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When America Interfered in a Russian Election March 22, 2017

Posted by rogerhollander in Democracy, History, Russia, Uncategorized.
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Roger’s note: those of us who love irony will appreciate the fact that the Russian regime that is accused of influencing the 2016 U.S. election is the direct heir of the Yeltsin government which in turn came to power largely as a result of Clinton administration interference.  What goes around …

Hillary Clinton’s hawkishness on Russia, backed by much of her party, the Republicans and the lap dog corporate media, was cause for great concern to some of during the election campaign and created the illusion that a Trump presidency might in fact be less likely to bring on World War III.  This remains to be seen.  It is of no comfort that the Democrats and the media continue to demonize Russia (which is not to say that Putin is any thing less than an oligarch who rules with an iron fist in his homeland).

Ever since the fall of the former Soviet Union, I have been fascinated by process of the transition of the so-called socialist Russia (it was functionally not socialist, rather state capitalist) to free market capitalism.  The monumental change in the world’s second largest country did not happen “automatically” or in a single moment.  Since all major production was owned by the State, ending this monopoly meant that all billions upon billions of capital had to go somewhere.  

In an article I wrote a few years ago (https://www.opednews.com/populum/page.php?f=Putin-it-to-Putin-the-Ru-by-roger-hollander-Capital_Capitalism_Capitalism-Failures_Class-140503-466.html) I posited the notion that the destruction of Soviet State Capitalism provided the opportunity to democratize production and thereby create the kind of genuine socialism envisioned by Karl Marx.  We know, of course, that this didn’t happen, that, rather all Russian enterprise was stolen by former Soviety high level bureaucrats (Putin himself was head of  the Soviet KGB at the time); and Russia lost most of its social programs as it sank into a pure capitalist swamp.

 

by BAR editor and senior columnist Margaret Kimberley

The U.S. is the unchallenged champion of hijacking, fixing and subverting elections around the world. On every inhabitable continent – from Italy to Iran to Accra to Tegucigalpa — Washington has stolen people’s rights to elected leaders of their choice. Only two decades ago, Bill Clinton and his operatives were busy stealing Russia’s first post-Soviet elections. But, U.S. corporate media seem to have forgotten such inconvenient facts.

All of the news is fake when corporate media connive with the powerful to produce their desired ends.”

There is still no evidence of Russian interference in the 2016 election. What substitutes for proof is nothing but an endless loop of corporate media repetition. The Democratic Party has plenty of reason to whip up hysteria in an effort to divert attention from its endless electoral debacles.

What no one mentions is that the United States government has a very long history of interfering in elections around the world. Since World War II American presidents have used electoral dirty tricks, fraud and violence to upend the will of people in Italy, Iran, Guatemala, Vietnam and Honduras to name but a few nations. If possible brute force and murder are used to depose elected leaders as in Haiti and Chile.

Amid all the hoopla about Russia’s supposed influence in the election or with Donald Trump directly, there is little mention of a successful American effort to intervene in that country. In 1996 American political consultants and the Bill Clinton administration made certain that Boris Yeltsin remained in the Russian presidency.

There is no need for conjecture in this case. The story was discussed quite openly at the time and included a Time magazine cover story with the guilty parties going on record about their role in subverting democracy.

“In 1996 American political consultants and the Bill Clinton administration made certain that Boris Yeltsin remained in the Russian presidency.”

Polls showed that Yeltsin was in danger of losing to the Communist Party candidate Gennadi Zhuganov. The collapse of the Soviet Union had created an economic and political catastrophe for the Russian people. Oligarchs openly stole public funds while government workers went without pay. Russians lost the safety net they had enjoyed and the disaster resulted in a precipitous decline in life expectancy and birth rates.

The United States didn’t care about the suffering of ordinary Russians. Its only concern was making sure that the once socialist country never turned in that direction again. When Yeltsin looked like a loser the Clinton administration pressed the International Monetary Fund to send quick cash and bolster Yeltsin’s government with a $10 billion loan.

Clinton had an even more direct involvement. Led by a team connected to his adviser Dick Morris, a group of political consultants went to work in Moscow, but kept their existence a secret. One of the conspirators put the case succinctly. “Everyone realized that if the Communists knew about this before the election, they would attack Yeltsin as an American tool.” Of course Yeltsin was an American tool, and that was precisely the desired outcome.

The Time magazine article wasn’t the only corporate media expose of the American power grab. The story was also made into a film called “Spinning Boris.” One would think that this well known and documented account would be brought to attention now, but just the opposite has happened. The tale of Clinton administration conniving has instead been disappeared down the memory hole as if it never took place.

When Yeltsin looked like a loser the Clinton administration pressed the International Monetary Fund to send quick cash and bolster Yeltsin’s government with a $10 billion loan.”

The supposedly free media in this country march in lock step with presidents. After Obama and his secretary of state Hillary Clinton made Russia bashing a national pastime the media followed suit. The reason for the hostility is very simple. Russia is an enormous country spanning Europe and Asia and has huge amounts of energy resources which European countries depend on. Its gas and oil reserves make it a player and therefore a target for sanctions and war by other means.

The American impulse to control or crush the rest of the world is thwarted by an independent Russia. While Americans are fed an endless diet of xenophobia Russia and China continue their New Silk Road economic partnership. Of course this alliance is born of the necessity to protect against American threats but no one reading the New York Times or Washington Post knows anything about it. Nor do they know that Vladimir Putin’s mentor stayed in power because of Bill Clinton’s meddling.

All of the news is fake when corporate media connive with the powerful to produce their desired ends. If they want to make Yeltsin a hero, they make him a hero. If they want his successor to be cast as the villain then he becomes the villain. If the United States wants to play the victim it is turned into the hapless target of Russian espionage. If its history of thwarting the sovereignty of other countries becomes an inconvenient truth, then the truth is disappeared.

It is difficult to know what is true and what is not. But it usually a safe bet to assume that this government and its media hand maidens are covering up criminality of various kinds. The story of the 1996 manipulation of Russian voters is but one example.

Margaret Kimberley’s Freedom Rider column appears weekly in BAR, and is widely reprinted elsewhere. She maintains a frequently updated blog as well as athttp://freedomrider.blogspot.com. Ms. Kimberley lives in New York City, and can be reached via e-Mail at Margaret.Kimberley(at)BlackAgendaReport.com.

To the Memory of Malcolm X: Fifty Years After His Assassination February 27, 2017

Posted by rogerhollander in Africa, Capitalism, Congo, Cuba, History, Imperialism, Latin America, Race, Racism, Revolution, Uncategorized, Zimbabwe.
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Roger’s note: This is a long read on the life and impact of Malcolm X and will serve as an excellent primer for anyone who desires to be reminded of one of the greatest revolutionaries of the twentieth century.  To my regret, I missed Malcolm when he spoke at U.C. Berkeley where I was an undergraduate, because I had no idea who he was.  I later was profoundly influenced by Haley’s “Autobiography,” and Linda and I chose to name our first child after him.  For decades Malcolm was virtually forgotten, then he emerged as a harmless icon, mostly as a popular logo, sanitized.  Much of the popular media continues, as it did in his day, to portray him as a man of  hatred and violence and racial discord.  It is long overdue to reveal him as the humanist revolutionary that he was, and to celebrate a life that went through a series of changes that brought him forward as one of the most dangerous for revolution against capitalist imperialism.  Hence the need for his assassination.

Half a century after his murder, Malcolm X has been transformed into “a harmless icon, with his sharp revolutionary anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist political program diluted and softened.” Therefore, it is vital that we celebrate and study the real Malcolm X, who “rejected lesser-evilism and the two-party set up and division of labor that oversaw the capitalist system of racism, imperialism, and exploitation.”

by Ike Nahem

This article previously appeared in Dissident Voice.
Steadily, and more and more explicitly, Malcolm X embraced anti-capitalist and pro-socialist standpoints as he understood them.

“I believe that there will be ultimately be a clash between the oppressed and those who do the oppressing. I believe that there will be a clash between those who want freedom, justice and equality for everyone and those who want to continue the system of exploitation. I believe that there will be that kind of clash, but I don’t think it will be based on the color of the skin…”  — Malcolm X, One Month Before His Murder

There are those who will consider it their duty, as friends of the Negro people, to tell us to revile him, to flee, even from the presence of his memory, to save ourselves by writing him out of the history of our turbulent times. Many will ask what Harlem finds to honor in this stormy, controversial and bold young captain – and we will smile. Many will say turn away – away from this man, for he is not a man but a demon, a monster, a subverter and an enemy of the black man – and we will smile. They will say that he is of hate – a fanatic, a racist – who can only bring evil to the cause for which you struggle! And we will answer and say to them: Did you ever talk to Brother Malcolm? Did you ever touch him, or have him smile at you? Did you ever really listen to him? Did he ever do a mean thing? Was he ever himself associated with violence or any public disturbance? For if you did you would know him. And if you knew him you would know why we must honor him. Malcolm was our manhood, our living, black manhood! This was his meaning to his people.” — Eulogy delivered by Ossie Davis at the Funeral of Malcolm X, Faith Temple Church Of God, Harlem, February 27,1965

The Assassination

On February 21, 1965 – 50 years ago this week – Malcolm X, the great African-American and US freedom fighter and outstanding world revolutionary leader, was gunned down in the Audubon Ballroom in upper Manhattan’s Washington Heights on Broadway and 165th Street in New York City. Commemorations of this bitterly sad anniversary that truly altered US and world history have been held in New York City, Malcolm’s home base, across the United States, and throughout the world.

Malcolm X was a peerless orator of tremendous wit and power as well as an indefatigable and effective political organizer. On that fateful and horrible 1965 day he was murdered in cold blood, in front of his wife and children, while addressing a full house of over 400 people, under the auspices of the Organization of Afro-American Unity, the non-religious political formation he founded after his split from Elijah Muhammad’s Nation of Islam (called the “Black Muslims” in the US media).

The gunmen were undoubtedly agents and operatives of the Nation of Islam (NOI). From the moment Malcolm X left the NOI he was subjected to the most vile personal attacks and slanders from Louis Farrakhan and other NOI leaders, including open calls for his death. While the evidence directly linking NOI leaders to the murder plot continues to be covered up, their moral and political responsibility is unquestionable. But this truth also begs the larger question of the direct or indirect responsibility of the United States government in Malcolm X’s death. It is known that US government agencies, that is, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) within the United States, and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), which took over during Malcolm’s international travels, had stepped up their illegal surveillance, harassment, and hounding of Malcolm X after his departure from the NOI. Federal and local cops and spooks had Malcolm X under constant surveillance. The New York Police Department (NYPD) knew two weeks in advance that Malcolm X was being targeted for assassination. NYPD had at least one undercover agent in the OAAU and had a wiretap on Malcolm X’s phone. Yet no police were in sight at the Audubon Ballroom when he was murdered right in the open. It is also known that part of the FBI’s COINTELPRO operation directed against Malcolm X included exploiting and instigating person venom against Malcolm by his former associates and manipulating the atmosphere of hostility and provocation.

Much of the documentation of this outrageous and illegal US government harassment – which included poison pens letters, instigating and promoting false rumors, personal antagonisms, the leaking and planting of disinformation in the media, and so on has come to light from lawsuits under Freedom of Information Act legislation. In a then-secret 1968 memorandum, Hoover wrote that the FBI must, “Prevent the rise of a ‘messiah’ who could unify, and electrify, the militant black nationalist movement. [Malcolm X] might have been such a ‘messiah’…”

A Hero of My Youth and Always

My first lasting memory of Malcolm X was when, as a 13-year old boy in southern Indiana I was shaken by a graphic photo-spread of his assassination in the old LOOK magazine which my parents subscribed to. I had developed the habit of reading newspapers and following what was called “current events” in school so I was aware of and instinctively sympathetic to the Civil Rights Movement, as were my parents, although they had no direct involvement. A year or two later, we moved to the relatively big city of Cincinnati, Ohio, and I went from a segregated small-town high school to a late-1960s urban cauldron.

The racial and social composition of my new high school was, more or less, about 40% “white” working class and middle class, 40% Black working class, with the rest, including me, mostly Jewish. It was a volatile mix in extremely volatile times, with the Black rights struggle literally exploding nationally as the Vietnam War — and mounting opposition to it — escalating. Interesting alliances and struggles formed in my new high school alongside racial antagonisms and tension. Black and white students united to change the schools draconian dress code; T-shirts, long-haired “hippies,” and Afros proliferated. My high school was even written up in LIFE magazine in one of the era’s ubiquitous pieces on the alienation and rebelliousness of “today’s youth.”

A few of my radicalizing Jewish friends and I gravitated to some of the outspoken Black students. I started sneaking off to attend civil rights protests. At one point we organized a controversial protest over the required recitation of the “Pledge of Allegiance” to the US flag at morning homeroom. Where the closing line says, “One Nation Under God, With Liberty and Justice For All,” we added, “If You’re White.” That landed us in the Principal’s office.

When Martin Luther King was assassinated, the Black ghetto in Cincinnati exploded and my high school was shut down by students who refused to attend classes, considering it an insult to King’s memory that schools remained open.

“I found out that the feared and hated (by some) Malcolm X was funny as hell!”

One day in 1967 I was looking to spend my sparse allowance money on some music at a rock-and-roll and “soul music” store in downtown Cincinnati when there in the stacks, in a section called “Spoken Word,” I saw an LP titled “The Wit and Wisdom of Malcolm X,” excerpts from his speeches. At $1.49 I could afford it. It was an earthshaking experience for me. What eloquence and logic I found within those grooves. What powerful use of language, what masterful employment of analogy and metaphor. What uncompromising exposure of hypocrisy and duplicity. What passion and compassion.

Perhaps most unexpected for me was the profound and brilliant humor. At the time I had ambitions to be a comedian and I devoured comedy albums and movies as well as books on comedy “theory” — Lenny Bruce, George Carlin, Slappy White, the Marx Brothers, Burns and Allen, Flip Wilson, Don Rickles, and all the regulars on Ed Sullivan and Johnny Carson. I found out that the feared and hated (by some) Malcolm X was funny as hell! I played that soon-to-be scratchy album on my rickety record player to the point where I’m sure I drove my mother crazy. Soon after that purchase I stayed up all day and night and read The Autobiography of Malcolm X nonstop barricaded in my room. Like so many millions of others, reading The Autobiography was a real turning point in my life outlook and in the development of my political and social consciousness.

The Autobiography

The Autobiography of Malcolm X is a riveting and astonishing book that rises to great literature. Translated into over 30 languages, it should be essential reading for any literate human being in this country and indeed on this Earth. But if your only introduction and exposure to Malcolm X is this wonderful book, you will be unable to grasp and understand his world historical significance and true legacy, both the continuity and the profound transformation of his short, remarkable life.

The Autobiography was a book dictated by Malcolm X to Alex Haley on the run over the last two years of his life, while he was engaged in a grueling schedule of intense political organizing in the United States that was intertwined with extensive international travel that broadened and sharpened his moral and political outlook. His collaboration with Haley began while Malcolm X was still a member of and under the discipline of the Nation of Islam. But by the end of 1963 Malcolm’s estrangement from the NOI was reaching a climax. For Malcolm X the radical split, which had been building for some time from moral and political motivations, became a personal and political liberation that was the catalyst pushing him forward. Responding later to a reporter trying to tie him to old NOI dogmas, he stated, “I feel like a man who has been asleep somewhat and under someone else’s control. I feel that what I’m thinking and saying is now for myself. Before it was for and by the guidance of Elijah Muhammad. Now I think with my own mind, sir!”

Malcolm X was unable to edit and correct many specific mistakes and misinterpretations in The Autobiography. He was unable to explain and elaborate on the new positions and his rejection of NOI nostrums he had promulgated by rote as an NOI leader. One example of this was his position against interracial marriages which he changed as he dumped Muhammad’s “Yacub’s theory” that “all whites” were the devilish offsprings of the experiments and machinations of an evil scientist from way back when. An expression of his old position was contained in The Autobiography. But in a November 23, 1964 press conference – less than three months before his murder – Malcolm was asked, “Are you against the love between a black person and a white person.” His answer: “How can anyone be against love? Whoever a person wants to love that’s their business – that’s like their religion.”

In general, Haley’s editing of The Autobiography transcripts dilutes or deletes what was a sharp shift and trajectory to the left in Malcolm’s political and philosophical views. Steadily, and more and more explicitly, Malcolm X embraced anti-capitalist and pro-socialist standpoints as he understood them. Within the Nation of Islam, Malcolm had always positioned himself on the side of the Black masses, the working people, as opposed to the more “respectable” “Black bourgeoisie,” as he put it, who were afraid to “rock the boat.” His blistering, uproarious popularization of the class divides within the oppressed Afro-American nationality at the time of the mass struggles of the 1960s was articulated brilliantly in his classic oratorical construction, “The House Negro and the Field Negro” that he inserted into many speeches. (This can be easily found on YouTube and elsewhere online.)

“His collaboration with Haley began while Malcolm X was still a member of and under the discipline of the Nation of Islam.”

Outside the NOI, and in close contact with revolutionary internationalists of all skin colors and nationalities who were influenced by Marxist ideas and working-class struggles, these questions had moved more and more to the center of Malcolm’s consciousness at the end of his life.

Malcolm wished to change and reformulate many things in The Autobiography, especially in the last chapters covering the period of his split from the NOI. Haley resisted, citing deadline pressures and Malcolm was murdered before the book was published. The printed book focuses on – doing a generally beautiful job — the narration of Malcolm’s turbulent and searing life experiences. But the published narrative is incomplete. To fully appreciate the complete journey and legacy of Malcolm X, The Autobiography must be supplemented by reading and studying the man and his ideas directly in his own words.

Fortunately this is possible in print, audio, and video. Pathfinder Press is a small but prestigious socialist publishing house (www.pathfinderpress.com), affiliated with the Socialist Workers Party (SWP), a Marxist group which developed a close relationship with Malcolm X, and published his speeches, before his death. Pathfinder undertook immediately after Malcolm X’s death a major project, in collaboration with his wife Betty Shabazz, to gather and publish as much direct material of Malcolm X’s considerable output – speeches, essays, transcripts of interviews and press conferences, and so on from the crucial last year-and-a-half of his life. All of this remains in print today, completely uncensored and in basic chronology, so the reader can see for themselves the development and political evolution of this genuine American revolutionary. (I was a member of the SWP for over 20 years from the early 1970s to the mid-1990s and played a small part in helping Pathfinder to proofread and prepare for print some of the later published volumes.).

Targeted for Destruction

During this last period of his life Malcolm X functioned under and confronted – almost alone – tremendous pressures and life-threatening circumstances. He was literally marked for death by the NOI. A week before his assassination, his Queens, New York home was firebombed as he, his pregnant wife, and their four daughters were sleeping, all narrowly escaping death. The NYPD “investigation” was slovenly and perfunctory, implying he did it himself!

The Split

Malcolm X’s accumulating and mounting estrangement from the Nation of Islam intensified with his deep revulsion and abhorrence at a sordid sexual scandal and cover up involving Elijah Muhammad. This brought to the fore growing and irreconcilable political differences between Malcolm X and the conservative NOI hierarchy over how to achieve Black freedom in the United States. The differences were not abstract or theological in content, but had red hot immediacy because the context was the exploding movement among the Black masses for freedom that characterized the end of the 1950s and beginning of the 1960s. The obscurantist and hidebound Nation of Islam (NOI) preached religious piety and individual self-improvement and abstained from the mass political struggles and mobilizations that were rocking Black communities North and South.

Malcolm was attracted to these struggles and wanted the NOI, which his organizational skills had largely built into a significant presence in the Black ghettos and among Blacks incarcerated, as Malcolm had been, in US prisons, to jump into these struggles. But under Muhammad’s extreme sectarian outlook – which disdained mass political struggle and counterposed “self-reform,” abstinence from drugs and alcohol, and promoting the NOI’s growing business interests (which made Muhammad a rich man), this was rejected. Malcolm began to feel like a prisoner within the NOI. It was not only the growing mass mobilizations of the Civil Rights Movement and the growing political militancy and radicalization among Black youth and working people that found resonance within Malcolm X. He was also increasingly conscious of the contradictions and absurdities of the philosophical rationalizations put forward in the above-mentioned “Yacub’s theory” for the “separatist” program of the NOI. Malcolm’s accumulating break with all this quasi-religious mystification and hocus-pocus became definitive once he was liberated from the NOI straightjacket. Among the elements of the NOI positions that Malcolm jettisoned was his open rejection of the anti-Semitism and scapegoating of Jews that was embedded in the NOI outlook.

Rid of NOI dogma, Malcolm’s trip abroad across the African continent and to the Middle East and Mecca facilitated his final break with race-based theories and generalizations about “white” people. He sharpened his view that “race” is, at bottom, itself a myth and a wholly artificial political construct. In the United States, he said, “white” essentially means “boss,” that is, that “white supremacy” has no rational scientific content or meaning other than as an expression of and rationalization for the oppression, subordination, and degradation of the Afro-American people or nationality.

Anti-Imperialism

A voracious reader of history and politics Malcolm began to develop a coherent anti-imperialist world outlook. He knew his facts and he had a keen grasp for the historical framework to sort out and understand factual contradictions. As a result he was a master at sniffing out and untangling media distortions, lies, and half-truths. With withering contempt he exposed media disinformation and lying spin regarding anti-colonial struggle for independence and national liberation across Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East. He bristled when “Western” media, echoing Washington’s line, attacked the Mau-Mau freedom fighters in Kenya who were fighting the brutal rule of a declining British imperialism, as “savages.” The bourgeois media, Malcolm never tired of pointing out, were masters at “turning the criminal into the victim, and the victim into the criminal.”

Even before his split with the NOI, Malcolm was, like Martin Luther King and the emerging new generation of US civil rights leaders and activists, deeply affected by the African independence struggles that burst onto world politics in the post-World War II period through the 1950s and 60s. He connected the experience of what he termed “Afro-Americans” to the struggles in Africa and the rest of the so-called Third World. The Black freedom struggle, he argued, was part of, not separate from the worldwide anti-colonial and anti-racist struggle. Both were interconnected and exploding at the same time under the dynamics unleashed by the massive revolutionary changes ushered in by World War II and its end. Malcolm sought to build practical relations of political collaboration with leaders of oppressed peoples around the world.

Washington Targets Malcolm

The powers-that-be in Washington were at this time the unchallenged leader of the capitalist world and facing the post-World War II explosion of colonial independence and national liberation struggles in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East. Washington sought to prevent the vacuum left by the weakened and withered ex-colonial empires of Britain, France, and other European powers from resulting in radical social revolutions along the lines of the Chinese, Vietnamese, and Cuban Revolutions. These national liberation struggles were seen as both a threat to US and “Western” economic and financial interests as well as an arena of “geopolitical” “Cold War” competition with the Soviet Union and “Red” China.

As previously said, Malcolm X was under permanent surveillance and harassment by agencies of the United States government – the Lyndon Johnson White House and its J. Edgar Hoover-led FBI. The US State Department and CIA dogged his every step during his overseas travels to newly independent African countries and elsewhere. A month before his murder, Washington pressured the French government to bar his re-entry to the country where he had been invited to speak before a huge gathering. Washington feared his broad political appeal after he gained his moral and political independence from the NOI and began to devote his indefatigable energy to organizing in the United States and internationally.

In particular, Washington was horrified over Malcolm’s outspoken condemnation of the brutal US intervention in the Congo, his early, sharp opposition to the escalating US war in Vietnam, and his open, enthusiastic embrace of the Cuban Revolution. Additionally, Washington undertook a big effort to counter Malcolm X’s major campaign to bring before the United Nations General Assembly for a vote the human rights violations against African-Americans in the United States, which was gathering support internationally and in the US. In the period before his murder Malcolm was preparing to go on a speaking tour of US campuses to speak out against US aggression in Vietnam.

The Congo

Events in the Congo had a powerful impact on the political consciousness the evolution into a revolutionary of Malcolm X.

What transpired in the Congo was surely one of the greatest crimes of both the 19th Century, repeated again in the 20th Century. A Belgian colony, the Congo, in the 19th Century under the rule of King Leopold, was essentially a semi-slave territory where huge profits for Belgian capitalists were extracted among rubber workers and other toilers under the most horrid conditions, including amputations of workers limbs for supposed labor infractions. Belgian Congo was a laboratory for the genocides of the 20th Century, with an estimated 4-8 million indigenous Congolese killed under Leopold’s reign of terror. (For documentation see the classic indictment by Mark Twain, King Leopold’s Soliloquy, written in 1905 by the great American novelist, essayist, and satirist and Adam Hochschild’s grim and vivid 1998 best-seller, King Leopold’s Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa.)

By the 1950s Belgian rule was in crisis and no longer tenable as the Congolese people became a leading contingent of the post-World war II struggles for independence that swept the African continent from top to bottom. The decrepit, declining Belgian rulers conceded the holding of elections to be followed by a formal process leading to independence. The central figure and inspiring leader of the Congolese independence struggle was the teacher Patrice Lumumba who handily won the promised elections and established a popular government that began to implement desperately needed measures in a large country which the Belgian colonialists had left destitute with a puny number of schools and hospitals and no infrastructure other than what was needed to transport the country’s vast mineral and other wealth out of it. Lumumba’s government also staked out an independent non-aligned foreign policy which Washington found intolerable.

The departing Belgians, with Washington’s backing, began from day one to subvert and work to destroy Lumumba’s government. Along with the South African apartheid state they financed, armed, and promoted separatist forces led by the notorious mercenary and killer Moishe Tshombe. With growing chaos, and under United Nations cover, Washington and Brussels engineered a coup against Lumumba in September 1961. Lumumba was taken hostage and brutally murdered in January 1961. The CIA had a direct hand in all of this. The imperialist coup installed a lackey regime led by the tyrant Tshombe that Washington and Belgian could depend on to protect the nation’s vast copper, rubber, and other mineral holdings for super-profitable exploitation by imperialist capital.

“Malsolm continuously spoke out against Washington’s crimes, in solidarity with the Congolese people.”

As resistance to the pro-imperialist coup mounted among the Congolese followers of the martyred Lumumba, Washington and Belgium organized a racist mercenary army. In cahoots with apartheid South African and the British colonial-settler state of Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) they recruited racist and ultra-rightist mercenaries from the United States, other European states, and some anti-Castro counter-revolutionary exiles from Cuba. These forces, under barely covert US CIA supervision, carried out murderous bombing raids against “rebel-held villages” and other terrorist atrocities and massacres that resulted in many thousands of Congolese deaths.

These crimes, and the shameless lies turning reality on its head in the big-business US media towing the US government’s line, infuriated and galvanized Malcolm X. He continuously spoke out against Washington’s crimes, in solidarity with the Congolese people. He spoke the bold and unvarnished truth in the face of imperialist propaganda. In the last interview he gave before his death to the Young Socialist magazine, Malcolm stated, “Probably there is no greater example of criminal activity against an oppressed people than the role the US has been playing in the Congo, through her ties with Tshombe and the mercenaries. You can’t overlook the fact that Tshombe gets his money from the US. The money he uses to hire these mercenaries – these paid killers supported from South Africa – comes from the United States. The pilots that fly those planes have been trained by the US. The bombs themselves that are blowing apart the bodies of women and children come from the US. So I can only view the role of the United States in the Congo as a criminal role.”

US-led “Western” policy action eventually led to the installation of the dictator Joseph Mobutu (aka Mobutu Sese Seko) who led an exceedingly venal and vicious regime for over 40 years, becoming a multi-billionaire until his regime collapsed in 1997.

Malcolm X and the Cuban Revolution

Malcolm X was a strong supporter of the Cuban Revolution even before he left the NOI. Among the first acts of the revolutionary government led by Fidel Castro after the triumph of the Cuban Revolution on January 1, 1959 was the radical extirpation of all laws and state practices upholding Jim Crow-style segregation in Cuba. Afro-Cubans were among the greatest beneficiaries and most enthusiastic supporters of the Revolution and as fighters in the guerrilla army. Malcolm X was prominent among a large layer of Black intellectuals and activists including W.E.B. DuBois, LeRoi Jones (later known as Amiri Baraka), Robert F. Williams, William Worthy and many others who welcomed and defended the Cuban Revolution, which was coming under increasing US attack.

The Cuban Revolution had already begun to implement radical social programs (of which smashing legal segregation was one), including a radical land reform, that was having a definite material impact on those US economic and financial interests which utterly dominated Cuban society. The Eisenhower Administration was already deeply involved in the initial planning of what became the Bay of Pigs invasion, and was leading the bipartisan consensus across the US government that the revolutionary Cuban government had to go down.

In September 1960, while still in the NOI, Malcolm X met with Fidel Castro in Harlem. The circumstances of Malcolm and Fidel’s meeting have become legendary (for details see Rosemari Mealy’s excellent Fidel and Malcolm X: Memories of a Meeting, Ocean Press). Faced with unacceptable impositions and expenses by the management of the Shelburne Hotel, the Cuban delegation to the special fall gathering of world heads of state at the United Nations packed up and moved uptown to the Theresa Hotel in Harlem and enthusiastic crowds of African-Americans and other friends and supporters of the Cuban Revolution.

Malcolm’s attitude to the Cuban Revolution was favorable before he exited from the Nation of Islam: “The Cuban Revolution, that’s a Revolution. They overturned the system,” he said in his last major speech as an NOI representative. But his political attraction to its revolutionary internationalist and socialist program deepened after his split from the NOI.

Malcolm’s admiration for the Cuban revolutionaries not only flowed from his consciousness of the vigorous anti-racist measures carried out by the Revolution, but also from the words and deeds of the revolutionary Cuban government in support of African liberation in general and the Congolese anti-imperialist struggle in particular. Che Guevara not only spoke eloquently at the United Nations condemning imperialist policy in the Congo, saying “All free men must be prepared to avenge the crime of the Congo,” but later actually fought there with followers of Lumumba, attempting to organize an effective revolutionary resistance.

Malcolm X personally invited Che to speak in Harlem in December 1964, but his appearance had to be put off over security concerns. As Malcolm read Che’s solidarity message, he said, “I love a revolutionary. And one of the most revolutionary men in this country right now was going to come out…” When the crowd responded to Che’s solidarity message with strong applause, Malcolm said the applause “lets the man know that he’s just not in a position today to tell us who we should applaud for and who we shouldn’t applaud for.”

From Pariah to Icon

It would be hard to find a figure in US history more slandered, vilified, and misrepresented while he was alive than Malcolm X. He was labeled a “hatemonger,” a “racist-in-reverse,” a promoter and man of violence, and worse. This was not confined to blatant racists and segregationists but was the standard line in more respectable and genteel liberal society. When it came to Malcolm X, especially after he broke free from the dogma and narrow confines of Elijah Muhammad’s Nation of Islam, moved sharply to the left, and began to speak out and organize freely, the gloves came off among most liberal voices, and a furious hatred came to the surface. This was captured in the classic Phil Ochs satiric ballad, “Love Me, I’m a Liberal” whose opening stanza goes, “I cried when they shot Medgar Evers, Tears ran down my spine, And I cried when they shot Mr. Kennedy, as though I’d lost a father of mine…But Malcolm X got what was coming, He got what he asked for this time, so love, love me, love me…I’m a liberal.”

Perhaps the most notorious example of this was a scurrilous editorial in the liberal, sophisticated, pro-civil rights New York Times, published the day after he was murdered. To the Times editorial board Malcolm X was “an extraordinary and twisted man, turning many true gifts to evil purpose.” With a stunning and brazen disregard for the slightest accuracy and truth, the editorial asserted that Malcolm X held a “ruthless and fanatical belief in violence…[that] also marked him for notoriety and for a violent end.” Continuing on the insinuation that Malcolm X was responsible for his own death, the Times editorial continues, “He could not even come to terms with his fellow black extremists. The world he saw through those horned-rim glasses of his was distorted and dark. But he made it darker still with his exaltation of fanaticism.

“Yesterday someone came out of the darkness that he spawned, and killed him…[T]his murder could easily touch off a war of vengeance of the kind he himself fomented.” ( all emphasis added)

The bile and vitriol of that shameful editorial was echoed in the even-more liberal Nation magazine which placed Malcolm X on the “Negro lunatic fringe” that was, furthermore, “defeatist.”

Later that year, the Autobiography of Malcolm X and Malcolm X Speaks, unedited and uncensored full presentations of his actual speeches and words, were published by the maverick Grove Press, the latter book in conjunction with Pathfinder Press. They became instant classics and best sellers, especially among Blacks and students. It was no longer possible to write such lies and garbage about Malcolm X and both the New York Times and The Nation changed their tune, publishing reviews and articles that were highly favorable and sympathetic to Malcolm X, reflecting the new esteem and appreciation of him in growing layers of society, Black and Caucasian. Over time a new mythology regarding Malcolm X began to congeal, a new distortion of his political and moral trajectory, this time not from open opponents but purported friends and admirers. Of course, it helped that he was dead.

Today, fifty years after his murder Malcolm X has become as icon. There is a US Stamp issued with his likeness, major streets are named after him, the legendary Autobiography is considered a classic, still selling briskly and assigned to numerous high school and college classes. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and numerous other liberal and conservative political figures have cited it as a major influence on their lives.

“There is a US Stamp issued with his likeness, major streets are named after him.”

Nevertheless, this latter iconization of Malcolm X, more often than not, is the other side of the coin that previously disparaged him when he was alive, in the sense that he has been transformed by “mainstream” forces into a harmless icon, with his sharp revolutionary anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist political program diluted and softened. The conscious or unconscious operation strains to turn Malcolm X, who was above all else a genuine revolutionary, into a conventional liberal or conservative, someone who can be folded into the traditional spectrum of bourgeois Democratic and Republican party US politics. This is a travesty of the actual Malcolm X and his actual political and moral trajectory.

The death of Malcolm X was a devastating blow to the Black freedom struggle in the United States and for oppressed and exploited people in every continent worldwide. In the US, Malcolm was trying to establish the Organization of Afro American Unity as an independent Black political movement, that is, completely independent of both the Democratic and Republican parties. He rejected lesser-evilism and the two-party set up and division of labor that oversaw the capitalist system of racism, imperialism, and exploitation. “The difference between the Republican and the Democrats,” Malcolm would say, “is that the Republicans stick the knife in your back six inches, and the Democrats pull it out one.” That perspective of complete political independence and principled opposition to both capitalist parties has never since had such a powerful voice.

The absence of Malcolm after 1965 had a deleterious impact on the revolutionary upsurge of the “Black Power” movement in the late 1960s which he greatly inspired. The movement had its greatest organizational advance with the mass growth of the Black Panther Party led by Huey Newton and Bobby Seale, but the Panthers floundered and collapsed under heavy illegal government harassment and murderous repression, as well as its own ultraleftist, militaristic, cultist, and opportunist mistakes under tremendous pressure. The Panthers and the 1960s generation of revolutionary-minded fighters would have benefited greatly from Malcolm X’s political clarity, organizational skills, tactical savvy, and discipline.

A new political reality is opening up in the United States today. A new generation of youth, of all nationalities, is radicalizing and mobilizing from Ferguson, Missouri to Staten Island, New York and across the US. This has been sparked by a wave of police killings of unarmed, mostly Black and Latino, civilians and subsequent Grand Jury exonerations in clearly manipulated settings. This reality now confronts the US ruling Establishment. The framework for this new consciousness and struggle is the grotesque obscenities that now mark the so-called criminal justice system in the US, with its mass incarceration of youth, especially Black and Latino youth, the virtual impossibility of seeing any kind of justice in case after case of police killings and brutality, and more broadly the mounting impact of the permanent capitalist economic crisis, growing impoverishment, and increased working-class struggles for decent jobs and wages, against obscene inequality in education, health care, and so on. Those coming into the fight will find no greater historic champion and inspiration in the fight for their better future than Malcolm X. For those who take the time to search, discover, and study this towering human being, beautiful vistas will open up before you.

Ike Nahem is a longtime anti-war, labor, and socialist, and activist. Nahem is the coordinator of Cuba Solidarity New York and a founder of the New York-New Jersey July 26 Coalition (july26coalition.org). Nahem is a retired Amtrak Locomotive Engineer and member of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, a division of the Teamsters Union. He can be reached at ikenahem@mindspring.com with comment or criticism.

 

Footnotes

1.When Columbia University threatened in 1989 to demolish the property, Black community activists, Columbia students, and landmark preservationists protested vigorously and forced the University to retreat. Today the Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz Memorial and Educational Center stands in the lobby of the old Ballroom containing that portion where Malcolm X was assassinated which is now protected and restored.

2.Malcolm X never advocated, promoted or called for the initiation of “violence.” He was a personal victim of racist violence as his father was murdered by KKK-inspired racists. He was fully versed in the violent history of “American democracy” which he called “disguised hypocrisy” against African-Americans from slavery to his own time, where in face of mass struggles against the dying system of Jim Crow-segregation in the US South vicious violence was unleashed against peaceful civil rights activists. He led disciplined, peaceful struggles against police killings and brutality in New York City and Los Angeles. But he was not a pacifist and did not believe in turning the other cheek. He was for disciplined, legal, peaceful protest. But he believed in the right of self-defense. “I am non-violent to people who are non-violent to me.” “It doesn’t mean I advocate violence, but at the same time I am not against using violence in self-defense. I don’t call it violence when it’s self-defense, I call it intelligence.” “I don’t favor violence. If we could bring about recognition and respect of our people by peaceful means, well and good. Everyone would like to achieve his objectives peacefully.” “Concerning non-violence: It is criminal to teach a man not to defend himself, when he is the constant victim of brutal attacks.” These views were shamefully twisted and distorted by Malcolm X’s political enemies.

Lest We Forget November 20, 2016

Posted by rogerhollander in Capitalism, History, Imperialism, Uncategorized.
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Roger’s note: It would take an incredible stretch to imagine a world that was not colonized by the European nations (and lately, the United States).  Imperialism is the perverse spawn of capitalism, which can never get enough natural resources and indentured labour to satisfy its voracious appetite for profit.  This could as well be a map of Asia or the Middle East. Every line on you see is artificial and represents exploitation and suffering.  As the British, French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Belgian and German imperial adventures have faded into history, the United States with its military tentacles stretching to every corner of the globe, has filled the vacuum.

NOVEMBER 15, 1884

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Silencing America as it prepares for war August 30, 2016

Posted by rogerhollander in 2016 election, Asia, China, donald trump, Foreign Policy, Hillary Clinton, History, Nuclear weapons/power, Uncategorized, War.
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Roger’s note: as we focus on Donald Trumps racist xenophobia and unstable character (I would say sociopathic), and as we agonize over the Clinton alternative; it is easy to forget that a continuation of Obama/Clinton may very well bring the world one again, to the brink of World War III and nuclear annihilation. John Pilger is an Australian journalist based in the U.K.  What he brings us here is a bird’s eye view of United States foreign policy, its aggressive imperialist nature in a historical context.  It is frightening to contemplate, but we ignore it at our peril.

The article does not touch on the capitalist impulse towards warfare. The context for U.S. foreign policy is its worldwide network of military bases, its imperial expansion, and the virtual control of the political system in the States by the military industrial complex.  I came across this saying recently that speaks to this reality: arms are not manufactured for wars; wars are made to sell arms.

 

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27 May 2016, http://www.johnpilger.com 

Returning to the United States in an election year, I am struck by the silence. I have covered four presidential campaigns, starting with 1968; I was with Robert Kennedy when he was shot and I saw his assassin, preparing to kill him. It was a baptism in the American way, along with the salivating violence of the Chicago police at the Democratic Party’s rigged convention. The great counter revolution had begun.

The first to be assassinated that year, Martin Luther King, had dared link the suffering of African-Americans and the people of Vietnam. When Janis Joplin sang, “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose”, she spoke perhaps unconsciously for millions of America’s victims in faraway places.

“We lost 58,000 young soldiers in Vietnam, and they died defending your freedom. Now don’t you forget it.”  So said a National Parks Service guide as I filmed last week at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington. He was addressing a school party of young teenagers in bright orange T-shirts. As if by rote, he inverted the truth about Vietnam into an unchallenged lie.

The millions of Vietnamese who died and were maimed and poisoned and dispossessed by the American invasion have no historical place in young minds, not to mention the estimated 60,000 veterans who took their own lives. A friend of mine, a marine who became a paraplegic in Vietnam, was often asked, “Which side did you fight on?”

A few years ago, I attended a popular exhibition called “The Price of Freedom” at the venerable Smithsonian Institution in Washington. The lines of ordinary people, mostly children shuffling through a Santa’s grotto of revisionism, were dispensed a variety of lies: the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki saved “a million lives”; Iraq was “liberated [by] air strikes of unprecedented precision”. The theme was unerringly heroic: only Americans pay the price of freedom.

The 2016 election campaign is remarkable not only for the rise of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders but also for the resilience of an enduring silence about a murderous self-bestowed divinity. A third of the members of the United Nations have felt Washington’s boot, overturning governments, subverting democracy, imposing blockades and boycotts. Most of the presidents responsible have been liberal – Truman, Kennedy, Johnson, Carter, Clinton, Obama.

The breathtaking record of perfidy is so mutated in the public mind, wrote the late Harold Pinter, that it “never happened …Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening it wasn’t happening. It didn’t matter. It was of no interest. It didn’t matter… “. Pinter expressed a mock admiration for what he called “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.”

Take Obama. As he prepares to leave office, the fawning has begun all over again. He is “cool”. One of the more violent presidents, Obama gave full reign to the Pentagon war-making apparatus of his discredited predecessor. He prosecuted more whistleblowers – truth-tellers – than any president. He pronounced Chelsea Manning guilty before she was tried. Today, Obama runs an unprecedented worldwide campaign of terrorism and murder by drone.

In 2009, Obama promised to help “rid the world of nuclear weapons” and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. No American president has built more nuclear warheads than Obama. He is “modernising” America’s doomsday arsenal, including a new “mini” nuclear weapon, whose size and “smart” technology, says a leading general, ensure its use is “no longer unthinkable”.

James Bradley, the best-selling author of Flags of Our Fathers and son of one of the US marines who raised the flag on Iwo Jima, said, “[One] great myth we’re seeing play out is that of Obama as some kind of peaceful guy who’s trying to get rid of nuclear weapons. He’s the biggest nuclear warrior there is. He’s committed us to a ruinous course of spending a trillion dollars on more nuclear weapons. Somehow, people live in this fantasy that because he gives vague news conferences and speeches and feel-good photo-ops that somehow that’s attached to actual policy. It isn’t.”

On Obama’s watch, a second cold war is under way. The Russian president is a pantomime villain; the Chinese are not yet back to their sinister pig-tailed caricature – when all Chinese were banned from the United States – but the media warriors are working on it.

Neither Hillary Clinton nor Bernie Sanders has mentioned any of this. There is no risk and no danger for the United States and all of us; for them, the greatest military build-up on the borders of Russia since World War Two has not happened. On May 11, Romania went “live” with a Nato “missile defence” base that aims its first-strike American missiles at the heart of Russia, the world’s second nuclear power.

In Asia, the Pentagon is sending ships, planes and special forces to the Philippines to threaten China. The US already encircles China with hundreds of military bases that curve in an arc up from Australia, to Asia and across to Afghanistan. Obama calls this a “pivot”.

As a direct consequence, China reportedly has changed its nuclear weapons policy from no-first-use to high alert and put to sea submarines with nuclear weapons. The escalator is quickening.

It was Hillary Clinton who, as Secretary of State in 2010, elevated the competing territorial claims for rocks and reef in the South China Sea to an international issue; CNN and BBC hysteria followed; China was building airstrips on the disputed islands. In a mammoth war game in 2015, Operation Talisman Sabre, the US and Australia practiced “choking” the Straits of Malacca through which pass most of China’s oil and trade. This was not news.

Clinton declared that America had a “national interest” in these Asian waters. The Philippines and Vietnam were encouraged and bribed to pursue their claims and old enmities against China. In America, people are being primed to see any Chinese defensive position as offensive, and so the ground is laid for rapid escalation. A similar strategy of provocation and propaganda is applied to Russia.

Clinton, the “women’s candidate”, leaves a trail of bloody coups: in Honduras, in Libya (plus the murder of the Libyan president) and Ukraine. The latter is now a CIA theme park swarming with Nazis and the frontline of a beckoning war with Russia. It was through Ukraine – literally, borderland – that Hitler’s Nazis invaded the Soviet Union, which lost 27 million people. This epic catastrophe remains a presence in Russia. Clinton’s presidential campaign has received money from all but one of the world’s ten biggest arms companies. No other candidate comes close.

Sanders, the hope of many young Americans, is not very different from Clinton in his proprietorial view of the world beyond the United States. He backed Bill Clinton’s illegal bombing of Serbia. He supports Obama’s terrorism by drone, the provocation of Russia and the return of special forces (death squads) to Iraq. He has nothing to say on the drumbeat of threats to China and the accelerating risk of nuclear war. He agrees that Edward Snowden should stand trial and he calls Hugo Chavez – like him, a social democrat – “a dead communist dictator”. He promises to support Clinton if she is nominated.

The election of Trump or Clinton is the old illusion of choice that is no choice: two sides of the same coin. In scapegoating minorities and promising to “make America great again”, Trump is a far right-wing domestic populist; yet the danger of Clinton may be more lethal for the world.

“Only Donald Trump has said anything meaningful and critical of US foreign policy,” wrote Stephen Cohen, emeritus professor of Russian History at Princeton and NYU, one of the few Russia experts in the United States to speak out about the risk of war.

In a radio broadcast, Cohen referred to critical questions Trump alone had raised. Among them: why is the United States “everywhere on the globe”? What is NATO’s true mission? Why does the US always pursue regime change in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Ukraine? Why does Washington treat Russia and Vladimir Putin as an enemy?

The hysteria in the liberal media over Trump serves an illusion of “free and open debate” and “democracy at work”. His views on immigrants and Muslims are grotesque, yet the deporter-in-chief of vulnerable people from America is not Trump but Obama, whose betrayal of people of colour is his legacy: such as the warehousing of a mostly black prison population, now more numerous than Stalin’s gulag.

This presidential campaign may not be about populism but American liberalism, an ideology that sees itself as modern and therefore superior and the one true way. Those on its right wing bear a likeness to 19th century Christian imperialists, with a God-given duty to convert or co-opt or conquer.

In Britain, this is Blairism. The Christian war criminal Tony Blair got away with his secret preparation for the invasion of Iraq largely because the liberal political class and media fell for his “cool Britannia”. In the Guardian, the applause was deafening; he was called “mystical”. A distraction known as identity politics, imported from the United States, rested easily in his care.

History was declared over, class was abolished and gender promoted as feminism; lots of women became New Labour MPs. They voted on the first day of Parliament to cut the benefits of single parents, mostly women, as instructed. A majority voted for an invasion that produced 700,000 Iraqi widows.

The equivalent in the US are the politically correct warmongers on the New York Times, the Washington Post and network TV who dominate political debate. I watched a furious debate on CNN about Trump’s infidelities. It was clear, they said, a man like that could not be trusted in the White House. No issues were raised. Nothing on the 80 per cent of Americans whose income has collapsed to 1970s levels. Nothing on the drift to war. The received wisdom seems to be “hold your nose” and vote for Clinton: anyone but Trump. That way, you stop the monster and preserve a system gagging for another war.

 

 

Hiroshima Mon Amour August 6, 2016

Posted by rogerhollander in History, Japan, Nuclear weapons/power, Uncategorized, War.
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Roger’s note: I had to stop my search for photos of post bombed Hiroshima because it was making me sick to my stomach.  But I don’t regret the effort, and I am posting her only one of the stomach-churning upsetting photos that I saw.  Don’t scroll all the way down if you don’t want to see it.

Today marks the 71st anniversary of the only atomic attack in world history.  I read recently that a nuclear war between the U.S. and Russia could result in the firepower of 70,000 Hiroshima bombs.

Madness.

But fresh from the relief of the end of the war, with little or no thought to the nearly quarter of a million Hiroshima and Nagasaki deaths or the suffering survivors, or the future effects of radiation, Americans continued to celebrate nuclear weapons, as shown in this 1946 picture:

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HERE ARE JUST A COUPLE OF HIROSHIMA RELATED PICTURES:

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2016-05-20T122459Z_66416243_S1BETFDAJJAB_RTRMADP_3_JAPAN-OBAMA-HIROSHIMA

 

Did a Fear of Slave Revolts Drive American Independence? July 4, 2016

Posted by rogerhollander in Afro-American, Genocide, History, Racism, slavery, Uncategorized.
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Roger’s note: we hardly need the article I have posted below to remind us that in 1776 genocidal racism directed toward African slaves and First Nations peoples was alive and well.  What I do think we need to be reminded of is how today’s orgiastic, exceptionalist, triumphalist (a la Joseph Goebbels) “celebrations,” along with the Trump phenomenon, are clear signs that things have not changed that much in 240 years.

 

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Robert G. Parkinson, New York Times, July 4, 2016

Binghamton, N.Y. — FOR more than two centuries, we have been reading the Declaration of Independence wrong. Or rather, we’ve been celebrating the Declaration as people in the 19th and 20th centuries have told us we should, but not the Declaration as Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and John Adams wrote it. To them, separation from Britain was as much, if not more, about racial fear and exclusion as it was about inalienable rights.

The Declaration’s beautiful preamble distracts us from the heart of the document, the 27 accusations against King George III over which its authors wrangled and debated, trying to get the wording just right. The very last one — the ultimate deal-breaker — was the most important for them, and it is for us: “He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian savages, whose known rule of warfare is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.” In the context of the 18th century, “domestic insurrections” refers to rebellious slaves. “Merciless Indian savages” doesn’t need much explanation.

In fact, Jefferson had originally included an extended attack on the king for forcing slavery upon unwitting colonists. Had it stood, it would have been the patriots’ most powerful critique of slavery. The Continental Congress cut out all references to slavery as “piratical warfare” and an “assemblage of horrors,” and left only the sentiment that King George was “now exciting those very people to rise in arms among us.” The Declaration could have been what we yearn for it to be, a statement of universal rights, but it wasn’t. What became the official version was one marked by division.

Upon hearing the news that the Congress had just declared American independence, a group of people gathered in the tiny village of Huntington, N.Y., to observe the occasion by creating an effigy of King George. But before torching the tyrant, the Long Islanders did something odd, at least to us. According to a report in a New York City newspaper, first they blackened his face, and then, alongside his wooden crown, they stuck his head “full of feathers” like “savages,” wrapped his body in the Union Jack, lined it with gunpowder and then set it ablaze.

The 27th and final grievance was at the Declaration’s heart (and on Long Islanders’ minds) because in the 15 months between the Battles of Lexington and Concord and independence, reports about the role African-Americans and Indians would play in the coming conflict was the most widely discussed news. And British officials all over North America did seek the aid of slaves and Indians to quell the rebellion.

A few months before Jefferson wrote the Declaration, the Continental Congress received a letter from an army commander that contained a shocking revelation: Two British officials, Guy Carleton and Guy Johnson, had gathered a number of Indians and begged them to “feast on a Bostonian and drink his blood.” Seizing this as proof that the British were utterly despicable, Congress ordered this letter printed in newspapers from Massachusetts to Virginia.

At the same time, patriot leaders had publicized so many notices attacking the November 1775 emancipation proclamation by the governor of Virginia, Lord Dunmore, that, by year’s end, a Philadelphia newspaper reported a striking encounter on that city’s streets. A white woman was appalled when an African-American man refused to make way for her on the sidewalk, to which he responded, “Stay, you damned white bitch, till Lord Dunmore and his black regiment come, and then we will see who is to take the wall.”

His expectation, that redemption day was imminent, shows how much those sponsored newspaper articles had soaked into everyday conversation. Adams, Franklin and Jefferson were essential in broadcasting these accounts as loudly as they could. They highlighted any efforts of British agents like Dunmore, Carleton and Johnson to involve African-Americans and Indians in defeating the Revolution.

Even though the black Philadelphian saw this as wonderful news, the founders intended those stories to stoke American outrage. It was a very rare week in 1775 and 1776 in which Americans would open their local paper without reading at least one article about British officials “whispering” to Indians or “tampering” with slave plantations.

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So when the crowd in Huntington blackened the effigy’s face and stuffed its head with feathers before setting it on fire, they were indeed celebrating an independent America, but one defined by racial fear and exclusion. Their burning of the king and his enslaved and native supporters together signified the opposite of what we think of as America. The effigy represented a collection of enemies who were all excluded from the republic born on July 4, 1776.

This idea — that some people belong as proper Americans and others do not — has marked American history ever since. We like to excuse the founders from this, to give them a pass. After all, there is that bit about everyone being “created equal” in this, the most important text of American history and identity. And George Washington’s army was the most racially integrated army the United States would field until Vietnam, much to Washington’s chagrin.

But you wouldn’t know that from reading the newspapers. All the African-Americans and Indians who supported the revolution — and lots did — were no match against the idea that they were all “merciless savages” and “domestic insurrectionists.” Like the people of Huntington, Americans since 1776 have operated time and time again on the assumption that blacks and Indians don’t belong in this republic. This notion comes from the very founders we revere this weekend. It haunts us still.

Robert G. Parkinson, an assistant professor of history at Binghamton University, is the author of “The Common Cause: Creating Race and Nation in the American Revolution.”

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Silencing America As It Prepares For War June 10, 2016

Posted by rogerhollander in 2016 election, Barack Obama, bernie sanders, Capitalism, China, Democracy, donald trump, Foreign Policy, Hillary Clinton, History, Imperialism, Nuclear weapons/power, Russia, Trump, Ukraine, Uncategorized, War.
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Roger’s note: this article exposes a series of myths.  US as promoter of democracy; Obama as peacemaker; Democratic presidents as progressive, and so on.  See if you can identify others.  It is truly frightening that we live in an upsidedown world where illusion poses as truth and the nation that considers itself as the leader of the free world and the beacon of democracy poses the greatest threat ever to humankind.

 

By  on May 30, 2016 International Affairs

America-war-trick

The United States is focussed on a racist Republican presidential candidate, while those in power – and those seeking it – prepare for war, writes John Pilger.

Returning to the United States in an election year, I am struck by the silence. I have covered four presidential campaigns, starting with 1968; I was with Robert Kennedy when he was shot and I saw his assassin, preparing to kill him. It was a baptism in the American way, along with the salivating violence of the Chicago police at the Democratic Party’s rigged convention.

The great counter revolution had begun.

The first to be assassinated that year, Martin Luther King, had dared link the suffering of African-Americans and the people of Vietnam. When Janis Joplin sang, “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose”, she spoke perhaps unconsciously for millions of America’s victims in faraway places.

“We lost 58,000 young soldiers in Vietnam, and they died defending your freedom. Now don’t you forget it.”

So said a National Parks Service guide as I filmed last week at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington. He was addressing a school party of young teenagers in bright orange T-shirts. As if by rote, he inverted the truth about Vietnam into an unchallenged lie.

The millions of Vietnamese who died and were maimed and poisoned and dispossessed by the American invasion have no historical place in young minds, not to mention the estimated 60,000 veterans who took their own lives. A friend of mine, a marine who became a paraplegic in Vietnam, was often asked, “Which side did you fight on?”

A few years ago, I attended a popular exhibition called “The Price of Freedom” at the venerable Smithsonian Institution in Washington. The lines of ordinary people, mostly children shuffling through a Santa’s grotto of revisionism, were dispensed a variety of lies: the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki saved “a million lives”; Iraq was “liberated [by]air strikes of unprecedented precision”.

The theme was unerringly heroic: only Americans pay the price of freedom.

The 2016 election campaign is remarkable not only for the rise of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, but also for the resilience of an enduring silence about a murderous self-bestowed divinity. A third of the members of the United Nations have felt Washington’s boot, overturning governments, subverting democracy, imposing blockades and boycotts. Most of the presidents responsible have been liberal – Truman, Kennedy, Johnson, Carter, Clinton, Obama.

The breathtaking record of perfidy is so mutated in the public mind, wrote the late Harold Pinter, that it “never happened… nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening it wasn’t happening. It didn’t matter. It was of no interest. It didn’t matter….”

Pinter expressed a mock admiration for what he called “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.”

US president Barack Obama.
US president Barack Obama.

Take Obama. As he prepares to leave office, the fawning has begun all over again. He is “cool”. One of the more violent presidents, Obama gave full reign to the Pentagon war-making apparatus of his discredited predecessor. He prosecuted more whistleblowers – truth-tellers – than any president. He pronounced Chelsea Manning guilty before she was tried.

Today, Obama runs an unprecedented worldwide campaign of terrorism and murder by drone.

In 2009, Obama promised to help “rid the world of nuclear weapons” and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. No American president has built more nuclear warheads than Obama. He is “modernising” America’s doomsday arsenal, including a new “mini” nuclear weapon, whose size and “smart” technology, says a leading general, ensure its use is “no longer unthinkable”.

James Bradley, the best-selling author of Flags of Our Fathers and son of one of the US marines who raised the flag on Iwo Jima, said, “[One] great myth we’re seeing play out is that of Obama as some kind of peaceful guy who’s trying to get rid of nuclear weapons. He’s the biggest nuclear warrior there is. He’s committed us to a ruinous course of spending a trillion dollars on more nuclear weapons. Somehow, people live in this fantasy that because he gives vague news conferences and speeches and feel-good photo-ops that somehow that’s attached to actual policy. It isn’t.”

On Obama’s watch, a second cold war is under way. The Russian president is a pantomime villain; the Chinese are not yet back to their sinister pig-tailed caricature – when all Chinese were banned from the United States – but the media warriors are working on it.

Neither Hillary Clinton nor Bernie Sanders has mentioned any of this. There is no risk and no danger for the United States and all of us. For them, the greatest military build-up on the borders of Russia since World War Two has not happened. On May 11, Romania went “live” with a Nato “missile defence” base that aims its first-strike American missiles at the heart of Russia, the world’s second nuclear power.

In Asia, the Pentagon is sending ships, planes and Special Forces to the Philippines to threaten China. The US already encircles China with hundreds of military bases that curve in an arc up from Australia, to Asia and across to Afghanistan. Obama calls this a “pivot”.

As a direct consequence, China reportedly has changed its nuclear weapons policy from no-first-use to high alert, and put to sea submarines with nuclear weapons. The escalator is quickening.

It was Hillary Clinton who, as Secretary of State in 2010, elevated the competing territorial claims for rocks and reef in the South China Sea to an international issue; CNN and BBC hysteria followed; China was building airstrips on the disputed islands.

In its mammoth war game with Australia in 2015, Operation Talisman Sabre, the US practiced “choking” the Straits of Malacca through which pass most of China’s oil and trade. This was not news.

Clinton declared that America had a “national interest” in these Asian waters. The Philippines and Vietnam were encouraged and bribed to pursue their claims and old enmities against China. In America, people are being primed to see any Chinese defensive position as offensive, and so the ground is laid for rapid escalation.

A similar strategy of provocation and propaganda is applied to Russia.

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US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. (IMAGE: US Embassy, Flickr)

Clinton, the “women’s candidate”, leaves a trail of bloody coups: in Honduras, in Libya (plus the murder of the Libyan president) and Ukraine. The latter is now a CIA theme park swarming with Nazis and the frontline of a beckoning war with Russia.

It was through Ukraine – literally, borderland – that Hitler’s Nazis invaded the Soviet Union, which lost 27 million people. This epic catastrophe remains a presence in Russia. Clinton’s presidential campaign has received money from all but one of the world’s 10 biggest arms companies. No other candidate comes close.

Sanders, the hope of many young Americans, is not very different from Clinton in his proprietorial view of the world beyond the United States. He backed Bill Clinton’s illegal bombing of Serbia. He supports Obama’s terrorism by drone, the provocation of Russia and the return of special forces (death squads) to Iraq.

He has nothing to say on the drumbeat of threats to China and the accelerating risk of nuclear war. He agrees that Edward Snowden should stand trial and he calls Hugo Chavez – like him, a social democrat – “a dead communist dictator”. He promises to support Clinton if she is nominated.

The election of Trump or Clinton is the old illusion of choice that is no choice: two sides of the same coin. In scapegoating minorities and promising to “make America great again”, Trump is a far right-wing domestic populist; yet the danger of Clinton may be more lethal for the world.

“Only Donald Trump has said anything meaningful and critical of US foreign policy,” wrote Stephen Cohen, emeritus professor of Russian History at Princeton and NYU, one of the few Russia experts in the United States to speak out about the risk of war.

In a radio broadcast, Cohen referred to critical questions Trump alone had raised. Among them: why is the United States “everywhere on the globe”? What is NATO’s true mission? Why does the US always pursue regime change in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Ukraine? Why does Washington treat Russia and Vladimir Putin as an enemy?

The hysteria in the liberal media over Trump serves an illusion of “free and open debate” and “democracy at work”. His views on immigrants and Muslims are grotesque, yet the deporter-in-chief of vulnerable people from America is not Trump but Obama, whose betrayal of people of colour is his legacy: such as the warehousing of a mostly black prison population, now more numerous than Stalin’s gulag.

This presidential campaign may not be about populism but American liberalism, an ideology that sees itself as modern and therefore superior and the one true way. Those on its right wing bear a likeness to 19th century Christian imperialists, with a God-given duty to convert or co-opt or conquer.

In Britain, this is Blairism. The Christian war criminal Tony Blair got away with his secret preparation for the invasion of Iraq largely because the liberal political class and media fell for his “cool Britannia”.

In the Guardian, the applause was deafening; he was called “mystical”. A distraction known as identity politics, imported from the United States, rested easily in his care.

History was declared over, class was abolished and gender promoted as feminism; lots of women became New Labour MPs. They voted on the first day of Parliament to cut the benefits of single parents, mostly women, as instructed. A majority voted for an invasion that produced 700,000 Iraqi widows.

The equivalent in the US are the politically correct warmongers on the New York Times, the Washington Post and network TV who dominate political debate.

I watched a furious debate on CNN about Trump’s infidelities. It was clear, they said, a man like that could not be trusted in the White House.

No issues were raised. Nothing on the 80 per cent of Americans whose income has collapsed to 1970s levels. Nothing on the drift to war. The received wisdom seems to be “hold your nose” and vote for Clinton: anyone but Trump.

That way, you stop the monster and preserve a system gagging for another war.

 

Daniel J. Berrigan, Defiant Priest Who Preached Pacifism, Dies at 94 May 1, 2016

Posted by rogerhollander in Capitalism, Criminal Justice, History, Nuclear weapons/power, Religion, Uncategorized, Vietnam, War.
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Roger’s note: I just want to comment on the headline for this article.  The New York Times chooses to describe Berrigan as a Pacifist. The Times, along with the rest of the corporate media and political establishment, love the word Pacifist.  Resistance and Revolution not so much.  Howard Zinn famously said, when accused of disturbing the peace, that there is no peace, what he really was doing was disturbing the war.  The reference to his philosophy of non-violence is an attempt to sanitize his radical actions.  We need more Daniel Berrigans; may he rest in power.

By DANIEL LEWIS APRIL 30, 2016, New York Times

01berrigan-master768Rev. Daniel J. Berrigan gave an anti-war sermon at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York, 1972. Credit William E. Sauro/The New York Times

The Rev. Daniel J. Berrigan, a Jesuit priest and poet whose defiant protests helped shape the tactics of opposition to the Vietnam War and landed him in prison, died on Saturday in the Bronx. He was 94.

His death, at Murray-Weigel Hall, the Jesuit infirmary at Fordham University, was confirmed by the Rev. James Martin, editor at large at America magazine, a national Catholic magazine published by the Jesuits.

The United States was tearing itself apart over civil rights and the war in Southeast Asia when Father Berrigan emerged in the 1960s as an intellectual star of the Roman Catholic “new left,” articulating a view that racism and poverty, militarism and capitalist greed were interconnected pieces of the same big problem: an unjust society.

It was an essentially religious position, based on a stringent reading of the Scriptures that some called pure and others radical. But it would have explosive political consequences as Father Berrigan; his brother Philip, a Josephite priest; and their allies took their case to the streets with rising disregard for the law or their personal fortunes.

A defining point was the burning of Selective Service draft records in Catonsville, Md., and the subsequent trial of the so-called Catonsville Nine, a sequence of events that inspired an escalation of protests across the country; there were marches, sit-ins, the public burning of draft cards and other acts of civil disobedience.

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Father Berrigan, right and his brother Philip Berrigan seized hundreds of draft records and set them on fire with homemade napalm in 1968. Credit United Press International

The catalyzing episode occurred on May 17, 1968, six weeks after the murder of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the outbreak of new riots in dozens of cities. Nine Catholic activists, led by Daniel and Philip Berrigan, entered a Knights of Columbus building in Catonsville and went up to the second floor, where the local draft board had offices. In front of astonished clerks, they seized hundreds of draft records, carried them down to the parking lot and set them on fire with homemade napalm.

Some reporters had been told of the raid in advance. They were given a statement that said in part, “We destroy these draft records not only because they exploit our young men but because they represent misplaced power concentrated in the ruling class of America.” It added, “We confront the Catholic Church, other Christian bodies and the synagogues of America with their silence and cowardice in the face of our country’s crimes.”

In a year sick with images of destruction, from the Tet offensive in Vietnam to the murder of Dr. King, a scene was recorded that had been contrived to shock people to attention, and did so. When the police came, the trespassers were praying in the parking lot, led by two middle-aged men in clerical collars: the big, craggy Philip, a decorated hero of World War II, and the ascetic Daniel, waiting peacefully to be led into the van.
Protests and Arrests

In the years to come, well into his 80s, Daniel Berrigan was arrested time and again, for greater or lesser offenses: in 1980, for taking part in the Plowshares raid on a General Electric missile plant in King of Prussia, Pa., where the Berrigan brothers and others rained hammer blows on missile warheads; in 2006, for blocking the entrance to the Intrepid naval museum in Manhattan.

“The day after I’m embalmed,” he said in 2001, on his 80th birthday, “that’s when I’ll give it up.”

01BERRIGAN4-obit-blog427eFather Berrigan being handcuffed in 2001 after he and others blocked an entrance to the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum in Manhattan. Credit Richard Drew/Associated Press

It was not for lack of other things to do. In his long career of writing and teaching at Fordham and other universities, Father Berrigan published a torrent of essays and broadsides and, on average, a book a year.

Among the more than 50 books were 15 volumes of poetry — the first of which, “Time Without Number,” won the prestigious Lamont Poetry Prize (now known as the James Laughlin Award), given by the Academy of American Poets, in 1957 — as well as autobiography, social criticism, commentaries on the Old Testament prophets and indictments of the established order, both secular and ecclesiastic.

While he was known for his wry wit, there was a darkness in much of what Father Berrigan wrote and said, the burden of which was that one had to keep trying to do the right thing regardless of the near certainty that it would make no difference. In the withering of the pacifist movement and the country’s general support for the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, he saw proof that it was folly to expect lasting results.

“This is the worst time of my long life,” he said in an interview with The Nation in 2008. “I have never had such meager expectations of the system.”

What made it bearable, he wrote elsewhere, was a disciplined, implicitly difficult belief in God as the key to sanity and survival.

Many books by and about Father Berrigan remain in print, and a collection of his work over half a century, “Daniel Berrigan: Essential Writings,” was published in 2009.

He also had a way of popping up in the wider culture: as the “radical priest” in Paul Simon’s song “Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard”; as inspiration for the character Father Corrigan in Colum McCann’s 2009 novel, “Let the Great World Spin.” He even had a small movie role, appearing as a Jesuit priest in “The Mission” in 1989.

But his place in the public imagination was pretty much fixed at the time of the Catonsville raid, as the impish-looking half of the Berrigan brothers — traitors and anarchists in the minds of a great many Americans, exemplars to those who formed what some called the ultra-resistance.

After a trial that served as a platform for their antiwar message, the Berrigans were convicted of destroying government property and sentenced to three years each in the federal prison in Danbury, Conn. Having exhausted their appeals, they were to begin serving their terms on April 10, 1970.

01BERRIGAN3-obit-master675rFather Berrigan, right, and a defense lawyer, William M. Kunstler, center, after he was sentenced to three years in federal prison in Danbury, Conn. Credit Associated Press

Instead, they raised the stakes by going underground. The men who had been on the cover of Time were now on the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s most-wanted list. As Daniel explained in a letter to the French magazine Africasia, he was not buying the “mythology” fostered by American liberals that there was a “moral necessity of joining illegal action to legal consequences.” In any case, both brothers were tracked down and sent to prison.

Philip Berrigan had been the main force behind Catonsville, but it was mostly Daniel who mined the incident and its aftermath for literary meaning — a process already underway when the F.B.I. caught up with him on Block Island, off the Rhode Island coast, on Aug. 11, 1970. There was “The Trial of the Catonsville Nine,” a one-act play in free verse drawn directly from the court transcripts, and “Prison Poems,” written during his incarceration in Danbury.

01BERRIGAN-A1-sub-master180h
Father Berrigan served time for acts of civil disobedience.

In “My Father,” he wrote:

I sit here in the prison ward
nervously dickering with my ulcer
a half-tamed animal
raising hell in its living space

But in 500 lines the poem talks as well about the politics of resistance, memories of childhood terror and, most of all, the overbearing weight of his dead father:

I wonder if I ever loved him
if he ever loved us
if he ever loved me.

The father was Thomas William Berrigan, a man full of words and grievances who got by as a railroad engineer, labor union officer and farmer. He married Frida Fromhart and had six sons with her. Daniel, the fourth, was born on May 9, 1921, in Virginia, Minn.

When he was a young boy, the family moved to a farm near Syracuse to be close to his father’s family.

In his autobiography, “To Dwell in Peace,” Daniel Berrigan described his father as “an incendiary without a cause,” a subscriber to Catholic liberal periodicals and the frustrated writer of poems of no distinction.

“Early on,” he wrote, “we grew inured, as the price of survival, to violence as a norm of existence. I remember, my eyes open to the lives of neighbors, my astonishment at seeing that wives and husbands were not natural enemies.”
Battles With the Church

Born with weak ankles, Daniel could not walk until he was 4. His frailty spared him the heavy lifting demanded of his brothers; instead he helped his mother around the house. Thus he seemed to absorb not only his father’s sense of life’s unfairness but also an intimate knowledge of how a man’s rage can play out in the victimization of women.

At an early age, he wrote, he believed that the church condoned his father’s treatment of his mother. Yet he wanted to be a priest. After high school he earned a bachelor’s degree in 1946 from St. Andrew-on-Hudson, a Jesuit seminary in Hyde Park, N.Y., and a master’s from Woodstock College in Baltimore in 1952. He was ordained that year.

Sent for a year of study and ministerial work in France, he met some worker-priests who gave him “a practical vision of the Church as she should be,” he wrote. Afterward he spent three years at the Jesuits’ Brooklyn Preparatory School, teaching theology and French, while absorbing the poetry of Robert Frost, E. E. Cummings and the 19th-century Jesuit Gerard Manley Hopkins. His own early work often combined elements of nature with religious symbols.

But he was not to become a pastoral poet or live the retiring life he had imagined. His ideas were simply turning too hot, sometimes even for friends and mentors like Dorothy Day, the co-founder of the Catholic Worker Movement, and the Trappist intellectual Thomas Merton.

At Le Moyne College in Syracuse, where he was a popular professor of New Testament studies from 1957 to 1963, Father Berrigan formed friendships with his students that other faculty members disapproved of, inculcating in them his ideas about pacifism and civil rights. (One student, David Miller, became the first draft-card burner to be convicted under a 1965 law.)

Father Berrigan was effectively exiled in 1965, after angering the hawkish Cardinal Francis Spellman in New York. Besides Father Berrigan’s work in organizing antiwar groups like the interdenominational Clergy and Laymen Concerned About Vietnam, there was the matter of the death of Roger La Porte, a young man with whom Father Berrigan said he was slightly acquainted. To protest American involvement in Southeast Asia, Mr. La Porte set himself on fire outside the United Nations building in November 1965.

Soon, according to Father Berrigan, “the most atrocious rumors were linking his death to his friendship with me.” He spoke at a service for Mr. La Porte, and soon thereafter the Jesuits, widely believed to have been pressured by Cardinal Spellman, sent him on a “fact finding” mission among poor workers in South America. An outcry from Catholic liberals brought him back after only three months, enough time for him to have been radicalized even further by the facts he had found.

For the Jesuits, Father Berrigan was both a magnet to bright young seminarians and a troublemaker who could not be kept in any one faculty job too long.

At one time or another he held faculty positions or ran programs at Union Seminary, Loyola University New Orleans, Columbia, Cornell and Yale. Eventually he settled into a long tenure at Fordham, the Jesuit university in the Bronx, where for a time he had the title of poet in residence.

Father Berrigan was released from the Danbury penitentiary in 1972; the Jesuits, alarmed at his failing health, managed to get him out early. He then resumed his travels.

After visiting the Middle East, he bluntly accused Israel of “militarism” and the “domestic repressions” of Palestinians. His remarks angered many American Jews. “Let us call this by its right name,” wrote Rabbi Arthur Hertzberg, himself a contentious figure among religious scholars: “old-fashioned theological anti-Semitism.”

Nor was Father Berrigan universally admired by Catholics. Many faulted him for not singling out repressive Communist states in his diatribes against the world order, and later for not lending his voice to the outcry over sexual abuse by priests. There was also a sense that his notoriety was a distraction from the religious work that needed to be done.

Not the least of his long-running battles was with the church hierarchy. He was scathing about the shift to conservatism under Pope John Paul II and the “company men” he appointed to high positions.

Much of Father Berrigan’s later work was concentrated on helping AIDS patients in New York City. In 2012, he appeared in Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan to support the Occupy Wall Street protest.

He also devoted himself to writing biblical studies. He felt a special affinity for the Hebrew prophets, especially Jeremiah, who was chosen by God to warn of impending disaster and commanded to keep at it, even though no one would listen for 40 years.

A brother, Jerry, died in July at 95, and another brother, Philip, died in 2002 at 79.

Father Berrigan seemed to reach a poet’s awareness of his place in the scheme of things, and that of his brother Philip, who left the priesthood for a married life of service to the poor and spent a total of 11 years in prison for disturbing the peace in one way or another before his death. While they both still lived, Daniel Berrigan wrote:

My brother and I stand like the fences
of abandoned farms, changed times
too loosely webbed against
deicide homicide
A really powerful blow
would bring us down like scarecrows.
Nature, knowing this, finding us mildly useful
indulging also
her backhanded love of freakishness
allows us to stand.

Christopher Mele contributed reporting.

A version of this article appears in print on May 1, 2016, on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: Daniel J. Berrigan, Defiant Priest Who Preached Pacifism, Dies at 94. Order Reprints| Today’s Paper|Subscribe

Obama in Charleston July 12, 2015

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, History, Race, Racism, Religion.
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Roger’s note: I found this article to be particularly insightful with respect to the underlying and cynical political underpinnings in the rhetoric and strategy of the snake oil salesman who is the president of the United States.

Based as it is in the concept of “grace,” President Obama’s eulogy on June 26, 2015, for the Reverend Clementa Pinckney, pastor of the Emanuel AME Methodist Church, was framed to be moving . But at the same time it was crafted not to rock the ship of state by steering it safely through the troubled political waters of the controversial issues raised by the murders of the Reverend Pinckney and eight of his parishioners. Moving yet politically safe is the keynote of the eulogy.

In this respect the eulogy follows the rhetorical pattern of other speeches Obama has given in the past, most notably the 2008 Philadelphia speech on race. The pattern of these speeches is one in which Obama touches on key issues—poverty, race, gun violence, etc—and then does not propose concrete policy initiatives to deal with the issues, even as a way of educating the public on the specific route to justice we should be taking, no matter what the political obstacles. Instead, he offers us consolation and, of course, his trademark “hope.” That is, he sentimentalizes the issues: “…an open heart,” the president tells us at the end of the eulogy, “That, more than any particular policy or analysis, is what’s called upon right now, I think.” So while earlier in the speech he insists that “To settle for symbolic gestures without following up with the hard work of more lasting change — that’s how we lose our way again,” the eulogy, devoid of any policy recommendations to follow, is no more than a symbolic gesture.

In the case of the murders at Emanuel, the president offers us the consolation and hope of “grace,” which he tells us “according to the Christian tradition [cannot be] earned.” In point of fact, the president is wrong here. It is only a segment of the Christian tradition, the Protestant tradition, in which grace cannot be earned. For the 76.7 million Catholics in the U.S. (a significant number of whom are Black) grace must be earned, through penance. And Catholics, of course, are the first Christians. How significantly different would the eulogy have been had Obama pursued this avenue to grace? For, indeed, there is much actual penance in the form of restorative justice that the United States needs to do.

We should have no doubts that the killings of the Reverend Pinckney and the eight parishioners of the Emanuel AME Methodist Church on June 17, 2015, are part of the ongoing history of lynching of Black people in the U.S. In the present, these wanton killings of Black adults and children have most often been carried out by the police acting in the name of the law: Amadou Diallo, Yvette Smith, Eric Garner, Eleanor Bumpurs, Michael Brown, Tarika Wilson, Walter Scott, Tamir Rice, to name but a few. But they have also been carried out by white vigilantes as in the present case, where Cynthia Hurd, Susie Jackson, Ethel Lance, DePayne Middleton-Doctor, Tywanza Sanders, Daniel L. Simmons, Sr., poeticsimperialismSharonda Coleman-Singleton, and Myra Thompson were lynched alongside Clementa Pinckney. Recently as well, there have been others: James Byrd, Jr., tied to a pickup truck and dragged to death in Texas in 1998 by white racists, comes to mind; and, preceding the recent murders by police in several U.S. cities and by Dylann Roof in Charleston, the lynching of Trayvon Martin by vigilante George Zimmerman on February 26, 2012, stands out. But these few names only represent the multitude of Black lynchings, past and present.

Yet I have not heard any official or mainstream media commentary refer to the AME murders, or any of the killings I’ve referenced, as part of an ongoing history of “lynching?” Nor, while mentioning the history of racial violence in the most general terms, did the president reflect on this specific history in his eulogy. Why not? The reason would seem to be that the U.S. is continually in denial of its own continuing violent history, a denial that acknowledges this history but very generally, almost abstractly, distancing it from us as a way of not coming to grips with it in the present, a denial that works against real reform.

In his eulogy, President Obama referred to slavery as “our original sin.” An implicit effect of Obama’s equating the national “original sin” with slavery is that it reinforces the classic black/white binary. While this binary serves to emphasize a key strain of U.S. history, it simultaneously serves to erase other key components of a continuing history of imperial and colonial violence. In fact, our original sin was not slavery but Native American genocide and the theft of Native land.   This genocidal theft was the very ground of slavery, both literally and figuratively. But the U.S. does not want or cannot afford to admit that it is a settler colony.

In addition to Native genocide and continued colonialism in Indian country under the regime of federal Indian law, in addition to the legacy of slavery and the fact that 150 years after the Civil War Blacks along with Native Americans remain at the bottom of the economic ladder, the U. S. has continued to deny, under the myth of American exceptionalism, which informs all the president’s speeches, its colonial-imperial past and present in Latin America and the Middle East. If we are going to speak in religious terms, as the president chose to do in Charleston, the U.S. has a multitude of “sins” for which to atone both at home and abroad, where it continues to violate international law with undeclared drone warfare that is killing civilians like those who were murdered in church in Charleston.

Perhaps, then, if we followed the Catholic Christian tradition, in which there is also a strong tradition of action for social justice, we might do “penance,” and thereby earn our grace, by fighting for actual policy initiatives: gun control, reparations in the form of economic development for the official theft of labor and land owed the Black and Native communities, the end of deportations for undocumented workers, a living wage, permanent voting rights, equal pay for women, and total LGBTI equality under the Constitution. The implementation of such policies, indeed placing them at the top of the national political agenda, would go a long way to ending the psychological and social conditions that continue to foster lynching in the U.S, conditions that devalue not only Black lives but the lives of other marginalized people of all races, ethnicities, and sexual identities.

This tradition of action for social justice is also a part of the tradition of the Black Protestant Church, which the president references in the eulogy. In that Church this tradition is represented not only by Clementa Pinckney but by such ministers as the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, whom presidential candidate Obama jettisoned in his Philadelphia speech by taking out of context Wright’s just criticism of the United States’ history of violence at home and abroad; that is, by erasing Wright’s taking exception with American exceptionalism.

In the eulogy, Obama develops his meditation on grace by first noting , with admiration bordering on awe, that the families of the fallen forgave the killer at his arraignment hearing: “The alleged killer could have never anticipated the way the families of the fallen would respond when they saw him in court — in the midst of unspeakable grief, with words of forgiveness. He couldn’t imagine that.”

In contrast to Obama’s praise for this act of forgiveness, on the June 24, 2015, Michelangelo Signorile satellite radio show on Serius XM Progress, two days before Obama’s eulogy, Mark Thompson—Black activist, minister, and host of his own show Make It Plain on the same channel—commented skeptically on the time and place of this expression of forgiveness: “What I as a Christian minister can’t understand and what no other Christian minister I know can understand is how you announce forgiveness less than 48 hours after your loved ones have been taken out by Dylann Roof…. it is humanly impossible with all the stages of grief that have been codified and studied ad nauseam…to make that kind of statement credibly that soon.”

Moreover, Thompson pointed out, to make the statement of forgiveness at a “bond hearing” is particularly inappropriate “because that opens the door for legal maneuvering on the part of his counsel.” Thus for Thompson, and he is not alone in this, the time and place of this expression of forgiveness by the bereaved, not forgiveness itself, suggests that the event “was orchestrated, staged and choreographed” in order to suppress potential aggressive protests by the Black community of Charleston, of the kind that had just taken place in Ferguson and Baltimore over the police lynchings of Michael Brown and Freddie Gray (and Thompson made it plain in this interview that he understands these killings, along with those in Charleston and the others I have referenced, as part of the continuing history of lynching): “Nikki Haley,” Thompson remarks, “gets up there and says we’re not like Baltimore…which was insulting to the people of Baltimore, maybe you didn’t have that because people are still in shock, maybe you didn’t have that because you all choreographed, you made a phone call and said to some relatives you all need to come down to this bond hearing and say forgive this man,” though, Thompson notes, “I’m not saying I know that’s what happened but… we just really do not understand how that came to be, the timing of it, highly, highly, highly inappropriate….”

The timing, Thompson suggests, also served to present a comforting , indeed subservient, image of Black people to the nation: “It’s also part of the subjugation of our people…some people cannot feel comfortable in America unless we as Black people are always in this passive and submissive role….” The immediate expression of forgiveness by the families of those murdered at Emmanuel AME , then, is the perfect emotional antidote to the anger of the protestors in Ferguson and Baltimore and in fact to all the acts of Black resistance that are a crucial part of American history and of which the Emmanuel AME and the Black Church as a whole are a part. This act of forgiveness might remind some of us of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s antebellum bestseller Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which presented a sentimental picture of a forgiving Christian Black populace in a U.S. caught up the in the antebellum violence of slavery and of Black and white abolitionist resistance to and rebellion against this “peculiar institution.”

This is exactly the comforting picture that Obama’s eulogy presents with its theme of forgiveness through unearned grace. At the end of the eulogy, Obama sang, in fine voice, quite movingly, Amazing Grace, and once again we might be reminded of the sentimental power of Stowe’s novel, even as we understand its hallucinatory vision of race relations in the United States.

Social critic Jon Stewart got to the heart of our continuing hallucination about the conjuncture of race and violence, when, a day after the Emanuel lynchings, he spoke about them on The Daily Show:

“I honestly have nothing other than just sadness once again that we have to peer into the abyss of the depraved violence that we do to each other and the nexus of a just gaping racial wound that will not heal, yet we pretend doesn’t exist. And I’m confident, though, that by acknowledging it, by staring into that and seeing it for what it is, we still won’t do jack s—. Yeah. That’s us….And we’re going to keep pretending like, ‘I don’t get it. What happened? This one guy lost his mind.’ But we are steeped in that culture in this country and we refuse to recognize it, and I cannot believe how hard people are working to discount it.”

Obama’s eulogy does the hard work of denial by at once “acknowledging” the continuing U.S. history of racist violence against Blacks (though he is careful not to call this continuing violence by the name of “lynching”), by “staring into that and seeing it for what it is,” but in the same breath denying this history by sentimentalizing it and turning policy into morality, most pointedly in the moment when he speaks about gun violence:

“For too long, we’ve been blind to the unique mayhem that gun violence inflicts upon this nation…. The vast majority of Americans — the majority of gun owners — want to do something about this. We see that now. (Applause.) And I’m convinced that by acknowledging the pain and loss of others, even as we respect the traditions and ways of life that make up this beloved country — by making the moral choice to change, we express God’s grace.”

This is vintage Obama: the problem of gun violence is at once articulated and solved in a virtual reality where the “vast majority of Americans—the majority of gun owners, expressing “God’s grace” make “the moral choice to change.” No policy needed; the “something” that “the vast majority of Americans…want to do” about gun violence is not specified, precisely because there is no consensus on the issue. It follows that if one does not voice an actual policy on guns, there are no hard choices of the kind, for example, that Australia (another frontier colonial state) made in instituting rigorous gun laws in 1996 after a lone gunman, Martin Bryant, went on a shooting rampage that left 35 people dead and 23 wounded in Tasmania. Indeed, Obama has cited Australia’s response to this massacre favorably in the past. Here, however, within the scope of God’s grace, the U.S. can apparently have its political cake and eat it too “by acknowledging the pain and loss of others, even as we respect the traditions and ways of life that make up this beloved country.” We can, it appears, control guns without disturbing “the traditions and ways of life” of gun owners. This is magical thinking, which clearly ignores the NRA and its vast lobbying power.

If the audience hasn’t been moved by this sentimental appeal, and apparently it has been if the applause the appeal calls forth is any indication, then the president’s invocation of “this beloved country” functions rhetorically to conjure his imaginary consensus.

At worst, one might be tempted to think that Obama’s eulogy was cynical in its turn away from policy, that is, from the major political form of accountability, to a sentimentality that mimics the precipitous act of forgiveness of the bereaved in Charleston. As Mark Thompson points out such acts of forgiveness, if they are to come at all, typically come at the sentencing hearing after the trial has been concluded. But there has been no trial as yet, not simply of the killer but of the country from which the killer emerged, from us: no testimony, no rigorous analysis of the evidence, no accountability, no verdict, no punishment or “penance” if you will.

We can be certain that the killer will be put on trial and a verdict rendered in due time. But it is highly doubtful, given our powers of denial, that the country has the will to face its own day of judgment.

Eric Cheyfitz is Ernest I. White Professor of American Studies and Humane Letters at Cornell University. He is the author of The Poetics of Imperialism.

The Unknown Whistleblower June 4, 2015

Posted by rogerhollander in Asia, Genocide, History, Imperialism, Torture, Vietnam, War, Whistle-blowing.
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Roger’s note: torture and corrupt imperial aggression didn’t begin with George W. Bush (1492 might be a good place to start).  Here we have documented Vietnam War the torture regime (under presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon) and the beginning of the murderous (and counterproductive) doctrine and strategy of massive bombing that is alive and well in Iraq and Syria today (along with its little brother drone killing machine).

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The Secret Origins of the CIA’s Torture Program and the Forgotten Man Who Tried to Expose It

 

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Daniel Ellsberg (left) and his less well known colleague Anthony Russo (r) were charged with theft and unauthorized possession of classified documents under the Espionage Act in 1971, but were eventually acquitted. (File)

The witness reported men being hung by the feet or the thumbs, waterboarded, given electric shocks to the genitals, and suffering from extended solitary confinement in what he said were indescribably inhumane conditions. It’s the sort of description that might have come right out of the executive summary of the Senate torture report released last December. In this case, however, the testimony was not about a “black site” somewhere in the Greater Middle East, nor was it a description from Abu Ghraib, nor in fact from this century at all.

The testimony came from Vietnam; the year was 1968; the witness was Anthony J. Russo, one of the first Americans to report on the systematic torture of enemy combatants by CIA operatives and other U.S. agents in that long-gone war. The acts Russo described became commonplace in the news post-9/11 and he would prove to be an early example of what also became commonplace in our century: a whistleblower who found himself on the wrong side of the law and so was prosecuted for releasing the secret truth about the acts of our government.

Determined to shine a light on what he called “the truth held prisoner,” Russo blew the whistle on American torture policy in Vietnam and on an intelligence debacle at the center of Vietnam decision-making that helped turn that war into the nightmare it was. Neither of his revelations saw the light of day in his own time or ours and while Daniel Ellsberg, his compatriot and companion in revelation, remains a major figure for his role in releasing the Pentagon Papers, Russo is a forgotten man.

That’s too bad. He shouldn’t be forgotten. His is, unfortunately, a story of our times as well as his.

The CIA Interrogation Center, Saigon

Before him sat the enemy.  VC.  Vietcong. He was slender, a decade older than the 28-year-old American, and cautious in his initial responses.  The American offered him a cigarette. “Smoke?”

Anthony Russo liked to befriend his subjects, finding that sharing a cigarette or a beer and congenial conversation could improve an interview’s results.

This man’s all right, Russo thought — unlike the one he had interviewed when he first arrived in Saigon. That prisoner hadsat before him, quivering in fear, pleading for his life.“Are you going to kill me?” the distraught man had said repeatedly, his thumbs red and bulbous from being strung up.

Torture was not something Russo had anticipated when he took the job. A civilian with a rank equivalent to major working for the RAND Corporation, he had arrived in the South Vietnamese capital on February 22, 1965, and was briefed on his mission. Russo was to meet the enemy face-to-face and figure out what made them tick. On that first day, he could hear General Richard Stilwell, chief of staff of Military Assistance Command Vietnam (MACV), barking orders from the next room: “You get every goddamn plane in the air that you can!”

Russo thought the war would be over in a few weeks,months at worst.

Instead of the limited conflict he expected, years slipped by. Bombs fell, villages were decimated, the fabric of Vietnamese life assaulted. Russo persisted with his interviews ofVietcong prisoners, witnessing the after-effects of torture in nearly every instance.

It’s hard to pinpoint just when the shift occurred in the young man who came to Southeast Asia to “promote democracy.” But as one tour of duty extended to two, contact with the enemy changed not their hearts and minds, but his. On the eve of the 1968 Tet Offensive, he returned to the United States intent on challenging the war, a chance he would get, helping his friend and RAND co-worker Daniel Ellsbergwith the Pentagon Papers.

That secret history of U.S. decision-making in Vietnam, a massive compilation of internal government memoranda and analyses, had been quietly commissioned by Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara in 1967 to assess what had gone wrong in Vietnam. Ellsberg leaked the Papers to the press in mid-1971, setting off a political firestorm and First Amendment crisis. He would be indicted on charges of espionage, conspiracy, and theft of government property, and would face a maximum penalty of 115 years in prison. Charges were also brought against Russo, who was suspected of complicity, after he refused to testify before a grand jury. He was jailed for 47 days for contempt and faced a possible sentence of 35 years in prison if convicted.

Ellsberg’s leak led to a Supreme Court decision on prior restraint, a landmark First Amendment case. Though all the charges were ultimately dropped, the leak and its aftermath had major political fallout, contributing to the demise of the presidency of Richard Nixon and forming a dramatic chapter on the path to U.S. defeat in Vietnam.

Ellsberg became a twentieth-century hero, applauded in print and film, his name nearly synonymous with the Pentagon Papers, but Russo, the young accomplice who goaded Ellsberg to go public, has been nearly forgotten. Yet he was, according to Ellsberg, the first person to document the systematic torture of enemy combatants in Vietnam. If no one knows this, it’s because his report on the subject remains buried in the vaults of the RAND Corporation, the think tank that did research for the Pentagon in Vietnam. Similarly, while the use of unprecedented airpower against the civilian populations of Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia inspired international calls for war crimes trials in the 1970s, Russo’s exposure of the fabrication of data that propped up that air war remains but a footnote in Vietnam War historiography, unknown to all but a handful of academics.

He has remained “the other conspirator.” Ellsberg later conceded that he probably wouldn’t have thought of releasing the Papers if Russo hadn’t prodded him to “put that out” and helped copy them in a series of all-night sessions. But Russo would take a backseat to Ellsberg, who had snuck the massive set of documents out of RAND headquarters and released them to the New York Times, the Washington Post, and 18 other news organizations.

The two of them would become the antiwar movement’s odd couple. Ellsberg was articulate, suave, and fashionable; Russo opted for hippie attire, long hair, and impossibly bushy sideburns, a style of dress that fit with his growing political radicalism. Russo and his attorney, Leonard Weinglass, devised a bold — some said reckless — defense strategy focused on using expert witness testimony to put the U.S. prosecution of the war on trial. Weinglass would emerge as a star attorney on the case, even — in the opinion of some observers — eclipsing Ellsberg’s senior lawyer, Leonard Boudin. But his client kept getting into trouble: scrawling a wiseacre comment on evidence before the court, handing a prosecution witness a press release that accused him of war crimes, peppering his statements to the press with movement jargon. In the end, Russo’s leftwing antics would help marginalize him and bury the story he had to tell.

The Think Tank

It all started in a nondescript mid-century building on Main Street in sunny Santa Monica, California. There, the RAND Corporation, a quasi-private think tank with a cozy relationship with the Air Force and Washington power brokers, dreamed up study projects for the Department of Defense.

RAND, an acronym for “research and development,” was launched in 1946 as a private research arm of the Army Air Forces, whose successor, the Air Force, would remain its primary financial backer and client for years to come.  The think tank’s work ranged from weapons development to advanced strategic thinking on how to wage — or avert — nuclear war.  RAND theorists would set the parameters for strategic defense thinking for decades, with the likes of Herman Kahn, once dubbed the “heavyweight of the megadeath intellectuals”; Thomas Schelling, Nobel laureate in economics for his work on game theory and the originator of “tacit bargaining”; and Albert Wohlstetter, the godfather of RAND’s nuclear strategists who devised the concepts of “second strike,” “fail safe,” and what he called the “delicate balance of terror” (aka “deterrence”).

In 1961, as President John F. Kennedy launched a counterinsurgency effort that would see its first expression in Vietnam, the think tank took on the study of guerilla war, falling into an easy alliance with the Department of Defense and Robert S. McNamara, the numbers man at its head. Thinking he could apply a systems analysis approach to national defense, Secretary of Defense McNamara had turned to the leader in the field for ideas and manpower. From RAND, he recruited heavily to help lead the counterinsurgency charge in Vietnam, creating a team popularly known as “McNamara’s Whiz Kids.” And he turned to RAND for an answer to an essential strategic question: “What makes the Vietcong tick?”

“M&M” would become the institution’s shorthand for the Vietcong Motivation and Morale Study that resulted, an attempt to apply social science to the study of enemy motivation. Russo was eager to join the effort. Elizabeth Gibbs, who married him in 1964, said that her young husband was preoccupied with the threat of guerilla war and wanted to see action on the front lines of the counterinsurgency effort.

Fascinated by flight, Russo had pursued aeronautical engineering in a cooperative work-study program run by Virginia Polytechnic Institute and NASA’s Langley Research Center, where he worked on the first Mercury space capsule.  He then went to graduate school at Princeton, specializing in plasma physics. After just a year there, however, he took up the study of national defense policy at its Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, receiving master’s degrees in both engineering and public affairs in 1964. An ambitious academic, he also exhibited an unruly, prankster side.  In one of his moments of youthful excess — a story he liked to tell — he cemented a commode to a Virginia war memorial, an act that might be considered a foreshadowing of things to come.

At Princeton, Russo studied under four men he called “heavyweights”: Oskar Morgenstern, an originator with Schelling of game theory; Cold War theorists Klaus Knorr and George Kennan; and Richard Falk, an expert on international law and the lone dove among Russo’s mentors. Falk argued against the move to RAND. But Russo, impressed by the think tank’s influence in the highest echelons of U.S. policymaking, jumped at the opportunity. Within six months he had secured an assignment to Vietnam.

Russo arrived in Saigon in February 1965 and met Leon Goure, his boss and future nemesis, just as the U.S. bombing campaign against North Vietnam was beginning and only two weeks before the first United States Marines landed at Danang.  His job was to meet the enemy.

The M&M

“How many people in your village work for the Front?”

“Everyone in the village works for the Front,” the prisoner responded in Vietnamese, translated by the young man at Russo’s side.  His village was in the Cu Chi district, an area near Saigon under Vietcong control. Russo would later describe it as the birthplace of southern resistance to the French and then American armies. Despite their vastly superior arms, the South Vietnamese Army and its American allies rarely ventured into the prisoner’s village for fear of the VC’s deadly resistance methods.  

“How was your village defended?” he asked.

“It had pit traps with bamboo spikes, grenade booby traps.  It was surrounded by bamboo hedges,” the prisoner responded and then explained in detail how the villagers organized their resistance.

Physically fit and tall, Russo towered over the former cadre.  He felt anything but complacent, however, about the enemy he faced, having barely escaped a bomb that had recently exploded in a Saigon restaurant where he was planning to have dinner.

“Why does the Vietcong use terrorism against women and children?” Russo asked.  Until now, he had been careful to call the enemy military by its homegrown name, “the Front,” rather than the pejorative “Vietcong.” Emotion must have caused him to break protocol.

He was part of the second M&M study team. Joseph Zasloff and John Donnell, analysts from the initial team, had reported their results in Washington at a meeting attended by Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs John T. McNaughton and Henry Rowen (who would later head RAND). They described the Vietcong as a unified, disciplined army that already acted as an alternative government in large swaths of SouthVietnam with widespread support from the population, prompting a shocked McNaughton to comment that it sounded as if the U.S. had signed up with the wrong — and losing — side. Daniel Ellsberg, who then worked for McNaughton, witnessed the exchange.

The Zasloff-Donnell report, however, came too late for an audience that had already made up its mind. The previous March, President Lyndon Johnson’s National Security Advisor McGeorge Bundy had urged an expanded war even as the president campaigned for a full term in office with a promise to keep American soldiers out of Vietnam. Meanwhile, within the military, a struggle for dominance was underway, with Air Force Chief of Staff Curtis LeMay, instrumental in the founding of RAND, agitating for a bigger role for air power.

Then came the Tonkin Gulf incident in August 1964. As presented by President Lyndon Johnson, the destroyer USS Maddox was innocently sailing through the Gulf of Tonkin when attacked by North Vietnamese torpedo boats followed, two nights later, by a second attack on the Maddox and the USS Turner Joy.  Johnson orderedmilitary action “in reply,” and Congress quickly passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution giving the president carte blanche to repeatedly intensify the war. The claim of two separate attacks would, however, prove untrue, as Daniel Ellsberg would attest. It had been his first night on the job in the Pentagon.

At RAND, the stage was set for Leon Goure, an analyst acclaimed for his work on Soviet civil defense preparations. Goure had toured Vietnam and visited RAND’s Saigon operation in 1964. Upon his return to the U.S., he proposed that the M&M project be redefined with a critical twist. No longer would it focus solely on an assessment of enemy motivation and morale. It would now identify what kinds of weaponry would be most likely to demoralize that enemy, with an emphasis on air power.

A meeting with his friend LeMay cemented the deal. He would later report that “by the strings he pulled, LeMay assured continuation of the project” under Goure’s lead. At that time, the Air Force still provided two-thirds of RAND’s funding, a connection the new lead analyst made no attempt to hide.

The Answer Is Always Bombing

Susan Morrell could scarcely believe it. As RAND’s Saigon-based administrative assistant, it fell to her to pick up her new boss at the airport on his arrival. Making the Vietnam version of small talk on the way back to town, she asked Goure if he planned to use the existing protocol for enemy interviews or wanted to start over from scratch.

“I’ve got the answer right here,” he responded with a pat on his briefcase.

“What do you mean?” asked Morrell.

“When the Air Force is footing the bill, the answer is always bombing.”

Decades later, Morrell told RAND historian Mai Elliott that it was a moment seared into her memory and in those early days she wasn’t the only RAND staffer to observe Goure’s special affinity for the Air Force. At their first meeting, for instance, Russo remembered Goure commenting on that service’s unhappiness with the Zasloff-Donnell study.  Zasloff himself was still in Saigon when Goure arrived and would soon accuse his successor of pandering to the Air Force. Half a century later, in a phone interview just before his death, Zasloff still lamented that his intelligence data hadn’t changed the course of the war and Goure’s had.

Goure’s work on Soviet civil defense was then widely known. In 1961, he claimed that the Soviets had trained 50 million citizens in civil defense procedures, were readying a massive system of bomb shelters to ride out a nuclear conflagration, and so were preparing to absorb a preemptive nuclear strike. His research seemed to have frightening implications: U.S. reliance on what was then called mutual assured destruction, or MAD, to stop a nuclear war suddenly appeared insufficient. The Soviets could strike preemptively if they thought national survival after a nuclear attack was possible. Kennedy stepped into the heated debate in July 1961 with a call for a $207 million appropriation for civil defense. That October, he began to encourage Americans to build their own private shelters for protection from nuclear fallout. Goure became a sought after expert.

In fact, his work would be challenged by New York Times journalist Harrison Salisbury, who questioned Goure’s sources, found observers who vigorously challenged his conclusions, and made his own 12,000-mile trip across the Soviet Union and found them unsubstantiated.  But nothing, it seemed, could crack Goure’s reputation in Washington.

The year 1961 had been a seminal moment for Russo, too.  His lifelong friend and future technology consultant William Grossmann recalled them driving to their NASA jobs together, one day in Russo’s white 1959 Ford convertible, the next in Grossmann’s white Chevy convertible — and on weekends, sharing heady conversation and wooing girls. The two like-minded Southerners had each taken stands against segregation, while worrying about the bomb, totalitarianism, and the “containment” of Communism. They were impressed that Kennedy had forced the Russians to stand down in the Cuban missile crisis. The same, both believed, could happen in Vietnam. On arrival in Saigon, Russo wrote Grossmann that the Vietnamese “are going to have to get used to it. We’re going to have to be the policemen for a while.”

Russo found himself at the epicenter of American intelligence-gathering in Vietnam. RAND’s Saigon villa became the requisite “prestige stop” for anyone with an interest in the war. By day, it served as a command center; at night, it hosted dinner parties for visiting luminaries, high-ranking figures in the military, the CIA, and members of the press. Goure was the star attraction. In that initial critical period of massive escalation, he provided the perfect mix of optimistic analysis and an engaging personality and so became the “go to” intelligence man in town.

Though Goure wrote research memoranda, RAND’s usual stock in trade, it was on the briefing circuit that he truly shone. His message, reported directly to Westmoreland,the top military commander in Vietnam, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Secretary of Defense McNamara, and others at the Pentagon, was unambiguous: the Vietcong were losing their resolve in the face of U.S. military might, especially airpower. Goure quickly established himself as the Air Force’s best pitchman.

It’s hard to overstate his influence. McNamara was so enamored of his message that, on first hearing him in June 1965, he offered to up the M&M budget on the spot from $100,000 to $1,000,000. As one analyst later quipped, the secretary of defense “lapped up Goure’s analysis like good scotch.” Journalists repeated his claim that the Vietcong were heading for defeat as the daily body count became a staple of war coverage.

Russo, who attended some of Goure’s Saigon briefings, remembered how he liked to brag that RAND had “the best damned intelligence in Saigon.” It would take some time for Russo to realize that his boss’s prescription for military success didn’t match the data.

The Cadre from Cu Chi

Intent on answering McNamara’s question about what made the Vietcong tick, Russo focused on his interviews with enemy prisoners. With full access and a small team of Vietnamese interviewers under his supervision, he visited detention sites all over South Vietnam, including the CIA’s National Interrogation Center in Saigon. Of all the interviews he conducted, the one with that cadre from Cu Chi would most deeply challenge his assumptions about Vietnam. He kept a copy of it, which he published in the left-leaning magazine Ramparts in October 1972, and spoke about it whenever he could, including at his Pentagon Papers trial.

He never knew the prisoner’s name; he was identified in the transcript only as AG132. Over the course of two days in May 1965, Russo sat in his cell listening to his views on Vietnamese history, the political forces at play in his country, and Vietcong organizing strategy and tactics. When the cadre blamed the Americans for the deaths of women and children, Russo took a new tack, initiating what he called a “friendly chat” about world politics, the American role in Vietnam, and the civil rights movement in the U.S.

“Even though I don’t know first hand what it means to be burned out, pillaged, and raped, I grew up knowing it had happened to my ancestors,” Russo would later say.  While there is no record of how Russo described his personal history to that cadre, his comments to me years after in private interviews and public conversation provide a window onto what he might well have said. Unemployed and with time on his hands in 1990, Russo held daily court at the Boulangerie, a cafe on Main Street in Santa Monica, just blocks from the RAND Corporation. There, he regaled a small audience with old stories and political analysis.

With a twinkle in his eye, he would say that the short answer to why he got involved with the Pentagon Papers was that the British had burned his hometown of Holland, Virginia, to the ground. He was proud to call it a hotbed of sedition.

While he liked to portray himself as the descendent of America’s first revolutionaries, his Civil War heritage was harder to reconcile. Race was the first issue to challenge his personal worldview. Russo attended a segregated high school and then hung out with black friends he had met working at the local golf course.  By the time he got to Virginia Polytechnic, the battle over court-mandated school integration had engulfed the state, with Senator Harry F. Byrd leading the segregationist charge. When Russo got Lionel Hampton to play for a school dance he organized, the university dean, anticipating that a black musician would attract a mixed crowd, demanded that the audience be segregated. Russo defied the order and black and white attendees packed the event.

“We integrated Burrus Hall,” Russo would say.  “I see that as my first political act.  We stood up for justice.”

He had a way of telling and retelling the stories that were most important to him, so I suspect that he told the Cu Chi cadre of his own experience with civil rights in the South. And perhaps, even under those circumstances — and even through a translator –made the prisoner laugh, as he had a way of telling a spirited tale.

Whatever he said, it appeared to affect the cadre as he hoped it would for he scribbled in the margin of his notebook, “The chat proved to be very successful and the subject’s attitude changed visibly.” Their talk then turned back to the situation at hand and the cadre accused the Americans and their South Vietnamese allies of blocking the election, agreed upon in the 1954 Geneva Accords that ended the French War, an election which would almost assuredly have brought Communist leader Ho Chi Minh to power and reunified Vietnam. A group of schoolteachers from his village, AG132 told Russo, had been imprisoned simply for writing a petition demanding those elections and peace.

The prisoner added that local government officials were, in his opinion, directed and controlled by the Americans who had the same intentions as the French colonialists before them. “The concrete evidence,”said the cadre, “makes the Americans identical to the French. But much more clever.”  He summed the situation up this way: “The aims of the Americans are very nice. They fight for freedom and equality. It is very nice to talk about a free world, but I have not seen any good deeds. All I saw was evil.”

By the end of the interview, AG132 had confronted every issue that would later prove troublesome to Russo, including the indiscriminant bombing campaigns, the use of chemical defoliants, and torture.

The cadre’s analysis clearly unsettled the young American, who saw himself as a liberator, not an occupier. In an interview with filmmaker Peter Davis, he would later acknowledge how disturbed he was when the prisoner insisted that the Vietnamese hated the Americans and admitted that he then tried to defend his country, to show that “everything about America wasn’t bad.”

“He was very disdainful of me, but I was fascinated by him,” Russo said.  By the end, “I had a great deal of admiration for him. He recited a poem for me. It was very moving to hear him recite this poem right in the middle of this interrogation room in a jail where I knew people had been tortured, if not killed.”

AG132, Russo later testified, had been tortured on multiple occasions. Historical research, including the work of Alfred McCoy, an expert on CIA torture practices, buttresses Russo’s statements about the brutal treatment of Vietcong prisoners. McCoy, for instance, quotes a military intelligence veteran who told a 1971 House subcommittee that, during his 18-month stint in Vietnam, not a single Vietcong suspect had survived the interrogations he witnessed.

Russo’s interview with AG132 took place only three months after he landed in Saigon. Though he would return to it again and again in the ensuing years, some time would pass before he became convinced that he was actually on the side of the aggressor.

His wife remembers him still defending U.S. intentions in Vietnam in the spring of 1965. By that summer, however, Russo and other RAND analysts were questioning their boss’s methodology and intentions. They still found themselves reaching conclusions nearly identical to those of Zasloff and Donnell: that the Vietcong represented peasant aspirations and weren’t likely to be bested by air power or any other kind of U.S. military action.

On a sweltering June day in 1965, Russo and Goure were together when word came in that the most powerful bombers in the U.S. arsenal, B-52s, had been approved for use in Vietnam. Russo knew airplanes and understood full well the kind of destruction B-52s would bring with them. For Goure, the decision was advocacy put into action and he would extol the B-52’s power to destabilize the enemy in his next report. In it, he was careful to note that civilians should be warned of such bombings by leaflets dropped in advance of a raid to insure against any popular backlash.

A month later, Russo would meet an old man at a detainment center clutching one of those warning leaflets. His village had been warned, just as Goure had said, but the bombers came a day early, wiping out nearly all of its inhabitants. “Why?” he cried.  It was a moment Russo would not forget.

Breaking the Enemy

Torture hadn’t been part of the job description when Russo signed on at RAND.  Of the first victim he met, he said, “I never will forget. He was washed out, looked very sad. He told the translator that he had been hung up by his thumbs and that they beat him real bad. They thought he had thrown a bomb,” though he proclaimed his innocence.

“That was one of the first interviews that I did. It was very sobering. I saw that a person could be broken badly.” The interview tape then goes silent for more than a minute as Russo struggled to regain his composure.

He reported the incident to the American captain who was his contact there only to experience the first of many official brush-offs when it came to torture. Russo said prisoners were tortured “as a matter of course” and reported specific forms of abuse including men being hung by the feet or thumbs, waterboarding, electric shocks to the genitals, and solitary confinement in “a dark cell, a dark, dank, dirty — very dirty cell.”

It is no accident that the torture methods he documented are strikingly similar to those revealed in the December 2014 Senate torture report. Vietnam was the first testing ground for what historian McCoy termed a new paradigm in the practice of torture developed by the CIA. The Agency had launched a multi-billion dollar research program on human cognition in search of techniques to protect U.S. forces in the event of capture by the Soviets. Finding that a potent combination of sensory deprivation and “self-inflicted pain” was more effective than centuries-old methods of physical torture and produced profound psychological regression in their test subjects, the CIA applied the same techniques to enemy interrogation. While they emphasized destruction of the psyche, physical brutalization was also employed. In Vietnam, this included electric shocks, beatings, rape, and the deaths of prisoners in “pump and dump” procedures, named for the process of pumping detainees for information and then dumping their bodies. Russo was witnessing the beginnings of what would become institutionalized CIA torture practices that would span four decades and four continents.

When asked about torture performed by Americans, Russo said a “CIA man” at the National Interrogation Center in Saigon told him in great detail on numerous occasions about the Agency’s torture techniques, including in one case the hanging of a man by his feet while a “piano wire noose was slipped around his genitals.” The CIA operative, he said, grinned as he told him that the prisoner never talked.

Russo documented every instance of torture he encountered. He later wrote that the interview reports were full of “embarrassing stories of atrocities and crimes against humanity” and he argued bitterly with Goure over his boss’s order to “sanitize” the interview transcripts by removing all mention of abuse. Though Russo defied the order, Goure controlled the final drafts.

Then there was the torture paper that Ellsberg has repeatedly said was the first to document American complicity in the routine use of torture and one of three papers that would ultimately get Russo fired. That document was either squashed in internal review or it remains classified, presumably buried somewhere in the think tank’s archives.

There is no reliable information on how much of RAND’s Vietnam-era work still remains off limits to the public. The think tank responded to a 2013 request of mine for Russo’s and other missing reports by saying that the “documents you have requested have not been cleared for public release and are not available.”

Making Russo’s missing torture report public, if it still exists, would provide eyewitness data supporting the burgeoning body of evidence that CIA torture practices have a long and sordid history beginning in Vietnam.

Trouble with the Data

Goure had fabricated his data to emphasize the efficacy and importance of air power and his analysts knew it. At the RAND villa, an open split developed, with Russo leading the group who wanted to expose their boss. He and his roommate, analyst Douglass Scott, spent long nights discussing “what to do about Leon.” Finally, with a third analyst, Russell Betts, they wrote the head of RAND’s Social Science department in the spring of 1966 about the improprieties they had found in Goure’s research methodology.

A succession of three RAND envoys came to Saigon to investigate and by summer a controversy raged on both sides of the Pacific. Russo and Scott had been particularly incensed that Goure signed their names to a February 1966 memorandum that again cited the benefits of air power, which was increasingly targeting rural villages, and proposed that the refugee crisis offered “a major opportunity to pacify” the population. It also pointed out that the chemicals that came to be known as Agent Orange could control movement of the population while also denying food to the guerillas. Russo and Scott fought to get their names removed without success. Around the time their whistleblowing letter hit Santa Monica, Goure amplified his arugument, proposing that the U.S. adopt a deliberate program to generate refugees.

Meanwhile, Goure’s prescriptions for success were being passed up the chain of command. The president’s phone records show McNamara using the February report to offer encouragement to Johnson that the American counterinsurgency operation was working. Influential Washington columnist Drew Pearson would capture Goure’s effect on the president in his famous May 1966 comment: “For the first time [he] sees light at the end of the tunnel.”

At this point, RAND’s leadership knew that Goure’s data, relied upon by both the Pentagon and President Johnson, was questionable at best and decided to pull Goure from the M&M study. The think tank couldn’t, however, get rid of him. He had secured his position with a direct line to the White House through National Security Adviser Walt Rostow, a hawk, architect of Vietnam policy, and staunch Goure supporter. Thanks in part to him, President Johnson, who reportedly sometimes carried a summary of Goure’s conclusions in his pocket for discussions with journalists, would continue to ride a wave of optimism in this period.

Though Russo never let his wife in on his conflict with Goure — he was, Gibbs said, too conscious of his secrecy oath to disclose such problems — she saw a changed man when he visited her in Bangkok on leave in November 1965.He wasmorose and withdrawn. When they returned to Santa Monica at the end of his first tour of duty in September 1966, Russo set to work at RAND headquarters trying to counter the most pernicious aspects of what he’d witnessed. Off work, he took to the hills of Topanga Canyon on his motorcycle, leaving Gibbs home alone. They would soon divorce.

Outside of RAND, the flaws in Goure’s analysis would gradually be noted. Westmoreland expressed his first doubts in late 1965 and McNamara began to worry when the general upped his request for new ground troops to 410,000 that winter. In February 1966, the secretary of defense confided to a few journalists that “no amount of bombing can end the war,” though he continued to maintain a façade of confidence in the war effort.

The bombing levels were by then unprecedented in the history of air power. From March 1965 through November 1968, Operation Rolling Thunder unleashed 800 tons of munitions a day on North Vietnam, a total of a million bombs, rockets, and missiles. Even more bombs were dropped in the South with estimates ranging from seven million to eight million tons of them, not to mention 70 million liters of defoliants, as well as napalmand other anti-personnel weapons.  Then, of course, there was the massive bombing of neighboring Laos and later Cambodia.

Yet victory never came into view. Instead of drawing down, the administration only intensified the air war, sidelining the doubters, including — as he grew ever more disillusioned — McNamara himself. In August 1967, he testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee that the air raids had not broken Vietcong morale and that, short of the “virtual annihilation of North Vietnam and its people,” the air war could not succeed. Johnson quickly forced him out of the administration. At his farewell luncheon, a Johnson aide reported that the secretary of defense’s voice broke and there were tears in his eyes as he spoke of the futility of the air war. Later, he would acknowledge more than two million Vietnamese deaths. 

Knowing the cause was lost, McNamara had by then ordered the production of the Pentagon Papers, the secret history that he hoped would avert future such disasters.

The Second Tour of Duty

Back in Santa Monica, Russo wrote a critical evaluation of the Motivation and Morale Study, which is still classified. He was also drafting an argument against the defoliation program, already in its sixth year, when, in September 1967, he was called back to Vietnam for a six-month tour of duty.

He found Saigon changed — Americanized, overrun with prostitution and corruption, expensive and dirty. Goure at least was gone, removed from the M&M crew in April by RAND’s new president Henry Rowen, who had been at that Zasloff and Donnell debriefing years earlier.

Once again, Russo felt hopeful that fact-based intelligence could rule the day. His cost analysis of defoliation, written in what he called “RAND systemspeak,” showed that while the chemicals sprayed did little to deprive revolutionary forces of food, they were having a profoundly destructive impact on the civilian population.  He estimated that for every pound of food that defoliation denied a guerilla, 100 pounds were denied to civilians. But when he got his moment to brief Westmoreland’s scientific advisor on the subject, he was dismissed in under 15 minutes. Frustrated but undeterred, he set to work disproving a RAND socio-economic study that claimed widespread peasant support for the U.S. backed South Vietnamese army. Again, his work would not be well received.

Russo left Saigon just as the Tet Offensive, a vivid demonstration of the enemy’s resilience, began to unfold on January 30, 1968. He said he could see wrecked planes beneath him as he passed over Danang Air Base.

It’s likely that he wrote the missing torture report in the early months of 1968, a period when the CIA’s use of torture expanded dramatically under the notorious Phoenix Program.

During Russo’s stint in Vietnam, the CIA actually oversaw three separate operations that employed torture: its own interrogation centers, 40 provincial interrogation centers run by Vietnamese with CIA training and supervision, and a training program that schooled 85,000 Vietnamese police in torture techniques, part of a worldwide operation. Russo left Vietnam shortly after the Agency brought the three operations under one counterinsurgency umbrella. The Phoenix Program, designed to destroy the “civilian infrastructure” of the National Liberation Front, would be one of its major operations.

William Colby, the chief of “pacification” in Vietnam who would later become the CIA’s director, informed a House Operations Subcommittee in July 1971 that the Phoenix Program had killed 20,587 Vietcong suspects. Other sources quote figures as much as four times higher. Russo’s paper had done nothing to stop the carnage.

In May 1968, the new head of RAND’s economics department fired him. Associates were told to keep their distance from him during the six-month grace period he was given to find other employment. Ellsberg was the only RAND associate who argued for his reinstatement.  

Meanwhile, though relieved of leadership of the M&M, Goure held onto a job at RAND, even returning to Vietnam in 1968 as head of a new study of enemy infiltration rates. He would finally leave in 1969 to become the director of Soviet studies at the University of Miami. There, he would contribute his “expertise”to another front in the war against Communism: Cuba.

In fact, Goure’s “best damned intelligence” had proved to be an intelligence debacle for the ages. After Ellsberg and Russo took the Pentagon Papers public, Russo was eager to expose one thing that mammoth document hadn’t: how a single think tank under contract to the government and far from the public eye, along with its highly touted expert in counterinsurgency warfare, had disastrously affected policy from behind the scenes.

His two Ramparts exposés (one aptly titled “The RAND Papers”) and his testimony at his trial were generally ignored by the mainstream media. Goure’s reputation remained remarkably unsullied and he would continue to be a player in the formulation of foreign policy. In 1980, for example, he was invited onto a panel of advisers to presidential hopeful Ronald Reagan. In 1991, by then the director of Soviet studies at Science Applications International Corporation, he participated in an International Security Council round table discussion of future Russian military policy. Past and future Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was in attendance.

Much of his work, however, was conducted in the shadows. He died in 2007. Stanford University holds the Goure Papers collection, a testament to his enduring legacy. Anthony Russo would not fare so well.

Charged With Espionage

“Russo weeps as he tells jury about change in views on war,” read the New York Times headline on the 66th day of the Pentagon Papers trial when Russo told the story of the Cu Chi cadre to the jury.

He had already published the cadre interview in Ramparts. Now, he again turned to the Vietcong prisoner who had come to symbolize for him all that was wrong with U.S. policy in Vietnam. As he would confide to filmmaker Peter Davis, the memory of that prisoner never left him. He was convinced that if other Americans met their enemy, if he could give that enemy a human face, the public would fully abandon Washington’s efforts to destroy them.

He compared the depersonalization of the Vietnamese to the Nazi depiction of the Jews. “If you don’t know who the Vietnamese people are, it is much easier to be racist.  It’s much easier to kill them.  This really is a lesson from World War II. Racist attitudes made it possible to manifest hatred and to undertake the extermination campaigns. Well, this really is what the United States is doing in Vietnam. The United States is exterminating the Vietnamese. And the United States couldn’t do this, no American, no human being could do this, if he really knew who the Vietnamese are.”

In the trial’s aftermath, Russo would be progressively marginalized, his claims about the M&M study ignored or written off as the ravings of a leftwing radical. But in its heady days, he reveled in his whistleblower role. Ten months after it began, prosecutor David Nissen’s case was in shambles. Revelations that the government wiretapped the defendants had resulted in a Supreme Court-ordered stay and then mistrial in its first round. And it had only got worse.

Soon enough, the press revealed that President Nixon’s right-hand man, John Erlichman, had introduced presiding trial judge William Byrne, Jr., to the president in his home and had discussed his possible appointment as FBI director — a clear impropriety in the middle of an espionage case. And then it hit the news that convicted Watergate conspirators G. Gordon Liddy and E. Howard Hunt, Jr., had burglarized the office of Daniel Ellsberg’s psychiatrist.

On April 30, 1973, just days after the first news of that burglary, which tied the Pentagon Papers case to Watergate, a set of dominoes lay on the prosecution table. Each domino was labeled — Hunt, Liddy, Erlichman, Byrne, and so on — the last domino had Nixon’s name. It was Russo’s prank.

On May 1st, Erlichman’s domino fell when the news broke that he had admitted to the FBI his knowledge of the break-in at the office of Ellsberg’s psychiatrist.  On May 2nd, the last domino did indeed fall.  It was revealed that President Nixon had been informed of that break-inat least a week before the court knew about it.

On May 11th, Judge Byrne dismissed all charges against Ellsberg and Russo.

Postscript: Validation by RAND

Seventeen years later, Russo told me that a single realization had changed his mind about the war. He had, he said, been misinformed about the Vietcong. “They were not the enemy we were told they were.”

I asked what had most surprised him in his interviews with Vietnamese prisoners.

“The extent to which they cared about principle,” he answered. “The extent to which they had legitimacy, every reason in the world to be fighting. They were very admirable and very likeable. Very likeable. Natural friends of Americans.”

As for his participation in the release of the Pentagon Papers, he summed up his reasons in a single sentence: “It would have been un-American not to do it.”

Russo died in 2008 before RAND verified his claims about the Motivation and Morale Study in an extensive history written by Mai Elliott (herself a former M&M interviewer and interpreter) under contract to RAND and published in 2010. Her book, RAND in Southeast Asia: A History of the Vietnam War Era, forms a fitting sequel to the Pentagon Papers, with a carefully documented tale of how intelligence can go terribly wrong.

Elliott’s book validates nearly all of Russo’s claims. It confirms, for instance, that Goure did act as a pitchman for the air war, selling a prescription for military success that didn’t faintly match the data at hand. It details Goure’s outsized influence on policymakers and Russo’s claim that evidence of torture by U.S. forces and allies was systematically removed under Goure’s orders. She even quotes former RAND President Gus Shubert’s admission that the assignment of Goure to the Motivation and Morale Study appeared to represent collusion between his RAND predecessor and the Air Force, which he termed a “disgrace.”

In the end, Elliott, and by extension RAND, corroborate and elaborate on nearly every claim Russo made in his 1972 Ramparts articles. Only one of Russo’s charges was rejected: that the think tank was complicit in war crimes.

Never one to mince words, Russo called the M&M a “whitewash of genocide” and “a justification of genocide cloaked in the mantle of RAND social science,” accusations that echoed growing popular sentiment for war crimes trials and that must have held terrible personal resonance for a man whose name is there in black and white, attached to the call for the ever greater use of air power, defoliation, and the displacement of rural populations as tools of war.  

Today, Anthony Russo is gone, his report on torture disappeared, and his legacy perhaps doomed to obscurity.  RAND, meanwhile, continues to churn out studies for the military; the Air Force continues to drop bombs and fire missiles from Iraq to Afghanistan, Pakistan to Yemen; the CIA continues to cover-up its torture policies. But Russo’s spiritual descendants, whistleblowers like Chelsea Manning of WikiLeaks fame, John Kiriakou who exposed CIA torture,and NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden live on, each putting his freedom on the line just as Russo did. Whether or not any of the whistleblowers of the post-9/11 era knew Russo’s story, they benefitted from a tradition he, Ellsberg, and others of their generation had helped to pioneer.

It’s a testament to the explosive nature of Russo’s revelations that, almost 50 years later, RAND still keeps his report on CIA torture in Vietnam a secret — as the Pentagon Papers might be today if he had not convinced Daniel Ellsberg to make them public. It’s a tribute to Russo that his critical evaluation of the Motivation and Morale Study remains classified as well.

Call it an irony, but Dwight D. Eisenhower, the president who articulated the domino theory that brought Russo to Vietnam, crafted the words that might be most fitting for his epitaph years before he arrived in Vietnam. In his 1961 farewell address, Eisenhower focused on twin internal threats: “the military-industrial complex,” which he first named, and its forgotten corollary: that public policy could become the captive of a “scientific-technological elite.” Russo, who railed against RAND’s secret and deadly influence until his dying day, couldn’t have said it better.

 [Note: Special thanks go to Peter Davis for his use of his interview with Anthony Russo, provided courtesy of the University Archives & Special Collections Department, Joseph P. Healey Library, University of Massachusetts, Boston: Hearts and Minds collection, 1970-1974.]

Barbara Myers is a journalist, educator, and activist. She has written for the Miami Herald and edited and produced multi-media for the San Francisco Chronicle. In the 1970s, she worked with the Indochina Peace Campaign in Los Angeles, where she attended the Pentagon Papers trial and first met the subject of her TomDispatch story, Tony Russo.