Tell The New York Times:
Stop Humanizing Violent White Extremists
The petition to The New York Times reads: “Stop humanizing violent white extremists, defaming Black people murdered by police and perpetuating anti-Muslim bias.”
(March 31, 2018) — Mark Anthony Condit killed two Black men, injured four other people and terrorized Austin, Texas for 19 days. The New York Times called him a quiet, kind loner and devout Christian. (1)
White extremist violence has been on the rise since Donald Trump took office, and his racist administration is refusing to do anything about it. (2) By humanizing white killers, The New York Times is using its platform and credibility to reinforce the racism that is both driving this crisis and sweeping it under the rug. This needs to stop now.
This is not the first time The New York Times has sanitized and sanctioned violent white extremism. It described Stephen Paddock, who killed 58 people at a concert in Las Vegas, as a shy man who led a “highly unconventional life” and “dabbled in real estate.” (3) It also called white nationalist Dylann Roof, who brutally gunned down nine Black churchgoers in South Carolina, a “silent young man” from a “broken home.” (4)
In contrast, The New York Times has helped perpetuate the collective criminalization of Black people by defaming and dehumanizing Black men and children killed by police. It called Trayvon Martin, an unarmed Black teenager murdered by a racist in Florida, a “gangster” with “questionable character.” (5)
It included Alton Sterling’s criminal record in its coverage of his murder, which had nothing to do with why two police officers in Louisiana shot him to death at a convenience store where he was selling CDs. (6) In its coverage of the Missouri police murder of Mike Brown, The New York Times described him as “no angel.” (7)
The Times has even gone so far as to publish stories about the “hidden grieving process” of police who murder Black people, further diminishing these crimes and sanctioning police violence against communities of color. (8)
The New York Times is also guilty of contributing to the media’s anti-Muslim bias. A recent report found that when a perpetrator is Muslim, traditional media outlets will give the story 4.5 times more media coverage than when a perpetrator is not Muslim. (9)
A non-Muslim perpetrator would need to kill at least 7 more people to get the same amount of media attention. (10) This bias in reporting means that the public is bombarded with stories perpetuating the myth that Muslims are dangerous.
Meanwhile, when traditional media outlets like The New York Times cover stories about white violence, they do not vilify these murderers. They humanize white people who terrorize and kill people of color. The New York Times can do better, but it won’t unless we demand it.
Recently, a Louisiana court decided not to charge the two police officers who killed Alton Sterling even though their heinous crime was captured on video. (11) A
s long as major media outlets like The New York Times continue to stoke the public’s empathy for white murderers while dehumanizing Black victims and perpetuating anti-Muslim bias, we can expect more verdicts like this one and the crisis of violent white extremism to get worse.
The New York Times knows that it has a problem but doesn’t seem prepared to act. It recently published a piece acknowledging that it wrongly painted the Austin bomber as a victim and degraded Black people killed by police in the past. (12) But it stopped short of committing to changing the way it covers these stories, which is why we must keep pushing.
The Burlington Peace and Justice Center – 2018-03-31 22:45:09
Special to Environmentalists Against War
F-35 Fighter Jet is
“A Turkey, Not Good at Anything” — Military Expert
Burlington City Council Votes to Request Replacement of F-35 Council Vote Comes After City’s
Electorate Voted to Cancel F-35 The Burlington Peace and Justice Center
(March 31, 2018) — The Burlington City Council voted 9-3 to call for replacement of the F-35 at the Burlington International Airport with low-noise-level equipment with a proven high safety record (the resolution is attached).
“An outstanding decision and a key step toward protecting thousands of families from devastating consequences of F-35 basing,” said James Marc Leas, a patent attorney who helped collect signatures to get the item on the town meeting ballot.
The vote reversed a 2013 city council vote. It comes three weeks after the city’s voters approved a citizen initiative requesting cancellation of the planned F-35 basing at Vermont Town Meeting Day on March 6 (attached).
At town meeting the vote was 6482 (55.3%) in favor to 5238 (44.7%) opposed. Ballot item 6 received a majority in six of the city’s eight wards.
The airport currently hosts 18 F-16 jets flown by the Vermont Air National Guard. The Guard is preparing for the arrival of the 18 F-35 jets in the Fall of 2019 when the F-16s will be retired.
The adopted resolution states:
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Burlington City Council values the Air National Guard’s contributions to our community and respectfully requests the Honorable Secretary of the United States Air Force, Heather Wilson, replace the planned basing of the F-35 with a basing of a low-noise-level plane with a proven high safety record, consistent with the ballot question previously cited;
Congressional Delegation: As reported in the Burlington Free Press: “Senators Bernie Sanders and Patrick Leahy and Rep. Peter Welch issued a joint statement Monday saying that if the council passes the resolution, they ‘expect the Air Force to respond and answer any questions the Council puts forth.’
The senators and congressman supported bringing the [F-35] plane to Vermont while the Air Force was making the basing decisions several years ago, the three said, to ensure a long-term mission for the Vermont Air National Guard.”
“Among the thousands of documents disclosed by the Air Force in the federal court case were ones demonstrating pressure on the Air Force applied by Senator Leahy. That pressure decisively influenced the original Air Force decision to base F-35 jets at Burlington in 2013,” said Air Force Col. Rosanne Greco (ret).
“We will be asking the Senator to respect the vote of the electorate three weeks ago and last night’s vote by the Burlington City Council. We will also be asking him to join the voters and the council in encouraging the Secretary of the Air Force to provide low-noise-level equipment with a proven high safety record to the Vermont Air National Guard,” Ms. Greco said.
The Objections Sound level: The US Air Force Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) states that a person on the ground will be hit with 115 dB when the F-35 is 1000 feet above on takeoff with its afterburner off.
The Air Force report indicates that this sound level is more than 4 times louder than the F-16. Noise contour maps in the Air Force report also indicate that the sound level of the F-35 operating in ordinary military power is almost as loud as the sound level of the F-16 operating with afterburner on. 115 dB is the sound level above which even brief exposure causes irreversible damage to hearing.
The center of the City of Winooski is located one mile from the end of the runway. The Air Force does not disclose the anticipated sound level of the F-35 when it reaches Winooski almost immediately after takeoff. However, noise maps in the Air Force EIS indicate F-35 basing will place thousands of its affordable homes in an area that the Air Force and the Federal Aviation Administration consider “unsuitable for residential use.”
The Air Force report and the Winooski grand list show that more than 3/4 of the housing units in Winooski are in the “unsuitable for residential use” noise danger zone of the F-35.
Burlington’s own Board of Health spent several months in 2013 hearing testimony and reviewing research data regarding health issues caused by fighter jet noise. The Board then adopted a resolution: “the Burlington Board of Health has concluded that noise has been associated with the following health effects: hearing loss, stress, sleep disturbance, heart attacks, hypertension and stroke, and delayed reading and verbal comprehension.”
The World Health Organization (WHO) found that aircraft noise at the level of the F-35 in those 2963 homes causes half the children to suffer delayed reading and degraded concentration, memory and attention.
Affordable homes are in short supply in Chittenden County. Demolished homes and thousands of affordable homes in noise danger zones restrict business development and job growth in the county.
Crash Rate: The U.S. Air Force report provides data showing that crash rate will sharply increase when the F-35 comes to replace the F-16 in 2019.
Crash Consequences: Whereas the F-16 body is made of aluminum, the body of the F-35 includes 12,000 pounds of combustible military carbon composite materials with a combustible stealth coating.
Upon a crash, when the F-35 body and stealth coating burn in the inferno of thousands of gallons of jet fuel during the time before firefighters arrive, a Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division report states that highly toxic, mutagenic, and carcinogenic chemicals, particles, and fibers are released.
A report issued by the Air Force Institute for Environment, Safety and Occupational Health, states that, unlike the F-16, the F-35 should be included in “the high-risk category due to the high percentage or high quantity of composite materials.” Especially high-risk if the F-35 is based in a densely populated area.
In view of the catastrophic consequences of an F-35 crash, an Air Force report suggests “anticipating and preventing” such an event. In plain English: Prevent basing the F-35 near thousands of families.
Air Guard Mission: Extreme noise danger, high crash rate, and high crash consequences each contradict the Vermont Air National Guard Mission “to protect the citizens of Vermont.”
“The F-35 burns vast quantity of oil for war while encouraging war for oil,” said Rachel Siegel, Executive Director of the Peace & Justice Center in Vermont.
Siegel noted that with its stealth coating it is a first-strike weapon.
“It is “slated to be armed with the B61 nuclear bomb”. Its 1100-gallon-per-hour consumption of jet fuel contributes to global warming. It cannot protect Vermont from climate change or mega-storms like Hurricane Irene that hit Vermont hard in 2011.
“Nor can it protect Vermont from cyber-attack, nuclear missiles, terrorism, food insecurity, or income inequality. Nor can it advance the lives of students, women, LGBTQ, people of color, immigrants, refugees, or veterans.
“The F-35 program drains $1.4 trillion from health care, education, affordable housing, and infrastructure. It does not take on the billionaire class. Or the fossil fuel industry. It does not drive money out of politics. It does not abolish pervasive racism. Or abolish tuition and student debt. It feeds the military-industrial complex.
“The F-35 encourages war. Its extreme noise and high crash risk endanger our children and adults. F-35 basing contradicts a government that works for all of us and that is accountable to the people.”
Replacement equipment is available for Air Guard: In a submission to the Federal District Court in Rutland on March 7, 2016 the Air Force said, “Had the F-35A not been selected to replace the F-16s, there could have been any number of reasonable alternatives available to the Air Force on how to configure Burlington.”
In his decision in the case, Federal District Court Judge Geoffrey Crawford wrote, “there is no evidence of a plan to close the base or to use it for purposes other than flying aircraft.”
At his news conference Friday February 9, though in a slightly backhanded way, Vermont National Guard Adjutant General Steven Cray brought the Vermont National Guard into alignment with US Air Force. He narrowed the usual Guard position this way: “There is no alternative mission being planned for the VT Air National Guard.”
Thus, General Cray accepted the Air Force position that alternative missions are available for the Vermont Air Guard if the F-35 does not come to Vermont, and these missions could be planned.
“The best way to support the men and women in our Vermont Air Guard and its mission “to protect the citizens of Vermont” is for the Air Force to cancel F-35 basing and provide equipment for the Vermont Air Guard that does not harm citizens,” said Mr. Leas.
Contact: Air Force Col. Rosanne Greco (ret.) 802 497-0711
Rachel Siegel, Executive Director Peace and Justice Center, 802 777-2627
James Marc Leas 802 864-1575
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
The Bolton Appointment: How Scared Should We Be? Daniel Lazare / Consortium News
(March 30, 2018) — John Bolton is a hawk’s hawk, a militarist who never saw a US war of aggression he didn’t like. The best thing one can say about his appointment as national security adviser is that Trump will probably ignore him the way he does all his other advisers and fire him six months down the road. If so, the sky won’t fall right away. But make no mistake — it will soon.
Rarely has war fever in Washington been deeper and more broad-based. Everybody’s jumping on board — liberals and conservatives, Republicans and Democrats, human-rights advocates and neoconservatives.
With the 2018 midterms fast approaching, it seems that the only choice voters will have is between a military conflict from column A and one from column B. Which will it be — the clash with Putin that liberals are talking themselves into? Or the showdown with Iran that Bolton has long advocated?
It’s a choice between cyanide and arsenic. One moment, Trump is threatening “Little Rocket Man” Kim Jong Un with “fire and fury” while, in the next, the New York Times is demanding that he take off the gloves with regard to the Kremlin. The title of a Times editorial on Friday, March 15, said it all: “Finally, Trump Has Something Bad to Say About Russia.”
It blasted the Orange-Haired One for being slow to impose sanctions in retaliation “for the Kremlin’s interference in the 2016 election” — still unproven, by the way — and of holding off “for reasons that have never been made completely clear.”
This last point was rich considering how often the Times denounces Trump as a “Siberian candidate” that Russia installed in the White House to do its bidding.
The editorial slammed Putin as “an authoritarian leader” who “has paid little or no price for his aggressions” in Syria and the Crimea, and it predicted that the Russian president “won’t stop until he knows that the United States will stand up to him and work with its allies to impose stronger financial and diplomatic measures to rein him in.”
If financial and diplomatic measures don’t work, what then — military force? Five days later, Editorial Page Editor James Bennet issued another schoolyard taunt, this time an editorial entitled, “Why Is Trump So Afraid of Russia?”
The occasion was a remark that ex-CIA Director John Brennan had just made on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe”: “I think he’s afraid of the president of Russia. . . . The Russians, I think, have had long experience with Mr. Trump and may have things they could expose.” (Quote begins at 5:05.) The comment was an excuse for yet more Times paranoia:
“The possibility that Mr. Putin could have some hold on the American president has lurked in the background over the past year as Mr. Trump displayed a mystifying affection for the Russian leader and ignored or excused his aggressive behavior and nefarious activities, most important, his interference in the 2016 campaign, a subject of the special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.”
Of course, it’s a subject of Mueller’s investigation, and it will continue to be so as long as Congress gives him carte blanche to look for dirt wherever he pleases, regardless of whether it has anything to do with Russian collusion or not.
The editorial then went at Trump once again for the sin of insufficient hostility: “. . . it’s hard to see how praising and appeasing a bully will advance American interests. That’s not the approach Mr. Trump has taken with adversaries like North Korea or Iran, or, for that matter, even with some allies.”
“If Mr. Trump isn’t Mr. Putin’s lackey,” it concluded, “it’s past time for him to prove it” — perhaps by threatening to incinerate Moscow the way he has threatened Pyongyang.
The relationship between adolescent rhetoric like this and Trump’s decision to bring semi-fascists like Bolton and Tea Partier Mike Pompeo on board is clear. The more the Times, not to mention the Washington Post, CNN, MSNBC, and others, taunt him as soft on Russia, the more he taunts them right back for being soft on Iran and then adopts confrontational tactics to demonstrate his own machismo.
Bolton is the latest example of where such tit-for-tat madness is leading. The former US ambassador to the UN is famous as an opponent of the 2015 Iran nuclear accord and advocate of Iranian regime change. On this, he and Trump see eye to eye, which suggests that years of fist-shaking may finally give way to something more concrete, like cruise missiles and bunker-busting bombs.
With Pompeo as secretary of state, Trita Parsi, leader of the National Iranian American Council, tweets that “Trump is assembling a WAR CABINET” — and the judgment may well be on the mark. If so, Tehran will undoubtedly respond by shoring up its defenses along the “Shi’ite crescent” stretching across Iraq and Syria to Lebanon.
The Arab Gulf states will ratchet up their anti-Shi’ite sectarianism while Turkey and Israel may conclude that it’s now open season on Syria’s Bashar al-Assad and likewise send in the bombers and troops.
After a momentary lull, the effect will be to thrust the region into yet another round of war, one even bigger and more ferocious than the last. All the usual horrors will ensue — refugees, terrorism, social collapse, and renewed xenophobia in Europe and the US.
But Iran is where things get complicated. It’s allied with Russia while both states are allied with Assad, whom Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, and Barack Obama spent years trying to topple.
Trump opposes the 2015 Iran accord but wants to make nice with Putin, while liberals back the agreement while at the same time viewing the Russian president as the devil incarnate even though he helped negotiate it. Their neocon allies are meanwhile hostile to all three.
Chuck Schumer, leader of the glorious anti-Trump #Resistance in the Senate, voted against the Iran agreement, as did fellow New York Democrat Eliot L. Engel in the House. William Kristol, leader of the never-Trump neocons, campaigned against it along with fellow neocon Trump-basher Max Boot.
So the more Trump moves against Iran and Syria, the more divisions are likely to emerge in the anti-Trump camp between neocons who see nothing wrong with confronting Tehran and liberals who would be more comfortable with a stepped-up military response in the eastern Ukraine.
Regardless of where it takes place, war will grow more likely rather than less. Bernie Sanders may finally speak out against such spiraling levels of insanity, but it will be too little too late.
John Bolton is without doubt a dangerous man. Not only did he champion the war against Saddam Hussein, but, even before US troops had set foot in Iraq, he told Israeli leaders that the next step would be to take out Syria, Iran, and North Korea, a goal he has pursued with single-minded consistency ever since.
For Bolton, the aim is to create a growing cascade of Third World wars so as to propel the US into a position as unchallenged military dictator of the entire globe. The more numerous the conflicts, the more he’s convinced that the US will come up on top.
The problem though is that Democrats have been no less bellicose. Breaking ranks with Democrats like Massachusetts Governor Mike Dukakis, Bill Clinton set the pace in 1984 by allowing the Arkansas National Guard to be transferred to Honduras in support of Ronald Reagan’s regime-change efforts in neighboring Nicaragua.
Democrats supported George Bush Sr.’s invasion of Panama in late 1989 and the 1990-91 Gulf War too. As president, Bill Clinton launched round-the-clock air attacks on the Balkans while Hillary championed the post-9/11invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. Clinton, Obama, and John Kerry upped the ante even more after the 2011 Arab Spring by launching a bombing campaign that reduced Libya to anarchy and spending billions more to do the same to Syria.
The former has been set back generations as Al Qaeda and ISIS-linked Islamist militias battle one another in the streets, black African migrants are bought and sold as slaves, and women are subjected to draconian Saudi-like restrictions.
According to the World Bank, Syria has suffered an estimated $226 billion in war damage, a staggering sum for a country of 21 million people with a per-capita income as of 2010 of just $1,700.
The problem with Washington is that it doesn’t have one war party, but two. The more they go at one another, the more they export America’s domestic chaos overseas in the form of Third World military conflict. Could it be that America is turning into the biggest failed state of them all?
Daniel Lazare is the author of The Frozen Republic: How the Constitution Is Paralyzing Democracy (Harcourt Brace, 1996) and other books about American politics. He has written for a wide variety of publications from The Nation to Le MondeDiplomatique, and his articles about the Middle East, terrorism, Eastern Europe, and other topics appear regularly on such websites as Jacobin and The American Conservative.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
Israeli Snipers Murder 17, Wound
Dozens of Trapped Refugee Protesters at Gaza Border Juan Cole / Informed Comment
(March 31, 2018) — Palestinians in Gaza staged an unarmed protest Friday, part of a planned multi-week event, near the Israeli line of control. They are demanding the right to return to their homes.
The Israeli army indiscriminately opened fire on the protesters with live ammunition, killing at least 17 and wounding dozens (perhaps hundreds). Hundreds were also sickened by military-grade tear gas. This was shooting fish in a barrel.
There is no reason to think that the Israeli troops were in danger or received deadly fire themselves. There was rock throwing toward the fence that imprisons the Palestinians. No Israeli casualties have been reported. Some video circulating, which IC cannot confirm, appears to show victims shot in the back or while praying. This was more like a US police shooting of an innocent, unarmed victim.
Although the US press is reporting that those killed died in “clashes,” they appear all to have been on the Gaza side of the line of control and never actually to have encountered any Israelis. There was no “clash.” Shooting down innocent unarmed people on their own land is typically termed “murder.”
In 1948, lean, mean Jewish immigrants into British Mandate Palestine attacked Palestinian villagers and townspeople in the south, in places like Beersheba and Nejd, and drove them into the Gaza Strip, where they live to this day, many of them still in refugee camps.
On Nejd lands the Europeans formed the Israeli town of Sderot, which they have peopled not only with Israelis but also Thai agricultural guest workers.
Families in Gaza displaced from Nejd could walk home in half an hour if allowed to.
70 percent of Palestinian resident families in Gaza were kicked out of their homes in what is now Israel by armed Jewish immigrants into British Mandate Palestine, and the Palestinians were consigned to 8 refugee camps. They would starve to death if it were not for aid via the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, the budget of which Trump has just kneecapped. There are now 1.8 million people in Gaza, most of them desperately poor.
Since 2007, they have been under a military and economic blockade by Israel, which routinely shoots their fishermen and has limited import of building materials such as cement. Israel carefully dispenses the right to leave Gaza, essentially a large jail for the victims of Israeli ethnic cleansing, and several Palestinian children have died in recent times because they weren’t permitted to go get good medical care.
In the course of World War I, the British army conquered geographical Palestine away from the Ottoman Empire. The other Mandatory forces authorized by the Versailles Peace Treaty, were charged with temporarily administering Syria, Iraq, Togo and other countries-in-waiting for the welfare of their inhabitants and in preparation for independence.
Britain had some of these obligations in Palestine, for the then 1.3 million Palestinians, as well. But many British administrators thought of their charge as two-fold, since they also wished to establish what they called a “home” for the “Jewish people” in the midst of the teeming masses of Palestinians. They were paying off what they saw as a debt to Zionist leaders for their support in WW I. Their other debt was to the Hashemites of Mecca, to whom they awarded Transjordan.
Zionism grew up in the second half of the 19th century as a form of Jewish nationalism, modeled on the Romantic nationalism of the Germans and Italians. Most Jews of the time rejected the notion of making their religion the basis for a virulent form of modern racism or of giving Christian nationalists a cudgel with which to beat their Jewish co-citizens by declaring, as Zionists implied, that French Jews were Jewish and not French at all.
Moving people around to the inconvenience of their neighbors was a feature of authoritarian government in early twentieth century High Modernism. The British also dreamed of bringing millions of Punjabis from India into Iraq when they conquered it in 1918. Stalin moved Crimean Tatars to Central Asia. So too was the technique of partition.
The French conquered Syria in 1920 and abruptly carved out of it a majority-Christian Lebanon, to make the whole region easier to rule, since they expected the Christians to support colonialism. Britain saw the European Jews it was importing as playing a similar role.
The Ottomans and their Muslim predecessors had ruled this region for nearly 1300 years with the exception of a hiatus during the Crusades. In the millennium after Christ, most Palestinian Jews had converted to Christianity and then some converted to Islam.
A small number of men emigrated to Europe as merchants around 800 and they grew into the Ashkenazi Jewish community, taking non-Jewish convert wives and occasionally converting friends and neighbors.
Between 1000 CE and about 1800 CE, there were almost no Jews in Palestine; Bonaparte’s expedition estimated 3,000 around 1799. In the 1800s some Russian charities were set up so that Jewish retirees could go to Jerusalem and spend their last days studying Torah in the holy city, and Russian Jewish residents grew in number to a few thousand.
Tens of thousands of Jews relocated to the British Mandate of Palestine in the 1920s, but they were small numbers of mainly Eastern European pioneers. They carefully set up a system whereby they received monetary support from Jewish communities in the West to buy up land, and then they alienated that land in perpetuity, forbidding its resale to non-Jews. Their goal was to buy up enough of Palestine on which to form a Jewish state, and to expel any Palestinians who would not cooperate.
By 1936 the Palestinians had figured out that the British Mandate, far from being benevolent, was predatory and malevolent, aiming at dominating them for hundreds of years and in the meantime of displacing them with Ashkenazi clients, whom the Palestinians viewed as illegal immigrants.
The Palestinians launched a revolt, 1936-1939, which convinced the British to issue a White Paper promising to restrict further Jewish immigration and to schedule Palestine to become an independent country by 1949. Zionist thinkers and leaders, livid, pledged that the White Paper would not stand.
With the rise of Fascism and institutional, murderous Anti-semitism in Europe in the 1930s, the number of Jewish immigrants into Palestine rose significantly in the 1930s. By 1940 there were 400,000, and the Palestinians were over a million.
When the British announced in 1947 that they planned to decamp, civil war broke out in Palestine. The Palestinians lost and 720,000 of them were expelled from their homes (these families have grown into several million). In 1967, the Israelis came after the refugees in the West Bank and Gaza and established rule over them.
Today, there is a Palestinian majority in the lands controlled by Israel. But only the Jews and a small minority of Palestinians living inside Israel can vote or have power, and their military rule controls the West Bank and encircles Gaza, which they have left without an airport or harbor or any visible means of support.
Zionist propaganda has assiduously covered up this tawdry reality, so that, amazingly enough, as with the realities of climate change, the American public is oblivious to what is being done to the Palestinians and blames them for any reaction they undertake to these massive and ongoing injustices.
White Americans are the richest people in the world and the most powerful, but have developed a sense of grievance that led them to put the Neofascist Trump regime in power in Washington. Imagine what they would do if they had been treated the way the Palestinians have been. That is why blaming everything on “Hamas” is silly. Hamas is a symptom, not the disease.
On Land Day, Israeli Forces Kill 14 Palestinians,
Injure Hundreds More in GazaMa’an News Agency
GAZA CITY (March 30, 2018) — Israeli forces shot dead 14 Palestinians and injured over a 1,000 more along the Gaza border on Friday, as thousands of Palestinians demonstrated in “The Great March of Return” on the 42nd anniversary of Land Day.
The Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza confirmed that 14 Palestinians were killed on Friday. They were identified as:
Mohammad Kamel Najjar
Wahid Nasrallah Abu Samour
Mahmoud Abu Muammar
Mohammad Abu Amro
Amhad Ibrahim Odah
Ibrahim Abu Shaer
Abd al-Fattah Bahjat Abd al-Nabi
Abd al-Qader al-Hawajri
Sari Walid Abu Odah
Hamdan Ismail Abu Amsha
Bader Fayek al-Sabbagh
The ministry added that 1,272 Palestinians were injured. While the majority suffered from severe tear-gas inhalation, tens of Palestinians were injured with live ammunition, some critically.
The ministry called on Palestinians across Gaza to donate blood at hospitals.
Leading up to the march, the Israeli army released a statement saying it had declared the border area along Gaza a “closed military zone,” meaning that any Palestinian who got close to the border fence could risk getting shot.
The Israeli army released statements on Twitter describing the protests as “violent riots.”
“17,000 Palestinians are rioting in 5 locations along the Gaza Strip security fence. The rioters are rolling burning tires and hurling firebombs & rocks at the security fence & IDF troops, who are responding w riot dispersal means and firing towards main instigators,” the statement said.
Despite the Israeli army’s claims, Palestinian activists and leaders in the Gaza Strip have maintained that the “March of Return” was organized as a massive non-violent, weeks-long protest advocating for the return of Palestinian refugees to their original homelands in historic Palestine, now present day Israel.
Leading up to Friday, the first official day of the march — which will continue until the 70th anniversary of the Nakba, or catastrophe, in May — Palestinians set up tents along the border with Gaza, where protesters plan to stay until the Nakba anniversary.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
International Solidarity Movement Tour
Conveys Palestinian Trauma to a Stunned US Audience Phillip Weiss / Mondoweiss
Salem Shamaly after he was shot and killed July 20, 2014 in Shujaiyah, Gaza, followed by international volunteers
(March 21, 2018) — The other night in Brooklyn, I caught two activists from the International Solidarity Movement, Rana Nazzal and Joe Catron, describing their work in Palestine to 70 people crowded into the Commons Cafe.
The tour continues tonight in Syracuse and on to many other venues in Canada and the States (and at times includes our own artist Katie Miranda). I would urge anyone who wishes to understand the depth of the conflict to catch one of these appearances.
The tour is noteworthy because it conveys to Americans, in the most unrhetorical manner, some small portion of the immense trauma that Palestinians are experiencing. Two activists come to the stage and speak plainly about their experience. Both began these talks with videos, and both videos — as the activists warned us — contained film of a Palestinian being shot and killed by Israeli soldiers.
Joe Catron showed us the famous killing of Salim Shamaly in Gaza in 2014. In Nazzalâ€™s case it was Rushdie Tamimi in Nabi Saleh in 2012. (Rushdie Tamimi was the maternal uncle of Ahed Tamimi, the 17-year-old just sentenced to 8 months in an Israeli jail.)
That is of course a very shocking way for a presentation to begin. The room was stunned. But the videos broke a seal, too: they reminded us of our own safety and informed us that we have no idea what life is really like under occupation, what it is really like to be in such an unbalanced and violent place.
An entire volume could be written about the scene of Shamalyâ€™s killing: the ruins of Shejaiyah in eastern Gaza City, in which he was seeking out survivors. The structural wreckage looked like what Dresden or Guernica or Pompei must have looked like. It defies the imagination.
The extreme character of the presentation is helpful because no one can deny the tremendous trauma that these people are experiencing. I found myself weeping when Manal Tamimi and Bassem Tamimi spoke in an excerpt of an ISM movie, The Radiance of Resistance. I cannot capture either personâ€™s eloquence here; but Manal explained something to me. This is what I heard her say:
You see that our children are traumatized. This is not normal. Who would expose their children to such violence? What parent would do such a thing? We had no choice. This was visited upon us. These children have witnessed terrible violence from the time that they were quite small.
What is it like for a child to see her uncle killed before her eyes and she can do nothing about it? There is only one way for human beings to respond to these conditions: to resist them. That is what our children are doing.
The ISM is Palestinian-led, and its overseas recruits are very special people. Remember Rachel Corrie, who was killed 15 years ago by an Israeli bulldozer in Rafah — what a special person she was, who could not see an injustice without it sweeping her soul. The two American activists I saw in Brooklyn were also seized by what they saw, and had to act.
On Nazzalâ€™s first visit to Palestine, in 2008, her mother brought her to a demonstration in Nilâ€™in at which 10-year-old Ahmed Mousa was killed when he ran back to the scene of a protest to find the shoe heâ€™d lost, and at Ahmedâ€™s funeral, 18-year-old Yousef Amira was shot and killed; and Nazzal was transformed.
Not many people are like her. Most of us are less disturbed by the persecution of a faroff people. On Monday night that persecution did not seem at all faroff. We sat in silence seeing what our tax dollars have done.
My own understanding of radical activism came from an Irish union organizer in a packed Cairo hotel restaurant in December 2009, as international activists gathered to go on the Gaza Freedom March, and the Mubarak regime prevented our travel, and the marchers prepared to demonstrate in Tahrir Square. He said that there was a place for everyone in a movement, depending on your temperament.
Maybe you wanted to be arrested and dragged through the street, or maybe you were afraid to do that. Maybe you wanted to chant, maybe you wanted to video, or document or lawyer, or write. Maybe you just wanted to give money (as you can to ISM on this tour). But there was a place for everyone who wanted to take a moral stand. The ISM tour shows how much work there is for us to do.
Phillip Weiss is a blogger, and Founder and co-Editor of the popular Mondoweiss Blog which focuses on issues around Palestine and Israel.
The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons opened for signature at United Nations headquarters in New York on 20 September 2017 and will remain open indefinitely. Once 50 nations have ratified or acceded to it, it will enter into force. Palestine is the newest party to the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. There are now 57 signatories and 6 parties.
Palestine played an active part in last year’s negotiations that led to the adoption of the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. It signed the treaty on 20 September 2017 and deposited its instrument of ratification on 22 March 2018.
Has your country signed the ban treaty? Has your parliament or legislature ratified it? Help us get to 50 ratifications for the treaty to enter into force.
If your country is a nuclear weapons state or part of the US nuclear alliance, check out Don’t Bank on the Bomb to organize a divestment campaign for banks, pensions, businesses, governments, to give up their investment in nuclear weapons manufacturers to keep the pressure on in states that are still clinging to their nuclear weapons of death and unimaginable destruction!
‘Hostiles’ and Hollywood’s Untold Story Jada Thacker / Consortium News
Hostiles movie poster.
(March 16, 2018) — A theatrical poster for the recent American Western movie “Hostiles” depicts its principal characters — a Frontier widow, a hardboiled Indian fighter, and an Indian chief — with a helpful blurb stating the story’s theme with the subtlety of a striking rattlesnake: “We are all hostiles.”
Some critics think the movie somehow ought to have been a different one — that it should have included a bit more of this, or a bit less of that . . . whatever. Maybe they have a point. Though it hardly seems fair to ding “Hostiles” for being an imperfect example of the ideal Frontier fantasy.
But it is fair to criticize a movie for being a perfect example of a movie genre that consistently ignores the most essential themes of the American Frontier. “Hostiles” succeeds brilliantly as the latest addition to a very long list of movies that focus laser-like attention on hostile Frontier characters, rather than on the consequences of Frontier hostility.
The American Frontier was not, as Hollywood formerly portrayed it, merely a canvas background prop for a violent soap box drama starring Cowboys & Indians — or, as more recently re-imagined, an ethnic melodrama featuring white Bad Guys versus Noble Indian resistance.
Nor can the American Frontier be considered a particularly hostile place without expunging from history the slaughter-grounds of Cannae, Verdun, Stalingrad, or even America’s own Gettysburg — each of which produced more bloated corpses than any number of Wild Wests. In an encyclopedia of human violence, the massacres at the Little Bighorn and Wounded Knee would be relegated to a footnote.
Yet, the significance of the American Frontier endures. William Faulkner was not referring to the Frontier experience when he said, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past,” but he was right.
Unacknowledged by the silver screen, contemporary America remains as hostile as it ever was to the Frontier dwellers of tee-pees, log cabins, wigwams, or army outposts.
Every American today who rages at corrupt and incompetent government, who counts out their pennies for rent or mortgage, or who despairs of the growth-driven, mechanized rape of the American landscape can thank the American Frontier experience for their trouble.
A woman in a white robe is the symbol of America’s “Manifest Destiny” in this classic painting.
No government existed in North America at the time of European contact. The societies that pre-existed there lived in a condition of anarchy.
Although the term “anarchy” is used casually to denote a condition of chaos, it literally refers only to a society without government (from the Greek: a [without] + archy [rulers]). Anarchy is the voluntary self-organization of people without the use of authoritative force. Thus, anarchy does not denote an absence of social order, but only the absence of a forcible social order.
Anarchy is not an exception to human organization, but the rule — if we can forgive the pun. All non-governmental organizations are anarchic, voluntary associations: sports teams, business entities, civic groups, church congregations, trade unions, symphony orchestras, and marriages included. American Indian societies had thrived just so without authoritative force for some 20,000 years before Europeans appeared to set things straight.
Immediately upon European arrival, the Frontier materialized as a lethal No Man’s Land where the alien hierarchical order of government clashed catastrophically with indigenous anarchy. At issue was not just the survival of hostile individuals, but the survival of fundamentally hostile political cultures.
Unlike anarchy, government has nothing to do with the voluntary self-organization of society. Nobody ever volunteers to be arrested, pay fines, go to jail, or be executed — or pay the taxes necessary for doing so to others. And no such elements of coercion existed in North America prior to the importation of European authoritarianism. (When so-called “democratic government” later purported to banish British tyranny, it made certain to keep prisons and capital punishment intact.)
Moviegoers, no less than movie-makers and history textbooks, blithely assume that Indian leaders wielded the same authority as did government officials in white society. Not so. Indians had no officials because they had no offices. Indian chiefs led by example and inspiration only; they possessed no more coercive ability than a scoutmaster or a captain of a football team.
In any event, Indians had no written laws that begged enforcement. Anarchic political culture does not depend on the enforcement of rules and regulations, but upon free consent to them. A Wikipedia article summarizes the Abenaki people’s consensual customs:
“Group decision-making was done by a consensus method. The idea is that every group (family, band, tribe, etc.) must have equal say, so each group would elect a spokesperson. Each smaller group would send the decision of the group to an impartial facilitator.
“If there was a disagreement, the facilitator would tell the groups to discuss again. In addition to the debates, there was a goal of total understanding for all members. If there was not total understanding, the debate would stop until there was understanding.
“When the tribal members debate issues, they consider the Three Truths: Peace: Is this preserved? Righteousness: Is it moral? Power: Does it preserve the integrity of the group?
“These truths guide all group deliberations, and the goal is to reach a consensus. If there is no consensus for change, they agree to keep the status quo.”
Not all Indian self-organization was this formal, but it all was intensely democratic. The hierarchical European political culture, which ruled by indelible law, dictated by police and military forces and financed by forcible taxation, decidedly was not.
The collision of anarchy and government in America was not a melodramatic struggle between “good” and “evil.” But it did involve a spiritual choice — between a circle and a pyramid.
The Indian way was represented by a circle or hoop, symbolized physically by the Puebloan people’s kiva, a circular, ceremonial meeting place. The Lakota and other tribes conceived of universal order as a hoop. The symbolic meaning is one of balance and equality, with each member of society located equidistant from a common core. Indian leaders did not occupy the position of “top dog” or “king of the hill” but as central mediators among equals.
In contrast, all civilizations — including the white civilization that hovered in the wings of the Frontier stage — are pyramidal structures. In pyramidal culture, authority resides at the apex and flows only downward, forcibly if necessary.
While pyramidal culture was not unique to the colonizing European culture of the day — Ancient Egyptians and Aztecs expressed their pyramidal culture in stone, just as current organization charts express our pyramids on paper — it was utterly foreign to the Indian consciousness.
So-called “Indian Nations” were conceptual fallacies that did not in fact exist. Even the famous Iroquois League, or Haudenosaunee, was not an example of “Indian government” and certainly not of pyramidal structure. It was a decentralized, voluntary confederacy — a hooplike “League of Peace” (ca.1140 — 1784) of its six constituent tribes — not a hierarchical command-and-control structure that dominated Indian society.
Lest the Right-Libertarians among us applaud too loudly the absence of Big Government (or any government) in Indian society, the central conflict between white and red men (a term Indians used to describe themselves) was a contest between individualistic vs. collective property rights.
To be clear, Indians had a keen sense of territorial sovereignty. But this did not include personal property ownership, which was both unknown and an anathema to the Indian way. T.R Fehrenbach, a notable commentator on Frontier culture and author of the encyclopedic Comanches: The History of a People, put it simply:
“Hypocrisy was perhaps inevitable in a people [whites] who convinced themselves that they were creating something new in the New World, while actually carrying out the most primordial form of conquest.”
But then he adds: “Amerindians resisted all sincere imitation of their conquerors. Broken warriors refused to become economic men, to accept the concept of private property or the discipline of incessant labor.”
Quite frankly, the Comanche people (the Nermernuh) of whom Fehrenbach spoke were without doubt the most rapacious Indians that whites ever encountered. (Other Indians were intimidated by them, too, and for good reason, a point “Hostiles” duly observes.) Alongside hunting buffalo, raiding and stealing constituted the raison d’etre of their predatory society.
In fact, hostility and theft generally characterized Indian between-group behavior both before and after European arrival; they did not need the presence of whites to justify their elevation of lethal larceny to an art form. By the same token, European pioneers needed no particular excuse to exterminate Indians, or each another, while committing Grand Theft Continent.
Ironically, armed robbery was the primary economic activity whites and Indians shared in common. “Making a killing” by “hostile takeovers” of others’ property is not a new pony trick invented by corporate raiders.
But the ruthless exploitation of one’s own kinsmen and their resources is something else. This was as unthinkable to tribal peoples as it was premeditated by the bringers of civilization. The privatization of shared resources proved to be the profound and irreconcilable issue that separated the two peoples’ concepts of economic justice.
Even in abject defeat, Indians never shared the whites’ notion that the land’s resources could, or should, be monopolized as private property. Since Indians perceived themselves essentially as children of the Earth, private ownership of land made no more sense to them than a child claiming to own its parents.
Unlike whites, the Indian concept of territory was communal. What they possessed in common they defended in common. Their view of communal property rights flowed naturally from their egalitarian culture, which did not tolerate landlords or economic class distinctions.
Within any Indian band, no privileged economic class could exist simply because there was no hierarchical power structure to sustain one. Since no Indian had the power to control the food supply of another, they were liberated at birth from the private monopolization of the “means of production.” Possession of property was not justified by individual privilege but was their common birthright.
Thus, Indian society was devoid of both private property and the State. This is inconvenient news for today’s Marxists and Right-Libertarians, alike.
Indian society repudiated the Right-Libertarian (anarcho-capitalist) notion that individual liberty requires the sanctity of private property ownership. No humans have exercised more individual liberty, nor owned less private property, than American Indians. Ownership of private property — which cannot and does not exist in the absence of government-sanctioned privilege — would not have conferred any liberty to Indians they did not already possess.
At the other end of the economic spectrum, Indian society also belied the Marxian notion that economics is determined to evolve from capitalism, through socialism, to the ideal of communism. In reality, American Indians had beat Marx to the punchline 20,000 years before he set pen to paper.
In modern parlance, Indians were communists long before communism was cool. Contemporary Indians may disavow Marx as an industrial materialist with no respect for their spiritual way; that doesn’t mean their people were not original communists, but only that they are not Marxists.
Marx was the latecomer — and then he got it all backwards. The American Frontier experience graphically demonstrated that humanity was not advancing toward a stateless, economic Utopia but was rooting out and laying waste to prehistoric communism wherever it still persisted.
All “isms” aside, reality reveals that whoever exercises effective ownership of a place rules it for their benefit. First and foremost, the Frontier was a place of a hostile and involuntary transfer of economic property from communal Indian ownership into the itchy palms of the private white owners who usually stood at the apex of an authoritarian pyramid.
A Comanche man
Pre-contact Indians lived in Stone Age societies. They possessed no metal implements, and the highest level of tool technology available to them employed only stone, bone, and clay.
In Stone Age Economics, Marshall Sahlins famously referred to Stone Age people as the “original affluent society” — not because they possessed much material wealth, but rather because they required so little and because their modest needs were so readily fulfilled when compared to the far greater requirements of us Moderns.
On the other hand, we would be mistaken to believe Indians were conscious “environmentalists.” Like any society, theirs took from nature what was needed for survival. Stone Age people had no reason to conserve that which was beyond their power to despoil.
As Sahlins “original affluence” implies, the trick to achieving environmental sustainability does not lie in not taking what is needed, but in not needing to take more than the environment can afford. “What the environment can afford” is known in ecology-speak as carrying capacity.
More formally stated, carrying capacity is the ability of the environment to sustain a given population of organisms indefinitely. “Sustain” usually means “to feed” and “indefinitely” simply means “with no end in sight.” Thus, a given number of organisms that continues to live (and reproduce) within the means of its food-energy supply is “ecologically sustainable.”
In any event, “living sustainably” should not be conceptualized as “living in harmony with nature.” Nature is not a Barbershop Quartet. Nature is nothing if not a relentless, biological gang fight encompassing every organism on the planet. Each organism will lose the fight eventually, only to decompose into the itinerant molecules from which it was temporarily pasted together.
In fact, the natural danse macabre preserves ecological balance at the expense of harmony. Any cosmic harmony on the American Frontier, existed only under the influence of mezcal and peyote.
Moreover, just because an organism manages to survive individually does not imply that it lives in a sustainable society. Sustainability requires that a given number of organisms must be able to survive indefinitely. No environmental carrying capacity can sustain too many needy organisms, or even a few organisms that consume more food-energy than the environment can replace.
By any measure, however, American Indians had been living sustainably for millennia before Europeans waded ashore with their metallurgy, animal husbandry, intensive agriculture, literacy — and their marked tendency toward epidemic plagues, famine, industrialized warfare, and commercial-grade slavery.
Upon arrival, the benighted invaders found practically nothing to remind them of their ecologically stressed homelands, which they had abandoned.
Nowhere in America did the colonizers find the privation, starvation, social depravity, and ecological wastage that characterized their soil-ravaged and forest-denuded homeland.
Having accidentally stumbled upon a Stone Age population that lived sustainably, civilized Europeans set about at once to destroy it, as they had done at home. Indeed, had Europeans possessed a sustainable culture, they would not have needed to ditch their depleted continent in search of lootable resources elsewhere.
The supreme irony of the Old-World invasion was that Europeans never realized the “savages” inhabiting the Americas were practically identical to their own ancestors, though a couple of hundred generations removed. Ecologically, the European invasion did not represent the wave of the future, but a retrogression to their own Edenic past.
The environmental devastation that had taken several thousand years to accomplish in Europe was replicated in three centuries in the Americas. Such was the price and the speed of the “progress” achieved on the American Frontier.
The Frontier did not disappear just because the westward movement had run out of geographical space, its few Indian survivors having been herded into open-air prisons.
Rather, the Frontier itself was destroyed by the westward migration of the Industrial Revolution — a truly monstrous creation of unrelenting factory toil, rolling on steel rails, powered by steam, and financed by perpetual human servitude to debt.
The terminal theme of the Frontier was not to be man’s conquest of nature, or even of man’s conquest of other men, but instead the industrial conquest of humanity. Metastasizing far beyond the “primordial form of conquest” of Indians by hypocritical whites, this final act of destruction was so complete that not even whites survived it.
A Stone Age world bound by blood kinship, loyalty, courage, intuition and revenge was within a single lifetime displaced by the depersonalized tyranny of contract law, freight schedules, time zones, taxes, universal debt and ‘no trespassing’ signs.
Proud Indian warriors, brave Texas Rangers, indomitable pioneer sod-busters — all alike swept away only to be reincarnated by industrialized karma as sweatshop wage-slaves, coal mining troglodytes, and corporate lackeys.
After this cataclysm, we can rely on Hollywood to remind us now and again that the Frontier was where some hostile hombres ran amok shooting various weapons at one another — as if that is not the daily fare of modern-day America. The theatrical poster blurb “We are all hostiles” could be a permanent contemporary subtitle to American civilization.
But the American Frontier was not a blurb or a subtitle. It was a war that raged westward for 300 years before its place was lost to history. Yet, the ultimate loss of the Frontier was not by those fortunate few who once lived within the warzone; the greater loss was to those unfortunate multitudes who were fated to live thereafter without it. And that would be us.
Possibly lost to us forever has been our egalitarian self-determination, our common possession of the means of survival, our ecological sustainability, and our sense of the primacy of personal human worth.
These hallmarks of human society have been eradicated so thoroughly that even celluloid fables of our own history betray hardly a trace of their multi-millennial existence. Unwilling to recall such a way of life, we retell only tales of hostility that surrounded its death.
But lest old acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind, Americans everywhere now commemorate the first day of each calendar month with a nagging sense of loss — as befits the date on which the rent is due in this erstwhile Land of the Free.
Jada Thacker, Ed.D is the author ofEssential Themes of America History. He teaches collegiate Political Science and History courses in Texas. email@example.com
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
AFRICOM, Ghana and the US Invasion of Africa Conference on Foreign US Military Bases
BALTIMORE (January 12-14, 2018) — AFRICOM / Invasion of Africa plenary at the Conference Against US Foreign Military Bases. Chaired by Ajamu Baraka, Black Alliance for Peace. Presenters: Netfa Freeman, Organizer, Pan African Community Action (PACA); Margaret Kimberley, Editor, Black Agenda Report; Maurice Carney, Executive Director, Friends of the Congo.
In early March, Ajamu Baraka attended a historic meeting — with over 100 countries represented — in Caracas, Venezuela that saw the publication of the Caracas Declaration, which “reaffirm[ed] our solidarity and militant support of the Venezuelan people, the Bolivarian Revolution and its popular government.”
50 years ago, on April 4, 1967, Dr. Martin Luther King reconnected with the radical black tradition by adding his voice of opposition to the murderous US war machine unleashed on the people of Vietnam. For Dr. King, his silence on the war in Vietnam had become an irreconcilable moral contradiction.
He declared that it was hypocritical for him to proclaim the superior value of non-violence as a life principle in the US and remain silent as the US government engaged in genocidal violence against a people whose only crime was to believe that they could escape the clutches of French and then US colonialism.
“As I have walked among the desperate, rejected, and angry young men, I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems,” Dr. King said. “I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action. But they asked, and rightly so, ‘What about Vietnam?’
They asked if our own nation wasn’t using massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted. Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today: my own government.”
In his speech at Riverside Church, King not only criticized US actions in Vietnam but identified the cultural pathologies at the center of US society. “I am convinced that if we are to get on to the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values,” he said.
“We must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.”
50 years later, what rational person can honestly argue against the position that the US is still the greatest purveyor of violence on the planet?
But what existed in 1967 that helped put moral and political pressure on King was a militant anti-war and anti-imperialist movement; a movement that in many respects was born out of the black-led pro-democracy and social justice struggles and organizing in the South.
Many of the young white activists who took up opposition to the war and built such organizations as Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) cut their activist teeth while working with black activists in the South.
From the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee and the Revolutionary Action Movement (RAM) to the Northern-based Black Panther party, the cutting edge of the Black liberation movement took an early and resolute oppositional stance against the war on Vietnam.
After almost three decades of pro-war conditioning by both corporate parties and the corporate media coupled with cultural desensitization from almost two decades of unrelenting war, opposition to militarism and war is negligible among the general population. The black public has not been immune to these cultural and political changes.
And with the ascendancy of the corporatist President Barack Obama, during whose tenure the US continued its militaristic bent unabated and in fact ratcheted up its aggressive posturing in some parts of the globe, particularly in the Middle East, there was a decidedly rightward shift in the consciousness of the black public and a significantly dampened anti-war sentiment among black people.
Politically the result has been disastrous for the society and for the US anti-war movement. The bi-partisan warmongering over the last two decades has met very little opposition, and the traditional anti-war stance of the black population has almost disappeared.
But once again we are seeing opposition to militarism, violence and war developing among young people. And once again we are seeing young black voices making the connections between opposition to domestic state violence and the moral necessity to be in opposition to the US war machine reflected in the policy statements from the Movement for Black Lives, BYP 100 and the Black Lives Matter network.
Those positions are supported by the Black Left Unity Network, the Black is Back Coalition and other black formations. What is needed at this historical moment is for those forces to be galvanized and given more strategic focus.
What is needed is a Black Alliance for Peace (BAP).
The BAP must be a people(s)-centered human rights project against War, Repression, and imperialism that seeks to recapture and redevelop the historic anti-war, anti-imperialist, and pro-peace positions of the radical black movement. So, on April 4, we are calling for a new alliance to help revive the black anti-war and peace movement in the black community as an essential component of a revived broader anti-war and pro-peace movement.
Moreover, this new movement is even clearer on the connection between state violence and repression and the global war-mongering of the US The pivot to Asia, the rotating of NATO troops on the borders of Russia, the destabilization of the US African Command (AFRICOM), continued support for apartheid Israel, police executions and impunity in the US and mass incarceration are all understood to be part of one oppressive, desperate structure of global white supremacy.
Dr. King also called upon the nation to understand the link between the unfulfilled economic needs of the majority of the population ground down by the ravages of an unforgiving racialized capitalism and the ruling class commitment to direct public funds toward militarism. His call for a poor people’s campaign was the human rights foundation of his anti-war position.
Militarism has a direct impact on working people and the poor. Even Republican president Dwight Eisenhower understood this when he issued what in today’s right-wing US culture would read as a radical statement: “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.”
There must be an alternative to the neoliberalism of the Democrats and the nationalist-populism of Trump. We need an independent movement to address both the economic needs of poor and working people and the escalating attacks on the Black community, immigrants, women, unions, the LGBTQ community, refugees, Muslims, the physically and mentally challenged, youth, students, the elderly, Mother Earth — all of us.
We need a new movement to end the wars on black people and people around the world. The BAP is a significant step toward helping to revive the anti-war, anti-imperialist and anti-state-repression movement in the US Let us on this 50th anniversary re-dedicate ourselves to building a movement for social justice that rejects the de-humanizing effects of war on everyone.
Please permit me to write on a matter that fundamentally hinges on our national sovereignty: on the Ghana-United States military co-operation Agreement which, the Trump administration, per its Ambassador to Ghana, purports to give 20 million dollars a year to Ghana, in return. This offer, Mr. Speaker, and the contents therein, I beg to say, most respectfully, is distasteful to the worth of our national sovereignty.
I do not write to dare challenge, as a non-state actor, the United States security interest, or any nation-state, in International Relations. However, in the contemporary Global Political system, it is not only state actors, like the United States or any Nation-State that play an important role in International Affairs.
In their book, In Search of Theory, Columbia University Press, New York, 1981, at page 68, Mansbach and Vasquez posit that “Actors in Global Politics may consist of any Individual or group that is able to contend for the disposition of a political stake” I dare to assert that many individuals in society have a stake in this international security agreement with this dominant power in world affairs: the United States of America.
For us, Mr. Speaker we have no significant problems of national security affecting our International Relations. For us, our high politics of International Diplomacy lie in moving Ghana beyond aid.
Indeed, President Akufo-Addo’s summit with President Qattara of the Ivory Coast was to find ways to add value to our cocoa and how best to price our cocoa on the international market, so was President Akufo-Addo’s summit with President Macron of France was to assert in no uncertain terms a demand for fair trade with the west to move Ghana beyond aid, so was our business delegation led by the Vice President Bawumia to China to seek for trade and investment from that country.
Currently, Ghana is playing an active role to bring the secretariat of the new Free trade agreement for Africa to Ghana. Mr. Speaker our International diplomacy in International Relations is characterized by trade and investment, and not characterized by war and security.
We know what constitutes our national interest, Mr. Speaker. We are not a “Banana Republic”. We are Pan-Africanists, and a serious leader in African, including Black American Affairs.
We led the whole independence movement in 1957 and succeeded in encouraging 16 Africans countries alone in the 1960s to achieve their independence including Nigeria in October 1960. Indeed, the independence movement that we in Ghana began in the 1950’s South Africa ended in the 1990’s
At the United Nations level, Ghana has also produced one of the finest Secretary Generals in the person of Dr Kofi Annan- an excellent Secretary General who served that world body with distinction.
Continentally speaking also, we dare say that the role that India’s Mahatma Gandhi played in India, President Roosevelt played in the United States, Prime Minister Winston Churchill played in the United Kingdom, Mao Tse Tung played in China and Lenin in Russia, Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah played in continental Africa.
It is pertinent, Mr. Speaker, that we raise the standard in our negotiations with the Americans and jealously guard our sovereignty and our national interest as the Black Star of Africa.
True, when I first heard the debate in the Ghana-United States military co-operation Agreement in the media, my initial reaction was that of political actors doing the usual politicking. I was wrong. I needed to study it. I became curious and solicitous . . . I searched and obtained a copy of the agreement. I held my chin and studied it thoroughly and solicitously.
Mr. Speaker, with the greatest of respect to your office, after a thorough reading, my initial reaction was that President Donald Trump, might have personally written the Ghana-United States Military Co-operation Agreement under his catchphrase, “America First.” I was knocked for six, speechless, and thunderstruck by the lopsidedness in favour of the Americans.
I wondered, which individuals were in our Negotiation team during the negotiations with the Americans; I pondered, where was our senior military intelligence officers, senior military historians and former Chiefs of Defence to advise and strategize for our lead Negotiator.
I quizzed: was our lead Negotiator abreast with our previous security agreements with the United States since the time of Brigadier Fitzgerald in July 1942 when we were a colony?
I reasoned: did our lead Negotiator review the Arms Purchase Agreement in 1972 with the United States?
I queried: was our lead negotiator aware of the Military Training Assistance Agreement in December 1985 and February 1986 with the Americans? What knowledge did our lead negotiator have concerning the Ecomog arrangement with the United States, the Africa Crisis Response Initiative agreement in 2005, the arrangement for the establishment and use of United States support capabilities the current security agreement in 1998 and 2015? These are pertinent questions to address when entering a negotiating leading to an agreement with the United States, Mr. Speaker.
Further, how much institutional memory did our lead negotiator have going into discussion and negotiation with the Americans, I held my chin and thought deeply. Were we negotiating from a position of knowledge and strength with our American counterparts? I scratched my heard, in disbelief.
May I ask your good office as head of our second arm of government and most honourably, Mr. Speaker, that we have a National discourse in the interest of our country, not a discourse based on political equalization?
Mr. Speaker, may we recall the Minority to Parliament for a full national enquiry devoid of partisanship? May we, in the spirit of nationalism which, our founding fathers so established for us, search for the greatest truth, not a one-sided truth?
This is the kind of fundamental questions that John Stuart Mills, an English Parliamentarian and Philosopher writing in the 18th century England was asking when he stated in one of his leading books, entitled On Liberty, with these salient words: “the only way in which a human being can make some approach to knowing the whole of a subject, is by hearing what can be said about it by persons of every variety of opinion and studying all modes in which it can be looked at by every character of mind. No wise man ever acquired his wisdom in any mode but this; nor is it in the nature of human intellect to become wise in any other manner.”
(see, On Liberty, by John Stuart Mill. 4th ed. London: Longman, Roberts & Green, 1869)
At this juncture, may I respectfully invite, Mr. Speaker to some contradictions and ambiguity between the Preamble and the articles in the current ratified agreement between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of the Republic of Ghana.
On the one hand, the agreement recognizes in paragraph 3 as follows: “. . . Recognizing that such cooperation is based on full respect for the sovereignty of each Party;” In Article 3 on the other hand, the agreement seems to contradict the intent of the preamble — namely respecting our sovereignty.
Referring to the United States, the agreement stipulates that “Ghana shall accord to military personnel and civilian personnel, the privileges, exemptions, and immunities equivalent to those accorded to the administrative and technical staff of a diplomatic mission under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of April 18, 1961.”
How can the preamble state that we are a sovereign state but accord American military personnel the privileges and exemptions reserved for diplomats for military reasons on our territory?
For example: American military personnel will not need visas and permits to enter our country, even if they are hundreds of thousand that enter our country at a time.
Respectfully, Sir, our founding fathers will roll in their graves when they read that we have given exemptions and privileges reserved for our military, citizenry and diplomats to the Americans.
Further, in Article 5, it states that “Ghana shall give unimpeded access to and use of agreed facilities and areas to the United States forces.” How can we monitor that the US is in compliance with International Environmental Laws if we give unimpeded access of our facilities to the United States?
Article 7 of the agreement adds that: “United States forces are hereby authorized to preposition and store defence equipment, supplies, and materials (hereinafter referred to as prepositioned materiel) at agreed facilities and areas.” What constitutes to store defence “materials” at agreed facilities and areas?
Will America’s materials to be stored in our country expose Ghana to environmental and health hazards? Will Ghana risk exposure to the toxic waste material and Depleted Uranium like in Puerto Rico and Iraq causing illnesses and sufferings to many in those countries?
Similarly, Articles 15 makes our nationals helpless and at the mercy of the United States government when a US officer commits an offence in Ghana. It states as follows: “Claims by third parties for damages or losses caused by military personnel and civilian personnel shall be resolved by the United States Government in accordance with United States laws and regulations.”
Indeed, in an article dated December 6, 2006, in the Guardian Newspaper with the caption, “American soldier jailed in the Philippines,” a United States Marine officer stationed in the Philippines was sentenced to 40 years for raping a Filipino woman. Can our ladies, in Ghana, in the unfortunate event of being raped or abused, be able to bring an action in Ghana under this agreement? The answer is no.
Worst still, our Courts are rendered toothless and made impotent by the linguistic construction in Article 18. The said article reads as follows: “Any dispute regarding the application, implementation, or interpretation of this Agreement, or its Implementing Arrangements, shall be resolved at the lowest level possible and, as necessary, elevated to the Executive Agents for consideration and resolution.
Those disputes that cannot be resolved by the Executive Agents shall be referred to the Parties for consultation and resolution, as appropriate, and shall not be referred to any national or international court, tribunal, or similar body, or to any third party for settlement, unless otherwise mutually agreed.”
Respectfully Mr. Speaker, how can our laws and Courts be weakened in the face of potential US environmental degradation, sexual abuses and human rights violations in Ghana?
In an article published in The Nation dated January 24, 2018, with the caption: “The United States has military bases in 80 countries; All must close,” by Alice Slater, the author writes that, in a conference held in Baltimore University marking Martin Luther King’s Day, peace and environmental activities from every region around the globe shared their experiences, protesting the devastating environmental and health cases, which are wreaking havoc to health and wellbeing in so many countries.
Slater goes a step further and states that, “from Agent Orange in Vietnam, depleted uranium in Iraq and ammunition dumps and firing ranges in Vieques, Puerto Rico, to toxic brew of poisons along the Potomac River, communities and soldiers as well as children born subsequent to exposure to these toxic wastes are suffering in a broad range of illnesses and inherited damages while the US government ducks any accountability for harm caused by its mindless and reckless burial of untreated toxic waste.”
We must! Mr. Speaker reject this security agreement and its accompanying $20 million a year and demand a higher figure in the amount of $10 billion from Congress in the event of any environmental disaster and human rights abuses to our nationals.
In addition, we ask Congress and the State Department to provide us with modern technological agricultural practices; a 50% budgetary support in education for the next 25 years, as well as technical support in modern technological know-how to process our gold and diamond and mineral resources.
Only then, Mr. Speaker shall the citizenry see the United States as demonstrating good faith and a win-win attitude to enter into an agreement with the Black Stars of Africa.
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Revealing the Pentagon’s Unaddressed Burn Pit Perils Former Army major tells of his efforts to
halt use of hazardous burn pits at Iraq military base Perry Chiaramonte / Fox News Investigative Unit Exclusive
(March 30, 2018) — The dangers of burn pit exposures at Forward Operating Base Marez in Mosul, Iraq, were first noticed when the US military presence was at its height, but nothing was done to correct the problem, Fox News has learned.
A former Army major, who served as the base’s environmental officer back in 2004, said he warned Marez’s top brass of the dangerous chemical compounds that were being released into the air after medical waste, chemicals and trash were thrown into open-air garbage pits and set ablaze. But, he added, his warnings fell on deaf ears.
“They weren’t very receptive when I brought it up,” retired Maj. John “Doc” Nelson said in a recent interview with Fox News‘ investigative unit. “We could never get an answer.”
“I’m worried about the burn pits becoming another Vietnam or Agent Orange,” he added, “and I don’t think these vets should have to wait for 25 years for someone to recognize that there’s a problem.”
During the wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan, the burn-pit disposal method was originally adopted as a temporary way to get rid of the massive amounts of waste and garbage generated at numerous bases. A range of materials went to the pits for incineration: plastics, batteries, appliances, medicine, dead animals, even human waste. The items were often set ablaze with jet fuel as the accelerant.
Burn pits, like this one, were originally considered a temporary measure to get rid of huge amounts of waste generated at bases. The array of material sent to the pits is said to have included plastics, batteries, metals, appliances, medicine, dead animals and even human waste. (Courtesy of John Nelson)
The incineration generated numerous pollutants including carbon monoxide and dioxin — the same chemical compound found in Agent Orange, which left many Vietnam vets sick after it was used as a defoliant in that conflict.
The 65-year-old Nelson says that he was able to see the dangers of the burn pits while serving at FOB Marez.
“It would literally darken the sky,” he said, recalling the large plumes of smoke that rose from the pit and hung over the base.
“I remember one day, I was standing back about 300 feet. I could still see the flames rising above the pit.”
Nelson alleges that the trash piled up at his base’s burn pit over the two years that he was there, and that the smoldering fires almost never went out.
Concerned with the safety of his fellow soldiers, Nelson raised the issue with the top brass at Marez, but he said he soon found out that bureaucracy and red tape prevented implementation of proper procedures.
“I told ’em it’s not a matter of if, but when,” Nelson said referring to the potential for danger.
Fed up with the pace that it took to make headway on improving methods for waste disposal, Nelson, along with one of the workers for base contractor Kellogg, Brown and Root (KBR), took matters into their own hands. They gathered volunteers to pull hazardous materials out of the trash piles by hand before they could be added to the smoldering burn pits.
“We started putting pressure on the local level,” Nelson said. “We got some volunteers and we went in and started pulling items out of the pits.”
Military’s burn pits blamed for lasting health problems
Marez is the same base where KBR contractor Veronica Landry worked, also in 2004. As first reported on Fox News Channel, Landry recently filed a case with the Department of Labor’s Office for Workers’ Compensation Programs, and last month a judge decreed that open-air burn pits — where thousands of chemicals were released into the air after trash and other wastes were incinerated at bases in Iraq and Afghanistan — are connected to lung disease.
“My concern was that we had SOPs [standard operating procedures] that weren’t being followed,” Ray Gelinas, a former KBR contractor who assisted Nelson in the cleanups, said to Fox News. “You just never knew what was being thrown in there.”
It was around September 2004, when Gelinas and Nelson started going to the pits, that they discovered what was being thrown in.
“That burn pit kept bothering me,” recalled Nelson, “because I could smell it and I could see it. It never stopped burning. I was told that it was burning for a whole year before I got there and a whole year while I was there.
“I started going down to the burn pit because I was growing more and more concerned with the amount of debris, so I started taking a look and I started seeing batteries, the cadmium batteries, the lead. All of that was burning. They were putting the oils and the paints and fuels. All of this stuff, and it was leading to this creation of toxicity and I was becoming concerned about it.”
Nelson says that they also found large amounts of medical waste, like IV drips, needles, bloody gauze and even appendages.
“They would wait until the middle of the night to drop it off,” he said. “The next morning we would show up and there was all kinds of stuff in there.”
According to a 2008 KBR memo on standard operating procedure for burn pits obtained by Fox News, items that were not to be disposed of in burn pits included: propane cylinders, fuel cans, paints, fuels, oils, chemicals, ammunition, explosives, combustibles, medical waste, metals, batteries and tires.
Nelson maintains that not only were all these things put into the Marez burn pits, but there were no protocols in place during his time there.
“Nobody thought. Nobody cared,” he said.
Nelson and Gelinas tried to correct the situation by setting up systems to control the problem.
“We did what we could to help with what we had,” he said. “We worked with some way that we could to start controlling this problem. Of course, everything stayed at our level, we never got support from the upper echelons. I don’t think anybody understood what was going on because we were supposed to have incinerators in place.”
Nelson alleges that the incinerators were purchased to properly dispose of hazardous material at FOB Marez but they were never installed and were left to rust away at a storage facility.
“If we had the incinerators in place, we could have used it for the medical waste. We could have made do,” he says, “But KBR had the incinerators already in the country [Iraq], DOD had already paid for them and they were ready to be installed. They did not install them. And they had them for maybe nine or 10 months and they still didn’t install them.
“The original contract called for the contractor to manage burn pits, and any change to the original contract had to be worked out between the contracting office and the service provider.”
Nelson is also a survivor of a suicide bombing that occurred at a mess tent on Marez in 2004. As a consequence of his injuries, which included severe damage to his shoulder joints, and short-term memory loss, he had to retire. His permanent disabilities left him unable to continue practicing medicine when he returned to Maine in 2005. He was unsure what he would do.
Then he started helping a few vets in his community who were having difficulty getting medical assistance and coverage from Veterans Affairs.
“I liked helping them. It gave me some purpose,” Nelson said. “So I kept helping more and more vets.”
Nearly 15 years later, Nelson is still helping vets all over Maine, and even beyond the state’s borders.
He opened an office in a building he owns on Main Street in Lincoln, about an hour north of Bangor. Vets come for his assistance in navigating the often-complex VA benefits system. He named his office after Medal of Honor recipient Master Sgt. Gary Gordon.
MSG Gordon, also a native of Lincoln, was killed in the Battle of Mogadishu in 1993. The engagement was the basis of the 1999 book “Black Hawk Down.” The center has pulled in volunteers to help with day-to-day office tasks as Nelson takes on more and more cases. “I have always felt honored to help our veterans,” he said. “I care about them deeply.”
He also hopes that 150,000-plus veterans on the VA’s burn-pit registry get the assistance they need. “I think it’s time for the VA to stop giving lip service and creating registries and start doing something with those registries,” he said emphatically. “What is the research going to do for us . . . and how long do we have to wait?”
Perry Chiaramonte is a producer with Fox News Channel’s Investigative Unit. Follow him on Twitter at @perrych
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Arms Sales Decisions Shouldn’t Be About Jobs William D. Hartung / Defense One
(March 26, 2018) — Last week, even as the Senate was debating whether to end US support for Saudi Arabia’s brutal war in Yemen, Donald Trump was meeting in the White House with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, engaging in one of his favorite activities — bragging about the US jobs generated by foreign arms deals.
As he sang the praises of tens of billions of Saudi purchases of US weaponry, Trump brandished a map of the United States with the legend “KSA Arms Deals Pending” above a red oval that said “40,000 US jobs.”
Outside the boundaries of the map were four examples of US arms sales to Saudi Arabia: * C-130 Hercules transport planes, * P-8 Poseidon anti-submarine warfare planes, * Bradley Fighting Vehicles, and * Theater High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile systems.
Lest one think they were the result of Trump’s superior deal-making, three of the four deals cited on his chart were made during the Obama administration — as long ago as 2012.
To drive home the real point of the exercise, Trump’s handy little map marked in red the US states most likely to benefit from the arms deals with Saudi Arabia.
Not surprisingly, they included Midwestern states that gave Trump his margin of victory in the 2016 election; Florida, a key swing state; and the large, electoral-vote-rich states of Texas and California.
If Trump’s presentation at the White House sparks a debate about the role of jobs considerations in US arms sales policy, it may actually do some good. The bottom line is that creating US jobs should play no role in deciding which countries to lavish with US weaponry, for several reasons.
Potential arms deals should be driven by basic foreign policy questions, not pork-barrel politics. Security and human rights should be the main criteria used by the executive branch and the Congress in deciding which nations should be eligible to receive US weapons, which Trump has described as “the finest military equipment anywhere in the world.”
Respecting human rights has value in its own right, but it is also good security policy. Nations that systematically abuse human rights are not only less stable, but their repressive activities too often generate internal conflict, and can even create an environment in which terrorist groups are more likely to thrive.
The Yemen war is a case in point. Not only has Saudi Arabia used weapons supplied by the United States and the United Kingdom to carry out an indiscriminate bombing campaign, but it has destroyed vital civilian infrastructure and imposed a blockade on the import of basic supplies.
The result has been a humanitarian catastrophe of the highest order, including the largest cholera outbreak in history, the internal displacement of millions of people, and situation where 8 million Yemenis are at risk of famine.
In addition to being a moral outrage, the Saudi-led war in Yemen has serious security consequences. As Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., has noted, the majority of Yemenis know where Saudi Arabia gets its weapons, and view the United States as being responsible for the devastation in their country.
As Murphy further indicated, over time uncritical US support for the Saudi war effort could create fertile ground for anti-US terrorism. And even if it doesn’t, the war between the Saudi-led coalition and Houthi rebels has opened up space for Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula to expand its role in Yemen.
A secondary reason not to use the “jobs card” as a reason to sell US weapons abroad is that the claims of jobs linked to foreign arms sales are greatly exaggerated.
As a study from the University of Massachusetts has documented, weapons spending is virtually the least effective way to create jobs. Almost any other US export could create more domestic employment.
In addition, most major US sales now involve offsets or licensed production â€“ processes in which recipients of US arms and technology produce all or part of US-supplied weapons in their own countries.
The above-mentioned arrangements diminish the US job benefits of major foreign arms deals. And as research by my colleagues at the Security Assistance Monitor has revealed, licenses to produce US weapons overseas have been a regular practice during Donald Trump’s time in office.
One of the more embarrassing examples of this phenomenon was when President Trump bragged about the jobs impact of F-35 sales during last year’s trip to Japan, apparently unaware that F-35s sold to Japan and other regional players would be produced at a US-licensed facility in Japan.
Downplaying human rights and security in favor of narrowly focused economic concerns poses high risks while offering fewer benefits than advertised.
Perhaps someone needs to supply President Trump with a map of the world highlighting US sales that enable human rights abuses and sustain conflicts, and then explain to him why these results are too high a price to pay for the chance to boast about the limited jobs benefits these deals supply to the United States.
William D. Hartung is the director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy and a senior adviser to the Center’s Security Assistance Monitor. He is the author of the Monitor’s March 2018 report, “Trends in Major US Arms Sales 2017: A Comparison of the Obama and Trump Administrations.”
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The Military Banned Waterboarding Trainees
Because It Was Too Brutal —
And Never Announced It Jessica Schulberg / The Huffington Post
WASHINGTON (March 29, 2018) — For years, the US military used waterboarding, a centuries-old torture technique, to train American troops to resist interrogation if captured. Torture apologists have long cited this fact in defense of the CIA’s past use of torture to interrogate terrorist suspects.
Now Gina Haspel, a veteran CIA officer who reportedly oversaw a secret prison where an alleged terrorist was waterboarded, is President Donald Trump’s pick to become the next director of the agency — and some of her supporters are again citing the military’s use of waterboarding to defend her.
Bush-era “enhanced interrogation” techniques “were the same as those used on our own people,” Liz Cheney, a Republican congresswoman and the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, tweeted in defense of Haspel earlier this month.
Here’s what Cheney, and other torture apologists, don’t mention — and perhaps don’t know: By 2002, several branches of the military had backed away from using waterboarding in training — and in November 2007, the Pentagon quietly banned it altogether.
The military decided waterboarding “provided no instructional or training benefit to the student,” Thomas Crosson, a Department of Defense spokesman, told HuffPost in an email.
Crosson declined to release the 2007 directive forbidding the practice, citing classification issues. The existence of the document has not been previously reported, and HuffPost has requested a copy of it under the Freedom of Information Act.
The military’s decision made sense, veteran military interrogator and intelligence officer Steven Kleinman told HuffPost. Waterboarding “teaches failure,” he said. “No one succeeds. They can’t teach a strategy during that. Literally, it was absolutely so painful.”
The Pentagon never publicly announced the internal decision. Crosson didn’t explain why, but people who have been through the survival training program that once included waterboarding, known as Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape, or SERE, told HuffPost that the military is intentionally opaque about the program’s curriculum so students arrive without knowing what to expect.
The program is supposed to push trainees close to their limits — but not actually break them. SERE alumni told HuffPost they were slapped, slammed into a wall, deprived of sleep, and hosed with water outside in the middle of winter while instructors posing as interrogators tried to get them to give up information. The goal is to teach members of the military how to survive similar treatment at the hands of the enemy.
Unlike an actual torture session, SERE students know their “captors” won’t kill them, and they have access to mental health professionals. SERE instructors examine students’ medical records and adjust the training accordingly. Students also know they can ask for the torture stop. But if a student taps out, they risk failing the training, former students told HuffPost.
Abu Zubaydah, the CIA’s torture guinea pig, was waterboarded 83 times at a CIA prison in Thailand. Haspel, Trump’s nominee for CIA director, began running the prison in Thailand after Zubaydah’s interrogation. Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, an al Qaeda suspect accused of bombing the USS Cole, was reportedly waterboarded three times after Haspel arrived at the prison.
SERE students were typically waterboarded once, for less than a minute. And by 2002, the year Zubaydah was waterboarded, the practice was already prohibited at SERE schools run by the Army, Air Force, and Joint Personnel Recovery Agency, according to a 2008 Senate Armed Services Committee report.
The problem with waterboarding SERE students was that too many trainees broke, said James Mitchell, a psychologist who was deeply involved in SERE and later reverse-engineered it to develop the CIA’s torture program.
“We thought it was too effective,” Mitchell wrote in a 2016 book defending his role in the CIA torture program. When members of the military were waterboarded, they “capitulated, even if it cost them their jobs,” Mitchell continued.
There’s no doubt that waterboarding is an effective way to make people talk. But it’s not necessarily a reliable way to get people to tell the truth or give up valuable intelligence, according to Malcolm Nance, a retired interrogator.
“The entire [SERE] program is designed to show you how it doesn’t work,” Nance told HuffPost. “You will say whatever the interrogator wants you to say. The severity of it makes your mouth open — your desire to survive.”
That was part of why the military ultimately turned against the practice.
Instead of making trainees more resilient to brutal treatment, waterboarding “leaves students psychologically defeated with no ability to resist while under pressure,” Brendan G. Clare, an Air Force colonel, wrote in an internal 2007 memo — obtained by Truthout in 2010. The memo recommended that the military ditch the technique.
“Once a student is taught that they can be beaten, and there is no way to resist it, it is difficult to develop psychological hardiness,” Clare wrote in the memo, which Jeffrey Kaye, the author of the Truthout report, recently made public at HuffPost‘s request.
The military’s final ban on waterboarding came down later that year. The North Island Navy school in San Diego was the last facility to waterboard students. By 2007, the CIA’s interrogation program had already been exposed and Democrats on Capitol Hill were pushing for legislation that would ban waterboarding and other so-called enhanced interrogation techniques.
President George W. Bush’s administration, then on its way out, had worked with Mitchell and another psychologist, John “Bruce” Jessen, to reverse-engineer SERE techniques for use on terrorist suspects.
But that was a perversion of the original intent of the program — hardening US soldiers against other countries’ illegal use of torture. Before undergoing their fake interrogations, SERE trainees are taught that the treatment they will be exposed to is unlawful — but could be used by countries that don’t adhere to the Geneva Conventions.
“We teach personnel to protest the use of these methods, to cite their legal protections under the law of war,” Blake Herzinger, an active Navy reservist who completed SERE training at the North Island facility in 2011, told HuffPost. “We teach them to fall back on that, to say, ‘I’m a legal captive, you cannot torture me.'”
But David Morris, who attended SERE school in 1995 as part of the Marine Corps, has warned that the training could have a more problematic effect.
“The experience of torture at SERE surely plays a role in the minds of the graduates who go on to be interrogators, and it must on some level help them rationalize their actions,” he wrote in 2009. “It’s not hard to imagine them thinking, ‘Well, if I survived this, then it’s OK to do it to this guy.'”
Haspel and the CIA are “fully committed to complying with US law governing detention and interrogation,” CIA spokesman Dean Boyd wrote in an email.
Haspel, who spent her career in the CIA undercover, has never spoken publicly about her role in the torture program. But she will likely face contentious questioning on the matter at her Senate confirmation hearing.
“Ms. Haspel is one of the most qualified persons to be nominated as CIA Director,” Boyd wrote. “Through the confirmation process, the American public will get to know Ms. Haspel for the first time. When they do, we are confident America will be proud to have her as the next CIA Director.”
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