TRUMP, LOOSE NUKES, THE RUSSIAN MAFIA, SEYMOUR HERSH, AND THE MYSTERY OF THE MISSING LINK

9 09 2018

Recently, I went looking for something authoritative about Russia during “the lawless years” that followed the fall of the USSR. After doing some internet searching, I found that Seymour Hersh, whose reputation is reasonably impeccable, had written a story, entitled “The Wild East,” on that subject in 1994. Yes, I know there are those who attack him, but if you’re reporting on things that annoy those in power, or who aspire to power, you will be attacked. Hersh has won plenty of recognition for his work, and this particular piece was published in The Atlantic, which does not put its support behind dicey reporting.

The page was so discouraging to look at that I almost gave up without reading it. It was in that old-style 90’s internet format–wall-to-wall words, no margins, no pictures, no skipped lines between paragraphs. At the top of the page were an underlined 1 and a 2, indicating that it was the second page of an article, since the 2 was black and the one was blue. Might as well start at the beginning, I said to myself, and jumped to page one.

The US embassy in Moscow

Hersh began his story with an account of the unsolved murder of a staff member of the American Embassy in Moscow: Read the rest of this entry »





LARRY NASSAR AND THE BOUNDARIES OF COMPASSION

18 02 2018

Even in the midst of a veritable avalanche of revelations of sexual predation, the case of Larry Nassar sticks out like a gaping, bleeding wound. It’s not just that he took advantage of his position as US Olympic Gymnastics Team doctor to use the bodies of young girls as objects in his sexual fantasies. It’s not just that, apparently, a whole lot of the officials involved with him knew what he was doing, and chose to ignore it. It’s that, in our culture, the objectification of female bodies is, in many ways, the norm, so that, viewed from a certain perspective, what he was doing was not so far out of the ordinary. Our commercial culture uses sexually attractive women’s bodies as a lure to sell things to men, and as a way to shame women, deny their worth, and guilt-trip them into buying things that will, supposedly, make them more worthy. In this world of women-as-objects, sex becomes detached from emotional intimacy. “Sex robots” seem like a reasonable use of technology….hey, they’re just the ultimate sex toy, right? This objectification, and consequent alienation, is a symptom of the normalization of sociopathy in our culture.

not the real thing…just a fantasy

People are rightly horrified by Nassar and what he has done. The father of one of his victims attempted to assault him in the courtroom. He will not be the last person to do so. Child molesters are the very bottom of the social ladder in prison, and often meet violent ends. Whatever thrills Mr. Nassar got from taking advantage of the young girls with whom he was entrusted, he will be paying for them dearly.

But our culture has plenty of Larry Nassars  who have figured out socially acceptable ways to victimize innocent people. I want to examine the case of one man in particular, a man whose initial way of molesting women and children was to drop bombs on them. He didn’t know the children he killed and wounded. He didn’t even see them. He was killing people for what he considered a higher purpose, so that the country he lived in would prevail against the country whose women and children he was killing. Read the rest of this entry »





BRINGING IT ALL BACK HOME

8 08 2015

In some ways, our government’s shift to the use of drones for a lot of the “dirty work” of the “War on Terror” has been a publicity godsend.  Sure, the U.S. is still committing war crimes, but look at the up side: because “our boys” (and girls, now, too) don’t have to go out on so many missions that put them in harm’s way, a lot few soldiers are coming back seriously traumatized, wounded or in body bags.  Because these robot war crimes are being committed by soldiers sitting in front of video game consoles in Nevada, who kill from thousands of miles away and never have to actually experience the live reality of the deaths they cause, and because they are not subject to suicide revenge attacks by the relatives of those they have killed, fewer American troops are getting their brains twisted up by PTSD.  Because the deaths from drone strikes happen far away from the protection of American troops, American photographers are not on hand to record the atrocities created by our drone strikes.  The graphic images and horrific experiences that helped turn the American public against the Vietnam war and our full-on invasions in Iraq and Afghanistan are being neatly avoided, leaving the corporatocracy a freer hand to pursue their plan, which seems to involve killing enough Muslims to intimidate the rest into doing things our way.

 bad p.r.!

bad p.r.!

worse  P.R.!

worse P.R.!

I often wonder how long it will be until somebody who doesn’t like what our government is doing to “Islamic extremists” gets some drones of their own and uses them against us, or figures out how to hack our drones and turn our own weapons against us.  I’m sure it’s only a question of time.

hiroshimavictim

Really, really terrible p.r.!

And, speaking of time, this week we are observing the 70th anniversaries of those ultimate terrorist attacks, the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  Unlike Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan, they were part of a great military victory for the United States, but the public relations “fallout” was awful:  the brutality of those attacks inspired a worldwide peace movement that has helped restrain the U.S. or any other country from using a nuclear weapon in warfare ever since.  What a waste of money to spend billions of dollars on weapons that public opinion won’t let our military use!

This worldwide peace movement has, unfortunately, been at its weakest here in America, where we have not had a major conflict since the middle of the 19th century.  Here in America, we have long been insulated from direct experience of the horrors of war.  Is that photo of a corpse real, or CGI?

What if there were some way to bring the consequences of war back home, back into the lives, yards, and closets of every neighborhood in America?  With that thought in mind, here’s a macabrely comic monologue, written by Joanne Forman and delivered by Ruth Fahrbach.





THE EMPEROR HAS NO CLOTHES

7 08 2010

President Obama gets our truth in strange places award this month for his comment on Wikileaks’ release of tens of thousands of “secret” documents relating to the US war on Afghanistan:  “these documents don’t reveal any issues that haven’t already informed our public debate on Afghanistan.”

Unfortunately, that’s where his truth train left the track.   Well, not exactly…he also said the document release  “could potentially jeopardize individuals or operations,” and it could, but not because it released inside knowledge to the Taliban.  The information released by Wikileaks “jeopardizes” the war effort by revealing its rickety nature, and by  showing the American empire’s naked ass flapping in the Afghan breeze.  The emperor has no clothes.

One of the most embarrassing facts to be confirmed by the Wikileaks release is the level of co-operation between Pakistan’s intelligence agency, the ISI, and the Taliban.  This makes perfect sense, from the Pakistani point of view:  the US is just passing through, but the Taliban are going to be Pakistan’s neighbors for a long time to come.  Other embarrassments validated by the Wiki release are the total corruption of the Afghan “government” the US is trying to install, and the way US money keeps ending up in Taliban hands.

What the leak reveals is often evidence of war crimes:  civilian deaths,whether  by “accident” or by deliberate assassination of selected civilians, or, as with the Iraq helicopter video that prefaced the full release, the random, intentional slaughter of obviously unarmed civilians.

Considering the exposure of such tactics, it is hypocritical, if not downright schizophrenic, for various US government spokespeople and conservative talking heads to say that Wikileaks “has blood on its hands.”  Wikileaks did not set up the Taliban–America’s CIA and Pakistan’s ISI did that, to defeat the Soviets when they attempted to occupy Afghanistan.  Wikileaks does not conduct assassinations of reputed resistance leaders.  It has no drones, no jet fighters, no tanks, no artillery.  Wikileaks is not the source of hundreds of thousands of civilian casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan.  In fact, Wikileaks has been careful to censor the documents it is releasing so that they do not give away the identities of any Afghans who might be put further in harm’s way by disclosure of their collaboration with US forces.

But the government spin machine, like the right-wing spin machine that hopes to replace it in the next couple of elections, has never let facts stand in the way of putting its point across, and the parrots are squawking “Arwak–blood on his hands–blood on his hands.”  The precedent has long been set in this administration, like the Bush administration before it:  whistle blowers will be punished, but the crimes they blow the whistle on will be ignored, or even rewarded.  You know, Tim Geithner….

Meanwhile, the right-wing spin machine is doing its best to out-spin the government with its storm of indignation.  GOP Congressman Mike Rogers, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, has called for execution of the alleged leaker, Bradley Manning, for “treason during time of war.”  One problem, Congressman:  the US never declared war on Afghanistan, and “The Global War on Terror” has no legal standing as a “declared war.”  Not that that will necessarily stop anybody.

Marc Thiessen, a former speech writer for George W. Bush, claimed recently in the Washington Post that Wikileaks is “a criminal enterprise” and said, further

the government has a wide range of options for dealing with him. It can employ not only law enforcement but also intelligence and military assets to bring Assange to justice and put his criminal syndicate out of business.

The first step is for the Justice Department to indict Assange. Such an indictment could be sealed to prevent him from knowing that the United States is seeking his arrest. The United States should then work with its international law enforcement partners to apprehend and extradite him.

In other words, “shoot the messenger.”

Talk about hypocrisy and schizophrenia…conservatives were not nearly so concerned when Dick Cheney and Karl Rove outed Valerie Plame, an “act of treason” that didn’t just confirm what everybody knew already, but destroyed the US’s clandestine efforts to keep tabs on nuclear weapons proliferation–how’s that for “treason,” Congressman Rogers and Mr. Thiessen?  Are you ready to hang Dick Cheney?

I didn’t think so.  Consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, eh?

As our President said, Wikileaks publication of the US government’s “top-secret” Afghan war log didn’t really tell us anything we hadn’t suspected, but it certainly does confirm our worst suspicions.  The leak does make one thing very clear:   Afghanistan is just as much a “quagmire” as Vietnam ever was.  Attempts to “surge” and “win” will just kill more people, create more animosity, and waste more money and other resources that would be better spent fixing real problems like climate change, hunger, and the destruction of the natural world.  Bradley Manning deserves a medal, not a trial.  It’s time to grow up as a country, drop our fantasies of world domination,  and re-direct our national attention to what’s really important.

music:  Richard Thompson, “Dad’s Gonna Kill Me”





OBAMA–WHAT WOULD MLK THINK?

13 09 2008

A vast chorus of voices has been quick to point to Barack Obama as the fruit of Martin Luther King’s “Dream.”  I have my doubts. Here are some excerpts from Reverend King’s famous, but rarely quoted, speech at Riverside Church in New York on April 4, 1967, just exactly a year before he was assassinated in Memphis (substitute “Iraq” for “Vietnam” in this speech and it’s frighteningly accurate):

It seemed as if there was a real promise of hope for the poor – both black and white – through the Poverty Program.Then came the build-up in Vietnam, and I watched the program broken and eviscerated as if it were some idle political play thing of a society gone mad on war, and I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic, destructive suction tube. So I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor and to attack it as such.

Perhaps the more tragic recognition of reality took place when it became clear to me that the war was doing far more than devastating the hopes of the poor at home. It was sending their sons and their brothers and their husbands to fight and to die in extraordinarily high proportions relative to the rest of the population. We were taking the young black men who had been crippled by our society and sending them 8000 miles away to guarantee liberties in Southeast Asia which they had not found in Southwest Georgia and East Harlem. So we have been repeatedly faced with the cruel irony of watching Negro and white boys on TV screens as they kill and die together for a nation that has been unable to seat them together in the same schools. So we watch them in brutal solidarity burning the huts of a poor village, but we realize that they would never live on the same block in Detroit. I could not be silent in the face of such cruel manipulation of the poor.

My third reason grows out of my experience in the ghettos of the North over the last three years – especially the last three summers. As I have walked among the desperate, rejected and angry young men, I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems. I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through non-violent action. But, they asked, what about Vietnam? They asked if our own nation wasn’t using massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted. Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today, my own government.

***

The war in Vietnam is but a symptom of a far deeper malady within the American spirit, and if we ignore this sobering reality we will find ourselves organizing clergy, and laymen-concerned committees for the next generation. (We have now been doing it for two generations.–MH) We will be marching and attending rallies without end unless there is a significant and profound change in American life and policy.

In 1957 a sensitive American official overseas said that it seemed to him that our nation was on the wrong side of a world revolution. During the past ten years (now fifty–MH) we have seen emerge a pattern of suppression which now has justified the presence of U.S. military “advisors” in Venezuela. The need to maintain social stability for our investments accounts for the counterrevolutionary action of American forces in Guatemala. It tells why American helicopters are being used against guerrillas in Colombia (still happening, 40 years later–MH) and why American napalm and green beret forces have already been active against rebels in Peru. With such activity in mind, the words of John F. Kennedy come back to haunt us. Five years ago he said, “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.” Increasingly, by choice or by accident, this is the role our nation has taken, by refusing to give up the privileges and the pleasures that come from the immense profits of overseas investment.

I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. When machines and computers, profit and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it is not haphazard and superficial. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. A true revolution of values will soon look easily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say: This is not just.” It will look at our alliance with the landed gentry of Latin America and say: ” This is not just.” The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just. A true revolution of values will lay hands on the world order and say of war: “This way of settling differences is not just.” This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation’s homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into the veins of peoples normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice, and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.

America, the richest and most powerful nation in the world, can well lead the way in this revolution of values. There is nothing, except a tragic death wish, to prevent us from re-ordering our priorities, so that the pursuit of peace will take precedence over the pursuit of war.

Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. Riverside Church, NYC, April 4, 1967

Barack Obama, for all his “hopeful” rhetoric, would not dare endorse this radical analysis of American reality, which, sadly, is as true today as it was over forty years ago.  The “death wish” continues to dominate.  Obama proposes to give us guns and butter, as they say, but we know from the last forty years that it will be guns today and butter tomorrow, always tomorrow, because the sellers of guns are very skilled at keeping their noses in the trough.  Obama’s pledges to build our military will be kept, because that is how the system is set up.  He will throw a few crumbs to the poor and the middle class–who are rapidly joining the ranks of the poor–but it is clear from his speeches and the company he keeps that he is as committed to maintaining American hegemony as John McCain, both Bushes, and Bill Clinton.  He is not the heir of Rev. King’s vision.  He is just Colin Powell with charisma.  If Atlanta is looking for new sources of energy, I suggest they hook a generator up to Reverend King’s tomb, because he must be spinning in his grave.

Now, this kind of talk is going to piss off a lot of people, because to most people badmouthing Obama implies support for a McCain-Palin ticket.  Would I really rather see a PTSD-plagued, nearly senile reptile and a clueless Christian Dominionist bimbo run the country?  Wouldn’t I rather try and pull Obama left  than pull McCain towards the center?

Frankly, I have to take a deep breath and say yes, I think it IS a tossup, when you look at Obama as a slick, charismatic near-neocon partnered with an imperialist-drug warrior patsy for the financial-insurance-real estate tycoons. To those who think they will be able to pull Obama left, I say, don’t kid yourselves–bigger money than you’ll ever see is moving him where it wants him to go. I think it is a sad indication of just how unfree we are in this country when, at a time when we are facing momentous challenges and changes, these phonies are given the spotlight, and candidates like the Green Party’s Cynthia McKinney and independent Ralph Nader, who have real answers to the real questions at hand and should be dominating the race, are ignored by the tycoon-directed mainstream media and the public.

I think the country will come unglued faster if McCain wins, and slower if Obama wins.  I don’t think it will be pretty in either case, even though I believe the country needs to come unglued, so that maybe we can put it back together a little smarter than it is now.  I am not prescient enough to know whether a faster or a slower collapse would be better.  I just know that I would rather vote for what I want and not get it than vote for what I don’t want and get it.  You make up your own mind.

music:  Eliza Gilkyson, “The Party’s Over





Remembering Maximum Leader King

5 04 2008

As a teenager, I was a hanger-on with a small civil rights group in my hometown of Dayton, Ohio…the rest of the group was black folks in their twenties and thirties.  I helped them canvass neighborhoods and gather signatures for petitions, scaring the bejesus out of everybody when I vanished for a while in a particularly scary (even for them) part of town…but I’d knocked on the door of somebody who was listening to some very tasty jazz, and when I showed some appreciation, the guy had invited me in, offered me a beer and a cigarette (both of which I declined) and we were just grooving on the music together, and I lost track of time….but I digress….

“Maximum Leader King” was one of the names that members of the group (called Dayton Alliance for Racial Equality) had for Rev. King.  All that took place back in 1965-6, before Rev. King started talking about the wider context in which racism in America occurs.  Here’s Jeff Cohen’s appreciation of Rev. King’s true legacy:

King’s sermons on Vietnam could get as angry as those of Barack Obama’s ex-pastor: “God didn’t call America to engage in a senseless, unjust war … We’ve committed more war crimes almost than any nation in the world.” In 1967, King was also criticizing the economic underpinnings of U.S. foreign policy, railing against “capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries.” Today, capitalists of the West reap huge profits from their domination of media — in the U.S. and abroad.

Thankfully, we now have the Internet and independent media outlets where King’s later speeches are available for the ages.

If King had survived to hear the war drums beating for the invasion and occupation of Iraq — amplified by TV networks and the New York Times front page and Washington Post editorial page — there’s little doubt where he’d stand. Or how loudly he’d be speaking out.

And there’s little doubt how big media would have reacted. On Fox News and talk radio, King would have been Dixie Chicked … or Rev. Wrighted. In corporate centrist outlets, he’d have been marginalized faster than you can say Noam Chomsky.

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