Truth and Reconciliation for US Empire

the coup against JFK and a half century of ignored warnings on energy and ecology

Impunity:
Latin America, South Africa and the US Empire

this page is under construction

"Lamentably, it is an historical fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily. Individuals may see the moral light and voluntarily give up their unjust posture; but, as Reinhold Niebuhr has reminded us, groups tend to be more immoral than individuals."
-- Martin Luther King, Letter from Birmingham City Jail

The elite deniers of the "triple crisis" (Peak Oil, Climate Change and overshoot) probably know that the ecological crises are real. However, the decentralized solutions would require them to give up some of their power for humanity to survive. It's like the fear of the slave owners in the United States around 1855 - they feared the slaves would do to them what they had done to the slaves, so emancipation was impossible for them to contemplate. This is where the "truth and reconciliation" model is important for defusing tension and allowing the change to happen.


My Personal Revenge, sung by Jackson Browne, from the album World in Motion
words by Tomas Borge and Louis Enrique Mejia Godoy,
english translation by Jorge Calderon

My personal revenge will be the right
Of our children in the schools and in the gardens
My personal revenge will be to give you
This song which has flourished without panic
My personal revenge will be to show you
The kindness in the eyes of my people
Who have always fought relentlessly in battle
And been generous and firm in victory

My personal revenge will be to tell you good morning
On a street without beggars or homeless
When instead of jailing you I suggest
You shake away the sadness there that blinds you
And when you who have applied your hands in torture
Are unable to look up at what surrounds you
My personal revenge will be to give you
These hands that once you so mistreated
But have failed to take away their tenderness

 

9/11 Truth and Reconciliation

To heal the wounds of 9/11--as with any deep emotional wound--it is essential that we ask these questions and come to know the complete truth about what really happened. It is only then that the heart of America can be healed, and only then can we move beyond fear to create a world of peace at this historic time."
-- John Gray, author of Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus.

"We need a truth and reconciliation commission on 9/11"
-- Rep. Dennis Kucinich, April 23, 2003, San Rafael, California

In the last days of the Apartheid regime in South Africa, it seemed likely that the inevitable end of white minority rule would result in a violent civil war in that country. The way that this was largely avoided is of critical importance for people in the United States of America to study and figure out how to emulate it to gently climb back from the abyss of excessive reliance on the "military - industrial complex" (as President Eisenhower warned us about) for our military strategies, economic policies and psychological attitude toward the rest of humanity.

The Truth and Reconciliation commission in post-apartheid South Africa, chaired by Desmond Tutu, made an interesting offer to the perpetrators of violent atrocities, both those committed in defense of apartheid and those committed by the "liberation" forces. These people would be offered complete amnesty IF they agreed to go public and tell what they had done, so that the nation would be fully aware of what had been done. Some of the relatives were very upset, and wanted the killers of their loved ones to go to jail (the widow of "Black Consciousness" activist Steve Biko was particularly bitter about this arrangement). But it was very important to avoid post-liberation civil war, and for the country, especially the white minority, to understand the crimes of the Apartheid era in order to keep them from happening again. The new government admitted that it had built a nuclear arsenal, which was (supposedly) entirely dismantled, which is a step forward in the evolution of human consciousness.

Representative Dennis Kucinich said during his campaign events that we need a "truth and reconciliation" t1ype commission to get the truths of 9/11. There are many ways that this could be structured, but the bottom line is that fear as a mobiliziing tactic to run society is not going to work in the long run, since our domination culture and the lack of restraint about destructive technology is eroding the ability of the planet to support our civilization.

There is no justice for the victims of 9/11, and no prosecutions, punishments, etc. can undo the horrors suffered by the three thousand dead, their families, friends, and everyone who was a bystander (whether in person or via the global television audience). However, 9/11 is also an opportunity to rethink how the human race can survive together, to tap into our collective abilities to cooperate and share food, and not merely react from the part of our consciousness that is based on fear and conflict. Like all other great conflicts, all sides need to understand that ceasing the cycles of violence is much more important than getting in the last attack or revenge -- unfortunately, someone will be the final victim of militarism, but hopefully, there can be a "final" victim and an end to the era of permanent war.

 

Rep. Dennis Kucinich proposal for a
Truth and Reconciliation Commission

www.thenation.com/doc/20080922/kucinich

The Truth Can Move Us Forward
by REP. DENNIS J. KUCINICH

September 10, 2008

America must move from the errant, retributive justice of 9/11 to a healing, restorative process of truth and reconciliation.

Before the Congress adjourns, I will bring forth a new proposal for the establishment of a National Commission on Truth and Reconciliation, which will have the power to compel testimony and gather official documents to reveal to the American people not only the underlying deception which has divided us, but in that process of truth seeking set our nation on a path of reconciliation.
We suffer in our remembrance of 9/11, because of the terrible loss of innocent lives on that grim day. We also suffer because 9/11 was seized as an opportunity to run a political agenda, which has set America on a course of the destruction of another nation and the destruction of our own Constitution. And we have become less secure as a result of the warped practice of pursing peace through the exercise of pre-emptive military strength.
It is not simply 9/11 that needs to be remembered. We also need to remember the politicization of 9/11 and the polarizing narrative which followed, locking us into endless conflict, a war on terror which has wrought further terror worldwide and which has severely damaged our standing worldwide as an honorable, compassionate nation. As we were all victims of 9/11, so we have become victims of the interpretation of 9/11.
Our government's external response to 9/11 was to attack a nation which did not attack us. Indeed on the first anniversary of 9/11, the Bush Administration issued a well-publicized stern warning to Iraq, which was part of a campaign to induce people to believe Iraq had something to do with 9/11.
The deliberate, systematic connection of Iraq with 9/11 has led America into a philosophical and moral cul-de-sac as over one million Iraqis and over 4,155 US soldiers have died in a war that will cost over $3 trillion. Additionally, soldiers from twenty-three other countries have died in the Iraq war.
We attempt to unite Iraq by further dividing it. We talk about restoring Iraq while taking steps to place control of its vast oil wealth in the hands of US oil giants. And we intend to impose upon the Iraqi people the cost of rebuilding a country our government ruined, keeping a once-prosperous nation lashed to debt and poverty for a long, long time. Iraq has paid for 9/11. We all continue to pay for 9/11.
The heartbreaking loss of the lives and injuries to America troops further binds us to the Administration's illogic of the Iraq War: We remember our troops' sacrifice by demanding more sacrifice; we support our troops by continuing the war.
The dominant color of our new national security since 911 is neither red, white nor blue. Every day is orange. Every day, reminders of fear of 9/11 become banal. Yet we no longer hear the airport announcements nor see the orange-colored warnings because they have commonplace standards in our new national security state, as is the Patriot Act, wiretapping, and a host of invasions of privacy and diminution of civil liberties. The Constitution has been roundly attacked by the very people who took an oath to defend it.
There is a powerful desire across America for change, not necessarily from control by one political party to another, but a change from living with lies to living with truth.
Over two dozen nations, facing peril within and without, deeply divided by politics and war have travelled down a path of restoring civil society through a formal process of reconciliation. At some point within each of those countries it was understood that the way forward is shown through the light of truth. This process is not without pain because it requires a willingness to study evidence from which eyes had been averted and ears had been closed. But in the process of truth and reconciliation, nations found new strength, new resolve, and new commitment.
The South African Truth and Reconciliation enabled that nation to come to grips with its past through a public confessional, bringing forward those who committed crimes and having the power to grant amnesty for full disclosure of crimes against the people. Of course, our path may necessarily be different: High US government officials stand accused in impeachment petitions of violating national and international law. Our continued existence as a democracy may depend upon how thoroughly we seek the truth. I will call upon the America people to join me in supporting this effort.
The truth can move us forward, as a unified whole, so that we can one day become a re-United States. 9/11 is the day the world changed. It is the day America embraced a metaphor of war. If we are open to truth and reconciliation, we may one day be able, once again, to embrace peace.


www.rawstory.com/news/2008/Kucinich_Seek_truth_not_fake_political_0910.html

Kucinich: Seek truth, not 'fake political unity'
Nick Juliano
Published: Wednesday September 10, 2008

Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) says he won't cease his efforts to hold the president and his administration accountable for their alleged abuses of power just because George W. Bush will be returning to his Texas ranch come January.

Kucinich says he wants Congress to create a "Truth and Reconciliation Commission" to examine what really went on within the Bush White House in the aftermath of 9/11 and the lead up to the Iraq war. He says only an independent body with truth-seeking as its goal -- rather than "fake political unity" -- can repair divisions that have emerged in an increasingly polarized nation.

During a brief press conference on Capitol Hill Wednesday, and in an interview with RAW STORY afterward, Kucinich said he would introduce legislation to create a commission before Congress finishes its current session at the end of this month. He said his proposal would be modeled on Truth and Reconciliation Commissions that followed periods of upheaval in other countries, such as the end of Apartheid in South Africa or to consider genocide in Rwanda.

He said the Bush administration's transgressions rose to the level of other countries that have seen the need for Truth and Reconciliation Commissions.

"We've seen a dramatic erosion of our civil liberties and disruption of cherished constitutional provisions. Over a million innocent Iraqis have been killed. There's an attempt to grab the national resources of Iraq," he said, referring to attempts to exploit the country's oil reserves.

"So actually, this kind of a process would lend itself to a spirit which all Americans are looking for. ... 'How do we reunite our nation?'" he continued. "But you can't do it just through some fake political unity. The only way you can do it is to is to seek the truth, and we haven't really done that."

Kucinich said the commission he would propose should have the ability to subpoena testimony and documents and also retain the ability to recommend prosecution of any possible crimes it uncovers. Like Truth and Reconciliation Commissions of the past, though, it also should be able to grant blanket amnesty to anyone who agreed to provide a full accounting of their actions while in the White House. He said the work of previous bodies like the Iraq Study Group and 9/11 Commission also would be examined by his new commission.

Congress and congressional committees already have many of the powers Kucinich described, such as the ability to subpoena witnesses, compel testimony through the threat of prosecution and grant amnesty. The problem is it's been hesitant in exercising them. (Before Kucinich arrived at the press conference, activists lamented Congress's failure to hold Bush administration officials like Karl Rove and Harriet Miers in inherent contempt -- i.e. ordering the Capitol Police to lock them up until they agree to comply with subpoenas demanding their testimony.)

"Congress has had the opportunity to act, and it's failed to do so," Kucinich acknowledged to RAW STORY. "But Congress can still create a process where the work can be done, and that's what the Truth and Reconciliation Commission will do."


www.fromthewilderness.com/free/ww3/081005_world_stories.shtml

The reason the Downing Street memos are not causing a politically significant wave of popular outrage is because everyone already did understand. The documents simply confirm in embarrassingly concrete terms the story that Scott Ritter and Joe Wilson and others have been telling us since 2002. If you’re outraged now, it’s because you’re pretending not to have known this all along. At this point it’s impossible to be shocked that a cadre of sociopathic Dominionist oilmen planned a racist war against a starved people floating on a sea of hydrocarbons. What’s shocking is that we can have the very minutes of the meetings become public without any consequences for the perpetrators. That means there is no legal infrastructure, no institution of jurisprudence that can inflict so much as a flea-bite on the tyrant’s finger.

Once you know about Abu Ghraib and Bagram AFB, you can’t be shocked by Guantanamo; it’s all one continuous horror and the shocking thing is that we continue to believe that the military – by which I mean the defense corporations and the top ranks of the armed services – doesn’t run the country. Sure, the American skin game is older than Theodore Roosevelt’s adventure in the Philippines – but there was also a military coup d’etat in the U.S. in 1963, and the perpetrators and their protégées are still in power. All these brutal police actions are somehow exceptions to the rule, aberrant blunders against a backdrop of benevolent lawfulness? No way.

-- Jamey Hecht

Desmond Tutu's advice for the next U.S. president

Desmond M. Tutu

Friday, September 12, 2008

For several years now, American pundits have commented sadly on the alleged rise of anti-Americanism abroad.

I am not aware of any such anti-Americanism. What has been growing is resentment of and opposition to certain, current U.S. government policies. America itself still stands tall in international eyes as a stronghold of democratic values and the ideals of individual liberty. All that remains is for informed citizens to stand up in November and call the country back to its roots.

Yet how does a nation accomplish such change?

South Africa completed such a transition a decade ago when it addressed the horrors of apartheid. At the time, a peaceful reconciliation between blacks and whites - between the long oppressed black majority and the controlling white minority - was by no means certain. Skeptics viewed our first black-led government with concern and uncertainty, wondering whether the natural urges for revenge and retribution would tear the country apart. That story had already played out time and again across the African continent, as it does today in Zimbabwe and elsewhere.

It was thus with amazement that the world witnessed South Africa's tranquil transition. The new democracy didn't descend into the predicted pit of vengeance or become ensnared in years of frustrating red tape over Nuremberg-type show trials for the accused.

At the same time, Pretoria also rejected blanket amnesty, which would have deepened the national wound by victimizing the victims a second time around.

Instead, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which steered us through these difficult times, provided a third alternative: that of restorative justice.

The commission chose to grant amnesty in exchange for the whole truth: a complete disclosure of all the relevant facts relating to the offense for which amnesty was being sought. A confessing perpetrator bore the stigma of public shame and humiliation regarding his crime, which frequently included very real family and career consequences.

The commission also created a means by which rehabilitation and re-acceptance into the community was possible, providing healing and reconciliation for victims and perpetrators alike.

Victims were able to share their stories in a friendly and supportive forum, affirming that they had not struggled in vain, while truly contrite perpetrators were given a chance to be salvaged and ultimately reintegrated into the community. By offering amnesty for a high price, the commission managed to reconcile the bitterly wronged with the wrongdoers.

World history has proved that forgiveness is never cheap or easy. Even in South Africa, there were some who said the truth made them want to see the perpetrators facing trial and others who refused to forgive, often because they claimed that the amnesty applicants had not told the entire truth. But the rare success stories like South Africa prove that reconciliation can happen on the basis of truth and there can be no future without forgiveness. Revenge only begets further violence. In the end, an eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind.

American voters would do well to keep South Africa's lessons in mind when they head to the polls in November. America's strained relationships in the global community are due largely to the fear and siege mentality that set in after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, causing many in Washington on both sides of the aisle to reject certain civil liberties considered core American values.

If the next U.S. president cares for global reconciliation, then he will stand up for these values and reject those policies that have weakened or undermined individual liberty. In this regard, I suggest that your new president would be surprised at the reaction of the world if he were to say to the world, "We made big mistakes over Iraq." And while he is at it, shut down Guantanamo Bay. And just as in South Africa a decade ago, it never hurts to say "I'm sorry."

With honesty, humility and international forgiveness, the United States can and should remain a beacon for liberty for the world long into the future.

Archbishop Desmond M. Tutu led the successful fight against South Africa's policy of racial apartheid and chaired the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/09/12/EDI912RL6D.DTL

This article appeared on page B - 11 of the San Francisco Chronicle

 

Obama v. Bush: another limited hang out?

It is likely if there are in fact any criminal prosecutions of the Bush - Cheney administration that they will focus on the relatively smaller crimes, not the biggest crimes. Deliberately lying for make the War on Iraq may get investigated more and maybe prosecuted, but even this would be a surprise given Obama and Biden's support for funding the War on Iraq. Deliberately allowing 9/11 to happen will probably not even be mentioned.


www.rawstory.com/news/2008/Biden_would_prosecute_Bush_officials_if_0904.html

Biden denies report: 'No one's talking about pursuing Bush criminally'
David Edwards and Muriel Kane
Published: Thursday September 4, 2008

The possibility that Barack Obama might seek to bring criminal charges against President Bush or members of his administration has been a recurring theme during the presidential campaign, especially since the Obama campaign has attempted to stress themes of bipartisanship. For that reason, Democrats have been quick to downplay any hints of possible criminal prosecutions.

Sen. Joe Biden aroused fresh speculations on Wednesday, when he suggested, "If there has been a basis upon which you can pursue someone for a criminal violation, they will be pursued, not out of vengeance, not out of retribution, out of the need to preserve the notion that no one, no attorney general, no president -- no one is above the law."

Brian Kilmeade of Fox & Friends raised that issue with Biden on Thursday morning, asking about "a report that if you guys are elected ... you're actually going to pursue criminal charges against President Bush's administration and different people that served there."

"That's not true," Biden immediately replied. "I don't know where that report's coming from. What is true is the United States Congress is trying to preserve records on questions that relate to whether or not the law has been violated by anyone. Anybody should be doing that."

Biden emphasized that "no one's talking about President Bush. ... I've never heard anybody mention President Bush in that context." He noted that "there's been an awful lot of unsavory stuff that's gone on ... but I have no evidence of any of that. No one's talking about pursuing President Bush criminally."

Biden concluded his comments by explaining that possible misdeeds are "being looked into now, just so it never happens again in any other administration. ... The Obama-Biden administration is not going to start off saying, 'God, let's go take a look at what this --.' The American people want to know what we're going to do, not what happened."


www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/sep/03/uselections2008.joebiden

Obama might pursue criminal charges against Bush
· Biden says criminal violations will be pursued
· Democrats have issued subpoenas to Bush aides
· 3 staffers have been held in contempt of Congress
Elana Schor in Washington
guardian.co.uk, Wednesday September 03 2008 19:32 BST

Democratic vice-presidential nominee Joe Biden said yesterday that he and running mate Barack Obama could pursue criminal charges against the Bush administration if they are elected in November.

Biden's comments, first reported by ABC news, attracted little notice on a day dominated by the drama surrounding his Republican counterpart, Alaska governor Sarah Palin.

But his statements represent the Democrats' strongest vow so far this year to investigate alleged misdeeds committed during the Bush years.

"If there has been a basis upon which you can pursue someone for a criminal violation, they will be pursued," Biden said during a campaign event in Deerfield Beach, Florida, according to ABC.

"[N]ot out of vengeance, not out of retribution," he added, "out of the need to preserve the notion that no one, no attorney general, no president -- no one is above the law."

Obama sounded a similar note in April, vowing that if elected, he would ask his attorney general to initiate a prompt review of Bush-era actions to distinguish between possible "genuine crimes" and "really bad policies".

"[I]f crimes have been committed, they should be investigated," Obama told the Philadelphia Daily News. "You're also right that I would not want my first term consumed by what was perceived on the part of Republicans as a partisan witch hunt, because I think we've got too many problems we've got to solve."

Congressional Democrats have issued a flurry of subpoenas this year to senior Bush administration aides as part of a broad inquiry into the authorisation of torturous interrogation tactics used at the Guantanamo Bay prison camp.

Three veterans of the Bush White House have been held in criminal contempt of Congress for refusing to respond to subpoenas: former counsel Harriet Miers, former political adviser Karl Rove, and current chief of staff Josh Bolten. The contempt battle is currently before a federal court.


www.philly.com/philly/blogs/attytood/Barack_on_torture.html

MONDAY, APRIL 14, 2008
Philadelphia Daily News
Will Bunch

Obama would ask his AG to "immediately review" potential of crimes in Bush White House

Tonight I had an opportunity to ask Barack Obama a question that is on the minds of many Americans, yet rarely rises to the surface in the great ruckus of the 2008 presidential race -- and that is whether an Obama administration would seek to prosecute officials of a former Bush administration on the revelations that they greenlighted torture, or for other potential crimes that took place in the White House.

Obama said that as president he would indeed ask his new Attorney General and his deputies to "immediately review the information that's already there" and determine if an inquiry is warranted -- but he also tread carefully on the issue, in line with his reputation for seeking to bridge the partisan divide. He worried that such a probe could be spun as "a partisan witch hunt." However, he said that equation changes if there was willful criminality, because "nobody is above the law."

The question was inspired by a recent report by ABC News, confirmed by the Associated Press, that high-level officials including Vice President Dick Cheney and former Cabinet secretaries Colin Powell, John Ashcroft and Donald Rumsfeld, among others, met in the White House and discussed the use of waterboarding and other torture techniques on terrorism suspects.

I mentioned the report in my question, and said "I know you've talked about reconciliation and moving on, but there's also the issue of justice, and a lot of people -- certainly around the world and certainly within this country -- feel that crimes were possibly committed" regarding torture, rendition, and illegal wiretapping. I wanted to know how whether his Justice Department "would aggressively go after and investigate whether crimes have been committed."

Here's his answer, in its entirety:

What I would want to do is to have my Justice Department and my Attorney General immediately review the information that's already there and to find out are there inquiries that need to be pursued. I can't prejudge that because we don't have access to all the material right now. I think that you are right, if crimes have been committed, they should be investigated. You're also right that I would not want my first term consumed by what was perceived on the part of Republicans as a partisan witch hunt because I think we've got too many problems we've got to solve.

So this is an area where I would want to exercise judgment -- I would want to find out directly from my Attorney General -- having pursued, having looked at what's out there right now -- are there possibilities of genuine crimes as opposed to really bad policies. And I think it's important-- one of the things we've got to figure out in our political culture generally is distinguishing betyween really dumb policies and policies that rise to the level of criminal activity. You know, I often get questions about impeachment at town hall meetings and I've said that is not something I think would be fruitful to pursue because I think that impeachment is something that should be reserved for exceptional circumstances. Now, if I found out that there were high officials who knowingly, consciously broke existing laws, engaged in coverups of those crimes with knowledge forefront, then I think a basic principle of our Constitution is nobody above the law -- and I think that's roughly how I would look at it.

The bottom line is that: Obama sent a clear signal that -- unlike impeachment, which he's ruled out and which now seems a practical impossibility -- he is at the least open to the possibility of investigating potential high crimes in the Bush White House. To many, the information that waterboarding -- which the United States has considered torture and a violation of law in the past -- was openly planned out in the seat of American government is evidence enough to at least start asking some tough questions in January 2009.

Posted by Will Bunch

 

Zimbabwe Truth and Reconciliation

http://zimbabwesituation.com/apr14a_2008.html

Poor Zimbabwe

By R.W. JOHNSON
FROM TODAY'S WALL STREET JOURNAL EUROPE
April 14, 2008

HARARE, Zimbabwe

The mood here has greatly darkened with each sign that the regime is intent on reversing by force the popular verdict of Zimbabwe's March 29 election. Robert Mugabe announced last week that his ruling ZANU-PF is challenging 21 parliamentary results and recounting the presidential vote in 23 constituencies. The electoral commission has been removed to a secret venue to which the opposition has no access. Major ballot-stuffing is feared. Electoral officials have been arrested, and the Mugabe-loyal war veterans deployed.

It was all very different 10 days ago. The body language on the streets of Harare was notably more up-beat as the election results slowly dribbled in. Morgan Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change had, with its allies, a clear majority of 121-96 in parliament, and the opposition leader was ahead of Mr. Mugabe by roughly 49% to 42% in the presidential vote. Everywhere you could see people, beaten down by years of terror and appalling economic adversity, just daring to hope for the first time. You even began to notice the odd MDC T-shirt and even, very daringly, an MDC-marked vehicle parked outside party headquarters at Harvest House on Nelson Mandela Street. Harvest House itself, so often the focus of police raids, wore a proud ribbon of bunting announcing that it housed the MDC. Whenever the crowd in the street thought Mr. Tsvangirai might be about to arrive there were shouts of euphoria and triumph.

Everywhere people talked excitedly of the changes they wanted to see. Despite Mr. Mugabe's ceaseless propaganda attacks on Britain and the U.S., these two countries were seen as saviors, the ones most likely to help quickly with food aid to prevent further starvation and with emergency funds to restabilize the currency. It was useless for ZANU-PF to talk of this as a neocolonial outcome: Neocolonialism sounds pretty good to the man in the Harare street, and he would happily vote for just that.

The news traveled fast that Gordon Brown had said that, if there was a democratic change, British aid could be there in just three days. Around the long queues waiting outside every bank – you can only draw out half a billion Zimbabwean dollars a day (about $12) – you saw many torn bank notes lying on the pavement, for all notes now bear an expiry date after which they cease to be valid. The thought of money which is actually worth something, which can buy real goods, is now as exciting to people in the queues as manna from heaven.

By the end of the week before last, the question being asked was: If Mr. Mugabe unleashes a fresh wave of terror, using the Green Bombers (his youth movement thugs) and the war vets (strengthened by placing senior army officers, masquerading as veterans, at the head of every unit), how would this affect the voting in the presidential run-off? My own estimate was that this would not be enough to prevent Mr. Tsvangirai from winning: The prospect of change was too exciting and too many people had glimpsed it.

In any case, Simba Makoni, the third-place candidate, had already lent his support to Mr. Tsvangirai, so pushing him over the 50% line would be almost a formality – provided there was an honest count. And provided, in particular, that officials adhered to the new rule of counting ballot boxes at the polling station at which they were cast, with the results posted publicly outside. This rule has made cheating a great deal harder in this election. So a key question is whether that rule will be upheld for the second round.

In the days which have since elapsed it has become clear that Mr. Mugabe and his hard-liners are willing to do whatever is required to cheat their way back to power. The Zimbabwe Election Commission members have been forcibly hidden away where no one but ZANU-PF can have access to them, and the election data is now classified as a matter of national security. No one doubts that Mr. Mugabe has appointed enough crooked judges to be able to rely on them to reverse results in his favor.

Of course the theft of the election will be obvious to the world, but the regime's credibility could hardly be lower anyway. And you can see why. Take Gideon Gono, governor of the central bank, the man who prints all the money. He has now acquired huge land holdings – one stolen farm after another – and should Mr. Mugabe lose power he will surely cease to be a land holder on such a scale. Most of the other ZANU-PF elite are in the same position and a lot of their wealth is inside Zimbabwe: They cannot just flit abroad and continue to live the same lifestyle there. So they will do whatever is necessary to hang on.

Does that mean they will just hang on forever? No, says Tony Hawkins, the country's top economist. Mr. Hawkins reckons that inflation is now nearing 200,000% and has worked out that if you count in what is already in the pipeline – the huge wage increases conceded on election eve, the ratcheting up of the government debt at enormous rates of interest, and so forth – then the inflation rate will hit 500,000% by June. He cannot imagine any government coping with that. Normal life of any kind will simply become impossible. Instead, whoever is in government will simply have to throw themselves on the mercy of the international financial community – whose first demand will be for Mr. Mugabe to stand down.

One cannot rule out this scenario. It is doubtful if the hard-liners now making decisions are relying on anything but gut instinct. They have no medium- or long-term plan; they just know desperately that they don't want to lose power or their ill-gotten gains. However, Mr. Mugabe will not go just because it's rational to do so. He will get into his bunker and rage against the world from there, just as Hitler did. In the end someone will have to push him. It would have been better by far if the electorate had been allowed to push him out now.

The alternative, if we're forced to that, will be a push from some sort of warlord or military renegade as the economy, society and political power all break down together. Not only is that situation likely to be very messy, but many more people will die on the way to it.

Mr. Johnson is southern Africa correspondent for the London Sunday Times