Showing posts with label 9/11. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 9/11. Show all posts

14 September 2011

Thomas McKelvey Cleaver : Nagasaki and Responding to Calamity

Shinto Shrine in Atomic Ruins, Nagasaki, Japan 1945. Public domain / National Archives / Flickr.

Responding to calamity and
what it says about our character
The people of Nagasaki dedicated their city to promoting international peace and brotherhood.
By Thomas McKelvey Cleaver / The Rag Blog / September 14, 2011

Watching the Tenth Anniversary celebration of national victimhood over the terrorist attacks of 9/11, I had some mixed thoughts. I thought using all this to celebrate and build support for the failed policies of the Bush-Cheney cabal (i.e., our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan) in the aftermath of those attacks was an insult to the dead.

I thought about how societies remember calamities. It's said that how one deals with disaster is a better indicator of character than any other event. If that is true, then Americans beating their breasts about how singularly awful 9/11 was, how singularly different and vastly more important our victimhood is to any other anywhere else ever, clearly demonstrates the shallowness of character much of the rest of the world generally ascribes to us as a people.

I thought of another city that experienced a calamity so great it could only be termed a catastrophe, and what their response was to that event, and what it said about their character.

Sixty-six years ago last month, on August 9, 1945, the city of Nagasaki was hit by the last atomic bomb ever dropped in anger. 96,000 people died in the immediate aftermath, with thousands of others dying over the years that followed. It would be difficult to imagine a worse catastrophe that could happen to a city.

But wait, it gets worse.

The bomb was dropped in desperation by a crew that didn't want to return to base with "unexpended ordnance" aboard, who were desperately afraid that if they didn't drop the thing, they wouldn't be able to get back home. They'd tried bombing two other possible targets, but couldn't comply with the "visual drop only" orders they were operating under.

As it was, they had to make three passes over the city, with the bombardier finally telling the pilot he had "visual contact" at the last moment, which was later exposed as a lie; the bomb was dropped blind by radar fix, a violation of all the rules. "Bock's Car" had to divert from returning to Tinian and land at Okinawa, where the airplane had to be towed off the runway after running out of gas within moments of touchdown.

They really did have to get rid of the extra weight, and there was certainly no way this particular bomb would be abandoned over the open sea.

But wait, it gets worse.

Of all the cities in Japan to bomb, Nagasaki was the last place to consider. For over 300 years, since the first European explorers finally reached Japan, it had been Japan's door to the West, and the most traditionally pro-Western city in the country. It was the city that most opposed the military coup d'etat that took over the Japanese government in the late 1920s, and the city most opposed to the Pacific War.

As a result of the European influence beginning in the mid-sixteenth century, Nagasaki was overwhelmingly Christian. When the Shogunate was imposed in the seventeenth century, Nagasaki and the surrounding communities on Kyushu rebelled. Over 200,000 people where killed in the ensuing civil war, and Christianity was outlawed, with the death penalty for its practice. For the next 200 years, until Japan was forcibly opened to the West in 1854 by Commodore Perry's "black ships," the Christians of Nagasaki and Kyushu practiced an underground religion.

Following the Meiji Restoration in 1880, the official persecution of Christians was ended. Over the next 30 years, the Christians of Nagasaki built the Urakami Catholic Church, which was the largest Christian church in Asia, built entirely by the donations of the parishioners.

"Ground Zero" for the bomb was the bell tower of that church. The tower was the only structure remaining upright afterwards, and is today the site of the Museum of the Atomic Disaster.

How does all that strike you for terrible irony? Is that worse enough?

You'd pretty much figure the citizens of Nagasaki would never forget that one, wouldn't you? They'd probably hate the people responsible, too, right?


Unlike Hiroshima, where an American can still be made to feel guilty by the attitude of the citizens today, Nagasaki made a different choice.

The people of Nagasaki looked at what had happened, and concluded (as Americans did after 9/11): "Never again!" But they made a far different choice in how to achieve that. For the people of Nagasaki, the way to be sure such a terrible event never happened again was to work to promote international peace and brotherhood, and they dedicated their city to that principle.

All kinds of cities have all kinds of dedicated mottos, and most of their citizens never know what they are, or if they do, what they mean. That is certainly true here in America.

In Nagasaki, they know. They practice it every day. In 1964, less than 20 years after the event, wearing the uniform of the armed forces of the country that had committed that act, I was in Nagasaki, along with the rest of the ship's company of the old USS Rustbucket.

The young people of the city came down to the pier where we were docked and waited to meet us as we left the ship, and invited us to allow them to guide us through their city, to go to dinner with them, to even visit their homes (that is an amazing act, that gaijin would be brought into a Japanese home -- they're the most private people on the planet). And they told us why they were doing it.

I don't think I have ever experienced such a truly Christian act in my life

[Thomas McKelvey Cleaver is an accidental native Texan, a journalist, and a produced screenwriter. He has written successful horror movies and articles about Second World War aviation, was a major fundraiser for Obama in 2008, and has been an activist on anti-war, political reform, and environmental issues for almost 50 years. Read more articles by Thomas Cleaver on The Rag Blog.]

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Robert Jensen : 9/11 and Imperial Delusions

Graphic from SodaHead.

Imperial delusions:
Ignoring the lessons of 9/11
Being right means nothing if we failed to create a more just foreign policy conducted by a more humble nation.
By Robert Jensen / The Rag Blog / September 13, 2011

Ten years ago, critics of America’s mad rush to war were right, but it didn’t matter.

Within hours after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, it was clear that political leaders were going to use the attacks to justify war in Central Asia and the Middle East. And within hours, those of us critical of that policy began to offer principled and practical arguments against aggressive war as a response to the crimes.

It didn’t matter because neither the public nor policymakers were interested in principled or practical arguments. People wanted revenge, and the policymakers seized the opportunity to use U.S. military power. Critical thinking became a mark not of conscientious citizenship but of dangerous disloyalty.

We were right, but the wars came.

The destructive capacity of the U.S. military meant quick “victories” that just as quickly proved illusory. As the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq dragged on, it became clearer that the position staked out by early opponents was correct -- the wars not only were illegal (conforming to neither international nor constitutional law) and immoral (fought in ways that guaranteed large-scale civilian casualties and displacement), but a failure on any pragmatic criteria.

The U.S. military has killed some of the people who were targeting the United States and destroyed some of their infrastructure and organization, but a decade later we are weaker and our sense of safety more fragile. The ability to dominate militarily proved to be both inadequate and transitory, as predicted.

Ten years later, we are still right and it still doesn’t matter.

There’s a simple reason for this: Empires rarely learn in time, because power tends to dull people’s capacity for critical self-reflection. While ascending to power, empires believe themselves to be invincible. While declining in power, they cling desperately to old myths of remembered glory.

Today the United States is morally bankrupt and spiritually broken. The problem is not that we have strayed from our founding principles, but that we are still operating on those principles -- delusional notions about manifest destiny, American exceptionalism, the right to take more than our share of the world’s resources by whatever means necessary. As the United States grew in wealth and power, bounty for the chosen came at the cost of misery for the many.

After World War II, as the United States became the dominant power not just in the Americas but on the world stage, the principles didn’t change. U.S. foreign policy sought to deepen and extend U.S. power around the world, especially in the energy-rich and strategically crucial Middle East; always with an eye on derailing any Third World societies’ attempts to pursue a course of independent development outside the U.S. sphere; and containing the possibility of challenges to U.S. dominance from other powerful states.

Does that summary sound like radical hysteria? Recall this statement from President Jimmy Carter’s 1980 State of the Union address:
An attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America, and such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force.
Democrats and Republicans, before and after, followed the same policy.

The George W. Bush administration offered a particularly intense ideological fanaticism, but the course charted by the Obama administration is much the same. Consider this 2006 statement by Robert Gates, who served as Secretary of Defense in both administrations:
I think the message that we are sending to everyone, not just Iran, is that the United States is an enduring presence in this part of the world. We have been here for a long time. We will be here for a long time and everybody needs to remember that -- both our friends and those who might consider themselves our adversaries.
If the new boss sounds a lot like the old boss, it’s because the problem isn’t just bad leaders but a bad system. That’s why a critique of today’s wars sounds a lot like critiques of wars past. Here’s Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assessment of the imperial war of his time:
[N]o one who has any concern for the integrity and life of America today can ignore the present war. If America’s soul becomes totally poisoned, part of the autopsy must read: Vietnam. It can never be saved so long as it destroys the deepest hopes of men the world over.
Will our autopsy report read “global war on terror”?

That sounds harsh, and it’s tempting to argue that we should refrain from political debate on the 9/11 anniversary to honor those who died and to respect those who lost loved ones. I would be willing to do that if the cheerleaders for the U.S. empire would refrain from using the day to justify the wars of aggression that followed 9/11. But given the events of the past decade, there is no way to take the politics out of the anniversary.

We should take time to remember the nearly 3,000 victims who died on 9/11, but as responsible citizens, we also should face a harsh reality: While the terrorism of fanatical individuals and groups is a serious threat, much greater damage has been done by our nation-state caught up in its own fanatical notions of imperial greatness.

That’s why I feel no satisfaction in being part of the anti-war/anti-empire movement. Being right means nothing if we failed to create a more just foreign policy conducted by a more humble nation.

Ten years later, I feel the same thing that I felt on 9/11 -- an indescribable grief over the senseless death of that day and of days to come.

[Robert Jensen is a journalism professor at the University of Texas at Austin, where he teaches courses in media law, ethics, and politics -- and a board member of the Third Coast Activist Resource Center in Austin. His books include All My Bones Shake: Seeking a Progressive Path to the Prophetic Voice, and Getting Off: Pornography and the End of Masculinity. His writing is published extensively in mainstream and alternative media. Robert Jensen can be reached at Read more articles by Robert Jensen on The Rag Blog.]

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13 September 2011

Lamar W. Hankins : What 9/11 Has Taught Us About Our Country

Image from Truth and Shadows.

What we have (and haven't)
learned about America since 9/11

By Lamar W. Hankins / The Rag Blog / September 13, 2011

The horrific attack on the United States on 9/11/01 brought out America’s essential character traits in ways that bin Laden could not have anticipated. Some of those traits are positive and some negative. Without question, the brightest and most shining period since 9/11 began on that day and continued for many months as all America seemed drawn together by the calamity of massive terrorism on American soil.

1. Rallying together in a time of crisis. The firefighters, police, and ordinary citizens who responded to the disastrous crash of two planes into the World Trade Center showed that many, if not most, Americans care about their fellow human beings. And those who responded came from all over the United States. This happens after most natural disasters as well, demonstrating that part of America’s basic character is to help one another in time of need.

There were (and continue to be) symbolic signs of that concern. Businesses and offices all over America have signs that read something like “9/11, we will never forget.” I paid a bill recently that included this statement on the pre-printed form.

Although I am not sure exactly what it means to suggest that something has happened that we will never forget, I take it as a sincere effort to express a continuing concern for those who died and were injured in the aftermath of that tragedy. If the reference means something about not forgetting who committed the dastardly act of 9/11, I’m not sure that is useful, especially since most of the apparent perpetrators are dead 10 years later.

2. The use of fear to diminish our freedom. As is true of so many opportunists, the Bush administration wasted no time in proposing and having passed laws that have limited our freedoms here in the U.S. No longer do I enjoy air travel because of the ordeal of security screening and suspicion to which air travelers are subjected.

But that is a minor diminution of our freedoms compared to the FBI’s administrative letters, which amount to non-judicial search warrants into our private lives through access without our knowledge to library records, email, and telephonic communications. These laws and many others were gained by appeals to our fear that unless Congress gave the administration these extraordinary powers, we could not be protected from more terrorist acts. Yet there is little evidence that such intrusions into our privacy have actually prevented terrorist acts.

3. American adherence to violence as the default response to violence. Our government decided quickly that Osama bin Laden was responsible for the 9/11 terror, assisted partly by his rush to take credit for the murders, a boast that proves nothing about his guilt. In fact, evidence of his participation in 9/11, if it exists, has never been provided to the public or in a court in sufficient detail to satisfy any criminal standard of proof of guilt. On the other hand, I have no reason to think that bin Laden wasn’t guilty of planning and funding the attacks of 9/11.

US officials demanded that bin Laden and his operatives be turned over to the U.S. government. The Taliban offered to try bin Laden in their courts if we would give them evidence of his responsibility. We refused and began the Afghanistan War to kill or capture bin Laden and punish the Taliban for not doing what we told them to do.

Inexplicably, Bush’s commanders let bin Laden escape into Pakistan, either intentionally or through incompetence. His escape from Afghanistan was remedied nearly 10 years later by the actions of another president who sent 79 Navy SEALs on a mission to kill bin Laden. There was no effort to capture him. Although the early military propaganda suggested that it was a capture or kill mission, we have learned now that it was always a mission to assassinate him.

The SEALs encountered little armed opposition, bin Laden himself was not armed, and one of his wives was shot when she tried to protect him by lunging at the SEALs with her body. The mission was undertaken in violation of U.S. treaties, the principles enunciated at Nuremberg, and widely-accepted international law, all of which we claim to follow.

4. The manipulation of Americans by ideologues. The war in Afghanistan was not our only response to 9/11. It was followed in 2003 by the war in Iraq, an invasion made possible by the actions, misjudgments, lies, and ideology of those in the Bush administration termed neoconservatives.

The U.S. invaded Iraq without provocation or international legal justification. Such an invasion was termed by Justice Robert Jackson, Chief Counsel for the United States at Nuremberg, as a “supreme international crime” -- the crime of unprovoked aggression of one country against another. Justice Jackson said in his opening statement to the Nuremberg Tribunal that an aggressor is a state that is the first to invade with “its armed forces, with or without a declaration of war, ... the territory of another State.”

I have never read or heard anyone deny that this is precisely what Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and their minions did.

The invasion of Iraq was brought about by appeals to fear, revenge, revulsion at Saddam, and the lie that Saddam had something to do with the atrocities of 9/11, a false belief held by 70% of the American public in 2003.

5. America’s inability to understand the history of another people. Both the war in Afghanistan and the war in Iraq were based on a fundamental failure to understand the history and culture of the people who live in both of those countries.

In Iraq, the U.S. did not appreciate the religious and ethnic divisions in the country. A minority Sunni population (Saddam’s group) had by violence controlled the majority Shiite population and the small Kurdish population for decades. When those controls broke down, decades of pent-up anger exploded into internecine conflict.

Terrorists aligned with al Queda exacerbated the violence and internal conflict in Iraq. Before we started this war, al Queda had never operated in Iraq. Our invasion expanded al Queda operations, rather than diminishing its influence.

In Afghanistan, we failed to appreciate the fact that this country had never had a successful central governmental authority. It was ruled by tribal connections and inter-tribal alliances that shifted from time to time. Although few Afghans liked the Taliban, the Taliban had been able to bring some order to the country, and tribal alliances continued to function.

What we ignored was the history of the last thousand years: no outside power has ever been able to control the Afghan population for long. We should have known this, since we helped bring the Taliban to power and enhanced the role of bin Laden in the region in order to defeat the Soviets, who tried for 10 years to establish control of that country. Trying to control Afghanistan from the outside is a fool’s mission, and we continue to act like fools.

6. Our failure to fulfill our obligations to our military men and women. I have never liked the volunteer military because it fails to spread the burden of war evenly. It exploits people in need of a job -- any job. Military recruiters are famous for making false promises to get prospects to sign up. And the military itself is unlike any other employer. It can change the terms of any contracts and require enlistees to work beyond their commitments.

During the early years of the Afghan and Iraq wars, the use of stop-loss practices were widespread. These practices required service men and women to stay in the military against their will. Most people who sign up for military service are not aware of just how difficult their lives may become for them and their families as a result of their service.

At least 150,000 veterans are now homeless. According to a 2008 study, veterans are three times as likely as those in the general population to commit suicide. The VA’s data show that four to five veterans commit suicide every day. Each year, there are about 1,000 suicide attempts among veterans seen in VA medical facilities.

About 300,000 (20%) veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or depression. About 320,000 additional returning veterans of those two conflicts may suffer from traumatic brain injuries incurred during deployment.

In spite of all we ask of members of the military, powerful forces in Congress play games with funding for veterans. Many veterans still report unconscionable delays in getting services from the VA. These two Middle East wars have been hell for those sent to fight them and for their families, yet they have not received the financial, medical, and social support that should be their due when their military service is over.

7. A “War on Terror” was the wrong approach to 9/11 terrorism. Our intelligence services knew enough about the plans for 9/11 to have prevented the terrorism from happening. Their primary failure was their unwillingness to share information among agencies and within agencies. The balkanization of the intelligence services and the lack of focused leadership from the Bush administration kept the right people from seeing what was right before their eyes.

Bush did not take the threat from al Queda seriously, possibly because some of the information was developed before his administration came to power. The failures cascaded through the entire intelligence-gathering apparatus of government from the top down, from down up, and among all levels. We can only hope that these problems have been resolved.

But the greatest failure in approaching terror was to treat it as a war. The best example of this is the process that led to the killing of bin Laden. For several years, intelligence gathering about bin Laden’s network of family, friends, and associates was carefully monitored much as the FBI might investigate an organized crime syndicate. Once sufficient information about bin Laden’s location was discovered, a plan was developed to get him.

While military assets were involved all along the way, the approach was essentially a criminal investigation, not a military approach. Had this approach been undertaken 10 years ago, it is likely that bin Laden would have been killed or captured much sooner, especially if this had been done before the war in Afghanistan had started and while bin Laden was still in that country. And both the wars in the Middle East might have been avoided, saving American taxpayers as much as $3-5 trillion, according to the calculations of economist Joseph Stiglitz and others.

8. Torture of prisoners continues. What we learned about torture at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, and at rendition sites all over the world earlier in these two wars is continuing under the Obama administration according to reports from the BBC. Much of the current torture is occurring at secret sites at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan and at rendition sites, carried out by regimes that don’t pretend to have scruples against torture.

Now that Dick Cheney freely admits in his new book to approving and encouraging torture during the Bush administration, there is no excuse not to hold him and others accountable for their crimes, except that to do so will put members of the Obama administration in jeopardy also.

Cheney’s position on torture is so weak that Colin Powell’s former aide Col. Lawrence Wilkerson has indicated his willingness to testify against him if Cheney is ever prosecuted for his war crimes. The treatment of detainees by Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and those who followed their orders, violated the Geneva Conventions and the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. We are signatories to those conventions, meaning that they are the law in the U.S.

There are many more things that 9/11 and the events of these 10 years have taught us about America. I only wish that more positive lessons came to mind. In large part, the U.S. has behaved exceptionally badly, even criminally, but I don’t expect our actions to improve soon, nor do I expect that either this country or its leaders will be held accountable by any international forum, or by anyone else for their criminal conduct. What I do believe is that we squandered the international good will that we had for a few months after 9/11 because of our bellicosity, our criminality, and our arrogance.

But the thought that keeps returning to me as I write about this recent history is that in order to avenge the deaths of 2,977 people who perished in the 9/11 attacks, we have killed over a million innocent civilians in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and elsewhere in the Middle East, and terrorized millions of others. To exact a toll for terrorism committed by a few deluded, if not deranged individuals, we have ourselves become terrorists.

[Lamar W. Hankins, a former San Marcos, Texas, city attorney, is also a columnist for the San Marcos Mercury. This article © Freethought San Marcos, Lamar W. Hankins. Read more articles by Lamar W. Hankins on The Rag Blog.]

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11 September 2011

Tom Hayden : 9/11 Blind

Illustration by Don Button /

9/11 blind
We’re 10 years past the twin towers attack and still fighting wars in its name. When will we open our eyes?
By Tom Hayden / The Rag Blog / September 11, 2011

The numbers we almost never see: A total of 6,197 Americans were killed, as of mid-August, in the wars fought avenging 9/11, a day when 2,996 Americans died. The total wounded has been 45,338. The active-duty military-suicide rate for the last decade is at a record high of 2,276.

After witnessing the first jetliner crash into the Twin Towers on that Sept. 11 morning, the wife and 7-year-old daughter of a friend of mine fled to their nearby Manhattan loft and ran to the roof to look around. From there, they saw the second plane explode in a rolling ball of flaming fuel across the rooftops. It felt like the heat of a fiery furnace.

Not long after, the girl was struck with blindness. She rarely left her room. Her parents worked with therapists for months, trying various techniques including touch and visualization, before the young girl finally recovered her sight.

“The interesting new development,” my friend reports, “is that she no longer remembers very much, which she told me when I asked her if she would be willing to speak with you.”

That’s what happened to America itself 10 years ago this Sunday on 9/11, though it might be charged that many of us were blinded by privilege and hubris long before.

But 9/11 produced a spasm of blind rage arising from a preexisting blindness to the way much of the world sees us. That in turn led to the invasions of Afghanistan, Iraq, Afghanistan again, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia -- in all, a dozen “shadow wars,” according to The New York Times. In Bob Woodward’s crucial book, Obama’s Wars, there were already secret and lethal counterterrorism operations active in more than 60 countries as of 2009.

From Pentagon think tanks came a new military doctrine of the “Long War,” a counterinsurgency vision arising from the failed Phoenix program of the Vietnam era, projecting U.S. open combat and secret wars over a span of 50 to 80 years, or 20 future presidential terms.

The taxpayer costs of this Long War, also shadowy, would be in the many trillions of dollars and paid for not from current budgets, but by generations born after the 2000 election of George W. Bush. The deficit spending on the Long War would invisibly force the budgetary crisis now squeezing our states, cities, and most Americans.

Besides the future being mortgaged in this way, civil liberties were thought to require a shrinking proper to a state of permanent and secretive war, and so the Patriot Act was promulgated. All this happened after 9/11 through democratic default and denial. Who knows what future might have followed if Al Gore, with a half-million popular-vote margin over George Bush, had prevailed in the U.S. Supreme Court instead of losing by the vote of a single justice?

In any event, only a single member of Congress -- Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland -- voted against Bush’s initial Sept. 14, 2001, request for emergency powers (war authorization) to deal with the aftermath of the attacks. Only a single senator -- Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis. -- voted against the Patriot Act.

Were we not blinded by what happened on 9/11? Are we still? Let’s look at the numbers we almost never see.

Fog of war

As to American casualties, the figure now is beyond twice those who died in New York, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C., on 9/11. The casualties are rarely totaled, but they are broken down into three categories by the Pentagon and Congressional Research Service.

There is Operation Enduring Freedom, which includes Afghanistan and Pakistan but, in keeping with the Long War definition, also covers Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. Second, there is Operation Iraqi Freedom and its successor, Operation New Dawn, the name adopted after September 2010 for the 47,000 U.S. advisers, trainers and counterterrorism units still in Iraq. The scope of these latter operations includes Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.

These territories include not only Muslim majorities but also, according to former Centcom Commander Tommy Franks, 68 percent of the world’s proven oil reserves and the passageway for 43 percent of petroleum exports, another American geo-interest that was heavily denied in official explanations. (See Michael Klare’s Blood and Oil and Antonia Juhasz’s The Bush Agenda for more on this.)

A combined 6,197 Americans were killed in these wars as of Aug. 16, 2011, in the name of avenging 9/11, a day when 2,996 Americans died. The total American wounded has been 45,338, and is rising at a rapid rate. The total number rushed by Medivac out of these violent zones was 56,432. That’s a total of 107,996 Americans. And the active-duty military-suicide rate for the decade is at a record high of 2,276, not counting veterans or those who have tried unsuccessfully to take their own lives.

Sticker shock of war

Among the most bizarre symptoms of the blindness is the tendency of most deficit hawks to become big spenders on Iraq and Afghanistan, at least until lately. The direct costs of the war, which is to say those unfunded costs in each year’s budget, now come to $1.23 trillion, or $444.6 billion for Afghanistan and $791.4 billion for Iraq, according to the National Priorities Project.

But that’s another sleight-of-hand, when one considers the so-called indirect costs like long-term veterans’ care. Leading economists Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes recently testified to Congress that their previous estimate of $4-6 trillion in ultimate costs was conservative. The president himself expressed “sticker shock,” according to Woodward’s book, when presented with cost projections during his internal review of 2009.

The Long War casts a shadow not only over our economy and future budgets, but our unborn children’s future as well. This is no accident, but the result of deliberate lies, obfuscations, and scandalous accounting techniques. We are victims of an information warfare strategy waged deliberately by the Pentagon.

As Gen. Stanley McChrystal said much too candidly in February 2010, "This is not a physical war of how many people you kill or how much ground you capture, how many bridges you blow up. This is all in the minds of the participants.” David Kilcullen, once the top counterinsurgency adviser to Gen. David Petraeus, defines “international information operations as part of counterinsurgency.”

Quoted in Counterinsurgency in 2010, Kilcullen said this military officer’s goal is to achieve a “unity of perception management measures targeting the increasingly influential spectators’ gallery of the international community.”

This new “war of perceptions,” relying on naked media manipulation such as the treatment of media commentators as “message amplifiers” but also high-technology information warfare, only highlights the vast importance of the ongoing WikiLeaks whistle-blowing campaign against the global secrecy establishment.

Consider just what we have learned about Iraq and Afghanistan because of WikiLeaks: tens of thousands of civilian casualties in Iraq never before disclosed; instructions to U.S. troops not to investigate torture when conducted by U.S. allies; the existence of Task Force 373, carrying out night raids in Afghanistan; the CIA’s secret army of 3,000 mercenaries; private parties by DynCorp featuring trafficked boys as entertainment; and an Afghan vice president carrying $52 million in a suitcase.

The efforts of the White House to prosecute Julian Assange and persecute Pfc. Bradley Manning in military prison should be of deep concern to anyone believing in the public’s right to know.

The news that this is not a physical war but mainly one of perceptions will not be received well among American military families or Afghan children, which is why a responsible citizen must rebel first and foremost against The Official Story. That simple act of resistance necessarily leads to study as part of critical practice, which is as essential to the recovery of a democratic self and democratic society.

Read, for example, this early martial line of Rudyard Kipling, the English poet of the white man’s burden: “When you’re left wounded on Afghanistan’s plains and the women come out to cut up what remains/ just roll to your rifle and blow out your brains/And go to your God like a soldier.” Years later, after Kipling’s beloved son was killed in World War I and his remains never recovered, the poet wrote: “If any question why we died / Tell them because our fathers lied.”

The Long War: Injured soldier in Afghanistan. Photo by Bob Strong / Reuters.

A hope for peace

The military occupation of our minds will continue until many more Americans become familiar with the strategies and doctrines in play during the Long War. Not enough Americans in the peace movement are literate about counterinsurgency, counterterrorism, and the debates about “the clash of civilizations” -- i.e., the West versus the Muslim world.

The writings of Andrew Bacevich, a Vietnam veteran and retired Army lieutenant colonel whose own son was killed in Iraq in 2007, is one place to begin. Bacevich, a professor at Boston University, has written The New American Militarism and edited The Long War, both worth absorbing.

For the military point of view, there is the 2007 Army-Marine Counterinsurgency Field Manual developed by Gen. Petraeus, with its stunning resurrection of the Phoenix model from Vietnam, in which thousands of Vietnamese were tortured or killed before media outcry and Senate hearings shut it down.

Not enough is being written about how to end the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, but experts with much to say are the University of Michigan’s Scott Atran (Talking to the Enemy) and former UK envoy Sherard Cowper Coles (Cables from Kabul). Also there is my own 2007 book, Ending the War in Iraq, which sketches a strategy of grass-roots pressure against the pillars of the policy (the pillars necessary for the war are public opinion, trillions of dollars, thousands of available troops, and global alliances; as those fall, the war must be resolved by diplomacy).

The more we know about the Long War doctrine, the more we understand the need for a long peace movement. The pillars of the peace movement, in my experience and reading, are the networks of local progressives in hundreds of communities across the United States. Most of them are citizen volunteers, always immersed in the crises of the moment, nowadays the economic recession and unemployment. Look at them from the bottom up, and not the top down, and you will see:
  • the people who marched in the hundreds of thousands during the Iraq War;
  • those who became the enthusiastic consumer base for Michael Moore’s documentaries and the Dixie Chicks’ anti-Bush lyrics;
  • the first to support Howard Dean when he opposed the Iraq war, and the stalwarts who formed the anti-war base for Barack Obama;
  • the online legions of MoveOn who raised millions of dollars and turned out thousands of focused bloggers;
  • the voters who dumped a Republican Congress in 2006 on the Iraq issue, when the party experts said it was impossible;
  • the millions who elected Obama president by an historic flood of voluntary enthusiasm and get-out-the-vote drives;
  • the majorities who still oppose the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, and want military spending reversed.
This peace bloc deserves more. It won’t happen overnight, but gradually we are wearing down the pillars of the war. In February of this year, Rep. Barbara Lee passed a unanimous resolution at the Democratic National Committee calling for a rapid withdrawal from Afghanistan and transfer of funds to job creation. The White House approved of the resolution.

Then 205 House members, including a majority of Democrats, voted for a resolution that almost passed calling for the same rapid withdrawal. Even the AFL-CIO executive board, despite a long history of militarism, adopted a policy opposing Afghanistan.

The president himself is quoted in Obama’s Wars as opposing his military advisors, demanding an exit strategy, and musing that he “can’t lose the whole Democratic Party.” In the end, the president decided to withdraw 33,000 American troops from Afghanistan by next summer, and continue “steady” withdrawals of the rest (68,000) from combat roles by 2014.

Mind the gap

Obama’s withdrawal decision upset the military but also most peace advocates he presumably wanted to win back. The differences revealed a serious gap in the inside-outside strategy applied by many progressives.

After a week of hard debate over the president’s plan, for example, Sen. John Kerry invited Tim Carpenter, leader of the heavily grass-roots Progressive Democrats of America, into his office for a chat. Kerry had slowly reversed his pro-war position on Afghanistan, and said he thought Carpenter would be pleased with the then-secret Obama decision on troop withdrawals.

From Kerry’s insider view, the number 33,000 was a very heavy lift, supported mainly by Vice President Joe Biden but not the national security mandarins. From Carpenter’s point of view, 33,000 would seem a disappointing too little, too late. While it was definite progress toward a phased withdrawal, bridging the differences between the Democratic liberal establishment and the idealistic progressive networks will remain an ordeal through the 2012 elections.

These elections present an historic opportunity to awaken from the blindness inflicted by 9/11. Diminishing the U.S. combat role by escalating the drone wars and Special Operations could repeat the failure of Richard Nixon in Vietnam. Continued spending on the Long War could repeat the disaster of Lyndon Johnson. A gradual winding down may not reap the budget benefits or political reward Obama needs in time.

With peace voters making a critical difference in numerous electoral battlegrounds, however, Obama might speed up the “ebbing,” plausibly announce a peace dividend in the trillions of dollars, and transfer those funds to energy conservation and America’s state and local crises. His answer to the deficit crisis will have to include a sharp reduction in war funding, and his answer to the Tea Party Republicans will have to be a Peace Party.

[Tom Hayden is a former California state senator and leader of Sixties peace, justice, and environmental movements. He currently teaches at Pitzer College in Los Angeles. His latest book is The Long Sixties. This article was also published by the Sacramento News & Review and at Tom Hayden's Peace and Justice Resource Center. Read more of Tom Hayden's writing on The Rag Blog.]

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08 September 2011

Mike Davis : The Embers of September

Embers. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

The Embers of September

By Mike Davis / The Rag Blog / September 8, 2011

Ten years ago, Lower Manhattan became the Sarajevo of the War on Terrorism. Although conscience recoils against making an equation between the assassination of a single Archduke and his wife (28 June 1914) and the slaughter of almost 3,000 New Yorkers, the analogy otherwise is eerily apt.

In both cases, a small network of peripheral but well-connected conspirators, ennobled in their own eyes by the bitter grievances of their region, attacked a major symbol of the responsible empire. The outrages were deliberately aimed to detonate larger, cataclysmic conflicts, and in this respect, were successful beyond the all imagining.

However the magnitudes of the resulting explosions were not simple functions of the events that detonated them. For example, in Europe between 1890 and 1940, more than two dozen heads of state were assassinated, including the kings of Italy, Greece, Yugoslavia, and Bulgaria, an empress of Austria, two presidents of France, two Spanish prime ministers, and so on. Apart from the murder of Franz Ferdinand and his wife in Sarajevo none of these events instigated a war.

Likewise, a single suicide bomber in a truck killed 241 U.S. marines and sailors at their barracks at the Beirut Airport in 1983. (Fifty eight French paratroopers were killed by another bomb the same day.) A Democratic president might have been pressured to go to war against the Shiite and Druze militias, but President Reagan distracted the public with an invasion of tiny Grenada, and then quietly withdrew the rest of his Marines.

If Sarajevo and the World Trade Center, by contrast, unleashed global carnage and chaos, it was because of the de facto collusion between the attackers and the attacked.

I’m not referring to mythical British plots in Balkans or CIA agents blowing up the Twin Towers, but simply to the well-known facts that the Imperial German General Staff had already decided in 1912 to exploit the first opportunity to make war, and that powerful neoliberals in Bush’s White House were lobbying for the overthrow of the regimes in Baghdad and Tehran even before the last hanging chad had been counted in Florida.

Both regimes were in search of a casus belli that would legitimate military intervention and silence domestic opposition. Prussian militarism, of course, was punctually accommodated by the Black Hand (an anarcho-nationalist group secretly supported by the Serbian Army), while Al Qaeda ‘s sublime horror show in lower Manhattan consecrated the divine right of the White House to torture, secretly imprison, or kill by remote control.

At the time, it seemed almost as if the Republicans had staged a coup d’etat against the Constitution. Yet the Bush administration could point to a whole catalogue of precedents. To put it bluntly, every single chapter in the history of U.S. global power has opened with the same sentence: “innocent Americans were treacherously attacked...”

Remember the Maine? Or the Lusitania (1198 dead)? Or the Panay, Pearl Harbor, the crossing of the Yalu, and the Gulf of Tonkin? The besieged legation in Peking, Aguilnaldo’s alleged attack on U.S. sentries outside Manila; Al Raisuli’s brazen kidnappings; Pancho Villa’s raid on sleepy Columbus, New Mexico; the rapine of National City Bank in Port-au-Prince; the storming of the Pueblo and the Mayaquez, the humiliated hostages in Tehran; the imperiled students in Grenada...

This list barely scratches the surface: the synchronization of outrage and intervention in U.S. history is relentless.

In the name of "innocent Americans," the USA annexed Hawaii and Puerto Rico; colonized the Philippines; punished nationalism in North Africa and China; invaded Mexico (twice), sent a generation to the killing fields of France (and imprisoned dissent at home); massacred patriots in Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and Nicaragua; annihilated Japanese cities; committed genocide in Korea and Indochina; buttressed military dictatorship in Latin America; and became Israel’s partner in the mass murder of Arab civilians.

Someday -- perhaps sooner than we think -- a new Edward Gibbon in China or India will surely sit down to write The History of the Decline and Fall of the American Empire. (Hopefully it will be but one volume in a larger, more progressive oeuvre -- The Renaissance of the Asia, perhaps -- and not an obituary for a human future sucked into America’s sinking void.)

I think she’ll probably catalogue self-righteous American "innocence" as a particularly toxic tributary of national decline, with President Obama as its highest incarnation.

Indeed, from the perspective of the future what will be deemed the greater crime: to have created the Guantanamo nightmare in the first place, or to have preserved it in contempt of global popular opinion and one’s own campaign promises?

Obama, who was elected to bring the troops home, close the gulags, and restore the Bill of Rights, has in fact become the chief curator of the Bush legacy: a born-again convert to special ops, killer drones, immense intelligence budgets, Orwellian surveillance technology, secret jails, and the super-hero cult of General Petraeus

Our "anti-war" president, in fact, may be taking U.S. power deeper into the darkness than any of us dare to imagine. And the more fervently Obama embraces his role as commander in chief of the Delta Force and Navy Seals, the less likely it becomes that future Democrats will dare to reform the Patriot Act or challenge the presidential prerogative to murder and incarcerate America’s enemies in secret.

Enmired in wars with phantoms, Washington has been blindsided by every major trend of the last decade. It has completely misread the real yearnings of the Arab street and the significance of mainstream Islamic populism, ignored the emergence of Turkey and Brazil as independent powers, forgotten Africa, and lost much of its leverage with Germany as well as with Israel’s increasingly arrogant reactionaries. Most important, Washington has failed to develop any coherent policy framework for its relationship to the PRC, its main creditor and most important rival.

From a Chinese standpoint (assumedly the perspective of our future Gibbon), the United States is showing incipient symptoms of being a failed state. When Xinhua scolds the U.S. Congress for being "dangerously irresponsible" in debt negotiations, or when senior leaders openly worry about the stability of American political and economic institutions, the shoe is truly on the other foot. Especially when standing in the wings, bibles in hand, are the mad spawn of 9/11 -- the Republican presidential candidates.

[Mike Davis is a Distinguished Professor in the Department of Creative Writing at the University of California, Riverside. An urban theorist, historian, and social activist, Davis is the author of City of Quartz: Excavating the Future in Los Angeles and In Praise of Barbarians: Essays against Empire. Read more articles by Mike Davis on The Rag Blog.]

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06 September 2011

Harry Tarq : 9/11's in U.S. and Chile 28 Years Apart

After 9/11: The War-on-Terror Machine. Political cartoon by David Baldinger /

U.S. and Chile:
Two 9/11's have similar impact
In both countries the 9/11 event was followed by violence, threats to democracy, and economic shifts from the vast majority of the population to the wealthy and political/military elites.
By Harry Targ / The Rag Blog / September 6, 2011

9/11 in Chile

On the bright and sunny morning of September 11, 1973, aircraft bombed targets in Valparaiso, Chile, and moved on to the capital, Santiago. Following a well-orchestrated plan, tanks rolled into the capital city, occupied the central square, and fired on the Presidential palace. Inside that building, President Salvador Allende broadcast a final address to his people and fatally shot himself as soldiers entered his quarters.

Thousands of Allende supporters were rounded up and held in the city’s soccer stadium and many, including renowned folk singer Victor Jara, were tortured and killed. For the next 15 years, Chilean workers were stripped of their right to form unions, political parties and elections were eliminated, and the junta led by General Augusto Pinochet ruled with an iron fist all but ignored outside the country until Chileans began to mobilize to protest his scheme to become president-for-life.

9/11 in the United States

Of course, 9/11/01 was different. The United States was attacked by foreign terrorists, approximately 3,000 citizens and residents were killed at the World Trade Center, over a rural area in Pennsylvania, and at the Pentagon. People all over the world expressed their sorrow and sympathy for the victims of the 9/11 attacks as the American people experienced shock and dismay.

But then everything began to change. Within days of the terrorist attacks, members of President Bush’s cabinet began to advocate a military assault on Iraq, a longstanding target of the Washington militarists of the Project for a New American Century (PNAC). Now is the time, they said, to take out Saddam Hussein, seize control of Iraqi oil fields, and reestablish United States control over the largest share of the oil fields of the Persian Gulf region.

Cooler heads prevailed for a time, however. We cannot attack Iraq, critics said, because Iraq had nothing to do with the crimes in New York, Pennsylvania, and Washington.

So it was decided that a war would be waged on Afghanistan, because the headquarters of the shadowy organization Al Qaeda, led by Osama Bin Laden, was said to be in that country. On October 6, 2001, that war was initiated and still goes on although Bin Laden has been killed.

Shortly after launching the war on Afghanistan, the neocons in the Bush administration began a campaign to convince the American people that we needed to make war on Iraq. Lies were articulated that the Iraqi dictator was really behind the global terrorists who perpetrated 9/11. He had weapons of mass destruction. He was part of a global Islamic fundamentalist cabal.

At last, despite evidence to the contrary, the mobilization of millions of Americans against war, and growing global resentment against the Bush Doctrine justifying preemptive wars, the United States attacked Iraq in March, 2003. That war too still goes on.

Over the last decade, U.S. military budgets have tripled, thousands of U.S. soldiers have died or sustained irreparable injuries, and an estimated one million Afghan and Iraqi people, mostly civilians, have died.

Meanwhile the United States has maintained over 700 military installations around the world, declared the great land and sea area around the globe at the equator the “arc of instability,” and engaged in direct violence or encouraged others to do so, from Colombia to Honduras in the Western Hemisphere, to Ethiopia and Somalia in the Horn of Africa, to Israel, Iraq, Iran, Yemen, Syria and Libya in the Middle East and Persian Gulf, to Pakistan, and Afghanistan in East Asia.

Presidents Bush and Obama have declared that United States military overreach to be in the national interest of the country and to serve the humanitarian interest of the world. Now the U.S. program includes the use of computer-operated aircraft, drones, that can target and kill anywhere based on decisions from command headquarters half way around the globe.

Meanwhile at home, the Patriot Act has extended the prerogatives of government to launch a program claiming to be essential to protect the people from domestic terrorists: spying on Americans; incarcerating people from virtually anywhere deemed to be a security threat; and establishing a political climate that intimidates critics of United States foreign policy.

Domestically, the decade since 9/11 has been characterized by sustained assaults on the basic living standards of the bottom 90 percent of the population in terms of wealth and income. Unemployment has risen dramatically. Job growth has ground to a halt. Health care benefits have declined while costs skyrocket.

Virtually every public institution in America, except the military, is being threatened by budget cuts: education, libraries, public health facilities, highways and bridges, fire and police protection, environmental quality.

Support for war overseas and at home is stoked by a so-called “war on terrorism” and an anti-government ideology, made popular earlier by the Reagan administration, that lionizes Adam Smith’s claims that only the market can satisfy human needs. Following 9/11, the “beast” -- government -- has been starved even more, resulting in increased demand on workers and institutions with reduced resources, offering “proof” that government never works.

Not all have had to sacrifice during this 10-year “war on terror” and its attendant domestic programs. The rich have gotten richer while the income and wealth of 90 percent of the population have experienced economic stagnation or decline.

Media monopolization has facilitated the rise of a strata of pundits who simplify and distort the meaning of events since 9/11 by claiming that war is necessary; the terrorist threat is a growing global threat; as a nation and individually we need to arm ourselves; and subliminally it is people of color who constitute the threat to security and well-being.

Where do we go from here?

So the United States' 9/11 event was not the first. The Chilean 9/11 preceded the U.S. one by 28 years. Its people experienced a brutal military coup. And in the United States mass murder was committed by 19 terrorists. But in both cases the 9/11 event was followed by violence, threats to democracy, and economic shifts from the vast majority of the population to the wealthy and political/military elites. In both cases, draconian economic policies and constraints of civil and political rights were defined as required by threats to the “homeland.”

As the 10-year anniversary of the U.S. 9/11 is remembered, it is critical to reflect upon how the murder of 3,000 citizens and residents was defined as an opening salvo in a perpetual “war on terrorism”: how this war trumps traditional civil liberties afforded by the constitution; how this war must be waged at whatever cost to the lives and economic resources of the country; and, as with the Cold War, military spending must take priority over every other activity for which the government has a role.

9/11/73 caused the Chilean people pain and suffering that they are still working to overcome 28 years later. Unless the American people mobilize to challenge the policies, foreign and domestic, that were justified by the tragedy of 9/11, the United States will continue to move down a similar path the Chilean people traveled after their 9/11.

[Harry Targ is a professor of political science at Purdue University who lives in West Lafayette, Indiana. He blogs at Diary of a Heartland Radical -- and that's also the name of his new book which can be found at Read more of Harry Targ's articles on The Rag Blog.]

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03 May 2011

Tom Hayden : On Bin Laden and Searching for Monsters

Seeking monsters to destroy. Image from Slog.

Searching for monsters:
Bin Laden is dead, but will
the 'Long War' on terror live on?

By Tom Hayden / The Rag Blog / May 3, 2011
John Quincy Adams long ago urged that American foreign policy should be based on the principle that "she goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy."
The killing of Osama bin Laden is a triumphant moment for President Obama and the CIA, allowing a symbolic claim to victory in the War on Terror, bringing an understandable feeling of closure for the victims of 9/11, and it will almost certainly assure the President’s re-election in 2012.

But as I wrote in The Nation in October 2009, however, the death of bin Laden is not likely to end the Long War on Terror, now spreading from Iraq to Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and a dozen other theaters of counterterrorism.

If bin Laden is gone, and his network heavily damaged, what is left of the terrorist threat to our national security that justifies so many trillions of dollars and costs in thousands of lives?

Because of a fabricated fear of bin Laden, we invaded Iraq. The invasion of Afghanistan was to deny sanctuaries to bin Laden and Al Qaeda. In response, Al Qaeda moved into Pakistan, where bin Laden was killed on May 2.

So why are the Taliban in Afghanistan a threat to the security of the United States with bin Laden gone? Surely there are terrorist cells with lethal capacity scattered around the world, surely there might be revenge attacks, but there is hardly a centralized conspiratorial threat that justifies the deployment of hundreds of thousands of American troops.

Now we shall learn whether there is another agenda that keeps 150,000 American troops in Afghanistan and Iraq.

John Quincy Adams long ago urged that American foreign policy should be based on the principle that “she goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy.”

As history turned out, however, our governments have identified and defined many monsters, from Crazy Horse and Geronimo on to the present. The underlying theory has been that demonic conspirators provoke, lead, and manipulate insurgent movements, and that silencing them will end the threat.

The example of Che Guevara is instructive. Detected, hunted, captured, and killed by Bolivians accompanied by the CIA in October 1967, Che was transformed in death into a global symbol of rebellion. His spirit continues to be alive today all over Latin America, and indeed the world. It can be argued that Che’s impact became greater in martyrdom than during his guerrilla campaigns in Africa and Bolivia.

So it could be with the myth of Osama bin Laden. It may depend on whether the U.S. moves away from the War on Terrorism model to more active support of the youthful social revolution sweeping the Arab world today, which has already surpassed Al Qaeda in its scope and momentum.

[Tom Hayden is a former California state senator and leader of Sixties peace, justice, and environmental movements. He currently teaches at Pitzer College in Los Angeles. His latest book is The Long Sixties.This article was also posted at The Nation and was distributed by Progressive America Rising. Read more of Tom Hayden's writing on The Rag Blog]

Also see:The Rag Blog

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09 October 2010

Margarita Alarcón : Cubana Flight 455 Was Cuba's 9/11

73 black flags mark Cuban remembrance of the Oct. 6, 1976 terrorist bombing of Cubana Flight 455. Photo from picasa.
Cuba marked the thirty-fourth anniversary of the bombing of Cubana Flight 455 on Wednesday with a call for the U.S. to extradite the key suspect. Seventy-three people were killed in the October 6, 1976 attack, which was the first and only mid-air bombing of a civilian airliner in the Western Hemisphere. Speaking before relatives of the victims, Cuban President Raúl Castro called on the Obama administration to extradite the anti-Castro Cuban exile and CIA operative Luis Posada Carriles.
Castro also called for the release of the Cuban Five, who are serving lengthy sentences in the U.S. for trying to monitor violent right-wing Cuban exile groups responsible for attacks inside Cuba.

-- Democracy Now / Oct. 7, 2010
Cubana Flight 455:
Cuba’s 9/11

By Margarita Alarcón / The Rag Blog / October 9, 2010

For the victims and my friends, you all know who you are.

September 11th is a date that marks so many things for the history of this hemisphere that it’s almost scary. In 1973, President Salvador Allende was ousted and murdered during a coup d´état that left Chile under a fascist military regime that lasted for 17 years.

In 1980 a Cuban diplomat was assassinated in the streets of Manhattan on his way to lunch in Queens. In 2001, two towers fell hauntingly in what is now known as the worst terrorist attack in the history of the Americas and the reason why 911 has become more than a phone code.

All of these make 9/11 a date to remember, but there is an antecedent to this date that marks, unfortunately, a lesser known but horrifying occurrence.

October 6th marks the 34th anniversary of the first terrorist attack against a civilian aircraft in the Western Hemisphere: Cubana Flight 455. On that day, in 1976, a flight took off from Bridgetown, Barbados, on route to Jamaica and towards its final destination, Havana. Less than nine minutes after takeoff, two on-board explosions blew the aircraft out of the skies and into the deep warm waters off the island's coast.

All 73 passengers were killed. The Cuban Olympic fencing team was on board, all of them proudly boasting their gold medals from the meet in Venezuela that previous week. The ages of the athletes ranged from 17 to 23. There was a Cuban crew that left behind wives, husbands, children, and parents to mourn their senseless death.

The horror inspired then President Fidel Castro to give one of his most dramatic and moving speeches which ended with a pronouncement that rings on today: “When an energetic and virile people weep, humanity trembles!”

The culprits of the attack were quickly found and sentenced to prison terms. Two of the men served less than the 20-year sentences they received. One was absolved and later pardoned by President Bush Sr., and the last, possibly the most infamous and dangerous and cruel of them all, is basking today in the lovely Florida sunshine awaiting some sort of trial for illegal entry into the United States: a bogus charge imposed on him when he was caught after escaping from Latin America where he is still wanted.

The name of this fellow may not mean much to most readers, but for many in Cuba and in the rest of Latin America the name Luis Posada Carriles rings out the same as Osama Bin Laden in New York City.

This was not the first act of terror against the Cuban nation after its social revolution of 1959. This was merely the most notorious on an international scale. It is because of this that Cuba has had to spend countless hours and dollars to protect its countrymen. It is because of this that five men are unjustly imprisoned in the United States today, because they tried to stop more of such acts.

Grieving relatives of those killed on Cubana flight 455. Image from Barista.

Terrorism is a heinous crime wherever it happens. There is no excuse for the untimely deaths of the innocent, and being “at war” with a government -- as Orlando Bosch, the pardoned culprit, has used so many times as justification -- is the lamest of excuses.

Whether it happens in the Middle East, from suicide bombs or state-sponsored terrorist attacks against civilians; whether it is ETA in Spain, or the IRA in Ireland, or on the streets of Puerto Rico, or in places of business in Miami; whether it is a shameful act on an early morning in Manhattan or the first one over the crystal blue waters of the Caribbean Sea: terrorism has no excuse and is an act of cowardice.

Seventy-three died 34 years ago this October 6th. How many more before we can make things different?

[Margarita Alarcón Perea was born in Havana, Cuba, and raised in New York City. She studied at Karl Marx Stadt in East Germany and Havana, and is a graduate of Havana University in linguistics. She has taught English translation and North American Twentieth Century Literature, and worked in the Cuban music industry. She is currently a news analyst for Cubadebate in Havana and contributes to The Huffington Post. Margarita's father is Ricardo Alarcón, president of the Cuban National Assembly.]

Also see:
Cubana Flight 455. Photo by Pedro de la Cruz.

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06 September 2010

Rabbi Arthur Waskow : Five Steps to Burning Books

“On Sunday evening, members of the Harvest Assembly of God Church in Penn Township sing songs as they burn books, videos and CDs that they have judged offensive to their God,” Butler Eagle, March 26, 2001. Photo from American Library Association.

Does burning people come next?
Five steps to burning books
How did we get to the point where some Americans would burn a sacred book, and many more oppose the building of a sacred mosque...?
By Rabbi Arthur Waskow / The Rag Blog / September 6, 2010

From a small right-wing church in Florida, there has gone out a call to burn copies of the Quran on September 11. Instead of being ignored as clearly cuckoo, this call won national media coverage.

As the German Jewish poet Heinrich Heine wrote almost two centuries ago, "Those who begin by burning books will end by burning people.” The theater piece for which he wrote those words, called Almansor, was addressing the Inquisition's burning of the Quran. In 1933, university students in Heine's own beloved homeland burned his books, along with many others. They burned people soon after.

Many American religious communities and organizations, as well as secular groups like Common Cause, have condemned this call for burning. The road to burning people is by no means so open here, now, as it was in Germany in 1933.

But still, we need to face the question: How did we get to the point where some Americans would burn a sacred book, and many more oppose the building of a sacred mosque in their own town -- not only in Lower Manhattan, but in many other neighborhoods?

It would be easy to start with the aftermath of the terror attacks against the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001. But the spiritual chasm between Christianity and Islam goes back centuries. The hostility of Jews toward Islam, on top of the ignorance of almost all European and American Jews about Islam, goes back at least to 1948. And the economic dislocations and unwinnable wars of recent years also have their place in pouring out the fear and anger that provides the fuel for the spark of bigotry.

Anti-Islam blogger Pamela Geller. MSNBC image from

Step 1: The old hostilities

There are perverse and paradoxical spiritual roots to the hostility between Islam and Christianity.

All the great religious traditions -- not only those we call monotheist, but Hinduism and Buddhism and Shinto and Wicca and for that matter what we call "secular" traditions like socialism and liberalism -- are rooted in the profound effort to make loving contact with the ONE. One God, one historical dialectic, one Web of life in soul and body on our planet––ONE.

Once a community has begun to reach out toward the ONE, it begins to create the metaphors, the rituals, the languages, the practices in daily life, the festivals to embody this searching toward the ONE. And then the community bumps into another community that also claims it is in contact with the ONE, and has its own quite different set of metaphors, rituals, languages, and daily practices, with which to make this contact real.

There are often two responses to this discovery:

One is to say with surprise and delight, "You have shaped a different path from ours! Of course there must be many ways of lighting up the Infinite, unfolding truth. How could the great Infinity reveal itself except through sacred diversity? Let us learn from each other!”

The other response is to say: "We have unearthed the one way to the ONE, and any other path must be a false one. And worse than false––since you claim falsely to have made contact with the ONE, you must be lying. Corrupt. Deceitful. Worth killing."

In the various British colonies that became the United States, this bitterly hostile response was embodied in the persecution of one or another faith community (e.g. Quakers, Jews, Roman Catholics), by one or another of the original colonial governments. The uncertainty of who might get persecuted in the nation as a whole was one of the factors leading to adoption of the First Amendment, and much of the hostile reaction was then muted by the existence of the First Amendment. If no religion could wield state power and violence against another, this reaction was less likely.

Native American religions and Mormonism did not "count" in this context; state power or pressure was used against these religious communities. And there was public pressure in the 19th century against Roman Catholicism, and in the 20th century against the "Nation of Islam" (a racially focused variant not accepted by any other Muslims as truly Islamic).

Step 2: The 9/11 attack

Until 2001 in America, both hostility and interfaith exploration were quiescent, in regard to classical Islam. Then a tiny proportion of the more than one billion Muslims of the world, claiming they were acting on behalf of Islam and God, murdered about 3,000 people.

Again, there were two responses:

There was a wave of rage against Muslims and anyone who looked as if he might be Muslim. Some were attacked, a few were killed. Officials arrested hundreds of Muslims out of fear, almost always utterly unjustified, that they were would-be terrorists. Some of them were held for months without access to families or attorneys.

And during the same weeks and months, some Americans -- often religiously motivated Christians and Jews -- rallied to protect Muslims and their mosques. Some stood guard to prevent attacks, some created vigils, some brought together Jews, Christians, and Muslims under " The Tent of Abraham, Hagar, and Sarah.”

Step 3: The wars with Islam

Soon after, the government of the United States began wars against two Muslim-majority nations. It quickly became clear that what began under the banner of "liberation” actually became conquest and occupation. Yet the wars dragged on, bringing death to thousands of American soldiers and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi and Afghan civilians. And meanwhile, there were deadly U.S. military attacks on Pakistanis, threats of war against Iran, and a continuing close alliance with the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands and people in the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem.

There is a process that researchers in psychology have uncovered and call "cognitive dissonance.” People who begin with one opinion but act in a way contrary to that opinion change their ideas more than their behavior. After almost a decade of American wars against a number of Muslim-majority societies, and several actual murderous attacks by self-proclaimed Muslims against civilians in various countries allied to America, some Americans who had begun with few opinions about Islam in general began to view it with anger and disgust:

"If we are killing lots of them and they are killing some of us, there must be something evil about them.”

Anti-Semite Father Coughlin in action. Photo from the Library of Congress.

Step 4: The Great Slump

Meanwhile, Americans experienced a disastrous economic slump. The last time that rates of disemployment and of home foreclosure had been this high, during the Great Depression of the 1930s, one of the reactions was a great wave of anti-Semitism across America. Father Coughlin on radio, Henry Ford through the Dearborn Independent, were reaching millions of Americans with fear and hatred of the Jews.

So now, in another time of economic trauma -- and now also of unwinnable wars and a deep sense of cultural dislocation -- there was seething not quite visible below the surface of American culture and society a current of xenophobia. Hispanic immigrants, legal and illegal, became suspect. And Muslims.

Step 5: Crystals of bigotry

And then into this hyper-saturated solution of fear, suspicion, and hatred came some who chose deliberately to drop the poisonous crystals of bigotry .

In December 2009, The New York Times -- a liberal leader of opinion -- and Laura Ingraham -- a conservative leader of opinion -- carried articles and interviews about plans of American Muslims to establish Cordoba House, a community cultural center in Lower Manhattan. There was no fuss, no fury.

Not till May 2010 did the ultra-right-wing anti-Islam blogger Pamela Geller and organs of Rupert Murdoch, the right-wing publisher who later gave $1 million to the Republican Governors Association, begin to carry inflammatory stories about what they call the "Ground Zero Mega-Mosque.”

And then, step-by-step, the crystal they sowed precipitated the super-saturated solution into a noxious brew. Right-wing blogs and talk-radio programs described the Cordova House as an insult to the dead of 9/11, a triumphal celebration by Islam of its victory in the attacks on the World Trade Center, anything to arouse fear and hatred of Islam.

Even Jewish organizations that claimed their mission was to prevent "defamation" not only of Jews but of all religious and ethnic groups, or claimed their mission was to promote "tolerance," spoke out against the planning for Cordova House. "Yes,” they said, "Imam Faisal Abdul Rauf and his wife Daisy Khan have every constitutional right to place their mosque or cultural center two long long New York City blocks from Ground Zero, but it is not ethically right or spiritually wise to do so. It would offend the sensibilities of the survivors of the 9/11 dead."

These assertions ignored both an important fact and a crucial principle. The fact was that hundreds of 9/11 survivors, in the organization called September 11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, had endorsed the placement of Córdoba House. The principle was that the constitutional right of freedom of religion has no reality if a wave of hostility from "private" citizens, sparked by great media empires and backed up by public officials, can prevent the fully legal placement of a house of worship.

Why then did the right wing media and right-wing politicians like Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich decide to light this conflagration? The spark would not have lit a fire if there had not been gallons of gasoline beneath the surface, but why light the spark?

I think the answer is that the right wing was and still is hoping to split the vote of progressive Americans by using not just Cordoba House but also broader fear of Islam as a wedge issue, just as they used the issue of gay marriage --which now has little bite. They have used the fear of Hispanic immigrants in the same way.

Fanning fear an -- may offer the possibility of splitting the Jewish vote, which is, next to the vote of African-Americans, the most progressive voting bloc in the country.

Indeed, many Jews, outraged by attacks on Israel that are sponsored by two Muslim organizations -- Hezbollah and Hamas -- and by Holocaust denials from some leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran, may be susceptible to an Islamophobic campaign. At the same time, of all American communities, Jews are perhaps the most likely to smell and taste the danger of bigotry against a religious minority.

So the American Jewish community is one of the crucial arenas of struggle over whether burning the Quran becomes a step on the path that Heinrich Heine prophesied toward burning people.

Out of this witches' brew of dark past and explosive present, there emerged not only bigotry but another wave of interfaith engagement. Those of many religious and ethical communities gathered to condemn the burning of the Quran and to affirm all sacred texts, all sacred gathering places.

This kind of affirmation is important. And if indeed the official wars against Muslim-majority countries and the great wave of disemployment and home foreclosures have been crucial to pouring the gasoline of fear and anger that have been ignited by sparks of bigotry, then working for economic healing, a peaceful foreign policy, and the transfer of war budgets into rebuilding America are also crucial.

The path America will take is still uncertain.

As for the Jewish community, in its possibly pivotal role: Let us hope that a story from my own childhood echoes so strongly the memories and sensibilities of other American Jews that overwhelmingly, we will walk the path toward freedom and diversity, peace and economic healing:

When I was about seven years old (1940), my grandmother interrupted other Jewish women in line at the kosher butcher shop who were talking contemptuously about "the shvartzes" -- that is, Black people. She challenged them: "That's the way they talked about us in Europe. This is America, and we must not talk like that!"

We must not act like that, either.

[Rabbi Arthur Waskow is the director of The Shalom Center. He is co-author of The Tent of Abraham: Stories of Hope and Peace for Jews, Christians, & Muslims; author of Godwrestling, Round 2 and Down-to-Earth Judaism; and editor of Torah of the Earth (two volumes, eco-Jewish thought from earliest Torah to our own generation).]

The Rag Blog

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02 February 2010

Life During Wartime : Calculus of Risk

Political cartoon by Joshua Brown / Historians Against the War / The Rag Blog

The Rag Blog

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16 May 2009

How Much of the Official 911 Story Is Really True?

With ongoing revelations like these, we cannot be surprised at the continuing influence the 9-11 truth folks have, and are gaining. My suspicious little mind begins to wonder if the REASON the authorities obfuscated and bullshitted from the get-go was not only to cover their own asses (the prime directive of bureaucrats and make-work artists the world over) but maybe... on some level... somewhere... just so people like Alex Jones would gain credibility..... And I'M ONE OF THE RATIONAL PEOPLE!!!

Mariann Wizard / The Rag Blog

Official story of 9/11 'almost entirely untrue'
By Inky99 / May 16, 2009

Now, before you get your panties in a bunch, this is about a new book, titled "The Ground Truth: The Story Behind America's Defense on 9/11."

And before you get all outraged (The FAQ! The FAQ!), here is the author of the book, John Farmer:

John Farmer served as Senior Counsel to the 9/11 Commission, where his areas of responsibility included assessing the national response to the terrorist attacks and evaluating the current state of national preparedness for terrorist attacks and natural disasters, he also served as attorney general of New Jersey (1999-2002), as chief counsel to Governor Whitman, and as a federal prosecutor. He recently served as a subject matter/rule of law expert on security to the special envoy for Middle East regional security. He is currently a partner of a New Jersey law form and an adjunct professor of national security law at Rutgers University Law School. His editorials and articles have appeared in The New York Times and elsewhere.

And my diary title are the words of Farmer's publisher, Houghton Mifflin.

I wrote a couple of nights ago, here -- "9/11 Commission Report -- Info Obtained Through Torture" -- as to how much of what was published in the 9/11 Commission report was obtained through torture, and is therefore completely without credibility.

Scandalous enough, right?

Well, it gets worse.

The above described James Farmer has just come out with his new book. It was released April 14. I have not read it (I just heard about it maybe ten minutes ago) and it is difficult to find any reviews of it by any mainstream book reviewers (gee, what a surprise!).

But according to the publisher, it's quite a bombshell:


As of the 9/11 Commission’s one of the primary authors report, John Farmer is proud of his and his colleagues’ work. Yet he came away from the experience convinced that there was a further story to be told, one he was uniquely qualified to write.

Now that story can be told. Tape recordings, transcripts, and contemporaneous records that had been classified have since been declassified, and the inspector general’s investigations of government conduct have been completed. Drawing on his knowledge of those sources, as well as his years as an attorney in public and private practice, Farmer reconstructs the truth of what happened on that fateful day and the disastrous circumstances that allowed it: the institutionalized disconnect between what those on the ground knew and what those in power did. He reveals — terrifyingly and illuminatingly — the key moments in the years, months, weeks, and days that preceded the attacks, then descends almost in real time through the attacks themselves, revealing them as they have never before been seen.

Ultimately Farmer builds the inescapably convincing case that the official version not only is almost entirely untrue but serves to create a false impression of order and security. The ground truth that Farmer captures tells a very different story — a story that is doomed to be repeated unless the systemic failures he reveals are confronted and remedied.

So let me just repeat that to let it sink in .... The official story is "almost entirely untrue." So what IS true? Hell if I know.

And check this out:

Farmer himself states that "at some level of the government, at some point in time ... there was an agreement not to tell the truth about what happened."

So let's let that sink in .... there was an agreement not to tell the truth about what happened.

This link also develops the story further:

In August 2006, the Washington Post reported, "Some staff members and commissioners of the Sept. 11 panel concluded that the Pentagon’s initial story of how it reacted to the 2001 terrorist attacks may have been part of a deliberate effort to mislead the commission and the public rather than a reflection of the fog of events on that day, according to sources involved in the debate."

The report revealed how the 10-member commission deeply suspected deception to the point where they considered referring the matter to the Justice Department for criminal investigation.

"We to this day don’t know why NORAD told us what they told us," said Thomas H. Kean, the former New Jersey Republican governor who led the commission. "It was just so far from the truth. . . . It’s one of those loose ends that never got tied.

Wow. Let's go to that Washington Post story now, shall we?

It's 9/11 Panel Suspected Deception by Pentagon, from August 1, 2006:

For more than two years after the attacks, officials with NORAD and the FAA provided inaccurate information about the response to the hijackings in testimony and media appearances. Authorities suggested that U.S. air defenses had reacted quickly, that jets had been scrambled in response to the last two hijackings and that fighters were prepared to shoot down United Airlines Flight 93 if it threatened Washington.

In fact, the commission reported a year later, audiotapes from NORAD's Northeast headquarters and other evidence showed clearly that the military never had any of the hijacked airliners in its sights and at one point chased a phantom aircraft -- American Airlines Flight 11 -- long after it had crashed into the World Trade Center.

Maj. Gen. Larry Arnold and Col. Alan Scott told the commission that NORAD had begun tracking United 93 at 9:16 a.m., but the commission determined that the airliner was not hijacked until 12 minutes later. The military was not aware of the flight until after it had crashed in Pennsylvania.

These and other discrepancies did not become clear until the commission, forced to use subpoenas, obtained audiotapes from the FAA and NORAD, officials said. The agencies' reluctance to release the tapes -- along with e-mails, erroneous public statements and other evidence -- led some of the panel's staff members and commissioners to believe that authorities sought to mislead the commission and the public about what happened on Sept. 11.

Farmer was quoted in this story as well. And according to the one review I did find:

Make no mistake, Farmer is not saying that 9/11 was an inside job ...

I'm sure I'll get flamed by a lot of people who don't even read that quote. But whatever.

Like I said, I haven't read the book myself, seeing as I just found out about it. But it sure looks interesting.

Sure would be nice to find out what really happened that day. And left wondering HOW such a monumentally huge fuck-up, at every level imaginable, both during the attacks, and after, and during the investigation that followed, could have possibly happened in this country. And why people were tortured to deliberately give false information that could be used in a report everybody knew was bogus anyway.

And why we are now involved in two wars, both unnecessary and without end ...

And why we're being lied to about it all, to this day.

Source / Daily Kos

Thanks to Mariann Wizard / The Rag Blog

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