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America’s Coup Machine: Destroying Democracy Since 1953 April 13, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in History, Imperialism, Latin America, Ukraine.
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Roger’s note: this shameful report on how the United States government, via its military, the CIA, aided and abetted by the MIC and the corporate mainstream media, exports death and misery around the globe, comes as no big surprise to anyone who has taken the time to investigate and understand.  It is a useful compilation of its dirty work since the end of World War II, but of course it didn’t all begin there; in a sense it all began with Columbus, and in modern history U.S. imperial adventures took off with the Spanish American War, 1898, under President McKinley.  It also gives us a truer picture of the U.S. role of the coup in the Ukraine.

 

shutterstock_97739666Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com

Soon after the 2004 U.S. coup to depose President Jean-Bertrand Aristide of Haiti, I heard Aristide’s lawyer Ira Kurzban speaking in Miami.  He began his talk with a riddle: “Why has there never been a coup in Washington D.C.?”  The answer: “Because there is no U.S. Embassy in Washington D.C.”  This introduction was greeted with wild applause by a mostly Haitian-American audience who understood it only too well.

Ukraine’s former security chief, Aleksandr Yakimenko, has reported that the coup-plotters who overthrew the elected government in Ukraine, “basically lived in the (U.S.) Embassy.  They were there every day.”  We also know from a leaked Russian intercept that they were in close contact with Ambassador Pyatt and the senior U.S. official in charge of the coup, former Dick Cheney aide Victoria Nuland, officially the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs.  And we can assume that many of their days in the Embassy were spent in strategy and training sessions with their individual CIA case officers.

To place the coup in Ukraine in historical context, this is at least the 80th time the United States has organized a coup or a failed coup in a foreign country since 1953.  That was when President Eisenhower discovered in Iran that the CIA could overthrow elected governments who refused to sacrifice the future of their people to Western commercial and geopolitical interests.  Most U.S. coups have led to severe repression, disappearances, extrajudicial executions, torture, corruption, extreme poverty and inequality, and prolonged setbacks for the democratic aspirations of people in the countries affected.  The plutocratic and ultra-conservative nature of the forces the U.S. has brought to power in Ukraine make it unlikely to be an exception.

Noam Chomsky calls William Blum’s classic, Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions since World War II, “Far and away the best book on the topic.”  If you’re looking for historical context for what you are reading or watching on TV about the coup in Ukraine, Killing Hope will provide it.  The title has never been more apt as we watch the hopes of people from all regions of Ukraine being sacrificed on the same altar as those of people in Iran (1953); Guatemala(1954); Thailand (1957); Laos (1958-60); the Congo (1960); Turkey (1960, 1971 & 1980); Ecuador (1961 & 1963); South Vietnam (1963); Brazil (1964); the Dominican Republic (1963); Argentina (1963); Honduras (1963 & 2009); Iraq (1963 & 2003); Bolivia (1964, 1971 & 1980); Indonesia (1965); Ghana (1966); Greece (1967); Panama (1968 & 1989); Cambodia (1970); Chile (1973); Bangladesh (1975); Pakistan (1977); Grenada (1983); Mauritania (1984); Guinea (1984); Burkina Faso (1987); Paraguay (1989); Haiti (1991 & 2004); Russia (1993); Uganda (1996);and Libya (2011).  This list does not include a roughly equal number of failed coups, nor coups in Africa and elsewhere in which a U.S. role is suspected but unproven.

The disquieting reality of the world we live in is that American efforts to destroy democracy, even as it pretends to champion it, have left the world less peaceful, less just and less hopeful.  When Harold Pinter won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2005, at the height of the genocidal American war on Iraq, he devoted much of his acceptance speech to an analysis of this dichotomy.  He said of the U.S., “It has exercised a quite clinical manipulation of power worldwide while masquerading as a force for universal good.  It’s a brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis… Brutal, indifferent, scornful and ruthless it may be, but it is also very clever.”

The basic framework of U.S. coups has hardly evolved since 1953.  The main variables between coups in different places and times have been the scale and openness of the U.S. role and the level of violence used.  There is a strong correlation between the extent of U.S. involvement and the level of violence.  At one extreme, the U.S. war on Iraq was a form of regime change that involved hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops and killed hundreds of thousands of people.  On the other hand, the U.S. role in General Suharto’s coup in Indonesia in 1965 remained covert even as he killed almost as many people.  Only long after the fact didU.S. officials take credit for their role in Suharto’s campaign of mass murder, and it will be some time before they brag publicly about their roles in Ukraine.

But as Harold Pinter explained, the U.S. has always preferred “low-intensity conflict” to full-scale invasions and occupations.  The CIA and U.S. special forces use proxies and covert operations to overthrow governments and suppress movements that challenge America’s insatiable quest for global power.  A coup is the climax of such operations, and it is usually only when these “low-intensity” methods fail that a country becomes a target for direct U.S. military aggression.  Iraq only became a target for U.S. invasion and occupation after a failed CIA coup in June 1996.  The U.S. attacked Panama in 1989 only after five CIA coup attempts failed to remove General Noriega from power.  After long careers as CIA agents, both Hussein and Noriega had exceptional knowledge of U.S. operations and methods that enabled them to resist regime change by anything less than overwhelming U.S. military force.

But most U.S. coups follow a model that has hardly changed between 1953 and the latest coup in Ukraine in 2014.  This model has three stages:

1) Creating and strengthening opposition forces

In the early stages of a U.S. plan for regime change, there is little difference between the methods used to achieve it at the ballot box or by an anti-constitutional coup.  Many of these tools and methods were developed to install right-wing governments in occupied countries in Europe and Asia after World War II.  They include forming and funding conservative political parties, student groups, trade unions and media outlets, and running well-oiled propaganda campaigns both in the country being targeted and in regional, international and U.S. media.

Post-WWII Italy is a case in point.  At the end of the war, the U.S. used the American Federation of Labor’s agents in France and Italy to funnel money through non-communist trade unions to conservative candidates and political parties.  But socialists and communists won a plurality of votes in the 1946 election in Italy, and then joined forces to form the Popular Democratic Front for the next election in 1948.  The U.S. worked with the Catholic Church, conducted a massive propaganda campaign using Italian-American celebrities like Frank Sinatra, and printed 10 million letters for Italian-Americans to mail to their relatives in Italy.  The U.S. threatened a total cut-off of aid to the war-ravaged country, where allied bombing had killed 50,000 civilians and left much of the country in ruins.

The FDP was reduced from a combined 40% of the votes in 1946 to 31% in 1948, leaving Italy in the hands of increasingly corrupt U.S.-backed coalitions led by the Christian Democrats for the next 46 years.  Italy was saved from an imaginary communist dictatorship, but more importantly from an independent democratic socialist program committed to workers’ rights and to protecting small and medium-sized Italian businesses against competition from U.S. multinationals.

The U.S. employed similar tactics in Chile in the 1960s to prevent the election of Salvador Allende.  He came within 3% of winning the presidency in 1958, so the Kennedy administration sent a team of 100 State Department and CIA officers to Chile in what one of them later called a “blatant and almost obscene” effort to subvert the next election in 1964.  The CIA provided more than half the Christian Democrats’ campaign funds and launched a multimedia propaganda campaign on film, TV, radio, newspapers, posters and flyers.  This classic “red scare” campaign, dominated by images of firing squads and Soviet tanks, was designed mainly to terrify women.  The CIA produced 20 radio spots per day that were broadcast on at least 45 stations, as well as dozens of fabricated daily “news” broadcasts.  Thousands of posters depicted children with hammers and sickles stamped on their foreheads.  The Christian Democrat Eduardo Frei defeated Allende by 17%, with a huge majority among women.

But despite the U.S. propaganda campaign, Allende was finally elected in 1970.  When he consolidated his position in Congressional elections in 1973 despite a virtual U.S. economic embargo and an ever-escalating destabilization campaign, his fate was sealed, at the hands of the CIA and the U.S.-backed military, led by General Pinochet.

In Ukraine, the U.S. has worked since independence in 1991 to promote pro-Western parties and candidates, climaxing in the “Orange Revolution” in 2004.  But the Western-backed governments of Viktor Yushchenko and Yulia Tymoshenko became just as corrupt and unpopular as previous ones, and former Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich was elected President in 2010.

The U.S. employed all its traditional tactics leading up to the coup in 2014.  The U.S. National Endowment for Democracy (NED) has partially taken over the CIA’s role in grooming opposition candidates, parties and political movements, with an annual budget of $100 million to spend in countries around the world.  The NED made no secret of targeting Ukraine as a top priority, funding 65 projects there, more than in any other country.  The NED’s neoconservative president, Carl Gershman, called Ukraine “the biggest prize” in a Washington Post op-ed in September 2013, as the U.S. operation there prepared to move into its next phase.

2) Violent street demonstrations

In November 2013, the European Union presented President Yanukovich with a 1,500 page “free trade agreement,” similar to NAFTA or the TPP, but which withheld actual EU membership from Ukraine.  The agreement would have opened Ukraine’s borders to Western exports and investment without a reciprocal opening of the EU’s borders. Ukraine, a major producer of cheese and poultry, would have been allowed to export only 5% of its cheese and 1% of its poultry to the EU.  Meanwhile Western firms could have used Ukraine as a gateway to flood Russia with cheap products from Asia. This would have forced Russia to close its borders to Ukraine, shattering the industrial economy of Eastern Ukraine.

Understandably, and for perfectly sound reasons as a Ukrainian president, Viktor Yanukovich rejected the EU agreement.  This was the signal for pro-Western and right-wing groups in Kiev to take to the street.  In the West, we tend to interpret street demonstrations as representing surges of populism and democracy.  But we should distinguish left-wing demonstrations against right-wing governments from the kind of violent right-wing demonstrations that have always been part of U.S. regime change strategy.

In Tehran in 1953, the CIA spent a million dollars to hire gangsters and “extremely competent professional organizers”, as the CIA’s Kermit Roosevelt called them, to stage increasingly violent demonstrations, until loyal and rebel army units were fighting in the streets of Tehran and at least 300 people were killed.  The CIA spent millions more to bribe members of parliament and other influential Iranians.  Mossadegh was forced to resign, and the Shah restored Western ownership of the oil industry.  BP divided the spoils with American firms, until the Shah was overthrown 26 years later by the Iranian Revolution and the oil industry was re-nationalized.  This pattern of short-term success followed by eventual independence from U.S. interests is a common result of CIA coups, most notably in Latin America, where they have led many of our closest neighbors to become increasingly committed to political and economic independence from the United States.

In Haiti in 2004, 200 U.S. special forces trained 600 FRAPH militiamen and other anti-Lavalas forces at a training camp across the border in the Dominican Republic.  These forces then invaded northern Haiti and gradually spread violence and chaos across the country to set the stage for the overthrow of President Aristide.

In Ukraine, street protests turned violent in January 2014 as the neo-NaziSvoboda Party and the Right Sector militia took charge of the crowds in the streets.  The Right Sector militia only appeared in Ukraine in the past 6 months, although it incorporated existing extreme-right groups and gangs.  It is partly funded by Ukrainian exiles in the U.S. and Europe, and may be a creation of the CIA.  After Right Sector seized government buildings, parliament outlawed the protests and the police reoccupied part of Independence Square, killing two protesters.

On February 7th, the Russians published an intercepted phone call betweenAssistant Secretary of State Nuland and U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt.  The intercept revealed that U.S. officials were preparing to seize the moment for a coup in Ukraine.  The transcript reads like a page from a John Le Carre novel: “I think we’re in play… we could land jelly-side up on this one if we move fast.”  Their main concern was to marginalize heavyweight boxing champion Vitali Klitschko, who had become the popular face of the “revolution” and was favored by the European Union, and to ensure that U.S. favorite Arseniy Yatsenyuk ended up in the Prime Minister’s office.

On the night of February 17th, Right Sector announced a march from Independence Square to the parliament building on the 18th.  This ignited several days of escalating violence in which the death toll rose to 110 people killed, including protesters, government supporters and 16 police officers.  More than a thousand people were wounded. Vyacheslav Veremyi, a well-known reporter for a pro-government newspaper, was dragged out of a taxi near Independence Square and shot to death in front of a crowd of onlookers.  Right Sector broke into an armory near Lviv and seized military weapons, and there is evidence of both sides using snipers to fire from buildings in Kiev at protesters and police in the streets and the square below.  Former security chief Yakimenko believes that snipers firing from the Philharmonic building were U.S.-paid foreign mercenaries, like the snipers from the former Yugoslavia who earn up to $2,000 per day shooting soldiers in Syria.

As violence raged in the streets, the government and opposition parties held emergency meetings and reached two truce agreements, one on the night of February 19th and another on the 21st, brokered by the foreign ministers of France, Germany and Poland.  But Right Sector rejected both truces and called for the “people’s revolution” to continue until Yanukovich resigned and the government was completely removed from power.

3) The coup d’etat.

The creation and grooming of opposition forces and the spread of violence in the streets are deliberate strategies to create a state of emergency as a pretext for removing an elected or constitutional government and seizing power.  Once the coup leaders have been trained and prepared by their CIA case officers, U.S. officials have laid their plans and street violence has broken down law and order and the functioning of state institutions, all that remains is to strike decisively at the right moment to remove the government and install the coup leaders in its place.  In Iran, faced with hundreds of people being killed in the streets, Mohammad Mosaddegh resigned to end the bloodshed. In Chile, General Pinochet launched air strikes on the presidential palace.  In Haiti in 2004, U.S. forces landed to remove President Aristide and occupy the country.

In Ukraine, Vitaly Klitschko announced that parliament would open impeachment proceedings against Yanukovich, but, later that day, lacking the 338 votes required for impeachment, a smaller number of members simply approved a declaration that Yanukovich “withdrew from his duties in an unconstitutional manner,” and appointed Oleksandr Turchynov of the opposition Fatherland Party as Acting President.  Right Sector seized control of government buildings and patrolled the streets.  Yanukovich refused to resign, calling this an illegal coup d’etat.  The coup leaders vowed to prosecute him for the deaths of protesters, but he escaped to Russia.  Arseniy Yatsenyuk was appointed Prime Minister on February 27th, exactly as Nuland and Pyatt had planned.

The main thing that distinguishes the U.S. coup in Ukraine from the majority of previous U.S. coups was the minimal role played by the Ukrainian military.  Since 1953, most U.S. coups have involved using local senior military officers to deliver the final blow to remove the elected or ruling leader.  The officers have then been rewarded with presidencies, dictatorships or other senior positions in new U.S.-backed regimes. The U.S. military cultivates military-to-military relationships to identify and groom future coup leaders, and President Obama’s expansion of U.S. special forces operations to 134 countries around the world suggests that this process is ongoing and expanding, not contracting.

But the neutral or pro-Russian position of the Ukrainian military since it was separated from the Soviet Red Army in 1991 made it an impractical tool for an anti-Russian coup. So Nuland and Pyatt’s signal innovation in Ukraine was to use the neo-Nazi Svoboda Party and Right Sector as a strike force to unleash escalating violence and seize power. This also required managing Svoboda and Right Sector’s uneasy alliance with Fatherland and UDAR, the two pro-Western opposition parties who won 40% between them in the 2012 parliamentary election.

Historically, about half of all U.S. coups have failed, and success is never guaranteed.  But few Americans have ended up dead or destitute in the wake of a failed coup.  It is always the people of the target country who pay the price in violence, chaos, poverty and instability, while U.S. coup leaders like Nuland and Pyatt often get a second – or 3rd or 4th or 5th – bite at the apple, and will keep rising through the ranks of the State Department and the CIA.  Direct U.S. military intervention in Ukraine was not an option before the coup, but now the coup itself may destabilize the country and plunge it into economic collapse, regional disintegration or conflict with Russia, creating new and unpredictable conditions in which NATO intervention could become feasible.

Russia has proposed a reasonable solution to the crisis. To resolve the tensions between Eastern and Western Ukraine over their respective political and economic links with Russia and the West, the Russians have proposed a federal system in which both Eastern and Western Ukraine would have much greater autonomy.  This would be more stable that the present system in which each tries to dominate the other with the support of their external allies, turning Ukraine and all its people into pawns of Western-NATO expansion and Russia’s efforts to limit it.  The Russian proposal includes a binding commitment that Ukraine would remain neutral and not join NATO.  A few weeks ago, Obama and Kerry seemed to be ready to take this off-ramp from the crisis.  The delay in agreeing to Russia’s seemingly reasonable proposal may be only an effort to save face, or it may mean that theneocons who engineered the coupare still dictating policy in Washington and that Obama and Kerry may be ready to risk a further escalation of the crisis.

The U.S. coup machine has also been at work in Venezuela, where it already failed once in 2002.  Raul Capote, a former Cuban double agent who worked with the CIA in Cuba and Venezuela, recently described its long-term project to build right-wing opposition movements among upper- and middle-class students in Venezuelan universities, which are now bearing fruit in increasingly violent street protests and vigilantism.  Thirty-six people have been killed, including six police officers and at least 5 opposition protesters.  The protests began exactly a month after municipal elections in December, in which the government won the popular vote by almost 10%, far more than the 1.5% margin in the presidential election last April.  As in Chile in 1973, electoral success by an elected government is often the cue for the CIA to step up its efforts, moving beyond propaganda and right-wing politics to violence in the streets, and the popularity of the Venezuelan government seems to have provoked precisely that reaction.

Another feature of U.S. coups is the role of the Western media in publicizing official cover stories and suppressing factual journalism.  This role has also been consistent since 1953, but it has evolved as corporate media have consolidated their monopoly power.  By their very nature, coups are secret operations and U.S. media are prohibited from revealing “national security” secrets about them, such as the names of CIA officers involved.  By only reporting official cover stories, they become unwitting co conspirators in the critical propaganda component of these operations.  But the U.S. corporate media have turned vice into virtue, relishing their role in the demonization of America’s chosen enemies and cheerleading U.S. efforts to do them in.  They brush U.S. responsibility for violence and chaos under the carpet, and sympathetically present U.S. policy as a well-meaning effort to respond to the irrational and dangerous behavior of others.

This is far more than is required by strict observance of secrecy laws, and it reveals a great deal about the nature of the media environment we live in.  The Western media as it exists today under near-monopoly corporate ownership is a more sophisticated and total propaganda system than early 20th century propagandists ever dreamed of.  As media corporations profit from Western geopolitical and commercial expansion, the propaganda function that supports that expansion is an integrated part of their business model, not something exceptional they do under duress from the state.  But to expect factual journalism about U.S. coups from such firms is to misunderstand who and what they are.

Recent studies have found that people gain a better grasp of current affairs from John Stewart’s Daily Show on Comedy Central than from watching “news” networks.  People who watch no “news” at all have more knowledge of international affairs than people who watch MSNBC or Fox News.  A previous survey conducted 3 months after the U.S. invasion of Iraq found that 52% of Americans believed that U.S. forces in Iraq had found clear evidence of links between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda.  Among Republicans who said they were following “news on Iraq very closely”, the figure was 78%, compared with only 68% among Republicans at large.

If the role of the corporate media was to provide factual journalism, these studies would be a terrible indictment of their performance.  But once we acknowledge their actual role as the propaganda arm of an expansionist political and economic system, then we can understand that promoting the myths and misinformation that sustain it are a central part of what they do.  In that light, they are doing a brilliant job on Ukraine as they did on Iraq, suppressing any mention of the U.S. role in the coup and pivoting swiftly away from the unfolding crisis in post-coup Ukraine to focus entirely on attacking President Putin for reclaiming Crimea.  On the other hand, if you’re looking for factual journalism about the U.S. coup machine, you should probably turn off your TV and keep reading reliable sources like Alternet,Consortium News and Venezuela Analysis.

Nicolas J. S. Davies is the author of Blood On Our Hands: The American Invasion and Destruction of Iraq. He wrote the chapter on “Obama At War” for the book, Grading the 44th President: A Report Card on Barack Obama’s First Term as a Progressive Leader.

Lynch Law: The Root of US imperialism April 3, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, History, Human Rights, Imperialism, Race, Racism, Torture, War.
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Roger’s note: there are strong words.  Back in the late 1960s those of us protesting the US aggression in Vietnam were criticized for using the word “fascist” to characterize the U.S. government.  It seemed to many then, as it may seem to many now, that  the use of such language was going overboard.  I disagreed then, and I disagree now.  And believe me, friends, in terms of the kinds of governmental actions that can be described as fascist, we have come a long way since then.

 

Domestic U.S. lynch has morphed into imperialist terrorism. “Washington uses a nexus of intelligence and military institutions to lynch the world’s people of their lives and resources.”

 

by Danny Haiphong; http://www.blackagendareport.com, April 1, 2014

The prospect of being lynched by Obama’s ‘kill list’ or detained under the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is just a ‘terrorist’ label away from any American the US government finds a threat to its ‘national security.’”

The political and economic foundation of the United States is built on the corpses of legal lynching, or “lynch law.” Without the genocide and enslavement of Black and indigenous peoples, the US capitalist class could not have amassed its profits, wealth, or power. Following the passage of the 13th Amendment that supposedly ended Black chattel slavery at the close of the Civil War, the US capitalist class moved quickly to reorganize the capitalist economy so newly “freed” Blacks would remain enslaved. Convict-leasing, sharecropping, and legalized segregation ensured Black exploitation and white power. These brutal forms of exploitation were kept intact by white terrorism in the form of lynching.

Thousands of Black people were lynched by white supremacists from the end of the Civil War until 1968.  Ho Chi Minh, the first revolutionary president of socialist Vietnam, worked in the US in the mid-1920s and examined the horrors of lynching.  He described the gruesome details of white vigilantes torturing and killing Black people with impunity.  Local law enforcement officials protected white lynch mobs like the KKK and Black Legion and often participated in lynching alongside their white counterparts. ‘Uncle Ho’ states in his work Lyching (1924) that “the principal culprits [of lynching] were never troubled, for the simple reason that they were always incited . . . then protected by the politicians, financiers, and authorities . . . “ It wasn’t until Black people organized themselves to defend and arm their communities that white mobs were forced to curtail their racist murder sprees.

80,000 mostly Black prisoners are caged in solitary confinement, which by definition is torture and illegal under international law.”

The so-called end of “Jim Crow” racism only changed the form in which Black people would be lynched by the US racist order. The US capitalist class responded to the force of the Black liberation movement by institutionalizing “lynch law” into its criminal injustice system.  Today, some form of law enforcement murders a Black person in this country every 28 hours.  Nearly half of the estimated 3 million US prisoners are Black and nearly all are “people of color.” 80,000 mostly Black prisoners are caged in solitary confinement, which by definition is torture and illegal under international law.  Numerous states in the US have “Stand your ground” laws that allow white supremacists to murder Black people with impunity. Sound familiar? And President Obama, the Commander-in-Chief of US imperialism, is too concerned with pathologizing Black America than forwarding substantive policies that address “lynch law” on behalf of his most loyal constituency.

In this period of heightened exploitation for the oppressed in general and Black America in particular, the propertied classes are becoming increasingly paranoid about the potential for popular unrest. “Lynch law” is becoming the law of the land for the entire populace. A homeless man in Albuquerque, New Mexico was shot dead by local police for being homeless on March 16th.  More US citizens have been murdered by US law enforcement in the last decade than have died in the US invasion of Iraq over the same period. The surveillance US imperialism had to conduct in secret on radical dissent in the past has expanded to the entire population through a massive surveillance state of federal intelligence agencies, private contractors, and US multinational corporations. The prospect of being lynched by Obama’s “kill list” or detained under the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is just a “terrorist” label away from any American the US government finds a threat to its “national security.”

More US citizens have been murdered by US law enforcement in the last decade than have died in the US invasion of Iraq over the same period.”

“Lynch law” is also a global tactic for US imperialism to maintain its global domination.  Washington uses a nexus of intelligence and military institutions to lynch the world’s people of their lives and resources. This can be examined in specific instances like the thousands of people in the Middle East and Africa murdered by Obama Administration drone strikes or the NATO bombing of Libya that killed tens of thousands and nearly exterminated the Black Libyan population. The CIA has overthrown over 50 foreign governments since the end of World War II. These are just a few important examples of how Washington and its masters, the capitalist class, must lynch the majority of the world’s people to obtain their wealth and power.

The increasing violence, suffering, and social death imposed on oppressed people by US imperialist “lynch law” exposes the bankruptcy of the liberal wing of the capitalist class. Propped up by the corporate media like MSNBC, this self-proclaimed “left” actively participates in bi-partisan lynching in all of its forms to further their careers with the liberal imperialist Democratic Party and the untouchable fascist Commander-in-Chief, Barack Obama. Any movement that depends on this corporate brand of leftism to bring about the end of US lynch law is destined to fail.  A people’s movement for complete justice will have to be led by the struggle of Black America’s oppressed majority and all communities suffering from US fascist rule.  We must spend each day building a movement that empowers oppressed people to demand the power to collectively determine their own destiny. This movement is far from victory’s reach, but each day we fail to act, another exploited human being is lynched by the US imperialist system.

Danny Haiphong is an activist and case manager. You can contact Danny at: wakeupriseup1990@gmail.com.

Pete Seeger and the NSA February 4, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Art, Literature and Culture, Barack Obama, Civil Liberties, Constitution, Criminal Justice, Democracy, History, Police.
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Roger’s note: Of course, the recent revelations about NSA outdoing George Orwell is no laughing matter.  But if you need a moment of lightness today, click in the first paragraph on Pete’s testimony before HUAC.  It reads like a Monty Python skit.  With the persecutions of Chelsea Manning, Julian Assange, Edward Snowden among others, and the hounding to death of Aaron Swartz, the U.S. government is just getting started in putting its mega data collection to use.  When the political protests heat up to the next level, I believe we are going to see the same kind of witch hunts that we saw under the era of Joseph McCarthy, only much worse.  Those who lived through that period of history can tell you what it is like to be persecuted by the government for your First Amendment protected beliefs.  Perhaps what is most frightening is the militarization of local police departments, and we saw what state violence against legitimate political protest will look like during the brutal repression of the Occupy Wall Street Movement.  Whether you are brought up before a Kafkaesque like official United States government kangaroo court or bashed over the head with police baton or run down by a Homeland Security issues armored vehicle, the chilling result is the same: fascism in our day.  
That it occurs under the auspices of the affable and articulate constitutional lawyer who is the first Black American president or the feisty and charming soon to be first woman American president, will not do much to soften the blow.

 

Published on Tuesday, February 4, 2014 by Deeplinks Blog/EFF

by Cindy Cohn

I am not going to answer any questions as to my association, my philosophical beliefs, or how I voted in any election, or any of these private affairs. I think these are very improper questions for any American to be asked, especially under such compulsion as this.

Pete Seeger, 1955, testimony pursuant to subpoena before the House Un-American Activities Committee.

Pete Seeger (Image: EFF)

The world lost a clear, strong voice for peace, justice, and community with the death of singer and activist Pete Seegerlast week. While Seeger was known as an outspoken musician not shy about airing his political opinions, it’s also important to remember he was once persecuted for those opinions, despite breaking no law. And the telling of this story should give pause to those who claim to be unconcerned about the government’s metadata seizure and search programs that reveal our associations to the government today.

In 1955, Seeger was called before the House Un-American Activities Committee, where he defiantly refused to answer questions about others who he associated with and who shared his political beliefs and associations, believing Congress was violating his First Amendment rights. He was especially concerned about revealing his associations:

I will be glad to tell what songs I have ever sung, because singing is my business. . . .  But I decline to say who has ever listened to them, who has written them, or other people who have sung them.

But if the same thing were to happen today, a Congressional subpoena and a public hearing wouldn’t be necessary for the government to learn all of our associations and other “private affairs.” Since the NSA has been collecting and keeping them, they could just get that same information from their own storehouses of our records.

According to the Constitution, the government is supposed to meet a high standard before collecting this private information about our associations, especially the political ones that the Congressmen were demanding of Seeger. For instance, under the First Amendment, it must“serve compelling state interests, unrelated to the suppression of ideas, that cannot be achieved through means significantly less restrictive of associational freedoms.”

It doesn’t matter whether the government wants associations to look for possibly “illegal” activities of civil rights activists, Communist sympathizers, anarchists, trade unionists, war resisters, gun rights activists, environmental activists, drug legalization advocates, or wants to go after legitimate criminals and potential terrorists, if the government can’t justify the collection of this “metadata” on this “strict scrutiny” standard, they’re not allowed to collect any of it. Yet right now, they collect all of it.

We’re still learning of all the ways the government is able to track our associations without anything like the due process and standards required by the First and Fourth Amendments, but it is the centerpiece of the NSA’s mass telephone records collection program under Patriot Act section 215, which EFF is fighting with our First Unitarian Church v. NSA case that focuses on the right of association.  Our lead client, the First Unitarian Church of Los Angeles, had its own role in resisting the House Un-American Activities Committee. It’s also part and parcel of the mass collection of content and metadata of people all around the world under section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act. And it’s a real concern even if the companies hold the data, as we’ve seen with the FBI’s self-certified National Security Lettersand the Hemisphere program, where AT&T employees are embedded in government investigations so that they can more readily search through our phone records for the FBI, the DEA and others.

Each of these programs effectively allows the government to do to you what Pete Seeger refused to let them do to him—track your associations, beliefs and other private affairs without proper legal protections.  And they can do this at scale that was unimaginable in 1955, thanks to the digital nature of our communications, the digital tools that allow them to search automatically rather than by hand and the fact that so much more about these private affairs is in the hands of third parties like our phone and internet companies.

While Seeger escaped jail, he was convicted of contempt for his failure to answer these questions. Thankfully Joseph McCarthy and the Un-American Activities Committees were later widely condemned, and Americans understandably look back sadly and with embarrassment on time when the Committee forced Americans to reveal their own associations, along with the associations and beliefs of others.  With the passing of moral and artistic heroes like Seeger, we should redouble our efforts to make sure that our “private affairs” remain safe and the government’s ability to access them remains subject to careful controls.

Join us on February 11 for the day we fight back against mass surveillance.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.
Cindy Cohn

Cindy Cohn is legal director for the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), as well as its general counsel, coordinating over 40 national class action lawsuits against the telecommunications carriers and the government seeking to stop warrantless NSA surveillance

Christmas Truce of 1914 December 24, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in History, Peace, War.
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ROGER’S NOTE: MERRY PEACEMAS.

 

 

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December 2014 will mark the 100 year anniversary of the Christmas Truce of 1914. During 2014 VFP (Veterans for Peace) National will plan activities to share with chapters to celebrate this memorable moment in history.

During World War I, on and around Christmas Day 1914, the sounds of rifles firing and shells exploding faded in a number of places along the Western Front in favor of holiday celebrations in the trenches and gestures of goodwill between enemies.

On Christmas Eve, many German and British troops sang Christmas carols to each other across the lines, and at certain points the Allied soldiers even heard brass bands joining the Germans in their joyous singing.

At the first light of dawn on Christmas Day, some German soldiers emerged from their trenches and approached the Allied lines across no-man’s-land, calling out “Merry Christmas” in their enemies’ native tongues. At first, the Allied soldiers feared it was a trick, but seeing the Germans unarmed they climbed out of their trenches and shook hands with the enemy soldiers. The men exchanged presents of cigarettes and plum puddings and sang carols and songs. There was even a documented case of soldiers from opposing sides playing a good-natured game of soccer.

Some soldiers used this short-lived ceasefire for a more somber task: the retrieval of the bodies of fellow combatants who had fallen within the no-man’s land between the lines.

The so-called Christmas Truce of 1914 came only five months after the outbreak of war in Europe and was one of the last examples of the outdated notion of chivalry between enemies in warfare. It was never repeated—future attempts at holiday ceasefires were quashed by officers’ threats of disciplinary action—but it served as heartening proof, however brief, that beneath the brutal clash of weapons, the soldiers’ essential humanity endured.

During World War I, the soldiers on the Western Front did not expect to celebrate on the battlefield, but even a world war could not destory the Christmas spirit.

Courtesy of History website

Why Is VFP Involved?

Who better than veterans who work for peace to tell the story of these soldiers’ celebration of peace in the midst of war? Our society needs to hear this story that peace is possible. Use the great resources listed in the sidebar to reach out in a new way to new and old allies.

Hannah Arendt” Revisits Fiery Debate over German-Jewish Theorist’s Coverage of Eichmann Trial November 27, 2013

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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.

http://www.democracynow.org, November 16, 2013

Guests

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.”

Related:


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.

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: 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.

AMY GOODMAN: 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.

ZUZANNA RADZIK: 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.

AMY GOODMAN: 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.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: 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 HANNAH ARENDT: [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 HANNAH ARENDT: [translated] Trying to understand is not the same as forgiveness.

ACTOR AS KURT BLUMENFELD: [translated] This time you’ve gone too far. .

ACTOR AS HANNAH ARENDT: [translated] It is this phenomenon I have called the banality of evil.

AMY GOODMAN: 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.

MARGARETHE VON TROTTA: 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.

AMY GOODMAN: 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?

MARGARETHE VON TROTTA: 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.

AMY GOODMAN: 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.

MARGARETHE VON TROTTA: 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.

BARBARA SUKOWA: 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.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: 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?

MARGARETHE VON TROTTA: 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.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: 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.

ADOLPH EICHMANN: [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.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: 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?

ADOLPH EICHMANN: I didn’t exterminate them.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Margarethe Von Trotta, can you talk about those scenes?

MARGARETHE VON TROTTA: 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.

AMY GOODMAN: 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 HANNAH ARENDT: [translated] He swears he never personally harmed a Jew.

ACTOR AS KURT BLUMENFELD: [translated] So he claims.

ACTOR AS HANNAH ARENDT: [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 HANNAH ARENDT: [translated] False, he’s not.

ACTOR: He claims he didn’t know where the trains were going. Do you believe that to?

ACTOR AS HANNAH ARENDT: [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 KURT BLUMENFELD: [translated] So we can say he’s free of guilt? Despite what happened to the people he transported?

ACTOR AS HANNAH ARENDT: [translated] Yes, that’s how he sees it. He’s a bureaucrat.

ACTOR AS KURT BLUMENFELD: [translated] Your quest for truth is admirable but this time you’ve gone too far.

ACTOR AS HANNAH ARENDT: [translated] But, Kurt, you can’t deny the huge difference between the unspeakable horror of the deeds and the mediocrity of the man.

AMY GOODMAN: 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.

MARGARETHE VON TROTTA: 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.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: 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?

MARGARETHE VON TROTTA: 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.

AMY GOODMAN: 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.

MARGARETHE VON TROTTA: 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.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: 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 HANNAH ARENDT: [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 HANNAH ARENDT: [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.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: 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.

BARBARA SUKOWA: Really? Well, I had a good script writer.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: 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.

BARBARA SUKOWA: 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.

AMY GOODMAN: Where were you born?

BARBARA SUKOWA: I was born in Bremen.

AMY GOODMAN: Germany.

BARBARA SUKOWA: 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.

AMY GOODMAN: The memorial in Israel.

BARBARA SUKOWA: 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.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: 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.

AMY GOODMAN: 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.

Eisenhower’s Drones November 1, 2013

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Roger’s apologetic note: In the past I have written positively about Dwight Eisenhower, fatherly WWII heroic general and two term president.  I was impressed by his opposition to the use of the Atomic Bomb to destroy two Japanese cities and, as president, vetoed the use of the atomic bomb (advocated by his Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles)  to defeat the Vietnamese independence army at Dien Bien Phu.  And then of course there is is famous and iconic warning about the military industrial complex in his presidential farewell address.  Well, those were all good things, but I should have known better than to eulogize a man whose presidency was do detrimental and destructive, as you will read below.  Sorry.

And if any of you out there are still fans of the Warren Commission  Report (referred to by one pundit as “a work of fiction based upon a real life event”), let me remind you that it was Allen Dulles who was put in charge and controlled the investigation for old tired Earl Warren, who was little more than a figurehead to give credibility.  That is the same Allen Dulles, who as CIA head was responsible for the Bay of Pigs fiasco and was summarily fired by Kennedy.  The man who hated Kennedy was put in charge of investigating his murder.

 
OpEdNews Op Eds 11/1/2013 at 11:27:04

By (about the author)

President Dwight Eisenhower is often admired for having avoided huge wars, having declared that every dollar wasted on militarism was food taken out of the mouths of children, and having warned — albeit on his way out the door — of the toxic influence of the military industrial complex (albeit in a speech of much more mixed messages than we tend to recall).

But when you oppose war, not because it murders, and not because it assaults the rights of the foreign places attacked, but because it costs too much in U.S. lives and dollars, then your steps tend in the direction of quick and easy warfare — usually deceptively cheap and easy warfare.

President Obama and his subordinates are well aware that much of the world is outraged by the use of drones to kill.  The warnings of likely blowback and long-term damage to U.S. interests and human interests and the rule of law are not hard to find.  But our current warriors don’t see a choice between murdering people with drones and using negotiations and courts of law to settle differences.  They see a choice between murdering people with drones and murdering people with ground troops on a massive scale.  The preference between these two options is so obvious to them as to require little thought.

President Eisenhower had his own cheap and easy tool for better warfare.  It was called the Delightfully Deluded Dulles Brothers, and — in terms of how much thought this pair of brothers gave to the possible outcomes of their reckless assault on the world — it’s fair to call them a couple of drones in a literal as well as an analogous sense.

John Foster Dulles at the State Department and Allen Dulles at the CIA are the subject of a new book by Stephen Kinzer called The Brothers, which ought to replace whatever history book the Texas School Board has most recently imposed on our children.  This is a story of two vicious, racist, fanatical jerks, but it’s also the story of the central thrust of U.S. public policy for the past 75 years.

The NSA didn’t invent sliminess in the 21st century.  The Dulles’ grandfather and uncle did.  Cameras weren’t first put on airplanes over the earth when drones were invented.  Allen Dulles started that with piloted planes — the main result being scandal, outrage, and international antagonism — a tradition we seem intent on keeping up.  Oh, and the cameras also revealed that the CIA had been wildly exaggerating the strength of the Soviet Union’s military — but who needed to know that?

The Obama White House didn’t invent aggression toward journalism.  Allen and Foster Dulles make the current crop of propagandists, censors, intimidators, and human rights abusers look like amateurs singing from an old hymnal they can’t properly read.

Black sites weren’t created by George W. Bush.  Allen Dulles set up secret prisons in Germany, Japan, and the Panama Canal Zone, the MKULTRA program, and the Gladio and other networks of forces staying behind in Europe after World War II (never really) ended.

The Dynamic Dulles Duo racked up quite a resume.  They overthrew a democratic government in Iran, installing a fierce dictatorship, and never imagining that the eventual backlash might be unpleasant.  Delighted by this — and intimately in on it, as Kinzer documents — Eisenhower backed the overthrow of Guatemala’s democracy as well — both of these operations being driven primarily by the interests of Foster Dulles’ clients on Wall Street (where his firm had been rather embarrassingly late in halting its support for the Nazis).  Never mind the hostility generated throughout Latin America, United Fruit claimed its rights to run Guatemala, and who were the Guatemalans to say otherwise?

Unsatisfied with this everlasting damage, the Dulles Brothers dragged the United States into a war of their own making on Vietnam, sought to overthrow Sukarno in Indonesia, teamed up with the Belgians to murder Lumumba in the Congo, and tried desperately to murder Fidel Castro or start an all-out war on Cuba.  The Bay of Pigs fiasco was essentially the result of Allen Dulles’ confidence that he could trap a new president (John Kennedy) into expanding a war.

If that weren’t enough damage for two careers, the Disastrous Dulles Dimwits created the Council on Foreign Relations, shaped the creation of the United Nations to preserve U.S. imperialism, manufactured intense irrational fear of the Soviet Union and its mostly mythical plots for global domination, convinced Truman that intelligence and operations should be combined in the single agency of the CIA, sent countless secret agents to their deaths for no earthly reason, unwittingly allowed double agents to reveal much of their activities to their enemies, subverted democracy in the Philippines and Lebanon and Laos and numerous other nations, made hysteria a matter of national pride, ended serious Congressional oversight of foreign policy, pointlessly antagonized China and the USSR, boosted radically evil regimes likely to produce future blowback around the world and notably in Saudi Arabia but also in Pakistan — with predictable damage to relations with India, failed miserably at overthrowing Nasser in Egypt but succeeded in turning the Arab world against the United States, in fact antagonized much of the world as it attempted an unacceptable neutrality in the Cold War, rejected Soviet peace overtures, aligned the U.S. government with Israel, built the CIA headquarters at Langley and training grounds at Camp Peary, and — ironically enough — radically expanded and entrenched the military industrial complex to which “covert actions” were supposed to be the easy new alternative (rather as the drone industry is doing today).

The Dulles Dolts were a lot like King Midas if the king’s love had been for dogshit rather than gold.  As icing on the cake of their careers, Allen Dulles — dismissed in disgrace by Kennedy who regretted ever having kept him on — manipulated the Warren Commission’s investigation of Kennedy’s death in a highly suspicious manner.  Kinzer says no more than that, but James Douglass’s JFK and the Unspeakable points to other grounds for concern, including Dulles’s apparent coverup of Oswald’s being an employee of the CIA.

Lessons learned? One would hope so. I would recommend these steps:
Abolish the CIA, and make the State Department a civilian operation.
Ban weaponized drones, and avoid a legacy as bad as the covert operations of the 1950s and 1960s.
Stop the disgustingly royalish habit of supporting political family dynasties.
And rename Washington’s international, as well as its national, airport.

Grenada: Remembering ‘A Lovely Little War’ October 22, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Caribbean, Education, Grenada, History, Imperialism.
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grenada_ForwardEverBackwordNever

Anti-bullying curricula are the rage these days. But as teachers endeavor to build a culture of civility among young people in school, the official history curriculum they are provided often celebrates, or at least excuses, bullying among nations. Well, at least when the United States is the bully.

A good example is the U.S. invasion of Grenada—Operation Urgent Fury, as it was called by the Reagan administration—launched exactly 30 years ago this week, on Oct. 25, 1983. Grenada made an unlikely target of U.S. military might. Its main product was not oil but nutmeg. Its naval fleet consisted of about 10 fishing trawlers. Grenada’s population of 110,000 was smaller than Peoria, Illinois. At the time of the invasion, there was not a single stoplight in the entire country. So what put Grenada in the crosshairs of the Reagan administration?

In 1979, the socialist New Jewel Movement had overthrown the corrupt and unpopular dictator Eric Gairy in an almost bloodless coup. For years, Gairy ruled through fear. His secret police, the “Mongoose Gang,” had been supplied by the U.S.-backed Pinochet dictatorship in Chile. The revolution launched by the New Jewel Movement—the “Revo,” as it was affectionately dubbed—was immensely popular. By 1982, when I first visited the island, a literacy campaign was under way, new schools had been built, and unemployed youth in the countryside benefited from new agricultural cooperatives. Grenada welcomed Cuban aid: teachers, health professionals, and construction workers on the new international airport who aimed to replace the antiquated and dangerous airstrip up in the mountains. In just four years, unemployment was cut from 49 percent to 14 percent. Instead of advertising cigarettes and booze, colorful billboards throughout the island promoted education: “Each One Teach One,” “If You Know, Teach; If You Don’t, Learn,” and “Education Is Production, Too.”

Grenada’s ‘threat’

On a steamy August night, with hundreds of other Grenadians I squeezed into a high school auditorium in Grenada’s capital, St. George’s, to watch musical and theater performances from throughout the Caribbean—Dominica, Barbados, and St. Vincent. Each group closed its act with a short speech on how inspiring they found the changes in Grenada. With shouts and smiles they pledged to return to their islands and spread the word about the Grenadian Revo. This West Indian cultural evening exemplified Grenada’s real “threat”—not a launchpad for invasion, but a socialist-inspired revolution with a reggae beat that sparked imaginations throughout the Caribbean. To use Noam Chomsky’s expression, Grenada was the threat of a good example.

Grenada map / A small island with a population less than 110,000, Grenada was, as Noam Chomsky said, a threat of a good example.

The United States responded to developments in Grenada with hostility. In August 1981, more than two years before the actual U.S. invasion—in naval maneuvers called “Ocean Venture 81”—the United States staged a mock invasion of Grenada on the island of Vieques, Puerto Rico. Code-named “Amber and the Amberdines,” the supposedly fictitious eastern Caribbean country of Amber was accused of being a pawn of Country Red to “export terrorism to a number of Caribbean countries.” A Ranger battalion based in Fort Lewis, Washington, was airlifted to Vieques. Paratroopers landed in mountainous areas of the island and were backed by air attacks and the amphibious landing of thousands of marines. The obvious similarity between “Amber and the Amberdines” and Grenada and the Grenadines was a not-so-veiled threat. President Reagan claimed that Grenada’s construction of the international airport was a ruse for “Soviet-Cuban militarization”—this despite enthusiastic support for the airport from such un-radical entities as Grenada’s Chamber of Commerce, the Grenada Hotel Association, and the Employers’ Federation.

Then came October 1983. In the space of a few days, the leadership of the New Jewel Movement imploded. Grenada’s hugely popular prime minister, Maurice Bishop, was arrested by a faction of his own government and then executed along with many of his close associates. In massive demonstrations following Bishop’s arrest, the Grenadian army fired into the crowds. Shortly after, a military government was formed and announced a 24-hour shoot-to-kill curfew. This violence was the culmination of sectarian infighting whose origins are still murky—a flammable concoction of ambition, ideological rigidity, and leadership isolation, made more volatile by the ever-present threat of U.S. intervention.

grenada_protestflyer

In the midst of these traumatic events the United States launched its invasion—sending 7,600 troops into the tiny island—mostly from the United States, but with some from Jamaica and other Caribbean nations. An equivalent force invading the United States would total more than 20 million soldiers. Ronald Reagan defended the invasion, saying Grenada “was a Soviet-Cuban colony being readied as a military bastion to export terror and undermine democracy. We got there just in time.” He also claimed that the invasion was intended to rescue the 800 U.S. medical students on the island, even though the medical school’s chancellor denounced the invasion and said it posed a greater risk to students than the turmoil then wracking the island.

By a vote of 108 to 9, the United Nations General Assembly condemned the invasion as a “flagrant violation of international law.”

But that’s not how the Grenada invasion is remembered in today’s history curriculum. Mostly, it’s not remembered at all. A stack of U.S. and world history textbooks includes no mention of Grenada. Pearson/Prentice Hall’s United States History embeds its treatment of the invasion in a chapter on “The End of the Cold War,” which could have been written by a Reagan speechwriter. The chapter opens with a Reagan quote, framing the Cold War as a “struggle between right and wrong and good and evil.” A chapter subhead shouts “Reagan Challenges Communism.” By the time students encounter the Grenada invasion, they have been drenched in Cold War rationales. Here is the entire section on Grenada:

In 1983, Reagan acted to counter another perceived threat in the Western Hemisphere. Members of a radical leftist movement, with some help from Cuba, had violently ousted the Grenadian prime minister. On October 25, 1983, U.S. troops invaded Grenada to prevent the island nation from becoming a communist outpost and to protect the lives of American medical students. Even though the legal grounds for this invasion proved questionable, most Americans approved of Reagan’s decision.

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Passages like this in the corporate-sponsored curriculum normalize imperialism. This is not education, it’s stenography—texts offer students the U.S. justification for a military invasion of a sovereign nation without raising a single critical question. United States History presents nothing to support its assertions—there is not a shred of evidence, for example, that Cubans had anything to do with the overthrow and murder of Maurice Bishop—nor does the passage report any dissent, with the exception of the tepid “legal grounds for this invasion proved questionable.” The subtext here is that if U.S. policymakers “perceive” something to be a threat to “our” interests, then military action is legitimate. Especially if “most Americans approve.” As another widely used textbook, Holt McDougal’s The Americans, finishes its paragraph on Grenada: “Eighteen American soldiers died in the attack, but Reagan declared that the U.S. invasion had been necessary to defend U.S. security.” End of story.

In their obsequious approach to the invasion of Grenada, the corporate textbook writers follow the lead of the corporate media who did the original reporting on the invasion. As the operation began, the members of the media complained about their exclusion from the action. But as Glen Ford, author of The Big Lie: Analysis of U.S. Media Coverage of the Grenada Invasion, said, once they were allowed to accompany U.S. troops, “they performed as if they were spokespersons for the U.S. military.” According to Ford, “There was not the slightest trace of independence whatsoever.” One correspondent called it “a lovely little war.”

grenada_educationposter

To report on the U.S. occupation, I returned to Grenada 10 months after the invasion. Driving from the airport to St. George’s, the first thing I noticed was that the popular education billboards had been chopped down. And it wasn’t only these symbols of the Revo that had been eliminated. The U.S.-installed interim government had abolished the agency to aid cooperatives; eliminated the Centre for Popular Education, the literacy program; shuttered a government-owned agro-industries plant; and returned land from farmers’ cooperatives to absentee owners.

Unless teachers “teach outside the textbook,” as the Zinn Education Project urges, students will learn none of this—about Grenada or about anything else that might call into question the U.S. authority to impose its will wherever and whenever it wishes. The specifics of the Grenada invasion are unique, but when students are encouraged to ask critical questions, they can recognize that intervention in Grenada is part of a pattern that includes Vietnam, Iran, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Iraq, and so many others. Each instance is promoted with only slightly different justifications. When President Obama recently wanted to attack Syria, he read from the same script as his predecessors: “My fellow Americans, for nearly seven decades the United States has been the anchor of global security.” No. If students knew our history, they would know this is not true. If students knew our history, they would be more skeptical when U.S. leaders decide that they have the right to determine how people in other countries should live.

Bill Bigelow

Bill Bigelow taught high school social studies in Portland, Ore. for almost 30 years. He is the curriculum editor of Rethinking Schools and the co-director of the Zinn Education Project. This project offers free materials to teach people’s history and an “If We Knew Our History” article series. Bigelow is author or co-editor of numerous books, including A People’s History for the Classroom and The Line Between Us: Teaching About the Border and Mexican Immigration.

War Resisters League Sings at the Cutting Edge of History October 20, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in History, Peace.
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Image: War Resisters LeagueOn October 18, War Resisters League celebrated its 90th birthday by honoring Joan Baez, Harry Belafonte and Daniel Ellsberg in a bash held at the 1199/SEIU Penthouse in New York City, which I had the great good fortune to attend.  Being in the same room as Joan Baez, the closest thing to an idol that I’ve got, is already safely tucked away as one of the joys of my life. (Other joys being standing out with the peace folks and my daughter.)

Harry Belafonte spoke about coming home after his service during WWII to a nation that still lynched African Americans and how he learned about non-violence from Bayard Rustin and Martin Luther King.  When, later in life he met with Bishop Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela, Belafonte’s experiences in the civil rights movement were of help during their struggle to rid South Africa of the apartheid regime.

Joan Baez told about the ten years of the Vietnam War that she did not pay war taxes, during which there was a lien on her house and car.  She sang two songs – Joe Hill and Gracias a la Vida – and shared an anecdote about having said on stage that her feet were tired from so many marches and being visited by two women after the concert, one of whom was 107 years old, and scolded her for saying her feet were tired!

Daniel Ellsberg spoke of how important it is to speak out when, as an individual, you know that there is wrongdoing by institutions.  Despite risks, dangers and consequences, it is crucial that human beings take action to tell the truth publicly, as Chelsea Manning, Edward Snowden and Julian Assange have been doing and as Ellsberg himself did when he released the Pentagon Papers.

It was a beautiful evening of sharing and honoring WRL history as well as these three individuals who have lived up to the highest ideals in their lives and art.

Harry Belafonte told us about how a time came when Martin Luther King was criticized for preaching to the choir, to which King replied that if he didn’t preach to the choir they might not keep singing.

Belafonte looked out at the crowded room of pacifists, many of whom are no longer young and said, “Keep on singing.”

Founded in 1923 by Jessie Wallace Hughan and some others as a secular pacifist organization, War Resisters League is the oldest secular peace association in the United States.  Not only is WRL an historical organization, it is an organization that has made history.

A few examples from the impressive history of WRL:

Refusing to heed air raid sirens by seeking shelter, WRL members, including WWII resister and eventually WRL staff person, Ralph DiGia stood with Dorothy Day and A.J. Muste in New York’s City Hall Park protesting the futile pretense of surviving an atomic bomb during the early years of the Cold War.

WRL staff person Bayard Rustin took a leave to play a crucial role in organizing the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Justice, perhaps best remembered for Martin Luther King’s extemporaneous “I Have a Dream” speech.  Both Joan Baez and Harry Belafonte were on that stage that day in August 1963.

The first peace group to call for U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam was WRL.  Throughout the long years of that war, WRL organized what became mass draft card burnings (with staff David McReynolds being one of the first to burn his draft card in 1965), coordinated major rallies, initiated civil disobedience actions and brought tens of thousands into the streets in opposition to the war.

WRL does pioneering work in nonviolence training preparation for nonviolent direct action.  From protests at induction centers during the Vietnam War, to the historic anti-nuclear power protest at the Seabrook Nuke, to the Women’s Pentagon Action protests, to training members of ACT UP in the days when AIDS was being ignored, WRL trainers and materials have been indispensable.

The War Resisters League pie chart shows where our income tax dollars go each year (48% on past and current military, over a trillion dollars in FY 2012).

In short, War Resisters League has been involved in every movement for peace and social justice for generations. It is a venerable organization.  Although the people involved in this exalted work may not be “household names,” they are not only the backbone, but a rock of movements for nonviolent social change.

WRL puts out a quarterly publication, WIN magazine, that covers resistance to war abroad as well as resistance to violence and militarism within the United States.

WRL is part of War Resisters International, which has a Handbook for Nonviolent Campaigns that is highly useful for all activists interested in a well-documented crash course in social change organizing.

The War Resisters League pledge:

The War Resisters League affirms that all war is a crime against humanity.  We therefore are determined not to support any kind of war, international or civil, and to strive nonviolently for the removal of the causes of war, including racism, sexism and all forms of human exploitation.

Long may WRL live and work!

The Spirit of Columbus – Jesus Christ, Columbus, and the US Constitution October 13, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Genocide, History, Religion, War.
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Roger’s note: Although somewhat abstract and speculative, not to mention Manichean,  I found this article to be quite interesting.  With respect to the notion of freedom/justice, my understanding is that Marx found in Hegel’s idealistic philosophy the highest ideal of freedom and with his look at the actual relations between capital and living human labor in his time of the Industrial Revolution, he brought the idealism down from the sky and into the real world, showing that freedom is the capacity to be the sole owner of your own human creativity.

By (about the author)

OpEdNews Op Eds 10/13/2013 at 08:00:01,
published originally on CounterPunch

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Officially celebrated in the US on the second Monday of October, Columbus first made landfall in the Americas, in what is now the Bahamas, on October 12, 1492. And though, in his eyes, he did stumble onto the shores of a new world, what is more important for the present inquiry is the fact that Columbus immediately imposed the Order of the old world upon the one he invaded. The law of force (articulated in the European legal tradition’s Doctrine of Conquest, which grants invaders legal title to the lands they conquer) was subsequently imposed throughout the Americas and beyond. Though this doctrine was formally abolished by the UN in 1974, insofar as it continues to determine the distribution of the planet’s resources, the right of conquest in many respects continues to  determine the course of our lives. And while it is crucial to remember the atrocities that Columbus and his successors committed throughout the world during the so-called Age of Discovery, it is equally important to recognize the fact that, though its forms may have changed, the underlying Order that Columbus initiated (with all of its violent implications) continues to operate in politics, economics, and law – that is, systemically – throughout the world today.

It is said that events occur in groups of three. With this in mind, it is interesting to consider the fact that Christopher Columbus was born in the year 1451 – in the year of the death of the Ottoman Sultan Murad II, and the ascension of the sultan’s son and heir, Mehmed II. In the following year, 1452, Pope Nicholas V issued his notorious Dum Diversas, the papal decree declaring war against all of the world’s non-Christians. Thirdly, one year later, in 1453, the Ottoman Turks conquered  Constantinople, delivering the terminal blow to the 1500-year-old Eastern Roman Empire.

Among the results of their military triumph in Constantinople, the Ottoman Turks made significant geopolitical inroads into Christian Europe. Importantly, this included wresting control of the invaluable overland trade routes to India, China, and the other lands to the east from the Europeans. The subsequent influx of Byzantine refugees into Christian Italy, with their classical texts in tow, contributed to the flourishing of learning and secularism that marked the Italian Renaissance. And it is likely that this proliferation of classic Greek and Roman texts, many of which treated the sphericity of the world as an ancient and uncontentious theory, contributed to Columbus’ adoption of this topographical notion. Among its other consequences, the Turk’s capture of Constantinople led the banking centers of Europe to shift from the markets of the eastern Mediterranean to the ports of the west, whose sea-routes now allowed traders easier access to the Indies. And it was from just such a port along the Spanish coast that the Christian from the Italian city of Genoa would embark in search of a western sea-route to Asia, spreading – whether willfully or not is unimportant -  Christian and Roman political, economic, and theological institutions (the old world) to the Americas.

While they were to some degree mediated by Christian influences, Roman forms of power and institutions of governance were to take firm root in the so-called new world. As the historian Gordon S. Wood informs us, the founders of the United States themselves consciously modeled not only their political, but also their social projects on Classical Roman forms. Today, few places evince this more strikingly than what is arguably the most politically powerful city in the Americas – a city that, not coincidentally, couples the name of George Washington, that admirer of Roman thought and virtue, with Columbus’. Beyond the classical appearance of Washington, D.C.’s buildings and monuments, the political institutions they house are also heavily indebted to Roman models. To cite probably the most obvious example, the main legislative body of the US, the senate – Latin for council of elders (and etymologically related, incidentally, to the word ‘senile’) – is derived from the Roman institution of the same name.

Regarding governmental, administrative, and economic forms of power persisting from Rome to the present, the Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben observes in his treatise on political power, The Kingdom and the Glory, that the constitutional separation of powers schema of the US Constitution, among others modeled on Montesquieu’s tripartite division, can be traced directly to the Christian Trinity and the administrative apparatus of the Church. To be sure, it is not difficult to see the father – god, the creator of law – as an analogue of the legislative branch. Moreover, the son, Jesus, often referred to as the one who judges, may be seen to correspond to the institution of the judiciary. Lastly, the Holy Spirit – defined by the Fourth Lateral Council of 1215 as that “who proceeds” – corresponds to the executive branch. Insofar as the transitive verb ‘to execute’ means to carry out fully, the executive branch of government conforms to this notion of one “who proceeds” quite closely.

Yet while the correspondence between the separation of powers and the Trinity is very close, today’s constitutional schema and the theological and ideological justifications that accompany it can be traced to structures of power that significantly predate the Trinity. Beyond the mixed constitution Aristotle described in his Politics, there is a Hellenic progenitor to the Trinity – itself an echo of paleolithic religious structures – that predates the Trinity by many centuries. And not only does the structure of the Greek Moirai, or Fates, predate the Trinity, it also matches the US Constitution’s separation of power schema with uncanny preciseness.

Like the Trinity and the three branches of government, the Fates (the three daughters of Necessity) are one power that has three distinct aspects. Corresponding to the legislature, Clotho, the spinner, spins the thread of life. Corresponding to the judiciary, Lachesis, the measurer, measures this thread. And Atropos, the cutter, cuts the thread of life. Curiously, in describing his job as “the decider” – which literally means ‘to cut’ – George W. Bush confirms this correspondence between the executive and Atropos.

Among other things, it is important to point out that in Greek myth the Fates were more powerful than all of the gods – even Zeus, who alone was more powerful than all of the other gods combined, could do nothing but adhere to the dictates of the Fates. As such, it seems appropriate that Law should mirror their form. Yet the general rule of the Fates’ supremacy had one exception. Asklepios, the son of the god Apollo, and a powerful healer (who, in addition to other feats, could raise the dead), was through his healing power able to overrule the Fates’ Order – demonstrating that what appeared to be a necessary power was, in fact, not necessary at all. Threatened by his incursion into their monopoly over divine power, the Fates soon determined that Zeus would destroy Asklepios with a bolt of lightning. Shortly after his death, Asklepios was resurrected as a god and raised into the heavens. It does not take a terribly keen eye to see in this a likeness to another son of a god who raised the dead, healed the sick and the lame, was killed for threatening power, and was resurrected as a god himself. In fact, in many respects Asklepios is a prototype of Jesus of Nazareth – at least one aspect of Jesus. For while Jesus is represented as both a healer and a shepherd (the latter role, as Michel Foucault informs us in his elaboration of the notion of pastoral power, is a dominating, oppressive force), Asklepios is only a healer. And just as the healer Asklepios is able to overrule the Fates (as justice, or the spirit of the law, is said to prevail over its dead letter), Jesus (in his role as healer and champion of the poor and oppressed) stands opposed to not only his shepherdly role, but the pastoral, dominating power that manifests in the Trinity and the institution of the Church as well.

In light of the above it is revealing that, in his oft-quoted diary entry of 1498, Columbus wrote: “let us in the name of the Holy Trinity go on sending all the slaves that can be sold.” That is, it is the pastoral power of the administrative body of the church – the power of law, of violence, sanctioned by the papal decrees of 1452 and 1493 – that Columbus is referring to and conspiring with, and decidedly not with the healer. Indeed, the enslavement, murder, and other atrocities committed by Columbus over the course of his conquest may be viewed as the very opposite of healing.

This tension between Jesus the healer and Jesus the shepherd/the Trinity (which matches the opposition between Asklepios and the Fates, and between the spirit and the letter of the law) makes another important appearance in the Americas. Three centuries after Columbus’ voyage this same dynamic appears in the US Constitution. As with the Fates, a dominating power is “separated” into three parts – into the legislative, judicial, and executive branches. And just as the Fates are not only opposed, but neutralized, by Asklepios, it is important to recognize that the Constitution’s Power is at once opposed and legitimated by a notion of justice that (in addition to the “general welfare” of the people) is intimately related to the concept of health. To be sure, it is no small coincidence that Asklepios’ daughter – the Greek goddess of healing – was known to the Romans as Salus; and Salus, the Roman goddess of health, in turn pops up in the ancient Roman legal maxim salus populi suprema lex esto. Translated as the health of the people is the supreme law, the maxim has been interpreted to hold that laws and practices that are hostile to the health of the people (however defined) are devoid of legitimacy altogether.

Absorbed into ancient Roman Law as a constitutional metanorm, the maxim spread throughout the legal systems of Europe, and across the globe. And though it has been subjected to diametrical interpretations (for health is often conflated with not only mere strength and power, but with an obsession with purity which leads to oppression and, ironically, dis-ease), and has bolstered the regimes of tyrants, it is vital to note that the maxim has been employed just as frequently in efforts to liberate people from the domination of tyrants. For instance, while common lands were being privatized in England during the enclosure period, the Levellers employed the maxim to justify their efforts to wrest land from dominating powers and distribute land in an egalitarian manner. Though authoritarian thinkers like Thomas Hobbes would use the maxim to justify absolutism and domination, it was the emancipatory, “Asklepian” interpretation of the maxim that would become most influential in the British colonies. It was just this interpretation that the North American colonists repeated in their efforts to legitimize their struggles for liberation from the British Crown. The health of the people is the supreme law, they argued; and because domination by the British Empire (not to mention any other form of domination) is hostile to people’s health, this rule lacks legitimacy and must be dissolved.

While the emancipatory spirit animating the employment of the maxim may have been frustrated by the re-emergence of dominating power (one that manifested in the US Constitution, with its enshrinement of slavery, among other economic institutions), just as the figure of Asklepios would counter the dominating power of the Fates, the maxim salus populi suprema lex esto would continue (in limited ways) to be employed to combat harms perpetrated against the health of the people - condemning noxious  industrial enterprises, for example, and nullifying debts, among other things. Though shrouded in myth, this is not purely happenstance. An important  equivalence exists between actual justice and actual health. In many respects the conditions necessary for health — the freedom from conditions of disease and domination, and the freedom to access all the resources health requires — are indistinct from the concrete conditions of justice. One may even argue that the maxim provides a basis for positive rights to housing, health care, and other elements of health. For if the health of the people is the supreme law, that which is hostile to the health of the people is against the law. As such, conditions that are hostile to health must be corrected – corrected by supplying those conditions necessary for the actual health and well being of the people of the world – such as housing, nutritious food, a healthy environment, etc. This ought to be the top social and economic priority of any society that claims to respect justice. And because we redirect our society to the extent that we reinterpret it, such a reinterpretation of the maxim – among other things – is crucial today.

In a world in which harms are systematically reproduced (from wars, global warming, and the ongoing catastrophe at Fukushima, to the more mundane epidemics of poverty, occupational disease, and police brutality), and the political-economy of domination – of which Columbus was as much an effect as a cause – continues to plague the health of the people of the world, it is important to recognize that embedded within the power-structure that Columbus conveyed to the Americas is the germ of its destruction. Implicit in the dominating power of the Fates (law as mere Order) is the liberating power of Asklepios (law as Justice), and the potentially emancipatory constitutional metanorm that the actual health of the people should be the supreme law.

http://hygiecracy.blogspot.com

Elliot Sperber is a writer, attorney, and contributor to hygiecracy.blogspot.com. He lives in New York City.

 

 

Journalist Seymour Hersh on Obama, NSA and the ‘Pathetic’ American Media September 27, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in History, Media.
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Roger’s note; Seymour Hersh is the exception that proves the rule of corporate dominated media.  He is a dying breed, especially in the realm of print and broadcast media.  It has for the most part been the Internet that has kept open the door to independent investigative journalism.  It was a foreign print media entity, the UK’s “Guardian” that printed the Snowden revelations, but its reporter was Glenn Greenwald, only recently hired by the Guardian after years of scorching independent reporting on salon.com.  God bless Seymour Hersh, who is indeed a hero of our times, but his proposed solution is a pipe dream, which doesn’t speak to the heart of the problem, which has to do with the relationship between huge concentrations of capital and the industry that provides information to the public.

Pulitzer Prize winner explains how to fix journalism, saying press should ‘fire 90% of editors and promote ones you can’t control’

 

by Lisa O’Carroll

Seymour Hersh exposed the My Lai massacre during the Vietnam war, for which he won the Pulitzer Prize. (Photograph: Wally McNamee/Corbis)

Seymour Hersh has got some extreme ideas on how to fix journalism – close down the news bureaus of NBC and ABC, sack 90% of editors in publishing and get back to the fundamental job of journalists which, he says, is to be an outsider.

It doesn’t take much to fire up Hersh, the investigative journalist who has been the nemesis of US presidents since the 1960s and who was once described by the Republican party as “the closest thing American journalism has to a terrorist”.

He is angry about the timidity of journalists in America, their failure to challenge the White House and be an unpopular messenger of truth.

Don’t even get him started on the New York Times which, he says, spends “so much more time carrying water for Obama than I ever thought they would” – or the death of Osama bin Laden. “Nothing’s been done about that story, it’s one big lie, not one word of it is true,” he says of the dramatic US Navy Seals raid in 2011.

Hersh is writing a book about national security and has devoted a chapter to the bin Laden killing. He says a recent report put out by an “independent” Pakistani commission about life in the Abottabad compound in which Bin Laden was holed up would not stand up to scrutiny. “The Pakistanis put out a report, don’t get me going on it. Let’s put it this way, it was done with considerable American input. It’s a bullshit report,” he says hinting of revelations to come in his book.

The Obama administration lies systematically, he claims, yet none of the leviathans of American media, the TV networks or big print titles, challenge him.

“It’s pathetic, they are more than obsequious, they are afraid to pick on this guy [Obama],” he declares in an interview with the Guardian.

“It used to be when you were in a situation when something very dramatic happened, the president and the minions around the president had control of the narrative, you would pretty much know they would do the best they could to tell the story straight. Now that doesn’t happen any more. Now they take advantage of something like that and they work out how to re-elect the president.

He isn’t even sure if the recent revelations about the depth and breadth of surveillance by the National Security Agency will have a lasting effect.

Snowden changed the debate on surveillance

He is certain that NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden “changed the whole nature of the debate” about surveillance. Hersh says he and other journalists had written about surveillance, but Snowden was significant because he provided documentary evidence – although he is sceptical about whether the revelations will change the US government’s policy.

“Duncan Campbell [the British investigative journalist who broke the Zircon cover-up story], James Bamford [US journalist] and Julian Assange and me and the New Yorker, we’ve all written the notion there’s constant surveillance, but he [Snowden] produced a document and that changed the whole nature of the debate, it’s real now,” Hersh says.

“Editors love documents. Chicken-shit editors who wouldn’t touch stories like that, they love documents, so he changed the whole ball game,” he adds, before qualifying his remarks.

“But I don’t know if it’s going to mean anything in the long [run] because the polls I see in America – the president can still say to voters ‘al-Qaida, al-Qaida’ and the public will vote two to one for this kind of surveillance, which is so idiotic,” he says.

Holding court to a packed audience at City University in London’s summer school on investigative journalism, 76-year-old Hersh is on full throttle, a whirlwind of amazing stories of how journalism used to be; how he exposed the My Lai massacre in Vietnam, how he got the Abu Ghraib pictures of American soldiers brutalising Iraqi prisoners, and what he thinks of Edward Snowden.

Hope of redemption

Despite his concern about the timidity of journalism he believes the trade still offers hope of redemption.

“I have this sort of heuristic view that journalism, we possibly offer hope because the world is clearly run by total nincompoops more than ever … Not that journalism is always wonderful, it’s not, but at least we offer some way out, some integrity.”

His story of how he uncovered the My Lai atrocity is one of old-fashioned shoe-leather journalism and doggedness. Back in 1969, he got a tip about a 26-year-old platoon leader, William Calley, who had been charged by the army with alleged mass murder.

Instead of picking up the phone to a press officer, he got into his car and started looking for him in the army camp of Fort Benning in Georgia, where he heard he had been detained. From door to door he searched the vast compound, sometimes blagging his way, marching up to the reception, slamming his fist on the table and shouting: “Sergeant, I want Calley out now.”

Eventually his efforts paid off with his first story appearing in the St Louis Post-Despatch, which was then syndicated across America and eventually earned him the Pulitzer Prize. “I did five stories. I charged $100 for the first, by the end the [New York] Times were paying $5,000.”

He was hired by the New York Times to follow up the Watergate scandal and ended up hounding Nixon over Cambodia. Almost 30 years later, Hersh made global headlines all over again with his exposure of the abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib.

Put in the hours

For students of journalism his message is put the miles and the hours in. He knew about Abu Ghraib five months before he could write about it, having been tipped off by a senior Iraqi army officer who risked his own life by coming out of Baghdad to Damascus to tell him how prisoners had been writing to their families asking them to come and kill them because they had been “despoiled”.

“I went five months looking for a document, because without a document, there’s nothing there, it doesn’t go anywhere.”

Hersh returns to US president Barack Obama. He has said before that the confidence of the US press to challenge the US government collapsed post 9/11, but he is adamant that Obama is worse than Bush.

“Do you think Obama’s been judged by any rational standards? Has Guantanamo closed? Is a war over? Is anyone paying any attention to Iraq? Is he seriously talking about going into Syria? We are not doing so well in the 80 wars we are in right now, what the hell does he want to go into another one for. What’s going on [with journalists]?” he asks.

He says investigative journalism in the US is being killed by the crisis of confidence, lack of resources and a misguided notion of what the job entails.

“Too much of it seems to me is looking for prizes. It’s journalism looking for the Pulitzer Prize,” he adds. “It’s a packaged journalism, so you pick a target like – I don’t mean to diminish because anyone who does it works hard – but are railway crossings safe and stuff like that, that’s a serious issue but there are other issues too.

“Like killing people, how does [Obama] get away with the drone programme, why aren’t we doing more? How does he justify it? What’s the intelligence? Why don’t we find out how good or bad this policy is? Why do newspapers constantly cite the two or three groups that monitor drone killings. Why don’t we do our own work?

“Our job is to find out ourselves, our job is not just to say – here’s a debate’ our job is to go beyond the debate and find out who’s right and who’s wrong about issues. That doesn’t happen enough. It costs money, it costs time, it jeopardises, it raises risks. There are some people – the New York Times still has investigative journalists but they do much more of carrying water for the president than I ever thought they would … it’s like you don’t dare be an outsider any more.”

He says in some ways President George Bush‘s administration was easier to write about. “The Bush era, I felt it was much easier to be critical than it is [of] Obama. Much more difficult in the Obama era,” he said.

Asked what the solution is Hersh warms to his theme that most editors are pusillanimous and should be fired.

“I’ll tell you the solution, get rid of 90% of the editors that now exist and start promoting editors that you can’t control,” he says. I saw it in the New York Times, I see people who get promoted are the ones on the desk who are more amenable to the publisher and what the senior editors want and the trouble makers don’t get promoted. Start promoting better people who look you in the eye and say ‘I don’t care what you say’.

Nor does he understand why the Washington Post held back on the Snowden files until it learned the Guardian was about to publish.

If Hersh was in charge of US Media Inc, his scorched earth policy wouldn’t stop with newspapers.

“I would close down the news bureaus of the networks and let’s start all over, tabula rasa. The majors, NBCs, ABCs, they won’t like this – just do something different, do something that gets people mad at you, that’s what we’re supposed to be doing,” he says.

Hersh is currently on a break from reporting, working on a book which undoubtedly will make for uncomfortable reading for both Bush and Obama.

“The republic’s in trouble, we lie about everything, lying has become the staple.” And he implores journalists to do something about it.

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