A Memorial Poem: Not for the Feint of Heart September 17, 2010Posted by rogerhollander in 9/11, Art, Literature and Culture, Genocide, Racism, War.
Tags: 9/11, africans, apartheid, attica, cambodia, chiapas, Chile, Colombia, disappeared, El Salvador, EMMANUEL ORTIZ, fallen timbers, genocide, guatemala, hiroshima, indigenous, iraq embargo, laos, moment of slience, nagasaki, nicaragua, Palestinians, pine ridge, poem, Poetry, political poem, roger hollander, sand creek, slavery, somalia, steve biko, torture, trail of tears, Vietnam War, wounded knee
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BEFORE I START THIS POEM
by Emmanuel Ortiz
Before I start this poem,
I’d like to ask you to join me in
a moment of silence
in honour of those who died
in the World Trade Centre
and the Pentagon
last September 11th.
I would also like to ask you
a moment of silence
for all of those who have been
harassed, imprisoned, disappeared,
tortured, raped, or killed
in retaliation for those strikes,
for the victims in both
Afghanistan and the U.S.
And if I could just add one more thing…
A full day of silence
for the tens of thousands of Palestinians
who have died at the hands of
U.S.-backed Israeli forces
over decades of occupation.
Six months of silence
for the million and-a-half Iraqi people,
mostly children, who have died of
malnourishment or starvation
as a result of an 11-year U.S. embargo
against the country.
Before I begin this poem:
two months of silence
for the Blacks under Apartheid
in South Africa,
where homeland security
made them aliens
in their own country.
Nine months of silence
for the dead in Hiroshima
and Nagasaki, where death rained
down and peeled back
every layer of concrete, steel, earth and skin
and the survivors went on as if alive.
A year of silence
for the millions of dead
in Vietnam–a people, not a war-
for those who know a thing or two
about the scent of burning fuel,
their relatives’ bones buried in it,
their babies born of it.
A year of silence
for the dead in Cambodia and Laos,
victims of a secret war … ssssshhhhh ….
Say nothing .. we don’t want them to
learn that they are dead.
Two months of silence
for the decades of dead
in Colombia, whose names,
like the corpses they once represented,
have piled up and slipped off
Before I begin this poem,
An hour of silence
for El Salvador …
An afternoon of silence
for Nicaragua …
Two days of silence
for the Guatemaltecos …
None of whom ever knew
a moment of peace
45 seconds of silence
for the 45 dead
at Acteal, Chiapas
25 years of silence
for the hundred million Africans
who found their graves
far deeper in the ocean
than any building could
poke into the sky.
There will be no DNA testing
or dental records
to identify their remains.
And for those who were
strung and swung
from the heights of
in the south, the north,
the east, and the west…
100 years of silence…
For the hundreds of millions of
from this half of right here,
Whose land and lives were stolen,
In postcard-perfect plots
like Pine Ridge,
Sand Creek, Fallen Timbers,
or the Trail of Tears.
Names now reduced
to innocuous magnetic poetry
on the refrigerator
of our consciousness …
So you want a moment of silence?
And we are all left speechless
Our tongues snatched from our mouths
Our eyes stapled shut
A moment of silence
And the poets have all been laid to rest
The drums disintegrating into dust
Before I begin this poem,
You want a moment of silence
You mourn now as if the world will never be
And the rest of us hope to hell it won’t be.
Not like it always has been
Because this is not a 9-1-1 poem
This is a 9/10 poem,
It is a 9/9 poem,
A 9/8 poem,
A 9/7 poem
This is a 1492 poem.
This is a poem about
what causes poems like this
to be written
And if this is a 9/11 poem, then
This is a September 11th poem
for Chile, 1971
This is a September 12th poem
for Steven Biko in South Africa, 1977
This is a September 13th poem
for the brothers at Attica Prison,
New York, 1971.
This is a September 14th poem
for Somalia, 1992.
This is a poem
for every date that falls
to the ground in ashes
This is a poem for the 110 stories
that were never told
The 110 stories that history
chose not to write in textbooks
The 110 stories that CNN, BBC,
The New York Times,
and Newsweek ignored
This is a poem
for interrupting this program.
And still you want
a moment of silence
for your dead?
We could give you
lifetimes of empty:
The unmarked graves
The lost languages
The uprooted trees and histories
The dead stares on the faces
of nameless children
Before I start this poem
We could be silent forever
Or just long enough to hunger,
For the dust to bury us
And you would still ask us
For more of our silence.
If you want a moment of silence
Then stop the oil pumps
Turn off the engines and the televisions
Sink the cruise ships
Crash the stock markets
Unplug the marquee lights,
Delete the instant messages,
Derail the trains, the light rail transit
If you want a moment of silence,
put a brick through
the window of Taco Bell,
And pay the workers for wages lost
Tear down the liquor stores,
The townhouses, the White Houses,
the jailhouses, the Penthouses and
If you want a moment of silence,
Then take it
On Super Bowl Sunday,
The Fourth of July
During Dayton’s 13 hour sale
Or the next time your white guilt
fills the room where my beautiful
people have gathered
You want a moment of silence
Then take it
Before this poem begins.
Here, in the echo of my voice,
In the pause between goosesteps of the
In the space
between bodies in embrace,
Here is your silence.
But take it all
Don’t cut in line.
Let your silence begin
at the beginning of crime.
Tonight we will keep right on singing
For our dead.
EMMANUEL ORTIZ, 11 Sep 2002
Emmanuel Ortiz (born 1974) is a Chicano/Puerto Rican/Irish-American activist and spoken-word poet. He has worked with the Minnesota Alliance for the Indigenous Zapatistas (MAIZ) and Estación Libre and as a staff member of the Resource Centre of the Americas. Ortiz has performed his poetry at numerous readings, political rallies, activist conferences, and benefits. His works appeared in The Roots of Terror a reader published by Project South, as well as others. His readings of his poems have appeared on Pacifica Radio’s Democracy Now!.  His controversial poem, Moment of Silence, circulated the internet a year after September 11th, 2001. 
More cause and effect in our ever-expanding “war” January 7, 2010Posted by rogerhollander in Israel, Gaza & Middle East, War.
Tags: Afghanistan, al-Qaeda, balawi, civilian casualties, gaza, gaza massacre, gaza war, glenn grenwald, Iraq, islamic extremism, israel, Middle East, pakistan, Palestinians, roger hollander, somalia, suicide bomber, terrorism, war, yemen
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(updated below – Update II - Update III)
If it is taboo to discuss how America’s actions in the Middle East cause Terrorism — and it generally is — that taboo is far stronger still when it comes to specifically discussing how our blind, endless enabling of Israeli actions fuels Terrorism directed at the U.S. An article in yesterday’s New York Times examined the life of Humam Khalil Abu Mulal al-Balawi, the Jordanian who blew himself up, along with 7 CIA agents, in Afghanistan this week. Why would Balawi — a highly educated doctor, who was specifically recruited by Jordanian intelligence officials to infiltrate Al Qaeda on behalf of Western governments — want to blow himself up and murder as many American intelligence agents as possible? The article provides this possible answer:
He described Mr. Balawi as a “very good brother” and a “brilliant doctor,” saying that the family knew nothing of Mr. Balawi’s writings under a pseudonym on jihadi Web sites. He said, however, that his brother had been “changed” by last year’s three-week-long Israeli offensive in Gaza, which killed about 1,300 Palestinians.
Students and administrators at the institute said Abdulmutallab was gregarious, had many Yemeni friends and was not overtly extremist. They noted, however, he was open about his sympathies toward the Palestinians and his anger over Israel’s actions in Gaza.
When the Saudi and Yemeni branches of Al Qaeda announced earlier this year that they were unifying into “Al Qaeda of the Arabian Peninsula,” they prominently featured rhetoric railing against the Israeli attack on Gaza, and “presented their campaign as part of the struggle to liberate Palestine, since Israel and the Crusaders are one.” So extreme is anger towards Israel over Gaza among Yemenis that even that country’s President — our supposed ally in the War on Terror — called for the opening of camps to train fighters against Israel in Gaza. In his Pulitzer Prize-winning book, The Looming Tower, Lawrence Wright claimed that 9/11 hijacker Mohammed Atta signed his “martyr’s will” from Al Qaeda on the day in 1996 when Israel attacked Lebanon, and he did so due to “outrage” over that attack. There’s just no question that the U.S.’s loyal enabling of (and support for) Israel’s various wars with its Muslims neighbors contributes to terrorist attacks directed at Americans.
As always whenever the words “Israel” and/or “Terrorism” are mentioned, there is a severe danger of over-simplification and distortion from all sides, rendering several caveats in order: where U.S. support for Israel is a cause of anti-American Islamic extremism, it is generally not the only or even primary cause, but one of several; there is ample American interference and violence in the Muslim world that is quite independent of Israel, and that was true long before 9/11 and especially after. Al Qaeda leaders who actually care little about the Palestinian cause have a history of exploiting that issue to generate public support. The fact that Terrorists object to Policy X does not prove that Policy X should be discontinued. And most of all: to discuss causes of Terrorism is not to imply justification; one can seek to understand what we do to fuel Terrorism without suggesting that the deliberate targeting of innocent civilians is in any way legitimate or justified.
Despite all that, it’s impossible to grow accustomed to the extreme fantasy atmosphere and self-absorbed blindness that pervades American discussions over Terrorism, especially in the wake of a new scare. The Right, seeking as always to exploit Terrorism fears, falsely accuses Obama of not displaying “war” language and a “war” mentality, in response to which he and his aides step forward to affirm — yet again — that WE ARE AT WAR!, and to point to all of the times Obama decreed this to be so and all of the war actions he has ordered. So we’ve spent the last decade screaming to the world that WE ARE AT WAR!, that we’re a War Nation, that we’re led by a War President. That we are “at war” – not just in Iraq and Afghanistan, but generally against Islamic extremists — is an absolute bipartisan orthodoxy that must be affirmed by all Serious people. And we are currently waging some form of actual war in no fewer than five predominantly Muslim countries (Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Yemen and Somalia); are threatening Iran with ”crippling” sanctions and — from our more deranged quarters — war; and continuing our unbroken devotion to Israel’s causes.
Yet even in the face of all of that, it is bewilderment and confusion that reign when our media stars and political figures talk about attempts to attack Americans. Why would they possibly want to do this? They must be crazy, or drunk with religious fervor, or consumed by blinding, inhumane hatred. Much of that is probably true for individuals willing to blow themselves up in order to slaughter as many innocent civilians as possible. But it’s equally irrational to think that you’re going to spend a full decade bellowing WE ARE AT WAR! to the world, send bombs and troops and all forms of death to multiple Muslim countries (both directly and through Israel), and not have that directed back at us. That’s what happens when a country is “at war” — it doesn’t just get to blow up things and people in other countries, but its own things and people sometimes get blown up as well. That’s how “war” works.
It’s truly astounding to watch us — for a full decade — send fighter jets and drones and bombs and invading forces and teams of torturers and kidnappers to that part of the world, or, as we were doing long before 9/11, to overthrow their governments, prop up their dictators, occupy what they perceive as holy land with our foreign troops, and arm Israel to the teeth, and then act surprised and confused when some of them want to attack us. In general, the U.S. only attacks countries with no capabilities to attack us back in the ”homeland” — at least not with conventional forces. As a result, we have come to believe that any forms of violence we perpetrate on them over there is justifiable and natural, but the Laws of Humanity are instantly breached in the most egregious ways whenever they bring violence back to the U.S., aimed at Americans. It’s just impossible to listen to discussions grounded in this warped mentality without being astounded at how irrational it is. What do Americans think is going to happen if we continue to engage in this conduct, in this always-widening “war”?
The principal problem is that by pretending that we do nothing to fuel Islamic radicalism, we stay unaware — blissfully ignorant — of the staggering costs of our actions. I defy anyone to find a political figure in either major party’s leadership who has, in the context of discussing U.S. policy towards Israel, ever even mentioned the fact that undying, endless American support for Israel — making all of their conflicts our own — increases the risk of terrorist violence aimed at the U.S. But it so plainly does. The fact that Israel is now explicitly vowing that its “next wars” against its Muslim neighbors will be “much harsher” than even the grotesque atrocities in Gaza and Lebanon means these costs are almost certain to increase even further.
Again, these facts do not, standing alone, prove that we ought to change these policies. The mere fact that Islamic radicals object to what we do does not prove we should stop, as there may be net benefits to those actions or they may be morally justifiable. But at the very least, rational discussions require that these costs and benefits be weighed, and that can only happen if we acknowledge the costs. But when it comes to our own actions in the Muslim world, and especially our undying devotion to supporting everything Israel does, acknowledging the costs (to say nothing of the morality) is exactly what we steadfastly refuse to do.
UPDATE: Today’s Haaretz — in an article headlined: ”Report: Al-Qaida CIA bomber was furious over Gaza war” — also reports: ”The Jordanian national that attacked a U.S. military base in Afghanistan, killing 7 CIA agents, was furious over the Israel’s Gaza offensive, the London-based Arabic daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi reported on Thursday.” Phil Weiss asks about the connection between America’s Israel policy and Terrorist attacks aimed at the U.S.: ”I wonder how long the mainstream media will continue to treat this angle as a sidelight and not a main event”? Actually, treating it as a “sidelight” would be an upgrade from what they do now: ignore it completely and pretend it doesn’t exist. As usual, these discussions can appear more freely in Israeli newspapers like Haaretz than they can in American ones.
UPDATE II: The Yemeni government today warned that any direct U.S. military action in that country “could bolster the popularity of Islamic militants” and “would strengthen Al Qaeda.” For reasons that should be obvious, that’s how it works: not only in Yemen, but generally.
UPDATE III: Time reports that Balawi (the Jordanian doctor) had been a genuine intelligence asset for the U.S., working to help the U.S. find and bomb Al Qaeda sites, but was completely transformed at some point into an Al Qaeda sympathizer and ultimately a suicide bomber who killed 7 CIA agents. Part of the reason for the conversion? Because of “his outrage at the high number of civilian casualties inflicted in the resulting strikes”; he “had become enraged at the Americans for killing a high number of civilians in their hunt for al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders.” Relatedly, Spencer Ackerman notes that Balawi’s Internet writings reflect a growing commitment to violence due to American and Israeli attacks on Muslims (“They have not left any excuse for any Muslim with a hint of honor to remain hesitant and accept the shame of staying away from the honor of participating in jihad”).
Just contemplate how many Balawis there are in the world: Muslims who begin with sympathy towards the U.S. and hostility towards Al Qaeda who are completely transformed into the opposite as a result of the constant civilian death we and Israel bring (regardless of intent) to that part of the world.
COURAGE TO END TOTAL WAR January 1, 2010Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, War.
Tags: Afghanistan, anti-war, bruce gagnon, constitutional rights, corporate oligarchy, domino theory, fear, imperialism, Iraq, Obama, pakistan, permanent war, progressives, roger hollander, somalia, war, yemen
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Bruce K. Gagnon (about the author)
www.opednews.com, Januray 1, 2010
It’s a brilliant strategy if you think about it. Make the public afraid of each other. Every person could be a terrorist – everyone is suspect. There is no better way to defeat an organized anti-war opposition than to make the people terrified of each other.
The corporate oligarchy is now doing under Obama what it could not accomplish under Bush. Total war. The anti-Bush movement in the US and worldwide was gaining too much ground. So the oligarchy let the air out of that balloon. In Bush’s place they put in a magician who has proved very effective at keeping the left off balance and thus unable to pump new life into the reeling anti-war movement. So now it’s Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Somalia and Yemen. Next could be Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan. National Public Radio (NPR) reporter Tom Gjelten did a story called “Afghan War Could Spill Over Into Central Asia” on December 31 that upped the fear meter and brought back the Vietnam-war era worry of the “domino theory”. You must watch the slight of hand “.the modus operandi in action again.
Bush, or John McCain for that matter, would have been resisted at every step of this new escalation. But many “progressives” are frozen into place by the handiwork of the magician and a deferential Congress under the control of the other war party. The “execution” of this masterstroke has worked as well as the insides of an expensive Swiss watch.
The oil and military industrial oligarchy have created a situation where the public is so primed for fear by the slavish media that they are ready to strip their constitutional rights down to the bare bone in order to be “protected” by big daddy.
Few are asking the legitimate question of why people are fighting against the US around the world? What are they upset about? Could it possibly be that we are increasingly occupying their lands and grabbing their natural resources? Does it take a rocket scientist to see this? All the talk about our troops protecting our freedoms overseas is pure bloviation.
In the end this total war plan is destroying our economy at home. More than 40 states are now in fiscal crisis. Here in Maine public education is being eviscerated and social programs are next on the block to have their heads removed. But teachers or workers inside of the social service agencies are unwilling to raise their voices and say the obvious bring our war $$ home so we can maintain social progress. They have been made job scared. Instead, they call for more taxes that an already belabored public rejects out of hand, and they are dismissed as socialists. Thus those trying to preserve domestic tranquility get marginalized. Meanwhile, few are willing to make the connections and speak the truth about the very real, local consequences of endless war.
So as Obama’s total war rages overseas it is also being waged on us here at home. Except, because they have us focused 24-7 on the antics of a hapless airplane bomber, we are taking our eyes off the ball that is being ripped right out of our hands. That is the value of Obama, the magician.
We have sadly become slaves, chained to wars, as we watch our very social fabric torn apart. But we remain silent, as we have been programmed to do. And still, in the midst of all that, we boast about our great freedoms here at home as we strip down to our underpants at the airline security check-in.
There is a way out but it takes courage. The courage to speak up, to defend our constitution, to defend social progress, to defend the future generations. Real courage is needed to call for an end to total war.
Bruce Gagnon is the Coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space.
Cause and Effect in the ‘Terror War’ December 29, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Iraq and Afghanistan, Pakistan, War.
Tags: Afghanistan, afghanistan surge, afghanistan troops, Afghanistan War, al-Qaeda, cia drone, civilian casualties, drone missiles, glenn greenwald, muslim, muslim civilians, muslim countries, obama administration, pakistan, pakistan bombing, roger hollander, somalia, terror war, terrorism, terrorist attack, war on terrorism, yemen, yemen bombing, yemeni extremists, yemeni government
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“In all their alleged allegedness, this Administration has an allergy to the concept of war, and thus to the tools of war, including strategy and war aims” — Supreme Tough Guy Warrior Mark Steyn, National Review, yesterday.
“The White House has authorized an expansion of the C.I.A.’s drone program in Pakistan’s lawless tribal areas, officials said this week, to parallel the president’s decision, announced Tuesday, to send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan” – New York Times, December 4, 2009.
“In the midst of two unfinished major wars, the United States has quietly opened a third, largely covert front against Al Qaeda in Yemen” — New York Times, yesterday.
Actually, if you count our occupation of Iraq, our twice-escalated war in Afghanistan, our rapidly escalating bombing campaigns in Pakistan and Yemen, and various forms of covert war involvement in Somalia, one could reasonably say that we’re fighting five different wars in Muslim countries — or, to use the NYT‘s jargon, “five fronts” in the “Terror War” (Obama yesterday specifically mentioned Somalia and Yemen as places where, euphemistically, “we will continue to use every element of our national power”). Add to those five fronts the “crippling” sanctions on Iran many Democratic Party luminaries are now advocating, combined with the chest-besting threats from our Middle East client state that the next wars they fight against Muslims will be even “harsher” than the prior ones, and it’s almost easier to count the Muslim countries we’re not attacking or threatning than to count the ones we are. Yet this still isn’t enough for America’s right-wing super-warriors, who accuse the five-front-war-President of “an allergy to the concept of war.”
In the wake of the latest failed terrorist attack on Northwest Airlines, one can smell the excitement in the air — that all-too-familiar, giddy, bipartisan climate that emerges in American media discourse whenever there’s a new country we get to learn about so that we can explain why we’re morally and strategically justified in bombing it some more. “Yemen” is suddenly on every Serious Person’s lips. We spent the last month centrally involved to some secret degree in waging air attacks on that country — including some that resulted in numerous civilian deaths — but everyone now knows that this isn’t enough and it’s time to Get Really Serious and Do More.
For all the endless, exciting talk about the latest Terrorist attack, one issue is, as usual, conspicuously absent: motive. Why would a young Nigerian from a wealthy, well-connected family want to blow himself on one of our airplanes along with 300 innocent people, and why would Saudi and Yemeni extremists want to enable him to do so? When it comes to Terrorism, discussions of motive have been declared more or less taboo from the start because of the dishonest equation of motive discussions with justification — as though understanding the reasons why X happens is to posit that X is legitimate and justifiable. Causation simply is; it has nothing to do with issues of morality, blame, or justification. Yet all that is generally permitted to be said in such situations is that Terrorists try to harm us because they’re Evil, and we (of course) are not, and that’s generally the end of the discussion.
Despite that taboo, evidence always ends up emerging on this question. As numerous reports have indicated, the Al Qaeda group in the Arabian Peninsula has said that this attempted attack is in “retaliation” for the multiple, recent missile attacks on Yemen in which numerous innocent Muslim civilians were killed, as well as for the U.S.’s multi-faceted support for the not-exactly-democratic Yemeni government. That is similar to reports that Nidal Hasan was motivated to attack Fort Hood because “he was upset at the killing of Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan.” And one finds this quote from an anonymous Yemeni official tacked on to the end of this week’s NYT article announcing the “widening terror war” in Yemen — as though it’s just an afterthought:
“The problem is that the involvement of the United States creates sympathy for Al Qaeda. The cooperation is necessary — but there is no doubt that it has an effect for the common man. He sympathizes with Al Qaeda.”
As always, the most confounding aspect of the reaction to the latest attempted terrorist episode is the professed confusion and self-righteous innocence that is universally expressed. Whether justified or not, we are constantly delivering death to the Muslim world. We do not see it very much, but they certainly do. Again, independent of justification, what do we think is going to happen if we continuously invade, occupy and bomb Muslim countries and arm and enable others to do so? Isn’t it obvious that our five-front actions are going to cause at least some Muslims — subjected to constant images of American troops in their world and dead Muslim civilians at our hands, even if unintended — to want to return the violence? Just look at the bloodthirsty sentiments unleashed among Americans even from a failed Terrorist attempt. What sentiments do we think we’re unleashing from a decade-long (and counting and increasing) multi-front “war” in the Muslim war?
There very well may be some small number of individuals who are so blinded by religious extremism that they will be devoted to random violence against civilians no matter what we do, but we are constantly maximizing the pool of recruits and sympathy among the population on which they depend. In other words, what we do constantly bolsters their efforts, and when we do, we always seem to move more in the direction of helping them even further. Ultimately, we should ask ourselves: if we drop more bombs on more Muslim countries, will there be fewer or more Muslims who want to blow up our airplanes and are willing to end their lives to do so? That question really answers itself.
Copyright ©2009 Salon Media Group, Inc.
Glenn Greenwald was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator in New York. He is the author of the New York Times Bestselling book “How Would a Patriot Act?,” a critique of the Bush administration’s use of executive power, released in May 2006. His second book, “A Tragic Legacy“, examines the Bush legacy.