"Each of the three major races plays a distinct role in history.... The whites were the creators of civilization, the yellows its sustainers and copyists, the blacks its destroyers." -- Council of Conservative Citizens, December. The CCC, in the same Web posting, calls Abraham Lincoln "surely the most evil American in history," and Martin Luther King a "depraved miscreant." The CCC adds, "The presence [in Congress] of even one white person with our interests foremost in his mind is simply unacceptable to the issues-obsessed conservative race traitors. Texas Governor George Bush and his brother Jeb in Florida have manifested their self-hatred by embracing Hispanics ahead of whites. Somehow we must find a way to relieve whites of their self-hatred. ...If we want to live, white Americans must begin today to lay the foundations of our future and our children's future.... Start today, fellow white Americans. Look at the faces around you: Find the faces like yours, and see them as your brothers and sisters. Find the fair-skinned babies and see them as your children."
- December: Newly elected president Hugo Chavez takes power in Venezuela. Chavez presides over the rebirth of OPEC, which has become a shadow of its former self, with member nations routinely exceeding their quotas and refusing to cooperate with its fellows. Venezuela in particular had become one of OPEC's most unreliable members; Venezuala's overproduction, along with the expansion of oil production in non-OPEC nations such as Russia and Mexico, have led to a steep decline in the price of oil. Chavez, knowing that Venezuela is almost totally dependent on oil revenues, promises to bring OPEC back into prominence. In 2000, Chavez organizes the second-ever meeting of OPEC heads of state in Caracas, and regularly pressures other nations, both OPEC and non-OPEC members, to control and regulate their oil production to maintain a steady price of between $22 and $28 a barrel. His efforts bear almost immediate fruit, when the price of oil rises for the first time since 1985, to around $27/barrel. Soon, however, Chavez finds himself in conflict with the management of Venezuela's state-run oil industry, PDVSA, which has for fifteen years been more concerned with all-out production rather than OPEC quotas. The result is, first, a steady rotation of PDVSA presidents and, later, an all-out confrontation between the Chavez government and the oil industry. Chavez will use this conflict to argue that what the oil industry needed was a complete re-nationalization because it has become too independent of the state and had turned into a "state within a state." By doing so, Chavez earns the ire of both the Bush administration and the international oil companies, and becomes a target for coup d'etat attempts by Washington. (Venezuela Analysis, Greg Palast)
- December 1: US intelligence releases an assessment that states, "bin Laden is actively planning against US targets.... Multiple reports indicate that [he] is keenly interested in striking the US on its own soil.... Al-Qaeda is recruiting operatives for its attacks on the US but has not yet identified potential targets." Three days later, CIA director George Tenet will issue a "declaration of war" on al-Qaeda. A Congressional investigation shows that the FBI strongly downplayed Tenet's statements, and that no major shifts in focus, budgets, or personnel ever takes place within the CIA or FBI as a result of Tenet's declaration. Later in the year, Clinton signs a directive authorizing the CIA to plan and carry out the assassination of Osama bin Laden. The attempt is never made, ostensibly because of inadequate intelligence, but several high-level CIA members claim that the planning was always subject to interference from the highest levels of American intelligence. (CCR)
- December 5: Unocal withdraws from the CentGas consortium, essentially giving up on the pipeline. (Albion Monitor/AlterNet, BBC/Killtown, From the Wilderness)
"My biggest fear is going to be going to the funeral of some young Iowa man or woman who dies in this conflict and having their mother or father come up to me and ask whether or not their son or daughter died for America, or died to save Bill Clinton's presidency. I don't know what I would say to those grieving parents. For that reason I believe the President must resign immediately." -- Republican representative Jim Nussle, Congressional Record, H11963, 12-18-98, quoted by Brandi Mills
"Operation Desert Fox"
- December 16-19: "Operation Desert Fox" commences; four days of air strikes by the US and Britain against various military and weapons storage targets end on the first day of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Justified as punishment for Iraq's supposedly forcible removal of UN weapons inspectors, in reality, the inspectors withdrew under the orders of Richard Butler, the head of the weapons inspection teams. Butler unilaterally violated agreed-upon UN Security Council protocols drawn up in recognition of Iraq's legitimate security concerns, and accepted by the UN Security Council in 1996. Butler violated the agreed-upon UN Security Council protocols demanding inspection of an Iraqi "sensitive site;" this resulted in Iraqi officials refusing entry to several sites, and Butler ordering the teams' withdrawal. The operation is widely viewed as "an international PR disaster for the US and Britain, who were widely condemned by the international community for their belligerence. The lack of UN support for the bombing, the proximity of the attack to Ramadan, and the teaming up of the world's only superpower with the former colonial superpower helped to create the perception that Saddam Hussein was less a venal megalomaniac than a victim." Clinton encounters massive resistance from Republicans in Congress, who accuse him of using the bombing raids to distract America's attention from the Lewinsky affair. Most Republicans flatly refuse to support Clinton's attempts to curb Hussein's attempts to build WMDs. After Desert Fox, the US and Britain will abandon such overt maneuvers and begin low-profile air strikes on a weekly, sometimes daily, basis over the next four years; the strikes are all but ignored by the Western press. The air strikes are incorporated into "Operation Northern Watch," a British-US air mission based in Turkey that in 1997 began to monitor the northern no-fly zone. (Washington Post, Falling Leaf, FactMonster, US/Iraq Relations Timeline, MidEast Web, A Timeline of Oil and Violence)
- December 16: House Senate Leader Trent Lott is outed as a supporter and frequent speaker of the Council of Conservative Citizens, a white supremacist organization harking back to the White Citizens' Councils of post-Reconstruction America. The WCC, the respectable counterparts to the Ku Klux Klan, had their ideals reflected in the CCC since its birth 1985. Lott has frequently spoken at CCC functions, and has described the Republican agenda as an outgrowth of the "ideals" of Confederate President Jefferson Davis. Though the CCC and Lott publicly disavow their support for each other, the exposure opens a window on a much larger picture of underground Republican support for extremist white supremacist groups, an exposure that will also place Georgia's US representative Bob Barr at CCC meetings and document support from Mississippi governor Kirk Fordice, former Geogia governor Guy Hunt, and US Senators Jesse Helms and John Ashcroft, who will later become Attorney General (the Missouri CCC chapter will describe Ashcroft's 2001 appointment as Attorney General as "our ship coming in.") CCC ties to the organizations of white supremacist David Duke also prove embarrasing. (Joe Conason, George Loper)
Livingston resigns over sexual improprieties
- December 18: Newly named Speaker of the House Bob Livingston, a Republican, resigns the position after his own marital infidelities are exposed in the press. He urges Clinton to resign as well; Clinton responds with a plea for Livingston to reconsider. Like Gingrich, Livingston would later resign his House seat as well. Livingston was be threatened by Hustler publisher Larry Flynt to be "outed" for his numerous marital transgressions and sexual oddities, and Livingston agreed to resign if Flynt would keep mum. Reporter Joe Conason later says, "I talked to the investigator who looked into Bob Livingston's lifestyle at the time, and it was baroque. I mean, he made Clinton look kind of mundane. ...You know, he was terribly afraid of being exposed. He would never have been able to show his face in public again. Now he's down there [in Washington] as a lobbyist, and it's almost as if none of this stuff ever happened to him." (CNN, Buzzflash, H.R. Clinton)
House votes to impeach Clinton
- December 19: The House of Representatives votes to impeach President Clinton on two of four articles, charging him with lying under oath to a federal grand jury and obstructing justice. Both charges pass with narrow majorities, with almost every Republican member voting to impeach. Interestingly enough, with the Democratic gains in the House, the Republican leadership realizes that if they wait until the next session, when the newly elected representatives take their seats, that they will not have enough votes to impeach, so they force a late-session hearing where the unseated Republicans can, as their last act before leaving office, vote for impeachment. Many describe the House hearings on impeachment as almost perfunctory. (Family Education, Clinton Impeachment Timeline, Wikipedia)
- Late December: UNICEF estimates that over 500,000 children under the age of 5 have died in Iraq since the sanctions were imposed in 1991. (US/Iraq Relations Timeline)
- Towards the end of the year, FBI counter-terrorism expert John O'Neill reports his extreme frustration with the Saudis in his investigation of the embassy bombings. He alleges direct interference from the Saudi government, including the execution of key witnesses hours before O'Neill arrives to interrogate them. (CCR)
- 1998 - 1999: Satirical journalist Jon Ronson spends time over these two years with the new Grand Wizard of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, Thom Robb. Ronson will eventually make a documentary for the BBC from his encounters with Robb, called The New Klan. Robb, a patron of David Duke's attempt to "make over" the traditional Klan to make the organization less publicly offensive, repeatedly, and unsuccessfully, urges his followers to eschew public outpourings of racist language and instead focus on the organization's "love of the white race." He has also set up numerous public service campaigns, including highway cleanups, and has urged his followers to wear white shirts and black trousers in public instead of the traditional white robes and hoods. Of course, Robb's efforts to mask his organization's, and his own, racism, is merely concealment of his true feelings. Robb is a "pastor" in the so-called "Christian Identity" movement, which holds that northern Europeans are the true descentdants of the Biblical Israelites and that the Jews are descended from Satan. Robb has stated: "I hate Jews. I hate race-mixing Jews. We've let Antichrist Jews into our country and we've been cursed with abortion, inflation, homosexuality, and the threat of war." About blacks, he wrote in 1990, "When the Negro was under the natural discipline of white authority, white people were safe from the abuse and violence of the Negro, but the Negro was also safe from himself." Robb's public moderation has led to a split in the Klan, with many leaving his organization to found more publicly intolerant groups such as White Aryan Resistance (WAR). Others, such as Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, left Robb's organization to go it alone. Klan leader David Neumann has reportedly said: "Thom Robb is a poor example of a Klansman. He comes off as a young Republican, not as a racialist."
- Ronson documents the interesting, and sometimes ludicrous, tactics used by Robb and his fellows to remake his followers, including passing out copies of Dale Carnegie's How to Win Friends and Influence People, and administering personality tests to perplexed Klan followers. "There is nothing more important than winning political power," Robb tells his followers, and to that end they must moderate their public image. (Nixkor, Jon Ronson, who was kind enough to clarify the dates for me)
- 1998- 2000: Over 36,000 sorties are flown over the no-fly zones in Iraq, including 24,000 combat missions. In 1999 alone, over 1,800 bombs are dropped and over 450 targets hit. British PM Tony Blair dismisses the bombings, claiming that the no-fly zones are there for "humanitarian reasons" as protection for the Shi'ite and Kurd minorities. This does not explain the dozens of documented aerial attacks against shepherds and their flocks, farmers and their fields, and civilian villages with no weaponry or structures warranting such attacks. "We're down to the last outhouse," one American military official complains in 1999. "There are still some things left, but not many."
- Late 1998-January 2001: The US permanently stations two submarines in the Indian Ocean, ready to hit al-Qaeda with cruise missiles on short notice. Six to ten hours advance warning is now needed to review the decision, program the cruise missiles and have them reach their target. On at least three occasions, spies in Afghanistan report bin Laden's location with information suggesting he would remain there for some time. Each time, Clinton approves the strike. Each time, CIA Director George Tenet says the information is not reliable enough and the attack cannot go forward. The submarines are removed shortly after President Bush takes office. (CCR)