Human rights for even Anders Breivik

In retrospect, awarding the newly elected Barack Obama a Nobel Peace Prize was about as smartly ambitious as it gets. Everyone knows humanitarians don’t do it for the reward. A Nobel Prize is wasted if there’s not some eligible sociopath who might be influenced with the pressure to behave themselves. President Obama’s Nobel medal was an experiment in paying it forward. Who knows how much more bloodthirsty Obama might have gotten with his drones had not the Nobel committee tried to extort him with its higher expectations? The Nobel award givers took a lot of ribbing for their foolishness from those of us who weren’t idealist enough. AND SO IT COMES AS NO SURPRISE when Norway’s mass murdering overachiever Anders Breivik sued his jailers for abusing his human rights because he wasn’t getting sufficient visitors in his cushy prison suite, that the Norwegian supreme court would rule Breivik was right.

Of course they did. If you’re not going to give a death sentence to a crazed bigot who guns down 76 children, if you’re not going to throw him in a hole but instead give him a spacious accommodation, if instead of a life sentence you let him pursue university studies and limit his incarceration to twenty some years, then you don’t want to isolate your prisoner from human contact if it might appear even as a semblance of solitary confinement. Because lesser cultures do that.

Lesser capitalist flagship states isolate, execute and torture. I so appreciate that Norway wants to set a high bar, but I despair that the land of Guantanamo and waterboarding and indefinite detention and ILLEGAL detention and rendition and extrajudicial assassination and no habeus corpus can’t even see this bar to reach it.

So Jon Stewart decides when an act of malice is too egregious to joke about? It’s called pandering, people.


Jon Stewart’s monologue last night was a moving response to the racist murders committed in Charleston on Wednesday. Dylann Storm Roof’s shooting of nine African Americans was hate crime and racism pure and simple. I cheered along as Stewart declared a comic intervention: America needed to sober up to the reality of its self-perpetuating racist crimes. I’m not sure Stewart could have reacted any differently, but his comedic turn was also a reminder for me of the manipulative tool the Daily Show has always been. World events are always filled with tragedy, which Stewart highlights and lampoons, so why is the Charleston church shooting more egregious than the mosques Americans bomb every day? Is Roof’s racism any more “home-grown” than our government’s? Does Jon Stewart decide for you when the laughter starts or stops?

I applaud Stewart calling for Americans to stop laughing about racism. #BlackLivesMatter #GodDammit! #GodFuckingDammit! Now I hope in his last shows Stewart can ask his audience to stop laughing at court jesters who provide escape valves for the horrors of systemic state-sponsored injustice.

Stewart followed up his Andy Kaufmanesque cold-open with an interview of Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai, the compelling child star of Pakistan, as balm for his being overwhelmed by the day’s trauma. Malala of course, the poster child for the machinations of the neoliberal globalists who need to enslave Third World young women to fill their free trade zone factories with Western-education-trafficked slave laborers. So if Stewart delivers the neoliberal agenda on a silver platter, who ordered the show-stopper?

BIDDER 70 doc reduces super-activist Tim DeChristopher to a number, lonely

BUMMER. I was thrilled a documentary would tell the world about Tim DeChristopher. You might think his achievement would be more widely know. It’s a testament of the power he’s up against, added to the meager support he has received, that even here I have to explain who he is and what he did. Tired of the futility of outdoor protests to prevent BLM land sales to the extraction industry, Tim DeChristopher attended an auction of particularly dubious legitimacy and successfully thwarted it by posing as a bidder and buying many of the lots. This happened at the close of Bush’s presidency, but Obama’s administration pursued a successful prosecution. DeChristopher has just been released after serving two years in federal prison. The documentary “Bidder 70” recounts the ordeal in a manner that provides neither encouragement nor inspiration, and leaves me to question how DeChristopher might have been better represented in court, publicized in actions, and celebrated in film. To say Bidder 70 reduces Tim DeChristopher to a number distorts the idiom. No mere number, DeChristopher is the important but solitary number one, among a casualty count always rising. In the sea of ineffectual activism that prompted his improvisational escalation, DeChristopher emerges more singular than when he started, but that’s to judge based on a flawed documentary. Hardly an surprising result.

It’s certainly armchair quarterbacking to suggest Tim DeChristopher’s legal team failed him miserably, likewise his publicity crew, but I can unequivocally conclude that DeChristopher would have served the environmental movement much more successfully had he been free to apply his imagination and energies, literally. Jail time helped Mandela, MLK and Thoreau, but that’s because you heard about it. The makers of “Bidder 70” can’t be faulted for their subject’s obscurity, but they are applying themselves to sealing his fate with coffin nails.

“Bidder 70” has major shortcomings: you are left with an informed impression that one, there is nothing to be done, two, you don’t want to do it in prison, and three, our collective impotence is inescapable. What’s the point then of attending the movie?

Of all the questions left for a post-screening Q&A, probably one should not be whether the subject is other than he appears. Explain this, how does a protagonist gain inspiration from being told there’s nothing to be done, by a Nobel Prize winner, whom he believes and holds as his mentor? Everyone loves a good challenge, but DeChristopher comes off as a poor listener. Nothing? I’ll see your nothing and raise you nothing. Futile? Count me in! Everyone loves an underdog, but he gathers no recruits.

Never mind his in-denial heroics, the audience takeaway is that his cause is lost. This is swiftly reinforced with the story of Tim DeChristopher’s road less traveled to prison. Offered encouragement by other activists who’ve served time, who we’ve also not heard of, it’s painted to be a fate of unimaginable awfulness and given an ominous soundtrack.

Who could not to admire Tim DeChristopher and respect his dedication and courage? The filmmakers painted in super-heroic light, notwithstanding his irrational adjustments, and so their thematic choice look awfully suspect. Are we likely to learn that they’re new to activism and have no idea what does or doesn’t motivate?

Filmed between 2009 and 2011 and released last year, “Bidder 70” makes no mention of “fracking.” The environmental movement has been literally bursting with opposition to hydraulic fracturing and these filmmakers were at the forefront of the national rallies. This omission is juxtaposed with a clip of 350’s Bill McKibbon praising the consumption of natural gas over coal.

Nobel snubs Bradley Manning, given to banking theocracy EU, after Obama and traditional Western inhumanitarians

The Nobel committee snubbed Bradley Manning and awarded the Nobel Peace Prize to the banking theocracy EUROPEAN UNION. And you thought President Obama was a reach. Actually the feudal ogre EU was the logical choice after a war monger and the traditional Western war criminals and inhumanitarians.

Li’l Abner on the debt ceiling panic

Patterned after GM president Charlie Wilson, who said: what's good for General Motors is good for AmericaWhen the satiric cartoon Li’l Abner was made a musical on Broadway, robber baron General Bullmoose sang Bring back the good old days, lamenting the regulation of capitalism, pondering:
“How can you break the market?
            How?
The SEC will not allow
            …one little panic.”

Today with graft unregulated and un-policed, the American public is made to panic for every swindle, to extort from them bank bailouts, tax breaks for the rich, and now cuts to “entitlements” such as poverty class pensions and medical care.

The Li’l Abner strip may not have had the legacy of Pogo, or longevity of Gasoline Alley, but it was the Doonesbury of the 30s and up to the 70s. In the introduction to From Dogpatch to Slobbovia, a little compendium of Abner scenarios, cartoonist Al Capp said this about his artistic intentions:

“to create suspicion of, and disrespect for, the perfection of all established institutions. That’s what I think education is. Anybody who gets out of college having had his confidence in the perfection of existing institutions affirmed has not been educated. Just suffocated.”

Avid fans included Queen Elizabeth, Charlie Chaplin and John Steinbeck who wrote:

Capp is probably the greatest contemporary writer and my suggestion is that if the Nobel Prize committee is at all alert, they should seriously consider him.”

As a side note, the Broadway cast of Li’l Abner included the character Stupefyin’ Jones, played by Julie Newmar aka Catwoman, and Appassionata Von Climax, played by Tina Louise, Ginger of Gilligan’s Island –if you always wondered how the character Ginger could not have failed to be a real “movie star.” Tina Louise began her career on Broadway in the 50s and was age thirty-something when the TV series aired. Imagine green-lighting an actress of that age today to play a sex symbol, yet Louise became as yet TV’s most enduring sex symbol.

Van Jones is Obama in Greenface, what our president did for race, Jones wants for the environment, New Jack Shit

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? He’s Black AND he’s Green, and like his former boss Obama, he’s a neo-eco corporatist pushing… Cap-N-Trade! In Al Gore Nobel Prize circles, Van Jones is the environmental darling who was too hot –we’re to infer principled– for Obama’s centrist administration. In post-Hope America, Jones turns out to have been the spoonful of Aspartame that helped environmentalists swallow just the next neoliberal pill, another pitchman for the bankers whose “Green Collar” remedy for our climate -and economic woes- is to trust in big business –let free trade and deregulated profits deliver mankind! No surprise then Colorado College is foisting the so-called upstart to dazzle the impressionable on Thursday March 3rd at Shove Chapel, 7:30pm. And the asshole (his word, not mine) compounds his offense by presuming to greenwash the few terms American workers have to grasp the real issue, class struggle. The blue and white collars differentiate who works and who keeps the profit, and by the way, who’s made the decisions that led the machine to environmental collapse and who pays the price. Green Collar doesn’t describe a shirt, it’s a leash. Oh but JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs, and the IMF don’t want to take you out for walkies. Their collar is a yoke of servitude, painted color of the day.

Nominate Julian Assange for a Nobel? Time Person of the Year? No, jail him.

I Am Just Sick. Julian Assange arrested, denied bail, confined to a UK jail cell deemed unsuitable for Bush, Blair or their murderous peers. Britain even assured Israel that its war criminals could visit England without fear of politically motivated arrest warrants. So much for the Assange-is-Mossad rumor. Arrested for what? Publishing evidence of governments conspiring against their peoples’ interests, in their own words? Really, what’s next for our pretense of Democracy?

No, it was accusations of sexual impropriety, technically. Rape and molestation being the corporate media’s chosen translation of how Swedes might describe a consensual sexual encounter gone off, according to post-coital television interviewees, turned insufficiently feminist-sensitive. Do I sound flippant? Two women in Sweden, described as groupies, of activist pedigree it’s alleged, one elder cementing the resolve of the younger, shall we call them Lewinsky and Tripp, accusing Assange of disrespecting their gender.

They play right into the stereotype I have of single-issue advocates who can’t get past affronts to their own personal agendas. Whatever Assange’s transgressions, is not the fate of the western world, the awakening of its public participants in the balance? Though Swedish authorities originally dismissed the accusations, the pair is determined to interrupt Wikileaks’ Cablegate to school Assange in his bedside manner?

Whether instigated by intelligence operatives or not, the charges made by the two women have been the only hooks which authorities have been able to get into Assange. Will extradition to Sweden to answer police inquiries lead to US rendition to a secret facility? Should we hope that at the very least the Brits resist US pressure to interrogate Assange, or affect the operation of Wikileaks by coercion and duress?

We must hope the Assange’s colleagues can secure Wikileaks before their sysadmin is tortured for his access codes.

Hearing the New York Times assail the character of Julian Assange as having delusions of grandeur, I’m reminded of how a centuries earlier ruling class rid themselves of the populist scourge Napoleon. Defeated once, Napoleon was able to escape banishment and had but to set foot on French soil and with only the force of his personality he was able to reconstitute his campaign to free the European citizenry of their despotic monarchs. Defeated again, Napoleon was too popular to execute and so was banished again. This time, it’s alleged, a heroic loyalist submitted to be contaminated with syphilis and thence to infect and ground the upstart Napoleon for good.

The remaining Wikileaks crew is at greater risk than Julian Assange, lacking his media visibility, they could be disappeared without fanfare. But that’s evidently a fading misconception of mine. Assange’s high profile hasn’t helped him.

Gaza we are coming

Gaza we are comingPlans are once again underway for another attempt to run the blockade of Gaza. Two ships are set to sail from Lebanon today or tomorrow, despite intimidation from Israel –which worked to prevent the aid ship INFANTS OF GAZA scheduled to leave from Iran. As a result, the Israeli navy is maneuvering to intercept, as it did for the recent Libyan AMALTHEA, and the Irish RACHEL CORRIE before that. Israel is even preparing “Flotilla 13,” the Shayetet commandos who killed nine activists on the Mavi Marmara in May. If it does leave, the Lebanese convoy will consist of a ship named MARYAM, carrying only women and nuns, and the JULIA (the Naji Al Ali) carrying journalist and Reporters Without Borders. It’s hard to imagine what reception the journalists are intent to document, Israel can hardly surpass itself with brutality, so will it be news?

Meanwhile another flotilla is in the works for September, which may include Spanish footballers. Canadian activists have announced efforts to contribute a Canadian ship, and US activists are raising funds for an American ship, to be named “The Audacity of Hope,” after President Obama’s autobiographical self-promotion. Personally I think the pay-it-forward Nobel Prize to Obama paid squat. Obama couldn’t even muster outrage over Israel’s murder of the Freedom Flotilla activists, nor would he sanction an international investigation. Why credit him with any part of the rescue of the Palestinians of Gaza?

Naji Al Ali docked in LebanonThe naming of “Maryam” or Mariam, after the Virgin Mary is already being resisted by the Israeli press, which is referring to the ship by its previous identity JUNIA. No doubt the all-woman ship will present a challenge to the brutality-prone IDF.

The confusion over the identity of Julia/Junia may be part of the subterfuge meant to evade Israel sabotage which succeeded in hampering the Freedom Flotilla’s CHALLENGER I and II.

GAZA WE ARE COMING is the title of a documentary made about the earlier attempts to break the siege of Gaza by sea. The project is more complicated than you might think, having to avoid the MOSSAD at every turn. Each successive wave has involved bigger ships, so far, taken as prizes by Israel. Will a sovereign government finally step forward to provide official escort to a convoy?

The United Nations has ruled the siege of Gaza to be illegal. Israel itself pretends that Gaza is autonomous, thus the naval blockade cannot be a pretext to protect Israeli waters. Debates in the media about who’s in the right are merely charades.

Freedom Flotilla flagship off to Gaza

Free Gaza Freedom Flotilla crew member FaichreThe rechristened MV Rachel Corrie sails today from Dundalk, Ireland, to join the Freedom Flotilla intent on running the blockade of Gaza. Israel is already warning Cyprus against allowing the humanitarian convoy to shelter in its ports, rehearsing plans to intercept, and Turkish supporters are rebuffing Israeli threats to bomb relief ships which attempt to reach Palestine. In other news, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development has accepted Israel’s membership, cementing First World culpability for Israeli growth from conquest. Critics had urged Israel’s disqualification because its capitalization has been owed to the occupation and illegal appropriation of Palestinian resources, but could the OECD ultimately disown the US-European joint colonial venture?

What a coincidence that today’s date in 1949 marked the end of the siege of Berlin, when an international effort was mounted by world governments to fly relief convoys of supplies to the besieged population of Berlin. Today western governments won’t abide the expressed will of their citizens and so the people themselves are having to save the Palestinians abandoned in Gaza.

The MV Rachel Corrie has been repainted with a giant Irish flag on its side, and the words “FREE GAZA” along its top. The cargo ship retains its original IMO 6715281 for communications and tracking. Bloggers and journalists will be charting the flotilla’s progress online.

Among the participants on the Free Gaza project are Ken Fleming, Nobel Peace Prize winner; Mairead Maguire, Nobel Peace Prize winner; Denis Halliday, UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq; Matthias Chang, Perdana Global Peace Organizer; Aengus.O’Snodaigh, Sinn Fein; Chris Andrews; Free Gaza Movement co-founder Greta Berlin, Caoimhe Butterly, Ewa Jasiewicz, Fintan Lane, and Niamh Moloughney.

Abe Obama Jordan Simpson Woods

Abraham ObamaLocal art luminary friends of mine are celebrating their election 2008 “Abraham Obama” project this weekend, end-capping a week where their President Nobel Laureate paid a midnight visit to his warriors in Afghanistan, signed an executive order to repudiate reproductive health rights of women, and today is scheduled to announce offshore oil drilling in Virginia. Surely there is a more apt figure against whom to compare Obama. Almost any other president would fall short. Warren G. Obama? Barack Taft? Actually I can’t conceive of anyone better than Dick Cheney.

My friends maintain this is more a tribute to Abraham Lincoln, highlighting his emancipation of the slaves, a black president being the ultimate result. I’d say morph his face into Michael Jordan or Michael Jackson if you want to pretend African Americans have come far enough by Lincoln’s hand. Or Bill Cosby, Sidney Poitier, OJ Simpson or Tiger Woods.

Beyond MLK worship: Beyond Vietnam

MLK“A time comes when silence is betrayal. That time has come for us in relation to Vietnam.”
Martin Luther King Beyond Vietnam: Time to Break the Silence
Full text of 1967 speech below.

Riverside Church, New York City, 4 April 1967

I come to this magnificent house of worship tonight because my conscience leaves me no other choice. I join with you in this meeting because I am in deepest agreement with the aims and work of the organization which has brought us together: Clergy and Laymen Concerned about Vietnam. The recent statement of your executive committee are the sentiments of my own heart and I found myself in full accord when I read its opening lines:

“A time comes when silence is betrayal.”

That time has come for us in relation to Vietnam.

The truth of these words is beyond doubt but the mission to which they call us is a most difficult one. Even when pressed by the demands of inner truth, men do not easily assume the task of opposing their government’s policy, especially in time of war. Nor does the human spirit move without great difficulty against all the apathy of conformist thought within one’s own bosom and in the surrounding world. Moreover when the issues at hand seem as perplexed as they often do in the case of this dreadful conflict we are always on the verge of being mesmerized by uncertainty; but we must move on.

Some of us who have already begun to break the silence of the night have found that the calling to speak is often a vocation of agony, but we must speak. We must speak with all the humility that is appropriate to our limited vision, but we must speak. And we must rejoice as well, for surely this is the first time in our nation’s history that a significant number of its religious leaders have chosen to move beyond the prophesying of smooth patriotism to the high grounds of a firm dissent based upon the mandates of conscience and the reading of history. Perhaps a new spirit is rising among us. If it is, let us trace its movement well and pray that our own inner being may be sensitive to its guidance, for we are deeply in need of a new way beyond the darkness that seems so close around us.

Over the past two years, as I have moved to break the betrayal of my own silences and to speak from the burnings of my own heart, as I have called for radical departures from the destruction of Vietnam, many persons have questioned me about the wisdom of my path. At the heart of their concerns this query has often loomed large and loud: Why are you speaking about war, Dr. King? Why are you joining the voices of dissent? Peace and civil rights don’t mix, they say. Aren’t you hurting the cause of your people, they ask? And when I hear them, though I often understand the source of their concern, I am nevertheless greatly saddened, for such questions mean that the inquirers have not really known me, my commitment or my calling. Indeed, their questions suggest that they do not know the world in which they live.

“I wish not to speak with Hanoi and the National Liberation Front, but rather to my fellow Americans who, with me, bear the greatest responsibility in ending a conflict that has exacted a heavy price on both continents.”

In the light of such tragic misunderstandings, I deem it of signal importance to try to state clearly, and I trust concisely, why I believe that the path from Dexter Avenue Baptist Church — the church in Montgomery, Alabama, where I began my pastorate — leads clearly to this sanctuary tonight.

I come to this platform tonight to make a passionate plea to my beloved nation. This speech is not addressed to Hanoi or to the National Liberation Front. It is not addressed to China or to Russia.

Nor is it an attempt to overlook the ambiguity of the total situation and the need for a collective solution to the tragedy of Vietnam. Neither is it an attempt to make North Vietnam or the National Liberation Front paragons of virtue, nor to overlook the role they can play in a successful resolution of the problem. While they both may have justifiable reason to be suspicious of the good faith of the United States, life and history give eloquent testimony to the fact that conflicts are never resolved without trustful give and take on both sides.

Tonight, however, I wish not to speak with Hanoi and the NLF, but rather to my fellow Americans, who, with me, bear the greatest responsibility in ending a conflict that has exacted a heavy price on both continents.

The Importance of Vietnam

Since I am a preacher by trade, I suppose it is not surprising that I have seven major reasons for bringing Vietnam into the field of my moral vision. There is at the outset a very obvious and almost facile connection between the war in Vietnam and the struggle I, and others, have been waging in America. A few years ago there was a shining moment in that struggle. It seemed as if there was a real promise of hope for the poor — both black and white — through the poverty program. There were experiments, hopes, new beginnings. Then came the buildup in Vietnam and I watched the program broken and eviscerated as if it were some idle political plaything 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 adventures like 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.

“For the sake of those boys,
for the sake of this governent,
for the sake of hundreds of thousands
trembling under our violence,
I cannot be silent.”

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 black young men who had been crippled by our society and sending them eight thousand 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 moves to an even deeper level of awareness, for it grows out of my experience in the ghettoes 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 nonviolent action. But they asked — and rightly so — 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. For the sake of those boys, for the sake of this government, for the sake of hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence, I cannot be silent.

For those who ask the question, “Aren’t you a civil rights leader?” and thereby mean to exclude me from the movement for peace, I have this further answer. In 1957 when a group of us formed the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, we chose as our motto: “To save the soul of America.” We were convinced that we could not limit our vision to certain rights for black people, but instead affirmed the conviction that America would never be free or saved from itself unless the descendants of its slaves were loosed completely from the shackles they still wear. In a way we were agreeing with Langston Hughes, that black bard of Harlem, who had written earlier:

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath —
America will be!

Now, it should be incandescently clear that no one who has any concern for the integrity and life of America today can ignore the present war. If America’s soul becomes totally poisoned, part of the autopsy must read Vietnam. It can never be saved so long as it destroys the deepest hopes of men the world over. So it is that those of us who are yet determined that America will be are led down the path of protest and dissent, working for the health of our land.

“Surely we must see
that the men we supported
pressed them to their violence.”

As if the weight of such a commitment to the life and health of America were not enough, another burden of responsibility was placed upon me in 1964; and I cannot forget that the Nobel Prize for Peace was also a commission — a commission to work harder than I had ever worked before for “the brotherhood of man.” This is a calling that takes me beyond national allegiances, but even if it were not present I would yet have to live with the meaning of my commitment to the ministry of Jesus Christ. To me the relationship of this ministry to the making of peace is so obvious that I sometimes marvel at those who ask me why I am speaking against the war. Could it be that they do not know that the good news was meant for all men — for Communist and capitalist, for their children and ours, for black and for white, for revolutionary and conservative? Have they forgotten that my ministry is in obedience to the one who loved his enemies so fully that he died for them? What then can I say to the “Vietcong” or to Castro or to Mao as a faithful minister of this one? Can I threaten them with death or must I not share with them my life?

Finally, as I try to delineate for you and for myself the road that leads from Montgomery to this place I would have offered all that was most valid if I simply said that I must be true to my conviction that I share with all men the calling to be a son of the living God. Beyond the calling of race or nation or creed is this vocation of sonship and brotherhood, and because I believe that the Father is deeply concerned especially for his suffering and helpless and outcast children, I come tonight to speak for them.

This I believe to be the privilege and the burden of all of us who deem ourselves bound by allegiances and loyalties which are broader and deeper than nationalism and which go beyond our nation’s self-defined goals and positions. We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy, for no document from human hands can make these humans any less our brothers.

Strange Liberators

And as I ponder the madness of Vietnam and search within myself for ways to understand and respond to compassion my mind goes constantly to the people of that peninsula. I speak now not of the soldiers of each side, not of the junta in Saigon, but simply of the people who have been living under the curse of war for almost three continuous decades now. I think of them too because it is clear to me that there will be no meaningful solution there until some attempt is made to know them and hear their broken cries.

“Before long they must know
that their government has sent them
into a struggle among Vietnamese,
and the more sophisticated surely realize
that we are on the side of the wealthy
and the secure
while we create hell for the poor.”

They must see Americans as strange liberators. The Vietnamese people proclaimed their own independence in 1945 after a combined French and Japanese occupation, and before the Communist revolution in China. They were led by Ho Chi Minh. Even though they quoted the American Declaration of Independence in their own document of freedom, we refused to recognize them. Instead, we decided to support France in its re-conquest of her former colony.

Our government felt then that the Vietnamese people were not “ready” for independence, and we again fell victim to the deadly Western arrogance that has poisoned the international atmosphere for so long. With that tragic decision we rejected a revolutionary government seeking self-determination, and a government that had been established not by China (for whom the Vietnamese have no great love) but by clearly indigenous forces that included some Communists. For the peasants this new government meant real land reform, one of the most important needs in their lives.

For nine years following 1945 we denied the people of Vietnam the right of independence. For nine years we vigorously supported the French in their abortive effort to re-colonize Vietnam.

Before the end of the war we were meeting eighty percent of the French war costs. Even before the French were defeated at Dien Bien Phu, they began to despair of the reckless action, but we did not. We encouraged them with our huge financial and military supplies to continue the war even after they had lost the will. Soon we would be paying almost the full costs of this tragic attempt at re-colonization.

After the French were defeated it looked as if independence and land reform would come again through the Geneva agreements. But instead there came the United States, determined that Ho should not unify the temporarily divided nation, and the peasants watched again as we supported one of the most vicious modern dictators — our chosen man, Premier Diem. The peasants watched and cringed as Diem ruthlessly routed out all opposition, supported their extortionist landlords and refused even to discuss reunification with the north. The peasants watched as all this was presided over by U.S. influence and then by increasing numbers of U.S. troops who came to help quell the insurgency that Diem’s methods had aroused. When Diem was overthrown they may have been happy, but the long line of military dictatorships seemed to offer no real change — especially in terms of their need for land and peace.

The only change came from America as we increased our troop commitments in support of governments which were singularly corrupt, inept and without popular support. All the while the people read our leaflets and received regular promises of peace and democracy — and land reform. Now they languish under our bombs and consider us – not their fellow Vietnamese — the real enemy. They move sadly and apathetically as we herd them off the land of their fathers into concentration camps where minimal social needs are rarely met. They know they must move or be destroyed by our bombs. So they go — primarily women and children and the aged.

“Somehow this madness must cease.”

They watch as we poison their water, as we kill a million acres of their crops. They must weep as the bulldozers roar through their areas preparing to destroy the precious trees. They wander into the hospitals, with at least twenty casualties from American firepower for one “Vietcong-inflicted” injury. So far we may have killed a million of them — mostly children. They wander into the towns and see thousands of the children, homeless, without clothes, running in packs on the streets like animals. They see the children, degraded by our soldiers as they beg for food. They see the children selling their sisters to our soldiers, soliciting for their mothers.

What do the peasants think as we ally ourselves with the landlords and as we refuse to put any action into our many words concerning land reform? What do they think as we test our latest weapons on them, just as the Germans tested out new medicine and new tortures in the concentration camps of Europe? Where are the roots of the independent Vietnam we claim to be building? Is it among these voiceless ones?

We have destroyed their two most cherished institutions: the family and the village. We have destroyed their land and their crops. We have cooperated in the crushing of the nation’s only non-Communist revolutionary political force — the Unified Buddhist church. We have supported the enemies of the peasants of Saigon. We have corrupted their women and children and killed their men. What liberators?

Now there is little left to build on — save bitterness. Soon the only solid physical foundations remaining will be found at our military bases and in the concrete of the concentration camps we call fortified hamlets. The peasants may well wonder if we plan to build our new Vietnam on such grounds as these? Could we blame them for such thoughts? We must speak for them and raise the questions they cannot raise. These too are our brothers.

Perhaps the more difficult but no less necessary task is to speak for those who have been designated as our enemies. What of the National Liberation Front — that strangely anonymous group we call VC or Communists? What must they think of us in America when they realize that we permitted the repression and cruelty of Diem which helped to bring them into being as a resistance group in the south? What do they think of our condoning the violence which led to their own taking up of arms? How can they believe in our integrity when now we speak of “aggression from the north” as if there were nothing more essential to the war? How can they trust us when now we charge them with violence after the murderous reign of Diem and charge them with violence while we pour every new weapon of death into their land? Surely we must understand their feelings even if we do not condone their actions. Surely we must see that the men we supported pressed them to their violence. Surely we must see that our own computerized plans of destruction simply dwarf their greatest acts.

“We must continue to raise our voices if our nation persists in its perverse ways in Vietnam.”

How do they judge us when our officials know that their membership is less than twenty-five percent Communist and yet insist on giving them the blanket name? What must they be thinking when they know that we are aware of their control of major sections of Vietnam and yet we appear ready to allow national elections in which this highly organized political parallel government will have no part? They ask how we can speak of free elections when the Saigon press is censored and controlled by the military junta. And they are surely right to wonder what kind of new government we plan to help form without them — the only party in real touch with the peasants. They question our political goals and they deny the reality of a peace settlement from which they will be excluded. Their questions are frighteningly relevant. Is our nation planning to build on political myth again and then shore it up with the power of new violence?

Here is the true meaning and value of compassion and nonviolence when it helps us to see the enemy’s point of view, to hear his questions, to know his assessment of ourselves. For from his view we may indeed see the basic weaknesses of our own condition, and if we are mature, we may learn and grow and profit from the wisdom of the brothers who are called the opposition.

So, too, with Hanoi. In the north, where our bombs now pummel the land, and our mines endanger the waterways, we are met by a deep but understandable mistrust. To speak for them is to explain this lack of confidence in Western words, and especially their distrust of American intentions now. In Hanoi are the men who led the nation to independence against the Japanese and the French, the men who sought membership in the French commonwealth and were betrayed by the weakness of Paris and the willfulness of the colonial armies. It was they who led a second struggle against French domination at tremendous costs, and then were persuaded to give up the land they controlled between the thirteenth and seventeenth parallel as a temporary measure at Geneva. After 1954 they watched us conspire with Diem to prevent elections which would have surely brought Ho Chi Minh to power over a united Vietnam, and they realized they had been betrayed again.

When we ask why they do not leap to negotiate, these things must be remembered. Also it must be clear that the leaders of Hanoi considered the presence of American troops in support of the Diem regime to have been the initial military breach of the Geneva agreements concerning foreign troops, and they remind us that they did not begin to send in any large number of supplies or men until American forces had moved into the tens of thousands.

“When machines and computers,
profit motives and property rights
are considered more important than people,
the giant triplets of
racism,
materialism
and militarism
are incapable of being conquered.”

Hanoi remembers how our leaders refused to tell us the truth about the earlier North Vietnamese overtures for peace, how the president claimed that none existed when they had clearly been made. Ho Chi Minh has watched as America has spoken of peace and built up its forces, and now he has surely heard of the increasing international rumors of American plans for an invasion of the north. He knows the bombing and shelling and mining we are doing are part of traditional pre-invasion strategy. Perhaps only his sense of humor and of irony can save him when he hears the most powerful nation of the world speaking of aggression as it drops thousands of bombs on a poor weak nation more than eight thousand miles away from its shores.

At this point I should make it clear that while I have tried in these last few minutes to give a voice to the voiceless on Vietnam and to understand the arguments of those who are called enemy, I am as deeply concerned about our troops there as anything else. For it occurs to me that what we are submitting them to in Vietnam is not simply the brutalizing process that goes on in any war where armies face each other and seek to destroy. We are adding cynicism to the process of death, for they must know after a short period there that none of the things we claim to be fighting for are really involved. Before long they must know that their government has sent them into a struggle among Vietnamese, and the more sophisticated surely realize that we are on the side of the wealthy and the secure while we create hell for the poor.

This Madness Must Cease

Somehow this madness must cease. We must stop now. I speak as a child of God and brother to the suffering poor of Vietnam. I speak for those whose land is being laid waste, whose homes are being destroyed, whose culture is being subverted. I speak for the poor of America who are paying the double price of smashed hopes at home and death and corruption in Vietnam. I speak as a citizen of the world, for the world as it stands aghast at the path we have taken. I speak as an American to the leaders of my own nation. The great initiative in this war is ours. The initiative to stop it must be ours.

This is the message of the great Buddhist leaders of Vietnam. Recently one of them wrote these words:

“Each day the war goes on the hatred increases in the heart of the Vietnamese and in the hearts of those of humanitarian instinct. The Americans are forcing even their friends into becoming their enemies. It is curious that the Americans, who calculate so carefully on the possibilities of military victory, do not realize that in the process they are incurring deep psychological and political defeat. The image of America will never again be the image of revolution, freedom and democracy, but the image of violence and militarism.”

“A nation that continues
year after year
to spend more money on military defense
than on programs of social uplift
is approaching spiritual death.”

If we continue, there will be no doubt in my mind and in the mind of the world that we have no honorable intentions in Vietnam. It will become clear that our minimal expectation is to occupy it as an American colony and men will not refrain from thinking that our maximum hope is to goad China into a war so that we may bomb her nuclear installations. If we do not stop our war against the people of Vietnam immediately the world will be left with no other alternative than to see this as some horribly clumsy and deadly game we have decided to play.

The world now demands a maturity of America that we may not be able to achieve. It demands that we admit that we have been wrong from the beginning of our adventure in Vietnam, that we have been detrimental to the life of the Vietnamese people. The situation is one in which we must be ready to turn sharply from our present ways.

In order to atone for our sins and errors in Vietnam, we should take the initiative in bringing a halt to this tragic war. I would like to suggest five concrete things that our government should do immediately to begin the long and difficult process of extricating ourselves from this nightmarish conflict:

• End all bombing in North and South Vietnam

• Declare a unilateral cease-fire in the hope that such action will create the atmosphere for negotiation.

• Take immediate steps to prevent other battlegrounds in Southeast Asia by curtailing our military buildup in Thailand and our interference in Laos.

• Realistically accept the fact that the National Liberation Front has substantial support in South Vietnam and must thereby play a role in any meaningful negotiations and in any future Vietnam government.

• Set a date that we will remove all foreign troops from Vietnam in accordance with the 1954 Geneva agreement.

Part of our ongoing commitment might well express itself in an offer to grant asylum to any Vietnamese who fears for his life under a new regime which included the Liberation Front. Then we must make what reparations we can for the damage we have done. We most provide the medical aid that is badly needed, making it available in this country if necessary.

Protesting The War

Meanwhile we in the churches and synagogues have a continuing task while we urge our government to disengage itself from a disgraceful commitment. We must continue to raise our voices if our nation persists in its perverse ways in Vietnam. We must be prepared to match actions with words by seeking out every creative means of protest possible.

As we counsel young men concerning military service we must clarify for them our nation’s role in Vietnam and challenge them with the alternative of conscientious objection. I am pleased to say that this is the path now being chosen by more than seventy students at my own alma mater, Morehouse College, and I recommend it to all who find the American course in Vietnam a dishonorable and unjust one. Moreover I would encourage all ministers of draft age to give up their ministerial exemptions and seek status as conscientious objectors. These are the times for real choices and not false ones. We are at the moment when our lives must be placed on the line if our nation is to survive its own folly. Every man of humane convictions must decide on the protest that best suits his convictions, but we must all protest.

“If we do not act
we shall surely be dragged down
the long and shameful corridors of time
reserved for those who possess
power without compassion,
might without morality,
and strength without sight.”

There is something seductively tempting about stopping there and sending us all off on what in some circles has become a popular crusade against the war in Vietnam. I say we must enter the struggle, but I wish to go on now to say something even more disturbing. 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. They will be concerned about Guatemala and Peru. They will be concerned about Thailand and Cambodia. They will be concerned about Mozambique and South Africa. We will be marching for these and a dozen other names and attending rallies without end unless there is a significant and profound change in American life and policy. Such thoughts take us beyond Vietnam, but not beyond our calling as sons of the living God.

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 we have seen emerge a pattern of suppression which now has justified the presence of U.S. military “advisors” in Venezuela. This need to maintain social stability for our investments accounts for the counter-revolutionary action of American forces in Guatemala. It tells why American helicopters are being used against guerrillas in Colombia and why American napalm and green beret forces have already been active against rebels in Peru. It is with such activity in mind that the words of the late 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 — the role of those who make peaceful revolution impossible 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. We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society. When machines and computers, profit motives 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. On the one hand we are called to play the good Samaritan on life’s roadside; but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life’s highway.

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 uneasily 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 veins of people 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 reordering our priorities, so that the pursuit of peace will take precedence over the pursuit of war. There is nothing to keep us from molding a recalcitrant status quo with bruised hands until we have fashioned it into a brotherhood.

This kind of positive revolution of values is our best defense against communism. War is not the answer. Communism will never be defeated by the use of atomic bombs or nuclear weapons. Let us not join those who shout war and through their misguided passions urge the United States to relinquish its participation in the United Nations. These are days which demand wise restraint and calm reasonableness. We must not call everyone a Communist or an appeaser who advocates the seating of Red China in the United Nations and who recognizes that hate and hysteria are not the final answers to the problem of these turbulent days. We must not engage in a negative anti-communism, but rather in a positive thrust for democracy, realizing that our greatest defense against communism is to take offensive action in behalf of justice. We must with positive action seek to remove those conditions of poverty, insecurity and injustice which are the fertile soil in which the seed of communism grows and develops.

The People Are Important

These are revolutionary times. All over the globe men are revolting against old systems of exploitation and oppression and out of the wombs of a frail world new systems of justice and equality are being born. The shirtless and barefoot people of the land are rising up as never before. “The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light.” We in the West must support these revolutions. It is a sad fact that, because of comfort, complacency, a morbid fear of communism, and our proneness to adjust to injustice, the Western nations that initiated so much of the revolutionary spirit of the modern world have now become the arch anti-revolutionaries. This has driven many to feel that only Marxism has the revolutionary spirit. Therefore, communism is a judgment against our failure to make democracy real and follow through on the revolutions we initiated. Our only hope today lies in our ability to recapture the revolutionary spirit and go out into a sometimes hostile world declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism. With this powerful commitment we shall boldly challenge the status quo and unjust mores and thereby speed the day when “every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight and the rough places plain.”

A genuine revolution of values means in the final analysis that our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies.

This call for a world-wide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one’s tribe, race, class and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing and unconditional love for all men. This oft misunderstood and misinterpreted concept – so readily dismissed by the Nietzsches of the world as a weak and cowardly force – has now become an absolute necessity for the survival of man. When I speak of love I am not speaking of some sentimental and weak response. I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life. Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality. This Hindu-Moslem-Christian-Jewish-Buddhist belief about ultimate reality is beautifully summed up in the first epistle of Saint John:

Let us love one another; for love is God and everyone that loveth is born of God and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. If we love one another God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.

Let us hope that this spirit will become the order of the day. We can no longer afford to worship the god of hate or bow before the altar of retaliation. The oceans of history are made turbulent by the ever-rising tides of hate. History is cluttered with the wreckage of nations and individuals that pursued this self-defeating path of hate. As Arnold Toynbee says :

“Love is the ultimate force that makes for the saving choice of life and good against the damning choice of death and evil. Therefore the first hope in our inventory must be the hope that love is going to have the last word.”

We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history there is such a thing as being too late. Procrastination is still the thief of time. Life often leaves us standing bare, naked and dejected with a lost opportunity. The “tide in the affairs of men” does not remain at the flood; it ebbs. We may cry out desperately for time to pause in her passage, but time is deaf to every plea and rushes on. Over the bleached bones and jumbled residue of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words: “Too late.”

There is an invisible book of life that faithfully records our vigilance or our neglect. “The moving finger writes, and having writ moves on…” We still have a choice today; nonviolent coexistence or violent co-annihilation.

We must move past indecision to action. We must find new ways to speak for peace in Vietnam and justice throughout the developing world – a world that borders on our doors. If we do not act we shall surely be dragged down the long dark and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight.

Now let us begin. Now let us rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter – but beautiful – struggle for a new world. This is the calling of the sons of God, and our brothers wait eagerly for our response. Shall we say the odds are too great? Shall we tell them the struggle is too hard? Will our message be that the forces of American life militate against their arrival as full men, and we send our deepest regrets? Or will there be another message, of longing, of hope, of solidarity with their yearnings, of commitment to their cause, whatever the cost? The choice is ours, and though we might prefer it otherwise we must choose in this crucial moment of human history.

As that noble bard of yesterday, James Russell Lowell, eloquently stated:

Once to every man and nation
Comes the moment to decide,
In the strife of truth and falsehood,
For the good or evil side;
Some great cause, God’s new Messiah,
Off’ring each the bloom or blight,
And the choice goes by forever
Twixt that darkness and that light.
Though the cause of evil prosper,
Yet ’tis truth alone is strong;
Though her portion be the scaffold,
And upon the throne be wrong:
Yet that scaffold sways the future,
And behind the dim unknown,
Standeth God within the shadow
Keeping watch above his own.

William Blum – Anti-Empire Report

Here’s William Blum’s latest essay, on Lincoln Gordon, Brazil, Cuba, and the 2009 Nobel Laureate, reprinted from www.killinghope.org.

THE ANTI-EMPIRE REPORT
By William Blum, January 6, 2009

The American elite

Lincoln Gordon died a few weeks ago at the age of 96. He had graduated summa cum laude from Harvard at the age of 19, received a doctorate from Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar, published his first book at 22, with dozens more to follow on government, economics, and foreign policy in Europe and Latin America. He joined the Harvard faculty at 23. Dr. Gordon was an executive on the War Production Board during World War II, a top administrator of Marshall Plan programs in postwar Europe, ambassador to Brazil, held other high positions at the State Department and the White House, a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, economist at the Brookings Institution, president of Johns Hopkins University. President Lyndon B. Johnson praised Gordon’s diplomatic service as "a rare combination of experience, idealism and practical judgment".

You get the picture? Boy wonder, intellectual shining light, distinguished leader of men, outstanding American patriot.

Abraham Lincoln Gordon was also Washington’s on-site, and very active, director in Brazil of the military coup in 1964 which overthrew the moderately leftist government of João Goulart and condemned the people of Brazil to more than 20 years of an unspeakably brutal dictatorship. Human-rights campaigners have long maintained that Brazil’s military regime originated the idea of the desaparecidos, "the disappeared", and exported torture methods across Latin America. In 2007, the Brazilian government published a 500-page book, "The Right to Memory and the Truth", which outlines the systematic torture, rape and disappearance of nearly 500 left-wing activists, and includes photos of corpses and torture victims. Currently, Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva is proposing a commission to investigate allegations of torture by the military during the 1964-1985 dictatorship. (When will the United States create a commission to investigate its own torture?)

In a cable to Washington after the coup, Gordon stated — in a remark that might have had difficulty getting past the lips of even John Foster Dulles — that without the coup there could have been a "total loss to the West of all South American Republics". (It was actually the beginning of a series of fascistic anti-communist coups that trapped the southern half of South America in a decades-long nightmare, culminating in "Operation Condor", in which the various dictatorships, aided by the CIA, cooperated in hunting down and killing leftists.)

Gordon later testified at a congressional hearing and while denying completely any connection to the coup in Brazil he stated that the coup was "the single most decisive victory of freedom in the mid-twentieth century."

Listen to a phone conversation between President Johnson and Thomas Mann, Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs, April 3, 1964, two days after the coup:

MANN: I hope you’re as happy about Brazil as I am.

LBJ: I am.

MANN: I think that’s the most important thing that’s happened in the hemisphere in three years.

LBJ: I hope they give us some credit instead of hell.1

So the next time you’re faced with a boy wonder from Harvard, try to keep your adulation in check no matter what office the man attains, even — oh, just choosing a position at random — the presidency of the United States. Keep your eyes focused not on these "liberal" … "best and brightest" who come and go, but on US foreign policy which remains the same decade after decade. There are dozens of Brazils and Lincoln Gordons in America’s past. In its present. In its future. They’re the diplomatic equivalent of the guys who ran Enron, AIG and Goldman Sachs.

Of course, not all of our foreign policy officials are like that. Some are worse.

And remember the words of convicted spy Alger Hiss: Prison was "a good corrective to three years at Harvard."

Mothers, don’t let your children grow up to be Nobel Peace Prize winners

In November I wrote:

Question: How many countries do you have to be at war with to be disqualified from receiving the Nobel Peace Prize?

Answer: Five. Barack Obama has waged war against only Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia. He’s holding off on Iran until he actually gets the prize.

Well, on December 10 the president clutched the prize in his blood-stained hands. But then the Nobel Laureate surprised us. On December 17 the United States fired cruise missiles at people in … not Iran, but Yemen, all "terrorists" of course, who were, needless to say, planning "an imminent attack against a U.S. asset".2 A week later the United States carried out another attack against "senior al-Qaeda operatives" in Yemen.3

Reports are that the Nobel Peace Prize Committee in Norway is now in conference to determine whether to raise the maximum number of wars allowed to ten. Given the committee’s ignoble history, I imagine that Obama is taking part in the discussion. As is Henry Kissinger.

The targets of these attacks in Yemen reportedly include fighters coming from Afghanistan and Iraq, confirmation of the warnings long given — even by the CIA and the Pentagon — that those US interventions were creating new anti-American terrorists. (That’s anti-American foreign policy, not necessarily anything else American.) How long before the United States will be waging war in some other god-forsaken land against anti-American terrorists whose numbers include fighters from Yemen? Or Pakistan? Or Somalia? Or Palestine?

Our blessed country is currently involved in so many bloody imperial adventures around the world that one needs a scorecard to keep up. Rick Rozoff of StopNATO has provided this for us in some detail.4

For this entire century, almost all these anti-American terrorists have been typically referred to as "al-Qaeda", as if you have to be a member of something called al-Qaeda to resent bombs falling on your house or wedding party; as if there’s a precise and meaningful distinction between people retaliating against American terrorism while being a member of al-Qaeda and people retaliating against American terrorism while NOT being a member of al-Qaeda. However, there is not necessarily even such an animal as a "member of al-Qaeda", albeit there now exists "al-Qaeda in Iraq" and "al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula". Anti-American terrorists do know how to choose a name that attracts attention in the world media, that appears formidable, that scares Americans. Governments have learned to label their insurgents "al-Qaeda" to start the military aid flowing from Washington, just like they yelled "communist" during the Cold War. And from the perspective of those conducting the War on Terror, the bigger and more threatening the enemy, the better — more funding, greater prestige, enhanced career advancement. Just like with the creation of something called The International Communist Conspiracy.

It’s not just the American bombings, invasions and occupations that spur the terrorists on, but the American torture. Here’s Bowe Robert Bergdahl, US soldier captured in Afghanistan, speaking on a video made by his Taliban captors: He said he had been well-treated, contrasting his fate to that of prisoners held in US military prisons, such as the infamous Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. "I bear witness I was continuously treated as a human being, with dignity, and I had nobody deprive me of my clothes and take pictures of me naked. I had no dogs barking at me or biting me as my country has done to their Muslim prisoners in the jails that I have mentioned."5

Of course the Taliban provided the script, but what was the script based on? What inspired them to use such words and images, to make such references?

Cuba. Again. Still. Forever.

More than 50 years now it is. The propaganda and hypocrisy of the American mainstream media seems endless and unwavering. They can not accept the fact that Cuban leaders are humane or rational. Here’s the Washington Post of December 13 writing about an American arrested in Cuba:

"The Cuban government has arrested an American citizen working on contract for the U.S. Agency for International Development who was distributing cellphones and laptop computers to Cuban activists. … Under Cuban law … a Cuban citizen or a foreign visitor can be arrested for nearly anything under the claim of ‘dangerousness’."

That sounds just awful, doesn’t it? Imagine being subject to arrest for whatever someone may choose to label "dangerousness". But the exact same thing has happened repeatedly in the United States since the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. We don’t use the word "dangerousness". We speak of "national security". Or, more recently, "terrorism". Or "providing material support to terrorism".

The arrested American works for Development Alternatives, Inc. (DAI), a US government contractor that provides services to the State Department, the Pentagon and the US Agency for International Development (USAID). In 2008, DAI was funded by the US Congress to "promote transition to democracy" in Cuba. Yes, Oh Happy Day!, we’re bringing democracy to Cuba just as we’re bringing it to Afghanistan and Iraq. In 2002, DAI was contracted by USAID to work in Venezuela and proceeded to fund the same groups that a few months earlier had worked to stage a coup — temporarily successful — against President Hugo Chávez. DAI performed other subversive work in Venezuela and has also been active in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and other hotspots. "Subversive" is what Washington would label an organization like DAI if they behaved in the same way in the United States in behalf of a foreign government.6

The American mainstream media never makes its readers aware of the following (so I do so repeatedly): The United States is to the Cuban government like al-Qaeda is to the government in Washington, only much more powerful and much closer. Since the Cuban revolution, the United States and anti-Castro Cuban exiles in the US have inflicted upon Cuba greater damage and greater loss of life than what happened in New York and Washington on September 11, 2001. Cuban dissidents typically have had very close, indeed intimate, political and financial connections to American government agents. Would the US government ignore a group of Americans receiving funds or communication equipment from al-Qaeda and/or engaging in repeated meetings with known leaders of that organization? In the past few years, the American government has arrested a great many people in the US and abroad solely on the basis of alleged ties to al-Qaeda, with a lot less evidence to go by than Cuba has had with its dissidents’ ties to the United States, evidence usually gathered by Cuban double agents. Virtually all of Cuba’s "political prisoners" are such dissidents.

The Washington Post story continued:

"The Cuban government granted ordinary citizens the right to buy cellphones just last year." Period.

What does one make of such a statement without further information? How could the Cuban government have been so insensitive to people’s needs for so many years? Well, that must be just the way a "totalitarian" state behaves. But the fact is that because of the disintegration of the Soviet bloc, with a major loss to Cuba of its foreign trade, combined with the relentless US economic aggression, the Caribbean island was hit by a great energy shortage beginning in the 1990s, which caused repeated blackouts. Cuban authorities had no choice but to limit the sale of energy-hogging electrical devices such as cell phones; but once the country returned to energy sufficiency the restrictions were revoked.

"Cubans who want to log on [to the Internet] often have to give their names to the government."

What does that mean? Americans, thank God, can log onto the Internet without giving their names to the government. Their Internet Service Provider does it for them, furnishing their names to the government, along with their emails, when requested.

"Access to some Web sites is restricted."

Which ones? Why? More importantly, what information might a Cuban discover on the Internet that the government would not want him to know about? I can’t imagine. Cubans are in constant touch with relatives in the US, by mail and in person. They get US television programs from Miami. International conferences on all manner of political, economic and social subjects are held regularly in Cuba. What does the American media think is the great secret being kept from the Cuban people by the nasty commie government?

"Cuba has a nascent blogging community, led by the popular commentator Yoani Sánchez, who often writes about how she and her husband are followed and harassed by government agents because of her Web posts. Sánchez has repeatedly applied for permission to leave the country to accept journalism awards, so far unsuccessfully."

According to a well-documented account7, Sánchez’s tale of government abuse appears rather exaggerated. Moreover, she moved to Switzerland in 2002, lived there for two years, and then voluntarily returned to Cuba. On the other hand, in January 2006 I was invited to attend a book fair in Cuba, where one of my books, newly translated into Spanish, was being presented. However, the government of the United States would not give me permission to go. My application to travel to Cuba had also been rejected in 1998 by the Clinton administration.

"’Counterrevolutionary activities’, which include mild protests and critical writings, carry the risk of censure or arrest. Anti-government graffiti and speech are considered serious crimes."

Raise your hand if you or someone you know of was ever arrested in the United States for taking part in a protest. And substitute "pro al-Qaeda" for "counterrevolutionary" and for "anti-government" and think of the thousands imprisoned the past eight years by the United States all over the world for … for what? In most cases there’s no clear answer. Or the answer is clear: (a) being in the wrong place at the wrong time, or (b) being turned in to collect a bounty offered by the United States, or (c) thought crimes. And whatever the reason for the imprisonment, they were likely tortured. Even the most fanatical anti-Castroites don’t accuse Cuba of that. In the period of the Cuban revolution, since 1959, Cuba has had one of the very best records on human rights in the hemisphere. See my essay: "The United States, Cuba and this thing called Democracy".8

There’s no case of anyone arrested in Cuba that compares in injustice and cruelty to the arrest in 1998 by the United States government of those who came to be known as the "Cuban Five", sentenced in Florida to exceedingly long prison terms for trying to stem terrorist acts against Cuba emanating from the US.9 It would be lovely if the Cuban government could trade their DAI prisoner for the five. Cuba, on several occasions, has proposed to Washington the exchange of a number of what the US regards as "political prisoners" in Cuba for the five Cubans held in the United States. So far the United States has not agreed to do so.

Notes

  1. Michael Beschloss, Taking Charge: The Johnson White House Tapes 1963-1964 (New York, 1997), p.306. All other sources for this section on Gordon can be found in: Washington Post, December 22, 2009, obituary; The Guardian (London), August 31, 2007; William Blum, "Killing Hope", chapter 27
  2. ABC News, December 17, 2009; Washington Post, December 19, 2009
  3. Washington Post, December 25, 2009
  4. Stop NATO, "2010: U.S. To Wage War Throughout The World", December 30, 2009. To get on the StopNATO mailing list write to r_rozoff@yahoo.com. To see back issues: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/stopnato/
  5. Reuters, December 25, 2009
  6. For more details on DAI, see Eva Golinger, "The Chávez Code: Cracking US Intervention in Venezuela" (2006) and her website, posting for December 31, 2009
  7. Salim Lamrani, professor at Paris Descartes University, "The Contradictions of Cuban Blogger Yoani Sanchez", Monthly Review magazine, November 12, 2009
  8. http://killinghope.org/bblum6/democ.htm
  9. http://killinghope.org/bblum6/polpris.htm

Obama confuses Nobel for Iron Cross

Prussian Star and CrossWe can only conjecture that the Nobel Peace Prize fashioned for President Obama features military motifs of the Knight’s Cross and the Prussian Pour Le Merite. The cheeky new War Czar invoked, and completely contradicted 1964 peace laureate Martin Luther King Jr. and pacifist A.J. Muste: “There is no way to peace. Peace is the way.” Obama explained that Pax Americana’s arsenal of tools includes war. Where he himself was last year’s spoonful of sugar, Obama is hoping the Afghanistan escalation goes down better with a spoonful of Nobel, ersatz peace.

Iron Cross 1st ClassNow the pundits are reporting that Obama’s acceptance speech was well received, even by the Left. Riiiiight. What’s become of our benchmark for peace, that the givers of a peace prize couldn’t rescind their offer when it became obvious the wayward emperor wasn’t about to veer from the warpath?

Obama sucker punches Muhammad Ali

Apparently our double agent of change President Obama, invoked Muhammad Ali as a model of courage for staying the course just days before declaring a redoubled Pox Americana on the peoples of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Muhammad Ali Cassius Clay I’m glad sports historian Dave Zirin has spoken swiftly to forbid Obama’s defiling of the most famous draft resister in US history. Parkinson’s prevents Ali from defending his title, just as MLK’s memorializers airbrush King’s antiwar vehemence.

Zirin references this infamously principled quote which led to Ali’s suspension from boxing, but ultimate vindication by the US Supreme Court:

“Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go 10,000 miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights? No, I’m not going 10,000 miles from home to help murder and burn another poor nation simply to continue the domination of white slave masters of the darker people the world over. This is the day when such evils must come to an end.

I have been warned that to take such a stand would cost me millions of dollars. But I have said it once and I will say it again. The real enemy of my people is here….. If I thought the war was going to bring freedom and equality to 22 million of my people, they wouldn’t have to draft me, I’d join tomorrow. I have nothing to lose by standing up for my beliefs. So I’ll go to jail, so what? We’ve been in jail for 400 years.”

He also said: “I ain’t got no quarrel with them Viet Cong … They never called me nigger.”

President Obama’s attempt to co-opt the character of Muhammad Ali is a disgrace. I suppose this suggests that Obama will accept his Nobel Peace Prize with not the least sense of irony or shame.

Obama ate a fish who knew Lincoln

bottom feederFishermen have always called it the Slimehead fish. It’s sorta-scientific name is Darwin’s Slimehead. But when bottom-of-the-barrel scraping began for the ocean’s remaining fisheries, fishmongers created a market for the never-thought-palatable deep bottom feeder by renaming it the Orange Roughy.

That much you’ve probably heard before.

Really, what’s in a name? A fish by any other name will smell too. Is there a fish story without hyperbole, that does not smell fishy? The idiom comes from the experience-honed doubt that the fishmonger’s catch is not fresh. People know steak is dead cow, so does it matter that Orange Roughy is Slimehead, Monkfish is Goosefish, Rock Salmon is Spiny Dogfish, or Tilapia is Mouthbrooder?

Actually Israeli exporters wanted to give Tilapia a biblical makeover, asserting the Tilapia from the Sea of Galilee, should be called St. Peter’s Fish, but US regulators intervened. In the Gospel of Matthew 17:27, apostle Peter tells tax collectors where they can go. In more than that many words he tells them to go fish, and from the mouth of the “first fish they catch,” they will find the four drachmas he owes them. The FDA didn’t buy it either. By the way, if you doubt Wikipedia has Zionist preoccupations, sniff the first paragraph of their entry for Tilapia. Maybe we are about to see whether Wiki momentum can surfeit the vernacular.

The US government also intervened when fish wholesalers wanted to rename the Patagonian Toothfish as Chilean Sea Bass. It’s not a Bass. And the poor Teethfish, like the Slimehead, are now endangered.

Because man’s traditional food fishes have become depleted, we’re having now to make meals of the dregs. And the populations of these deep sea dwellers have less resiliency than the coastal stocks. In the case of the Toothfish and the Slimehead, it’s because they grow very slowly. The Slimehead can grow to be 150 years old. They don’t become sexually reproductive until they are 33, and that’s not in dogfish years. Fishing operations which harvest entire sea mounts decimate every generation at once, leaving none who can spawn.

Would it give you an unsettled feeling to consume something so ancient? If we’re talking a pre-Phylloxera wine, it could be a great thing. But a fish that old has been absorbing mercury from the height of the industrial revolution onwards. So there might be a health benefit for showing deference to your fish elders.

It recently upset me to learn that with modern agriculture we eat cattle before they’re two, when they’re barely adolescent. Now I wonder what’s too old. We revere elephants and tortoises for their longevity, such ancient beings we don’t eat.

I’m old enough to remember learning about the old carp in the fountains of Paris, who also lived quite long. French schoolchildren could marvel that some carp still lived who might have glimpsed Napoleon.

A Slimehead Orange Roughy caught today could have lived in the time of Lincoln. Certainly those fish drag-netted in the 1970s, when the Orange Roughy exotic star was contrived to rise, were contemporaries of John Wilkes Booth. Though swimming many thousand feet below sea level, Roughy might have encountered a fresh shipwreck of Lincoln’s era, carrying gold sent from the west coast to finance the Civil War.

Today finds Americans awaiting their and their fellow man’s emancipation from war, torture, illegal detention, economic enslavement, usury, exploitation, impoverishment, enfeeblement and poisoning. Since just the new millennium Americans learned quick to participate again in their political system. They elected what many thought impossible, an African American president. The voters placed all their hope in Barack Obama, and their faith in party politics foretold that Obama’s majority would deliver the mandate he was given. Obama’s first days were anticipated to rival FDRs. Obama’s legacy could already be measured for laurels because it meant simply reversing the calamity of his predecessor. By such a deliverance alone, it was visualized, Obama would stand beside Abraham Lincoln, America’s greatest president.

Abraham Obama may be an unjustly loft comparison, as wanting to believe Obama deserves the Nobel Peace Prize. But what else was an expectant public to do? They put him in office, they believed his promises. He spoke of change, they wanted change. What swiftly Bush had done, they wanted undone. And Obama assured all that he heard them.

And has it worked out that way? Obama’s speeches begin where the last one ends. They’re long, they’re reasoned, but where at first Americans reveled at a suddenly well-spoken president, now they wish he’d stop talking and start doing. Apparently “yes we can” meant “you can wait” –more likely “hi Mom” or “cheese.” Now the hand which Obama raises so famously to give assurance, is looking more like just the hand.

It may be dawning on many that this junior senator from Illinois didn’t have to debate Frederick Douglas, build a log cabin, read Aristotle by candlelight, or climb a long leadership ladder to get to Washington DC. It may be occurring to them that Obama’s speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, was the only accomplishment they’d seen of this unknown senator from the land of Lincoln.

An Orange Roughy served on fine porcelain may turn out to be the only thing our President Obama shares with Abraham Lincoln.

And very likely, you ate one too. So if stone-carvers are already bidding on the project to add someone’s face to Mount Rushmore, your likeness may be as appropriate as any.

Barack Obama Nobel Prizefighter

Barack Obama action figure James BondAt what line in the sand will we be able to say for certain that President Obama’s hope bubble is a bust? Half of you are laughing at my naivety, the others are hushing me with your fingers crossed. Will it take a nuclear attack on Iran? More bailout? Less health? For example, when will we know whether Obama will be more a Kissinger Peace Laureate than a Mandela? A decision on Afghanistan? We have it already.

The BBC is reporting that as the US thanked Britain for recommitting forces to NATO in Afghanistan, it assured its British allies that Obama would soon be substantially increasing our own military forces. The announcement is to be made next week, the surge, 45,000 more soldiers. The White House emphatically denies this story, stating that President Obama “had not yet made a decision on troop numbers” and “would make up his mind in the coming weeks.”

And there’s your answer. And we’ve had it for awhile.

I’ll bet as a supporter of Barack Obama, you had made up your mind on Iraq and Afghanistan before you elected the hope candidate. You probably based your support for Senator Obama on the intuition that a young man smart as that had already made up his mind too, certainly on the moral issues.

What does it mean now, that Obama might be still thinking on it?

If Obama had made up his mind, or has, he’s struggling now to make up his mind about how to tell you.

Withdrawing from Iraq and Afghanistan is not ethically complicated. Financially it’s a tough move because you’ve got all those war contractor profiteers who’ve got to be weened cautiously. But there is no intermediary way. So long as the US retains authority, it’s an occupation. So long as one US company is collecting reconstruction funds, the US is serving its own interests. Rationalizations to remain as peacekeepers are just excuses to keep our hand in the till. There is no peacekeeping role for the US. We must get out, and proffer gobs of restitution.

You know who should get the Nobel Peace Prize? The Nobel committee. For their valiant hopeful effort, at the risk of looking foolish. They merit at least a nomination for Time Magazine Persons Of The Year.

I want Obama to win a JUSTICE prize

Bush-to-Hague-international-criminal-courtThen our Nobel Laureate can restore Habeas Corpus, stop rendition and torture, repeal the Patriot Act, confess to illegal wars, war crimes and crimes against humanity, end all occupations, smash the weapons trade, pursue antitrust action against banks and multinational monopolies, abolish the Fed, IMF, World Bank and WTO, renounce globalism and free trade neoliberalism, own up to climate change and third world plunder, initiate restitution for US misrule, and #prosecutebushnowgoddamnit!

Obama is no over-hyped Messiah

barack-obama-action-darth
Critics on both sides of Barack Obama’s premature Nobel Prize peddle the same cynical caricature of our new president, as messiah figure likely overburdened by our expectations. It’s a self-defeating setup that didn’t fool the Nobel panel. Obama is not Jesus, he’s Caesar.

I don’t mean to belittle the Son of God, but Obama’s throne has a far greater vantage point to deliver this world from the yoke of the evil empire. This year’s Nobel Peace Prize is a sort of Pay It Forward award to the man who holds the fate of so many in his hands.

You don’t have to believe Obama is the Second Coming, nor even that he’s a good man. So far he’s played Dubya’s apprentice to a tee. But what can you do? Obama’s vainglourious Basterds have everyone by the throat. The Afghans, the Iraqis, the Pakistanis, live but by the grace of his drones, or the whim of his rendition interrogator-torturers. American activists abut his militarized police, American sick expire while on hold with his third party death panels.

The Nobel Prize could be another medal to pretend this American Emperor heralds a break from injustice as the US redoubles wreaking havoc. Or, it could be mankind’s last best only hope to appeal, if not to Obama’s sense of humanity, to his vanity. Is the 2009 Nobel Laureate going to escalate killings and predations on the poor? The choice is Obama’s.

The growing criticism of Barack Obama’s record of inaction furthers the misconception that Obama is a mere figurehead, an affirmative action spokesman to give the US a kinder, gentler image. In fact, Obama sits in the little dictator’s seat. It’s lost no power since the days of Bush.

You might argue that Bush was mere Howdy Doody to powerful oligarchs behind the scenes. Obama may be pulled by the same strings. But unless the puppet masters choose to reveal themselves, a puppet can pretend they don’t exist. And a real flesh and blood man puppet can utterly efface them. I believe the Nobel committee is hoping to appeal to just that man.

Obama doesn’t need Congress, majority or no, nor the American People, nor the corporate media, to decide what he wants to do. He’s not stuck to overturning the tables of the money-changers, or leading by example by dying for us on a cross. Obama doesn’t have to render unto Caesar, he is Caesar. The most powerful there ever was, although I can’t think now if there ever was a good one. The Norse were in no position then to bait one with a peace prize. Here’s hoping.

ADDENDUM:
Barack and Michelle Obama sent out this response to the surprise honor, trying a little false flattery of their own. Here’s the last paragraph:

This award — and the call to action that comes with it — does not belong simply to me or my administration; it belongs to all people around the world who have fought for justice and for peace. And most of all, it belongs to you, the men and women of America, who have dared to hope and have worked so hard to make our world a little better.

Most of all, the men and women of America? Oh My Gosh Honey, Obama is talking about you and me.

Greg Mortenson US occupation pitchman

Red Rocks concertGreg Mortenson, stealth poster boy for the GWOT Pax Americana, nominated for the same Nobel suggested for Henry Kissinger, will be in Denver this Sunday at Red Rocks, to emcee JOURNEY OF HOPE, to collect “Pennies For Peace” to build Western Education settlements to justify more US military advance camps, and to lead a “Prayer For Peace.” Wanna bet it’s not an Islamic prayer?

Speak 2 x 4 to power, just do it.

Nike inspired assault on WTCFound this brilliant submission in the Start-Propaganda collection. The Reichtag Fire false- flag attack will have nothing on the debris of the WTC. For your 8th commemoration of the enigmatic event which is still used to justify the occupation of Afghanistan, check out the Italian documentary ZERO. My favorite segment is George Bush on the perpetrators of 9/11: “It’s hard for Americans to imagine how evil the people are who are doing this.” Less and less so.

In keeping the anniversary of 9/11, we also revisited the sentimental documentary by the Naudet brothers, whose video had captured the impact of the first plane, and the ensuing action of the firefighters inside Building One. Excised from the final cut were the firehouse discussions of other explosions they’d heard and their observations that the collapses resembled demolitions. Those clips are accessible online, and now you’ll recognize the individual firemen. Perhaps those details were deemed inappropriate for the CBS audience in 2004.

It’s also sad to look upon these interviews of men who later worked ceaselessly at Ground Zero, often without masks, and wonder how many are now dead, or dying of respiratory ailments, victims of the government fraud about the safety of the environment in the aftermath of the disaster.

Watching the doomed firemen ascend into the WTC without a thought that the towers might collapse, and being shown the buildings vaporize, narrated by uncritical newspeople, we cannot wonder now but did they take American viewers for idiots?

Among the many documentaries which question the official version of events, Italian Telemaco’s ZERO: an Investigation into 9-11 takes the least sensational approach. Italian celebrities, a laughing physicist (and Nobel laureate), and Gore Vidal shrug off the sheer pretense of the USA narrative.

Watching the original 911 exposés like 911 Loose Change and 911 Conspiracy – In Plane Sight gets old doesn’t it? Not because their presentation is shrill, but because unanswered, what can they do but repeat themselves?

The mainstream response has only been to dismiss the 911 Truth movement as Conspiracy Theory. Throw Alex Jones’ Prison Planet TV into the mix with his 9/11 The Road To Tyranny and alternative versions of September 11th, 2001, begin to look paranoid.

For a fresh perspective from the UK, check out 911 and the British Broadcasting Conspiracy.

Remember, the mainstream media which dismisses 9/11 truth seekers as conspiracy theorists, is the same media which is now telling us that the American public does not want universal health care.

The same media which has been “questioning” Global Warming now puts the onus for change on whether an American public will believe Global Warming.

The same corporate media is owned, and speaks for, big agra, big pharma, big oil, and the arms industry.

Is there a Monsanto/Cargill/Archer-Daniels-Midland conspiracy to monopolize the food supply? Is there a military industrial conspiracy to foment war and instability? Is there a globalization conspiracy to harness developing world resources while enslaving all peoples?

Who is the corporate media to defend the 911 myth against accusations of conspiracy?

What the impregnability of the accepted 9/11 story means to me, is that the 911 Truth Movement clings to an outdated notion that what the population knows matters. In a post-democratic world it doesn’t. The people can believe their feudal overlords to be ogres, so long as it isn’t uttered with intent to dethrone. Then it’s heresy.

Who is the economy calling stupid?

Okay, I’ve had enough of our readiness to believe, about the economy, that nobody knows what’s going on. Nobody will tell you what’s going on, is what’s going on.

Even my deepest thinking friend tells me, “Eric, they really don’t know” (The game theorists, the would-be global axis shifters, don’t know.) He may be right, but that’s not who we’re talking about. Between those guys, and you and I, who have no clue about where the economy is going, is a hand-basket courier. That composite abstraction at the handlebars knows the destination, he’s being paid cost-plus for the delivery, and he knows enough to collect his fee in advance.

We thought “it’s the economy, stupid” was directed at George Bush the Senior. Who is/was stupid? I’m finding the syncronicity of Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill song “Isn’t it ironic?” superlatively ironic. The era when a mass audience un-learned the meaning of irony, was when the joke was really on us.

Today the accepted theme to describe the economy is: nobody knows. I recently heard the governor of Colorado speak to the need for budget cuts in these hard times. He introduced the subject of the economic downturn by explaining, almost as a throwaway foregone conclusion, “Nobody saw this coming.”

I thought, really? This is what Americans are satisfied to expect for leadership? Elected authority figures return our system to us, broken, with not a mea culpa, but mea confuso. And we buy it.

For me, this no-comprendo motif doesn’t play well in Adagio. Today DC’s new lawmakers want to know what’s become of the first half of the TARP bailout money, and the good-enough-for-primetime answer is “nobody knows.” Don’t you just want to stand up and beg your fellow audience members for a collective show of incredulity? “NOBODY KNOWS?!”

Whoever pocketed the 350 Billion, KNOWS.

From explanations of the graft in Iraq, we the television public KNOW that just one million dollars in t-bills weighs more than you can get past surveillance cameras.

From nighttime video of the economic collapse in Argentina, documentary footage viewers know it takes a continuous train of armored trucks to do a run on the banks before the public gets there.

By the way, I’m certain Billion is always capitalized, out of respect for its size.

“Nobody knows” where went the 350 Billion? No. Nobody who knows, intends to tell us.

Either way, we don’t get to know, but the distinction makes a difference, don’t you think? The excuse we’re given for not dwelling on this incongruity, nudge nudge wink wink, is that all misdirection is for the sake of consumer confidence.

To look behind the green curtain is to become dis-illusioned. If you explain the slight of hand, instead of building confidence, you throw fuel on consumer doubt.

The better economists opposed the bailout. Hundreds of them signed a petition to tell us what’s going on is a heist. Under George Bush, bankers have been making off with the US treasury. What they couldn’t spend pay themselves to foist a war, or give themselves in tax cuts, they are having to abscond with under cover of an eleventh hour “bailout.”

The best of the honest economists, Paul Krugman, was given a Nobel Prize. At the same time, our president-to-the-rescue is saying he’d consider the advice of “even Paul Krugman,” like Krugman is a fringe opinion.

Do we empower the American public beast with a truer education about what’s happening to their finances, or do we narrow their peripheral foresight like the gangway to the abbatoire?

P.T. Barnum said no one ever went broke underestimating the American public. Barnum saw opportunity and he took it. I’ll bet he wasn’t satisfied to invest his winnings on the advice of the public’s broker.

The economy is tanking because the Bush investment banker free-for-all is over.

The cash heart of the consumer confidence fattened-calf is already in the bloody hands of the high priests. The American consumer is what’s being thrown off the wall. And the communal wealth of America’s middle class can’t be put together again because the pieces which formed Humpty Dumpty’s actual pre-confidence-ballooned size are going to come up missing.

Not missing, exactly. Look at the corporate jets, private skyboxes, enormous estates, private island kingdoms and advance ticket sales of quarter-million-dollar fares into space.

With much recent ballyhoo, George Bush set aside for protection some nature preserves in the Pacific. Unlike Yellowstone, or Yosemite, these parks of azure coral reefs are inaccessible. To you.

Barack Obama’s spread-the-wealth-around campaign lingo had nothing to do with the mad scramble to divvy the pot. Obama represents our non-insider’s reflexive grab for the fewer spoons. If Obama represents a wisening up at all.

Beyond buy low, sell high, here’s an example of how the scam worked: If a $100K house can be made seem worth $500K, a broker gets five times the commission, say $60K instead of $12K, and collects that money in cash. When the cows come home, you’ve got just a house, and let’s admit that value is arbitrary. But the broker is free and clear, his gleaning of a cash value done.

And actually, your house is not even worth the cost to build it. As the democratic capitalist apparatus downgrades, and the wealthy lose empathy for the lower classes, your house is worth just the value of the shelter it provides. Look at the concern they show for your health care. Your well-being, food and shelter wise, is worth only as much as the value you add to your landlord’s pleasure.

MLK: Why I am Opposed to the War

Martin Luther King Jr“You’re too arrogant! And if you don’t change your ways, I will rise up and break the backbone of your power, and I’ll place it in the hands of a nation that doesn’t even know my name. Be still and know that I’m God.”
 
Sermon at the Ebenezer Baptist Church on April 30, 1967. Full text below.

The sermon which I am preaching this morning in a sense is not the usual kind of sermon, but it is a sermon and an important subject, nevertheless, because the issue that I will be discussing today is one of the most controversial issues confronting our nation. I’m using as a subject from which to preach,

“Why I Am Opposed to the War in Vietnam.”

Now, let me make it clear in the beginning, that I see this war as an unjust, evil, and futile war. I preach to you today on the war in Vietnam because my conscience leaves me with no other choice. The time has come for America to hear the truth about this tragic war. In international conflicts, the truth is hard to come by because most nations are deceived about themselves. Rationalizations and the incessant search for scapegoats are the psychological cataracts that blind us to our sins. But the day has passed for superficial patriotism. He who lives with untruth lives in spiritual slavery. Freedom is still the bonus we receive for knowing the truth. “Ye shall know the truth,” says Jesus, “and the truth shall set you free.” Now, I’ve chosen to preach about the war in Vietnam because I agree with Dante, that the hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in a period of moral crisis maintain their neutrality. There comes a time when silence becomes betrayal.

The truth of these words is beyond doubt, but the mission to which they call us is a most difficult one. Even when pressed by the demands of inner truth, men do not easily assume the task of opposing their government’s policy, especially in time of war. Nor does the human spirit move without great difficulty against all the apathy of conformist thought within one’s own bosom and in the surrounding world. Moreover, when the issues at hand seem as perplexing, as they often do in the case of this dreadful conflict, we’re always on the verge of being mesmerized by uncertainty. But we must move on. Some of us who have already begun to break the silence of the night have found that the calling to speak is often a vocation of agony. But we must speak. We must speak with all the humility that is appropriate to our limited vision, but we must speak. And we must rejoice as well, for in all our history there has never been such a monumental dissent during a war, by the American people.

Polls reveal that almost fifteen million Americans explicitly oppose the war in Vietnam. Additional millions cannot bring themselves around to support it. And even those millions who do support the war [are] half-hearted, confused, and doubt-ridden. This reveals that millions have chosen to move beyond the prophesying of smooth patriotism, to the high grounds of firm dissent, based upon the mandates of conscience and the reading of history. Now, of course, one of the difficulties in speaking out today grows the fact that there are those who are seeking to equate dissent with disloyalty. It’s a dark day in our nation when high-level authorities will seek to use every method to silence dissent. But something is happening, and people are not going to be silenced. The truth must be told, and I say that those who are seeking to make it appear that anyone who opposes the war in Vietnam is a fool or a traitor or an enemy of our soldiers is a person that has taken a stand against the best in our tradition.

Yes, we must stand, and we must speak. [tape skip]…have moved to break the betrayal of my own silences and to speak from the burnings of my own heart, as I have called for radical departures from the destruction of Vietnam. Many persons have questioned me about the wisdom of my path. At the heart of their concerns, this query has often loomed large and loud:

“Why are you speaking about the war, Dr. King? Why are you joining the voices of dissent?” Peace and civil rights don’t mix, they say.

And so this morning, I speak to you on this issue, because I am determined to take the Gospel seriously. And I come this morning to my pulpit to make a passionate plea to my beloved nation.

This sermon is not addressed to Hanoi, or to the National Liberation Front. It is not addressed to China or to Russia. Nor is it an attempt to overlook the ambiguity of the total situation and the need for a collective solution to the tragedy of Vietnam. Nor is it an attempt to make North Vietnam or the National Liberation Front paragons of virtue, nor to overlook the role they must play in a successful resolution of the problem. This morning, however, I wish not to speak with Hanoi and the National Liberation Front, but rather to my fellow Americans, who bear the greatest responsibility, and entered a conflict that has exacted a heavy price on both continents.

Now, since I am a preacher by calling, I suppose it is not surprising that I have seven major reasons for bringing Vietnam into the field of my moral vision. There is…a very obvious and almost facile connection between the war in Vietnam and the struggle I and others have been waging in America. A few years ago there was a shining moment in that struggle. It seemed that there was a real promise of hope for the poor, both black and white, through the Poverty Program. There were experiments, hopes, and new beginnings. Then came the build-up in Vietnam. And I watched the program broken as if it was some idle political plaything 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 adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money, like some demonic, destructive suction tube. And you may not know it, my friends, but it is estimated that we spend $500,000 to kill each enemy soldier, while we spend only fifty-three dollars for each person classified as poor, and much of that fifty-three dollars goes for salaries to people that are not poor. So I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor, and 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 hope of the poor at home. It was sending their sons, and their brothers, and their husbands to fight and die in extraordinarily high proportion relative to the rest of the population. We were taking the black young men who had been crippled by society and sending them eight thousand 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 a 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 school room. So we watch them in brutal solidarity, burning the huts of a poor village. But we realize that they would hardly live on the same block in Chicago or Atlanta. Now, I could not be silent in the face of such cruel manipulation of the poor.

My third reason moves to an even deeper level of awareness, for it 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; for they ask and write me, “So what about Vietnam?” They ask if our 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 first having spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today: my own government. For the sake of those boys, for the sake of this government, for the sake of the hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence I cannot be silent.

Been a lot of applauding over the last few years. They applauded our total movement; they’ve applauded me. America and most of its newspapers applauded me in Montgomery. And I stood before thousands of Negroes getting ready to riot when my home was bombed and said, we can’t do it this way. They applauded us in the sit-in movement–we non-violently decided to sit in at lunch counters. The applauded us on the Freedom Rides when we accepted blows without retaliation. They praised us in Albany and Birmingham and Selma, Alabama. Oh, the press was so noble in its applause, and so noble in its praise when I was saying, Be non-violent toward Bull Connor; when I was saying, Be non-violent toward [Selma, Alabama segregationist sheriff] Jim Clark.

There’s something strangely inconsistent about a nation and a press that will praise you when you say, Be non-violent toward Jim Clark, but will curse and damn you when you say, “Be non-violent toward little brown Vietnamese children. There’s something wrong with that press!

As if the weight of such a commitment to the life and health of America were not enough, another burden of responsibility was placed upon me in 1964. And I cannot forget that the Nobel Peace Prize was not just something taking place, but it was a commission–a commission to work harder than I had ever worked before for the brotherhood of Man. This is a calling that takes me beyond national allegiances.

But even if it were not present, I would yet have to live with the meaning of my commitment to the ministry of Jesus Christ. To me, the relationship of this ministry to the making of peace is so obvious that I sometimes marvel at those who ask me why I am speaking against the war. Could it be that they do not know that the Good News was meant for all men, for communists and capitalists, for their children and ours, for black and white, for revolutionary and conservative? Have they forgotten that my ministry is in obedience to the One who loved His enemies so fully that he died for them? What, then, can I say to the Vietcong, or to Castro, or to Mao, as a faithful minister to Jesus Christ? Can I threaten them with death, or must I not share with them my life?

Finally, I must be true to my conviction that I share with all men the calling to be the son of the Living God. Beyond the calling of race or nation or creed is this vocation of son-ship and brotherhood. And because I believe that the Father is deeply concerned, especially for His suffering and helpless and outcast children, I come today to speak for them.

And as I ponder the madness of Vietnam and search within myself for ways to understand and respond in compassion, my mind goes constantly to the people of that peninsula. I speak not now of the soldiers of each side, not of the military government of Saigon, but simply of the people who have been under the curse of war for almost three continuous decades now. I think of them, too, because it is clear to me that there will be no meaningful solution until some attempt is made to know these people and hear their broken cries.

Now, let me tell you the truth about it. They must see Americans as strange liberators.

Do you realize that the Vietnamese people proclaimed their own independence in 1945 after a combined French and Japanese occupation? And incidentally, this was before the Communist revolution in China. They were led by Ho Chi Minh. And this is a little-known fact, and these people declared themselves independent in 1945. They quoted our Declaration of Independence in their document of freedom, and yet our government refused to recognize them. President Truman said they were not ready for independence. So we fell victim as a nation at that time of the same deadly arrogance that has poisoned the international situation for all of these years. France then set out to reconquer its former colony. And they fought eight long, hard, brutal years trying to re-conquer Vietnam. You know who helped France? It was the United States of America. It came to the point that we were meeting more than eighty percent of the war costs. And even when France started despairing of its reckless action, we did not. And in 1954, a conference was called at Geneva, and an agreement was reached, because France had been defeated at Dien Bien Phu.

But even after that, and after the Geneva Accord, we did not stop. We must face the sad fact that our government sought, in a real sense, to sabotage the Geneva Accord. Well, after the French were defeated, it looked as if independence and land reform would come through the Geneva agreement. But instead the United States came and started supporting a man named Diem who turned out to be one of the most ruthless dictators in the history of the world. He set out to silence all opposition. People were brutally murdered because they raised their voices against the brutal policies of Diem. And the peasants watched and cringed as Diem ruthlessly rooted out all opposition. The peasants watched as all this was presided over by United States influence and by increasing numbers of United States troops who came to help quell the insurgency that Diem’s methods had aroused. When Diem was overthrown, they may have been happy, but the long line of military dictatorships seemed to offer no real change, especially in terms of their need for land and peace. And who are we supporting in Vietnam today? It’s a man by the name of general Ky [Air Vice Marshal Nguyen Cao Ky] who fought with the French against his own people, and who said on one occasion that the greatest hero of his life is Hitler. This is who we are supporting in Vietnam today. Oh, our government and the press generally won’t tell us these things, but God told me to tell you this morning. The truth must be told.

The only change came from America as we increased our troop commitments in support of governments which were singularly corrupt, inept, and without popular support and all the while the people read our leaflets and received regular promises of peace and democracy and land reform. Now they languish under our bombs and consider us, not their fellow Vietnamese, the real enemy. They move sadly and apathetically as we herd them off the land of their fathers into concentration camps, where minimal social needs are rarely met. They know they must move or be destroyed by our bombs. So they go, primarily women, and children and the aged. They watch as we poison their water, as we kill a million acres of their crops. They must weep as the bulldozers roar through their areas preparing to destroy the precious trees. They wander into the towns and see thousands of thousands of the children, homeless, without clothes, running in packs on the streets like animals. They see the children degraded by our soldiers as they beg for food. They see the children selling their sisters to our soldiers, soliciting for their mothers. We have destroyed their two most cherished institutions: the family and the village. We have destroyed their land and their crops. We have cooperated in the crushing of the nation’s only noncommunist revolutionary political force, the United Buddhist Church. This is a role our nation has taken, the role of those who make peaceful revolutions impossible but refusing to give up the privileges and the pleasures that comes from the immense profits of overseas investments. I’m 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. We must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, militarism and economic exploitation are incapable of being conquered.

A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our present policies. On the one hand, we are called to play the Good Samaritan on life’s roadside, but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho Road must be changed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life’s highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily 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.

Oh, my friends, if there is any one thing that we must see today is that these are revolutionary times. All over the globe men are revolting against old systems of exploitation and oppression, and out of the wounds of a frail world, new systems of justice and equality are being born. The shirtless and barefoot people of the land are rising up as never before. The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light. They are saying, unconsciously, as we say in one of our freedom songs, “Ain’t gonna let nobody turn me around!” It is a sad fact that because of comfort, complacency, a morbid fear of communism, our proneness to adjust to injustice, the Western nations that initiated so much of the revolutionary spirit of the modern world have now become the arch anti-revolutionaries. This has driven many to feel that only Marxism has a revolutionary spirit. Therefore, communism is a judgment against our failure to make democracy real and follow through on the revolutions that we initiated. Our only hope today lies in our ability to recapture the revolutionary spirit and go out into a sometimes hostile world declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism. With this powerful commitment we shall boldly challenge the status quo, we shall boldly challenge unjust mores, and thereby speed up the day when

“every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the rough places shall be made plain, and the crooked places straight. And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.”

A genuine revolution of values means in the final analysis that our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies. This call for a worldwide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one’s tribe, race, class, and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing, unconditional love for all men. This oft misunderstood and misinterpreted concept, so readily dismissed by the Nietzsches of the world as a weak and cowardly force, has now become an absolute necessity for the survival of mankind. And when I speak of love I’m not speaking of some sentimental and weak response. I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life. Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality. This Hindu-Muslim-Christian-Jewish-Buddhist belief about ultimate reality is beautifully summed up in the first epistle of John: “Let us love one another, for God is love. And every one that loveth is born of God and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God, for God is love. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us and his love is perfected in us.”

Let me say finally that I oppose the war in Vietnam because I love America. I speak out against this war, not in anger, but with anxiety and sorrow in my heart, and, above all, with a passionate desire to see our beloved country stand as the moral example of the world. I speak out against this war because I am disappointed with America. And there can be no great disappointment where there is not great love. I am disappointed with our failure to deal positively and forthrightly with the triple evils of racism, economic exploitation, and militarism. We are presently moving down a dead-end road that can lead to national disaster. America has strayed to the far country of racism and militarism. The home that all too many Americans left was solidly structured idealistically; its pillars were solidly grounded in the insights of our Judeo-Christian heritage. All men are made in the image of God. All men are bothers. All men are created equal. Every man is an heir to a legacy of dignity and worth. Every man has rights that are neither conferred by, nor derived from the State–they are God-given. Out of one blood, God made all men to dwell upon the face of the earth. What a marvelous foundation for any home! What a glorious and healthy place to inhabit. But America’s strayed away, and this unnatural excursion has brought only confusion and bewilderment. It has left hearts aching with guilt and minds distorted with irrationality.

It is time for all people of conscience to call upon America to come back home. Come home, America. Omar Khayyam is right: “The moving finger writes, and having writ moves on.”

I call on Washington today. I call on every man and woman of good will all over America today. I call on the young men of America who must make a choice today to take a stand on this issue.

Tomorrow may be too late. The book may close. And don’t let anybody make you think that God chose America as his divine, messianic force to be a sort of policeman of the whole world. God has a way of standing before the nations with judgment, and it seems that I can hear God saying to America,

“You’re too arrogant!

And if you don’t change your ways,

I will rise up and break the backbone of your power,

and I’ll place it in the hands of a nation that doesn’t even know my name.

Be still and know that I’m God.”

Now it isn’t easy to stand up for truth and for justice. Sometimes it means being frustrated. When you tell the truth and take a stand, sometimes it means that you will walk the streets with a burdened heart. Sometimes it means losing a job…means being abused and scorned. It may mean having a seven, eight year old child asking a daddy, “Why do you have to go to jail so much?” And I’ve long since learned that to be a follower to the Jesus Christ means taking up the cross. And my bible tells me that Good Friday comes before Easter. Before the crown we wear, there is the cross that we must bear. Let us bear it–bear it for truth, bear it for justice, and bear it for peace. Let us go out this morning with that determination. And I have not lost faith. I’m not in despair, because I know that there is a moral order. I haven’t lost faith, because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice. I can still sing “We Shall Overcome” because Carlyle was right: “No lie can live forever.” We shall overcome because William Cullen Bryant was right: “Truth pressed to earth will rise again.” We shall overcome because James Russell Lowell was right: “Truth forever on the scaffold, wrong forever on the throne.” Yet, that scaffold sways the future. We shall overcome because the bible is right: “You shall reap what you sow.”

With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope.

With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our world into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.

With this faith we will be able to speed up the day when justice will roll down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.

With this faith we will be able to speed up the day when the lion and the lamb will lie down together, and every man will sit under his own vine and fig tree, and none shall be afraid because the words of the Lord have spoken it.

With this faith we will be able to speed up the day when all over the world we will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we’re free at last!”

With this faith, we’ll sing it as we’re getting ready to sing it now. Men will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. And nations will not rise up against nations, neither shall they study war anymore. And I don’t know about you, I ain’t gonna study war no more.

Harold Pinter on drama and US banditry

“What has happened to our moral sensibility? Did we ever have any? What do these words mean? Do they refer to a term very rarely employed these days – conscience? A conscience to do not only with our own acts but to do with our shared responsibility in the acts of others? Is all this dead?”
-Harold Pinter (1930-2008)

I’m reminded of a friend of mine who asked “You know what PTSD is? It’s a bad conscience.”

An outspoken critic of the Iraq War, Harold Pinter died Christmas Eve. Here is the address he prerecorded for his acceptance of the Nobel Prize in 2005, when he had become too infirm to attend in person.

Nobel Lecture: Art, Truth & Politics

In 1958 I wrote the following:

‘There are no hard distinctions between what is real and what is unreal, nor between what is true and what is false. A thing is not necessarily either true or false; it can be both true and false.’

I believe that these assertions still make sense and do still apply to the exploration of reality through art. So as a writer I stand by them but as a citizen I cannot. As a citizen I must ask: What is true? What is false?

Truth in drama is forever elusive. You never quite find it but the search for it is compulsive. The search is clearly what drives the endeavour. The search is your task. More often than not you stumble upon the truth in the dark, colliding with it or just glimpsing an image or a shape which seems to correspond to the truth, often without realising that you have done so. But the real truth is that there never is any such thing as one truth to be found in dramatic art. There are many. These truths challenge each other, recoil from each other, reflect each other, ignore each other, tease each other, are blind to each other. Sometimes you feel you have the truth of a moment in your hand, then it slips through your fingers and is lost.

I have often been asked how my plays come about. I cannot say. Nor can I ever sum up my plays, except to say that this is what happened. That is what they said. That is what they did.

Most of the plays are engendered by a line, a word or an image. The given word is often shortly followed by the image. I shall give two examples of two lines which came right out of the blue into my head, followed by an image, followed by me.

The plays are The Homecoming and Old Times. The first line of The Homecoming is ‘What have you done with the scissors?’ The first line of Old Times is ‘Dark.’

In each case I had no further information.

In the first case someone was obviously looking for a pair of scissors and was demanding their whereabouts of someone else he suspected had probably stolen them. But I somehow knew that the person addressed didn’t give a damn about the scissors or about the questioner either, for that matter.

‘Dark’ I took to be a description of someone’s hair, the hair of a woman, and was the answer to a question. In each case I found myself compelled to pursue the matter. This happened visually, a very slow fade, through shadow into light.

I always start a play by calling the characters A, B and C.

In the play that became The Homecoming I saw a man enter a stark room and ask his question of a younger man sitting on an ugly sofa reading a racing paper. I somehow suspected that A was a father and that B was his son, but I had no proof. This was however confirmed a short time later when B (later to become Lenny) says to A (later to become Max), ‘Dad, do you mind if I change the subject? I want to ask you something. The dinner we had before, what was the name of it? What do you call it? Why don’t you buy a dog? You’re a dog cook. Honest. You think you’re cooking for a lot of dogs.’ So since B calls A ‘Dad’ it seemed to me reasonable to assume that they were father and son. A was also clearly the cook and his cooking did not seem to be held in high regard. Did this mean that there was no mother? I didn’t know. But, as I told myself at the time, our beginnings never know our ends.

‘Dark.’ A large window. Evening sky. A man, A (later to become Deeley), and a woman, B (later to become Kate), sitting with drinks. ‘Fat or thin?’ the man asks. Who are they talking about? But I then see, standing at the window, a woman, C (later to become Anna), in another condition of light, her back to them, her hair dark.

It’s a strange moment, the moment of creating characters who up to that moment have had no existence. What follows is fitful, uncertain, even hallucinatory, although sometimes it can be an unstoppable avalanche. The author’s position is an odd one. In a sense he is not welcomed by the characters. The characters resist him, they are not easy to live with, they are impossible to define. You certainly can’t dictate to them. To a certain extent you play a never-ending game with them, cat and mouse, blind man’s buff, hide and seek. But finally you find that you have people of flesh and blood on your hands, people with will and an individual sensibility of their own, made out of component parts you are unable to change, manipulate or distort.

So language in art remains a highly ambiguous transaction, a quicksand, a trampoline, a frozen pool which might give way under you, the author, at any time.

But as I have said, the search for the truth can never stop. It cannot be adjourned, it cannot be postponed. It has to be faced, right there, on the spot.

Political theatre presents an entirely different set of problems. Sermonising has to be avoided at all cost. Objectivity is essential. The characters must be allowed to breathe their own air. The author cannot confine and constrict them to satisfy his own taste or disposition or prejudice. He must be prepared to approach them from a variety of angles, from a full and uninhibited range of perspectives, take them by surprise, perhaps, occasionally, but nevertheless give them the freedom to go which way they will. This does not always work. And political satire, of course, adheres to none of these precepts, in fact does precisely the opposite, which is its proper function.

In my play The Birthday Party I think I allow a whole range of options to operate in a dense forest of possibility before finally focussing on an act of subjugation.

Mountain Language pretends to no such range of operation. It remains brutal, short and ugly. But the soldiers in the play do get some fun out of it. One sometimes forgets that torturers become easily bored. They need a bit of a laugh to keep their spirits up. This has been confirmed of course by the events at Abu Ghraib in Baghdad. Mountain Language lasts only 20 minutes, but it could go on for hour after hour, on and on and on, the same pattern repeated over and over again, on and on, hour after hour.

Ashes to Ashes, on the other hand, seems to me to be taking place under water. A drowning woman, her hand reaching up through the waves, dropping down out of sight, reaching for others, but finding nobody there, either above or under the water, finding only shadows, reflections, floating; the woman a lost figure in a drowning landscape, a woman unable to escape the doom that seemed to belong only to others.

But as they died, she must die too.

Political language, as used by politicians, does not venture into any of this territory since the majority of politicians, on the evidence available to us, are interested not in truth but in power and in the maintenance of that power. To maintain that power it is essential that people remain in ignorance, that they live in ignorance of the truth, even the truth of their own lives. What surrounds us therefore is a vast tapestry of lies, upon which we feed.

As every single person here knows, the justification for the invasion of Iraq was that Saddam Hussein possessed a highly dangerous body of weapons of mass destruction, some of which could be fired in 45 minutes, bringing about appalling devastation. We were assured that was true. It was not true. We were told that Iraq had a relationship with Al Quaeda and shared responsibility for the atrocity in New York of September 11th 2001. We were assured that this was true. It was not true. We were told that Iraq threatened the security of the world. We were assured it was true. It was not true.

The truth is something entirely different. The truth is to do with how the United States understands its role in the world and how it chooses to embody it.

But before I come back to the present I would like to look at the recent past, by which I mean United States foreign policy since the end of the Second World War. I believe it is obligatory upon us to subject this period to at least some kind of even limited scrutiny, which is all that time will allow here.

Everyone knows what happened in the Soviet Union and throughout Eastern Europe during the post-war period: the systematic brutality, the widespread atrocities, the ruthless suppression of independent thought. All this has been fully documented and verified.

But my contention here is that the US crimes in the same period have only been superficially recorded, let alone documented, let alone acknowledged, let alone recognised as crimes at all. I believe this must be addressed and that the truth has considerable bearing on where the world stands now. Although constrained, to a certain extent, by the existence of the Soviet Union, the United States’ actions throughout the world made it clear that it had concluded it had carte blanche to do what it liked.

Direct invasion of a sovereign state has never in fact been America’s favoured method. In the main, it has preferred what it has described as ‘low intensity conflict’. Low intensity conflict means that thousands of people die but slower than if you dropped a bomb on them in one fell swoop. It means that you infect the heart of the country, that you establish a malignant growth and watch the gangrene bloom. When the populace has been subdued – or beaten to death – the same thing – and your own friends, the military and the great corporations, sit comfortably in power, you go before the camera and say that democracy has prevailed. This was a commonplace in US foreign policy in the years to which I refer.

The tragedy of Nicaragua was a highly significant case. I choose to offer it here as a potent example of America’s view of its role in the world, both then and now.

I was present at a meeting at the US embassy in London in the late 1980s.

The United States Congress was about to decide whether to give more money to the Contras in their campaign against the state of Nicaragua. I was a member of a delegation speaking on behalf of Nicaragua but the most important member of this delegation was a Father John Metcalf. The leader of the US body was Raymond Seitz (then number two to the ambassador, later ambassador himself). Father Metcalf said: ‘Sir, I am in charge of a parish in the north of Nicaragua. My parishioners built a school, a health centre, a cultural centre. We have lived in peace. A few months ago a Contra force attacked the parish. They destroyed everything: the school, the health centre, the cultural centre. They raped nurses and teachers, slaughtered doctors, in the most brutal manner. They behaved like savages. Please demand that the US government withdraw its support from this shocking terrorist activity.’

Raymond Seitz had a very good reputation as a rational, responsible and highly sophisticated man. He was greatly respected in diplomatic circles. He listened, paused and then spoke with some gravity. ‘Father,’ he said, ‘let me tell you something. In war, innocent people always suffer.’ There was a frozen silence. We stared at him. He did not flinch.

Innocent people, indeed, always suffer.

Finally somebody said: ‘But in this case “innocent people” were the victims of a gruesome atrocity subsidised by your government, one among many. If Congress allows the Contras more money further atrocities of this kind will take place. Is this not the case? Is your government not therefore guilty of supporting acts of murder and destruction upon the citizens of a sovereign state?’

Seitz was imperturbable. ‘I don’t agree that the facts as presented support your assertions,’ he said.

As we were leaving the Embassy a US aide told me that he enjoyed my plays. I did not reply.

I should remind you that at the time President Reagan made the following statement: ‘The Contras are the moral equivalent of our Founding Fathers.’

The United States supported the brutal Somoza dictatorship in Nicaragua for over 40 years. The Nicaraguan people, led by the Sandinistas, overthrew this regime in 1979, a breathtaking popular revolution.

The Sandinistas weren’t perfect. They possessed their fair share of arrogance and their political philosophy contained a number of contradictory elements. But they were intelligent, rational and civilised. They set out to establish a stable, decent, pluralistic society. The death penalty was abolished. Hundreds of thousands of poverty-stricken peasants were brought back from the dead. Over 100,000 families were given title to land. Two thousand schools were built. A quite remarkable literacy campaign reduced illiteracy in the country to less than one seventh. Free education was established and a free health service. Infant mortality was reduced by a third. Polio was eradicated.

The United States denounced these achievements as Marxist/Leninist subversion. In the view of the US government, a dangerous example was being set. If Nicaragua was allowed to establish basic norms of social and economic justice, if it was allowed to raise the standards of health care and education and achieve social unity and national self respect, neighbouring countries would ask the same questions and do the same things. There was of course at the time fierce resistance to the status quo in El Salvador.

I spoke earlier about ‘a tapestry of lies’ which surrounds us. President Reagan commonly described Nicaragua as a ‘totalitarian dungeon’. This was taken generally by the media, and certainly by the British government, as accurate and fair comment. But there was in fact no record of death squads under the Sandinista government. There was no record of torture. There was no record of systematic or official military brutality. No priests were ever murdered in Nicaragua. There were in fact three priests in the government, two Jesuits and a Maryknoll missionary. The totalitarian dungeons were actually next door, in El Salvador and Guatemala. The United States had brought down the democratically elected government of Guatemala in 1954 and it is estimated that over 200,000 people had been victims of successive military dictatorships.

Six of the most distinguished Jesuits in the world were viciously murdered at the Central American University in San Salvador in 1989 by a battalion of the Alcatl regiment trained at Fort Benning, Georgia, USA. That extremely brave man Archbishop Romero was assassinated while saying mass. It is estimated that 75,000 people died. Why were they killed? They were killed because they believed a better life was possible and should be achieved. That belief immediately qualified them as communists. They died because they dared to question the status quo, the endless plateau of poverty, disease, degradation and oppression, which had been their birthright.

The United States finally brought down the Sandinista government. It took some years and considerable resistance but relentless economic persecution and 30,000 dead finally undermined the spirit of the Nicaraguan people. They were exhausted and poverty stricken once again. The casinos moved back into the country. Free health and free education were over. Big business returned with a vengeance. ‘Democracy’ had prevailed.

But this ‘policy’ was by no means restricted to Central America. It was conducted throughout the world. It was never-ending. And it is as if it never happened.

The United States supported and in many cases engendered every right wing military dictatorship in the world after the end of the Second World War. I refer to Indonesia, Greece, Uruguay, Brazil, Paraguay, Haiti, Turkey, the Philippines, Guatemala, El Salvador, and, of course, Chile. The horror the United States inflicted upon Chile in 1973 can never be purged and can never be forgiven.

Hundreds of thousands of deaths took place throughout these countries. Did they take place? And are they in all cases attributable to US foreign policy? The answer is yes they did take place and they are attributable to American foreign policy. But you wouldn’t know it.

It never happened. Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening it wasn’t happening. It didn’t matter. It was of no interest. The crimes of the United States have been systematic, constant, vicious, remorseless, but very few people have actually talked about them. You have to hand it to America. It has exercised a quite clinical manipulation of power worldwide while masquerading as a force for universal good. It’s a brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis.

I put to you that the United States is without doubt the greatest show on the road. Brutal, indifferent, scornful and ruthless it may be but it is also very clever. As a salesman it is out on its own and its most saleable commodity is self love. It’s a winner. Listen to all American presidents on television say the words, ‘the American people’, as in the sentence, ‘I say to the American people it is time to pray and to defend the rights of the American people and I ask the American people to trust their president in the action he is about to take on behalf of the American people.’

It’s a scintillating stratagem. Language is actually employed to keep thought at bay. The words ‘the American people’ provide a truly voluptuous cushion of reassurance. You don’t need to think. Just lie back on the cushion. The cushion may be suffocating your intelligence and your critical faculties but it’s very comfortable. This does not apply of course to the 40 million people living below the poverty line and the 2 million men and women imprisoned in the vast gulag of prisons, which extends across the US.

The United States no longer bothers about low intensity conflict. It no longer sees any point in being reticent or even devious. It puts its cards on the table without fear or favour. It quite simply doesn’t give a damn about the United Nations, international law or critical dissent, which it regards as impotent and irrelevant. It also has its own bleating little lamb tagging behind it on a lead, the pathetic and supine Great Britain.

What has happened to our moral sensibility? Did we ever have any? What do these words mean? Do they refer to a term very rarely employed these days – conscience? A conscience to do not only with our own acts but to do with our shared responsibility in the acts of others? Is all this dead? Look at Guantanamo Bay. Hundreds of people detained without charge for over three years, with no legal representation or due process, technically detained forever. This totally illegitimate structure is maintained in defiance of the Geneva Convention. It is not only tolerated but hardly thought about by what’s called the ‘international community’. This criminal outrage is being committed by a country, which declares itself to be ‘the leader of the free world’. Do we think about the inhabitants of Guantanamo Bay? What does the media say about them? They pop up occasionally – a small item on page six. They have been consigned to a no man’s land from which indeed they may never return. At present many are on hunger strike, being force-fed, including British residents. No niceties in these force-feeding procedures. No sedative or anaesthetic. Just a tube stuck up your nose and into your throat. You vomit blood. This is torture. What has the British Foreign Secretary said about this? Nothing. What has the British Prime Minister said about this? Nothing. Why not? Because the United States has said: to criticise our conduct in Guantanamo Bay constitutes an unfriendly act. You’re either with us or against us. So Blair shuts up.

The invasion of Iraq was a bandit act, an act of blatant state terrorism, demonstrating absolute contempt for the concept of international law. The invasion was an arbitrary military action inspired by a series of lies upon lies and gross manipulation of the media and therefore of the public; an act intended to consolidate American military and economic control of the Middle East masquerading – as a last resort – all other justifications having failed to justify themselves – as liberation. A formidable assertion of military force responsible for the death and mutilation of thousands and thousands of innocent people.

We have brought torture, cluster bombs, depleted uranium, innumerable acts of random murder, misery, degradation and death to the Iraqi people and call it ‘bringing freedom and democracy to the Middle East’.

How many people do you have to kill before you qualify to be described as a mass murderer and a war criminal? One hundred thousand? More than enough, I would have thought. Therefore it is just that Bush and Blair be arraigned before the International Criminal Court of Justice. But Bush has been clever. He has not ratified the International Criminal Court of Justice. Therefore if any American soldier or for that matter politician finds himself in the dock Bush has warned that he will send in the marines. But Tony Blair has ratified the Court and is therefore available for prosecution. We can let the Court have his address if they’re interested. It is Number 10, Downing Street, London.

Death in this context is irrelevant. Both Bush and Blair place death well away on the back burner. At least 100,000 Iraqis were killed by American bombs and missiles before the Iraq insurgency began. These people are of no moment. Their deaths don’t exist. They are blank. They are not even recorded as being dead. ‘We don’t do body counts,’ said the American general Tommy Franks.

Early in the invasion there was a photograph published on the front page of British newspapers of Tony Blair kissing the cheek of a little Iraqi boy. ‘A grateful child,’ said the caption. A few days later there was a story and photograph, on an inside page, of another four-year-old boy with no arms. His family had been blown up by a missile. He was the only survivor. ‘When do I get my arms back?’ he asked. The story was dropped. Well, Tony Blair wasn’t holding him in his arms, nor the body of any other mutilated child, nor the body of any bloody corpse. Blood is dirty. It dirties your shirt and tie when you’re making a sincere speech on television.

The 2,000 American dead are an embarrassment. They are transported to their graves in the dark. Funerals are unobtrusive, out of harm’s way. The mutilated rot in their beds, some for the rest of their lives. So the dead and the mutilated both rot, in different kinds of graves.

Here is an extract from a poem by Pablo Neruda, ‘I’m Explaining a Few Things’:

And one morning all that was burning,
one morning the bonfires
leapt out of the earth
devouring human beings
and from then on fire,
gunpowder from then on,
and from then on blood.
Bandits with planes and Moors,
bandits with finger-rings and duchesses,
bandits with black friars spattering blessings
came through the sky to kill children
and the blood of children ran through the streets
without fuss, like children’s blood.

Jackals that the jackals would despise
stones that the dry thistle would bite on and spit out,
vipers that the vipers would abominate.

Face to face with you I have seen the blood
of Spain tower like a tide
to drown you in one wave
of pride and knives.

Treacherous
generals:
see my dead house,
look at broken Spain:
from every house burning metal flows
instead of flowers
from every socket of Spain
Spain emerges
and from every dead child a rifle with eyes
and from every crime bullets are born
which will one day find
the bull’s eye of your hearts.

And you will ask: why doesn’t his poetry
speak of dreams and leaves
and the great volcanoes of his native land.

Come and see the blood in the streets.
Come and see
the blood in the streets.
Come and see the blood
in the streets!

Let me make it quite clear that in quoting from Neruda’s poem I am in no way comparing Republican Spain to Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. I quote Neruda because nowhere in contemporary poetry have I read such a powerful visceral description of the bombing of civilians.

I have said earlier that the United States is now totally frank about putting its cards on the table. That is the case. Its official declared policy is now defined as ‘full spectrum dominance’. That is not my term, it is theirs. ‘Full spectrum dominance’ means control of land, sea, air and space and all attendant resources.

The United States now occupies 702 military installations throughout the world in 132 countries, with the honourable exception of Sweden, of course. We don’t quite know how they got there but they are there all right.

The United States possesses 8,000 active and operational nuclear warheads. Two thousand are on hair trigger alert, ready to be launched with 15 minutes warning. It is developing new systems of nuclear force, known as bunker busters. The British, ever cooperative, are intending to replace their own nuclear missile, Trident. Who, I wonder, are they aiming at? Osama bin Laden? You? Me? Joe Dokes? China? Paris? Who knows? What we do know is that this infantile insanity – the possession and threatened use of nuclear weapons – is at the heart of present American political philosophy. We must remind ourselves that the United States is on a permanent military footing and shows no sign of relaxing it.

Many thousands, if not millions, of people in the United States itself are demonstrably sickened, shamed and angered by their government’s actions, but as things stand they are not a coherent political force – yet. But the anxiety, uncertainty and fear which we can see growing daily in the United States is unlikely to diminish.

I know that President Bush has many extremely competent speech writers but I would like to volunteer for the job myself. I propose the following short address which he can make on television to the nation. I see him grave, hair carefully combed, serious, winning, sincere, often beguiling, sometimes employing a wry smile, curiously attractive, a man’s man.

‘God is good. God is great. God is good. My God is good. Bin Laden’s God is bad. His is a bad God. Saddam’s God was bad, except he didn’t have one. He was a barbarian. We are not barbarians. We don’t chop people’s heads off. We believe in freedom. So does God. I am not a barbarian. I am the democratically elected leader of a freedom-loving democracy. We are a compassionate society. We give compassionate electrocution and compassionate lethal injection. We are a great nation. I am not a dictator. He is. I am not a barbarian. He is. And he is. They all are. I possess moral authority. You see this fist? This is my moral authority. And don’t you forget it.’

A writer’s life is a highly vulnerable, almost naked activity. We don’t have to weep about that. The writer makes his choice and is stuck with it. But it is true to say that you are open to all the winds, some of them icy indeed. You are out on your own, out on a limb. You find no shelter, no protection – unless you lie – in which case of course you have constructed your own protection and, it could be argued, become a politician.

I have referred to death quite a few times this evening. I shall now quote a poem of my own called ‘Death’.

Where was the dead body found?
Who found the dead body?
Was the dead body dead when found?
How was the dead body found?

Who was the dead body?

Who was the father or daughter or brother
Or uncle or sister or mother or son
Of the dead and abandoned body?

Was the body dead when abandoned?
Was the body abandoned?
By whom had it been abandoned?

Was the dead body naked or dressed for a journey?

What made you declare the dead body dead?
Did you declare the dead body dead?
How well did you know the dead body?
How did you know the dead body was dead?

Did you wash the dead body
Did you close both its eyes
Did you bury the body
Did you leave it abandoned
Did you kiss the dead body

When we look into a mirror we think the image that confronts us is accurate. But move a millimetre and the image changes. We are actually looking at a never-ending range of reflections. But sometimes a writer has to smash the mirror – for it is on the other side of that mirror that the truth stares at us.

I believe that despite the enormous odds which exist, unflinching, unswerving, fierce intellectual determination, as citizens, to define the real truth of our lives and our societies is a crucial obligation which devolves upon us all. It is in fact mandatory.

If such a determination is not embodied in our political vision we have no hope of restoring what is so nearly lost to us – the dignity of man.

100 days until end of Bush Error

Imagine that. The Conservatives refused to provide health care for all, claiming the $50B price tag would bankrupt America. Yet, in the last month or so, the Treasury and the Fed have forked over more than $5T — over 100 times as much — to cover the gambling losses of the filthy-rich. It is clearly way past time for a Second American Revolution!
 
The entire planet has been scammed by the filthy rich. There is nothing on earth that can stop this slow motion economic trainwreck. The derivatives meltdown will cost more than 10 times the entire world’s output. On the up-side, I hear the filthy-rich taste just like chicken!

Paul Krugman wins Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences. This is the guy Obama should make Secretary of the Treasury.

16 newspapers endorsed Obama on Sunday, only 2 for McCain.

Stephanopoulos: No candidate has ever lost with Obama’s lead over McCain. (53-43)

Top GOP strategist Ed Rollins compares McCain’s spectacular campaign failure to Hillary’s.

McCain expected to “hit the panic button” today, since it now looks like he will have a hard time even carrying many of the “red states.”

GOP is just a pseudonym for LIE. “Curveball,” they guy the administration blames all their false Iraq intel on, says he never told them Saddam had WMDs, they made all that crap up themselves. In fact, he never even spoke to the CIA!

The red flag should have been his “faith and family values” campaign. Congressman Tim Mahoney (D-FL) paid his mistress $121,000 to keep her mouth shut about the affair.

There are cannibals in the land. Even ArchNeocon Bill Kristol admits McCain campaign is a joke, and then rabid McCain campaign turns on him. Didn’t someone once say something about “a house divided cannot stand?”

trick-or-treat

Excerpts from Thomas McCullock’s Oct 13 notes, thomasmc.com.