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Monday, August 09, 2010

The late Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. called the nuclear bombing of Nagasaki (65 years ago today) the "nastiest act by this country, after human slavery"

Sixteen years ago I attended a Hiroshima/Nagasaki Commemoration at the University of Chicago. Of course, Chicago was a key site in the development of nuclear weapons. It was there under the Stagg Field football stadium on December 2, 1942 that Enrico Fermi and his Manhattan Project team started up the first nuclear reactor capable of a sustained, controlled chain reaction.

Vonnegut was the featured speaker that day in 1994. The final question asked of him was about how we know that use of The Bomb was about something other than ending World War II or "saving lives" in said-to-be-necessary military actions.

He replied with one word, "Nagasaki," and left the platform.

Last Friday August 6 we held our annual Peace Center commemoration at Peirce Park in Bangor. Below I am including two videos. The first is the full ceremony and runs 25 minutes. Yours truly is the last speaker. The second video is the local television coverage airing on all three channels Friday evening.

Below the fold, I have included a written version of my remarks, as prepared. And HERE is a link to the Bangor Daily News story that ran Saturday. (Wow, BDN comments tend toward a swamp of wingnuttia, don't they?)

This video runs 25 minutes and includes the whole commemoration and die-in. Maine Owl is the last speaker.

Ch. 2, Ch. 5, and Ch.7 stories from Friday August 6

Sadly no tape could be made of the reading of "Grandmother's Doll" by Masanobu and Tomoko Ikemiya of Bar Harbor. The story is about a little girl, a hibakusha, who survives the horror of Hiroshima. Masanobu is a wonderful concert pianist who told of his own WWII family tragedies.

Remarks by Maine Owl on August 6, 2010
I stand here today with the best news about the effort to rid the world of nuclear terror

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Forty years ago, "Four dead in O - Hi - O"

Cover art from ``Pete Hamill's Murder at Kent State University,'' 1970 Flying Dutchman spoken word album narrated by Rosko

GOV. JAMES RHODES: We are seeing here at the city of Kent, especially, probably the most vicious form of campus-oriented violence yet perpetrated by dissident groups. They make definite plans of burning, destroying and throwing rocks at police and at the National Guard and the Highway Patrol. This is when we're going to use every part of the law enforcement agency of Ohio to drive them out of Kent. We are going to eradicate the problem. We're not going to treat the symptoms. And these people just move from one campus to the other and terrorize the community. They're worse than the Brown Shirts in the communist element and also the Night Riders and the vigilantes. They're the worst type of people that we harbor in America. And I want to say that they're not going to take over a campus.

REPORTER: How long do you expect to keep the Guard at Kent?

GOV. JAMES RHODES: I'll answer that -- Until we get rid of them.
Ohio Governor James Rhodes interviewed on May 3, 1970, excerpted from the documentary "Kent State: The Day the War Came Home," directed by Chris Triffo, produced by Ron Goetz; and broadcast on Democracy Now! in 2005.

And here is an excerpt from Nat Hentoff's liner notes in the 1970 Flying Dutchman spoken word album ``Pete Hamill's Murder at Kent State University''.
America -- Spring, 1970 -- must have seemed a land of madness to, let us say, a citizen of Copenhagen watching on television what we were doing to ourselves. Let alone what we kept doing -- and keep doing -- to others in Vietnam, in Cambodia, and God (or is it the Devil) knows where else and how soon.

America -- Spring, 1970 -- was witnessing a further dimension of madness. We were killing our own children. Officially. Men wearing uniforms, carrying and using guns issued to them by the state, were murdering the young. At Kent State. In Jackson, Mississippi. And by the time you read this, perhaps at other places....

...The Mobe Marshals -- as police tear gas began during the end of the day in May, after Cambodia and after Kent State, when the Army of the young had again come to Washington -- the Mobe Marshalls, Pete Hamill writes, ``intervened with the only weapon they had: their bodies. They formed a line between the young and the police, arms locked, tears running down their faces from the gas, holding on, choking, trying to hold back the rushing tides of blood and anger.''

Unless millions of us organize -- and stay organized -- after Kent State and Cambodia and Jackson -- there will be no holding back those tides.... There is not that much time left. Those other voices -- hawking ``bums'' and ``impudent snobs'' -- still have the power to make many, many Kent States and many, many Jacksons. They are beyond understanding but they are not yet beyond the democratic processes if we implement those processes and tell them -- in numbers they cannot ignore -- to stop the killing, stop the madness.

There is not that much time left.
This all has an eerie echo to today, but without the Mobe Marshals and their bodies. America is making today horror on a major scale in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. But all this hardly produces a bleat of disobedience. In fact killing is celebrated with cheering and applause for a Vice President's unseemly performance of blood spitting.

Young, Hentoff, Hamill all are still with us, often stirring things up a bit. But are "millions of us" ready to stop war through "democratic process"?

Sunday, February 14, 2010

We'd call it just "terrorism" if it was done on our soil, wouldn't we?

Under Obama, more targeted killings than captures in counterterrorism efforts
By Karen DeYoung and Joby Warrick | Washington Post
Sunday, February 14, 2010
When a window of opportunity opened to strike the leader of al-Qaeda in East Africa last September, U.S. Special Operations forces prepared several options. They could obliterate his vehicle with an airstrike as he drove through southern Somalia. Or they could fire from helicopters that could land at the scene to confirm the kill. Or they could try to take him alive.

The White House authorized the second option. On the morning of Sept. 14, helicopters flying from a U.S. ship off the Somali coast blew up a car carrying Saleh Ali Nabhan. While several hovered overhead, one set down long enough for troops to scoop up enough of the remains for DNA verification. Moments later, the helicopters were headed back to the ship.

The strike was considered a major success, according to senior administration and military officials ...

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Seems the Reuters item I linked to last week about bloody U.S.-involved attacks in the country of Yemen was even just a little bit more serious:


Nice way to show how deserving you were of that Nobel, Obama. Of course, cruise missiles have for years been a favored tool of Democrats needing to swing dick.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The U.S. House of Representatives quietly raised the national debt ceiling yesterday. And in Obamatime, war funding no longer is controversial: "The House on Wednesday passed a major bill that provides more than $100 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan...."

Update: No wonder they need a quick $100 billion, Afghanistan Escalation Ramps Up Contractor Presence. Curious how the fiscal responsibility of Republicans and Democrats when it comes to health or environment is no issue here.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Accusation of savagery

Yemen rebels say air raid kills 120, accuse U.S.
Yemeni Shi'ite rebels accused the U.S. Air Force Tuesday of joining attacks against them, and killing at least 120 people in a raid in the north of the poor Arab state.

"The savage crime committed by the U.S. air force shows the real face of the United States," said the northern rebels, who often report attacks by the Yemeni and Saudi fighter planes, on their website. There was no immediate report of U.S. comment on the alleged incident.
Update: Broken link revised. In light of the drumbeat coverage of the Christmas Day NW Airlines underwear bomber, I think it's important to keep in mind the amount of killing the U.S. thinks it is entitled to do in Muslim countries.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

"War is sometimes necessary and war at some level is an expression of human folly." --President Obama

Today I forced myself to listen to the Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech President Obama gave in Oslo. I don't mind telling you that the entire incident of the award of this prize to Obama and his acceptance of it sickens me.

Frankly, I barely could listen to Obama deliver the speech. I found the contradictions profound and the allusions to King, well, cynical. The award of the Peace Prize to Obama is so embarrassing--especially in light of his Afghanistan escalation speech just one week ago--that he has nixed press availability and the usual pomp & circumstance.

Beyond that, I react viscerally to liberal hawk notions--finding the formulation of just war theory, in particular Obama's version, to be fraudulent. That's not to say I didn't find the line about "the blood of our citizens" to be enormously powerful, and the counterpoint "war itself is never glorious" to be deeply true. However the mere fact that Obama used the backdrop of the West Point cadets to deliver his escalation speech belies his willingness to use props of glory in a manner every bit as tawdry as the style of Bush.

For more excellent response, I recommend Counterpunch. THIS piece by Patrick Cockburn on "The March of Folly" calls it like it is, not the next Bushian grand chapter in the necessary sacrificial struggle against the spectre of total evil, but rather that
President Obama is sending 30,000 extra troops to Afghanistan to prove that the US can impose its will on the country and crush by military means what is still a relatively small scale insurrection.
I'll also mention THIS by William Blum, "Yeswecanism," a quite thorough examination of the Obama war promises and subsequent American war conduct under Obama evidently overlooked by Obama supporters and the Nobel Committee alike.

In the speech, there was something Obama forgot to mention while invoking Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., who received the Prize in 1964--King completely rejected just war theory in his own Nobel acceptance:
KING: After contemplation, I conclude that this award which I receive on behalf of that movement is a profound recognition that nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral question of our time--the need for man to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to violence and oppression. ...

I refuse to accept the cynical notion that nation after nation must spiral down a militaristic stairway into the hell of thermonuclear destruction. I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right temporarily defeated is stronger than evil triumphant. I believe that even amid today's mortar bursts and whining bullets, there is still hope for a brighter tomorrow. I believe that wounded justice, lying prostrate on the blood-flowing streets of our nations, can be lifted from this dust of shame to reign supreme among the children of men. I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits. I believe that what self-centered men have torn down men other-centered can build up. I still believe that one day mankind will bow before the altars of God and be crowned triumphant over war and bloodshed, and nonviolent redemptive good will proclaim the rule of the land. "And the lion and the lamb shall lie down together and every man shall sit under his own vine and fig tree and none shall be afraid." I still believe that We Shall overcome!
So Obama rejected King. He accepted the cynical notion that the forces of inhumanity must be met with violent response. His argument rests on the inevitability of repeating the failures of the past that have spilled the blood of our citizens--plus the blood of untold numbers throughout the world at the hands of our citizens and our powerful bombs. He has embraced this human folly.

Below is "An Open Letter to the Nobel Committee On Obama's Peace Prize" signed by representatives from a variety of U.S. peace groups:

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Norman Solomon: "'[E]ventually" is a long way off. In the meantime, the result of Washington's hollow politics is more carnage."

Rep. Dennis Kucinich: "The community I represent in Cleveland, Ohio, is suffering from massive unemployment, record home foreclosures, and small business failures. People are losing their jobs, their health care, their homes, their savings, their investments, and their retirement security. The middle class is gravely threatened. What is happening in Cleveland is occurring nationwide. Yet, Wall Street received over $13 trillion in bailouts, with untold millions for high salaries and bonuses, while Main Street loses its power through unemployment, reduced wages and benefits and little or no access to credit or investment capital. There is something fundamentally wrong with our economy which borrowing more money to spend on war cannot and will not cure. Perhaps nation building should begin at home.

An escalation of the war in Afghanistan at a time of such economic dislocation and hardship raises questions about America's priorities and whether or not we are losing our way as we attempt to stride aside the globe as some Colossus. Tomorrow we will begin anew the discussion."

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

We are sending 30,000 more troops so that we can pull our forces out of Afghanistan.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Escalation and drone war highlight a year of Obama. I had hoped for better.

Obama promises to "finish the job." Sound familiar?

I know he told us he'd put more war into Afghanistan during the 2008 campaign. But is escalating now to "dismantle and degrade" terrorists no longer there really worth it? And that's according to Obama's general himself. He's really just a bookend with Bush in the War Party.

Meanwhile, covert war with use of Blackwater (aka Xe) as a tool along with the Joint Special Ops drone aircraft rages in Pakistan:

Blackwater's Secret War in Pakistan: Jeremy Scahill Reveals Private Military Firm Operating in Pakistan Under Covert Assassination and Kidnapping Program
Democracy Now! 11-24-2009
AMY GOODMAN: Jeremy Scahill, explain who is behind the drone attacks in Pakistan, who has been killed, and talk about legality here.

JEREMY SCAHILL: Right. The CIA of course has been running a drone campaign in Pakistan going back years into the Bush administration. When President Obama took office on January 23, he ordered his first drone strike inside of Pakistan. There were two strikes in North and South Waziristan, and has bombed Pakistan regularly ever since. In fact, Vice-President Joe Biden, part of his strategy reportedly is calling for escalation of these drone strikes. This has caused some controversy because there of a large numbers of civilian deaths as a result of these bombings.

And technically, the operations of the CIA need to be reported to Senator Dianne Feinstein and others on the intelligence committee. and there was a controversy this summer because Leon Panetta ran up the hill and said he had cancelled the CIA assassination program and that sort of put the drones in an intense focus on the hill. What I am told now though, is that there is actually and has been for some time, a parallel drone strike program that is being run by the Joint Special Operations Command and that these JSOC drone strikes are sometimes done with very little regard for how many civilians may die in the pursuit of one quote unquote "Bad guy,"

In fact, my military intelligence source said to me if there's one guy we're trying to hit and there are 34 other people in the building, 35 people are going to die that day. And he said part of the reason why these strikes are happening is because JSOC works on a classified mandate and they really don?t care because they are not going to go to the Hill and talk to Congress about it and they are not going to face consequences, and its an open secret no one wants to talk about. [emphasis added]

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Via Atrios, is this LINK to a review of "The Ground Truth: The Untold Story of America Under Attack on 9/11" by John Farmer. For some years I've been trying to put as succinctly as reviewer Jacob Heilbrunn does exactly what the Terror War has been all about:

The Lies They Told
The New York Times | November 12, 2009
For all the trillions of dollars lavished on it, for all the talk about confronting new security threats, for all the exhortations to reinvent government, America?s defense establishment, as John Farmer reminds us in "The Ground Truth," continued to fight the cold war more than a decade after it had ended. ...

In trumpeting an ill-defined war against terrorism, Bush simply transposed the bombast of the cold war to the present to suggest that he was a new Churchill staring down evil and that America needed to combat a new totalitarian threat emerging from the Islamic world.
A whole new period of beating drums has emerged from stories of new "plots," the horrendous shooting spree of a madman at Fort Hood that wingnuttia all too easily fits into the rubric of Terror War, and upcoming New York circus trials of tortured suspects that Attorney General Holder announced this week. It's all part and parcel of the fear mongering that has proven so useful in keeping our country a bloodthirsty, revenge-thirsty purveyor of violence not just since 9/11, but for decades.

I don't mind telling you that I'm tired of it. War is making us broke, hated, and subject to blowback. It's time for new approaches that begin with standing down the foreign occupations, and the machinations of Terror War on all fronts.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

I've written extensively a few years ago on the effect on occupied people of an invader that feels impunity in bombing, killing, and breaking down doors. I'll repost below something I put up almost six years ago about Iraq.

It shouldn't be so hard, then, to understand what motivates Afghan Taliban forces. Greenwald today discusses HERE some realization from David Rhodes reporting from Afghanistan in the New York Times.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Co-founder of and author of the new book "Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union" will be in Orono, Bangor, and Portland November 5-6

David Swanson was arrested Monday (Oct. 5) outside the White House along with sixty other peace activists to begin this week's protest against the Afghan War, now in its 9th year. This clip is his Wednesday interview with Juan Gonzales on Democracy Now!:
JUAN GONZALEZ: But David Swanson, are you disheartened by the fact that so far only twenty-one co-sponsors have signed onto Congresswoman Barbara Lee's bill?

DAVID SWANSON: Well, those are original co-sponsors on day one; this is something that's just begun. I am encouraged that they've put that in and are beginning to whip around it. I'm encouraged that there are a hundred co-sponsors of the bill demanding an exit plan. I'm somewhat encouraged that, when it came down to it, we had thirty members of Congress vote "no" on the money back in June and that the public and the stories in the news have moved the debate much further against this war since June, so that if we had a similar situation, where the Republicans were all voting "no" for some cockamamy reason, we could get the thirty-nine we needed , not the thirty that we held in June. And that's the threat to the President's agenda and to this scheme where the Congress is trying to shift all responsibility for wars to the President, where it does not belong.

The DC protest, October 5

Author and organizer David Swanson will visit Bangor and Orono on Thursday November 5, 2009. Swanson is well known for creation of the website following the publication in the U.K. of the revealing contents of the July 2002 Downing Street Memo:
C reported on his recent talks in Washington. There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. The NSC had no patience with the UN route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime's record. There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action.
Here is David Swanson's schedule for November 5. These events are free and open to the public:
  • 12:30 p.m. Talk on "Undoing the Imperial Presidency" Bangor Room, Memorial Union, University of Maine, Orono, Maine
  • 7:00 p.m. Evening talk on "Forming a More Perfect Union: Rights We've Lost and Rights We've Never Had"; Peace and Justice Center of Eastern Maine, 170 Park St, Bangor, ME.

Contact the organizers:

Jamilla El-Shafei
jamillaelshafei at

Bruce Gagnon
globalnet at

Michael Howard
Michael_Howard at

See HERE for information on the scheduled Portland event. More information about David Swanson is below.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

This blog and it's predecessor always have been very skeptical of terror alerts. So we've really appreciated Keith Olbermann's recent piece following their history and associations with politics--deftly assembled in response to the provocative comments evidently to be in the forthcoming Tom Ridge book. This really is a terrific 16-1/2 minute segment:

The Nexus of Terror and Politics -- 2009 Edition

Related media, clip from "Hijacking Catastrophe" (2004):

Judge the veracity of Ridge at the time for yourself. PBS News Hour, on 2/7/03, a Friday in early February and just two days after Colin Powell mocked up anthrax at the U.N.:
JOHN ASHCROFT: Recent reporting indicates an increased likelihood that al-Qaida may attempt to attack Americans in the United States and/or abroad, in or around the end of the Hajj, a Muslim religious period ending mid- February 2003. Recent intelligence reports suggest that al-Qaida leaders have emphasized planning for attacks on apartment buildings, hotels and other soft or lightly secured targets in the United States.

TOM RIDGE: As a result of the increase in the threat level, as a result of going from yellow to orange, "elevated" to "high," specific protective measures will be taken by all federal agencies both to reduce vulnerabilities and many of them actually will, we believe, serve as a deterrent. Increased security personnel at points of entry may in fact limit points of entry and exit; enhanced identification checks, restrictions to travel around federal facilities and airports, among the many augmented security measures that will be implemented.

Now, as the attorney general mentioned, for individual Americans, we ask you... we ask you to remain aware and remain alert. One of the thoughts that I would just simply share with you: It's probably not a bad idea to sit down and just arrange some kind of a contact plan, that if an event occurred, you want to make sure you can... the family wants to get in touch with one another.
PBS correspondent Eric Lichtblau then tells Ray Suarez, "No, not really," when asked, "Were the government officials involved in this briefing very specific about what people should be on the lookout for? What kind of attack do they want us to be worried about?"

A couple of days later, American families run for the closet to tape themselves in.

Other related items:

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Robert Greenwald film to be shown at the PEACE & JUSTICE CENTER OF EASTERN MAINE 123 Park St. in Bangor, 7:00 p.m., SUNDAY SEPT. 20

Take a look at the people and environment of the country of Afghanistan. Does it resemble the threat President Obama outlined this week at the VFW Convention in Phoenix?
President Obama: As I said when I announced this strategy, there will be more difficult days ahead. The insurgency in Afghanistan didn't just happen overnight and we won't defeat it overnight. This will not be quick, nor easy. But we must never forget: This is not a war of choice. This is a war of necessity. Those who attacked America on 9/11 are plotting to do so again. If left unchecked, the Taliban insurgency will mean an even larger safe haven from which al Qaeda would plot to kill more Americans. So this is not only a war worth fighting. This is a -- this is fundamental to the defense of our people.
Even a recent report in the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relation suggests strategies being employed in Afghanistan that would seem wildly to diverge from any purpose of rolling up purveyors of terror aimed at the U.S. It looks like he U.S. has taken a decision to fight using the dirtiest of tactics, according to a New York Times story last week on this report.
"We have a list of 367 'kill or capture' targets, including 50 nexus targets who link drugs and the insurgency," one of the generals told the committee staff. The generals were not identified in the Senate report, which was obtained by The New York Times. ... The Senate report found that American officials did not believe that Afghan drug money was fueling Al Qaeda, which instead relies on contributions from wealthy individuals and charities in Persian Gulf countries, as well as aid organizations working inside Afghanistan.
Evidently, the objective now is to have a drug war. I'd ask the same question suggested by in the Greenwald film: How are these terror tactics -- embrace of extrajudicial execution -- going to do anything but build up hatred of U.S. occupation? Stopping terrorism from Afghanistan has gotta be way down the list for being there, doesn't it?

Monday, August 03, 2009

Commemoration in Bangor THIS THURSDAY at noon

Hiroshima-Nagasaki 2009 commemoration in Bangor

Below is audio from my segment today on the upcoming commemoration broadcast on WERU Peacetime with Lee Whiting:

Here is a LINK where you can reach the Hiroshima program featuring the late Walter Cronkite mentioned in the segment. There you may listen to audio of his 3-minute commentary from this 2005 PRI special, Lessons from Hiroshima: 60 years later.

Below is additional information on the event from the Peace and Justice Center of Eastern Maine:
The Peace & Justice Center of Eastern Maine invites the public to participate in a free event commemorating the 64th anniversary of the two nuclear bombings of civilian populations. We will gather outside the Bangor Public Library in Peirce Park at noon Thursday August 6th. Below is a description of the event.

12:00 "Die-In" Peirce Park next to Bangor Public Library
Following readings about the day and a song by Marty Kelly, we will lie down to represent more than 100,000 killed in Hiroshima on Auust 6th 1945, more than 70,000 killed in Nagasaki on August 9th, 1945, and the tens of thousands who died of radiation poisoning in the weeks following, or were permanently maimed by the bombing.

12:30 Showing of slide show "Unforgettable Fire," Conference Room, Bangor Public Library
The die-in will be followed by a showing of slides of drawings by survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki entitled "Unforgettable Fire" in the conference room of the Bangor Public Library. The slide show was compiled with the help of the late University of Maine Professor of History, Howard Schonberger, during his 1975-76 Fullbright sabbatical to Japan. Ann Schonberger, his widow, will be present to share their experience of working with Japanese students at the World Friendship Center in Hiroshima to translate captions from the original work into English.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Not a dove. He was for the war before he said it couldn't be won. Having seen War Made Easy, I recall the footage of Cronkite celebrating the bombers Solomon mentions. In fact it was the first thing I thought about when I'd heard he died and while his famous February 1968 quote,
Walter Cronkite: But it is increasingly clear to this reporter that the only rational way out then will be to negotiate, not as victors, but as an honorable people who lived up to their pledge to defend democracy and did the best they could.
played over and over.

This doesn't diminish my admiration for his deep questioning on nuclear weapons during his later life (previous post). People are complicated. Life is complicated.
U.S. arsenal caused Cronkite deep worry

In the flood of reports and stories on the passing of the great newsman Walter Cronkite, I barely see mention that in his later years he campaigned on behalf of nuclear disarmament.

"Frankly, I'm worried," he said in 2005 during a 3-minute audio commentary you may play below, "It seems that the United States and the other nuclear weapons states are trying to evade their obligations and responsibilities under [the] critical Non-proliferation Treaty."

The commentary was part of a radio documentary on the six decades since Hiroshima that was produced by Reese Ehrlich and distributed by Public Radio International (PRI). You may find a link to play the full audio from this excellent program at that link.

Play the 3-minute commentary here:

A written version is HERE.
Walter Cronkite (2005): The survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki ? the hibakusha ? have continually warned, "Nuclear weapons and human beings cannot coexist." In the end, I believe this is the most important lesson of Hiroshima. We must eliminate nuclear weapons before they eliminate us.

The best security, perhaps the only security, against nuclear weapons being used again, or getting into the hands of terrorists, is to eliminate them. Most of the people of the world already know this. Now it is up to the world?s people to impress the urgency of this situation upon their governments. We must act now. The future depends upon us.

Anything less would be to abandon our responsibility to future generations.

Friday, July 17, 2009

The struggle vets returning from often multiple tours face just begins when they get home. That is discussed in devastating detail in an hour-long talk given a couple of months ago by Aaron Glantz and broadcast recently by University of California television. UCTV is available locally if you have Dish Network. There will be several re-broadcasts over this coming weekend. Or, just watch the full program on YouTube:

Author Aaron Glantz reported extensively from Iraq during 2003-05. His book, The War Comes Home, is the first systematically "to document the U.S. government's neglect of soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan."

Here are two quotes readers of this blog and its precursors may remember:
The Owl, March 2003: This war will perhaps be the worst cynical betrayal of the fighting men and women in the military in U.S. history. The American people need to know that it is only the peace movement that truly supports the troops. The only troop support that means a damn thing is stopping the war in the first place. This is a strong statement given the experience of Vietnam and the first Gulf War, but I believe that this is true. Our troops will be thrown into a battlefield where they will be exposed to deadly toxins. The deleterious effects on our troops and the Iraqi population of extensive use of depleted uranium munitions in the first Gulf War is only now coming to light. The new war will feature a ten-fold increase in the release of these toxins. A great deal of information on the suffering of our own veterans may be found at this website:

The imperialism of Bush and his lieutenants is a BETRAYAL of the troops and the American people, while they engender a false image that American troops do not care about human life. This image of our troops as storm troopers enforcing imperial policy, like it or not, will take a quantum leap in currency after an attack on Iraq. We will have lost any remaining legitimacy we have in using our military might against actual terrorists (not that I agree this has been the U.S. aim at any point, but post-9/11 legitimacy in the eyes of the world will have been squandered totally). None of this weight do I want our great country, our troops, and all of our people to have to bear.
This one perhaps gets to the issues vets would soon face even more poignantly:
Stan Goff, Orono, Maine, November 2005: I don't think any of us want to get to the point where we can clearly demonstrate that Iraq is Vietnam. We don?t need another wall with 58,000 more names on it. We don't need another generation that melts down in the face of this war. And we're already seeing it happen?.Some of us who have lived to my age, or maybe even a little older--we were so hopeful that this would never happen again--that we would never do this to another generation of young people?. And we're doing it right now,? you know,? we're doing it right now. We're killing 'em, we're maiming 'em, we're sending 'em home crazy. And we're not doing anything for 'em when they get back. It's the same thing again.
There is no credit taken here for predicting the future. If anything, the picture Aaron Glantz paints is far more devastating than any of us predicted.

But now President Obama and Secretary of Defense Gates are escalating the war in Afghanistan and want an expansion of the Army by 30,000 troops. Very little is happening to resist. Our peace groups are engaged in some protest planning, but it's very, very quiet so far. It is hard to engage protest against a president in whom many folks want to believe, even though they steadfastly were anti-Bush. Meanwhile, the stories of escalation and civilian killing on one end and despair of vets on the other are afterthoughts on the news, if they are reported at all.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Caution: graphic details of a mass killing

In this lengthy segment from Democracy Now! for July 13, 2009, an extended excerpt from Afghan Massacre: Convoy of Death by Irish filmmaker Jamie Doran is included. The description of what happened to perhaps 2000 prisoners of an Afghan warlord and U.S. ally, General Abdul Rashid Dostum, who were packed into shipping containers near Mazāri Sharīf in November 2001 is chilling and sickening.

General Dostum was closely allied with U.S. Special Forces during the first U.S.-Afghan war in the Fall of 2001. That was interesting considering he had been closely allied with the Soviet Union during its occupation of Afghanistan two decades ago.

I won't rehash the story of how Dostum massacred the prisoners, told very capably on Democracy Now! yesterday, HERE. But I will say that it's quite instructive that now all of a sudden there is some interest in this and how the U.S. war was fought during November 2001. It's a prime example of how a horrendous story of conduct of war even can hit a mainstream outlet in the U.S. yet still be deep-sixed by disinterest if the White House wants it that way.

In August 2002, Newsweek printed the explosive cover story, "The Death Convoy Of Afghanistan", by Babak Dehghanpisheh, John Barry, and Roy Gutman that led, "Witness Reports And The Probing Of A Mass Grave Point To War Crimes. Does The United States Have Any Responsibility For The Atrocities Of Its Allies?" The overall media response less than one year after 9/11 was a big yawn.

Perhaps the U.S. public mood at the time was none too sympathetic towards people of the Middle East and South Asia who are seen as irreconcilable hostiles. Even today, some commenters at an ABC News blog entry on the new probe into the killings may share the feelings of "Dan," who wrote,
...I have no problem with Dostum killing a couple of thousand Taliban fighters. If they were still alive, we'd either be fighting them in Afghanistan or arguing about what to do with them (as we're now doing with respect to the Guantanimo detainees). I remember reading about this in '02, thinking, "just as well". We'd probably have been better off if even more Taliban fighters had been eh "massacred". There is no reforming religious fanatics. ...
This kind of comment is pretty typical in America. The thinking goes something like this--we were wronged by bad people who fill a whole section of the world so it doesn't matter what we do over there, just so we kill and kill and kill and kill as much as possible in order to protect ourselves. You'll see this kind of thinking used again and again.

The investigation of the Convoy Massacre ordered by President Obama? As Glen Greenwald has written about the Obama approach, there seemingly is no transgression of law that politically is worth doing anything about. Obama is afraid of the jingoist consensus reflected in the attitudes described above. So like Greenwald, I'll believe there is justice when I see it.