
Consulting editor: Themistocles Hoetis
Field Correspondent: Allen Hougland


Anti-war Senator dies in plane crash in the US
John Heathcote, Sean Mac Mathuna

Democratic Underground Forum

Eerie parallels between crashes that killed Wellstone and Carnahan

Plane Crashes That Have Killed US Politicians since 1972

On October 26th 2002, the US anti-war senator Paul Wellstone was killed in a plane crash two miles from the runway in Minneapolis, along with his wife and daughter Suzanne Goldenberg, and three campaign staff and two pilots.
Many reporters have already pointed out how convenient it is that that George W. Bush's most outspoken opponent was killed in a plane crash less than two weeks before an election in which his victory was essential to maintain Democrat control of the Senate., reported that Wellstone was flying in a "King Air A-100 turboprop, said to be one of the safest planes in the air." Further, reports indicate "freezing drizzle and light snow had been falling and there was light fog, but officials are not certain the weather contributed to the crash." In addition, "the plane's pilots called the airport to get clearance for landing when they were about seven miles out, and they reported no problems, said Gary Ulman, who was on duty at the small airport at the time." As a direct consequence of Wellstone's death, Bush now has control of both Houses of Congress.
Wellstone, 58, was seen as a symbol of the anti-war movement for voting against Bush earlier in October 2002 on the resolution authorising the use of force against Iraq. He also spoke out against Bush's plans to open Alaska up for oil companies.
The race for the Minnesota Senate seat, which Wellstone held for 12 years - two terms - was perhaps the most closely followed in the country, not only because of its importance to the future of the house, but because Wellstone's stand on Iraq had been seen as courageous, but political suicide. Mr Bush personally intervened to anoint Wellstone's challenger, Norm Coleman, and has visited the state three times to campaign on his behalf.
In America ,it has already been pointed out that John F. Kennedy Jnr. died in plane crash, as did Mel Carnahan of Missouri when running against John Ashcroft two years ago. One former Gov. Roger Wilson, who was thrust into the governor's office upon Carnahan's death said:
"This takes me back because the dates are so close . . . It's a campaign flight, a state leader and family members lost. This is a horrible flashback and it's devastating."
Carnahan, 66, was entering the final three weeks of the campaign against the then Republican Sen. Ashcroft (now Bush's Attorney General) when he boarded a small plane on Oct. 16, 2000. The plane crashed in a storm south of St. Louis, killing Carnahan; his eldest son Roger, 44, the pilot; and campaign aide Chris Sifford, 37. Wilson announced before Election Day 2000 that he would name his widow Jean Carnahan - who had never held elected office - to take her husband's place in the Senate if voters elected him. Mel Carnahan posthumously defeated Ashcroft about three weeks later, making history; no one had ever been elected senator after their death.
Born in Virginia, 1944 Wellstone was the son of Russian Jewish immigrants. In 1984 he was Minnesota chairman of the Rev Jesse Jackson's presidential campaign. He was proud of his Jewish identity and was a vocal critic of Israeli policy.
In 2000 Wellstone had demanded that the Clinton administration investigate death squads killings that were linked to Colombian Military. When Clinton signed a bill that will provide hundred of millions of dollars in military assistance to the Colombian government to support its counter narcotics efforts, Wellstone wrote:
"During the debate surrounding Plan Colombia, the Administration and the Colombian government pledged to work to reduce the production and supply of cocaine while protecting human rights. The continuing reports of human rights abuses in Colombia confirm our grave reservations regarding the Administration's ability to effectively manage the use of the resources that will be provided while protecting the human rights of Colombian citizens."
Wellstone and others objected to the plan's military component, the "Push into Southern Colombia," given the detailed and abundant evidence of continuing close ties between the Colombian Army and paramilitary groups responsible for gross human rights violations. Wellstone put the following questions to US Secretary Albright:
1) How will the Administration ensure a vetting process guaranteeing that Colombians indirectly facilitating human rights violations, as well as those accused of direct violations, will not serve in battalions being trained by the United States military?
2) What will the Administration do to ensure that the alleged murders and human rights abuses in El Salado are investigated, and that those responsible are prosecuted?
3) How will the Administration address the needs of the victims at El Salado, including the nearly 3,000 residents displaced by the incident?
While the evidence in this case strongly indicates the link between the armed forces and the paramilitaries in the massacre at El Salado, it clearly confirms a negligence of the duty of the Colombian military and police to protect the civilian population. Similarly, on July 8, helicopters and soldiers from the Colombian 17th Army Brigade appear to have facilitated killings of six men by a paramilitary unit in La Union. Wellstone wrote:
"We are very concerned about the credibility of the vetting process used to insure that Colombian soldiers accused of human rights violations will not serve in the battalions scheduled to receive training from the United States military. It is our understanding that the vetting process checks only for those accusations of direct involvement in human rights violations and does not consider the fact that soldiers may indirectly facilitate abuses. This is reported to have been the case in El Salado"
In June 2002, Wellstone blasted the Clinton Administration's "Push into Southern Columbia" military plan during Senate debate, and offered an amendment to the Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill that sought to transfer $225 million from aid earmarked for the Columbian military into U.S. domestic drug treatment programs.
The Wellstone amendment failed by a vote of 89-11 following an intensive lobbying effort against it by the Clinton Administration.
In an Senate election on a knife-edge the former US Vice-President Walter Mondale is now standing in Wellstone's place.In Florida where Bush stole the election last time for the first time election officials from Albania and Russia will also be there to observe the process. It promises to be an interesting result.