The publication date of two different books, to be released on May 31 2013, is a coincidence that could turn out to be a fortuitous one for each, in that both deal with the same topic, the secret war in Laos that took place during the 1960’s, and whose geographical focus is the same area of northern Laos. One is a novel, The Plain of Jars, while the other is a reprint of a 1972 anthology of bombing survivor stories, Voices from the Plain of Jars.
It has been just about fifty years since undeclared war was waged in Laos, the tiny country sandwiched between Vietnam and Thailand. Although the roots of this war were entangled in the complex and reckless politics of US foreign policy at that time, the results are clearer: after nine years of war, seven billion dollars, three and a half million tons of bombs, a half-million dead, and 750,000 homeless, the US had failed to achieve any of the objectives it had aimed for.
There are several grave aspects of this war which still have relevance today. The most tragic was the bombing of unarmed civilians, the worst case of this having taken place in the plateau known as the Plain of Jars, its name derived from two thousand year old stone urns made by a forgotten civilization. Here, a scorched earth policy was carried out by the US Air Force, with the objective of population removal. Firsthand accounts of the horrors of the bombing campaigns are given in Voices from the Plain of Jars, where those who had made it to refugee camps told their stories to a young American volunteer, now a freelance columnist, Fred Branfman, who subsequently compiled the narratives and children’s drawings into this classic book.
As a consequence of the air war, there are still millions of live cluster munitions lying in the ground, which have caused more than 50,000 casualties, including 30,000 dead, and still continue to kill and maim 100 people each year. More than half of the victims are children who pick up the brightly colored, yet deadly little balls.
The Plain of Jars, a novel by N. Lombardi Jr., is an adventure story about a sixty-four year old widow trying to unravel the mystery of her son’s fate, a pilot who was shot down over Laos twenty two years earlier, and in the second part of the book, about a mysterious man who becomes a local legend as he clears the cluster bombs with the aid of an elephant and a self-designed flailer, a device that whips the ground and detonates the little ball-like grenades. The novel uses entertainment value to educate people about a military conflict that only few today know had ever occurred. Using action, suspense, even humor, and other fictional devices, the author has created a vehicle to convey a strong anti-war message without beating the reader over the head with it.
Does recalling the events of that time and place have any contemporary significance? Both authors feel that indeed it does, for the secret war in Laos had set the precedent for tactics used in making war today, such as aerial bombardment of civilian targets, CIA involvement in military operations, the use of proxy armies, and the testing of new aerial weapons in combat situations.
Both books are available at all major outlets, both online and many brick and mortar shops.
Voices of the Plain of Jars, Life under an Air War, Edited by Fred Branfman, University of Wisconsin Press
The Plain of Jars, by N. Lombardi Jr., Roundfire books
For more information on the history and culture of the Laotian people, and an introduction to the secret war, visit http://plainofjars.net.
OKLAHOMA CITY – A new documentary film, Nuclear Savage, by documentary filmmaker Adam Jonas Horowitz, should have been shown on PBS this month, but may be running into resistance by persons unknown at the publicly-funded U.S.-based public-television network that includes World Channel content.
A story in this week’s edition of The Marshall Islands Journal, headlined “Nuclear cover-up?,” featured editor and reporter Giff Johnson’s interview with Horowitz. The filmmaker believes someone is trying to keep the hard-hitting Nuclear Savage from airing on PBS channels.
Roundly hailed as an important film on the film-festival circuit, Horowitz’s Nuclear Savage focuses on Project 4.1, the study of radiation effects on humans. This was the same secret project that monitored people exposed to nuclear-testing fallout in the 1950’s on Rongelap and Utrik atolls.
PBS’s World Channel explained to Horowitz that “it is possible for any program to be cancelled and pulled at any time. These decisions are made by the programmers.”
As Amber McClure, with the Pacific Islanders in Communication told Horowitz, the World Channel (which had originally scheduled Nuclear Savage for May), said they wanted to air it during December “during a military-themed time, perhaps around Dec. 7 (Pearl Harbor Day).”
Horowitz, though, isn’t buying it. Suspecting official censorship, Horowitz told The Marshall Islands Journal: “To put off this program until Pearl Harbor Day , under the claim it should be grouped at a ‘military-themed time’ does not hold water, and most of all, in my opinion, is an insult to the Marshall Islanders who were the victims of US testing, and who appeared in the film.”
As some readers may recall, last fall, Red Dirt Report was outraged by plans by a Maryland-based “haunted house” attraction that was going to incorporate Project 4.1 as part of the “sick thrill.” Many outraged Marshallese and their allies demanded the haunted-house operation not run this attraction. After all, as we wrote at the time: “Why not have a Halloween “attraction” involving the victims of Pol Pot’s killing fields? Or the Rwandan genocide? There are plenty examples of man’s violence against man that Hallow, Inc. could use as an ‘attraction.’
Sure, we like it that people are having fun and are totally against censorship, but when people profit on the pain and suffering of others we have to call them out on it.”
The legacy of radiation exposure on the Marshallese is a dark chapter in American history. It is one that has yet to be fully exposed and many Marshallese still suffer from the atomic-bomb tests conducted in the Marshall Islands from the 1940’s to the 1960’s.
Red Dirt Report has sent email inquiries to both Horowitz and McClure, seeking additional information. We hope to have more on this story in coming days.
Listening, on 15 April, to the House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on US policy towards Iran put me in mind of the inscription Dante imagined over the entrance to Hell: “Abandon hope all you who enter here”.
There seemed no notion among members of the committee that territories beyond the borders of the United States of America are not subject to US jurisdiction – still less that reasoned persuasion and reciprocity can be more effective tools for achieving US foreign policy goals than sanctions (how the good Congressmen love sanctions!) and the infliction of pain.
Wendy Sherman, the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs who heads the U.S. delegation in the P5+1 negotiations with Iran, must have come away from that hearing with the feeling that she has an impossible task. Congress will howl if the administration makes the slightest concession to secure Iranian agreement to non-proliferation assurances and restrictions on nuclear activities. Yet if Iran is offered nothing in return for measures it deems to be voluntary, because they lie beyond the provisions of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), it will continue to defy the US and its allies.
Still, it is hard to avoid the thought that the administration could have made more of this opportunity.
Ambassador Sherman’s opening statement contained no reference to the US intelligence community’s confidence that Iran’s leaders have not taken a decision to acquire nuclear weapons. Instead, it referred to “Iran’s nuclear weapon ambitions” and to the need for Iran to “change course”, which the congressmen could be forgiven for taking as confirmation of their chairman’s opening assertion that Iran is trying to build a nuclear arsenal.
On top of that, Ambassador Sherman fed the Congressmen’s appetite for a penal approach by stressing that the goal of US policy is to have Iran live up to its “international obligations”. The Congressmen were left undisturbed in their conviction that Iran is entirely in the wrong and most certainly should not be rewarded for mending its ways. The opportunity to start helping their Honours to understand that the reality is more complicated went begging.
I hope LobeLog readers who know what lies behind that last sentence will forgive me for explicating it.
Iran’s “international obligations” come in two forms. One lot of obligations stem from the provisions of the NPT. Iran accepts that these are genuine obligations under international law and is ready to comply fully with them without reciprocity. Indeed some observers believe Iran is already fully compliant.
The other lot stem from the provisions of four Security Council resolutions adopted under article 41 of the UN Charter. Iran refuses to accept the legally-binding nature of these, not unreasonably, given that, when they were adopted, the Council had not determined that Iran’s nuclear activities represented a threat to international peace and security. Instead, Iran offers to proceed on the basis of reciprocity, volunteering the steps specified in these resolutions in return for recognition that Iran has NPT rights as well as obligations, and also for the lifting of nuclear-related sanctions.
The third missed opportunity was ethical in nature. The administration had no need to indulge in misrepresentation and distortion but succumbed to temptation.
The Congressmen were told that Iran is “isolated”. In reality, Iran maintains full diplomatic relations with some 100 states. Iran’s Foreign Minister is received courteously almost everywhere in Asia and Europe apart from the UK and Israel. Just this week Iran assumed the chair of the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva. Currently Iran presides over the 120-member Non-Aligned Movement
Ambassador Sherman implied that responsibility for the appalling civil conflict in Syria must be ascribed to Iran, “a destabilising influence across the entire Middle East”. The initial supply of weapons to the Syrian opposition by Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia was not mentioned. Some Middle Eastern states are allowed to have interests beyond their borders, it seems, and others are not.
Oh, and in Syria all the violence against “the Syrian people” is being inflicted by the Assad regime, supported by its Iranian ally. Perish the thought that the opposition has shed a single drop of Syrian blood!
Most Europeans yearn for the objectivity and ethical agnosticism that underlay the US opening to China, détente with the Soviet Union, and the final flurry of US/USSR agreements heralding the end of the Cold War. That sort of objectivity should come naturally, one might think, when the adversary is Iran, a state so very much weaker than the US. Alas, the opposite seems to be the case!
- Israel says no ‘compromise’ should be made with Iran (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- US obstructing global disarmament: Iran (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Nuclear Iran: What’s at Stake for the BRICS (alethonews.wordpress.com)
The USA, once one of the most free countries on earth, is no longer free. It is rapidly becoming a militarized gulag society – a giant open air prison.”
Nearly 1,000 American military bases occupy every corner of the planet. US troops have killed more than a million people in various countries during the past decade. Officially, this is all being done in the name of “freedom.”
Yet the USA, once one of the most free countries on earth, is no longer free. It is rapidly becoming a militarized gulag society – a giant open air prison.
The faster Americans lose their freedom, the louder their leaders chant empty, Orwellian freedom slogans. And the loudest and most Orwellian symbol of American unfreedom is the new World Trade Center skyscraper officially named the Freedom Tower, which might more appropriately be called the Unfreedom Tower.
Appropriately enough, the new Unfreedom Tower will be surrounded by $40 million dollars worth of “security infrastructure” including bollards, dual-barricades, street barriers and 11-foot-tall security booths. New York Business Journal lamented the situation in its recent headline: “World Trade Center or armed camp?” According to the New York Times, Lower Manhattan will become “a fortresslike environment” featuring “a fortified palisade of guard booths, vehicle barricades and sidewalk barriers.” New York Magazine quoted one of the planners: “You have these checkpoints that make it look more like an armed camp or a gated community.”
Or an Israeli-occupied territory.
The Unfreedom Tower is the architectural symbol of the new, post-9/11 world. The contradiction between its ostensible symbolic meaning – “freedom” – and the reality on the ground around it is not an accident.
George Orwell famously explained how those who set out to crush freedom do so by violating logic and language. By flooding the airwaves with slogans like “freedom is slavery,” Big Brother’s dystopian government in Orwell’s novel 1984 paralyzes the public’s capacity to think clearly and logically. Once clear thinking is paralyzed, Big Brother can do whatever he wants. As Orwell put it: “Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four. If that is granted, all else follows.”
By building a “Freedom Tower” surrounded by an armed camp, symbolizing the loss of liberty that 9/11 was designed to catalyze, the architects of Philip Zelikow’s post-9/11 “whole new world” are systematically and intentionally destroying the American public’s capacity to think.
Zelikow, Wolfowitz, and the other architects of this Orwellian “whole new world” have been using their controlled corporate media to attack the American mind with Orwellian “freedom equals slavery” slogans, beginning just minutes after the Twin Towers were demolished. Practically before the North Tower had finished its ten-second-freefall, the television was blaring that Bin Laden and his friends did it because “they hate our freedoms.” The utter absurdity of this statement was rarely remarked on.
The television then repeatedly told Americans that in order to preserve their freedom, they would have to give up some of their liberty. The fact that freedom and liberty mean the same thing makes this an absurdity. By forcing Americans to internalize such absurdities, the mind-controllers created a whole nation of unthinking automatons, ready to march off to war on transparently ridiculous premises… and to systematically slaughter civilians, rape children in front of their parents as an “interrogation technique,” commit unspeakable sexual crimes at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere, poison much of the Middle East and Central Asia with depleted uranium, murder thousands of innocent people with cowardly drone strikes, and generally perpetrate unspeakable acts on a daily basis.
As Voltaire put it: “Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.” If Voltaire were alive today, he would tell us that people who believe three skyscrapers can disappear at free-fall acceleration through the path of most resistance, due to modest office fires ignited by only two planes, will commit the most hideous atrocities imaginable.
The Unfreedom Tower now looms over an unfree land.
In today’s America, executive-branch death panels oversee a “disposition matrix” in which computers decide which people will be murdered by the government, which ones will merely be disappeared without charges into the global sex torture gulag, and which ones will be arrested and tried in a courtroom. This despite the clear Constitutional statement that in the USA, no one may be “deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law.” And the phrase “due process of law” is clearly defined: It means a public, transparent trial by jury, beginning with presumption of innocence, under various safeguards.
The pretext for this annihilation of liberty is the “war on terrorism.” Big Brother tells us that terrorists are likely to strike us all dead at any moment, so emergency measures are necessary. But in reality, terrorism barely even exists. Americans are more likely to drown in their bathtubs, or be hit by lightning, than be killed by terrorists. The whole terror scare is a paranoid hallucination that was carefully scripted and inflicted on the American people by the most depraved and demonic mind-controllers who have ever lived.
Anybody who can see that two plus two make four, not five, can see that the current rulers of the USA are not the Constitutional government. They are treasonous usurpers.
When will Americans break through the checkpoints, overturn the guard booths, overwhelm the barricades, and overthrow the demons-in-human-form who have paralyzed their minds and destroyed their freedoms?
Iran’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman Abbas Araqchi says the United States’ opposition and lack of commitment to various international disarmament conventions are obstacles to advancing the issue of global disarmament.
Pointing to the US’s 16-year opposition to bringing up the issue of disarmament in the UN Disarmament Conference, Araqchi said, “The US has, for all practical purposes, taken the conference hostage and is hindering its effective performance in advancing international peace and security.”
He said that the US opposition to the protocol to the Biological Weapons Convention, its non-adherence to its commitments under the Chemical Weapons Convention to eliminate its arsenal by 2012, and efforts to prevent global denuclearization as well as a nuclear-free Middle East are all part of Washington’s black record of non-compliance with international obligations and disrespect for international mechanisms on global disarmament and security.
Reacting to Washington’s recent decision to boycott the upcoming UN Conference on Disarmament because of its chairmanship by Iran, Araqchi said, “Iran is among the first founders of the [UN] Disarmament Conference, and as an independent country, it has always played an instrumental and constructive role in advancing the objectives of the conference, in particular that of nuclear disarmament.”
In a statement issued on Monday, Erin Pelton, the spokesperson for the US Mission to the United Nations, said that the US would not send its ambassador to the conference, adding the US believes the Islamic Republic of Iran should be barred from any formal or ceremonial positions in UN bodies.
Araqchi further noted, “Iran has also played a key role in negotiations on international treaties, including the Chemical Weapons Convention.”
Describing Iran as a victim of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), the Iranian spokesman said the Islamic Republic of Iran along with other peace-loving nations of the world will continue to tap into all national and international potential to contribute to the creation of a WMD-free world.
Iran proposed the idea of a nuke-free Middle East and is among the flag-bearers of nuclear disarmament, he highlighted.
Iran will accede to the rotating presidency of the 65-nation UN Conference on Disarmament, based in Geneva, on May 27 and it will hand it over to another country on June 23 in an alphabetical order.
The conference seeks to reach an agreement on global nuclear disarmament and stopping the development of other weapons of mass destruction.
- Canada not to attend UN disarmament talks under Iran presidency (alethonews.wordpress.com)
Canada says it will not take part in the upcoming UN Conference on Disarmament under the pretext that the Islamic Republic of Iran will be assuming the rotating presidency of the event.
Rick Roth, a spokesman for Canada’s Foreign Minister John Baird, announced on Tuesday that Ottawa would sit out the sessions of the conference, which will be chaired by Iran.
The Canadian official further claimed that the Islamic Republic is working against global disarmament goals in countries such as Lebanon, Syria and Iraq.
Iran, which has frequently called for the elimination of all the weapons of mass destruction in the world, will accede to the rotating presidency of the 65-nation Geneva-based conference on May 27, and hand it over to another country on June 23 in alphabetical order.
The conference, which is considered the world’s most important disarmament negotiating forum, seeks to reach an agreement on global nuclear disarmament, preventing arms from spreading to outer space, and stopping the development of other weapons of mass destruction.
Ottawa made the announcement after Erin Pelton, the spokesperson for the US Mission to the United Nations, said on May 13 that Washington would not send its ambassador to the upcoming UN event under the same pretext.
Over the last several years I have watched the rise of an important new intellect on the American scene. Ron Unz, publisher of The American Conservative, has demonstrated time and again the extraordinary ability to reexamine settled issues and show that the accepted conclusion was incorrect.
One of his early achievements was to dispose of the myth of immigrant crime by demonstrating that “Hispanics have approximately the same crime rates as whites of the same age and gender.” You can imagine the uproar, but Unz won the debate.
Unz provoked and prevailed in another controversy when he concluded that Mexican-Americans have approximately the same innate intelligence as whites, with their lower IQs being due to transitory socio-economic deprivation.
He next surprised by showing the connection between the declining real value of the minimum wage (about one-third less than in the 1960s) and immigration. Americans cannot survive on one-third less minimum income than four decades ago, and the unfilled jobs are taken by Hispanics who live many to the room. A higher minimum wage, Unz pointed out, would cure the illegal immigration problem as American citizens would fill the jobs.
I wrote about some of Unz’s remarkable findings. One of my favorites is his comparison of the responsiveness of the Chinese and US governments to their publics. I found his conclusion convincing that the authoritarian one-party Chinese government was more responsive to the Chinese people than democratic two-party Washington is to the American people.
The person is rare who can take on such controversial issues in such a professional way that he wins the admiration even of his critics. In my opinion, Ron Unz is a national resource. He has established online libraries of important periodicals and magazines from the pre-Internet era, information that otherwise essentially would be lost. I have not met him, but he donates to this site and is an independent thinker free of The Matrix.
Unz’s latest article, “Our American Pravda,” http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/our-american-pravda/ is a striking account of the failure of media, regulatory, and national security organizations and subsequent coverups that leave the public deceived. Unz uses the Iraq war as one example:
“The circumstances surrounding our Iraq War demonstrate this, certainly ranking it among the strangest military conflicts of modern times. The 2001 attacks in America were quickly ascribed to the radical Islamists of al-Qaeda, whose bitterest enemy in the Middle East had always been Saddam Hussein’s secular Baathist regime in Iraq. Yet through misleading public statements, false press leaks, and even forged evidence such as the “yellowcake” documents, the Bush administration and its neoconservative allies utilized the compliant American media to persuade our citizens that Iraq’s nonexistent WMDs posed a deadly national threat and required elimination by war and invasion. Indeed, for several years national polls showed that a large majority of conservatives and Republicans actually believed that Saddam was the mastermind behind 9/11 and the Iraq War was being fought as retribution. Consider how bizarre the history of the 1940s would seem if America had attacked China in retaliation for Pearl Harbor.
“True facts were easily available to anyone paying attention in the years after 2001, but most Americans do not bother and simply draw their understanding of the world from what they are told by the major media, which overwhelmingly—almost uniformly—backed the case for war with Iraq; the talking heads on TV created our reality. Prominent journalists across the liberal and conservative spectrum eagerly published the most ridiculous lies and distortions passed on to them by anonymous sources, and stampeded Congress down the path to war.
“The result was what my late friend Lt. Gen. Bill Odom rightly called the “greatest strategic disaster in United States history.” American forces suffered tens of thousands of needless deaths and injuries, while our country took a huge step toward national bankruptcy [and a police state]. Economics Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz and others have estimated that with interest the total long-term cost of our two recent wars may reach as high as $5 or $6 trillion, or as much as $50,000 per American household, mostly still unpaid. Meanwhile, economist Edward Wolff has calculated that the Great Recession and its aftermath cut the personal net worth of the median American household to $57,000 in 2010 from a figure nearly twice as high three years earlier. Comparing these assets and liabilities, we see that the American middle class now hovers on the brink of insolvency, with the cost of our foreign wars being a leading cause.
“But no one involved in the debacle ultimately suffered any serious consequences, and most of the same prominent politicians and highly paid media figures who were responsible remain just as prominent and highly paid today. For most Americans, reality is whatever our media organs tell us, and since these have largely ignored the facts and adverse consequences of our wars in recent years, the American people have similarly forgotten. Recent polls show that only half the public today believes that the Iraq War was a mistake.”
Unz covers a number of cases of criminality, treason, and coverups at high levels of government and points out that “these dramatic, well-documented accounts have been ignored by our national media.” One reason for “this wall of uninterest” is that both parties are complicit and thus equally eager to bury the facts.
Unz is raising the question of the efficacy of democracy. Does the way democracy works in America provide any more self-rule than in undemocratic regimes? He offers this example:
“Most of the Americans who elected Barack Obama in 2008 intended their vote as a total repudiation of the policies and personnel of the preceding George W. Bush administration. Yet once in office, Obama’s crucial selections—Robert Gates at Defense, Timothy Geither at Treasury, and Ben Bernake at the Federal Reserve—were all top Bush officials, and they seamlessly continued the unpopular financial bailouts and foreign wars begun by his predecessor, producing what amounted to a third Bush term.”
In an article not long ago, I raised the issue whether Americans live in The Matrix with their perceptions and thoughts controlled by disinformation as in George Orwell’s 1984.
Unz adds to this perspective. He tells the story of Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky’s plan to transform Russia into a make-believe two-party state complete with heated battles fought on divisive and symbolic issues. Behind the scenes the political elites would orchestrate the political battles between the parties with the purpose of keeping the population divided and funneling popular dissatisfaction into meaningless dead-end issues. In such a system, self-serving power prevails. After describing Berezovsky’s plot, Unz asks if Berezovsky got his idea from observing the American political scene.
Thinking further about the propagandistic nature of the US media, Unz writes:
“Individuals from less trusting societies are often surprised at the extent to which so many educated Americans tend to believe whatever the media tells them and ignore whatever it does not, placing few constraints on even the most ridiculous propaganda. For example, a commentator on my article described the East German media propaganda he had experienced prior to Reunification as being in many respects more factual and less totally ridiculous than what he now saw on American cable news shows. One obvious difference was that Western media was so globally dominant during that era that the inhabitants of the German Democratic Republic inevitably had reasonable access to a contrasting second source of information, forcing their media to be much more cautious in its dishonesty, while today almost any nonsense uniformly supported by the MSNBC-to-FoxNews spectrum of acceptable opinion remains almost totally unquestioned by most Americans.” http://www.theamericanconservative.com/american-pravda-reality-television/
Unz’s view of the US media as propagandists for power is consistent with that of John Pilger, one of the last remaining real journalists who refuses to serve power, and with Gerald Celente, who sums up the sordid American media in one word–”presstitutes.” I know from my own media experience that an independent print and TV media no longer exists in the West. The American media is a tightly controlled disinformation ministry.
Those few Americans who are free of the constraints imposed by dogmas on their ability to think and to process information have a huge responsibility for their small number. The assault on the rule of law began in the last years of the Clinton regime, but the real destruction of the US Constitution, the basis for the United States, was achieved by the neoconservative George W. Bush and Obama regimes. Wars without declarations by Congress, torture in violation of both US and international law, war crimes in violation of the Nuremberg standard, indefinite detention and assassination of US citizens without due process of law, universal spying on US citizens without warrants, federalization of state and local police now armed with military weapons and uniforms, detention centers, “your papers, please” (without the Gestapo “please”) not only at airports but also on highways, streets, bus terminals, train stations, and at sporting events.
On May 5 Obama gave the commencement address at Ohio State University. No doubt that the graduates thought that they were being honored by being addressed by the world’s greatest tyrant.
Obama told the graduating class, to applause, that their obligation as citizens is to trust the government. Outdoing George Orwell’s Big Brother, Obama said in public to a graduating class of a great university without shame: “You have grown up hearing voices that incessantly warn of government as . . . some sinister entity that’s at the root of all our problems; some of these same voices also doing their best to gum up the works. They’ll warn that tyranny is always lurking just around the corner. You should reject these voices.”
Listen to my propaganda, not to those constitutional experts, legal authorities, and critics of me, the First Black President, who tell you to beware of unaccountable government. Due process is decided by the demands of the war on terror. If there is a war on terror, do you want a fair trial or do you want to be safe? I am going to make you safe by not giving defendants accused of terrorism, who some liberal-pinko-commie judge would set free, a fair trial.
Making you safe by enveloping you in a police state is a nonpartisan undertaking. Just listen to Lindsay Graham and Peter King and John McCain. These Republican leaders are demanding the police state that I am providing.
As my own legal department, The US Department Of Justice, decided, the Dictator, I mean, elected president, has the power to save the country from domestic and foreign terrorists by abrogating the US Constitution, an out-of-date document that binds our hands and prevents us from keeping you, our serfs and minions, I mean our cherished citizens, safe.
Trust me. That is your obligation as a US citizen. Trust me and I will make you free, happy, employed sometime later in this century when the Amerikan Empire controls the world.
The US Constitution was written by people who opposed Empire. These people were misguided, just like the Roman Republicans who did not understand the need for a Caesar. The American Empire, as the neoconservatives have made clear, is what keeps you free from terrorism. We have to kill them over there before they come over here. And those who are over here will be killed too. We tolerate no dissent. That part of the Constitution is gone, along with the rest of it.
Now give me my honorary doctorate, another sign of approval of my usurpation.
Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy and associate editor of the Wall Street Journal. He was columnist for Business Week, Scripps Howard News Service, and Creators Syndicate. He has had many university appointments. His internet columns have attracted a worldwide following. His latest book, The Failure of Laissez Faire Capitalism and Economic Dissolution of the West is now available.
Some human rights groups, especially Amnesty International, seem to have forgotten an important human right: peace. A petition has been launched to remind them.
These organizations are not the warmongers. They do tremendously great work addressing some of the symptoms of warmaking, including imprisonment and torture. But, because they avoid taking any position on war, and because of an apparent bias in favor of U.S. military intervention, they sometimes find themselves effectively promoting war and all the horrors that come with it. At Nuremberg to initiate a war of aggression was called the supreme international crime “encompassing the evil of the whole.” Yet human rights groups are often on the wrong side of the fundamental question of war.
Amnesty International (AI) promoted the babies-taken-from-incubators hoax that helped launch the 1991 war on Iraq. AI has upheld the pretense that the US/NATO occupation of Afghanistan is about women’s rights. And now Amnesty International is highlighting warmaking in Syria’s civil war by one side only:
“Our team of researchers on the ground found evidence that government forces bombed entire neighborhoods and targeted residential areas with long-range surface-to-surface missiles,” said an AI fundraising email on April 29th that made no mention of abuses committed by Syrian rebels supported by the U.S. and its allies.
This one-sided treatment by a group supposedly dedicated to all humans fuels the fires of a wider war from which the people of Syria can only suffer.
The email continued: “Amnesty has a strong track record of using our on-the-ground findings to pressure governments and the United Nations Security Council to hold those responsible for the slaughter of civilians accountable.”
Does it? When the United States kills civilians in Iraq or Afghanistan or Libya, AI’s silence has often been deafening. Shouldn’t a human rights group press for an end to the killing of all humans by all parties?
While many good individuals who work for human rights groups like AI oppose wars, these organizations officially ignore President Eisenhower’s warning and a half-century of evidence regarding the power of the military industrial complex — and they ignore the criminality of war under the U.S. Constitution, the U.N. Charter, the Kellogg-Briand Pact and other laws.
These groups accept the existence of war (when not encouraging it) and then focus on specific crimes and abuses within the larger war-making enterprise. They promote the idea that human rights are governed by two sets of laws, one in peace and another weaker set in war. Voices for the human right to peace are missing and badly needed, as “humanitarianism” and “the right to protect” are used as excuses for war and intervention.
Amnesty International opposes imprisonment without trial and other abuses unless they adhere to the “laws of war,” which is why AI is not opposing the outrageous charges leveled against Bradley Manning. Killing is opposed unless it adheres to the “laws of war.” Under this standard, we pretend not to know whether blowing families up with drones is legal or not as long as the memos purporting to legalize it are kept hidden.
Groups like Amnesty oppose particular weapons, including the development of fully autonomous weapons (drones that fly themselves). No one in their right mind would oppose that step. But surely the human right not to be blown up does not vanish if the button is pushed by a person instead of an autonomous robot. Other organizations are pushing to ban all weaponized drones from the world.
Human rights groups should join the peace movement in targeting war and militarism itself, rather than just some of its symptoms. Amnesty International and all groups favoring human rights should be asked to oppose a U.S. escalation of war on Syria.
People like myself who are either paleoconservatives or libertarians generally base their opposition to Israel and its Lobby on the costs of the de facto alliance, both financial and in terms of the wars and political chaos it has triggered. We try to demonstrate how damage to rule of law and actual U.S. interests has been a byproduct of the relationship and seek to explain what a sane U.S. foreign policy might actually look like, end of story. But it is different sensibility coming from the more humanitarian inclined political left of the spectrum, which one would assume to have a natural inclination to oppose purveyors of oppression and human suffering. With that in mind, I would observe it is remarkable how ineffective the left has been in mobilizing any serious opposition to Israel’s policies.
There is a kind of groupthink that might provide an explanation for the lack of results in spite of what sometimes appears to be frenzied activity on the part of the cluster of liberal groups that focus on the Middle East. Gatherings to “Expose AIPAC” often focus on strategy and training, hardly discussing or challenging the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) at all. They also frequently fail to confront the full array of predominantly Jewish groups actively promoting Israel to include The Hudson Institute, WINEP, the Saban Center for Middle East Policy, MEMRI, the American Enterprise Institute’s foreign policy wing, and the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. The plethora of well-resourced and actively engaged Jewish groups involved in foreign policy and more particularly Israel promotion is a fact of life inside the Beltway and a critical element supporting the interventionist narrative in spite of the country as a whole becoming decidedly war weary.
At the same time, most American Jews are actually either cool or even hostile to the policies of the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Peter Beinart has called for a boycott of goods produced in the Israeli settlements while Jeffrey Goldberg has denounced a coalition partner in Netanyahu’s government, writing “The Jewish Home party advances an ideology that will bring about the destruction (the self-destruction) of Israel.” This reaction to the Israeli drift rightwards politically speaking probably explains why most organizations on the political left that are critical of Israel are themselves led by American Jews and, to their credit, they are very outspoken regarding Israel’s human rights violations and its policies towards the Palestinians. But it sometimes seems that they are restrained in their critiques, something that might be attributed to what could be referred to as Jewish identity politics. Instead of biting the bullet and confronting the fact that it is leading Jewish organizations and their in-the-pocket politicians that have quite plausibly been the sine qua non in unleashing a series of actual and impending wars against the Muslim world, they instead sometimes serve as gatekeepers to frame and divert an uncomfortable truth while looking for alternative explanations.
Part of the problem is that even though major Jewish organizations’ support of interventionism represents what is only a minority opinion among Americans in general, they pretend to represent everyone who is Jewish and have successfully sold that canard to both congress and the media. And make no mistake, it is the financial and political muscle of Jewish groups like Anti-Defamation League, Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, The American Jewish Committee, and the AIPAC that have given the green light to the hard line Israeli governments that have done so much damage to U.S. interests over the past decade. Christian Zionists are highly visible and are frequently cited to demonstrate the diversity of the Israeli Lobby, but they are largely irrelevant in terms of the actual dynamics of the pro-Israel effort. The reality is that no other national lobby can gather 13,000 of the faithful to its convention and count on the enthusiastic presence of numerous politicians from both parties as AIPAC does every year. But in spite of the quite visible power of the Jewish organizations it is sometimes more convenient and less troubling to look instead for other reasons to explain Tel Aviv’s misbehavior.
Progressives who are nervous about mentioning the shameless politicking of Jewish organizations frequently parrot what I call the Noam Chomsky rationalization, engaging actively in criticizing Israeli behavior while at the same time blaming the Middle East farrago on outside forces like American imperialism, capitalism, or oil. This approach largely exonerates Israel from actual blame for what it does and it also by extension minimizes the role of the Jewish groups that constitute the core of the pro-Israel lobby because it is claimed that Washington drives the Israeli government’s behavior based on its own self-interest not vice versa. As a result, the critics seldom question the legitimacy of the self-defined Jewish state and they are sometimes reluctant to support any measures that would actually do damage to Israel and its perceived interests.
Norman Finkelstein, a reliable progressive critic of Israeli actions, is of the Chomsky persuasion. He believes that the United States would have attacked Iraq anyway based on its own interests whether or not the fervently pro-Israel neocons had occupied key positions in the Pentagon, National Security Council, and White House. Finkelstein, in an article on the Israel Lobby, maintains that “fundamental U.S. policy in the Middle East hasn’t been affected by the Lobby,” rejects the view that Israel is a liability for U.S. national interests and states instead that it is a “unique and irreplaceable American asset.” He describes American Jewish elites as only “’pro’ an Israel that is useful to the U.S.” He insists that the neocons do not “generally have a primary allegiance to Israel [or] in fact, any allegiance to Israel.” The evidence, however, suggests otherwise: even agreeing that the Iraq war had a number of godfathers, the folks in the Pentagon and White House who cooked the books and led the charge had extremely well documented strong personal and even financial ties to Israel, so much so that several of them were accused of passing classified information to the Israeli Embassy.
The shaping of the narrative to minimize the role of organizations that are demonstrably Jewish – albeit unrepresentative of Jewish opinion in America -has also been very effective in some media circles. An April 2007 ninety minute presentation on PBS’s Frontpage with Bill Moyers “Buying the War,” a critical look at the genesis of the Iraq invasion, did not mention Israel’s supporters even once. And one only has to consider the recent Obama trip to Israel as well as the interrogation at the Chuck Hagel nomination, which was driven by organizations like AIPAC from behind the scenes, to realize that the United States government is no free agent when it comes to Middle Eastern policy. Ignoring the dominant role of “Jewish leaders” and the well-funded organizations that they head which falsely pretend to represent their entire community is a convenient obfuscation if one does not want to address causality, a bit like being concerned about global warming without looking at the actual science.
President Obama recognizes the power represented by Jewish groups acting as a cohesive and focused political entity when he meets with them collectively in the White House, so why the reluctance in recognizing and confronting their persistent pro-war, pro-intervention agenda? At a March 7th session, shortly before his trip to Israel, Obama met with Alan Solow, Lee Rosenberg and Michael Kassen of AIPAC; Barry Curtiss-Lusher of the Anti-Defamation League; David Harris of the American Jewish Committee; Jerry Silverman of Jewish Federations of North America; Harvard Professor Alan Dershowitz; former Congressman Robert Wexler; Dan Mariaschin of B’nai B’rith; Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations; Jeremy Ben-Ami, executive director of J Street; and Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean and founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. Admittedly the linking of Jewish organizations’ easy access to policymakers with their possible role in launching a string of failed wars in Asia and still more in the offing on behalf of Israel makes many people uncomfortable because it invites the dual loyalty critique and even more extreme commentary that is ultimately racist in nature, but there you have it. The president knows who is pulling his strings and so should the rest of us.
Americans can either confront the ugly realities of what has been going on for the past twelve years or they can pretend that what they are seeing is not really there. The gatekeepers are understandably concerned lest Washington’s next war be blamed on American Jews so it is far better to suggest against all evidence that Israel is a pawn of American imperialism or that recent wars have been about oil or capitalist exploitation. The reality is that if progressives (and the rest of us) really want to stop a proxy war against Syria followed by a catastrophic conflict with Iran we have to take the blinkers off and be willing to confront Jewish groups like AIPAC and the ADL directly and persistently.
- Israel’s Fraying Image (nationalinterest.org)
- AIPAC Bill Runs Into Unusual Resistance In Congress (alethonews.wordpress.com)
On page A12 of the May 8, 2013 edition of The New York Times is Steven Lee Myers and Rick Gladstone’s article “U.S. and Russia Plan Conference Aimed at Ending Syrian War,” which opens by stating that, “Russia and the United States announced on Tuesday that they would seek to convene an international conference within weeks aimed at ending the civil war in Syria, jointly intensifying their diplomatic pressure on the combatants to peacefully settle a conflict that has taken more than 70,000 lives and left millions displaced and desperate.” This is a most welcoming turn of events, especially for the people of Syria who have taken the brunt of the civil war, and hopefully the conference bears fruit quickly.
But—and there is one of these stubborn conjunctions—it is important for the purpose of history to note that for two years now the United States has blocked any peaceful resolution, and has instead pushed the conflict further and deeper into violence and war.
It is Russia who has long pushed for a political reconciliation.
In October 2011 RIA Novosti reported that “Moscow calls on the UN Security Council to continue the search for a balanced approach toward the political crisis in Syria based on a draft resolution prepared by Russia and China, Russia’s envoy to the UN said,” with the phrase “balanced” being a jab at how Washington and its allies have put all the requirements on the Syrian government to end violence, and not the rebel forces whom they have been backing.
Writing in December of 2011, Egypt Independent reported that, “Deputy Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov on Monday emphasized the need for dialogue and reconciliation in Syria.”
Even in December of 2012 Voice of America reported that, “Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has echoed a call from an international peace envoy to resolve Syria’s civil war through a government-backed national dialogue and political process.”
The New York Times also reported on Russian efforts that same month when they informed readers that, “Moscow has made a muscular push for a political solution in recent days.”
While it is inaccurate to imply that Russia’s search for “a political solution” was “in recent days,” it is more disturbing that phrases like “muscular push” are used to describe such an effort, while the “paper of record” has routinely tried to make a case for war (see here and here).
A month ago today (May 8, 2013) the Syrian rebels detonated a car bomb near a school in Damascus, killing 14, and wounding dozens of others. According to Reuters, “State television said the explosion had occurred near a school in Sabaa Bahrat, a heavily populated area that also houses the Central Bank and the Finance Ministry. It said 53 people were wounded.”
Washington failed to condemn the act of terror.
Likewise when Daily Mail ran an article last December with this headline: “Syria rebels ‘beheaded a Christian and fed him to the dogs’ as fears grow over Islamist atrocities.” Apparently there is no “red line” for the rebels to cross.
And there are dozens and dozens of similar incidents. Not once has Washington put pressure on the rebels to stop their senseless violence, or argued for an international force to intervene and defend the Syrian people from the terrorists. Nor have Western establishment pundits like Bill Keller argued for such things. And even though al Qaeda is active in the country, beheading so-called infidels, or that the Syrian rebels are likely using chemical weapons, Washington and its media parrots have instead favored escalation. Just over a week ago The New York Times reported that “The White House is once again considering supplying weapons to Syria’s armed opposition.” This comes after the car bombing across the street from a children’s school.
And now Washington wants peace, as Myers and Gladstone tell us that “The announcement appeared to signal a strong desire by both countries to halt what has been a dangerous escalation in the conflict.”
Perhaps it has become clear that the rebels cannot win this war on their own, and the only reasonable way Bashar Assad will be brought down is another U.S. war which will elevate the jihadis into power. Perhaps President Obama is imagining one of these rebel jihadis attacking an American embassy in Damascus, and the Republicans foaming at the mouth for another politicized inquiry into how such an attack could happen, as they currently are over the embassy attack in Benghazi, Libya last year.
Whatever the reasons for the turnaround it is gladly welcomed. The people of Syria deserve a rescue from the terror Washington, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and others, have unleashed on them. Though we should remain sober and note that the “conflict that has taken more than 70,000 lives and left millions displaced and desperate” is largely of Washington’s doings, and could have been avoided years ago if Uncle Sam followed the lead of Moscow and Bejing, both of whom had the “strong desire . . . to halt what has been a dangerous escalation in the conflict.”
We should also recall that The New York Times derided Russia for their “strong desire” and even went so far as to equate it with “effectively toss[ing] a life preserver to President Bashar al-Assad, seemingly unwilling to see a pivotal ally and once stalwart member of the socialist bloc sink beneath the waves of the Arab Spring.” Russia was just as clear then as they are now: they did not want to go along with efforts that would worsen the situation, but now that the situation has gotten considerably worse, and Washington is warming to the idea of a political solution, now The New York Times is presenting this as a positive development.
AUSTIN – Trigger-happy Texas lawmen shot up a man’s car and ran him off the road, coming “within inches” of killing him, then found that “they had the wrong person,” the man claims in court.
Miguel Montanez sued the city of San Marcos, Hays County, Hays County Sheriff’s deputies Joe Faulkner and David Campbell, and John Doe Hays County SWAT team members 1-7 in Federal Court.
San Marcos, the seat of Hays County, is in Central Texas, south of Austin.
“On July 12, 2012, plaintiff Montanez was driving to work in the early morning. Montanez was not committing any crimes or wanted for anything. In fact, Montanez is a fully law abiding and employed citizen,” the complaint states.
“Out of nowhere, the Hays County SWAT Team and San Marcos Police Department pulled up on Montanez’s car and literally opened fire on it. The SWAT team also slammed their SWAT truck into Montanez’s car. The defendants engaged in this insane behavior even though Montanez was posing no threat whatsoever.
“By the grace of God, Montanez dove down in the car and narrowly avoided the bullets flying into his car. The defendants subsequently arrested Montanez but later let him go and did not charge him with anything. It turns out they had the wrong person. The defendants’ actions caused Montanez to sustain a very serious back injury, which requires a surgery.
“The actions by the defendants constitute government at its absolute worst. The defendants literally were within inches of killing a completely innocent citizen and did in fact cause him serious bodily and mental injuries. To this day, they have not apologized to Montanez.”
Montanez seeks damages for civil rights violations and excessive force.
He is represented by Adam Loewy of Austin.
A new report by the US Defense Department, Pentagon, says almost three rapes occur every hour in the US military, raising serious concern about the soaring rate of sexual assault among US servicemen.
According to the Pentagon, sexual assaults in the military have increased to the alarming level of 70 per day or three every hour, the Washington Post reported on Tuesday.
The report added that 26,000 service members were sexually assaulted in 2012, a 35-percent increase since 2010 when 19,000 such cases were reported.
However, the overall rate of sexual assault in the US military may be higher, as many victims fail to report out of fear of vengeance or lack of justice under the military’s system of prosecution, the report added.
“The more closed and hierarchical an institution is, the more the victim is stigmatized and the rapist gets away with it,” said Susan Brooks, pastor and volunteer rape crisis counselor.
Brooks went on to condemn the US military for maintaining a culture of gender and power relations, which she says produces the rape culture among service members.
Many high-ranking US military commanders have recently been convicted and relieved of duties for multiple sexual offenses and corruption over the years.
On May 6, authorities said Lieutenant Colonel Jeff Krusinski, director of the sexual assault prevention program for the US Air Force, has himself been detained for sexually assaulting a woman not far from the military headquarters in Arlington, Virginia.
In 2012, over 30 male Air Force boot camp trainers were cited for sexually harassing, abusing and raping at least 59 military recruits at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas.