Looking at the catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico, where the results of the greed of corporate executives at BP, TransOcean and Halliburton, not to mention the greed of paid-off regulators in the Minerals Management Service and the members of the House and Senate who took dirty money to water down drilling regulations are on ready display, I was reminded of a prominent business leader in New York, recently deceased.
Told by his sister of a young woman she knew who had posted a sign on her wall saying, “Happiness is not having what you want, but wanting what you have,” this executive, who had held a top position in the multinational media industry, sniffed, “Ugh! That’s terrible. If people thought like that, no one would strive to do anything.”
Finally, a politician has stood up and boldly denounced the creeping fascism that is gradually crushing democracy and political activism.
Not mincing her words, or trying to justify the jackboot, Secretary of State and 2008 presidential aspirant Hillary Clinton roundly condemned government actions that she said are “closing in the walls” on unions, rights advocates and organizations that press for social change or that shine a light on government shortcomings.
“Democracies don’t fear their own people,” she declared in ringing tones. “They recognize that citizens must be free to come together to advocate and agitate.”
Clinton even got the normally taciturn President Obama to join her, releasing a statement in which he said he was concerned about “the spread of restrictions on civil society, the growing use of law to curb rather than enhance freedom, and wide-spread corruption that is undermining the faith of citizens in their government.”
Does this mean that the US government is finally going to reverse course?
Just days before we celebrate the 224th anniversary of America’s declaration of independence from a colonial overlord on the other side of the world, Congress approved the allocation of yet another $33 billion in funds to support America’s attempt to occupy and run, on the other side of the world, the incredibly poor nation of Afghanistan.
That’s $33 billion for a ninth year of war in a country that is being described apocalyptically by our leaders as America’s greatest existential threat, though in truth it is a landlocked nation of mostly illiterate and impoverished tribal peoples who for centuries have been occupied with battling each other, and most of whom have no idea where America is, or perhaps even if the world is round or flat. Afghanistan, in short, makes Saddam Hussein’s WMD-less Iraq look like a superpower.
The $33 billion, coincidentally, is almost exactly the amount that is needed to extend for another six months the unemployment benefits for 5 million or so unfortunate Americans who have been surviving until recently on extended unemployment benefits.
“I would unite with anybody to do right and with nobody to do wrong.”
On the evening of February 25, participants at the Fourth World Congress Against the Death Penalty in Geneva, Switzerland had assembled from all over the globe for a dramatic Voices of Victims evening. It got more dramatic than they had anticipated though, when suddenly a cell phone rang and Robert R. Bryan, lead defense attorney for Mumia Abu-Jamal, jumped up on the stage to announce that his client had called him from death row in Pennsylvania.
The audience sat in rapt silence as the emcee held the phone up to the microphone. Abu-Jamal, on death row for 28 years after a widely disputed conviction for the murder of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner, greeted the delegates and then, as he has done on many occasions before, described to them the horrors of life in prison for the 20,000 people around the world who are awaiting execution.
A small group of American death penalty abolitionist leaders, led by Renny Cushing, executive director of Murder Victims’ Families for Human Rights, stalked out of the hall. Two members of MVFHR, however, remained in the hall: Bill Babbitt, whose brother Manny, a Vietnam vet suffering acute post-traumatic stress disorder, was executed in California; and Bill Pelke, whose grandmother was murdered by a girl whom he later befriended and helped to spare from execution. Babbitt even joined Bryan onstage during Abu-Jamal’s brief address.
What neither Babbitt nor Pelke, nor Abu-Jamal and his attorney, Bryan, knew at the time was that way back in December, leaders and individual board members of several of the organizations in the US abolitionist movement had signed–without their full boards’ or their memberships’ knowledge–a “confidential” memorandum, which they then sent to the French organizers of the World Congress, stating bluntly that, “As international representatives of the US abolition movement, we cannot agree to the involvement of Abu-Jamal or his lawyers in the World Congress beyond attendance.”
As the BP well in the Gulf of Mexico continues to spew out ever more toxic oil and methane into the sea, and as floating toxic sludge, by the millions of gallons, starts destroying the wetlands across the American Southeast, the dead hand of President Ronald Reagan is at work, making sure nothing is done to prevent yet another such disaster from occurring.
The name of that dead hand is Martin Leach-Cross Feldman, a federal judge in Louisiana, a part of the notoriously right-wing Fifth Circuit.
Kevin Neish of Victoria, British Columbia, didn’t know he was a celebrity until he was about to board a flight from Istanbul to Ottawa. “This Arab woman wearing a beautiful outfit suddenly ran up to me crying, ‘It’s you! From Arab TV! You’re famous!’” he recalls with a laugh. “I didn’t know what she was talking about, but she told me, ‘I saw you flipping through the Israeli commando’s book! It’s being aired over and over!’”
A soft-spoken teacher and former civilian engineer with the Canadian Department of Defense, Neish realized then that a video taken by an Arab TV cameraman in the midst of the Israeli assault on the Freedom Flotilla to Gaza of him flipping through a booklet had been transmitted before the Israelis blocked all electronic signals from the flotilla. The booklet had pictures and profiles of all the passengers, and he’d found it in the backpack of an Israeli Defense Force commando.
Neish, 53, was on the second deck of the flotilla’s lead ship, the Turkish Mavi Marmara, with a good view of the stern, when the IDF, in the early morning darkness of May 31, began its assault with percussion grenades, tear gas and a hail of bullets. He then moved to the fourth deck in an enclosed stairwell, from which he watched and took photographs as casualties were carried down past him to a makeshift medical station. Several IDF commandos, captured by the passengers and crew, were also brought past him.
What does it say about the the American government, its president, and its military today, that the the largest military/intelligence organization in the history of mankind has launched a global manhunt for Julian Assange, head of the Wikileaks organization? And what does it say about corporate American journalists that they attack the only real journalist in the White House press corps, when she alone has shown the guts to speak truth?
The false narrative initially put out by the Israeli government of hapless IDF commandos severely threatened by hardened “terrorists” on the Mavi Marmara has fallen apart, amid revelations of doctored photos, dubbed voices and other deceptions and the patent absurdity of the claim that the commandos had boarded the ship armed only with “paint guns” and low-caliber pistols. Now the Big Lie stands further exposed, thanks to a smuggled-out video showing IDF commandos kicking a prone, helpless victim and then apparently executing him with semi-automatic rifle fire at almost point-blank range.
(From the AARP Magazine, May/June 2010 issue)
The true cost of American wars is much higher than what is spent in Supplemental Appropriations each year. It is also the cost of permanent medical care for the troops who are sent overseas to kill and who come home maimed in body and mind–and their loved ones. Over the years Congress has passed bills granting veterans generous benefits, but it doesn’t publicize them, and it doesn’t always make them easy to get, either–Dave
Last Memorial Day, Sue Christensen had a revelation. A retired nurse administrator, Christensen, then 83, was laying a wreath at the veterans’ monument in East Norriton, Pennsylvania, when she heard a speaker at the remembrance ceremony say that many vets suffer lingering problems from their wartime service—and don’t realize they could receive help from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). “It suddenly hit me,” recalls Christensen. “For 57 years I’ve suffered from panic attacks. Could it be from my time in the Navy?”
Like the cop who batters someone senseless at a demonstration and then accuses the victim of “banging his head against my baton,” Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has accused the victims of Israel’s brutal military assault on a peace convoy to Gaza of attacking Israeli soldiers. An Israeli deputy ambassador to the UN went further, saying, “What kind of peace activists use knives, clubs and other weapons to attack soldiers who board a ship in accordance with international law?”
Let’s straighten this out. The question to be asked is: what kind of country
sends heavily armed troops to assault a boat filled with unarmed, peaceful civilians, and slaughters nine or more of them as if they were enemy troops in a war zone?