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Inside The Immigrant-Prosecuting Machine That Transformed America’s Deportation Policy April 28, 2017

Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, Criminal Justice, Grenada, Immigration, Latin America, Mexico, Racism, Refugees, Uncategorized.
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Roger’s note: Democrats.  Republicans.  A pox on both their houses.  When it comes to the inhumane treatment of those who cross our borders in flight from conditions in their countries that US policy has helped to create, both parties are equally corrupt.  The spike in prosecutions and deportations began under Clinton and made a dramatic upturn under Obama.  The nations’s first Black president turned out to be a master oppressor of Latinos seeking refuge in the United States.

Democratic and Republican presidents spent two decades building Donald Trump’s most powerful tool against undocumented immigrants.

 

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TUCSON, Ariz. ― One morning last October, Irlando sat hunched over a table in the back of a federal courthouse, looking to a court-appointed lawyer for help. Border Patrol agents had found him the day before, wandering through the desert 150 miles away outside Lukeville, Arizona, and he still hadn’t showered. His hands were black with grime and he smelled of dried sweat after spending almost a week trekking in the hot sun.

 

Irlando had worked as a commercial truck driver in a town north of Guatemala City and fled his homeland after a local gang started extorting his company. First, they killed drivers when the company didn’t pay up. Then gang members killed his boss, and Irlando decided he had to escape.

 

A friend suggested he try to make it through Mexico and into the United States, where he could earn enough money to help support his wife and four children he was leaving behind. His youngest daughter was just two months old. When Border Patrol picked him up crossing into Arizona, he’d been thankful just to have a sip of water. But now the reality was sinking in: He was going to be deported back to Guatemala.

 

Irlando’s lawyer, Eréndira Castillo, said she was sorry, but none of his backstory would matter to the judge. He wasn’t in immigration court. He was facing a criminal prosecution for crossing the border illegally, and this judge had no authority to decide whether he should stay in the country. All the judge would see is that he was arrested while trying to jump the border and that he had a prior conviction for attempting to do the same thing in Texas in 2013.

 

(Castillo talked to Irlando privately about his right to confidentiality and he decided to waive that right so his story could be told, on the condition that only his first name be used.)

 

Irlando could accept the plea agreement in front of him, which came with a 75-day jail sentence, or he could take his case to trial, where virtually all defendants lose, and then face two years in prison. Either way, he’d almost certainly be deported after his release.

It was about 9:30 a.m., and Irlando needed to make up his mind before the proceedings started that afternoon. After a few minutes of discussion, he took the plea deal, which was typed in English. Castillo verbally translated the document for him before he signed it.

 

“There’s no one to tell that I’m here trying to save my life?” Irlando asked his lawyer. “My baby girl needs three bottles of milk every week. Who’s going to give them to her?”

“It’s very sad, but that’s the way it is,” Castillo replied, patting him on the knee. “The law doesn’t have a heart.”

Improvising An Immigrant-Prosecuting Machine

58ffac711400002000a9bce2CHIP SOMODEVILLA/GETTY IMAGES President Donald Trump signed an executive order on Jan. 25, 2017, to crack down on so-called “sanctuary” jurisdictions that take steps to shield immigrants from deportation. The order contained a provision calling for more prosecutions for immigration violations. 

When President Donald Trump took control of the immigration enforcement system, he inherited a well-oiled machine for prosecuting immigration violations that has continued to grow even as illegal border crossings decline. When Trump talks about imposing a “deportation force,” most observers interpret that as a  to Immigration and Customs Enforcement or Border Patrol. But the most powerful tool he wields against unauthorized immigrants may well be the criminal courts.

 

While residing in the U.S. without authorization is a civil offense, the act of crossing the border illegally is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail. Those who get caught again face the felony charge of “illegal re-entry,” with a prison sentence of up to two years that can expand to two decades if the offender has a criminal record.

 

Today, roughly one-quarter of immigrants expelled from the U.S. face criminal prosecution for crossing the border illegally and serve jail time before they are deported. Immigration prosecutions topped 91,000 in 2013 ― 28 times the number of prosecutions in 1993.

 

This marks a fundamental transformation of both deportation policy and the federal courts. While less than 5 percent of federal prosecutions involved immigration in 1993, the first year of Bill Clinton’s presidency, illegal entry and re-entry prosecutions now account for roughly half the federal criminal docket, sapping limited resources to prosecute violent or white-collar crimes.

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Immigration authorities have had the power to refer migrants caught making illegal crossings to the criminal courts since the passage of the Immigration and Nationality Act in 1952. But the Justice Department’s priorities didn’t begin their steady shift until the Clinton era.

 

Entering office during one of the largest mass migrations from Mexico in U.S. history and nearly a decade after President Ronald Reagan extended a pathway to U.S. citizenship for some 3 million people, Clinton faced major public backlash against illegal immigration and bipartisan hostility toward incoming migrants. Prior benevolence, Democrats and Republicans largely agreed, had only encouraged more illegal crossings.

 

Clinton signed immigration reform laws that fast-tracked deportations and helped lay the foundation for the sprawling immigrant detention system that now reserves space to lock up 34,000 immigrants at a time. In a less-publicized development of his presidency, the number of immigration prosecutions ― particularly felony cases ― also steadily crept up, although the process was haphazard and no formal policies governed whether the migrants arrested should face criminal or civil penalties.

 

That changed dramatically during George W. Bush’s presidency. Seeking a way to deter unauthorized immigrants more effectively, Customs and Border Protection began formalizing a whole host of previously informal policies.

 

In one of the most sweeping changes, CBP teamed up with the Justice Department to funnel more people who jump the border into criminal court. The model program, called Operation Streamline, was implemented in southern Texas in 2005, when a sudden influx of Central American migrants left immigration authorities with a shortage of bed space in immigrant detention facilities.

 

“We were taking a look at what consequences were available to us within existing law,” David Aguilar, a top Border Patrol official in the 1990s and CBP commissioner from 2011 to 2013, told HuffPost. “Prosecution was in fact one of those consequences.”

 

Because the laws were already on the books, neither CBP nor the Justice Department needed to ask Congress for approval. The new system spread over the next decade, immigration violations swallowed up an ever-larger chunk of the federal criminal docket. The number of criminal immigration prosecutions doubled over Barack Obama’s two terms in office, despite the fact that illegal crossings plummeted by roughly half between 2009 and 2016.

 

The continued criminal prosecution of illegal border crossings meant America’s first black president jailed more people of color on federal charges than any president in modern U.S. history. But because the Justice Department classifies almost all Hispanics as “white” in official statistics, that fact has largely been obscured.

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The immigrant-prosecuting machine improvised under Clinton, formalized under Bush and institutionalized by Obama barely merited a mention during last year’s immigration-obsessed presidential election. But Trump noticed.

 

On the campaign trail, he pledged to raise the mandatory minimum sentence for illegal re-entry to five years. Within a week of taking office, he issued an executive order cracking down on sanctuary cities that contained a provision calling for more immigration prosecutions.

 

On April 11, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced plans to consider criminal charges for any person caught in the U.S. who has been deported before, regardless of where they’re arrested ― a massive expansion of a constitutionally questionable process that routinely sucks in asylum-seekers and people with long histories in the United States.

 

“It’s going to break the bank in terms of paying for the jail and prison beds that these people are going to occupy if they are prosecuted,” said Judy Greene, the author of the book Indefensible: A Decade of Mass Incarceration of Migrants Prosecuted for Crossing the Border.

 

But that’s only one way to look at the cost,” she added. “The other way to look at it is to realize there is a huge cost in human misery for the people who are prosecuted ― their families, their neighbors ― if this happens the way Trump and Sessions have envisioned.”

Two Decades Defending Immigrants 

58ffa5082600004500c47ad6ROQUE PLANAS/HUFFPOST  Eréndira Castillo, who has defended immigrants facing criminal deportation charges for the last two decades, stands in front of the federal courthouse in Tucson, Arizona. 

After meeting with Irlando that morning last fall, his lawyer, Castillo, walked to a nearby restaurant where she half-heartedly picked at a pair of tacos. A first-generation Mexican immigrant who speaks Spanish with native fluency, Castillo wears her black hair in a ponytail and an indigenous embroidered shirt called a huipil beneath her dark blue blazer. She loves practicing law, but hates cases like Irlando’s.

 

“It’s so upsetting, because I feel complicit,” she told HuffPost.

 

Castillo has worked these cases since 1998, when she joined the Federal Public Defender’s Office in Tucson to help expand its immigration unit. The job initially excited her: She’d already begun to specialize in immigration before going to law school, processing legalization applications for undocumented immigrants who became eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship under Reagan’s 1986 reform law.

 

But Castillo’s enthusiasm faded as she faced uncomfortable situations that seemed to flout basic protections for criminal defendants, like the right to due process or the right to keep communications with your attorney confidential. The process from initial hearing to conviction and sentencing ― which routinely takes months, even years, in felony criminal cases ― was collapsed into a few hours for dozens of people at a time. She only got a few minutes to speak with each client, and they spoke in an open room where others could hear their conversations.

 

“I was a brand-new lawyer,” Castillo said. “[Our bosses] never said, ‘This is the right way, this is the wrong way, this is what we expect from you.’ We just did what they said. I think, in retrospect, I would say, ‘No, the federal public defenders office shouldn’t be doing it this way. This is unconstitutional.’”

 

Many legal experts agree. But their objections haven’t kept the system from growing. Within five years of joining the public defender’s office, the immigration unit Castillo helped pioneer had grown larger than the office’s entire criminal defense unit ― a reflection of the Justice Department’s shifting priorities.

 

Castillo left the public defender’s office for private practice three years ago, but still defends immigrants accused of illegal crossings once a week. She takes pride in making small gestures to make the process less painful: offering her clients a glass of water, or calling their family members so she can tell them what’s happening. (The clients aren’t allowed to use the phone in court, so she calls on speakerphone while they listen in silence.)

 

“I have to explain it’s not my fault,” Castillo said. “I’m a lawyer, I was appointed by the court.”

‘This Process Does Get Somewhat Repetitive’ 

Illegal migrants from Guatemala, deported from Phoenix, Arizona in the U.S., arrive at an air force base in Guatemala CityJORGE LOPEZ/REUTERS  Immigrants deported from Arizona arrive at an air force base in Guatemala City on July 22, 2014.

Irlando’s hearing started at 1:30 p.m. A row of five microphones stood in front of Judge Bruce Macdonald. Each of the 41 defendants, lined up on benches before the judge, was a brown-skinned national of Mexico or Central America. They’d already signed plea agreements like Irlando’s, differing only in the length of their sentences.

 

Macdonald took the bench and explained the process. Everyone would acknowledge their guilt in groups of five. He asked the 14 defense attorneys if their clients were competent to go forward with their hearings. They affirmed in unison. “You’ll quickly notice that I’m asking the same series of questions,” Macdonald told the defendants. “This process does get somewhat repetitive.”

 

When Irlando’s turn came to plead guilty, Castillo mentioned his fear of returning to Guatemala. The judge said Irlando would be able to raise the issue once he was transferred to immigration court for deportation proceedings after his jail sentence.

At least three other defendants said they feared for their safety if deported. Border Patrol policy dictates that they should have been channeled to an asylum officer or a civil immigration court to hear those claims, but the judge gave them the same reply he gave Irlando.

 

Several people seemed only hazily aware they faced criminal prosecution at all. One woman, asked how she pleaded, said “yes.”

 

Three defendants, all of them Guatemalan and all represented by the same attorney, said they didn’t speak Spanish as a first language. (A foreign government official, who declined to be identified because he was not authorized to speak with the media, later told HuffPost there were seven indigenous defendants that day who didn’t speak fluent Spanish.) Macdonald quickly moved on after the lawyer insisted the indigenous language speakers understood the agreement.

 

The lawyer representing the three indigenous Guatemalans declined to comment about their cases, but acknowledged he wasn’t well qualified to handle their claims. “I don’t really know about immigration,” he said. “I usually call up a friend if there’s an asylum issue to get advice.”

The Consequence Delivery System

A U.S. border patrol agent patrols the U.S. border with Mexico in NogalesLUCY NICHOLSON/REUTERS A view of the U.S.-Mexico border from Nogales, Arizona, on Jan. 31, 2017.

About the same time Castillo first went to work defending immigrants facing prosecution in Tucson, John Lawson arrived in the Arizona town of Douglas as a newly minted Border Patrol agent. The town is roughly 260 miles east of where Irlando was picked up crossing.

 

In 1997, Lawson found only about 100 yards of fencing separating the United States from Mexico. That was a year authorities caught 1.4 million people crossing the border illegally ― almost four times the rate of apprehension in 2016. At that time, Border Patrol had half as many agents trying to stop those migrants, and the barrier between the U.S. and Mexico in that area was an opaque wall, so agents couldn’t see people throwing rocks and or lobbing cinder blocks at passing patrol cars.

 

“It was kind of Wild West out here,” Lawson said as he led a tour of the border at Nogales in October. “It was insanity, everyone trying to catch who they could.”

 

In the 1990s, Border Patrol agents usually escorted people they apprehended back to the other side ― a procedure known as “voluntary return.” Unlike a formal deportation, a voluntary return has no legal consequences and returnees can apply for a U.S. immigration visa a minute after returning to Mexico. It wasn’t uncommon for Lawson to catch the same person crossing illegally three times in a single day.

 

Border Patrol agents struggled to deter people from simply crossing again. Mexico was limping through an economic crisis in the mid-1990s, just as the country’s 1970s baby boom generation reached working age. The 1994 North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement made matters worse, compelling some 2 million Mexicans to flee the country’s farms when they couldn’t compete with subsidized agricultural imports from the United States. Foreign-owned assembly plants sprouted in border towns to take advantage of the cheap labor and lower import taxes NAFTA offered, which pulled out-of-work Mexicans to cities within walking distance of the United States like magnets.

 

Border Patrol couldn’t control the underlying reasons for the immigration explosion, so the agency worked to make deterrents more effective. Rather than returning the migrants they arrested to the same cities where they crossed, agents might bus them hours away, making the crossing more expensive and breaking the link between migrants and their smugglers. Instead of voluntary removals, Border Patrol increasingly sent unauthorized immigrants to get fingerprinted and face formal deportation proceedings.

 

“Now everyone gets an alien registration number,” Lawson said. “That’s as permanent as it gets. It stays with you for the rest of your life.”

 

By the mid-2000s, CBP had institutionalized these policies into a list of penalties the agency calls the “consequence delivery system.” The harshest of those consequences is criminal prosecution.

 

Lawson is proud of CBP’s work. The sporadic links of opaque fencing have stretched into hundreds of miles of steel beams, which are reinforced with cameras and underground sensors. People scale the barrier so often that the rust has scraped off some of the beams, but Lawson is confident that agents catch most of the people who make it over.

 

When they do, the migrants’ fingerprints tell them everything they need to know. If a person has tried to cross illegally within the last two decades, a record of the deportation appears. If he or she has ever committed a crime in the United States, that’s there too. Though there are some exceptions ― children, asylum-seekers or people who appear sick ― agents are supposed to deal out a consequence to every unauthorized migrant they apprehend.

 

There’s only enough slots at the federal courthouse in Tucson to prosecute 70 border-crossers per day. If agents find more unauthorized migrants near that jurisdiction, they’ll face deportation instead. But these days, there are far fewer illegal crossings, so the courthouse rarely fills to capacity for its daily three hours of illegal entry and re-entry cases.

 

“There’s a bunch of reasons why that could be happening,” Lawson said. “But we’re fairly certain that a lot of it has to do with these consequences.”

Prosecuted Far From The Border

The Sandra Day O'Connor United States Courthouse is seen in Phoenix, ArizonaERIC THAYER/REUTERS The Sandra Day O’Connor U.S. Courthouse in Phoenix routinely tries illegal re-entry cases against immigrants apprehended far from the border.

These prosecutions aren’t just happening to migrants picked up along the border. Felony illegal re-entry charges were filed in all but four of the 94 U.S. district courts last year.

Around the time Irlando was convicted, a gray-haired woman stood before a judge in a federal courtroom in Phoenix in a red jumpsuit, shackled at the wrists and ankles. Two of her daughters, both born in the United States, watched from the benches.

 

The woman, whom HuffPost is not identifying because her family fears she’ll be deported, was born in the Mexican state of Michoacán but came to the U.S. when she was 9 years old. In 2003, she spent two months in jail for heroin possession and distribution charges, and was then deported. She returned illegally soon after, as unauthorized immigrants with U.S.-born children often do.

 

She found work cleaning houses and avoided trouble with the law, but ICE arrested her last year. Her daughters are unsure why their mother was targeted, but suspect someone may have reported her.

 

Given her 13-year-old drug charges, the woman had little choice but to take a plea agreement. To secure a conviction, the only evidence prosecutors needed was a prior order of deportation. Each conviction on a person’s record can enhance their jail sentence. She faced the possibility of 10 years in prison, but was released on time served ― seven months ― in February after taking the deal.

 

It’s very sad, but that’s the way it is. The law doesn’t have a heart.Attorney Eréndira Castillo

It’s unclear whether she was deported. The woman’s attorney, Kaitlin Verdura, declined to discuss the specifics of her client’s case, but said her situation is not uncommon. “There are people in the United States that have been here for a very long time, who have assimilated into the country, and get prosecuted for the crime of illegal re-entry,” she said.

 

When Sessions announced on April 11 the Justice Department’s plans to consider prosecution for anyone who enters the country illegally, he likely wasn’t directing his attention at border-crossers like Irlando. People like the woman in Phoenix will probably bear the brunt of the Trump administration’s changes. The Justice Department did not reply to HuffPost’s request for comment.

 

It’s unclear how many of the 11 million undocumented immigrants who live in the United States have deportations on their records. But the number is likely high, given Border Patrol’s efforts to make sure most people the agency apprehends pass through formal deportation proceedings.

 

Since prosecutors can easily secure convictions for illegal re-entry, Sessions’ order could fundamentally transform the federal justice system in a way CBP never imagined when it recommended systematically hauling border-crossers into criminal court with Operation Streamline in 2005. People nowhere near the border who would’ve previously been deported could further swell the court system and federal prisons.

‘Legalized Racism’

Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks at the Ethics and Compliance InitiativeYURI GRIPAS/REUTERS Attorney General Jeff Sessions has ordered U.S. attorneys across the country to consider prosecuting undocumented immigrants with deportations on their records for felony illegal re-entry, regardless of where they’re arrested.

Castillo sees the direction the Justice Department is moving under Trump and it unsettles her. Even after two decades of serving agreements to people pleading guilty of immigration violations, she rarely thinks of her clients as criminals. She sees parents trying to return to their children, jobless people looking for work, and people like Irlando who are scared for their lives.

 

She’s fought losing battles to convince judges that the weight of the law falls too heavily on her clients. She’s represented people who grew up in Phoenix and wound up with criminal records at a time when former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio famously targeted Hispanics for traffic stops to identify undocumented immigrants.

 

A federal court ruled in 2013 that those tactics amounted to racial profiling and ordered him to stop. But some of the people who got profiled and wound up with convictions and deportations showed up later in federal court for illegal re-entry charges. They face enhanced penalties that can boost their sentences up to 20 years.

 

“It’s legalized racism,” Castillo said. “That’s the whole problem with the criminal justice system ― we’re not allowed to talk about racism as a factor of a person’s story. But their criminal records are overrepresented … I’ve brought this up in court and the judges just sort of look at me with this blank stare.”

 

Like most of Castillo’s clients with immigration convictions, Irlando served his 75 days in the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service, then faced a swift deportation back to Guatemala. Despite Judge Macdonald’s assurances, the immigration court never heard his appeals about how he feared for his safety back home. “They didn’t listen to anything I had to say,” Irlando said on a phone call from Guatemala last month.

 

Unable to return to his old job, he now works planting corn. He said he feels safe for the moment, but is unsure about his future in Guatemala. “Who knows,” he said. “I might try to cross again.”

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The Wars on Vietnam May 14, 2015

Posted by rogerhollander in Capitalism, Grenada, History, Imperialism, Labor, Vietnam, War.
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Roger’s note: here is a interesting, irreverent and penetrating analysis of US history post Vietnam War, which some may find — I’m trying to find the right word — uncomfortable (?).  It’s thesis: “Class and empire’s wars define our times, as they did then” is, as far as I am concerned, incontrovertible.

a72th

A Better Recollection Than the Pentagon’s (and the Liberals’)

by RICH GIBSON

Following the victory of the Vietnamese people over the U.S. empire and its allies on April 29/30, 1975, elites in the U.S. those who operate within the armed weapon and executive committee of the ruling class that is government, moved quickly to (1) recapture the economy, wrecked by years of warfare; (2) exercise authority over the schools, often up in flames of fire and critique; (3) dominate the military, riddled with desertions, refusals, and shot-up, fragged, officers; (4) retake the culture–to eradicate the Vietnam Syndrome, the memory of the loss as well as the why, who, when, where, and what of the war: especially the Why? The “How’s” are gone too.

In the past month, the Pentagon, PBS, and the for-profit press took a three pronged approach to the Vietnam Wars: (1) praise the returned troops and promote the notion of a home-country stab in the back, (2) highlight the evacuees and the US heroes of the April ‘75 evacuations, and (3) focus on the post-war babylift and the Vietnamese babies now grown up.

In my searches, the journalists’ “W’s” are missing or frothed over. More on that later. Let’s turn to the high-water mark of liberal critique.

Tom Hayden, in his, “The Forgotten Power of the Vietnam Protests,” (Counterpunch, May 3, 2015) does a fine job recreating many of the details of the wars on Vietnam–from the point of view of a liberal Democrat who spent years in the California legislature and who must have grown rich as well from his marriage to Jane Fonda, once anti-war prima donna, later Ted Turner’s wife and religious-“feminist” later still.1

Hayden’s standpoint does not serve his broader analysis well. Perhaps that explains why the words “capitalism,” and “imperialism,” never appear in his piece. Nor does Marx, so powerfully influential to the Vietnamese movement as well as the world’s anti-war movements.

Class and empire’s wars define our times, as they did then.

Vietnam was an imperialist war. Rubber, tin, rice, were all key to any empire’s designs (rubber, like oil, moves the military), while the other indicators of imperialist action (regional control, markets, cheap labor) easily come into view if we walk back the cat from Vietnam’s current state as a low-wage center.

Capitalism, early on the birthplace of what we know as racism today, created the conditions that Hayden rightly notes. It was, indeed, a working class war with troops of color on the US side using racist terms, “Gook, Slope, Dink, etc.” to describe, dehumanize and murder, Vietnamese.

As Nick Turse recently titled his book, the US side was taught to “kill anything that moves.” Frequently, they did, as the 1971Vietnam Veterans Against the War’s Winter Soldier investigation in Detroit graphically demonstrated. Much of this is nicely covered in David Zieger’s film, “Sir, No Sir!,” less than an hour long–perfect for classroom use.2

Hayden’s suggestion, to kick a dead horse one more time, that Robert Kennedy might have ended the war is preposterous, but it is a nice set up for the next card likely to fall–vote your way out of capital and empire, a certain failure as a tactic and strategy.

As David Macaray noted in CounterPunch in 2011, Kennedy was a “shrieking anti-communist,” who originated the plot to kill Fidel Castro.

Kennedy, once Joe McCarthy’s pal, aide, and appointee, repeatedly saying he was “fond” of Tail-gunner Joe, was no dove, but an opportunist off-set to Eugene McCarthy’s somewhat more honest, if bumbling, campaign in 1968. Hayden’s “What if…?” is hollow.

The Vietnam war was no mistake, not the result of bad political decisions alone, but the logical and necessary working out of the ongoing policies of the American empire.

Like any watershed piece of history, it lay the ground for our current conditions.

Brown and Root Construction, profiteering from connections to Lyndon Johnson, Nixon, and all that followed, became Haliburton: home to the war criminal Dick Cheney, still drawing down billions–untold as it’s secret–in Iraq, Afghanistan and black sites world-wide. .

Vietnam’s geological location was important then–and now. The region near the South China Sea could easily become the flashpoint for much broader wars.

As Chalmers Johnson wrote in 1962, well before Vietnam entered most American’s minds, what appeared to be a communist, or at least socialist, movement was “Peasant Nationalism.”3

As the Vietnam war wound down, Donald Rumsfield argued for an end to the draft, creating today’s reality of a “professional” military, economically drafted but self-defining as volunteering, patriotic, dedicated to the unit, and un-cracked after 14 years of wars lost to guerrillas who belong in the seventh century. The military today is almost completely separated from civilian life: about 1.2% actually serve–a praetorian guard.

The third goal, recapturing the military is so far achieved. The military sucks up more than one-half of the economy, dominates colleges and universities, yet few notice—perhaps because war means work.

The first goal, revitalizing and economy that was nearly demolished by 1975 was won, in a perverse sense, by a full scale government/capitalist attack on the working class.

That began with Nixon’s declaration that the 1970 postal strike was an illegal, “criminal,” act, although a wildcat led by many Vietnam veterans continued in several cities.

The 1970 United Auto Workers strike against General Motors was a sham, as William Serrin described in “The Company and the Union.” Serrin went further: “The Inside Story of the Civilized Relationship that has transformed a natural antagonism into a socially destructive partnership and the GM strike of 1970, the most expensive work stoppage in US history.”

At the end of the book, Serrin quotes a UAW member, sold out by the labor tops: “The union and the company, they’re more or less business partners.”4

The unity of labor bosses, top government leaders, and corporate heads was finalized long before this strike, indeed, early in the formative days of the American Federation of Labor, but it grew more and more apparent in an era when every labor head backed the racist, anti-working class, war in Vietnam: Labor Imperialism–the bribe Lenin warned about 100 years ago in “Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism”, a payoff to the “home country” to  back the empire. It’s a move that backfired for exploited workers in the rank and file over time, but few noticed.5

In 1972, Richard Nixon’s puppeteer, Henry Kissinger, cut a deal with Mao and China, not only counteracting Chinese support for the Vietnamese, but upending plenty of American Maoists who, in 1969, witnessed the destruction of the largest and most radical student movement in U.S. history, weeks before the biggest outpouring of student activism ever: 1970’s mass demonstrations against the bombings of Cambodia and Laos; the murders at Kent State and Jackson state.

By 1969, Tom Hayden had no influence on SDS whatsoever, the organization abandoned his liberalism and turned to a variety of forms of Marxism.

SDS was wrecked by the rich, red-diaper Weathermen, once terrorists who sought to replace a mass class conscious movement with bombs, now repeating their effort as grant-sucking professors.

The 1969 SDS split meeting, which I attended, was riven with idiot chants of “Mao, Mao, Mao Tse Tung!,” shall we say, contradicted by “Ho Ho Ho Chi Minh!” a nearly unfathomable mess.

The Weathermen, according to one of the few living honest people among them, Mark Rudd, destroyed the SDS mailing list.

The student movement never really revived.

In 1975, Americans learned about COINTELPRO, thanks to the heroic break-in at an FBI office in Media, Pennsylvania, an operation kept secret until 2014, and described in the book, “The Burglary,” by Betty Medsger. The COINTELPRO revelations, a broad and systematic spy-agency scheme to attack, disrupt, and assassinate when necessary, radical groups led most of us to grasp the extent of NSA spying long before Edward Snowden stole the next batch of Family Jewels and turned them loose.6

As war’s end, American schools often were hot-beds of critique and action as students, who learned from the Civil Rights movement and the anti-war movement too, that what they thought and did mattered.

In the early 1980’s came, “Nation at Risk,” and unvarnished plan projecting years of effort to regain control of the not-so-public but fully-segregated-by-class-and-race school system by regulating curricula, promoting high stakes exams, and in the future, linking that to merit pay.

Taylorism had existed in schools since the advent of textbooks, and most teachers were always missionaries for capital and empire, but this was a more regulated, national effort.7

“Nation at Risk” was followed by the Bush II era No Child Left Behind Act which extended a militaristic component, and then thrown into hyper-speed by the Obama Administration’s “Race to the Top,” which drives home merit pay, the next step the abolition of tenure, and drives home the militaristic aims, turning most schools into what a top General demanded in WWI, “human munition factories,” and illusion mills where children are sorted by fake science, along the predictable lines of parental income—always promoting obedience to the nation, loyalty (the ethics of slaves), while tamping down expectations for a better future.

Most school workers, who are not professionals as they so often dream, refuse to recognize that the education agenda is a war agenda: class and empire’s wars.8

Proof?

The largest school-based union, the National Education Association, repeatedly votes in convention assembled to “Not Discuss,” the wars as the body may find it unsettling.

And the struggle for rule in the economy?

That was settled by Ronald Reagan’s 1980 destruction of the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Union who, having helped elected him, foolishly struck, believing a union composed of lots of Vietnam vets, like VP Dennis Riordan, would garner a lot of sympathy. Reagan declared the strike illegal, scabs replaced them (the word “Scab” is out of US lexicon), they never got their jobs back, and the AFL-CIO let them swing in the wind. Solidarity Forever had long ago become every person for him or herself.

From another angle, while finance capital dominated industrial capital since the early 1900’s, the relentless needs of imperialism and the falling rate of industrial profits underpinned a massive move to de-industrialize the US, auto for example moving first to Mexico, then to China, and now to Vietnam.

The industrial working class evaporated, bit by bit, then a torrent. Surely, they exist, but they have been minimized.

The epitome of the rule of capital came in the Fall of 2008, what John Bellamy Foster’s book calls, “The Great Financial Crisis.” 9

The upshot: over a weekend the biggest banker in the western world gathered to face a complete collapse of the world’s economies, the likelihood of riots, bank rushes, even revolutions as capitalism in decay became capitalism in ruins.

They quickly did what no free-marketeer would ever do. They demanded government intervention.

They got it. Inside their executive committee (and remember, armed weapon) industrialists and financiers fought it out.

Big Fish ate Little Fish. So long Bear Stearns. Lehman is lunch.

Jamie Dimon demonstrated his patriotism when a begging treasury secretary, Hank Paulson arrived asking for J.P. Morgan help. Dimon replied, “Hank, I would do anything for the United States, but not at the expense of J.P Morgan.”10

Finance capital won to the tune of $12.9 Trillion from the surely-no-longer free market treasury.11

Industrial capital, like auto, picked up hundreds of billions and officially became the small fries.

But, industrialists did make gains. The Obama administration demanded that the United Auto Workers union make another concession: New hires would make half what senior workers would make and the union would not strike for five years.

The UAW bosses agreed, again, to exchange labor peace for dues income, the last definition of “collective bargaining,” while their own pensions remain solid.

In sum, on the economy, elites gathered together, struggled with one another within the confines of the all-on-all war that is capitalism, which runs them–not vice versa–and they then turned on the poor and working people, cut off their legs, got them to spit on the gains their grandparents won in bloody struggle, while the labor leadership collaborated.

To Chalmers Johnson, in his “Nemesis Trilogy,” which predicts the end of the US empire through over-reach and economic collapse, fascism came to the US before 2008.12

To me, it was finalized with the bailouts; the imperfect but real unity of labor bosses, government, and the corporate world to preserve nationalism and empire. That move cannot be reversed, while wars could be ended.

Add it up:

*parliamentary institutions debased and made nearly meaningless by the direct rule of the rich who tyrannize the economy and wars.

*Racism built into every aspect of daily life from school segregation to geographical segregation to cruel immigration policies and police violence.

*Incessant calls for the unity of all classes in the “national interest, within a nation whose own government is at war with most of the citizens and the world as well.

*The Patriot Act and the National Defense Authorization Act nullify whatever the Bill of Rights represented.

*The President’s private army (armies), the CIA, conducting war at his whim, killing Americans without trial or warrant.

*Massive constant surveillance: Snowden.

*One dangled spectacle after the next: Bruce Jenner to a boxing match to the Princess’ baby.

*More and more reliance on violence and threats of violence: Ferguson, Michael Brown, Baltimore, etc.

*The unity of corporations, government and labor bosses, “in the national interest,” as witnessed with the bailouts but also with the union leaders support for the wars and their physical presence on CIA front groups like the National Endowment for Democracy, The Meany Center, Education International, and many others.

*Celebrations of misogyny: the Porn industry.

*A culture of mysticism, religion, the ideology of death, trapping US presidents who cannot say, “People make gods, gods do not make people,” as part of a grand strategy to counter religious fanatics. Add, according to Gallup, 42 percent of Americans are creationists.

*Farcical billion dollar elections corrupt whatever hints of democracy may have existed.

*Dynastic tyranny, the bane of the American Revolution: Bush III vs Hillary. 13

Fascism, in brief, emerges in the US, and the world, as a rising and popular movement. The victory of the Vietnamese was one of several turning points.

The eradication of the Vietnam Syndrome began right after the end of the wars, first with stab-in-the back lies about the anti-war movement abusing returned vets. Jesse Lembcke hit back with his book, “The Spitting Image,” showing that the main lie, girls spit on them, was groundless.14

The next step was Ronald Reagan’s double edged stroke to both wipe out the memory of the death of nearly 300 marines in Lebanon and, simultaneously, destroy a “Communist threat,” the tiny island of Grenada with a population about the same size as Kalamazoo.

A massive force invaded Grenada in October, 1983–bungled a bit, yet won! Medals all around.

A victory for US troops! 15

On to Gulf War I, Afghanistan, Iraq, IS, and the world!

Then, the Vietnam Wars were eradicated from the US history curriculum. In 25 years of teaching college at all levels, from grad students to freshman, as an emeritus professor and community college adjunct, I have had less than two dozen students arrive with sophisticated knowledge about Vietnam. Granted, the processes of history itself are now erased too, but the Vietnam war is a gaping hole.

The failures of socialism, little more than capitalism with a benevolent party at the top, restored gross inequalities in various ways in the aftermath of revolutions in Russia, China, Cuba, and Vietnam. This, then,  led to a considerable degree to today’s IS, AQ and the other religious often-educated savages who rejected distorted forms of Marxism, on the one hand, and Western imperialism on the other.

Seventh century Sharia law will not prevail in societies which can escape neither class war nor empire, but they have already done terrible damage.

In what is not popularly called the “Homeland,” de-industrialization–that is–imperialism–coupled with financilization–created a consumerist society: the root of two-thirds of the US economy.

I assert this has a psychological impact.

The methods of industrial work, as nearly anyone who worked in a factory, like Fords, knows, creates a sense of solidarity. Everyone recognizes that it takes everyone else to create a product, and one-for-all unity to gain control of the processes of making that product, and the gains that are made from its sale.

A consumerist society pits all vs all: “I wish to sell as dear as possible while you wish to purchase as cheap as can be.”

That, I believe, explains in some part why it is there has been so little reasoned resistance in the US since Vietnam.

Inequality, a prime concern of elites, has not created a large, unified, sustained social movement.

Inequality, which had grown since the Vietnam war, boomed from 2000-2013, but especially so after the financial collapse of 2008. It’s so bad, the French worry about it for us.16

An authoritative recent report says: “From 2009 to 2012, average real income per family grew modestly by 6.0% (Table 1). Most of the gains happened in the last year when average

incomes grew by 4.6% from 2011 to 2012. However, the gains were very uneven. Top 1% incomes grew by 31.4% while bottom 99% incomes grew only by 0.4% from 2009 to 2012. Hence, the top 1% captured 95% of the income gains in the first three years  of the recovery. From 2009 to 2010, top 1% grew fast and then stagnated from 2010 to 2011. Bottom 99% stagnated both from 2009 to 2010 and from 2010 to 2011. In 2012, top 1% incomes increased sharply by 19.6% while bottom 99% incomes grew only by 1.0%. In sum, top 1% incomes are close to full recovery while bottom 99% incomes have hardly started to recover.17

The Pentagon/PBS take on the anniversary of the war was an extension of the efforts to erase the Vietnam Syndrome.

The Rory Kennedy PBS “Last Days in Vietnam,” film focused on “heroic” low level US officers and spies who sought to get Vietnamese out of the country as the Vietnamese forces approached. Those heroes worked for the empire, killing two to three million Vietnamese in their dishonorable wars.

Let us concentrate on the South Vietnamese helicopter pilots who risked their own lives and their families’ flying to US ships on the sea, tossing all overboard and waiting for rescue. For years, they willingly took orders, surcease, and privilege from men like General Ky, a US puppet and Hitler admirer.

Kennedy’s centerpiece “Baby-lift” was problematic as it’s likely nothing harmful would have come to those babies–and the baby-lift killed at least 150 of them when the first flight out crashed.

Last, to the US veterans: Who abused them? Like before, the Veterans’ Administration was the prime abuser. Vets were denied benefits, medical care, and worst of all, coverage for Agent Orange poisoning until it was far too late for many of them.

What defeats men with guns? Ideas!

Those of us who taught, agitated, organized, and fought against the unjust wars on Vietnam saw things change–those of us lived, largely undamaged. The civil rights movement overcame the most obvious forms of political discrimination. Economic and social discrimination remained powerful.

As Tom Hayden rightly details, without the civil rights movements, its practical, moral, and intellectual contributions, the antiwar movement would have been without a compass–hence the lessons that can be learned from those who are most oppressed, who may have the best understanding of things.

The war ended because of:

*The Vietnamese who fought for decades, making enormous sacrifices.

*The GI’s who returned, knowing they had been sent to be cannon fodder, children of the poor ordered, drafted, to fight other children of the poor, on behalf of the rich in their homelands.

*The students who over time learned what imperialism and capitalism are, and who they are in its midst–and importantly, what to do.

*The workers who over time learned what “working class war,” meant, a war at home, and who struck against the war.

*The movements led by people of color, Chicanos, Latinos, Black people, who saw they were hit, as usual, first and worst, and often resisted first and hardest.

*The women’s movement which revealed the problems of male supremacy inside the resistance movements.

*Marxists, from anarchists to all kinds of communists, who taught others exactly what imperialism is, why the war was not a mistake but a logical working out of US foreign policy, and the it was/is the system, capital, itself which must be unmasked, attacked, and transcended.

We witnessed quantity (leaflet after leaflet, teach-in after teach-in, small meetings and mass meetings, march after march, one bigger than the last) turn into quality—a huge change of mind, a massive anti-war movement.

We saw what appeared to be become what it really was: the vast, technologically mighty, nationalist, American empire was defeated by ideas, weapons, and courageous commitment.

We took responsibility for our own education,  recognizing that the public education system was designed to serve capital and its empire. Our study groups were typically much better than the vast majority of university or k12 classrooms in part because we knew that our ideas set up our actions: both mattered.

We made serious mistakes. Too many of us failed to keep the close personal ties, built across race, sex, and class lines, that could sustain a movement beyond the end of the war. Too many of us got scared off when we saw others attacked, or for that matter, ourselves beaten. And far too many of us simply got bought by the empire’s bribe, settled into comfortable jobs and lost track of what we once were.

Our mistakes negated a good deal of what we had done and, thus: a world offering youth perpetual war, bad jobs, no jobs, and escalating racism. But that world is met by the potential, again, of a mass, class conscious, integrated activist movement that grasps what capital, the corporate (fascist) state, and empire means, and how direct action in solidarity with workers, students, educators, and troops can win.

Perhaps our worst mistake was to fail to recognize the central roles of capitalism and imperialism as the US empire organized its own decay following the defeat in Vietnam: in consumerism, spectacles, new masks for intensified racism, the rebirth of support for militarism in schools and in the armies, the divide and rule tactical attacks on differing parts of the working class, and the restructuring of sexism in newer, even more exploitative forms.

Nothing in our social context happens outside the bounds of capitalism and imperialism. But many of us sought to make our peace–by not noticing or even attacking those who pointed the finger.

Again, the core issue of our time is the reality of the promise of perpetual war and booming color-coded inequality met by the potential of a mass, activist, integrated class conscious movement. In the absence of that; barbarism. If you seek a barbarized region, look around you–wherever you may be.

Rich Gibson is emeritus professor, San Diego State University. He is a co-founder of the Rouge Forum, an organization of students, professors, teachers, and community people that recognizes social class and imperialism are important. He was repeatedly jailed for refusing the draft during the Vietnam wars. RG@Richgibson.com 

 

 

31 Years After the U.S. Invasion of Grenada October 21, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Foreign Policy, Grenada, History, Imperialism, Latin America.
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Roger’s note: Having failed for decades to dislodge the thorn in its side known as Fidel Castro’s Cuba, the United States in 1983 invaded a tiny island in the Caribbean which had had the audacity to form a socialist government.  Following the usual paradigm for Latin America intervention (otherwise known as “send in the Marines!”), including the slaughter of civilians, it was little challenge for the United States brave army to defeat the defenders of a nation of barely one hundred thousand inhabitants.

 

“A Lovely Piece of Real Estate”

by MICKEY Z

As I’m sure everyone knows, we’re fast approaching the 31st anniversary of a truly momentous American victory — a crucial military operation that not only warmed Ronald Raygun’s cold, cold heart but was also deemed film-worthy by the former mayor of Carmel, California.

Yes, of course, I’m talking about the Oct. 25, 1983, “liberation” of Grenada.

Urgent Fury

In March 1979, socialist leader Maurice Bishop took over Grenada in a bloodless coup. Once deemed “a lovely piece of real estate” by U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz, Grenada is a small East Caribbean island of some 133 square miles and 110,000 inhabitants. At the time of the U.S. invasion, half of Grenada’s nationals lived in the People’s Republic of Brooklyn.

The United States worked to destabilize the Bishop regime but, in early October 1983, he was ultimately deposed and later murdered by a group even more to the “Left” than he. That’s when America decided to risk awakening this sleeping Caribbean giant by launching a preemptive military strike.

After adding the obligatory statements about Soviet and Cuban designs on the island, the Great Communicator sent roughly 8,000 U.S. soldiers in to lead an operation called “Urgent Fury.” The fighting was over in a week. Casualties included 135 Americans killed or wounded along 84 Cubans and some 400 Grenadians dead.

“Forced on Us”

“The American media rarely mentioned Grenadian casualties of U.S. aggression,” explains Ramsey Clark. “It barely reported the mental hospital destroyed by a Navy jet, leaving more than 20 dead.” (Sound familiar?)

Raygun declared that the invasion was “forced on us by events that have no precedent in the eastern Caribbean,” leaving the United States with “no choice but to act strongly and decisively.” (Sound familiar?)

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

Wall Street Journal headline blared: U.S. INVADES GRENADA IN WARNING TO RUSSIA AND CUBA ABOUT EXPANSION IN THE CARIBBEAN. It was also a warning to potential critics.”The invasion was already under way, so even if we opposed it, there was nothing any of us could do,” Democratic House Speaker Tip O’Neil said at the time. “I had some serious reservations, and I’m sure my Democratic colleagues did as well, but I’d be damned if I was going to voice any criticism while our boys were out there.” (Sound familiar?)

Let’s not forget the “Grenada 17.” Amnesty International’s UK media director, Lesley Warner, wrote in 2003 that these 17 prisoners were “initially held without charge in cages, before being tried before an unfair, ad-hoc tribunal. They were denied access to legal counsel and to documents needed for their defense. After sentencing, the Grenada 17 were held in tiny cells with lights left permanently on.” (Sound familiar?)

“Stepping on a Flea”

In October 1983, Raygun stopped short of donning a flight suit, but did make a speech on the fourth day of the invasion, which, according to William Blum, “succeeded in giving jingoism a bad name.”

“The president managed to link the invasion of Grenada with the shooting down of a Korean airliner by the Soviet Union, the killing of U.S. soldiers in Lebanon, and the taking of American hostages in Iran,” says Blum.

“Clearly, the invasion symbolized an end to this string of humiliations for the United States. Even Vietnam was being avenged,” Blum adds. “To commemorate the American Renaissance, some 7,000 U.S. servicemen were designated heroes of the republic and decorated with medals. (Many had done no more than sit on ships near the island.) American had regained its manhood, by stepping on a flea.”

It’s all so familiar, but when will we learn?

Mickey Z. is the author of 12 books, most recently Occupy this Book: Mickey Z. on Activism. Until the laws are changed or the power runs out, he can be found on the Web here