Co-editors: Seán Mac Mathúna John Heathcote
Consulting editor: Themistocles Hoetis
Field Correspondent: Allen Hougland
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. FoxNews.com,
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.