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Winston Churchill: the Imperial Monster February 25, 2015

Posted by rogerhollander in Africa, History, Imperialism, Kenya, Racism, South Africa, War.
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Roger’s note: This week, a low life scum by the name of John McCain, presiding over a Senate committee, referred to peace activists who had come to make a citizen’s arrest on war criminal Henry Kissinger, as — well, low life scum.  I have always had a strong distaste for people in positions of power and authority, of whatever nationality, who are liars, racists, warmongers, etc.  This goes as well for dead “heroes” who happened to be on the winning side, the side that writes history.  My obsessive antipathy towards Winston Churchill began when I read about the fire bombing of Dresden toward the end of World War II, ordered by Churchill to terrorize and punish the the residents of this city that had great cultural heritage but zero strategic importance from a military point of view.  This incineration of almost an entire population compares to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and it was the inspiration for the celebrated novel, “Slaughterhouse Five,” written by an American soldier who survived the Dresden bombing, Kurt Vonnegut.  If you didn’t already know that Churchill, who is considered by most to have been a noble statesman and warrior, was a disgusting racist pig, you will after reading this.

Fear-Monger, War Criminal, Racist

 

dresdendone.png1
by MICHAEL DICKINSON

This week Britain is commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the death of Winston Churchill. Millions of people worldwide watched his state funeral on television in 1965, and thousands of people lined the streets of London to pay their last respects as his cortege slowly passed. But I somehow doubt that President Obama will be adding his own warm words of remembrance for the iconic British wartime leader.

After all, his own paternal grandfather, Hussein Onyango Obama, was one of 150.000 rebellious Kikuyu “blackamoors” forced into detention camps during Churchill’s postwar premiership, when the British governnment began its brutal campaign to suppress the alleged “Mau Mau” uprising in Kenya, in order to protect the privileges of the white settler population at the expense of the indigenous people. About 11,000 Kenyans were killed and 81,000 detained during the British government’s campaign to protect its imperialist heritage.

Suspected Mau Mau insurgents were subject to electric shock, whippings, burning and mutilation in order to crush the local drive for independence. Obama’s grandfather was imprisoned without trial for two years and tortured for resisting Churchill’s empire. He never truly recovered from the ordeal.

Africa was quite a playground for young Winston. Born into the privileged British elite in in 1847, educated at Harrow and Sandhurst, brought up believing the simple story that the superior white man was conquering the primitive, dark-skinned natives, and bringing them the benefits of civilisation, he set off as soon as he could to take his part in “a lot of jolly little wars against barbarous peoples,” whose violence was explained by a “strong aboriginal propensity to kill”.

In Sudan, he bragged that he personally shot at least three “savages”.

In South Africa, where “it was great fun galloping about,” he defended British built concentration camps for white Boers, saying they produced “the minimum of suffering”.   The death toll was almost 28,000.

When at least 115,000 black Africans were likewise swept into British camps, where 14,000 died, he wrote only of his “irritation that Kaffirs should be allowed to fire on white men”.

(On his attitude to other races, Churchill’s doctor, Lord Moran, once said: “Winston thinks only of the colour of their skin.”

Churchill found himself in other British dominions besides Africa.   As a young officer in the Swat valley, now part of Pakistan, Churchill one day experienced a fleeting revelation. The local population, he wrote in a letter, was fighting back because of “the presence of British troops in lands the local people considered their own,” – just as Britain would if she were invaded.

This idle thought was soon dismissed however , and he gladly took part in raids that laid waste to whole valleys, destroying houses and burning crops, believing the “natives” to be helpless children who will “willingly, naturally, gratefully include themselves within the golden circle of an ancient crown”.

But rebels had to be crushed with extreme force. As Colonial Secretary in the 1920s, Churchill unleashed the notorious Black and Tan thugs on Ireland’s Catholic civilians, making a hypocritical mockery of his comment:

“Indeed it is evident that Christianity, however degraded and distorted by cruelty and intolerance, must always exert a modifying influence on men’s passions, and protect them from the more violent forms of fanatical fever, as we are protected from smallpox by vaccination.”

His fear-mongering views on Islam sound strangely familiar:

“But the Mahommedan religion increases, instead of lessening, the fury of intolerance. It was originally propagated by the sword, and ever since, its votaries have been subject, above the people of all other creeds, to this form of madness.”

“On the subject of India,” said the British Secretary of State to India: “Winston is not quite sane… I didn’t see much difference between his outlook and Hitler’s.”

When Mahatma Gandhi launched his campaign of peaceful resistance against British rule in India, Churchill raged that Gandhi:

“ought to be lain bound hand and foot at the gates of Delhi, and then trampled on by an enormous elephant with the new Viceroy seated on its back. Gandhi-ism and everything it stands for will have to be grappled with and crushed.”

In 1931 he sneered: “It is alarming and also nauseating to see Mr. Gandhi, a seditious Middle Temple lawyer of the type well-known in the East, now posing as a fakir, striding half naked up the steps of the Viceregal palace to parley on equal terms with the representative of the King-Emperor.”

As Gandhi’s support increased, Churcill announced:

“I hate Indians. They are a beastly people with a beastly religion.”

In 1943 a famine broke out in Bengal, caused by the imperial policies of the British. In reply to the Secretary of State for India’s telegram requesting food stock to relieve the famine, Churchill wittily replied:

“If food is scarce, why isn’t Gandhi dead yet?”

Up to 3 million people starved to death. Asked in 1944 to explain his refusal to send food aid, Churchill jeered:

“Relief would do no good. Indians breed like rabbits and will outstrip any available food supply.”

churchill

Churchill statue in London. Photo: Getty Images.

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Just after World War I, approximately one quarter of the world’s land and population fell within the spheres of British influence. The Empire had increased in size with the addition of territories taken from its vanquished enemies.

As British Colonial Secretary, Churchill’s power in the Middle East was immense. He “created Jordan with a stroke of a pen one Sunday afternoon”, allegedly drawing the expansive boundary map after a generous lunch. The huge zigzag in Jordan’s eastern border with Saudi Arabia has been called “Winston’s Hiccup” or “Churchill’s Sneeze”.

He is the man who invented Iraq, another arbitrary patch of desert, which was awarded to a throneless Hashemite prince; Faisal, whose brother Abdullah was given control of Jordan. Sons of King Hussein, Faisal and Abdullah had been war buddies of Churchill’s pal, the famous “T.E. Lawrence of Arabia”.

But the lines drawn in the sand by British imperialism, locking together conflicting peoples behind arbitrary borders were far from stable,and large numbers of Jordanians, Iraqis, Kurds and Palestinians were denied anything resembling real democracy.

In 1920 Churchill advocated the use of chemical weapons on the “uncooperative Arabs” involved in the Iraqi revolution against British rule.

“I do not understand the squeamishness about the use of gas,” he declared. “I am strongly in favor of using poison gas against uncivilized tribes. It would spread a lively terror.”

As Colonial Secretary, it was Churchill who offered the Jews their free ticket to the ‘Promised Land’ of ‘Israel’, although he thought they should not “take it for granted that the local population will be cleared out to suit their convenience.” He dismissed the Palestinians already living in the country as “barbaric hoards who ate little but camel dung.”

Addressing the Peel Commission (1937) on why Britain was justified in deciding the fate of Palestine, Churchill clearly displayed his white supremacist ideology to justify one of the most brutal genocides and mass displacements of people in history, based on his belief that “the Aryan stock is bound to triumph”:

“I do not agree that the dog in a manger has the final right to the manger even though he may have lain there for a very long time. I do not admit that right. I do not admit for instance, that a great wrong has been done to the Red Indians of America or the black people of Australia. I do not admit that a wrong has been done to these people by the fact that a stronger race, a higher-grade race, a more worldly wise race to put it that way, has come in and taken their place.”

In fact, many of the views Churchill held were virtually Nazi.  Apart from his support of hierarchical racism, as Home Minister he had advocated euthanasia and sterilisation of the handicapped.

In 1927, after a visit to Rome, he applauded the budding fascist dictator, Mussolini:

“What a man! I have lost my heart!… Fascism has rendered a service to the entire world… If I were Italian, I am sure I would have been with you entirely from the beginning of your victorious struggle against the bestial appetites and passion of Leninism.”

(“The Bestial Appetites and Passions of Leninism”, eh? Where can I get a copy?)

But years later, in his written account of the Second World War (Vol. 111), fickle-hearted Winston applauded the downfall of his erstwhile hero:

“Hitler’s fate was sealed. Mussolini’s fate was sealed. As for the Japanese, they would be ground to powder.”

Britain’s American allies saw to that in Hiroshima and Nagasaki when they dropped their atomic bombs and killed hundreds of thousands of Japanese citizens.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Churchill had ordered the saturation bombing of Dresden, where, on February 13 1945, more than 500,000 German civilians and refugees, mostly women and children, were slaughtered in one day by the British Royal Air Force (RAF) and the United States Army Air Force (USAAF), who dropped over 700,000 phosphorus bombs on the city.

Prime Minister Churchill had said earlier:

“I do not want suggestions as to how we can disable the economy and the machinery of war, what I want are suggestions as to how we can roast the German refugees on their escape from Breslau.”

In Dresden he got his wish. Those who perished in the centre of the city could not be traced, as the temperature in the area reached 1600 degree Centigrade. Dresden’s citizens barely had time to reach their shelters and many who sought refuge underground suffocated as oxygen was pulled from the air to feed the flames. Others perished in a blast of white heat strong enough to melt human flesh.

Instead of being charged with being responsible for ordering one of the most horrific war crimes of recent history, in which up to half a million people died screaming in his firestorms, Churchill emerged from the war as a hero. An unwavering supporter of the British monarchy throughout his life, he was made a knight of the Order of the Garter, Britain’s highest order of knighthoods, by Queen Elizabeth II in 1953.

The monarchy is so extraordinarily useful. When Britain wins a battle she shouts, “God save the Queen”; when she loses, she votes down the prime minister,” he once said.

Shortly after the Second World War was won, however, Churchill’s Conservative government was voted down by a Britain tired of battle, austerity, and hungry for change.

“History will be kind to me for I intend to write it,” said Churchill, and to a certain extent he succeeded. exte habit of dictating in the nude to his male secretaries. y and conscriptioneople were massacred ‘Winnie’ became Britain’s great national icon, with his trade-mark cigar and V-sign, remembered for leading Britain through her finest hour (we won’t mention his eccentric habit of pacing about the office in the nude while dictating to secretaries!) The fat cigar clamped in his mouth a symbol of cocky British defiance, Churchill was genial courageous Big Brother figure, revered by the media. His stirring wartime speech:

“We shall fight them on the beaches! We shall never surrender!” makes no mention of “We shall bomb them in their cities! We shall make them suffer!”

Churchill’s brutality and brutishness have been ignored, but he never reckoned on the invention of the internet, or its power to allow authors to question his view of history and expose the cruelty and racism of the man.

When George W Bush moved out of the White House he left a bust of Winston Churchill in the Oval office. He’d used it to inspire him on his ‘war against terrorism’. Barack Obama had it removed.  I wonder if he found the bust offensive? Was it out of respect for the pain and distress his Kenyan grandfather, Hussein Onyango Obama, suffered on Churchill’s orders ?

Removing a bust is a fairly simple matter, but toppling a statue is quite another. In Westminster Square in front of Parliament in London there are several statues of deceased politicians and dignitaries, one of which I find particularly distasteful. Hands clasped behind back, the jodphur-clad figure striding purposely forward is that of Jan Christian Smuts. racist forefather of the Apartheid system in South Africa.

As for Churchill, who, as Home Secretary, said:

‘I propose that 100,000 degenerate Britons should be forcibly sterilized and others put in labour camps to halt the decline of the British race.’

His hulking toadish statue stands tall on a granite plinth, clutching a walking stick, his unblinking bulldog gaze on the Houses of Parliament where he reigned twice as a Conservative Prime Minister.

If I were Prime Minister of Great Britain, one of the first things on my list would be the removal of memorials to facist-minded racist imperialists. The statues of Smuts and Churchill in Parliament Square would be the first to come down.

Michael Dickinson can be contacted at michaelyabanji@gmail.com

 

Alice Walker: Why I’m Joining the Freedom Flotilla to Gaza June 27, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, Human Rights, Israel, Gaza & Middle East.
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The Guardian / By
Alice Walker

Pulitzer prize-winning writer Alice Walker is on board an
international flotilla of boats sailing to Gaza to challenge the Israeli
blockade.

June 26, 2011  |

//

Photo Credit:
AFP

Why am I going on the Freedom Flotilla II to Gaza? I ask myself this, even
though the answer is: what else would I do? I am in my 67th year, having lived
already a long and fruitful life, one with which I am content. It seems to me
that during this period of eldering it is good to reap the harvest of one’s
understanding of what is important, and to share this, especially with the
young. How are they to learn, otherwise?

Our boat, The Audacity of Hope, will be carrying letters to the people
of Gaza. Letters expressing solidarity and love. That is all its cargo will
consist of. If the Israeli military attacks us, it will be as if they attacked
the mailman. This should go down hilariously in the annals of history. But if
they insist on attacking us, wounding us, even murdering us, as they did some of
the activists in the last flotilla, Freedom Flotilla I, what is to be done?

There
is a scene in the movie Gandhi that is very moving to me: it is when the unarmed
Indian protesters line up to confront the armed forces of the British Empire.
The soldiers beat them unmercifully, but the Indians, their broken and dead
lifted tenderly out of the fray, keep coming.

Alongside
this image of brave followers of Gandhi there is, for me, an awareness of paying
off a debt to the Jewish civil rights activists who faced death to come to the
side of black people in the American south in our time of need. I am especially
indebted to Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman who heard our calls for
help – our government then as now glacially slow in providing protection
to non-violent protesters – and came to stand with us.

They
got as far as the truncheons and bullets of a few “good ol’ boys'” of Neshoba
County, Mississippi and were beaten and shot to death along with James Chaney, a
young black man of formidable courage who died with them. So, even though our
boat will be called The Audacity of Hope, it will fly the Goodman, Chaney,
Schwerner flag in my own heart.

And
what of the children of Palestine, who were ignored in our president’s latest
speech on Israel and Palestine, and
whose impoverished, terrorised, segregated existence was mocked by the standing
ovations recently given in the US Congress to the prime minister of Israel?

I
see children, all children, as humanity’s most precious resource, because it
will be to them that the care of the planet will always be left. One child must
never be set above another, even in casual conversation, not to mention in
speeches that circle the globe.

As
adults, we must affirm, constantly, that the Arab child, the Muslim child, the
Palestinian child, the African child, the Jewish child, the Christian child, the
American child, the Chinese child, the Israeli child, the Native American child,
etc, is equal to all others on the planet. We must do everything in our power to
cease the behaviour that makes children everywhere feel afraid.

I
once asked my best friend and husband during the era of segregation, who was as
staunch a defender of black people’s human rights as anyone I’d ever met: how
did you find your way to us, to black people, who so needed you? What force
shaped your response to the great injustice facing people of colour of that
time?

I
thought he might say it was the speeches, the marches, the example of Martin
Luther King Jr, or of others in the movement who exhibited impactful courage and
grace. But no. Thinking back, he recounted an episode from his childhood that
had led him, inevitably, to our struggle.

He
was a little boy on his way home from yeshiva, the Jewish school he attended
after regular school let out. His mother, a bookkeeper, was still at work; he
was alone. He was frequently harassed by older boys from regular school, and one
day two of these boys snatched his yarmulke (skull cap), and, taunting him, ran
off with it, eventually throwing it over a fence.

Two
black boys appeared, saw his tears, assessed the situation, and took off after
the boys who had taken his yarmulke. Chasing the boys down and catching them,
they made them climb the fence, retrieve and dust off the yarmulke, and place it
respectfully back on his head.

It
is justice and respect that I want the world to dust off and put – without
delay, and with tenderness – back on the head of the Palestinian child. It
will be imperfect justice and respect because the injustice and disrespect have
been so severe. But I believe we are right to try.

That
is why I sail.

The
Chicken Chronicles: A Memoir by Alice Walker is
published by Weidenfeld and Nicolson. A longer version of this article appears
on Alice Walker’s blog:
alicewalkersgarden.com/blog

Barack Obama and Langston Hughes on “Grumblers” and “Merry Christmas” December 27, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Africa, Asia, Barack Obama, Cuba, Economic Crisis, Haiti, History, Iraq and Afghanistan, Race, War.
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Posted Wed, 12/23/2009 – 17:24 by Bruce A. Dixon

When US presidents offer us their holiday greeting messages, do we know what are they really saying?  How hard can it be to figure that out?  Langston Hughes died in 1967, but he knew what every US president, including Barack Obama is really saying, underneath and behind the mask.  

by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon

In a recent interview with one of the few black reporters privileged to be part of the White House press corps, President Obama wasasked

April D. Ryan: Speaking of the African American community, this seems to be a shift in black leadership, as it relates to supporting you. You have the CBC that’s upset with you about targeting on the jobs front — African Americans, 15.6 percent unemployment rate, expected to go to 20 percent; mainstream America 10 percent. Then you have black actors who supported you — Danny Glover, who’s saying that you’ve not changed, your administration is the same as George W. Bush. What are your thoughts about the fact that black leadership is grumbling, and the fact that people are concerned with you being the first African American President, and they thought that there would be a little bit more compassion for black issues?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, April, I think you just engaged in a big generalization in terms of how you asked that question. If you want me to line up all the black actors, for example, who support me, and put them on one side of the room, and a couple who are grumbling on the other, I’m happy to have that.

I think if you look at the polling, in terms of the attitudes of the African American community, there’s overwhelming support for what we’ve tried to do. And, so, is there grumbling? Of course there’s grumbling,

Obama was referring to the relatively mild and tentative criticisms of the Congressional Black Caucus, along with other expressions of disappointment on the part of such activists as actor Danny Glover. The president can ignore, dismiss or disparage the divide between his policies and the opinions of the African American community which supported him. But it’s deep, it’s real, and it’s growing. It’s even historic.

Presidents have been issuing holiday greeting messages from their homes or cozy offices for a long time now, and Obama’s will be on line any minute now. Those interested can probably find it at JackandJillPolitics.com, at whitehouse.gov, and any number of other places. But the ironic 1930 Christmas message of Langston Hughes, the poet laureate of Black America sounds, with the most minor edits, like it could have come from the lips any US president of the past hundred years, including Barack Obama.

Sixty-nine years ago Langston Hughes began his holiday poem Merry Christmas with these lines

Merry Christmas China

From the gun-boats in the river

Ten inch shells for Christmas gifts

And peace on earth forever

At the moment, the U.S. was hip-deep in the Chinese civil war, bankrolling and advising a string of opium-soaked warlord armies against communists and agitators, and conducting naval operations in Chinese rivers and off its coasts. Today our first black president’s Pentagon, headed by the same team that ran George Bush’s Pentagon, sits atop some 800 overseas military bases in a hundred countries with more than 2 million uniformed personnel. Our president will spend more on this military machine than the all the rest of the planet combined, fighting and preparing to fight what the National Security Doctrine calls “multiple overlapping wars” to control resources in distant lands in the interest “free trade and free markets.”

Langston’s Christmas poem draws our attention to a part of the world much in today’s headlines.

Merry Christmas, India

To Gandhi in his cell

From righteous Christian England

Ring out bright Christmas bell

Under our first black president, Afghanistan and Pakistan are part of a vast law-free zone in which daily shellings and air raids go unreported and unremarked except by the families of victims. Assassinations and kidnappings to fill America’s world-wide network of secret prisons have replaced the open incarceration of real and suspected political foes. At least we knew Gandhi’s name, what he was charged with, where he was locked up, what his sentence was, whether he got a day in court and whether his keepers mistreated him. We can’t say that about hundreds or thousands of Obama’s prisoners.

Merry Christmas Africa

From Cairo to he Cape

Sing hallelujah, praise the Lord

For murder and for rape

Some things have changed very little indeed. The four part series “The Ravaging of Africa” to which a link appears in our left column, is a comprehensive indictment of US policy in Africa, which has caused the death of some 26 million Africans since the 1960s, including nearly ten million in Congo alone. America’s role as conscienceless predator was reaffirmed last week in Copenhagen, when the US categorically rejected the notion that it owed the rest of the world a debt for being the single major contributor to climate change over the last century and a half. Africans can drown or starve due to US -initiated climate change, but there will be no technology sharing, no reparations, nothing in the way of human solidarity between Africa and the West if the son of Africa in the White House has anything to say about it.

Langston Hughes draws our attention to the Caribbean, where the US has enforced its will at gunpoint for much of two centuries.

Ring Merry Christmas Haiti

And drown the voodoo drums

We’ll rob you to the Christmas hymns

Until the next Christ comes

Ring Merry Christmas Cuba

(Where Yankee domination

Keeps a nice fat president’s

in a little half-starved nation.)

In Cuba at least, Yankee domination is over. President Obama seems to resent this fact just as much as the last nine presidents, and continues to enforce a warlike economic blockade on Cuba.

And in Haiti, after more than a dozen US invasions and occupations, the US engineered the kidnapping of that country’s elected president, whom Obama will not even allow back in the Western hemisphere. In the name of international cooperation, the US pays for a multinational occupation force from Brazil and other countries to hunt down and kill members of Haiti’s Lavalas party, freeing US Marines for duty elsewhere.

Under the rules, Haiti is to be kept starving and terrorized, prevented by law from feeding or funding itself, owning its own infrastructure or employing its own people. Some things don’t change much.

The Christmas message of Langston Hughes doesn’t forget about domestic affairs either.

And to you down and outers

(“Due to economic laws”)

Oh, eat, drink, be merry

With a breadline Santa Claus–

Jobless levels are the highest they’ve been anywhere since the Great Depression, when Hughes penned his Christmas greeting. But now, just as in 1930, we have a president with an unshakable belief that “a rising tide lifts all boats,” a saying popularized by John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan. In this time of economic crisis, President Obama has transferred more wealth to Wall Street from the real economy than all his predecessors combined.

But hard-pressed homeowners and those with heavy debts due to unpayable medical bills remain underwater. Their bailout isn’t coming. The only ones, apart from Wall Street who’ll get anything under an Obama administration will be the military.

President Obama began this December with a belligerent address that used the cadets at West Point as human stage props. At mid-month he went to Copenhagen to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, and offer another bald-faced set of excuses for wars, kidnappings, secret prisons and the whole panoply of empire. He or his vice president may end it treating us to a Christmas or New Year’s message posing with the troops in occupied Iraq or Afghanistan. The more some things change, the more they stay the same.

We don’t know exactly what Obama will say in his holiday message. But Langston Hughes knew seventy years ago what he will mean.

While all the world hails Christmas

While all the church bells sway

While better still the Christian guns

Proclaim this joyous day

While holy steel that makes us strong

Spits forth a mighty yuletide song

SHOOT Merry Christmas everywhere

Let Merry Christmas GAS the air.

Presidents can always find sycophants, yes-men or yes-women eager to agree to whatever they say, often before they can even say it. All that comes with the job, along with Air Force One and that song they play every time he enters a crowded room. But the the truth is always true, no matter how hotly or how many the deniers, and most of Black America is not in denial on war, peace, mass incarceration or poverty.  The heroes, and the just plain honest will always be those who speak the truth to power.

Langston has been gone from us a long time now. We’ll never know what he might say to a son of Africa in the White House, married to a girl from the south side of Chicago. But nobody on either side of the grave speaks more directly to what our first black president has become than Langston Hughes did seven decades ago. Barack Obama is in power. He can ignore, disparage or dismiss the truth. But it’s still true.  And most of us know it.

We wish the president and first family, along with all our readers and friends around the world a joyous and fulfilling holiday.

Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report, and based in Atlanta. He can be reached at bruce.dixon(at)blackagendareport. Langston Hughes is the poet laureate of Black America and can be reached at public libraries, and at independent and other bookstores everywhere.

U.S. Democracy a Sham? May 1, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in About Democracy, Democracy.
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mayday

 

Roger Hollander, www.rogerhollander.com, May Day, 2009.

 

When Gandhi was asked by a journalist what he thought of Western Civilization, he replied famously that he thought it would be a good idea.  He could have said the same for American democracy.

 

Now that there is a Democrat in the White House and a Democratic majority in the Senate, there is much discussion about the necessity to obtain a “filibuster-proof” majority of 60 seats.  Somehow the Republicans when in power got their program through with a simple majority.  Both these data tell us more about the Democrats than the Republicans.  Google the word “Republicrat” and see how many entries you get.

 

In an essay I wrote some time ago and posted on this Blog last August, (https://rogerhollander.wordpress.com/category/rogers-archived-writing/political-essays-roger/the-constitution-is-unconstitutional/) I analyzed the various injustices inherent in the original United States Constitution, some of which have been amended out of existence (slavery, women’s non-sufferance, etc.), and focused on what I characterize as one of the most undemocratic institutions in existence, the United States Senate.  I showed how both in theory and in practice, representatives of much less than a majority of Americans control what does and does not get legislated in that astute body.

 

Since Obama does not yet have his 60 – only the goddess knows when Coleman will give up, and you can never count on sleazebag Lieberman – let’s take a look at the present contingent of Republican Senators, who have in effect a veto over the legislative process. Let’s see what percentage of the American population these 40 Republican Senators actually represent.

 

(I have taken the population data from the U. S. Census Bureau estimates for July 1, 2008 [http://www.census.gov/popest/states/NST-ann-est.html; “Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for the United States, Regions, States, and Puerto Rico: April 1, 2000 to July 1, 2008 (NST-EST2008-01”].  At that the estimate for the entire country was 304,060,000 [all estimates are rounded off to the nearest thousand]).

 

In the following states both senate seats are held by Republicans:

 

State                    Population

 

Alabama              4,662,000          

Arizona               6,500,000

Georgia               9,686,000

Idaho                    1,524,000

Kansas                 2,802,000

Kentucky            4,269,000

Maine                    1,316,000

Mississippi           2,939,000

Oklahoma             3,642,000

South Carolina     4,480,000

Tennessee               6,215,000

Texas                        24,327,000

Utah                          2,736,000

Wyoming                   533,000

 

Total                           75,631,000

 

The following states are represented by one Republican Senator:

 

Arkansas             2,855,000  

Florida               18,328,000

Indiana                6,377,000

Iowa                    3,003,000

Louisiana            4,411,000

Missouri              5,912,000

Nebraska             1,783,000

Nevada                2,600,000

New Hampshire  1,316,000

North Carolina   9,222,000

Ohio                      11,486,000

South Dakota        804,000

 

Total                             68,097,000

 

Let’s do the math.  By adding the total population for the states in which both Senators are Republican (75,631,000) to half of the population of the states in which there is one Republican Senator (68,097,000/2 = 34,049,000) we get a sum total of 109,680,000. 

 

This figure represents 36% of the overall American population.  The representatives of those 36% in the United States Senate essentially hold the country hostage with respect to legislation (this is based upon the assumption is that all Senators will vote according to the dictates of the party leadership; although this is not always the case, it is not unreasonable to assume that those who cross over from each party cancel each other out).

 

36%.  U.S. democracy in action.

 

In my original essay (“The Constitution is Unconstitutional”) I compared California with Wyoming with respect to democratic representation in the Senate.  Using the updated 2008 population data, let’s take a new look.  We have California with a population of 36,757,000 and Wyoming with a whopping 533,000.  Yet each state has exactly two representatives in the Senate.  One Senator for every 267,000 Wyomingites; one Senator for each 18,379,000 Californians.  If you live in Wyoming you have 69 times more senatorial political power than someone living in California.

 

69 to one.  U.S democracy in action.

 

So big deal, you say, that’s the way the cookie crumbles.  Instead of whining about it, why don’t you suggest what can be done.  In my original essay I argued that the Constitution seemed to establish the Senate in a way that it could never be amended.  I am quite possibly wrong about that; perhaps a Constitutional Amendment could democratize the Senate or abolish it.  But can you imagine that happening in a dozen lifetimes?  No way, Ho Zay. 

 

So what then?  In my article I argued for revolution.  If you’re interested, read the article.  Here again is the link: https://rogerhollander.wordpress.com/category/rogers-archived-writing/political-essays-roger/the-constitution-is-unconstitutional/

Waterboarding the Rule of Law April 29, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, Torture.
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 rule-of-law-david-bromley

by: Steve Weissman, t r u t h o u t | Perspective

Asked what he thought of Western civilization, the nonviolent Mahatma Gandhi famously replied, “I think it would be a good idea.” Unless millions of Americans now demand better, we can say the same of “the rule of law.” What a good idea it would have been, but – like the tooth fairy – it will not exist, not when competing priorities get in the way. The balancing – and trimming – is well on its way.

    Should a special prosecutor hold Bush, Cheney, Rice and Rumsfeld accountable for violating the law against torture when they specifically authorized waterboarding, sleep deprivation, stress positions and sexual humiliation of detainees? “No one is above the law,” President Obama repeatedly tells us. But, prosecuting Bush & Co. would tear the country apart, the Republican chorus chimes in. And it would create a precedent for prosecuting future presidents whose policies we might not like, just as in a banana republic.

    Should Congress or a truth commission investigate torture and other war crimes so they will never happen again? Better not, the White House tells us. The country needs to look ahead and not to the past, and the administration needs to focus on fixing the economy and creating a universal health care system.

    Should Congress impeach former Deputy Attorney General Jay Bybee, now a federal appeals court judge, for giving his superiors the legal arguments they wanted to justify the torture they had already decided upon? Absolutely not, his defenders insist. Lawyers must feel free to give officials their best legal advice, and officials must feel free to get the legal advice they need.

    None of these alternative priorities are trivial. America should never criminalize differences over lawful policies. Obama and his administration should focus on ending the economic crisis and fulfilling his campaign promises. And senior officials should feel free to consult with government lawyers. But all these priorities must remain within legal limits, and none of them justify giving a pass to those who commit criminal acts, no matter how high their office. Either we uphold the rule of law or we make political priorities paramount. We cannot have it both ways, and we should stop pretending that we can.

    The stakes here go far beyond whether or not we torture our enemies, our suspected enemies and then our own people, though these are obviously life-and-death concerns. What should scare us even more is whether or not we maintain even the façade of democracy.

    In overriding the Geneva Conventions, other treaty obligations and American laws banning torture, the Bush administration explicitly claimed that the president could do whatever he thought necessary to full his constitutional obligation to defend the country. He was the decider in chief, and neither Congress nor the courts could overrule his decision. As Jay Bybee’s torture memo put it, “the President enjoys complete discretion in the exercise of his Commander-in-Chief authority and in conducting operations against hostile forces.”

    Right-wing legal ideologues call this view of sweeping and unchecked presidential power “a strong unified presidency.” Those who believe in it would turn our chief executive into an elected monarch, and some proponents would even grant him or her the right to call off elections in time of crisis, real or contrived. Following this grandiose view, President Bush usurped powers that the Constitution does not permit, and his administration used those powers to commit other crimes, from torture to invading Iraq on a pack of lies. Do we prosecute Bush’s power grab as a criminal violation of the Constitution? Or, do we accept a crime bordering on treason as just another policy decision with which we may or may not disagree?

    Either way, we set a precedent. Prosecute Bush, Cheney, Rice and Rumsfeld and we confirm that every future leader must operate within the rule of law. Give them a pass and their successors will feel free to rule as they will. The choice is clear, if only Americans have the courage to pursue it. My guess is that we do not, and that we will soon come to rue it.

»


A veteran of the Berkeley Free Speech Movement and the New Left monthly Ramparts, Steve Weissman lived for many years in London, working as a magazine writer and television producer. He now lives and works in France.

Bayard Rustin: Thoughts from Charles Merrill on Tax Revolt March 17, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Human Rights, Uncategorized.
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“I agree all citizens should pay their taxes if they are treated as equals and receive all of the benefits and privileges allowed as U.S. heterosexual citizens. For those of us not allowed 100% of the rights and benefits due to E.N.D.A., D.O.M.A., D.A.D.T., objection to the war, etc., we should protest the unfair discrimination dictated by the majority. If we really believe in our cause we will risk going to prison, otherwise the cause is not worth fighting for. Why should we help pay for Faith Based programs of Southern Baptists and other evangelical groups that discriminate against us and refuse to hire us?

I am a great admirer of the unsung hero Civil Rights leader Bayard Rustin the main brain in back of the Civil Rights movement. He was a War Tax Resister and Quaker which means he protested war as he saw the injustice against humanity, The 60’s Civil Rights movement was stimulated by economic struggles and withholding taxes were not a strategy but a bus boycott was.

Rustin travelled to India and studied Gandhi’s non violent resistance and salt tax protests to free India. Would Bayard Rustin be a tax protestor today for LGBT equal rights? Absolutely. Not everyone can go this protest route and keep their jobs or non-profit tax exemptions, but those self-employed and retirees who can, should. Rustin’s biography is here. Talk about a hero, his story made into a film would make Milk look weak in comparison. Because he was gay and belonged to the communist party briefly, Black faith based Civil Rights groups keep his name hushed.”

His bio, my hero: Bayard Rustin

from a comment on The Bilerico Project by Charles Merrill

War on Two Fronts: A Somber Assessment January 13, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Israel, Gaza & Middle East, War.
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(Roger’s note: if you are tired of reading about how badly Bush botched his presidency (an illegitimate one at that), skip to the middle of the article where it begins: “And yet 1948 provides one interpretive key to the whole mess.”  I think you will find this quite an insightful analysis of the two-state solution for Israel and Palestine.)
Why did Bush not do more for peace during his failed presidency? Because someone is always lobbing a rocket or detonating a bomb, and this invalidates any and every gesture toward peace, in his simple view.

The lackluster and mildly bizarre performance of President Bush in this, the last of his 47 presidential press conferences, puts the muted period to a failed presidency that began with constitutional fireworks and cultural exclamation-points. It was a strange show. His attempts to be gracious with the press fell flat, his professions of commitment to the ideals of liberty and free speech were scarcely plausible, his self-deprecating attempts at humor elicited not so much as a smile.

It was his simplistic assessment of the current situation in Gaza that was most striking, however, and worrisome. The situation is simple for Bush; it always has been. Israel’s battle is America’s battle, and vice versa. It is framed as a battle of Israeli democracy against the anti-democratic forces surrounding her, and it is thus another front in the War on Terror that has always had a theological echo in this president’s biblicist mind.

There can be no peace so long as Hamas is lobbing rockets into Israel, the President concluded. That is very true (though not absolutely so). The statement needs a supplement. There can be no peace so long as many things continue to be permitted—like the flow of illegal weapons into Gaza, like the building of illegal settlements in the West Bank, like a de facto Israeli blockade of the Gaza strip, etcetera. There are no heroes in this conflict, and that is what this president’s simplistic and one-sided reasoning always failed to comprehend. Why did he not do more? Because someone is always lobbing a rocket or detonating a bomb, and this invalidates any and every gesture toward peace, in his simple view.

Barack Obama famously noted that a president rarely has the luxury of dealing with one crisis at a time. The standard litany of current crises is well known: the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression; two wars with staggering expense accounts; ongoing security concerns, etcetera. And well before being sworn in, the troubles of the President-elect have multiplied: Bill Richardson’s withdrawal of his nomination to a Cabinet post; controversy over seating certain Senators; debates about the economic stimulus package he proposes; debates about the appropriateness of inviting Rick Warren to the presidential podium.

Now two new battles are brewing, and we did not directly anticipate either one. But we need to find a way to think them together. Pakistani troops are massing on the Indian border, and Israel has mounted a punishing ground assault on Gaza. In fact, the Israelis have just brought up their reserves, indicating that they intend to be at this for some time.

There is something almost surreal, and supremely depressing, in hearing poignant phrases uttered for the hundredth time. The faces of the politicians change; the well-meaning professions of care do not. So we are told that they will apply themselves with new urgency to the Mid-east peace process. And yet the US president, when asked today why his attempts to move that process along never made any headway, noted rather lamely that “they’ve been fighting there for a long time.” It was clear from his subsequent remarks that he was thinking at least as much about biblical history as about the post-1948 era.

And yet 1948 provides one interpretive key to the whole mess.

Israel, India and Pakistan are all three creatures of the post-colonial break-up of the British Empire at the end of World War 2. And India provides a cautionary tale for Israel today. The terrifying moral they provide is that “two-state solutions” do not work, if we imagine working as the creation of stable borders and relatively peaceable neighbors.

When it was clear in 1946-7 that the British would leave the Indian subcontinent, then the great post-colonial question emerged: how many countries should be created out of what were previously vast colonial holdings? Gandhi, it may be recalled, was state solution (and he was assassinated by a Hindu nationalist, not an Islamist). Gandhi envisioned a thriving multi-ethnic and multi-religious democracy, one that laid claim to its proud history of productive Hindu-Muslim coexistence. His Islamic counterpart, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, disagreed, insisting that the Muslim minority on the subcontinent needed a country of its own. Hence the emergence of the two-state India-Pakistan solution.

Yet Pakistan was an almost surreal construction from the beginning. It was a bizarre non-contiguous territory: East and West Pakistan, separated by over one thousand miles of India. Unsurprisingly, the two halves of Pakistan fell to bickering, then fell apart, their quarrels supported by an Indian regime that was interested in maintaining a weak neighbor to its north, and the predictable civil war that began in 1971 resulted in the creation of an independent Bagladesh. Since then, India and (West) Pakistan have fought two major wars of territorial dispute (primarily over the status of Kashmir), one minor war, and have skirmished almost constantly.

The moral of this strange tale is two-fold. First, the arbitrary construction of a country composed of two non-contiguous parts is doomed from the start. The second lesson is even more troubling: “Two-state solutions” do not work. Built into the model at its inception is the premise that these potentially hostile groups cannot co-exist peacefully. What is taken off the table at the start is the possibility of peaceful coexistence and the creation of a multi-ethnic, multi-religious, genuinely cosmopolitan society. If you assume at the start that you need two separate countries because the relative populations cannot coexist, then you should not be surprised if these two countries fight periodic wars from then on. Conflict, after all, was the very premise that named the problem for which two states allegedly provided a solution.

We have the makings of this same situation in Israel today. The nominal Palestinian “state” is an even more bizarre non-contiguous territory constituted by the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Since Hamas’s victory in the most recent elections (they won a plurality rather than a strict majority, but that is beside the current crisis), we have been moving toward an Israeli-sponsored civil war between the two parts of this quasi-Palestinian state (the two Palestinian parties involved, Fatah versus Hamas, have come to symbolize the conflict, and the stakes). Israel has invested heavily in assuring that this quasi-state cannot succeed. Traffic between the two halves of the quasi-country is well-nigh impossible, exacerbated now by the construction of the West Bank wall. New Israeli settlements in the not-so-sovereign West Bank are deliberate and constant provocations that further de-legitimate this quasi-state. The de facto blockade of Gaza makes the economic viability of the state suspect as well. And to be sure, the neighboring Arab countries have not done much to help either the situation or their Palestinian comrades. The parties on all sides of this conflict that do not want peace have found it very easy to play the current system to maintain a constant state of low-level violence that periodically breaks out into hotter moments, like the one we saw in south Lebanon, and the one we see now in Gaza.

Thus a proposed two-state solution results, in the best case, in the creation of three states, not two, as well as a state of constant conflict and continual alert. And the dirty little secret is that the truces, so often declared and so often violated, are never ironclad and never honored to the letter. The strange reality is that a truce almost always tolerates a certain low level of violence, violence that is voluntarily overlooked by both sides in the interest of accomplishing greater goals. Some peripheral attacks are overlooked. A stray rocket is not blamed on the government. Illegal new settlements are not blamed on the government, either, but assof foreign agitators (most of them from Brooklyn).

And on it goes, as casualties rise and anger festers. Why has there been no progress on the peace front? My increasingly desperate worry is that the initial conditions were set in such a way as virtually to guarantee continual conflict, a constant state of alert, mutual mistrust and antipathy, periodic escalations and explosions of almost theatrical violence.

There is nothing worse than commentary on the Middle East that goes this far, and then either throws up its hands in world-weary despair, or lays the blame squarely on one side, or else suggests a surprising new approach that everyone else has overlooked. I recognize that this commentary runs the very real risk of sounding the same. This is not what I wish to communicate, though my despair is real, and heartfelt.

I recognize that there is no turning back the clock, no possibility of revisiting the question of whether a two-state proposal really was a good solution. It is literally too late to go back to the beginning and to start over, in the Indian subcontinent or in the Middle East. But one change in strategy might accomplish symbolic things, most importantly a sense that the US intends to be not merely an honest broker but actually realistic about finding a way out of the current impasse.

Every peace proposal I have ever heard agrees that the question of the status of Jerusalem must be postponed. It will be the thorniest problem to solve, and every attempt to resolve other disputes will founder on the shoals of the Jerusalem Siren-song.

What if we have this precisely backwards? If no current peace proposal can imagine a peaceable solution in Jerusalem, then of what use are they? They all simply kick the can up the road, knowing full well than any potential breakthrough will be undone as soon as we turn to the long-postponed Big Question. Why, then, not try to do the hardest thing first? Indeed, were the various competing parties ever able to agree, however unhappily, to a political solution concerning the status of Jerusalem, it would almost invariably be a solution that did not permit Jerusalem to belong to any one group, and thus it would model the alternative possibility that two-state solutions normally erase: that of a multi-ethnic, multi-religious, cosmopolitan alternative.

I see no real possibility that such an adjudication is possible, certainly not now. But in the long run, this seems a more realistic goal, ironically enough, than the endless hand-wringing that comes from people of good will who wonder aimlessly “why they hate each other so.”

 

Louis A. Ruprecht Jr. is William M. Suttles Chair of Religious Studies at Georgia State University in Atlanta. The author of six books, his two most recent are: God Gardened East: A Gardener’s Meditation on the Dynamics of Genesis (Wipf and Stock, 2008) and This Tragic Gospel: How John Corrupted the Heart of Christianity (Jossey-Bass, 2008).