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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 

 

 

Cuba in the Crosshairs: A Near Half-Century of Terror August 15, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Cuba, History, Imperialism, Latin America, War on Terror.
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the intelligence assessment eliminated a danger that had been identified by the Mexican ambassador in 1961, when he rejected JFK’s attempt to organize collective action against Cuba on the grounds that “if we publicly declare that Cuba is a threat to our security, forty million Mexicans will die laughing.”

Monday 15 August 2011
by: Noam Chomsky, TomDispatch                 | News Analysis

Editor’s Note: This excerpt from Noam Chomsky’s book, Hegemony or Survival, was first posted on Tomdispatch.com in October 2003. Tom Engelhardt writes that his decision to repost this in the summer of 2011 is to, “take a little plunge into the world of terror before ‘terror’ became an American byword.” – TO/sg

The Batista dictatorship was overthrown in January 1959 by Castro’s guerrilla forces. In March, the National Security Council (NSC) considered means to institute regime change. In May, the CIA began to arm guerrillas inside Cuba. “During the Winter of 1959-1960, there was a significant increase in CIA-supervised bombing and incendiary raids piloted by

exiled Cubans” based in the US. We need not tarry on what the US or its clients would do under such circumstances.

Cuba, however, did not respond with violent actions within the United States for revenge or deterrence. Rather, it followed the procedure required by international law. In July 1960, Cuba called on the UN for help, providing the Security Council with records of some twenty bombings, including names of pilots, plane registration numbers, unexploded bombs, and other specific details, alleging considerable damage and casualties and calling for resolution of the conflict through diplomatic channels. US Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge responded by giving his “assurance [that] the United States has no aggressive purpose against Cuba.” Four months before, in March 1960, his government had made a formal decision in secret to overthrow the Castro government, and preparations for the Bay of Pigs invasion were well advanced.

Washington was concerned that Cubans might try to defend themselves. CIA chief Allen Dulles therefore urged Britain not to provide arms to Cuba. His “main reason,” the British ambassador reported to London, “was that this might lead the Cubans to ask for Soviet or Soviet bloc arms,” a move that “would have a tremendous effect,” Dulles pointed out, allowing Washington to portray Cuba as a security threat to the hemisphere, following the script that had worked so well in Guatemala. Dulles was referring to Washington’s successful demolition of Guatemala’s first democratic experiment, a ten-year interlude of hope and progress, greatly feared in Washington because of the enormous popular support reported by US intelligence and the “demonstration effect” of social and economic measures to benefit the large majority. The Soviet threat was routinely invoked, abetted by Guatemala’s appeal to the Soviet bloc for arms after the US had threatened attack and cut off other sources of supply. The result was a half-century of horror, even worse than the US-backed tyranny that came before.

For Cuba, the schemes devised by the doves were similar to those of CIA director Dulles. Warning President Kennedy about the “inevitable political and diplomatic fall-out” from the planned invasion of Cuba by a proxy army, Arthur Schlesinger suggested efforts to trap Castro in some action that could be used as a pretext for invasion: “One can conceive a black operation in, say, Haiti which might in time lure Castro into sending a few boatloads of men on to a Haitian beach in what could be portrayed as an effort to overthrow the Haitian regime,… then the moral issue would be clouded, and the anti-US campaign would be hobbled from the start.” Reference is to the regime of the murderous dictator “Papa Doc” Duvalier, which was backed by the US (with some reservations), so that an effort to help Haitians overthrow it would be a crime.

Eisenhower’s March 1960 plan called for the overthrow of Castro in favor of a regime “more devoted to the true interests of the Cuban people and more acceptable to the U.S.,” including support for “military operation on the island” and “development of an adequate paramilitary force outside of Cuba.” Intelligence reported that popular support for Castro was high, but the US would determine the “true interests of the Cuban people.” The regime change was to be carried out “in such a manner as to avoid any appearance of U.S. intervention,” because of the anticipated reaction in Latin America and the problems of doctrinal management at home.

Operation Mongoose

The Bay of Pigs invasion came a year later, in April 1961, after Kennedy had taken office. It was authorized in an atmosphere of “hysteria” over Cuba in the White House, Robert McNamara later testified before the Senate’s Church Committee. At the first cabinet meeting after the failed invasion, the atmosphere was “almost savage,” Chester Bowles noted privately: “there was an almost frantic reaction for an action program.” At an NSC meeting two days later, Bowles found the atmosphere “almost as emotional” and was struck by “the great lack of moral integrity” that prevailed. The mood was reflected in Kennedy’s public pronouncements: “The complacent, the self-indulgent, the soft societies are about to be swept away with the debris of history. Only the strong . . . can possibly survive,” he told the country, sounding a theme that would be used to good effect by the Reaganites during their own terrorist wars. Kennedy was aware that allies “think that we’re slightly demented” on the subject of Cuba, a perception that persists to the present.

Kennedy implemented a crushing embargo that could scarcely be endured by a small country that had become a “virtual colony” of the US in the sixty years following its “liberation” from Spain. He also ordered an intensification of the terrorist campaign: “He asked his brother, Attorney-General Robert Kennedy, to lead the top-level interagency group that oversaw Operation Mongoose, a program of paramilitary operations, economic warfare, and sabotage he launched in late 1961 to visit the ‘terrors of the earth’ on Fidel Castro and, more prosaically, to topple him.”

The terrorist campaign was “no laughing matter,” Jorge Dominguez writes in a review of recently declassified materials on operations under Kennedy, materials that are “heavily sanitized” and “only the tip of the iceberg,” Piero Gleijeses adds.

Operation Mongoose was “the centerpiece of American policy toward Cuba from late 1961 until the onset of the 1962 missile crisis,” Mark White reports, the program on which the Kennedy brothers “came to pin their hopes.” Robert Kennedy informed the CIA that the Cuban problem carries “the top priority in the United States Government — all else is secondary — no time, no effort, or manpower is to be spared” in the effort to overthrow the Castro regime. The chief of Mongoose operations, Edward Lansdale, provided a timetable leading to “open revolt and overthrow of the Communist regime” in October 1962. The “final definition” of the program recognized that “final success will require decisive U.S. military intervention,” after terrorism and subversion had laid the basis. The implication is that US military intervention would take place in October 1962 — when the missile crisis erupted.

In February 1962, the Joint Chiefs of Staff approved a plan more extreme than Schlesinger’s: to use “covert means . . . to lure or provoke Castro, or an uncontrollable subordinate, into an overt hostile reaction against the United States; a reaction which would in turn create the justification for the US to not only retaliate but destroy Castro with speed, force and determination.” In March, at the request of the DOD Cuba Project, the Joint Chiefs of Staff submitted a memorandum to Defense Secretary Robert McNamara outlining “pretexts which they would consider would provide justification for US military intervention in Cuba.” The plan would be undertaken if “a credible internal revolt is impossible of attainment during the next 9-10 months,” but before Cuba could establish relations with Russia that might “directly involve the Soviet Union.”

A prudent resort to terror should avoid risk to the perpetrator.

The March plan was to construct “seemingly unrelated events to camouflage the ultimate objective and create the necessary impression of Cuban rashness and responsibility on a large scale, directed at other countries as well as the United States,” placing the US “in the apparent position of suffering defensible grievances [and developing] an international image of Cuban threat to peace in the Western Hemisphere.” Proposed measures included blowing up a US ship in Guantanamo Bay to create “a ‘Remember the Maine’ incident,” publishing casualty lists in US newspapers to “cause a helpful wave of national indignation,” portraying Cuban investigations as “fairly compelling evidence that the ship was taken under attack,” developing a “Communist Cuban terror campaign [in Florida] and even in Washington,” using Soviet bloc incendiaries for cane-burning raids in neighboring countries, shooting down a drone aircraft with a pretense that it was a charter flight carrying college students on a holiday, and other similarly ingenious schemes — not implemented, but another sign of the “frantic” and “savage” atmosphere that prevailed.

On August 23 the president issued National Security Memorandum No. 181, “a directive to engineer an internal revolt that would be followed by U.S. military intervention,” involving “significant U.S. military plans, maneuvers, and movement of forces and equipment” that were surely known to Cuba and Russia. Also in August, terrorist attacks were intensified, including speedboat strafing attacks on a Cuban seaside hotel “where Soviet military technicians were known to congregate, killing a score of Russians and Cubans”; attacks on British and Cuban cargo ships; the contamination of sugar shipments; and other atrocities and sabotage, mostly carried out by Cuban exile organizations permitted to operate freely in Florida. A few weeks later came “the most dangerous moment in human history.”

“A Bad Press in Some Friendly Countries”

Terrorist operations continued through the tensest moments of the missile crisis. They were formally canceled on October 30, several days after the Kennedy and Khrushchev agreement, but went on nonetheless. On November 8, “a Cuban covert action sabotage team dispatched from the United States successfully blew up a Cuban industrial facility,” killing 400 workers, according to the Cuban government. Raymond Garthoff writes that “the Soviets could only see [the attack] as an effort to backpedal on what was, for them, the key question remaining: American assurances not to attack Cuba.” These and other actions reveal again, he concludes, “that the risk and danger to both sides could have been extreme, and catastrophe not excluded.”

After the crisis ended, Kennedy renewed the terrorist campaign. Ten days before his assassination he approved a CIA plan for “destruction operations” by US proxy forces “against a large oil refinery and storage facilities, a large electric plant, sugar refineries, railroad bridges, harbor facilities, and underwater demolition of docks and ships.” A plot to kill Castro was initiated on the day of the Kennedy assassination. The campaign was called off in 1965, but “one of Nixon’s first acts in office in 1969 was to direct the CIA to intensify covert operations against Cuba.”

Of particular interest are the perceptions of the planners. In his review of recently released documents on Kennedy-era terror, Dominguez observes that “only once in these nearly thousand pages of documentation did a U.S. official raise something that resembled a faint moral objection to U.S.-government sponsored terrorism”: a member of the NSC staff suggested that it might lead to some Russian reaction, and raids that are “haphazard and kill innocents… might mean a bad press in some friendly countries.” The same attitudes prevail throughout the internal discussions, as when Robert Kennedy warned that a full-scale invasion of Cuba would “kill an awful lot of people, and we’re going to take an awful lot of heat on it.”

Terrorist activities continued under Nixon, peaking in the mid-1970s, with attacks on fishing boats, embassies, and Cuban offices overseas, and the bombing of a Cubana airliner, killing all seventy-three passengers. These and subsequent terrorist operations were carried out from US territory, though by then they were regarded as criminal acts by the FBI.

So matters proceeded, while Castro was condemned by editors for maintaining an “armed camp, despite the security from attack promised by Washington in 1962.” The promise should have sufficed, despite what followed; not to speak of the promises that preceded, by then well documented, along with information about how well they could be trusted: e.g., the “Lodge moment” of July 1960.

On the thirtieth anniversary of the missile crisis, Cuba protested a machine-gun attack against a Spanish-Cuban tourist hotel; responsibility was claimed by a group in Miami. Bombings in Cuba in 1997, which killed an Italian tourist, were traced back to Miami. The perpetrators were Salvadoran criminals operating under the direction of Luis Posada Carriles and financed in Miami. One of the most notorious international terrorists, Posada had escaped from a Venezuelan prison, where he had been held for the Cubana airliner bombing, with the aid of Jorge Mas Canosa, a Miami businessman who was the head of the tax-exempt Cuban-American National Foundation (CANF). Posada went from Venezuela to El Salvador, where he was put to work at the Ilopango military air base to help organize US terrorist attacks against Nicaragua under Oliver North’s direction.

Posada has described in detail his terrorist activities and the funding for them from exiles and CANF in Miami, but felt secure that he would not be investigated by the FBI. He was a Bay of Pigs veteran, and his subsequent operations in the 1960s were directed by the CIA. When he later joined Venezuelan intelligence with CIA help, he was able to arrange for Orlando Bosch, an associate from his CIA days who had been convicted in the US for a bomb attack on a Cuba-bound freighter, to join him in Venezuela to organize further attacks against Cuba. An ex-CIA official familiar with the Cubana bombing identifies Posada and Bosch as the only suspects in the bombing, which Bosch defended as “a legitimate act of war.” Generally considered the “mastermind” of the airline bombing, Bosch was responsible for thirty other acts of terrorism, according to the FBI. He was granted a presidential pardon in 1989 by the incoming Bush I administration after intense lobbying by Jeb Bush and South Florida Cuban-American leaders, overruling the Justice Department, which had found the conclusion “inescapable that it would be prejudicial to the public interest for the United States to provide a safe haven for Bosch [because] the security of this nation is affected by its ability to urge credibly other nations to refuse aid and shelter to terrorists.”

Economic Warfare

Cuban offers to cooperate in intelligence-sharing to prevent terrorist attacks have been rejected by Washington, though some did lead to US actions. “Senior members of the FBI visited Cuba in 1998 to meet their Cuban counterparts, who gave [the FBI] dossiers about what they suggested was a Miami-based terrorist network: information which had been compiled in part by Cubans who had infiltrated exile groups.” Three months later the FBI arrested Cubans who had infiltrated the US-based terrorist groups. Five were sentenced to long terms in prison.

The national security pretext lost whatever shreds of credibility it might have had after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, though it was not until 1998 that US intelligence officially informed the country that Cuba no longer posed a threat to US national security. The Clinton administration, however, insisted that the military threat posed by Cuba be reduced to “negligible,” but not completely removed. Even with this qualification, the intelligence assessment eliminated a danger that had been identified by the Mexican ambassador in 1961, when he rejected JFK’s attempt to organize collective action against Cuba on the grounds that “if we publicly declare that Cuba is a threat to our security, forty million Mexicans will die laughing.”

In fairness, however, it should be recognized that missiles in Cuba did pose a threat. In private discussions the Kennedy brothers expressed their fears that the presence of Russian missiles in Cuba might deter a US invasion of Venezuela. So “the Bay of Pigs was really right,” JFK concluded.

The Bush I administration reacted to the elimination of the security pretext by making the embargo much harsher, under pressure from Clinton, who outflanked Bush from the right during the 1992 election campaign. Economic warfare was made still more stringent in 1996, causing a furor even among the closest US allies. The embargo came under considerable domestic criticism as well, on the grounds that it harms US exporters and investors — the embargo’s only victims, according to the standard picture in the US; Cubans are unaffected. Investigations by US specialists tell a different story. Thus, a detailed study by the American Association for World Health concluded that the embargo had severe health effects, and only Cuba’s remarkable health care system had prevented a “humanitarian catastrophe”; this has received virtually no mention in the US.

The embargo has effectively barred even food and medicine. In 1999 the Clinton administration eased such sanctions for all countries on the official list of “terrorist states,” apart from Cuba, singled out for unique punishment. Nevertheless, Cuba is not entirely alone in this regard. After a hurricane devastated West Indian islands in August 1980, President Carter refused to allow any aid unless Grenada was excluded, as punishment for some unspecified initiatives of the reformist Maurice Bishop government. When the stricken countries refused to agree to Grenada’s exclusion, having failed to perceive the threat to survival posed by the nutmeg capital of the world, Carter withheld all aid. Similarly, when Nicaragua was struck by a hurricane in October 1988, bringing starvation and causing severe ecological damage, the current incumbents in Washington recognized that their terrorist war could benefit from the disaster, and therefore refused aid, even to the Atlantic Coast area with close links to the US and deep resentment against the Sandinistas. They followed suit when a tidal wave wiped out Nicaraguan fishing villages, leaving hundreds dead and missing in September 1992. In this case, there was a show of aid, but hidden in the small print was the fact that apart from an impressive donation of $25,000, the aid was deducted from assistance already scheduled. Congress was assured, however, that the pittance of aid would not affect the administration’s suspension of over $100 million of aid because the US-backed Nicaraguan government had failed to demonstrate a sufficient degree of subservience.

US economic warfare against Cuba has been strongly condemned in virtually every relevant international forum, even declared illegal by the Judicial Commission of the normally compliant Organization of American States. The European Union called on the World Trade Organization to condemn the embargo. The response of the Clinton administration was that “Europe is challenging ‘three decades of American Cuba policy that goes back to the Kennedy Administration,’ and is aimed entirely at forcing a change of government in Havana.” The administration also declared that the WTO has no competence to rule on US national security or to compel the US to change its laws. Washington then withdrew from the proceedings, rendering the matter moot.

Successful Defiance

The reasons for the international terrorist attacks against Cuba and the illegal economic embargo are spelled out in the internal record. And no one should be surprised to discover that they fit a familiar pattern — that of Guatemala a few years earlier, for example.

From the timing alone, it is clear that concern over a Russian threat could not have been a major factor. The plans for forceful regime change were drawn up and implemented before there was any significant Russian connection, and punishment was intensified after the Russians disappeared from the scene. True, a Russian threat did develop, but that was more a consequence than a cause of US terrorism and economic warfare.

In July 1961 the CIA warned that “the extensive influence of ‘Castroism’ is not a function of Cuban power. . . . Castro’s shadow looms large because social and economic conditions throughout Latin America invite opposition to ruling authority and encourage agitation for radical change,” for which Castro’s Cuba provided a model. Earlier, Arthur Schlesinger had transmitted to the incoming President Kennedy his Latin American Mission report, which warned of the susceptibility of Latin Americans to “the Castro idea of taking matters into one’s own hands.” The report did identify a Kremlin connection: the Soviet Union “hovers in the wings, flourishing large development loans and presenting itself as the model for achieving modernization in a single generation.” The dangers of the “Castro idea” are particularly grave, Schlesinger later elaborated, when “the distribution of land and other forms of national wealth greatly favors the propertied classes” and “the poor and underprivileged, stimulated by the example of the Cuban revolution, are now demanding opportunities for a decent living.” Kennedy feared that Russian aid might make Cuba a “showcase” for development, giving the Soviets the upper hand throughout Latin America.

In early 1964, the State Department Policy Planning Council expanded on these concerns: “The primary danger we face in Castro is . . . in the impact the very existence of his regime has upon the leftist movement in many Latin American countries. . . . The simple fact is that Castro represents a successful defiance of the US, a negation of our whole hemispheric policy of almost a century and a half.” To put it simply, Thomas Paterson writes, “Cuba, as symbol and reality, challenged U.S. hegemony in Latin America.” International terrorism and economic warfare to bring about regime change are justified not by what Cuba does, but by its “very existence,” its “successful defiance” of the proper master of the hemisphere. Defiance may justify even more violent actions, as in Serbia, as quietly conceded after the fact; or Iraq, as also recognized when pretexts had collapsed.

Outrage over defiance goes far back in American history. Two hundred years ago, Thomas Jefferson bitterly condemned France for its “attitude of defiance” in holding New Orleans, which he coveted. Jefferson warned that France’s “character [is] placed in a point of eternal friction with our character, which though loving peace and the pursuit of wealth, is high-minded.” France’s “defiance [requires us to] marry ourselves to the British fleet and nation,” Jefferson advised, reversing his earlier attitudes, which reflected France’s crucial contribution to the liberation of the colonies from British rule. Thanks to Haiti’s liberation struggle, unaided and almost universally opposed, France’s defiance soon ended, but the guiding principles remain in force, determining friend and foe.

[Note that this passage (pages 80-90) is fully footnoted in Hegemony or Survival. Chomsky’s discussion of the Cuban missile crisis itself can be found elsewhere in the same chapter of the book.]

Reprinted by permission of Metropolitan Books, an imprint of Henry Holt and Company, LLC.

Copyright C by Aviva Chomsky, Diane Chomsky, and Harry Chomsky. All rights reserved.

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Noam Chomsky’s most recent book, with co-author Ilan Pappe, is “Gaza in Crisis.” Chomsky is emeritus professor of linguistics and philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Mass.

 


Roger’s note: with two friends and a rented Lada, I set off to Playa Girón (what the Americans call the Bay of Pigs) in the early 80s.  The previous year I had had the good fortune to be vacationing in Cuba at the same time and on the same beach that the Cuban veterans of the battle were celebrating its 20th anniversary.  Driving through miles of banana groves the first sign that you have arrived at Playa Girón is a huge billboard that exclaims: “Playa Girón: primer derrota de imperialismo en las Americas” (Playa Girón: first defeat of imperialism in the Americas).  Our goal was a visit to the museum, and you can imagine our disappointment when we discovered that the museum was closed on Mondays.  We managed to contact the caretaker and told him that we were three socialists who came all the way from Canada to visit the museum.  Thanks to this little white lie (the appelation socialist applied only to one of the three of us) we were given a personal tour by the guardian.  What I remember most from that visit is a plaque with the names of the Miami based, US trained and armed Cubans who were captured during the aborted invasion.  Next to each name was the person’s “affiliation.”  These, it turns out, were the brothers, sons, cousins, and uncles of the owners of the Barcardi’s and other corporations, who along with the Mafia and Batista’s henchmen, had for generation carried out a regime of terror and repression against the Cuban people.

 

By Mimi Whitefield  | The Miami Herald

Freshly released CIA documents on the Bay of Pigs  invasion provide new details on the confusion, mixed messages and last-minute  changes in plans that ultimately doomed the mission.

The documents also underscore the extremes the United  States went to maintain “plausible denial’’ of Washington’s role in the April  1961 invasion by CIA-trained Cuban exiles.

“These documents go to the heart of what runs through the whole official  history of the Bay of Pigs — the issue of plausible deniability,’’ said Peter  Kornbluh, senior analyst at the National Security Archive, a Washington-based  nonprofit research organization that had sought the documents for years and was  instrumental in gaining their release.

Concerned that Washington’s hands could be traced to the invasion, the  Kennedy administration kept scaling it back, said Kornbluh. It cut back on  planned air raids on Cuban airfields and insisted on a problematic night-time  landing of the invasion force.

The result: the defeat of the exile brigade in less than 72 hours, 114 men  killed and another 1,100 captured.

Previously released documents show that while Kennedy never abandoned the  notion that the Bay of Pigs invasion should remain covert, planners of the  operations had begun to have their doubts about the operation’s success as a  secret mission at least five months before the April invasion.

The declassified documents are among a set of five volumes on the invasion  prepared by Jack Pfeiffer, a CIA historian who died in 1997.

Among the revelations:

Grayston Lynch, a CIA operative who had helped mark Playa Giron for the  landing of Brigade 2506, reported an instance of friendly fire. After marking  the beach, Lynch returned to the Blagar, a U.S. transport boat that was under  attack by Cuban aircraft off and on until late on the afternoon of April 17.

The Blagar was equipped with eleven .50 caliber machine guns and two 75 mm  recoilless rifles but because the U.S. planes had been painted with the insignia  of Cuban aircraft, Lynch and the exiles aboard were having trouble  distinguishing their targets.

“We sent a message very early on the first morning… [asking] those planes to  stay away from us, because we couldn’t tell them from the Castro planes,’’ according to Lynch’s account. “We ended up shooting at two or three of them. We  hit some of them…’’

The U.S. aircraft were supposed to be painted with blue stripes around the  wings, Lynch said, but “they were impossible to see when they were coming at  you.’’

Juan Clark, a paratrooper during the invasion and now a professor emeritus of  sociology at Miami Dade College, remembers a green stripe on the underside of  the U.S. planes.

“I had heard of friendly fire during the invasion,’’ he said Monday, “but not  in that context.’’ Instead, he said, it was a Brigade combatant injured by  friendly fire.

The CIA, with the support of the Pentagon, requested a series of large-scale  sonic booms over Havana that would coincide with a preliminary air strike on  April 14.

The rationale, according to Richard D. Drain, a top-level CIA invasion  planner: “We were trying to create confusion and so on. I thought a sonic boom  would be a helluva swell thing, you know…. Let’s see what it does…. Break all  the windows in downtown Havana… distract Castro.’’

But, Drain said in an interview with Pfeiffer that Assistant Secretary of  State Wymberly Coerr rejected the plan. Drain said he wasn’t sure why. Another  State Dept. official later said that Coerr could not approve the operation  because it was “too obviously U.S.’’

During the fighting, American pilots were authorized to fly planes over Cuba  but secret instructions warned that such flights must not be traced to the  United States. “American crews must not fall into enemy hands,’’ according to  the instructions. In the event they did, the instructions said, the “U.S. will  deny any knowledge.’’ Four American pilots and their crews were killed when  their planes were shot down over Cuba.

On April 14, the 50th anniversary of the invasion, the National Security  Archive filed suit asking for the declassification of all five volumes on the  invasion prepared by Pfeiffer. In response, earlier this month the CIA released  four of the five volumes in the Pfeiffer report and made them available on its  Freedom of Information Electronic Reading Room. The National Security Archive  posted the documents on its website Monday.

A box containing hundreds of pages from Volumes I, II and IV of Pfeiffer’s  report also arrived at The Miami Herald, which had filed a Freedom of  Information request in August 2005 to obtain them.

Volume III was released in 1998 and arrived at the National Archives Kennedy  Assassination collection and sat around for seven years before Richard Barrett,  a Villanova University political scientist, discovered it in 2005.

He found it in a box marked “CIA miscellaneous.’’

“It’s important for the study of the Bay of Pigs that these are available,’’ Barrett said. But he was disappointed there weren’t new revelations on  high-level White House interactions with the CIA.

The fifth volume in the Pfeiffer report remains classified. Kornbluh said the  National Security Archive planned to be in court in September arguing for  release of Volume V.

Read more: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2011/08/16/120829/more-bay-of-pigs-documents-declassified.html#ixzz1VFovNr8O

A President Breaks Hearts in Appalachia July 3, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Energy, Environment.
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Published on Friday, July 3, 2009 by The Washington Post by Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

Mountaintop removal coal mining is the worst environmental tragedy in American history. When will the Obama administration finally stop this Appalachian apocalypse?

If ever an issue deserved President Obama’s promise of change, this is it. Mining syndicates are detonating 2,500 tons of explosives each day — the equivalent of a Hiroshima bomb weekly — to blow up Appalachia’s mountains and extract sub-surface coal seams. They have demolished 500 mountains — encompassing about a million acres — buried hundreds of valley streams under tons of rubble, poisoned and uprooted countless communities, and caused widespread contamination to the region’s air and water. On this continent, only Appalachia’s rich woodlands survived the Pleistocene ice ages that turned the rest of North America into a treeless tundra. King Coal is now accomplishing what the glaciers could not — obliterating the hemisphere’s oldest, most biologically dense and diverse forests. Highly mechanized processes allow giant machines to flatten in months mountains older than the Himalayas — while employing fewer workers for far less time than other types of mining. The coal industry’s promise to restore the desolate wastelands is a cruel joke, and the industry’s fallback position, that the flattened landscapes will provide space for economic development, is the weak punchline. America adores its Adirondacks and reveres the Rockies, while the Appalachian Mountains — with their impoverished and alienated population — are dismantled by coal moguls who dominate state politics and have little to prevent them from blasting the physical landscape to smithereens.

Obama promised science-based policies that would save what remains of Appalachia, but last month senior administration officials finally weighed in with a mixture of strong words and weak action that broke hearts across the region. The modest measures federal bureaucrats promised amount to little more than a tepid pledge of better enforcement of existing laws.

And government claims of doing everything possible to halt the holocaust are simply not true. George Bush gutted Clean Water Act protections. Obama must restore them.

First, the White House should fix the “fill” rule the Bush administration adopted in 2002 to allow coal companies to use streams as waste dumps. Under this perverse interpretation of the Clean Water Act, 2,000 miles of Appalachian streams have been interred under mining waste. Obama could reverse the “fill” rule to reflect its original meaning, which forbids waste matter from being dumped into waterways.

Second, the Interior Department should strictly enforce the widely ignored “buffer zone” rule that forbids dumping waste within 100 feet of intermittent or perennial streams.

Third, our laws require companies to restore mined areas to their original condition. The administration should end the absurd fiction that extraction pits filled with unconsolidated rocks and rubble where trees will never grow and streams will never flow are “reclaimed.”

Fourth, current law forbids the issuance of “fill” permits that will cause “significant degradation” to waterways. It is absurd for the Army Corps of Engineers to endorse the canard that filling miles of streams is not causing significant degradation. The president should require the Corps to deny and rescind permits where operations will cause downstream damage.

Fifth, the Clean Water Act requires mining operators to prove that they can restore the “function and structure” of affected streams. Operators have never been compelled to make the functional or structural analyses of the aquatic ecosystem required by the act. Obama should order his officials to stop ignoring this requirement.

Sixth, the administration should enforce the law requiring an environmental impact study for each permit when a mine “may have significant environmental impacts,” individually or cumulatively. The Corps of Engineers routinely allows coal operators to escape this mandate — an illegal practice that should stop.

Instead of acting to enforce these laws, administration officials indicated last month that they will allow more than 100 permits to go forward while they carefully review their regulatory options. If they act accordingly, the ruined landscapes of Appalachia will be Obama’s legacy.

President Obama should go to Appalachia and see mountaintop removal. My father visited Appalachia in 1966 and was so horrified by strip mining — then in its infancy — that he made it a key priority of his political agenda. He complained that Appalachia, with our nation’s richest natural resources, was home to America’s poorest populations, its worst education system, and its highest illiteracy and unemployment rates. These statistics are even grimmer today as mining saps state wealth. In 1966, 46,000 West Virginia miners were collecting salaries and pensions and reinvesting in their communities. Mechanization has shrunk that number to fewer than 11,000. They extract more coal annually, but virtually all the profits leave the state for Wall Street.

The coal industry provides only 2 percent of the jobs in Central Appalachia. Wal-Mart employs more people than the coal companies in West Virginia. Last week a major study documented how coal imposes a net cost to Kentucky of more than $100 million per year. Coal is not an economic engine in the coalfields. It is an extraction engine.

Obama has the authority to end mountaintop removal, without further action from Congress and without formal rulemaking. He just needs to make the coal barons obey the law.

© 2009 The Washington Post

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is chairman of the Waterkeeper Alliance and senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council. He is the author of Crimes Against Nature: How George W. Bush and His Corporate Pals Are Plundering the Country and Hijacking Our Democracy.