Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Their Kids Go to Yale, Our Kids Go To The Army (Or Jail)

Memorial Day always produces a lot of treacly sentiment around "humble gratitude for those who sacrifice" et cetera. But this year, one of the most impactful essays I've read in a long time appeared on the New York Times Op-Ed page co-authored by Karl Eikenberry, who commanded the U.S. military in Afghanistan '05-'07. "Americans and Their Military, Drifting Apart" probably made such an impression on me because I live in one of the poorest counties in one of the poorest states in the union, surrounded by pumped up expressions of patriotism everywhere, and public schools crawling with veterans and recruiters.

In this context I was stunned by the news of how very, very small a portion of the U.S. population actually goes into the military these days. According to Eikenberry and co-author David Brooks, a Stanford history professor:
For nearly two generations, no American has been obligated to join up, and few do. Less than 0.5 percent of the population serves in the armed forces, compared with more than 12 percent during World War II. 
Stunned because I am surrounded every day of the year by in-school advertising for the military, front page "news" lavishing praise on anything vaguely military, and so-called progressive and moderate representatives in Congress that salivate visibly over opportunities to appear supporting the military.

So my perception of how steeped in militarism my culture has become is mostly the product of information management, and does not reflect reality.

Eikenberry and Brooks (who also writes U.S. history textbooks) point out how very unequal is the toll exacted by militarism, depending on your zip code.

Even fewer of the privileged and powerful shoulder arms. In 1975, 70 percent of members of Congress had some military service; today, just 20 percent do, and only a handful of their children are in uniform. 
In sharp contrast, so many officers have sons and daughters serving that they speak, with pride and anxiety, about war as a “family business.” 
Few have written more eloquently about the cost of doing this kind of business than Andrew Bacevich, another professor and career army officer, who lost his son to the war on Iraq. His recent essay on naming wars is especially worth reading.

Bacevich's experience supports the old adage that a commander-in-chief who has never seen combat is not one you want with his finger on the "send" button that deploys your sons and daughters to fight for fossil fuel access halfway around the planet.

Even -- or perhaps especially -- those devoted to the nation are concerned about the long term prospects for a standing military no longer answerable to we, the people. They are concerned about the distancing effects of killing by remote control, and they worry about
a self-perpetuating military caste, sharply segregated from the larger society and with its enlisted ranks disproportionately recruited from the disadvantaged. History suggests that such scenarios don’t end well.
History also suggests that you can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, and so it is vitally important to keep churning out cheap patriotism symbols and press releases. And to shout down as unpatriotic those who speak up to object.

Amy Goodman in her "Another Memorial Day In This Endless War" essay for Democracy Now! quoted one of the original thinkers of our revolt against the British empire and its taxing authority:
Thomas Paine wrote in the March 21, 1778, edition of his pamphlet The Crisis, “If there is a sin superior to every other, it is that of willful and offensive war ... he who is the author of a war, lets loose the whole contagion of hell, and opens a vein that bleeds a nation to death.”
Quietly bleeds it, off stage, in the 21st century.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Memorial Day: Politicians Pledge Allegiance To War $$

When Mainers elect a "progressive" candidate like Democrat Pingree or, more recently, independent candidate and former governor Angus King, the newly-elected are immediately appointed to the Armed Services Committee of their branch of Congress.

When constituents call, write, and otherwise demand that Congress bring the war dollars home to fund human needs, the politicians say that sounds like a good idea. That is right before or after they climb into black limos and are whisked through the gates of Bath Iron Works, where General Dynamics builds nuclear-equipped Aegis destroyer ships. Never mind that it's one of the most lousy job generating programs where we could invest tax dollars in terms of number of jobs generated. And never mind the karma.

Pingree told me her first year in office that she knew all about "The Employment Effects of Military and Domestic Spending," the definitive study out of UMass about how to really invest in order to generate the greatest number of clean, sustainable jobs. She also told me Congress needed to pass an energy bill in order to shift funding from weapons manufacturing into green jobs. 

Pingree has since voted ought to pass on multiple "defense" funding bills coming through the House Armed Service Committee. Then, she voted no when the bills came to the floor and her advisors thought that voters might be paying attention. There are plenty of yes votes in the House, so she can afford to vote no -- there's no chance the bill won't pass. She's done her part, and the campaign contributions from the corporations will keep on flowing.

My husband said he has a mental image of the famous Iwo Jima flag raising, with politicians scrambling up on one another to reach the top and raise the flag the highest.

But it isn't only on Memorial Day that the woman who ran for office as an organic vegetable farmer lavishes praise on the military, claiming "we have them to thank for being able to enjoy this beautiful day." (Pingree seems to have stopped just short of adding, Freedom isn't free.)

You can also see her glorifying militarism here, and here under the headline "Bath Iron Works lauds Pingree's efforts to defeat funding cut for destroyer program." On July 19, 2012 the Bangor Daily News reported:
"This was a last-minute attempt to sneak in and cut funding for a DDG-51 and that could have had some pretty dire consequences for Bath Iron Works,” Pingree said in the release. “But these ships are the workhorses for the Navy, they are a key part of our military strategy and BIW is getting them to the Navy on time and on budget. I think in the end we convinced my colleagues that it didn’t make sense from a strategic or a fiscal point of view to cut this ship."
Here is the tale of the three most recent veterans from my family. 
Source: Nagasaki Journal,
My maternal grandfather, who was drafted into WWII as a father of two young children and sent into Nagasaki following the atomic bombing of civilians there, never spoke of it. He refused all his GI benefits but it didn't stop him from building a house and starting a tire business -- not bad for a migrant farm worker fleeing Dust Bowl Oklahoma.

source: Socialism and/or Barbarism blog
My paternal grandfather volunteered for WWI just after graduating from high school. He had his leg blown up just before the armistice, was gassed, and suffered ill health as a result his whole life. It didn't stop him from running the family ice business, serving in the Maine legislature, and fathering a son. 

source: "Remembering the Korean War
When my dad was a high school football star who was drinking the Koolaid about fighting communism in Korea, his father told him there is no such thing as a good war, and you should not believe them when they tell you this one is. The wounded vet persuaded his son go to college instead of joining the Army. But as soon as his dad died my dad joined up anyway. He was amazed at the level of suffering and poverty and exploitation he saw in Seoul as the occupation settled in, and he made sure to pass along his father's wisdom to my brothers and sisters and me. As we have passed it along to our children.

So every Memorial Day I go down to the family cemetery and remove the flags that the VFW puts on my ancestors' graves. I plant flowers instead, and I give the flags to an artist friend who puts them to use un-glorifying war.

This year and last, the cemetery workers goofed and put the flag on my brother's grave rather than on my grandfather's. They probably confused the two men because they shared the same first name.

Or maybe it's like the Obama administration's drone killing policy in Yemen and Pakistan, where any male of a certain age is deemed a militant.

What kind of person doesn't wave the flag and glorify militarism on Memorial Day?

A thinking person.

Special thanks to my husband Mark Roman, who avoided the draft during the Vietnam War, and who helped me plant flowers on my family's graves for this Memorial Day.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

#Monsanto Resistance Goes Global May 25, 2013

source: British Museum. A looted relief from the ancient palace of King Ashurnasirpal in Iraq.
Violent systems of domination have historically bolstered their own delusions of grandeur with propaganda claiming their control of the very stuff of life.  Need I mention that the vast majority were patriarchal systems, advertising the righteous machismo and victories of male warrior-kings? From the museum caption that accompanies the above photo of palace art depicting a super buff deity in his majesty's service:
The cone in his right hand is described in Assyrian texts as a purifier, and was presumably envisaged as being covered in liquid from the bucket in his left hand. The cone may derive its shape from the male date-spathe, used to fertilise female date-palms. On the right is half a Sacred Tree, again a symbol of great importance in Assyria.
Right after fertilizing the Sacred Tree this royal servant probably hit the gym for a few hours and then kicked back with some date wine that he made possible!

Today, May 25, 2013, is the day the planet has chosen to march against the agribusiness corporation Monsanto. The corporation is responsible for inventing epic toxins DDT and Agent Orange before going on to patent the genetic code of seeds thus, in its own mind, claiming ownership of agriculture.

The state of Illinois swooped in without a warrant and stole the bees of a man who had been working for 15 years to research bees killed by Roundup, a modern nasty pesticide in the Monsanto portfolio. Scientists conducting research that threatens the empire are at risk, and I dare say many of them -- including legions of small organic farmers and gardeners -- are conducting stealth resistance.

People marching against corporate control of government, of information, of education and of life are not in stealth mode today.

Say it loud and say it proud: get your tentacles out of our food supply!

Get copies of this Occucard here.

The text as it appears on the back of the card

Monsanto is a multinational agricultural biotechnology corporation headquartered in Creve Coeur, Missouri. With the exception of weapons manufacturers and other private military firms, there is perhaps no corporation that provides such a dramatic example of corporate influence over government. Not only does Monsanto spend a staggering $8 million a year lobbying government officials (imagine 80 full-time lobbyists each paid $100,000 a year), but many former Monsanto executives hold key positions in the FDA, EPA and USDA, where they have made favorable regulatory decisions regarding Monsanto products.
One of those products, recombinant bovine somatotropin, commonly known as “bovine growth hormone” (rBGH), is a synthetic hormone injected into cows to increase milk production. It also increases the levels a substance called IGF-1 in their milk, which is then passed on to humans. Elevated blood serum levels of IGF-1 have been linked in numerous studies to breast, colon and prostate cancer. For this reason, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and all 27 European Union countries have banned the use of rBGH. The FDA’s highly controversial 1993 decision approving rBGH was overseen by former Monsanto attorney, Michael R. Taylor, who was serving as the FDA’s Deputy Commissioner of Policy at the time. After the decision Taylor left the FDA and again joined Monsanto, becoming the company’s chief lobbyist and Vice President for Public Policy. He has since gone back and forth between Monsanto and various government positions in the FDA and the USDA, highlighting the “revolving door syndrome” that has become a hallmark of corporate-government collusion.
Monsanto’s genetically modified (GM) crops consist primarily of those modified to be resistant to the herbicide Roundup (another Monsanto product) and those modified to contain within their cells the biological pesticide called Bacillus thuringiensis (or Bt). Widespread health and environmental concerns over both these types of GM plants are based on numerous scientific studies and have resulted in many countries banning GM crops entirely. In the European Union a moratorium on new GM crops has been in effect since 1998 and strict labeling is required on all genetically modified food products approved before the moratorium. Monsanto has spent millions of dollars pressuring EU officials to allow the introduction of GM foods into Europe, and—more significantly—recent Wikileaks documents reveal U.S. State Department officials also pressuring EU officials on Monsanto’s behalf.
Monsanto’s actions run the gamut of illegality and dirty tricks, and include the attempted bribery of Canadian officials; the intentional dumping of toxic waste into the environment; and the filing of hundreds of lawsuits alleging “patent infringement” against small farmers whose crops became contaminated with their patented genes, etc. Mass protests against Monsanto have spread to dozens of countries around the world and have included civil disobedience actions like the burning of experimental crop fields and the nonviolent occupation of Monsanto facilities.

References and external links:

Get copies of this Occucard here.
"I, Ashurnasirpal, the king whose glory is mighty, took Kalhu and changed its ancient mound.... A palace of boxwood, mulberry, cedar, cypress, pistachio, tamarisk, and poplar...for my royal dwelling and for my lordly pleasure I founded therein, I adorned and made glorious."

Friday, May 24, 2013

Obama Poses, Medea Exposes At National "Defense" U.

Source: AlterNet  Medea, surrounded by Secret Service and security after being removed from the room,
"President Obama interrupts Medea Benjamin" was one of many, many headlines reporting on the CODEPINK co-founder's disruption of yet another insincere speech by the orator-in-chief.

Empty promises go a long way when issuing forth from a tall, good-looking, articulate man. Who doesn't want to believe him when he promises -- again -- to close down the empire's most notorious concentration camp? Or when he claims that new rules on how to deploy aerial bombing of civilians using drones are to keep you and your family safer?

Unlike the governor of my state, Medea can get her points made without name calling, insults or empty promises. The format she used was posing a series of questions to the president, whom she recognizes as the head spokesman for the global oligarchs that own and operate our government. Listen to how much truth she packs into 27 seconds in this clip:

In case the video is not working for you, here is some of what she said:
Can you tell the Muslim people that their lives are as precious as our lives? Can you take the drones out of the hands of the CIA? Can you stop the signature strikes that are killing people on the basis of suspicious activities? Will you apologize to the thousands of Muslims that you have killed? Will you compensate the innocent family victims? That will make us safer. (Emphasis mine.)
(AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta) Victims of drone strikes under Obama.
Medea said afterwards that she was gratified to have made it in to hear the speech, to which she had been properly invited, and to have not been arrested for speaking out  --- as she has been numerous times in congressional hearings. She said she appreciated living in a country where you could gainsay the president and not find yourself in jail for a year, being tortured.

Clearly Obama was gratified by the opportunity for some liberal posturing, especially considering that he had just made a speech pretending that the executive branch of government makes, administers, and ajudicates the law on matters such as indefinite detention and assassinations. It is important for his liberal defenders to be able to pretend that he respects the Constitution, even while he shreds it by punishing whistleblowers at a rates that leaves all other U.S. presidents in the dust.

Guantánamo inmates -- who have been in prison for multiple years, some more than a decade, and tortured by force-feeding, sleep deprivation and other methods -- reportedly watched on television while Obama talked the talk but Medea called on him to walk the walk.
CODEPINK co-founder Diane Wilson has been on a water only hunger strike in solidarity with Guantánamo prisoners. She was arrested earlier this month for locking herself to the White House fence, trying to get Obama's attention. Teamwork!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Afghanistan Drawdown, 20 More Years Of War

Source: Afghan Women's Writing Project "A Mother Expecting Still"
In order to reduce the number of boots on the ground in Afghanistan, the Pentagon asked Congress for $9.6 billion of its allowance to be moved from one budget line to another. They asked permission to shift funds away from research and weapons purchases to instead “support funding shortfalls” in transportation, due to the high cost of removing from landlocked, mountainous Afghanistan. The Pentagon is reluctant to run short on funds for fuel, engaged as it is in the business of maintaining the larges tcarbon footprint on the planet.

But lest you make the mistake of thinking that withdrawal of many troops from Afghanistan means the war is over, a Pentagon official testifying to the Senate Armed Services committee said that the current war on terrorism could continue for ten, or maybe even twenty, more years. Also, now battlefields are chosen by "the enemy" and thus can and do keep cropping up in all sorts of unlikely places -- even Boston.

Downsizing the occupation consists of relying more and more on drones, or flying killer robots, and less and less on soldiers. Our mammoth fortified “embassy” in Kabul is nearly complete, Pepsi is building a new bottling plant there, and our imperial ambitions are leaning toward Africa while simultaneously pivoting to the Pacific. Look for more request for advances on the Pentagon's allowance.

What chaos do we leave in our wake as we "exit" Afghanistan? Every major news outlet (all owned by a few corporations, all headed by wealthy white men) participates in churning out the falsehoods that conceal the weeping of the bereaved in Kabul and Kandahar -- so that people in North America cannot hear them. 

Here, for example, is the New York Times reporting on negotiation of the devilish details of the "strategic partnership agreement" for post-2014:

The deal spells out Washington’s commitment to Afghanistan over the next 10 years, as well as its expectations of Kabul, including free and fair presidential elections next year and pledges to fight corruption, improve efficiency and protect human rights, including those of women.
Let's examine some of the myths surrounding the U.S. and NATO mission in Afghanistan. They will be used to weasel out of spending more than token amounts on compensating the victims of a decade plus of occupation.

Afghanistan Myth #1:
Afghanistan is the good war, because we are fighting for democracy, and if we don't fight "them" over there, we will have to fight "them" over here. Afghanistan is a breeding ground for Islamic extremists, a cradle of terrorists.


Thirty years ago the U.S. and Saudi Arabia poured money into funding Mujahideen fighters in a proxy war -- against the U.S.S.R. on the one hand, and Iran on the other. As is now fairly well known, much of the activity of training and arming Mujahideen fighters like Osama bin Laden, a Saudi national, went on over the border in Pakistan, a U.S. ally.  When the Soviets withdrew at the end of their ten years of bloody stalemate, so did the other meddlers, leaving the heavily armed factions vying for power to fight it out among themselves.

After mostly Saudi nationals (and not a single Afghan) were allowed to mount a dramatic attack on the U.S. on September 11, 2001, the U.S. waded into its own quagmire and began creating terrorists galore by bombing civilians, conducting night raids, and gobbling up land and resources. Because the Taleban had entrenched itself in many areas after successfully bringing the civil war to a close, the U.S. and NATO have found themselves paying the very group they are supposedly battling in order to keep supply lines open and conduct the war.

There may be some other examples in world history of funding ones own enemies, but if so they are rare. The immense folly of such an enterprise can most likely be justified on the grounds that it producies plenty of fear in the homeland, fueling sentiments such as the one I often hear people spouting: if we don't fight "them" over there, we will have to fight "them" over here. 

Afghanistan Myth #2:
Afghanistan has a culture of corruption, bribery being the norm, and good governance being foreign to its people.

Reports of suitcases full of cash delivered for a decade by the CIA to the president installed by the U.S.,  Hamid Karzai found him unapologetic about receiving them. Karzai explained that this is the way he bribes warlords to accept posts in the national and regional governments, and to keep their militias on a leash. (I have to add that the first time I saw the term "warlord" used as a serious term for allies of the U.S. was in the newspaper headline: "Laura Bush meets with warlords in Afghanistan." In those days -- around 2003 I think it was -- I was incredulous and thought I must be reading The Onion.)

Afghanistan Myth #3:
Women and girls have few rights in Afghanistan, and this is endemic to their culture. NATO's presence is justified by having improved women's rights, especially access to education.

Laura Bush got us off and running in 2001 issuing a statement to the press “to fight [in Afghanistan] also a fight for the rights and dignity of women." She was counting on the fact that the public in the U.S. would never know about Afghan women like these students in the 70's:
Source: "Once Upon a Time In Afghanistan" by Mohammad Qayoumi in Foreign Policy 
Religious fundamentalists the U.S. has funded have successively imposed narrow ideas about how women ought to be dressed, and what they ought to be doing with their day:
Women in Afghanistan continue organizing today in the struggle for their rights under NATO occupation and government by bribed warlords. According to UNICEF, Afghanistan has among the highest maternal and infant mortality of anywhere on the planet. And the much-heralded law criminalizing violence against women, providing safe houses for victims of domestic abuse, and banning rape within marriage, has been dropped by Parliament without having been enforced.

Afghanistan Myth #4:
Afghanistan has alway been extremely poor.

Afghan pomegranates on sale in India. Source:
For centuries Afghanistan produced agricultural goods exported to surrounding areas, and the region was especially known for the delicious fruits that came from its orchards: apricots, peaches, lemons, figs, and many more. Before the Soviet era the streets of its towns were lined with trees and its residential areas were filled with gardens. Thirty years of war destroyed much of the infrastructure. Currently, organizations like Afghanistan Samsortya work with local farmers to replant trees that produce food and shade, and retain healthy soil.

Afghanistan Myth #5:
Afghanistan's decadent economy is based largely on opium production.
Photo source: NYT "Production of Opium by Afghans Is Up Again"
Actually during the Taleban period just prior to NATO's invasion poppy production was at an all time low. Now it is booming, with heroin is flowing into Russia among other places. Chemical warfare anyone?

Afghanistan Myth #6:
Afghan people are inherently violent, with warlords and militas dominating local areas.
Mahatma Ghandi with Ghaffar Khan, the leader of the mass nonviolent resistance to British imperial rule.
This is one of the largest truths that the information supplied to U.S. citizens conceals: in the early 20th century Afghanistan and the part of India that is now Pakistan saw a mass nonviolent movement arise to resist British imperial rule. The movement sought to achieve independence through nonviolent methods. The Khudai Khidmatgar ("Servants of God"), were led by educator Ghaffar Khan, a contemporary and collaborator of Gandhi. The movement was ruthlessly crushed, and knowledge about them in the heart of the empire (that's you, U.S. citizens) has been suppressed. 

Today many groups continue using nonviolence in a disciplined way to win against violence. As one example, the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers conduct monthly Global Days of Listening, creating space for conversations that are joyous and unique. You can join the next conversation here. You can also donate to support nonviolent methods research being translated and distributed in Afghanistan by donating to the Albert Einstein Institution.

Source: Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers' blog Our Journey to Smile
Afghanistan Myth #7:
Afghans are "ragheads" -- Osama bin Laden being the most famous of the type -- with no respect for democracy or even human decency. The U.S. triumphed over the ragheads in Iraq, and we'll beat them in Afghanistan eventually.

U.S. soldiers and contractors are the hooligans of the world. In Afghanistan and Iraq they disrespected elders and local culture by entering homes in the night, by desecrating corpses and burning holy texts, and by torturing and killing civilians.

This myth also ignores basic facts, such as the vast difference between being Arab and being Muslim, or how unalike are the countries of Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Afghanistan Myth #8:
Afghanis are uneducated peasants still living in the Stone Age.

Afghanis are units of currency, not people.

A major Afghan cultural hero is the 13th century Sufi mystic Rumi, who wrote in one poem:
And still, after all this time, the Sun has never said to the Earth,"You owe me." 
Look what happens with love like that. It lights up the sky.

Kabul Hills at sunrise  photo credit: Timothy Clogherty

Friday, May 17, 2013

@SenAngusKing Sticks Up For The Constitution

Candidate Angus King meets Mark Roman of the Bring Our War $$ Home campaign in Bath, Maine July 4, 2012.
In hearings before the Senate Armed Services Committee yesterday, May 16, 2013, freshman Senator Angus King dared to state that the emperor has no clothes.

As Pentagon officials presented justification for making war on anyone, anywhere, by any means, anytime they feel like it, Maine's ex-governor -- who runs as an independent -- objected. Noting that he is "just a little lawyer from Brunswick, Maine" he nonetheless waded into constitutional law over the expansion being proposed of the Authorization for Use of Military Force rushed through Congress following the drama of September 11, 2001.

Focusing on the term "associated forces," which he noted was found nowhere the original AUMF, Angus contended at length that the Pentagon was usurping the power of Congress to declare war.
"This is the most astounding and astoundingly disturbing hearing I have been to since I have been here. You guys have essentially rewritten the Constitution here today."
Here's video of what preceded his remarks, and the remarks themselves, shared by Democracy Now!:

One of the shocking -- though not surprising -- statements made by the Pentagon's team was that the entire world is now a battlefield "from Boston to Pakistan" citing an attack in the USS Cole that killed 17 U.S. sailors in Yemen in October, 2000 as evidence of this. The team also predicted that the current war on "associated forces" of those who mounted the  September 11, 2001 attacks in the U.S. would last another 10 to 20 years.

That day loomed large in Sen. King's remarks as well, as he noted that the AUMF was based on taking military action against the groups responsible for events on that specific date.

What do you want to bet that the next AUMF Congress passes will include the Boston Marathon bombing? Yesterday also brought news of the contents of a note found in the boat where the surviving suspect hid, justifying the terrorist attack in Boston as a response to U.S. policies. CBS News reported the note asserted that:
  • The bombings were retribution for what the U.S. did to Muslims in Afghanistan and Iraq
  • The Boston victims were collateral damage, like Muslims are in U.S. wars
Damn if the military contractors haven't found the perfect mechanism for endless "war on terror" -- which war Sen. King, by the way, says he wholeheartedly supports. So maybe the emperor just needs a freshly tailored set of clothes? Stay tuned.
CODEPINK Maine delegation visits Sen. Angus King's senior policy advisor Marge Kilkenny in Augusta, Maine February 21, 2013.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

"my mother is a flower who has bloomed"

Photo by Alsy Acevedo/CRS

the same as every sunday 
my mother asks me to go to church with her 
and forgetting my baptism and communion and catholic guilt 
I quickly decline and she slowly wilts into disappointment 
yes, my mother is a flower 
who has bloomed, given up, been devoured 
by guerrilla warfare and coup d'etats 
by a cold, cold world who seemed to have forgot 
that she was only blooming 
and as reagan and romney promised champagne to trickle down like rain 
on a famined nation 
they funded slaughter and rape under the tin roofs of my mother's town 
blood stained cotton gowns of girls she went to school with 
and so she emigrated to the country that enabled her suffering 
freedom pending, freedom assumed, freedom buffering 
and she joined the sea of thankless 9-5 
except my mother starts her day at 4 in the morning 
rising unseen, as history is forming all she has been through into nothing 
so getting up early for church on sundays isn't much to her 
but mom i don't know whether i'm amazed or disappointed 
that you can still believe in anything 
because america, someone else's beautiful, funded your destruction 
so where was God when the soldiers raped the girls in El Salvador 
and where was God when they shot Salvador Allende 
and where was God when we funded apartheid 
and where is God when we commit cultural genocide 
and where is God when we torture innocent people 
for information that will never matter 
my views are scattered 
i want to believe that there is something beyond this 
but there is no circle of hell deep enough for a racist 
or a president whose drones kill children 
or companies who make money off of illegal settlements 
or people who have all of the evidence 
but choose to keep quiet 
we can't expect a riot to just happen 
we need to mobilize ourselves before they dissolve us 
into numb, proud citizens 
and praying won't stop our taxes from deepening the wounds of victims 
it’s funny how those who have seen want to be blind 
so mom, it's going to have to be a no again 
i can't go to church with you this sunday 
because if there's anything i believe in 
it's the power of a determined people 
not of any divine priest under a steeple
Poem performed at Bowdoin College, May 4, 2013 by the author. Reprinted here with her permission.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Sorry We Raised Our Kids To Kill

A meeting of the committee of the Mothers of the Disappeared. San Salvador, 1979. [Credit:Susan Meiselas]
Dear mothers around the world,
Last weekend I heard a young woman share a poem explaining to her mother why she wouldn't go to church with her on Sunday morning. The daughter had lost her faith in the Christian God in response to atrocities in her native El Salvador. There was a lot of anger in her poem.

She was not angry with her mother. She was sad at disappointing her again with the news that she wouldn't be able to bring herself to go with mom to church. But she was going to remain true to her own beliefs.
Ziba, a mother in Afghanistan, with her baby at a clinic. Infant and maternal mortality there are among the highest in the world after more than a decade of U.S. occupation.
I, too, feel angry. I am very angry about my government stealing from poor people around the world in order to buy weapons to kill other poor people.

They do this under many guises, but one of the most disgusting is their claim that their agenda is promoting rights for women, including education for girls.

22nd Annual Women’s Memorial March in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, Feb 14, 2013.
I know my government no longer represents the people. It never did, because it grew from the bloody ground where indigenous grandmothers had been disrespected. Disrespecting them and their wisdom about how to live on the earth was the first misstep down the road to universal human misery amid ecological collapse.

Dear mothers, I am sorry we in the USA have raised our children to kill another mother's child.

Would it surprise you to know that the mothers here have not been listened to here? That the grandmothers and their wisdom have not been honored? Only women who swear fealty to the death machine are allowed in as token females in the halls of power.

And a pack of idiots are at the controls of the most lethal war weapons ever devised.

Men stand guard over your sons who are imprisoned forever on the grounds of being un-white and Muslim. My country has built special prisons -- at Guantanamo, at Bagram, in Indiana and many other places -- where your husbands, fathers, uncles, nephews and cousins are held incommunicado for years.
My country enables Israel which imprisons your children, torturing them, shooting tear gas canisters at their heads, and humiliating them at checkpoints and in the very homes where soldiers awaken them in the night. My country enables Israel to bomb Gaza, to bomb Syria, to assassinate, to steal the land and water, to bulldoze olive groves, to wall off one side of your family from the other side. Mothers of Palestine, I am sorry.

I am sorry, mothers of Afghanistan. Your suffering these thirty years has been funded by the taxes they take from my paycheck every week. You starve and freeze in refugee camps, unable to save your children, while U.S. soldiers eat hamburgers and watch t.v. before going on night raids to terrorize you. The warlords who bombed you before the U.S. invasion have now been fattened by suitcases of dollars  and fields of opium money. I am sorry you have not been able to protect your families from the greed and violence of my dying culture.

Iraqi Birth Defects Worse than Hiroshima

by Rania Khalek on March 20, 2013 (Dr Samira Alani/Al Jazeera])
Mothers of Iraq, I am sorry. You bear children deformed by depleted uranium and white phosphorus weapons that made the 0.01% very, very wealthy. You mourn for the lost hopes of a son who was at university, for the daughter who turned to prostitution to feed your family.

Syrian mothers, how great is your suffering and how can I apologize enough to you? The plans to invade Syria were with the U.S. army when it swept into Iraq ten years ago, but it has taken this long for the puppet masters to mount their proxy war. I am sorry we have sent so many weapons to your country, arming all sides to generate profit, bloodshed and suffering.

Mothers of Yemen, Bahrain, Somalia, Philippines, Mexico, Colombia, Haiti, Okinawa -- I apologize for what the U.S. and its soldiers and drones and bombs and guns have done to your children.

Decades ago a woman in the U.S. who organized to end slavery sent out this call to mothers all around the globe. Julia Ward Howe's Proclamation began, “Arise, then, women of this day!” and contained a pledge I affirm today: “I will not raise my children to kill another mother's child.”

But the sick culture of rape and guns for preschool kids and torture prisons and lies dominates our airwaves, loudly and falsely proclaiming that we are "free." Officially, we are exceptional, because anything we do is justified by our "superior" culture, proven by our "success" at hogging the planet's resources. We have 5% of the world's population and we maintain 700+ of military bases all over the globe. The Pentagon is the biggest single polluter on Earth. It burns oil to steal oil in order to keep burning oil to steal more. Along the way it steals your daughter's virginity and your elderly mother's peace of mind.

I am sorry we raised our kids to kill. We are in a death spiral, taking many of you down with us. Please don't hate us. We are so desperately in need of the healing touch of a mother's love.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Photos: The Banality Of Evil At Guantánamo #Fast4Gitmo

The Behavioral Health Unit where the detainees receive psychological medical care, Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, April 10, 2013. (Photo By Army Sgt. Brian Godette)
The blog Public Intelligence published these photos with the note that they were released by the U.S. government on May 2, no doubt in response to more than 100 men engaged in a hunger strike since February. The men have been "treated" in the "Behavioral Health Unit" at Guantánamo by force feeding.

The majority of them have been cleared for release but continue to languish in indefinite detention -- so far, it has lasted a decade.

They are starving themselves in order to be released from this bureaucratic hell. You can join them in a solidarity fast to help get the word out -- details on how to #Fast4Gitmo here.

Feeding chair used during internal nourishment procedure inside the Joint Medical Group where the detainees receive medical care, Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, April 10,2013. (Photo By Army Sgt. Brian Godette)

Feeding chair and internal nourishment preparation inside the Joint Medical Group where the detainees receive medical care, Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, April 10, 2013. (Photo By Army Sgt. Brian Godette)
Outdoor recreation area in the Behavioral Health Unit where the detainees receive psychological medical care, Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, April 10,2013. (Photo By Army Sgt. Brian Godette)
From Wikipedia:
Banality of evil is a phrase used by Hannah Arendt in the title of her 1963 work Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil.[1] Her thesis is that the great evils in history generally, and the Holocaust in particular, were not executed by fanatics orsociopaths, but by ordinary people who accepted the premises of their state and therefore participated with the view that their actions were normal.
Because convincing people to accept "the premises of their state" nearly always involves an avalanche of euphemism -- employing bland bureaucratic phrases for horrors inflicted by the state -- here is a Guantánamo glossary to accompany these photos:

Honor bound to defend freedom Hey, it's a paycheck. And if we don't fight them over "there" we'll have to fight them over here to defend capitalism's stranglehold on the planet's natural resources.

Behavioral Health Unit A prison department that specializes in psychological torture.

Feeding chair Equipment used to subject prisoners to full restraint in an upright position, ready for torture.

Internal nourishment procedure Forced feeding using a tube pushed through the nose and down the esophagus.

Outdoor recreation area Pen for humans treated like animals.

Psychological medical care Reports are that sleep deprivation and other brutalities have been used against the hunger strikers.

Mohamedou Ould Slahi photo published by Slate.
From the blogger Alex Kane on Mondoweiss:
Slate magazine has a sharp reminder of this illegal and inhumane treatment. The news outlet has published the memoirs of Guantanamo detainee Mohamedou Ould Slahi. He has been locked up there for 11 years, despite the fact that in 2010 a judge ordered his release. Slahi’s brutal interrogation was personally signed off on by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. The U.S. questioned him on his associations with known terrorists, but the U.S. never found Slahi to have been involved with a specific plot. Slahi described one aspect of his torture here: 
The cell—better, the box—was cooled down so that I was shaking most of the time. I was forbidden from seeing the light of the day. Every once in a while they gave me a rec time in the night to keep me from seeing or interacting with any detainees. I was living literally in terror. I don’t remember having slept one night quietly; for the next 70 days to come I wouldn’t know the sweetness of sleeping. Interrogation for 24 hours, three and sometimes four shifts a day. I rarely got a day off.
What is the solution to the problem created by holding random Muslim men for years in a torture prison? Apparently the current gang of thugs running the U.S. government believe it is bombing civilians around the planet with drones. Because air strikes on a village are "surgical" and "humane" and, in theory, they eliminate enemies rather than creating them in droves. Right.
Source: American Friends Service Committee

Thursday, May 2, 2013

#Guantánamo Hunger Strikers: Tortured With Your Tax $$

When I was young, in the 20th century, we read about the USSR's crimes against humanity in The Gulag Archipelago and we read about the concentration camps the Nazis used to torture and control millions, and which the Allied forces liberated. We, the USA, were the good guys.

Now I'm aging in the 21st century and Guantánamo Bay is just one site -- perhaps the most notorious -- of my own empire's archipelago of torture prisons. It's isolated from U.S. courts and from the view of most citizens. Reports are the CIA decided to locate a facility to detain "war on terror" prisoners in Cuba especially to piss off Fidel Castro. Closing it is one of the many, many campaign promises that the current occupant of the White House made to trick peaceniks into voting for him the first time.
Photo source: World Can't Wait. Sign their petition and find out how to take action to shut down the torture center the U.S. illegally maintains in Cuba.
89 prisoners there have been cleared of any suspicions of terrorism, but have been held for a decade or more anyway. Many were swept up in a global dragnet following the dramatic events of September 11, 2001, the prey of informants or in some cases guilty of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Their despair at the indefiniteness of their detention is palpable. Their three-month hunger strike is inspiring those of us on the outside of the prisons -- all the prisons we pay for while Head Start programs close and unemployment compensation is cut --- to fast in solidarity with them.

Send a picture of yourself in solidarity with the prisoners held in Guantánamo by e-mailing it to This is CODEPINK Associate Rooj Alwazir.
If we fasted for every wrongly imprisoned (man with brown colored skin) in the U.S. archipelago, we would all starve to death.

The executive branch of our failed government recently ordered fresh squadrons of force feeders to Cuba (the propaganda term for them is "medical reinforcements"). The president is afraid if the prisoners succeed in escaping Guantánamo by starving themselves, it will look bad for the U.S. The medical establishment is afraid that if its members succeed in forcing a tube that feels "as sharp as a razor" into the nasal passages and down the esophagi of prisoners, it will make the medical profession look bad.

I am afraid that the people of my country have lost their way so badly that the militarized police state their taxes support will remain invisible to them until the very day that they, or their son or daughter or grandchild or friend, is locked up, too.

When I was young in the 20th century, Guantánamo was known to me only as the subject of a song that my mother would sing. More than a year ago I posted this video of the singer Celia Cruz performing "Guantanamera" or "woman of Guantánamo."

I added this verse to express the pain in my heart here in the 21st Century:

You broke my heart when you tortured
The beautiful ones, and the bad ones.
You broke my heart when the young soldiers
Had to watch all this being done.
How could our Constitution
ever stand for something like this?
If there is such a thing as a court,
I hope all you torturers stand before it.

Guantanamera...oh women of Guantánamo
And may the indigenous 
grandmothers save us.