Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Nevada Judge Frees Drone Protester, Thanks Her For "Passion And Commitment"

Shirley Osgood (in center with peace sign), and supporters (L-R) Robert Majors, Chris Nelson, Nancy Milton,
Barry Binks and Dennis Duvall
I've been spending time on the Americans Who Tell The Truth website doing some research for a project. It's an excellent resource for educators and quite inspiring. Thus I was pleasantly surprised to open my email and find the following personal statement by a citizen who chose to stand up and tell the truth about drone warfare. Perhaps Robert Shetterly will paint Shirley Osgood's portrait one day?

Las Vegas Trial, August 25, 2016
by Shirley Osgood

This is a write-up of what was to be my trial after being arrested on April 1, 2016 for trespassing on federal property at Creech Air Force Base, in protest of drone warfare.

I arrived at the Las Vegas Airport on Wednesday afternoon, and was met by the amazing Catholic Worker, Robbie Majors, who drove me to my hotel where I continued obsessing over what I was going to do and say at my trial the next morning. Barry and Nancy, Occupy Beale AFB friends, arrived in the evening, and we had vegan dinner at Container Park. I went to bed hoping final inspiration would arrive in the night. Then Chris Nelson, another of my beautiful Occupy Beale AFB support friends, arrived at our room at 2AM after a late flight into Vegas, just to be support.

The four of us met for an early breakfast, and in came Dennis Duval from Prescott, AZ. We all headed down Fremont Street, and arrived at the Justice Court in time for a rally at 8:15. We were met there by Robbie Majors with his sign, “No  One   Wins  an  Arms  Race”.    We  held  our  anti-drone banners, and at about 8:45, Robert, a press guy from Channel 8, arrived to video and interview.

We went up to the 8th floor and entered the courtroom, where a young woman with a Spanish/English interpreter was in process of getting a restraining order against a man. My wonderful support people sat with me and waited for my name to be called.

When called, I stepped forward, and quickly became aware that Judge Ann Zimmerman did not have me down for a trial, but simply to clarify what I was going to do about getting an attorney, since I had signed to release Attorney Chris Grasso. I was not scheduled for a trial at all. I stated that I had flown in expecting a trial, and the Judge said it was her fault it was not scheduled. She sent me to a small room in the back of the courtroom with the public defender, who explained to me that the prosecutor was offering me a “submittal”. She explained that it did not involve making any plea. My choices would be a $250 fine, or 30 hours of community service. If I chose the community service, I would be on probation until its completion. Luckily, Chris and Dennis entered and were allowed to stay at my request. They offered me some good ideas, which resulted in my asking the PD if I could request dismissal,  based  on  “time  served”,  which  was  one day  in  the  Las  Vegas  Jail.    She  said  she  didn’t  think  that  would  be  accepted,  but   she would ask.

We all entered the courtroom, and the PD approached the bench with two men from the Prosecution. After a short chat, I was asked to come up, and was told that the Prosecution agreed to dismiss the charges with only the time served. There  would  be  no  fine,  community  service  or  probation.    And  I  wasn’t  even  told   that  I  had  to  “stay  out  of  trouble”.    I  accepted,  and  asked  if  I  could  make  a  short   statement. The Judge said yes, a couple of minutes.

My statement started with a description of the young boy, Omran Daqneesh, whose home was bombed in Aleppo, Syria. He was shown being placed in an ambulance, alone. He was covered with dust and blood. (The Judge nodded and said,  “Yes,  I  saw  it”). 

I  continued  to  describe  how  he  touched  his  bleeding   forehead, looked at the blood on his hand, and wiped the blood on the ambulance seat. I stated how hard it is to get this picture out of your head, and went on to say that I had other pictures, of drone victims, stuck in my head. I described the young child with the top of his head blown off, surrounded by flowers, and the dead mother whose limp arm was draped around her small young child.

I went on to say that I was left with the choice of doing something, or doing nothing, and proceeded to describe a number of legal things that I had done to try to stop drone warfare. I talked about what was happening at Creech Air Force Base, and my reasons for doing direct action at Creech.

I closed my brief statement with a paragraph by Medea Benjamin, which I found in Marjorie Cohn’s book, Drones and Targeted Killing:

"From Pakistan to Yemen to Gaza, drone warfare snuffs out the lives of innocent civilians with impunity and renders thousands more maimed psychologically, left homeless and without livelihoods. In the name of war on terror, drone warfare terrorizes entire populations and represents one of the greatest travesties of justice in our age."

After listening to my statement, Judge Zimmerman thanked me for my passion and commitment,  and  I  was  free  to  go. We  sang  a  round  of  “Circle  Round  for   Freedom” on  the  steps  of  the  courthouse  before  leaving,  and celebrated on Fremont Street. Feeling grateful to be free and leaving Las Vegas. Hoping that this day may have some small impact on stopping the drones, and bring some peace to the world. 
Detail from the video below of the 2nd Annual "Shut down Creech protest"

Friday, August 26, 2016

Why Systemic Racism Is Lethal For All Of Us

Eli Levin ~ "Killing Mario Woods" ~ egg tempera ~ 18" x 24"
This painting by Eli Levin is shared with permission via our mutual friend, artist/activist Russell Wray. Mario Woods' story is personal, of course, for his family and friends; it is also emblematic of systemic racism -- even in San Francisco, alleged bastion of liberalism and tolerance. "The City" (as we called it growing up in its suburbs) was once known for its tolerance; now it is known for brutal gentrification that drives people from their homes into the streets to attempt survival. Those who suffer from mental illness -- like Woods, or recent Baltimore police victim Korryn Gaines -- often don't make it.

The engine of gentrification in San Francisco is Silicon Valley, the nearby region where technology and capitalism came together to change life as we know it. Whose side would you guess the tech billionaires are on in the ongoing struggle for racial justice? 

From an Aug. 25 email from the corporate watchdog group SumofUS:
Korryn Gaines posted videos of her encounter with police on Facebook. The police asked Facebook to deactivate her account. Then she was killed... 
[Facebook CEO Mark] Zuckerberg has publicly said he supports Black Lives Matter, but yet his company decided to censor the communications that add much-needed transparency when it comes altercations with the police. 
We're living through the violent collision of racism, worship of the almighty dollar, and a woefully inadequate mental health care system that results from said worship. 

White people are crawling out the of the woodwork these days to insist that the Black Lives Matter movement is itself racist. Here's a good response I saw on, of course, Facebook:

Systemic racism harms us all. It makes for bad decisions, uninformed decisions, as so many wise voices are silenced. 

In Maine the big news this week is that President Obama created a new national monument with 87,000 acres of forest land donated by philanthropist Roxanne Quimby. But native people in Maine say that giving the federal government jurisdiction over land that is their ancestral homeland is not only bad for them, it is bad for the future of humankind. 
Maybe Dana, a past Penobscot chief, was thinking about the Lakota people who had their water supply cut off this week as they blocked construction of a $3.8 billion oil pipeline across their land. Homeland Security, which reports to Obama, was responsible. According to "the land actually belongs to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which has forced the protesters to request a permit to carry out any further actions on what is historically their own land" [emphasis mine].

Maine is actually in a prolonged drought this summer with wells going dry -- while multinational corporation Nestlé continues to pump millions of gallons out of our aquifers to sell back to us in little plastic bottles. Who thinks this is a good idea? Not the native people. Their struggles to protect the water we all rely on for life are repeatedly thwarted by corporations and the governments who serve them. When the federal government takes jurisdiction over land native people have cherished for generations, those people lose their sovereign right to live upon the planet in a sustainable way. And when they lose, we all lose the benefits of their wisdom. 

The rich white man who runs Nestlé is on record as saying that clean water is not a human right. 

Apparently, under the current system, neither are mental health care or policing that actually serves and protects people who aren't white or affluent. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Maine Peace Walk To Begin At A Place Of Indigenous Wisdom About Our Earth

The 5th annual Maine Peace Walk to Stop the War$ on Mother Earth will take place in October again this year. The walk will begin on Oct. 11 at a place of indigenous wisdom about living on the planet: the Penobscot Nation. Walkers will assemble on Indian Island to begin their two week trek through communities that can learn much from Penobscot elders about how to properly be here and live cooperatively as human beings in harmony with air, land and water.

Sherri Mitchell of the Penobscots eloquently expressed this in a recent interview (thanks to Regis Tremblay for sharing):

If you share Mitchell's concern that humanity is currently on a suicidal path, why not join her on the Maine Peace Walk? Here are details from the planning committee.

Many people join the walk for one day or a few days at a time. There are provisions for those unable to walk the whole way on any given day. This is an uplifiting experience of community that you will not forget if you are fortunate enough to participate!

The itinerary for the walk thus far:
Oct 11 Orientiation at Penobscot Nation Council Chambers on Indian Island
Oct 12 Dexter
Oct 13 Pittsfield
Oct 14 Unity
Oct 15 Waterville
Oct 16 Augusta
Oct 17 Norway
Oct 18 Lewiston
Oct 19 Brunswick
Oct 21 Freeport
Oct 22 Portland
Oct 23 Saco
Oct 24 Kennebunk
Oct 25 York Beach
Oct 26 Kittery

To get the flavor of this experience, here's my report back from the final day of last year's 4th annual Maine Peace Walk. 


Sunday, August 21, 2016

American Umpire: Throw The Bum Out

The new film AMERICAN UMPIRE will be screened in Newton, Massachusetts this week prior to being aired on corporate faux "public" channel NPR. I haven't see the film yet but I want to respond point by point to the load of bullshit on its website. Let's start with the graphics.
How do you read this picture? My take: there's the U.S. (having appropriated the word American for itself) perched atop the planet, facing both west and east, making the call on which air strikes are fair and which are foul. He's not a player; he's the judge, jury and executioner.

I think the alpha males depicted here are perfectly situated to decide this since they are obviously above any of the bombs that will fall and kill or burn children. And they have flags! So, clearly, they are patriotic.

Now to the verbiage:
Since the end of World War II, the United States has played a unique security role in the world.
"Security role" in this context means the global power that sells most of the world's weapons of mass destruction and "unique" is a euphemism for "exceptionalism" which means we have no real rivals in death dealing.
During that time, democratic nation states have proliferated, combat deaths have plunged, and global trade has boomed. The security umbrella of the United States enabled war ravaged nations to rebuild and the Cold War came to a peaceful conclusion.  War did not disappear. Suffering and poverty were not eliminated. But when compared to any other period over the last several centuries, the last half of the 20th century was a period of historic prosperity and relative peace. Most countries in the world have benefited from what many economists call the golden age.
Combat deaths have plunged, eh? This obscures the fact that civilians -- grandparents, moms and dads, kids and babies -- are the primary victims of U.S. imperial wars. Because airstrikes kill civilians, mostly. And death dealing from on high is what the U.S. post-WWII era has as its signature military strategyAnd, if you think "the Cold War came to a peaceful conclusion" you should maybe ask Afghans about that. Or look more closely at the map at the head of this blog post.

The privilege on display here citing "a period of historic prosperity" refers to the fact that the people who serve the empire or preside at places like Harvard and Stanford do not see entire generations in the U.S. crushed by student debt. Or bankrupted and homeless because of catastrophic medical bills

Although the professors and politicians behind the film will not name it, clearly this is a puff piece for the rapacious economic system of late stage capitalism. 

The United States has benefited as well. But it has come at a cost. U.S. defense spending represents about 20% of the federal budget...
Twenty percent is a blatant lie that lumps in payroll taxes dedicated to Social Security and Medicare, ignores nuclear weapons development funded under the Dept. of Energy, and ignores the cost to care for veterans' needs. The real share of "defense" in the budget exceeds 50% year after year, even if you only count funding the Pentagon. (You can see real data and analysis of the federal budget here at the National Priorities Project.)
and spends more on defense than the next 28 countries combined. In 1947, the U.S. represented roughly half of the world's manufacturing capacity. Today it is less than 20%. Yet allies fail to meet their minimal commitments on defense spending confident that the U.S. will defend them. In fact, 95% of all military personnel around the world who are stationed outside their home counties are American soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines [emphasis mine]. Their job is difficult, unpredictable, and often thankless. The question is, are we over doing it?
So only 5% of soldiers in foreign countries are not from the U.S. What part of the word "empire" do the filmmakers not understand? 

"Allies fail to meet their minimal commitments on defense spending" suggests to me that people in other nations still appear to have some representation in government.
Mainer Bruce Gagnon at a demonstration against situating THAAD anti-aircraft missiles in South Korea,
an "ally" which saw tens of thousands this summer protest THAAD deployment in their country.
American Umpire explores how the United States got into this role in the first place.  Then, through a series of outstanding interviews with prominent policy makers, scholars, military leaders, and journalists, it explores possible policy options for the future. American Umpire offers a balanced view and is an alternative to partisan hyperbole of the 24-hour news cycles and social media that paints foreign policy choices in black and while as either irresponsible isolationism or war-mongering engagement.
A balanced view offered by the educated elite in service to our corporate government. Right. I'm sure there will be an extensive look at the role of lobbying and campaign contributions (and other forms of bribes) by the corporations who make the planes, ships, drones and bombs. Not.
American Umpire seeks to open up a national discussion about the foreign policy of the United States in an important election year. More than anyone, presidents decide foreign policy and define our national vision.
Ok, now we're getting to the bottom of this propaganda effort. It's an "important election year" effort to get you to believe that the president is a decider. As opposed to a paid spokesperson for the corporations that own and operate the U.S. government.

And I think we're all pretty clear on which candidate our corporate overlords want in the White House.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

"You Don't Know What The Pentagon Is? (Scornfully) It's The Capitol!"

I overheard something significant at the beach in South Portland this week, where a group of day camp kids were playing with kayaks and building sand castles. A boy who appeared to be about 9 said scornfully to a peer: 

"You don't know what the Pentagon is? It's the capital!"

A 9 year old boy living in the heart of the U.S. empire could be forgiven for thinking this is the case. Maybe he's seen this pie chart and knows that military = Pentagon:

Or this one, detailing the role of the war supplemental (renamed the "overseas contingency fund") plus the budget lines hiding weapons development such as nukes under the Dept. of Energy:

No, who am I kidding? A 9 year old has not likely seen either of the charts. 

Nor has he likely seen the headline "Army reports it cannot account for $6.5 trillion" and concluded that, if you're the boss, you can hide trillions in taxpayer dollars and no one has the power to make you say what you spent them on. He probably hasn't signed the petition volunteering to help the Army find the missing money either.
Sign the petition here.

A 9 year old in today's U.S.A. is living in a propaganda society so pervasive that it shuts down the capacity for real analysis. 

As a prime example I call your attention to a recent article by climate change guru Bill McKibben. Writing in the New Republic (a neoliberal magazine my husband mysteriously started receiving the same month a friend gave him a subscription to the much more radical Adbusters) McKibben called for a war on climate change akin to the mobilization that led to a win during WWII.

For a distinguished scholar at Middlebury College McKibben has a pretty shallow analysis of that global conflict. He gives the impression of having watched a lot of rah-rah "history" programs with Hitler as the ultimate bad guy and the U.S. as the knight in shining armor. His only critique of U.S. war-time performance was that they stayed out of the fight for too long.

He appears to be completely unaware that WWII was a continuation of the colonial conflicts that had been poorly resolved by WWI after the Ottoman Empire unraveled; that U.S. corporations like IBM and Ford profited from doing business with Nazi Germany right through the war; and that bombing Japan with nuclear weapons was the opening salvo in the (ongoing) Cold War with the U.S.S.R. Which had its roots in the colonial conflicts arising when the Ottoman Empire unraveled. Just ask Afghanistan.

Unaware as well that the U.S. and its allies knew about the concentration camps but kept quiet until they tardily liberated them to great fanfare. Also unaware that many of the Jewish people who died in camps or in transit had been denied permission to emigrate to safety, sometimes being literally turned back from U.S. shores. Also unaware that Pearl Harbor happened after the U.S. cut off imperial Japan's oil shipments -- and that the U.S. government knew that Japan was planning the "surprise" attack.

But for white men of McKibben's generation -- men without the habit of reflection, anyway -- WWII was a glorious victory and a grand project that got us all working together. That it unleashed nuclear catastrophe on the planet is not even worthy of a mention by the eminent environmentalist.
Image by Anthony Freda from "Pentagon Carbon Pollution Is Killing Life On Our Planet" went2thebridge July 19, 2015
But the really shocking ignorance on display in McKibben's long article is the pass he gives the Pentagon on its major role in driving carbon pollution and thus climate change. He doesn't just let the Pentagon off the hook -- he literally doesn't even mention them. 

Maybe that 9 year old and McKibben should sit down for a talk sometime, so the founder of wouldn't be so bewildered about why neither of the corporate parties will take on slowing down the runaway train of climate chaos in any meaningful way.

If you'd like to help, why not take the Natural Guard pledge? Affirm your commitment to remind people who are concerned about climate change that the Pentagon and its contractors are an enormous elephant in the carbon belching room. 

Then, in discussions about national "security" you can remind people that climate change is the biggest threat to our global safety. And continuing to burn more and more fuel for "safety" isn't taking us in the right direction.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Bigotry Rears Its Ugly Head, Coast To Coast

Image source: DownEast Magazine
Prominent Somali immigrant and community leader ZamZam Mohamud
conferring with police in Lewiston, Maine.
I was on tap to write about some of the many covert wars beyond the seven "hot" ones the U.S. is currently engaged in. Sifting through the propaganda and connecting up some truth is not an easy process, and I'm sure our corporate overlords intend it this way. I'll get to it eventually; in the meantime, you could read the website The Saker on Ukraine or Bruce Gagnon's blog on Ukraine, Korea, Montenegro, and other targets of imperial ambition.

What keeps nagging at me to write about these days is the alarming, ugly, pervasive rise of hate language from bigots all over the U.S.A.

Here's a facebook post from a student at my alma mater (MsEd, 1997) in Portland, the University of Southern Maine (USM):

Image may contain: one or more people and indoor
Sitting here minding my business at the USM library and this guy takes it upon himself to tell me that I'm a "nigger bitch" and to "go back to your country". When I took the pic of him he tells me he probably paid for my phone with the taxes he pays. Miserable as fuck!
Neat, huh? The public university I support with my taxes is providing a warm nest for this hatefulness. A family member who attends the nearby Southern Maine Community College commented that this sort of sentiment is quite common in her classes, from youngish white men, many of them veterans of racist wars against brown people in petroleum rich areas of the planet.

Next comes this report from the West coast:
Yesterday I was verbally attacked for being a gay woman. "Have you looked in a mirror lately? You could be part man". Just when I thought bigots were beginning to evolve, it turns out they were just hiding in a closet. Thanks to the vile spewed by the hate-monger running for president, bigots are feeling empowered to show their true colors again. I tried to appeal to this ignorant and hateful bigot's humanity by pointing out how painful it is to be attacked on the basis of birth-given characteristics. He responded only by attacking me some more and telling me to "F--- off". Bigotry like a cancer will spread unless we acknowledge it and work to evolve as a species. 
I'm not sure where Ms. Northcutt, an attorney who represents people with disabilities, was when this happened, but she lives in an area with a large public university that is part of the University of California system. An area that used to be considered a bastion of tolerance and multiculturalism.

When right wing paid commenters hurl online insults at "politically correct" beliefs, this is what they are railing against: respect for other cultures, races, genders and sexual preferences.

My friend left her comment in response to my plea for some intelligent comments on a letter to the editor I had published after the demagogue with the bad hair came to Maine and scapegoated the Somali refugee community. Such letters, at least around here, immediately draw comments spewing hate and making absurd claims such as that white people are the actual victims of racism in the U.S. 

I am watching this issue split apart families as they debate the news of the day online. It's scary to see people I used to know as tolerant and open-minded become bigots before my very eyes. I remember how often I have read accounts of the descent of Germany into fascism which cited this very thing. People wondered where their old friend or neighbor had gone, leaving a racist fanatic in their place. 

For an excellent literary treatment of this theme -- one based on an actual incident -- I recommend this novella in the form of letters between friends, first published in 1938:

I dare say that when my stepson gave me this book as a gift fifteen years ago neither one of us anticipated that one day we, too, would watch as people we thought we knew transformed into monstrous haters under the influence of propaganda and right wing politics.

Finally, here's a subsequent post from our articulate USM student indicating that hate language isn't just words -- it's a force driving people away from access to an education.

I just want to express my gratitude for the support I've been getting these last few hours from the incident that happened this morning. I hope something positive comes out this and hope to see real change enacted at the University of Southern Maine. Many students of color have since left USM because of experiences like this and enough is enough. USM must cherish, value, and create a safe space for their marginalized students at all times.

Revised 8/15/16:
Nimco Mohamed shared this screen grab where the man in her picture identifies himself:

And RNorthcutt wrote in response to this post:

Rebecca Northcutt A message to Haters: The choice is yours: You can hate me just because I am an outspoken woman if you are a misogynist. Or you can hate me because I am disabled and receive hard-earned benefits under the ADA. Or you can hate me because I am a gay woman, butch no less and not feminine enough. Or you can hate me because I am lawyer, a "bottom feeder", if you prefer. Of course you could just hate me because I am not white enough, rich enough, young enough, thin enough, conservative enough or complacent enough. But you'll never be able to hate me just because I am hateable. I am simply much too loveable to ever qualify.
Amen to that. 

Revised 8/16/16:
I shared this letter I wrote to USM with Cory Smith. He responded "that was not me making the racial comments" and had never set foot in the USM library but friends noticed he looks like Nirmco's photo and he engaged in some joking with them in the screen grab above. 

Dear USM Library Administration, As an alumnae of USM (MsEd, 1997) I am writing to express concern about racist harassment occurring in the USM library targeting a student of color. I recently saw this post on facebook: Nimco M. Mohamed August 12 at 11:06am Sitting here minding my business at the USM library and this guy takes it upon himself to tell me that I'm a "nigger bitch" and to "go back to your country". When I took the pic of him he tells me he probably paid for my phone with the taxes he pays. Miserable as fuck!
I blogged about the incident and Ms. Mohamed responded by sharing a screen grab where her harasser identified himself as a man named Cory Smith. I'm not sure whether Mr. Smith is a student at USM or was simply using the library to eat a snack in front of his laptop. I'm also not sure if your office is the correct recipient of my complaint. If not, please forward my request that Mr. Smith receives an official response from USM administrators and/or library staff regarding his harassment and hate language in this academic setting. His remarks were racist, misogynist and xenophobic and while I respect his first amendment right to free speech, his hateful rhetoric renders the USM library unsafe for students like Ms. Mohamed. We taxpayers provide such venues as a place to study, not to harass others. Thank you for your attention to this matter. Lisa Savage

And here is the reply I received from the USM library administrator:

Hi Ms. Savage, 

Thank you so much for emailing us. We are fully aware of Friday's unacceptable incident. On Saturday, the man in question came back to our library and he was trespassed from all USM campuses for one year.   The student was immediately informed.  

The man's name was not Cory Smith, so perhaps someone found an image that looked like the photo below? 

Walk in hours are available from 1pm-4pm today at USM's Multicultural Center for anyone who would like to discuss this situation further.  

From the University of Southern Maine's Facebook page:
"We have reached out to the student who was impacted and are identifying opportunities for our university community to come together to talk about race, racism, creating awareness, and the ways we can support one another. It is important to know that the University of Southern Maine does not condone any form of harassment.

If you or someone you know needs support around this or any other issue, please reach out to Assistant Dean of Students for Diversity and Inclusion Mariana Cruz or Interim Dean of Students David McKenzie. On Monday from 1-4pm, Assistant Dean of Students Mariana Cruz will be in the USM Multicultural Center for drop-in hours."

Thank you again for sharing your blog post with us as well.

Library Administration 

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Biggest Lie Ever Told By The U.S. Government: The "Necessity" of Hiroshima

From Barefoot Gen, graphic novel about Hiroshima by Keiji Nakazawa, author and illustrator (Hadashi no Gen).
August 6 is the date that my Japanese neighbors in the 1980's remembered from WWII. When my oldest child, a U.S. citizen, was born in Tokyo on December 7, Pearl Harbor day, I remarked on the irony to a college-educated Japanese friend. She replied, "What's Pearl Harbor?" 

On August 6, 1945 the US dropped the first nuclear weapon on the city of Hiroshima. This event, plus the bombing of the city of Nagasaki a few days later with a different kind of atomic bomb, was always sold to the U.S. public as having been "necessary" to end WWII without a invasion of the Japanese mainland that was sure to cost the lives of many in the U.S. military. But the Japanese were already negotiating to surrender, and knew the war was lost for them. 

Some have speculated the U.S. went ahead anyway in order to both test the weapons, and intimidate their WWII ally the U.S.S.R. in a spectacular kick-off to what would become the Cold War. The U.S. government to this day strives to intimidate Russia with weapons and propaganda.

U.S. citizens knew that some kind of catastrophic weapon had been deployed, and that the Japanese emperor soon surrendered, but it wasn't until John Hersey's long piece in the New Yorker in August, 1946 that many learned the gruesome details. Even then, the protracted suffering from radiation poisoning of the surviving hibakusha (a term that had to be coined) was largely unknown.

My own grandfather, drafted into WWII, was among the first U.S. troops to enter Nagasaki after the bomb. Despite pestering by his daughter (my mother), he would never talk about it.

Now we watch in horror as the Fukushima nuclear power plant continues to spew radiation into the atmosphere and groundwater, and attempts to clean it or contain it prove futile. Just last month, five years into the disaster, Dr. Shigeru Mita published an open letter stating his opinion that, due to radiation levels all over the city, Tokyo itself can no longer be safely inhabited.

We of the baby boom generation have lived under the threat of nuclear annihilation our entire lives. We've watched in horror as nuclear weapons and energy have proliferated, despite the best efforts of the Hiroshima-Nagasaki Protocol and many other efforts to have humans swear off nuclear before it is too late for everybody. The U.S. continues to use depleted uranium in its weapons, and anti-nuclear activist Cecile Pineda has argued convincingly that nuclear war is already underway.

When young people find out about the disaster in Hiroshima, they ask an essential question: Why did the U.S. drop an atomic bomb on the people of Hiroshima? I think this propaganda film made by the Army about Okinawa is a succinct explanation of the overall strategy, though it leaves out the build-up to Pearl Harbor engendered by blocking oil shipments to rapacious Imperial Japan.

My friends in Tokyo saw Japanese as the victims, not the aggressors, in WWII. Their analysis of history was that a cabal of businessmen and highly ranked government officials conspired to drag Japan into building an empire in the region, profiting mightily, while the people paid the price. Japanese starved their way through the war and then suffered conscripted labor and fire bombing of many of their cities even before nuclear disaster struck. 

This informs the outpouring of resistance to suspending Article 9 of Japan's Constitution, paving the way for a return to aggressive militarism. No longer content to use Japan as a site of military installations, the U.S. "pivot to Asia" entails pressuring the Japanese government -- against the will of most of its people -- to return to building up armaments and armies of its own.

In our time Japanese have been leaders in the movement to ban all nuclear weapons -- and, increasingly, the ill-fated attempt to harness nuclear power as an energy source. 

Today, my thoughts and prayers are with 日本

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Wars Rage On As Circus Show Of National Politics Distracts The Masses

Rev. Chris Antal and a quilt commemorating the victims of U.S. drone attacks.
Image source:
Not sure how I missed this back in June: a concise, searing indictment of the Obama administration as it "continues to claim the right to kill anyone, anywhere on earth, at any time, for secret reasons." It was delivered by Unitarian minister and Army Reserve officer Christopher Antal as he resigned his post. Saying "I refuse to serve as an empire chaplain" he outlined the reasons why his role in the military could no longer be reconciled with his Christian beliefs.

What is this "permanent military supremacy and global power projection" so celebrated at the recent Democratic Party convention? Most in the U.S. would be hard pressed to describe it beyond a vague notion that we are at war with terror, and ISIS is its latest face. 

Today I offer an overview of the many, many wars the U.S. is engaged in while attention focuses on the circus of electing the next actor who will explain to us what our corporate overlords have decided to do.
Aftermath of U.S. bombing of Sabratha, Libya.
Image source:
We're bombing Libya this week, the nation whose leader was toppled in an event described gleefully by a corporate party candidate as, "We came, we saw, he died." Now widely considered a failed state with no effective national government five years on, some also consider it the launching pad for AFRICOM's projection of force over that rich continent. The president explained to reporters that we are bombing Libya to "finish the job" of driving out terrorists. This despite the fact that bombing civilians very often leads to the young men of a targeted area signing up to resist U.S. aggression.

Analysts, including those embedded in the U.S. power structure itself, often remind us that "There is no military solution in ____." But the Pentagon and Wall St. aren't looking for solutions, just profits.

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The bloodbath and refugee crisis of staggering proportions continue, with U.S. officials ordering air strikes and sending in troops while demagogues denounce the refugees as dangerous in order refuse them entry. Even the president acknowledges that "there is no military solution in Syria" but the Pentagon keeps bombing Syria anyway. Invading Syria was part of the neocon game plan back in 2003 when the U.S. invaded neighboring Iraq; things didn't go as swiftly as the Pentagon had planned, and it has taken more than a decade to ramp up the destabilizing violence in this key petroleum corridor.

Image source: "Marines say latest fight for Fallujah reignites anguish over Iraq War"
The president has announced several times that he ended combat in this inherited warfront, adding to the pile of lies he was hired to tell. There seem to be around 5,000 troops there currently. This summer saw the third big battle to control the key city of Fallujah, a military action ironically code named "Operation Breaking Terrorism." A U.S. soldier who died in Iraq in 2004 became an unwitting political football in the election circus as his parents allowed themselves to be used by one of the corporate parties earning the disdain of the demagogue with the bad hair, ostensible candidate for the other corporate party.
Image source: Global Research
"Troops are protecting Afghan opium as U.S. occupation leads to all time high heroin production"
Who weeps for Afghanistan, the country targeted after the inside job of 9/11 ushered in the endless war on terror? After 14 years of U.S. led war, conditions are as bad for Afghans as they have ever been: Kabul's infrastructure is in ruins and the Taliban continue to regain control of key areas. Drones rain down bombs on civilians while U.S. casualties continue. Perhaps if people in the U.S. better understood the connection between U.S. support for the warlords who fund their operations via opium production and the heroin crisis here at home they would insist that the U.S. military leave Afghanistan.

Image source: Voice of America 
"Pakistani local residents gather around a burning vehicle hit by a U.S. drone strike, May 21, 2016. 
Afghan Taliban Mullah Akhtar Mansoor was the target of the drone near Dalbandin, Baluchistan, Pakistan."
Supposedly a U.S. ally, Pakistan's government cannot stop the CIA and/or Pentagon from drone bombing their border areas with Afghanistan. 
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Last year Western journalists in Somalia reported that being on the receiving end of U.S. drone strikes was considered an honor by terrorist group Al Shabaab. Not so much by the civilians who die in the bombings. 

Could most in the U.S. find Somalia on a map? Doubtful.

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 "A man and a boy walk at a site hit by a Saudi-led air strike in Yemen's capital. Photo: Reuters"
"Obama disastrously backed Saudi Arabia in Yemen, now he's deploying U.S. troops to deal with the fallout: the U.S. says it is fighting the same Al Qaeda affiliates that are allied with elements of the coalition America is backing" by Sarah Lazare on May 12 pretty much says it all. These are not wars that are meant to be won. Here's her full article on Alternet.

I grow weary, as I suspect you do, too, if you've continued reading to this point. Perhaps tomorrow I will continue my inventory of U.S. military presence in far flung spots around the planet. Next up: South Korea, Ukraine, Okinawa, Lithuania, Poland, etc.

Just because it's invisible to most in the U.S. doesn't mean WWIII isn't rolling onward to oblivion. When the blowback reaches our shores, a hard rain is gonna fall.