Roger’s note: Kimberly Rivera is one of those rare soldiers who understands the Nuremberg principles. After serving a tour in Iraq, she refused to go back to participate in the commitment of further war crimes. After years living in Canada the corrupt and unjust Tory driven refugee process made a final negative determination. When a bill in the Canadian parliament was introduced to prevent the deportation of American war resisters, a bill with majority support from the three opposition parties, it was defeated when the current Liberal leader Justin Trudeau and some other Liberals failed to show up for the vote. When it was finally announced in parliament that Kimberly had been deported, the Tory (Conservative) members burst out in applause.
But as this letter from Kimberly’s husband demonstrates, the Canadian Tories have nothing over the American military when it comes to mean spirited vengeance. A disgusting way to treat a strong and courageous woman.
When I arrived at the hospital I checked in to see my wife deliver the baby. Upon entering the room the staff sergeant proceeded to tell me that because Kim is a prisoner she is not allowed any visitations period but she said she would allow me an hour like it was some sort of favor. I politely agreed and proceeded to visit with Kim who was very upset at how they were treating her. And then I got upset too when I found out that I wasn’t going to be allowed to be there for the delivery.
Once the hour was up she kicked me out of the room. I then called our attorney and anyone else I thought might help to tell them about the situation. While I was in the waiting room I overheard a lieutenant talking with the staff sergeant and some nursing staff about Kim and what they were going to do with me. They were not happy because I had called the social worker, who called the staff sergeant to find out why I was being kept out. So I walked up to the lieutenant and asked him how I could see my son be born and bond with him. He then made me go with him to another room with another soldier and then they locked the door. They then said that had to stay in there because of SOP (standard operating procedure) and that they would need more manpower for me to be in the room, and that they already had the staff sergeant in there with Kim at all times. I continued to explain my situation and how I felt. I told him I understood that Kim had to stay under guard since she was a prisoner, but that I believed my rights as a Dad were being violated.
The lieutenant said he was ”on my side” but it didn’t seem like he wanted to really listen either. He did tell me that he would put a request in with the admiral. He then took me down to security where I sat and waited.
20 minutes or so later he came back. He said the admiral approved me being in the delivery room with the stipulation that I not be allowed to have my cellphone with me, and that I would of course have to follow their rules and medical rules. I of course complied with these conditions so I was allowed to be with Kim and our baby for the rest of the day.
The following day I came back to the hospital. I did not have anyone to watch my other kids, so I brought them with me. They held me at gate for about 20 minutes before letting us on base. At security, I checked my phone (as agreed) and they told me it would be no problem for me to bring our kids with me, but when I got to Kim’s floor they said that it was a problem and that we would not be allowed to see Kim or the baby until they talked to the Admiral. After a two hour wait, the Admiral gave the ok and our family got to be together.
The next day I was told that Kim was being discharged at 4 p.m. but the Brig actually came to get her at 9 a.m. The baby is now with me.
As you can imagine this whole experience has been horrible for our family. Our children are deeply traumatized from being continually separated from their mom and they are scared that if I leave without them, that they will not see me again either. Two of the younger kids, Katie and Gabriel are taking it really hard. And Christian now has depression and anxiety from this. They cry when they think of Kim and miss her a great deal. Christian has told me, “The military is supposed to protect us so why are they hurting us? Why did they take momma?”
Rebecca, a young lady now, misses her mom very much as well and is having to go through her female changes without her momma around. Katie always says she wants to rescue mommy from the bad people who put her in jail” and Gabriel, he just looks for her still not understanding why she is gone.
This has hit us all very hard. My kids are hurting and traumatized from all this and now my son Matthew cannot breastfeed. He is separated from his mom who carried him the last 8 and a half months. All night last night he cried looking for her, for her touch, for her smell. It breaks my heart. Matthew did not sleep well because of the separation and I am afraid it could impact him psychologically since he is unable to be calmed by his momma. I do not have her smell or touch that he is needing. I cannot breastfeed him and to give him those vital nutrients. Only my wife can and because of the Fort Carson general, Matthew can’t have that.
THE GREATEST danger to Israel is not the putative Iranian nuclear bomb. The greatest danger is the stupidity of our leaders.
This is not a uniquely Israeli phenomenon. A great many of the world’s leaders are plain stupid, and always have been. Enough to look at what happened in Europe in July 1914, when an incredible accumulation of stupid politicians and incompetent generals plunged humanity into World War I.
But lately, Binyamin Netanyahu and almost the entire Israeli political establishment have achieved a new record in foolishness.
LET US start from the end.
Iran is the great victor. It has been warmly welcomed back into the family of civilized nations. Its currency, the rial, is jumping. Its prestige and influence in the region has become paramount. Its enemies in the Muslim world, Saudi Arabia and its gulf satellites, have been humiliated. Any military strike against it by anyone, including Israel, has become unthinkable.
The image of Iran as a nation of crazy ayatollahs, fostered by Netanyahu and Ahmadinejad, has disappeared. Iran now looks like a responsible country, led by sober and shrewd leaders.
Israel is the great loser. It has maneuvered itself into a position of total isolation. Its demands have been ignored, its traditional friends have distanced themselves. But above everything else, its relations with the US have been seriously damaged.
What Netanyahu and Co. are doing is almost unbelievable. Sitting on a very high branch, they are diligently sawing through it.
Much has been said about the total dependence of Israel on the US in almost all fields. But to grasp the immensity of the folly, one aspect in particular must be mentioned. Israel controls, in effect, the access to the US centers of power.
All nations, especially the smaller and poorer ones, know that to enter the halls of the American Sultan, in order to get aid and support, they have to bribe the doorkeeper. The bribe may be political (privileges from their ruler), economic (raw materials). diplomatic (votes in the UN), military (a base or intelligence “cooperation”), or whatever. If it is big enough, AIPAC will help to gain support from Congress.
This unparalleled asset rests solely on the perception of Israel’s unique position in the US. Netanyahu’s unmitigated defeat on US relations with Iran has badly damaged, if not destroyed, this perception. The loss is incalculable.
ISRAELI POLITICIANS, like most of their colleagues elsewhere, are not well versed in world history. They are party hacks who spend their lives in political intrigues. If they had studied history, they would not have built for themselves the trap into which they have now fallen.
I am tempted to boast that more than two years ago I wrote that any military attack on Iran, either by Israel or the US, is impossible But it was not prophesy, inspired by some unknown deity. It was not even very clever. It was just the result of a simple look at the map. The Strait of Hormuz.
Any military action against Iran was bound to lead to a major war, something in the category of Vietnam, in addition to the collapse of world oil supplies. Even if the US public had not been so war weary, in order to start such an adventure one would not only have to be a fool, but practically mad.
The military option is not “off the table” – it never was “on the table”. It was an empty pistol, and the Iranians knew this well.
The loaded weapon was the sanctions regime. It hurt the people. It convinced the supreme leader, Ali Husseini Khamenei, to completely change the regime and install a new and very different president.
The Americans realized this, and acted accordingly. Netanyahu, obsessed with the bomb, did not. Worse, he still does not.
If it is a symptom of madness to keep trying something that has failed again and again, we should start to worry about “King Bibi”.
TO SAVE itself from the image of utter failure, AIPAC has started to order its senators and congressmen to work out new sanctions to be instituted in some indefinite future.
The new leitmotif of the Israeli propaganda machine is that Iran is cheating. The Iranians just can’t do otherwise. Cheating is in their nature.
This might be effective, because it is based on deeply rooted racism. Bazaar is a Persian word, associated in the European mind with haggling and deception.
But the Israeli conviction that the Iranians are cheating is based on a more robust foundation: our own behavior. When Israel started in the 1950s to build up its own nuclear program, with the help of France, it had to deceive the whole world and did so with stunning effect.
By sheer coincidence – or perhaps not – Israel’s Channel 2 TV aired a very revealing story about this last Monday (just two days after the signing of the Geneva accord!) Its most prestigious program, “Fact”, interviewed the Israeli Hollywood producer, Arnon Milchan, a billionaire and Israeli patriot.
In the program, Milchan boasted of his work for Lakam, the Israeli intelligence agency which handled Jonathan Pollard. (Since then it has been dismantled). Lakam specialized in scientific espionage, and Milchan did invaluable service in procuring in secret and under false pretences the materials needed for the nuclear program which produced the Israeli bombs.
Milchan hinted at his admiration for the South African apartheid regime and at Israel’s nuclear cooperation with it. At the time, a possible nuclear explosion in the Indian Ocean near South Africa mystified American scientists, and there were theories (repeated only in whispers) about an Israeli-South African nuclear device.
A third party was the Shah of Iran, who also had nuclear ambitions. It is an irony of history that Israel helped Iran to take its first atomic steps.
Israeli leaders and scientists went to very great length to hide their nuclear activities. The Dimona reactor building was disguised as a textile factory. Foreigners brought to tour Dimona were deceived by false walls, hidden floors and such.
Therefore, when our leaders speak of deception, cheating and misleading, they know what they are talking about. They respect the Persian ability to do the same, and are quite convinced that this will happen. So are practically all Israelis, and especially the media commentators.
ONE OF the more bizarre aspects of the American-Israeli crisis is the Israeli complaint that the US has had a secret diplomatic channel with Iran “behind our back”.
If there were an international prize for chutzpah, this would be a strong contender.
The “world’s only superpower” had secret communications with an important country, and only belatedly informed Israel about it. What cheek! How dare they?!
The real agreement, so it seems, was not hammered out in the many hours of negotiation in Geneva, but in these secret contacts.
Our government, by the way, did not omit to boast that it knew about this all the time from its own intelligence sources. It hinted that these were Saudi. I would rather suspect that it came from one of our numerous informants inside the US administration.
Be that as it may, the assumption is that the US is obliged to inform Israel in advance about every step it takes in the Middle East. Interesting.
PRESIDENT OBAMA has obviously decided that sanctions and military threats can only go so far. I think he is right.
A proud nation does not submit to open threats. Faced with such a challenge, a nation tends to draw together in patriotic fervor and support its leaders, disliked as they may be. We Israelis would. So would any other nation.
Obama is banking on the Iranian regime-change that has already started. A new generation, which sees on the social media what is happening around the world, wants to take part in the good life. Revolutionary fervor and ideological orthodoxy fade with time, as we Israelis know only too well. It happened in our kibbutzim, it happened in the Soviet Union, it happens in China and Cuba. Now it is also happening in Iran.
SO WHAT should we do? My advice would simply be: if you can’t beat them, join them.
Stop the Netanyahu obsession. Embrace the Geneva deal (because it is good for Israel). Call off the AIPAC bloodhounds from Capitol Hill. Support Obama. Mend the relations with the US administration. And, most importantly, send out feelers to Iran to change, ever so slowly, our mutual relations.
History shows that yesterday’s friends may be today’s enemies, and today’s enemies can be tomorrow’s allies. It already happened once between Iran and us. Apart from ideology, there is no real clash of interests between the two nations.
We need a change of leadership, like the one Iran has begun to embark on. Unfortunately, all Israeli politicians, left and right, have joined the March of Fools. Not a single establishment voice has been raised against it. The new Labor Party leader, Yitzhak Herzog, is part of it as much as Ya’ir Lapid and Tzipi Livni.
As they say in Yiddish: The fools would have been amusing, if they had not been our fools.
Uri Avnery is a longtime Israeli peace activist. Since 1948 has advocated the setting up of a Palestinian state alongside Israel. In 1974, Uri Avnery was the first Israeli to establish contact with PLO leadership. In 1982 he was the first Israeli ever to meet Yassir Arafat, after crossing the lines in besieged Beirut. He served three terms in the Israeli Parliament (Knesset), and is the founder of Gush Shalom (Peace Bloc). Visit his Website.
Roger’s note: The French proverb “tout comprendre c’est tout pardonner” tells us that to understand all is to forgive all. Hannah Arendt says otherwise, to understand is not necessarily to forgive, but she was pilloried by many when she refused to picture Eichmann as a Hitler-like monster, but rather as a nondescript and mediocre bureaucrat. From this her classic notion of the banality of evil. I believe this issue is not simply a question of historical interest but has much relevance today for Americans, Canadians, British, etc.
Those who oppose the murderous and planet destructive actions of the United States government fall into different categories. Two of these interest me: those who see the politicians and others (arms manufacturers, energy corporations, banksters, etc.) who are responsible as people who support bad policies versus those of us who see them a criminals. I also find it most interesting that many who would find the likes of Bush and Cheney to be criminal, are somehow able to absolve Obama for the very same policies and actions.
I have coined the phrase “the congeniality of evil” to describe especially those politicians who seem to have attractive personal characteristics and who do some things people like me can agree with. After Bush, many thirsted for an Obama, a man who is intelligent, articulate, personable and charismatic. A man who talked with apparent conviction, for example, about peace, transparency in government, human rights, etc. What was there not to like about Obama (apart from the fact that we now know that he is a serial dissimulator and a totally cynical self-indulgent lackey to the banks, generals and the mega corporations)? He has done a few progressive things that no Republican president would do, such as supporting (belatedly) same-sex marriage rights. Does, this, I ask, absolve one from grossly criminal and unconstitutional behavior?
When I read that Eichmann claimed not to know where the trains he had sent out were going, and that Arendt believed him, it brought to mind the bitingly satiric lyrics of the great satirist, Tom Lerher, where he sings that Werner Von Braun, the Nazi scientist whose V-2 rockets killed thousands of British civilians, only sent the missiles up, where they came down was”not his department.”
Back to the question of understanding and forgiving. Ethics and morals are far more complicated than fundamentalists (Christian, Muslim, Hindu, etc.) would have us believe. For me a vital distinction is that between individual and societal dimensions. As in individual, for example, within my own community (whatever that may be), then the Jesus ethic of “turn the other cheek” may have validity. But with respect to dealing with individuals outside my own community, and with respect to the communal/societal dimension (politics, government), then “turn the other cheek” can be an absurdity. On an individual level, a “love philosophy” is what I believe in. On a societal level, for me the highest notion of morality is “from each according to her ability, to each according to her need.” Most of us practice this level of morality at the familial level, and some day, most likely long after I am gone, perhaps the way society organizes itself economically and politically, “from each … to each …” will become a reality.
Margarethe von Trotta, award-winning German director, who directed the film “Hannah Arendt.” Her previous works include “Rosa Luxemburg”, and “Marianne & Juliane” — both starring Barbara Sukowa in lead roles — “Rosenstrasse”, and “Vision: From the Life of Hildegard von Bingen.”
Barbara Sukowa, actor who was awarded the Lola Award for Best Actress for her role in “Hannah Arendt.”
As head of the Gestapo office for Jewish affairs, Adolf Eichmann organized transport systems which resulted in the deportation of millions of Jews to extermination camps across Nazi-occupied Eastern Europe. Eichmann helped draft the letter ordering the Final Solution — the Nazi’s plan to exterminate the Jewish people in Nazi-occupied Europe. After the war, Eichmann fled to Argentina, where he lived under a false identity until he was kidnapped by the Israeli intelligence agency, the Mossad, on May 11, 1960. He was flown to Israel and brought to trial in Jerusalem in April 1961. After being found guilty he was executed by hanging in 1962. One writer reporting on the trial was the German-Jewish philosopher and political theorist Hannah Arendt, the author of “The Origins of Totalitarianism” and “The Human Condition.” Arendt’s coverage of the trial for the New Yorker proved extremely controversial. She expressed shock that Eichmann was not a monster, or evil, but “terribly and terrifyingly normal.” Even more controversial was her assertion that the Jews participated in their own destruction through the collaboration of the Nazi-appointed Judenrat, or Jewish Councils, with the Third Reich. Arendt’s coverage of the Eichmann trial is chronicled in the 2013 film, “Hannah Arendt.” We air clips of the film and speak with the film’s star, Barbara Sukowa, who was awarded the Lola Award for Best Actress, the German equivalent of the Oscars, for her role. We are also joined by the film’s director, Margarethe von Trotta, one of Germany’s leading directors, who has won multiple awards over her 40-year career.
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
NERMEENSHAIKH: After the U.N. in climate summit concluded in Warsaw, last week. Democracy Now! traveled Treblinka, an extermination camp built by Nazi Germany in occupied Poland during World War II. The camp operated officially between July 1942 and October 1943 during which time over 800,000 Jews were killed. Tens of thousands of Roma, disabled people and others were also killed at the camp.
AMYGOODMAN: Our tour guide at Treblinka was Zuzanna Radzik of the Forum for Dialogue Among Nations, a Polish nonprofit group that works to eliminate anti-Semitism in Poland.
ZUZANNARADZIK: This camp could actually receive 10,000 to 12,000 people daily, so — a day. Those people didn’t live there longer than an hour or two hours. Immediately from the trains, they went to the gas chambers and then were buried or their bodies were moved to a crematoria. The process was not very long.
AMYGOODMAN: The landscape of the memorial was dotted by thousands of large rocks, many of them not of individuals, but of whole communities with nearly a million killed, there would not have been room. One of the individuals responsible for sending Jews to their death in Poland and other countries in the Nazi occupied Europe was Adolph Eichmann. As head of the Gestapo Office for Jewish Affairs, Eichmann organized transport systems which resulted in the deportation of millions of Jews to extermination camps across German occupied Eastern Europe. He helped draft the letter ordering the final solution plan to exterminate the Jewish people in Europe. After the war, Eichmann fled to Argentina where he lived under a false identity until he was kidnapped Israeli intelligence agency the Mossad on May 11, 1960, flown to Israel, brought to trial in Jerusalem in April 1961. After being found guilty, he was executed by hanging in 1962.
NERMEENSHAIKH: One writer reporting was the Eichmann’s trial was the German Jewish philosopher and political theorist Hannah Arendt, the author of “The Origins of Totalitarianism” and “The Human Condition.” Arendt’s coverage of the trial for The New Yorker proved extremely controversial. She expressed shock that Eichmann was not a monster or evil, but “terribly and terrifyingly normal.” Even more controversial was her assertion that the Jews participated in their own destruction through the collaboration of the Nazi appointed Judenraete or Jewish Councils with the Third Reich. She first coined the term the banality of evil to apply to Eichmann following her reporting of her trial. Well, we spend the rest of the hour on a recent film which profiles Arendt’s coverage of the trial. The film is simply called “Hannah Arendt.” This is part of the trailer
ACTOR: They were recognized Jewish leaders and this leadership cooperated with the Nazis. They’ll have our heads for this.
ACTOR: [translated] This was the headline in the daily news. “Hannah Arendt’s Defense of Eichmann.”
ACTOR: [translated] These think your articles are terrific, and these want you dead. Some of them are quite colorful.
ACTOR AS HANNAHARENDT: [translated] The greatest evil in the world is the evil committed by nobodies.
ACTOR: [translated] Did you really have no idea there would be such a furious reaction?
ACTOR AS HANNAHARENDT: [translated] Trying to understand is not the same as forgiveness.
ACTOR AS KURTBLUMENFELD: [translated] This time you’ve gone too far. .
ACTOR AS HANNAHARENDT: [translated] It is this phenomenon I have called the banality of evil.
AMYGOODMAN: The trailer to the film “Hannah Arendt.” Democracy Now! spoke to the lead actor and director of the film earlier this year when the film was released in New York. Margarethe von Trotta is the director of “Hannah Arendt.” She is one of Germany’s leading film directors, has won multiple awards over her 40-year career. The actress, Barbara Sukowa, who plays Hannah Arendt in the film, she was awarded the Lola award for best actress, the German equivalent of the Oscars for her role. We started by asking Margarethe von Trotta why it was so significant for Hannah Arendt to decide to cover Eichmann’s trial.
MARGARETHEVONTROTTA: She wrote it because she offered herself to The New Yorker to go there and she wrote to them, I was not in Nuremberg. I did not see one of these monsters, one of these Nazis in flesh, in the face and I want to go there to look at somebody, to see him and to make it my own mind. Then she meets him there and he’s so different from what she expected, and that was in the beginning it was difficult for her to understand. And one of her most important sentences “I want to understand.” She wanted to understand why he’s so different, why he is not a monster, why he’s not a Saddam.
AMYGOODMAN: But, her husband saying to her there, I know what this is going to turn you back to, the pain that you knew. What is this pain that she knew personally?
MARGARETHEVONTROTTA: That is a pain that they both had when they heard about the Holocaust and heard about what happened in Poland and everywhere in the camps. They were both totally destroyed for months. So, he knew when he goes back and there are coming out all the testimonies, with all their stories, that she would go back into this depression. He feared for her. But, she wanted it. But, she was critical with the Hausner, with the prosecutor. That he had all these — and that the testimonies had to retell all her story and they’re some of them, they’re fainting and they’re really — you can see how much it cost them to tell the stories.
AMYGOODMAN: One of the devices in the film was to actually use the archival footage of Eichmann in trial. Because that amazingly was all videoed. Before we go to a clip that shows both your dramatic film but with the actual archival footage of Eichmann, so you have no one playing Eichmann, he is, in a sense, playing himself, talk about that decision.
MARGARETHEVONTROTTA: I saw, a long time before I knew that I would make a film about Hannah Arendt, I saw “The Specialist,” an Israeli documentary that is only one hour and a half only the trial. He followed the line of Hannah Arendt, and he said it in the beginning. So, when we started to write the script, with Pam Katz, I’d immediately told her, we have to look it up again. We have to go with this material. And so, we already — during we wrote — we already chose some of the clips, let’s say, some of it. And then when I started to make the film, I saw much more material and I chose also other material that was not in “The Specialist.” But, for me, it was from the beginning, totally clear that I had to use this because to put an actor in, the spectator only would have looked at him, oh he’s so brilliant, he’s fantastic, how we did it. So, they will admire the actor and not see the mediocrity of the man. So, that was my point, to see the mediocrity, to go with Hannah Arendt to look at him and to get the same thought out of him.
BARBARASUKOWA: That was also a reason that we didn’t go for an impersonation of Hannah Arendt, because we didn’t want people to look at an acting job and say, now she looks like Hannah Arendt. We did not do a lot of prosthetics or anything. We just wanted people to concentrate and focus on what she is saying and what she is thinking. And not think about acting.
NERMEENSHAIKH: The film that you referred to, Margarethe, “The Specialist,” the documentary by the Israeli filmmaker Eyal Sivan, as you said, it is only two hours long, but apparently the footage of Eichmann, up to 350 hours of the trial itself?
MARGARETHEVONTROTTA: At Youtube you can see 270, but there is still more, yes. But, I did not see that at all. But, I said to my assistant who saw it all, I want to have some of these scenes in, and so he looked for.
NERMEENSHAIKH: So, let’s just go to a clip of the Eichmann trial. This is the trial being watched by reporters on a television screen, which is how Arendt witnessed it. This is part of Eichmann’s testimony.
ADOLPHEICHMANN: [translated] I read here that during the transport, 15 people died. I can only say that these records, were not the responsibility department for 4B4.
NERMEENSHAIKH: That was Eichmann testifying as you show it in your film, “Hannah Arendt.” In another scene from the trial, Eichmann is asked explicitly about the final solution.
PROSECUTOR: Was it proven to you that the Jews had to be exterminated?
ADOLPHEICHMANN: I didn’t exterminate them.
NERMEENSHAIKH: Margarethe Von Trotta, can you talk about those scenes?
MARGARETHEVONTROTTA: Somebody now who read the [Indiscernible] papers. They were coming out now in Germany but also before. That was a judge, a fanatic Nazi who went to Argentina, who knew where he was hiding, Eichmann, and did they did a long interview. And there he spoke about himself as if he was a real fanatic Nazi and he wanted to kill all the Jews, even after the war and so. He gave himself such an importance that that was not true. My interpretation is that he was hiding so long that then coming up somebody who he could show what a kind of man he was, and then in the trial, he put down his light — how do you say, he put down his importance and perhaps he was more important than he made believe in the trial. But I think it was in between. But this main point for “Hannah Arendt” is that she says he was not stupid. He was thoughtless. He did not think. And that you can really, in some of the clips I show, you can really see it. And when you speak German, you can even feel it more because he is unable to say one sentence in the right way.
AMYGOODMAN: As the trial in Jerusalem is underway, Arendt meets with friends at a restaurant and reveals what she perceives of Eichmann’s character. Her old political mentor and friend, Kurt Blumenfeld, fiercely disagrees with her.
ACTOR AS HANNAHARENDT: [translated] He swears he never personally harmed a Jew.
ACTOR AS KURTBLUMENFELD: [translated] So he claims.
ACTOR AS HANNAHARENDT: [translated] But isn’t it interesting that a man who did everything a murderous system asked of him, who even seems eager to give precise details of his fine works, that this man insists he personally has nothing against Jews?
ACTOR: [translated] He’s lying!
ACTOR AS HANNAHARENDT: [translated] False, he’s not.
ACTOR: He claims he didn’t know where the trains were going. Do you believe that to?
ACTOR AS HANNAHARENDT: [translated] Knowing that was irrelevant for him. He transported people to their deaths but didn’t feel responsible for it. Once the trains were in motion his work was done.
ACTOR AS KURTBLUMENFELD: [translated] So we can say he’s free of guilt? Despite what happened to the people he transported?
ACTOR AS HANNAHARENDT: [translated] Yes, that’s how he sees it. He’s a bureaucrat.
ACTOR AS KURTBLUMENFELD: [translated] Your quest for truth is admirable but this time you’ve gone too far.
ACTOR AS HANNAHARENDT: [translated] But, Kurt, you can’t deny the huge difference between the unspeakable horror of the deeds and the mediocrity of the man.
AMYGOODMAN: That is Hannah Arendt fiercely debating Kurt Blumenfeld. Margarethe Von Trotta, talk about the heart, because this is the heart of what Hannah Arendt is arguing in the banality of evil. Explain.
MARGARETHEVONTROTTA: Yeah, because she went there expecting a monster like everybody else because she couldn’t understand or she could not expect it’s only a normal bureaucrat. So, she had to wait to get to her idea about him. She did not have it immediately. But then in this scene, she was already there for certain time, so she could look at him and observe him already. So, she came up with this idea of the only bureaucratic. And Kurt Blumenfeld who was [Indiscernible] in this scene in the end, he’s so angry with her that she turns away. Even when he is on his deathbed, he even doesn’t want to see her anymore. So, we have both opinions in the film. You can choose where you want to stand and where you want to be, with Blumenfeld or with her, or also Hans Jonas her old friend, a student with her with Martin Heidegger the philosopher — he also turns away.
NERMEENSHAIKH: One of the criticisms of the film has been that it gives the impression that there were no Jewish intellectuals who agreed with Hannah Arendt at the time of her writing these articles in The New Yorker with the subsequent publication of the book, whereas people point out that there were, you know, Bruno Bettelheim, for example, as well as Raul Hilberg, there were Jewish intellectuals who agreed. Was their a decision that you made to represent only the voices of opposition for dramatic purposes, or can you just talk about that?
MARGARETHEVONTROTTA: There were very few who did understand her and who defended her, very few. We chose Mary McCarthy because she was a friend of her during the whole life in America and also during the period we show. So, we put in all the defending theme in her part. And others are portraits and others enable and ho and so.
AMYGOODMAN: And explain, once she wrote the pieces in The New Yorker, the fire The New Yorker came under and that she came under, because she like many German Jewish intellectuals had come to be in New York at the New School, they founded the New School, and she might even have lost her job there. There were so much pressure for her to resign.
MARGARETHEVONTROTTA: Yeah, and she feared all of the sudden she will go to exile again. That was also a point she was suffering about, because when you had to go away from your country for once and then she went to Paris and when the Germans invaded France, they put these people who came to France to be protected, they put them in interment camps. All of a sudden there again she had to flee. So, it was from both countries she was exiled or she had to flee. Then she came to America. For her, it was paradise. Like she said in the film, she was so happy with her — even if she didn’t speak a word of English when she came here, no? And then after this controversy, she had the feeling that also in this country, who became her home, she was not well seen and she became again a stranger. That was very, very painful for her.
NERMEENSHAIKH: Let’s go to a clip from the film where Hannah Arendt is put under extraordinary pressure after the articles have appeared in The New Yorker and she is even asked to leave the university in the U.S. where she is lecturing at the time.
ACTOR: [translated] We’ve discussed it at length and arrived at unanimous decision.
ACTOR: [translated] We respectfully advise you to relinquish your teaching obligations.
ACTOR AS HANNAHARENDT: [translated] Under no circumstances will I give up my class.
ACTOR: [translated] You may not have enough students were willing to study with you.
ACTOR AS HANNAHARENDT: [translated] Perhaps you’ve not been in communication with your own students, but I am entirely oversubscribed at the moment. And because of the extraordinary support of the students, I have decided to accept the invitation and I will speak publicly hysterical reaction to my report.
ACTOR: [translated] That is Hannah Arendt, all arrogance and no feeling.
NERMEENSHAIKH: Barbara Sukowa, could you talk about that particular scene? And she goes on after that to give an absolutely spectacular speech, which one reviewer has said is the greatest articulation of the importance of thinking that will ever be presented in a film.
BARBARASUKOWA: Really? Well, I had a good script writer.
NERMEENSHAIKH: It is a seven-minute long speech. Can you talk about how you prepared for it and how it is you delivered it? It is very powerful.
BARBARASUKOWA: Well, as Margarethe said before, what goes through all her writings is the sentence “I want to understand.” She wants those students to understand, too. I thought it was really important that I as an actor really have to understand what she is saying because otherwise the audience will understand it. So, we worked on that scene quite a bit. We changed a little lines. We really tried to make it in a way that people understood it. And there had to find a balance between an emotional approach because she was emotional at this point. She was very afraid. She always was very afraid when she had to go in front of the public and to talk. She had like almost stage fright. And also be very clear on the thinking. So, it cannot be — as an actor, you cannot only go the — you can’t be just like a cold thinker in that moment. You have to also bring in her emotion. So, we tried to find that balance so that those people would understand.
For me, the reason why I did also this film with Margarethe because of the topic of the Holocaust is one that has been a big topic of my life because the generation that raised me, my teachers, my parents, they were all part of that generation.
AMYGOODMAN: Where were you born?
BARBARASUKOWA: I was born in Bremen.
BARBARASUKOWA: When Hannah Arendt says, if you see that man, in the scene before, that you showed, and the difference, the horrors that happened, it was something that she could not bring together. How is that mediocre man there and there are these incredible horrors. The same for us. It was, how are there are these nice people that we know? How could they witness his incredible horrors? Are they lying? Are they not lying? What did they really know? So, this was, for me, also, a reason why I was very attracted to that topic again and to Hannah Arendt. I really do think that the question whether Eichmann is really mediocre or not, there’s been a lot of research out since Hannah Arendt wrote the book — I mean, JYad Va’Shem was only just founded at that time. Now they have big archives.
AMYGOODMAN: The memorial in Israel.
BARBARASUKOWA: But, the thing is, that he is a prototype. It doesn’t matter whether he personally — whether she was right on him. Other people might see a demon in him. But these people existed, these bureaucrat. The thing is that he never regretted. He felt justified with what he did. He said, “I obeyed the law of my country and a lot my country was Hitler’s law.” I think that is interesting for us, today. How much do you obey a law? You have to think about the law.
NERMEENSHAIKH: Actress Barbara Sukowa, is the star of “Hannah Arendt.” We were also joined by the film’s director Margarethe von Trotta. The film has just been released on DVD.
AMYGOODMAN: Tune in Thursday and Friday for our holiday shows our tribute to Yip Harburg, black-listed lyricist who the rainbow in “The Wizard of Oz.” He also wrote the words to “Brother Can You Spare a Dime,” and so much more. Then our discussion about “Ebony and Ivy: Race, Slavery and the Troubled History of America’s Universities” with Craig Steven Wilder and Katrina Brown.
Roger’s note: I am thankful that I don’t have to spend up to thirty five years in prison. I cannot begin to imagine what that would be like. Chelsea Manning apparently has not been bowed by the draconian and vengeful punishment loaded upon her by the criminal United States military. A profile in courage.
Nov. 25, 2013, Time
I’m usually hesitant to celebrate Thanksgiving Day. After all, the Puritans of the Massachusetts Bay Colony systematically terrorized and slaughtered the very same Pequot tribe that assisted the first English refugees to arrive at Plymouth Rock. So, perhaps ironically, I’m thankful that I know that, and I’m also thankful that there are people who seek out, and usually find, such truths. I’m thankful for people who, even surrounded by millions of Americans eating turkey during regularly scheduled commercial breaks in the Green Bay and Detroit football game; who, despite having been taught, often as early as five and six years old, that the “helpful natives” selflessly assisted the “poor helpless Pilgrims” and lived happily ever after, dare to ask probing, even dangerous, questions.
Such people are often nameless and humble, yet no less courageous. Whether carpenters of welders; retail clerks or bank managers; artists or lawyers, they dare to ask tough questions, and seek out the truth, even when the answers they find might not be easy to live with.
I’m also grateful for having social and human justice pioneers who lead through action, and by example, as opposed to directing or commanding other people to take action. Often, the achievements of such people transcend political, cultural, and generational boundaries. Unfortunately, such remarkable people often risk their reputations, their livelihood, and, all too often, even their lives.
For instance, the man commonly known as Malcolm X began to openly embrace the idea, after an awakening during his travels to the Middle East and Africa, of an international and unifying effort to achieve equality, and was murdered after a tough, yearlong defection from the Nation of Islam. Martin Luther King Jr., after choosing to embrace the struggles of striking sanitation workers in Memphis over lobbying in Washington, D.C., was murdered by an escaped convict seeking fame and respect from white Southerners. Harvey Milk, the first openly gay politician in the U.S., was murdered by a jealous former colleague. These are only examples; I wouldn’t dare to make a claim that they represent an exhaustive list of remarkable pioneers of social justice and equality—certainly many if not the vast majority are unsung and, sadly, forgotten.
So, this year, and every year, I’m thankful for such people, and I’m thankful that one day—perhaps not tomorrow—because of the accomplishments of such truth-seekers and human rights pioneers, we can live together on this tiny “pale blue dot” of a planet and stop looking inward, at each other, but rather outward, into the space beyond this planet and the future of all of humanity.
Chelsea Manning, formerly named Bradley, is serving a 35-year prison sentence at Fort Leavenworth for leaking hundreds of thousands of classified documents to the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks.
Roger’s note: Support Our Troops (by screwing them after they have killed, been shot at in a place they have not business being, and come home)!
“Even more shockingly, Mr. Stogran stated, ‘I was told by a senior Treasury Board analyst… that it is in the government’s best interest to have soldiers killed overseas rather than wounded because the liability is shorter term.’”
As the doctor said to my father when he announced my gender to him on the day of my birth in 1941: “CANNON FODDER.”
Special to The Globe and Mail
PublishedFriday, Nov. 22 2013, 12:50 PM EST
Last updatedFriday, Nov. 22 2013, 12:58 PM EST
If the politics of contempt is the hallmark of Stephen Harper’s governing style – for Parliament, for accountability, for critics, for science, for journalists – nothing is more shameful than its contempt for Canada’s veterans. It’s not merely that vets have won the right to so much better. It’s also the flat-out hypocrisy, the unbridgeable chasm between the Harper government’s rapturous rhetoric and its actual policies.
Besides the usual Remembrance Day platitudes, there was the PM at the recent Conservative Convention in Calgary shamelessly boasting that only his party cared about Canada’s “brave men and women in uniform.” Yet precisely one week earlier, Corporal David Hawkins from London, Ont., injured in the field and suffering from post-traumatic stress, was booted out of the military before he was eligible to collect an indexed pension – one of many wounded vets who are being treated so callously.
The ugly truth is that Mr. Hawkins is only one example of the many “brave men and women in uniform” who have been betrayed by the Harper government. And refusing veterans their rightful pensions is only one example of the many heartless ways it has actually treated so many of them.
Indeed, just in the weeks around Remembrance Day 2013, the media has been replete with examples of this absolutely inexplicable phenomenon. In the typical words of Corporal Shane Jones, who suffered a traumatic brain injury in Afghanistan, “We go overseas, we fight for our country, we do what we’re asked and when we come home it’s like we have to start another war all over again just to get the help we need.” That was three days after Mr. Harper’s Calgary speech and exactly one week before November 11.
And on Remembrance Day itself, in B.C., retired Air Force captain Claude Latulippe was among other vets who chose to turn their backs on their Conservative MP at the local cenotaph, “just like the Conservatives are turning their backs on veterans.” This attitude hardly surprises Veterans Ombudsman Guy Parent, appointed by the Harper government, who angrily points out that the Harper government’s New Veterans Charter will relegate hundreds of the most severely disabled vets to poverty in their old age.
But lest we forget, Remembrance Day 2013 was no aberration on this front. Remembrance Day 2010, for example, was marked by a farewell J’Accuse! from Patrick Stogran, a 30-year vet and Canada’s first Veterans Ombudsman, also appointed by Stephen Harper but pointedly not reappointed.
“What I am here to do,” Mr. Stogran said, “is to expose to Canadians what I perceive as a system that for a long time has denied veterans not just what they deserve, but what they earned with their blood and sacrifice.”
“It is beyond my comprehension,” he later added, “how the system could knowingly deny so many of our veterans the services and benefits that the people and the Government of Canada recognized a long, long time ago as being their obligation to provide.”
Even more shockingly, Mr. Stogran stated, “I was told by a senior Treasury Board analyst… that it is in the government’s best interest to have soldiers killed overseas rather than wounded because the liability is shorter term.”
Mr. Stogran’s cri de coeur did not come as a surprise to veterans. Over the 2010 Remembrance Day weekend they hit the streets in an unprecedented series of nation-wide demonstrations to publicize their long list of grievances against a government that has made a fetish of its devotion to Canada’s veterans.
Remembrance Day 2012 once again saw a series of public protests by vets against their own government. As reported by Canadian Press, disabled veterans and military widows assembled on Parliament Hill “to paint a stark picture of bureaucratic indifference and red tape that flies in the face of reassurances from the government, which says the care of military families is a top priority….Few of the government’s touted programs meant to help combat veterans find civilian jobs actually help the disabled.”
What does it take for the Harper government to be shamed into action? This Remembrance Day, 2013, many media finally gave the vets’ grievances significant coverage. Besides several news stories, The Globe, for example, published an editorial, two pieces by its own columnists and an editorial cartoon all harshly critical of the government.
There are some indications that the government is finally paying attention, though Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino insists, in quintessential Harperland style, that “a majority of Canada’s veterans receive the support and care they need.” At about the same time, 3,000 to 4,000 citizens took to the streets of Sydney, N.S., (population: 31,597) to support local veterans in protesting the government’s decision to close nine Veterans Affairs Department district offices across the country, including theirs.
Some Opposition MPs have been pressing the vets’ case for some time; Peter Stoffer has been an especially tireless advocate. But surely the Opposition must go further and make this just cause an absolute priority. Shaming Stephen Harper is not an easy task, as years of protest by vets have sadly proved. But surely his betrayal of Canada’s veterans cannot be allowed to continue.
The big controversies surrounding Qatar as the site of the 2022 World Cup have been the shady bidding process and fears that the desert heat will ruin the soccer games. But in the past few days, the spotlight has finally begun to move to longstanding concerns over the treatment of the migrant workers who will be building the physical infrastructure for the sporting bonanza.
Migrants laboring in Qatar. Most are underpaid and face torture or abuse. (Photo by WBUR/ Flickr)
Throughout the summer, according to an investigation by Amnesty International [PDF] released this week, the future site of the sporting spectacle became a death trap for the Asian workers brought in by Qatar and its booming construction industry to work on the building sites of the planned World Cup facilities, including commercial areas and transportation infrastructure.
Amnesty found that the workers were encamped in sweltering heat, fell from precarious heights and suffered heart failure under the strenuous labor conditions. One Nepalese official described the entire system of indenture as an “open prison,” according to Der Spiegel. In light of dozens of reported deaths, union activists predict that up to 4,000 may die on the sites between now and the 2022 games.
Through interviews with the World Cup construction workers, the Amnesty investigators gathered horrific stories of an array of abuses, including “not being paid for six or nine months; not being able to get out of the country; not having enough—or any—food; and being housed in very poor accommodation with poor sanitation, or no electricity.”
Workers testified that migrants were frequently forced to work for poverty-level wages or sometimes none at all. Often, they said, employers confiscated their identification documents, effectively holding them hostage out of fear of being detained for lacking papers.
Unfortunately, while horrific, these stories are far from unique in Qatar. More than 90 percent of the labor that fuels the country’s oil-slicked economy is imported, typically brought in by recruiters from South Asian countries. Not only are these migrant workers non-citizens; in the eyes of their employers, they are barely human. They live in barbaric, squalid dormitories, their movement restricted, invisible under Qatari law and cut off from their home communities.
Under the transnational migrant “sponsorship” system, according to Amnesty, workers were drawn into the labor trade by recruiting agents who falsely advertised decent, high-paying work abroad–sometimes taking on heavy debt to secure a job. The byzantine residence permit system further disenfranchises workers. When employers illegally fail to arrange permits for workers, as was frequently the case in the shadowy migrant labor market, they generally cannot return home without paying extremely heavy fines. The restrictions on migrant workers’ movement mean that “rather than protecting the rights of migrant workers, the government is adding to their exploitation,” Amnesty contends.
Underlying the whole system are fundamentally weak protections forlabor organizing on the part of Qataris and migrants alike, as well as prohibitions on migrants forming trade unions. The lack of organization among workers means many migrants remain in the dark about their labor rights. One Nepalese worker explained to Amnesty, “There are many workers who keep working like donkeys, without asking a question. They don’t understand what is legally our entitlements, what our rights are.”
Some have tried to challenge employers. According to the report, the Labour Ministry and the courts have each received thousands of worker complaints, many related to basic wage and hour and other labor issues. But due to fear of retaliation and the difficulty non-Qataris face in navigating the justice system, most aggrieved workers, according to investigators, probably do not go through with the complaint process in the first place.
One worker with the U.S.-based electro-mechanical engineering contractor Krantz Engineering wrote in a desperate letter to Amnesty in April 2013 about his lack of legal recourse for his abuse:
I am writing this email after lots of pain and struggle … I have complained in several places like Labour court, Indian Embassy, High court, CID and National Human Rights Council Qatar but no any positive response from anyone of them … I don’t have money to eat food from last five days as I didn’t get salary from last nine months.
Not all of the employers using this labor are Qatar-based—the report linked multinationals such as Hyundai Engineering and Construction and OHL Construction to the subcontractors building the World Cup-related facilities. In the case of Krantz, Amnesty discovered that one of the company’s subcontractors was receiving technical training from a company called TEEX, which is affiliated with Texas A&M University. When questioned by Amnesty about the treatment of migrants, Texas A&M argued the firm “does not have any role in the management and supervision of the labor force at the facility.”
Amid international criticism from Amnesty and other organizations like the UN, Qatar’s 2022 Supreme Committee, a managing body for the preparation for the games, has vowed to address the reported abuses, and FIFA has issued similar comments. In a formal response to the Guardian published in September, the committee cited numerous labor protections available to migrants, including restrictions on passport confiscation.
But Sharran Burrow of the International Trade Union Confederation tells Working In These Times via email she is unconvinced by Qatar’s promises. “Qatar continues to announce that it will reform the visa sponsorship system, yet nothing changes,” she says. In the wake of mounting criticism over the human rights issues surrounding the event, she adds, “Unless Qatar reforms its ways, FIFA should re-run the vote for the 2022 World Cup.”
There is also a question of who is directly responsible for regulating labor issues. Amnesty’s report focused on infrastructure construction related to the World Cup but not just the stadium itself—including transportation and supporting commercial facilities. In any case, the primarily responsibility, argue human rights advocates,lies with Qatar to reform its overall labor laws and to tighten oversight of private sector labor practices, particularly for international-sporting projects aimed at creating a global commercial spectacle.
This is not the first time FIFA has come under political pressure; earlier this year, populist protests erupted over the lavish costs of the preparations for the 2014 Brazil World Cup. Though FIFA generally urges host countries to comply with international human rights, the World Cup is notorious for inducing local labor violations. For example, labor activists have condemned FIFA for not taking strong enough action against Russia’s temporary suspension of key labor protections for the migrant workers at the building sites for the 2018 World Cup.
The human rights crises haunting World Cup stadiums reveal global sport’s economic realities: the commercial spectacle that brings the world together is built on vast inequalities.
Michelle Chen is a contributing editor at In These Times. She is a regular contributor to the labor rights blog Working In These Times, Colorlines.com, and Pacifica’s WBAI. Her work has also appeared in Common Dreams, Alternet, Ms. Magazine, Newsday, and her old zine, cain.
Roger’s note: the author ends this article by lamenting the damage done by the Harper government to “Canada’s global reputation.” What needs to be added to this are the damages themselves done not only to our environment but to the thousands of human beings who suffer at the policies of this mean-spirited and imperious government.
Canada has become the target of unprecedented international condemnation as one of the world’s worst polluters.
The international community is unimpressed with Canada’s environmental record, which for some includes the oilsands industry in Alberta.
Jeff McIntosh / THE CANADIAN PRESS
By:Tony BurmanSpecial to the Star, Published on Sat Nov 23 2013
When will this horrid scandal end? Can someone please turn the channel? Shamed on the world stage and ridiculed by many, Canada has been exposed in recent days as a country with political leadership that is greedy, self-indulgent, incompetent and dismissive of our children, as well as woefully captive of special interests.
And I’m not referring to Rob Ford. His 15 seconds of fame — as “The Crack-smoking Mayor Who Knocked Down Granny,” as London’s tabloids described him — will end one day. Just keep breathing deeply.
I mean, in tabloid terms, another story: “The Short-Sighted Canadian Government That Robbed Our Children.” And, sadly, its legacy may never end.
What makes it worse is that this comes at a time when the government of Stephen Harper faces criticism for blackening Canada’s reputation in foreign policy in other areas as well.
Although it hasn’t received the media attention of the Ford soap opera, Canada in the past week has been the target of unprecedented international condemnation as one of the world’s worst polluters. These reports have coincided with a major UN climate change conference in Warsaw, Poland.
One after another, accusations have been directed at the Harper government for being an international deadbeat when it comes to climate change and the environment.
The Washington-based Center for Global Development ranked Canada dead last among the 27 wealthy nations it assessed in terms of environmental protection. Every other country has made progress except Canada, according to the group.
By any measurement, this is not how most Canadians want their country to be seen internationally in an area so crucial to Canada as the environment. This challenges the conventional wisdom — often reflected in current political debate and media coverage — that Canadians have tired of the environment and climate change as public policy issues.
According to a new survey released last Monday, Canadians increasingly believe — six in 10 — that climate change is real and caused by human activity, which is the highest level since 2007. But they are losing faith in government to address the issue. The survey was conducted by the Environics Institute for Survey Research and the David Suzuki Foundation.
These results were broadly consistent with another national survey released in early November that showed that three out of four Canadians were concerned about climate change but many were critical of how the federal government handled the issue. The poll was sponsored by the Canada 2020 think tank and the University of Montreal, and was conducted by Leger Marketing.
The Canadian government’s handling of climate change is part of a pattern. Domestic political calculations here in Canada — rather than any high-minded sense of Canada’s international obligations — seem to drive the Harper government’s foreign policy decisions.
How else to explain Canada’s unquestioning support of the Israeli government? The price of that has been to relegate Canada to irrelevance in the Middle East.
How else to explain Canada’s abrupt decision a year ago to pull its embassy out of Iran? The price of that has been to eliminate any possibility Canada can be a factor in the current nuclear negotiations. Even Britain is now taking steps to reconcile with Iran.
How else to explain Harper’s decision to boycott the recent Commonwealth conference in Sri Lanka in response to pressure from Canada’s Tamil community? The price of that was to sideline Canada from the human rights debate at the conference. In contrast, British Prime Minister David Cameron, who attended the conference, was able to challenge directly the Sri Lankan government for its handling of the Tamil minority.
The Rob Ford scandal has been a genuine black eye for Canada. His continuing presence on the political scene is as mystifying to foreigners as it is embarrassing to Canadians. But one day, thankfully, Ford will be gone.
In a variety of areas including climate change, the damage being done by the Harper government to Canada’s global reputation is a stain that will stay with us for much longer.
Tony Burman, former head of Al Jazeera English and CBC News, teaches journalism at Ryerson University. (email@example.com )
Roger’s note: Going back to my days protesting racism and the Vietnam War I have unapologetically used the word “fascist” or “neo-fascist” to describe aspects of the actions of the United States government. I am well aware of what the author of this article refers to as Godwin’s Law, that we dare not compare Americans to Nazis in polite company. I often try to think what it would have been like to have been an “ordinary” German citizen in the 1930s and 1940s. I imagine that one woke up in the morning, ate breakfast, sent the kids off to school, and then headed to whatever job she/he worked at. The sun came up in the morning and the moon at night. People ate, drank, partied, and, yes, they would also have discussed politics. Their discussions would have had a lot in common with how many Americans see themselves, that is, as victims. The reparations imposed by the Allies after WWI had created economic hardships that all Germans felt. That was their primary reality. Germans who were educated and who should have known better, would obviously been aware of the officially sanctioned antisemitism and other excesses of the Hitler regime. Some few would have protested and paid a price, other would have rationalized. How is this different, I ask, from American reaction the atrocities in my lifetime that have occurred as a direct or indirect result of U.S. government activity, including but not limited to Vietnam, Agent Orange, Latin American death squads, endemic racist, sexist and homophobic urban policing, the Bush/Cheney torture and rendition regime, the hundreds of thousands if not millions killed in the declared wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the men, women and children destroyed by American drone missiles?
This article focuses on the prison industrial complex, but I note that it fails to include a discussion of the privatization of a large segment of the prison industry, using prisoners as slave labor, and the various forms of torture including years to decades of solitary confinement.
Since this article if focused on criminal justice, it identifies only one of thousands of Eichmanns who spend your American tax dollars on destroying human life.
Godwin’s Law is an assertion, widely credited to Mike Godwin of the Electronic Freedom Foundation, basically holding that a discussion essentially ends when a Nazi or Hitler analogy is raised and signals that the party making such a comparison has lost the argument. It is widely cited, particularly in the blogosphere, whenever the inevitable comparisons are made between current U.S. repressive/invasive procedures and those employed by an earlier repressive regime that according to Godwin, must remain nameless when discussing despicable state tactics.
Image by google images
Godwin’s Law, credited to Mike Godwin, has diminished the discussion of parallels between current U.S. policy and Nazi Germany
Various players have different motives for promulgating Godwin’s Law. There are the victims of Nazi oppression who seek to ensure a unique place in history for themselves, and in order to do so must see that any other villainous regime is perceived to be relegated to a level no greater than penultimate evil. Then there are the regimes themselves which have a vested interest in quelling any embarrassing or unwanted comparisons. Regardless of the motivation, there seems to be little doubt that absurdities like Godwin’s Law do little to advance meaningful analysis and more likely stifle necessary and legitimate discourse.
An honest examination of the prison-industrial complex in the U.S. demands a total defenestration of Godwin’s Law and anything else interfering with the ability to compare the U.S. “justice” system with those of other similarly malevolent regimes. Those who seek to defend the status quo in the U.S. will reflexively cite the fact that Hitler, Stalin, Mao and others have killed more of their people, etc., but while true, this misses the real point and inherent maliciousness of the current situation in the U.S.
Image by google images
Adolph Hitler is uniquely evil and exempt from comparison according to Godwin’s Law
Much of the damage done by the U.S. justice system is allowed to occur with little or no oversight as a result of the U.S.’s self-proclaimed role as the world’s moral arbiter. Indeed, much in the way in which Richard Nixon claimed that “when the president does it, that means it is not illegal,” it is now similarly asserted that if the U.S. does it, it must be permissible. Even the most egregious violations can be explained away by attributing their necessity to something as vague as “terrorism.” Godwin’s Law prevents the interjection of the historical fact that similar claims were made by another regime that relied upon comparable and similarly vague justifications.
Image by google images
Adolph Eichmann was executed for crimes arising out of overseeing a network of prisons for the Third Reich
And so in the spirit of breaking free from the artificial constraints of Godwin, it can be straightforwardly reported that America has its own equivalent of Adolph Eichmann in the person of Charles E. Samuels, Jr., director of the federal Bureau of Prisons. There are obvious parallels between the governmental tasks performed by Eichmann and Samuels. Like Eichmann, he is responsible for the management of prisoner logistics, heading a nationwide network of gulags where enemies of the regime are dispatched for an ever-expanding variety of infractions, both real and imagined.
Image by google images
Charles Samuels currently serves as the head of America’s vast network of federal gulags
Samuels, installed by President Barack Obama, is the first person of color to hold the post. This fact was widely celebrated by a fawning press following his installation but given that minorities are the largest victims of the prison-industrial complex in the U.S., placing a black man in the position was recognized by more seasoned observers as a cynical ploy to sugar-coat the face of systematically repressive mass incarceration.
Image by google images
Despite promises of “hope and change,” the Department of Justice and Bureau of Prisons have only grown more repressive under the Obama regime
Samuels’ relatively unimpressive biography suggests he is merely another government functionary seeking sustenance at the public trough. There is nothing in his background which would indicate an extraordinary or unusual level of malice. In his mind he is most likely serving at his post in an unthinking and uncaring manner that is little different from the way in which millions of other government workers perform their assigned tasks. It is entirely possible that he fails to recognize the holocaust he has been entrusted to oversee and perpetuate, instead perceiving it to be nothing more than an element of a necessary state function.
Fifty years ago renowned sociologist Hanna Arendt penned her classic work, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil. Arendt’s work was revolutionary in its contention that evil in individuals mainly occurs as a result of thoughtlessness. Arendt wrote it was the tendency of ordinary people to obey orders and conform to mass opinion without a critical evaluation of the consequences of their actions, even if it results in unspeakable crimes.
Image by google images
Famed sociologist Hanna Arendt identified the banal nature of evil found in the likes of Eichmann and Samuels
It was the capture of Eichmann, widely considered at the time to be evil personified, and the reactions observed at his ensuing trial that caused Arendt to formulate her theory. She recognized that the evil being attributed to Eichmann was misplaced. Arendt viewed him as a mere cog in the wheel of an inherently evil system, performing his duties as would ordinarily be expected of any dutiful bureaucrat.
Performing horrific tasks in an organized and systematic way relies upon “normalization.” This is the process whereby such abominable and heinous acts become routine and are ultimately accepted as part of the process through which things are done. The process requires a division of labor in doing and rationalizing the unthinkable. The direct brutalization of people is performed by one set of individuals while others keep unrelated mechanisms of government functioning. Giving cover to the enterprise are supposed intellectuals and other pseudo experts who work through various media outlets to rationalize for the general public what would otherwise be unimaginable.
The media has certainly aided Samuels in efforts to make his endeavors palatable. Press accounts disseminated soon after his appointment credited “an interest in public service” as being what led him to take his first job as a federal prison guard. Samuels reportedly hails from a family of public servants, with a father who worked for the U.S. Postal Service and a mother who was employed by the Social Security Administration. Various media outlets reporting on Samuels’ appointment treated his position with the federal Bureau of Prisons as simply another civic minded endeavor. One article even went so far as to try and humanize his efforts by citing Samuels’ enjoyment of “chess, video games and reading books on a variety of topics.”
Image by google images
Samuels rules over the largest network of prisons ever assembled
When he’s not reading or playing chess, Samuels oversees the largest network of prisons and prisoners that the world has ever seen. It is largely a retributive network in which nearly three quarters of those imprisoned are non-violent offenders with no history of violence. Mandatory sentencing, rampant federal prosecutorial misconduct and an absurd and patently illegitimate 99% conviction rate in U.S. federal courts guaranty a steady stream of prisoners for the facilities overseen by Samuels.
Many of the victims dispatched to Samuels’ custody find themselves imprisoned as a result of gross abuse of governmental power. People are targeted for prosecution for a variety of reasons, many of which bear no rational relationship to the commission of an offense. The system in which Samuels plays a key role tends to select targets for prosecution and then, after expending limitless resources, finds a suitable “crime” with which they can be charged. It operates much in the spirit of Lavrentiy Beria, head of Joseph Stalin’s secret police in the Soviet Union, who is alleged to have said, “Show me the man, and I’ll show you the crime.”
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The tactics of Lavrentiy Beria, head of Stalin’s secret police, have been embraced by the U.S. Department of Justice
The federal Bureau of Prisons, as overseen by Samuels, is viewed by many detractors as nothing more than another example of state sponsored terrorism. The bureau exists to inflict harm upon its victims and exact retribution from perceived enemies of the regime. Even the pretense of rehabilitation has long been abandoned. Recent press reports claim that there are thousands of people, convicted of non-violent offenses, who have been sentenced to die in prison. The mission of the bureau is to rigidly exact as much time as possible from each and every prisoner. Samuels has taken the task to heart, routinely denying various motions for the compassionate release of terminally ill prisoners and instructing that good time calculations be made in a fashion that cheats every federal prisoner out of seven days of freedom for each year served. Ever the loyal soldier, he holds that every discretionary situation must be resolved in accordance with the goal of ensuring that federal prisons are kept full, well above capacity.
While Arendt’s ideas on the nature of evil were generally rejected when first proposed, the success of subsequent U.S. efforts at wholesale systematic implementation of sanitized decimation through mass incarceration suggests she was years ahead of her time. A man like Samuels, despite the realities of his job description, is widely accepted as being no more villainous than any other high ranking bureaucrat. Much like his predecessor Eichmann asserted, Samuels is widely viewed as one who is doing nothing more than following orders and unquestioningly administering the will of the regime.
Eichmann’s reliance on the Nuremberg Defense in which he sought to deflect guilt by claiming he was “only following orders” was predictably unsuccessful. Despite its past failed applications, it seems inevitable that if Samuels’ day of reckoning comes where he is called to account for the crimes that occurred on his watch, he would invoke a similar defense.
Even Eichmann’s trial speech appears to have applicability to the potential jeopardy faced by Samuels.
“I cannot recognize the verdict of guilty. . . . It was my misfortune to become entangled in these atrocities. But these misdeeds did not happen according to my wishes. It was not my wish to slay people. . . . Once again I would stress that I am guilty of having been obedient, having subordinated myself to my official duties and the obligations of service and my oath of allegiance and my oath of office . . . At that time obedience was demanded, just as in the future it will also be demanded of the subordinate.”
History has demonstrated that this is a losing argument. Samuels, and others whose warped sense of duty impairs their ability to discern right from wrong, run the risk of being called to account. The tipping point is growing near as there are almost daily calls to reform the federal sentencing scheme. The bureau headed by Samuels will predictably defy such calls as bureaucracies tend to resist efforts to diminish their size and scope. Samuels’ unfettered fealty to the regime prevents him from seeing that the administration he heads is one which feeds on bodies. It can only grow by creating correspondingly greater death and misery. America, which leads all nations in number and percentage of people under lock and key, has its Eichmann.
Barry Scott Sussman- Born and raised in New Jersey. Graduated from Rutgers University with a BA in Sociology. Graduated with a JD from the Benjamin Cardozo School of Law specializing in Federal Criminal Procedure and Federal Prosecutorial (more…)
The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website or its editors.
Roger’s note: this posting gives you two articles on health care, including Ralph Nader’s on the Canadian system. Having lived most of my life in Canada, and with the early detection of my daughter’s meningitis that saved her life at age two, I know first hand the benefits of no one excluded single payer. Like the system in Great Britain (which is more like socialized medicine than Canada’s universal insurance), Canada’s health care is deteriorating, not because of flaws in the system, but rather neoliberal under funding. It is not quite the Utopia that Nader pictures, but it is a thousand percent better than what Americans have.
Costly complexity is baked into Obamacare. No health insurance system is without problems but Canadian style single-payer full Medicare for all is simple, affordable, comprehensive and universal.
In the early 1960s, President Lyndon Johnson enrolled 20 million elderly Americans into Medicare in six months. There were no websites. They did it with index cards!
Below please find 21 Ways the Canadian Health Care System is Better than Obamacare.
Repeal Obamacare and replace it with the much more efficient single-payer, everybody in, nobody out, free choice of doctor and hospital.
In Canada, everyone is covered automatically at birth – everybody in, nobody out.
In the United States, under Obamacare, 31 million Americans will still be uninsured by 2023 and millions more will remain underinsured.
In Canada, the health system is designed to put people, not profits, first.
In the United States, Obamacare will do little to curb insurance industry profits and will actually enhance insurance industry profits.
In Canada, coverage is not tied to a job or dependent on your income – rich and poor are in the same system, the best guaranty of quality.
In the United States, under Obamacare, much still depends on your job or income. Lose your job or lose your income, and you might lose your existing health insurance or have to settle for lesser coverage.
In Canada, health care coverage stays with you for your entire life.
In the United States, under Obamacare, for tens of millions of Americans, health care coverage stays with you for as long as you can afford your share.
In Canada, you can freely choose your doctors and hospitals and keep them. There are no lists of “in-network” vendors and no extra hidden charges for going “out of network.”
In the United States, under Obamacare, the in-network list of places where you can get treated is shrinking – thus restricting freedom of choice – and if you want to go out of network, you pay for it.
In Canada, the health care system is funded by income, sales and corporate taxes that, combined, are much lower than what Americans pay in premiums.
In the United States, under Obamacare, for thousands of Americans, it’s pay or die – if you can’t pay, you die. That’s why many thousands will still die every year under Obamacare from lack of health insurance to get diagnosed and treated in time.
In Canada, there are no complex hospital or doctor bills. In fact, usually you don’t even see a bill.
In the United States, under Obamacare, hospital and doctor bills will still be terribly complex, making it impossible to discover the many costly overcharges.
In Canada, costs are controlled. Canada pays 10 percent of its GDP for its health care system, covering everyone.
In the United States, under Obamacare, costs continue to skyrocket. The U.S. currently pays 18 percent of its GDP and still doesn’t cover tens of millions of people.
In Canada, it is unheard of for anyone to go bankrupt due to health care costs.
In the United States, under Obamacare, health care driven bankruptcy will continue to plague Americans.
In Canada, simplicity leads to major savings in administrative costs and overhead.
In the United States, under Obamacare, complexity will lead to ratcheting up administrative costs and overhead.
In Canada, when you go to a doctor or hospital the first thing they ask you is: “What’s wrong?”
In the United States, the first thing they ask you is: “What kind of insurance do you have?”
In Canada, the government negotiates drug prices so they are more affordable.
In the United States, under Obamacare, Congress made it specifically illegal for the government to negotiate drug prices for volume purchases, so they remain unaffordable.
In Canada, the government health care funds are not profitably diverted to the top one percent.
In the United States, under Obamacare, health care funds will continue to flow to the top. In 2012, CEOs at six of the largest insurance companies in the U.S. received a total of $83.3 million in pay, plus benefits.
In Canada, there are no necessary co-pays or deductibles.
In the United States, under Obamacare, the deductibles and co-pays will continue to be unaffordable for many millions of Americans.
In Canada, the health care system contributes to social solidarity and national pride.
In the United States, Obamacare is divisive, with rich and poor in different systems and tens of millions left out or with sorely limited benefits.
In Canada, delays in health care are not due to the cost of insurance.
In the United States, under Obamacare, patients without health insurance or who are underinsured will continue to delay or forgo care and put their lives at risk.
In Canada, nobody dies due to lack of health insurance.
In the United States, under Obamacare, many thousands will continue to die every year due to lack of health insurance.
In Canada, an increasing majority supports their health care system, which costs half as much, per person, as in the United States. And in Canada, everyone is covered.
In the United States, a majority – many for different reasons – oppose Obamacare.
In Canada, the tax payments to fund the health care system are progressive – the lowest 20 percent pays 6 percent of income into the system while the highest 20 percent pays 8 percent.
In the United States, under Obamacare, the poor pay a larger share of their income for health care than the affluent.
In Canada, the administration of the system is simple. You get a health care card when you are born. And you swipe it when you go to a doctor or hospital. End of story.
In the United States, Obamacare’s 2,500 pages plus regulations (the Canadian Medicare Bill was 13 pages) is so complex that then Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said before passage “we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it.”
In Canada, the majority of citizens love their health care system.
In the United States, the majority of citizens, physicians, and nurses prefer the Canadian type system – single-payer, free choice of doctor and hospital , everybody in, nobody out.
The Affordable Care Act continues to plow ahead, despite Republican attempts to fight it at every turn. What is unfolding in front of us is nothing short of spectacular. The problems with healthcare.gov are slowly being resolved which is helping more and more people sign up for affordable healthcare, many for the first time in their life. The law provides so much more than that, including standards for even the lowest level plans, protections for young adults 26 and younger, and the elimination of pre-existing plans. Of course, you will not hear the success stories on the news, because those stories are not nearly as sexy as the “Obama Lied” slogan they are so fond of.
The biggest downside of the ACA is the reliance on the private insurance industry. It does not have to be this way, however. There is yet another provision in the Affordable Care Act that can open the door for states to institute their own single-payer healthcare system. Other states have a public option, especially for those below a certain income level, but no state had instituted a true single-payer system. All of this has changed thanks to President Obama and the Affordable Care Act.
Vermont—Home of Ben and Jerry’s, Maple Syrup, Bernie Sanders and the first state to pass marriage equality. Now, Vermont will be known for something that will impact every resident in the state.
The ACA provided states with federal funds to institute a Medicaid expansion. The states chose to expand the program also were able to set up their own state exchanges, which were relatively free from the problems the federal site had. Vermont decided to take it a step further by setting up their very own single payer system.
The slogan of the program: Everybody in, nobody out.
The program will be fully operational by 2017, and will be funded through Medicare, Medicaid, federal money for the ACA given to Vermont, and a slight increase in taxes. In exchange, there will be no more premiums, deductibles, copay’s, hospital bills or anything else aimed at making insurance companies a profit. Further, all hospitals and healthcare providers will now be nonprofit.
This system will provide an instant boost the state economy. On the one side, you have workers that no longer have to worry about paying medical costs or a monthly premium and are able to use that money for other things. On the other side, you have the burden of paying insurance taken off of the employers side, who will be able to use the saved money to provide a better wage and/or reinvest in their company through updated infrastructure and added jobs. It is a win-win solution.
To make sure that it is done right the first time, Vermont brought in a specialist who knows a thing or two about setting up a single-payer system.
Dr. William Hsaio, the Harvard health care economist who helped craft health systems in seven countries, was Vermont’s adviser. He estimates that Vermont will save 25 percent per capita over the current system in administrative costs and other savings.
Many like to say that the United States has the best healthcare system in the world. The problem is we don’t. Not even close. In fact, the only way you can get the best healthcare in the world, is if you are willing and able to pay for it. The United States can and must do better for its people.
Costs have to be held down — there is no reason why the U.S. has to pay twice the amount per capita as the next most costly system in the world (Norway’s), and still not cover millions of its citizens. A Harvard Medical School study states that 45,000 Americans die each year from treatable diseases because they cannot afford to get treatment.
45,000 Americans die every single year because they cannot afford treatment, are you ready for that? That is 15 times the amount of people that died during the September 11, 2001, attacks, or perhaps for you Righty’s out there you would rather see it put this way, 11,250 times the amount of people that died in the Benghazi attack. That equals 5 Americans that die every hour, of every day, of every year because of a preventable illness that was not taken care of due to lack of access and means.
Even once the Affordable Care Act wrinkles are ironed out, which they will be, and every America is covered, which will happen, that will not change the fact that all of this is being driven by a for-profit system by companies that only care about their bottom line. Despite rules in the ACA which prevent insurance companies from absolutely gouging their customers, insurance companies are not exactly know for their ethical behavior.
A single-payer system would all but eliminate anybody dying unnecessarily due to lack of access to healthcare. Our Declaration of Independence states, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” How can somebody have life and happiness, without their health? Despite the glaring hypocrisy of rich, white males who owned slaves stating all men are created equal, we have come a long way from 1776. Yet when it comes to the very basic need, we are left to the whim of a business. Single-payer is inevitable, and the ACA is a giant step in that direction. We need must hold our officials to a higher standard which will get us there faster. 40,000 people a year is absolutely unacceptable. Vermont saw the writings on the wall. Will the rest of us?
Bernie Sanders on MSNBC discussing his state’s new single-payer system.
The US Army School of the Americas in Ft. Benning, Georgia is a notorious training operation for Latin American officers and soldiers. It’s associated with some of the worst dictatorships and human rights violators in the hemisphere. For over 20 years, the grassroots School of Americas Watch (SOA Watch) has grown into one of the most dynamic, multi-generational, cross-continental movements against militarism in the Americas.
This weekend, November 22-24, will see thousands gather for a massive rally at Ft. Benning in the ongoing campaign to shut down the school. Vans from colleges and universities will make the trek with students who’ve studied the grim history of U.S.-sponsored military coups and U.S.-friendly dictators, many of whom got their inspiration and training at the SOA (now renamed Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation or WHINSEC).
Among the more infamous SOA graduates are Gen. Jose Rios Montt, who was convicted May 10th of committing genocide between March 1982 and August 1983 during his Guatemalan military dictatorship; death squad leader Otto Perez Molina who under Rios Montt directed massacres of Maya people, and who recently maneuvered Guatemala’s high court to reverse Rios Montt’s conviction; Gen. Manual Noreiga of Panama, who moved from dictatorship via SOA to the BOP (Federal Bureau of Prisons that is) on drug charges; Roberto D’Abuisson, leader of El Salvador’s death squads in the 1980s; and Gen. Hugo Banzar Suarez of Bolivia who seized power in 1971 and who jailed, disappeared and assassinated suspected political opponents for eight years. SOA graduates led military coups in Venezuela in 2002 and the 2009 coup in Honduras.
For more background, “Somos Una America” — a new documentary that focuses on the campaign against the Pentagon mindset that promotes U.S. domination and ‘military solutions’ in the Western Hemisphere — is available online for free (visit: soaw.org/somos).
This past April, the SOA Watch campaign won a long-sought court victory over the U.S. government’s refusal to release the names of the trainers at the SOA/WHINSEC. Federal Judge Phyllis J. Hamilton in Calif. ruled that the Pentagon has no grounds for refusing to release these names. President Obama has OKed the Justice Department’s appeal of this ruling, protecting the Pentagon’s effort to keep the information secret. As SOA Watch points out, this is because instructors there have coached “torturers, death squads and military dictators throughout the Americas.” The president’s decision to appeal puts the lie to his claim that his administration would be the most transparent in history. And you thought after his persecution of whistle blowers Julian Assange, Pfc. Manning and Edward Snowden that Obama could not get more cynical.
Teaching Torture the World Over
The SOA burst into the news in 1996, when the Pentagon released copies of its torture training manuals. The Sept. 21, 1996 Washington Post, in “U.S. Instructed Latins on Executions, Torture; Manuals Used 1982-91, Pentagon Reveals” by Dana Priest, notes that the manuals promote the use of “fear, payment of bounties for enemy dead, beatings, false imprisonment, executions and the use of truth serum.” By 1996, 60,000 military and police officers had been through SOA training.
The torture manuals were distributed to thousands of military officers from eleven South and Central American countries, although the actions advocated in them violated U.S. Army law at the time. The Pentagon ordered the manuals destroyed, but only a few thousand were ever recovered. They have doubtlessly been reproduced and employed by militaries and counterinsurgency forces the world over. U.S. military occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan appear to be direct beneficiaries, considering the torture regimes conducted at Abu Ghraib Prison in Iraq (2004) and at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Afghanistan has become a torture regime too — first under U.S. forces and now by their Afghan trainees (See “U.S. Practiced Torture After 9/11, Nonpartisan Review Concludes,” NY Times, Apr. 16, 2013, and “Government Panel in Afghanistan Confirms Widespread Torture of Detainees,” Jan. 21, 2013).
Demands to abolish the SOA/WHINSEC now come from across the political spectrum. From the point of view of the victims, more than 300 human rights defenders have employed nonviolent direct action at the base, and as a result have collectively spent over 100 years in prison and served additional years probation. (Disclaimer: I did 6 months in the Duluth prison camp for trespassing at SOA back in 2006. My cellie R.J., who was doing eight years, put me straight when he announced, “I see him doing his exercises, his yoga. He’s just here for an oil change.”) From officialdom, the Latin American Military Training Review Act of 2013, H.R. 2989, would suspend operations at the school. It also mandates an investigation into SOA’s connection with abuses of human rights. It’s got 40 co-sponsors but needs more.
If you’re not heading down to the Georgia for the rally, at least push your Congressional Rep’s to join the shutdown effort.
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John LaForge is on the Nukewatch staff and edits its Quarterly.