The New Afghanistan Policy: Murder Inc.

Let me get this straight. Robert Gates, the Secretary-Of-Defense-For-Life, is touring the TV news shows and major newspapers pleading with great angst lines in his forehead that WikiLeaks is “guilty” and “morally culpable” for releasing 75,000 field reports from Afghanistan to the American public because they endanger Afghans allied with US forces.

But he and the US militarists who initiated the war in Iraq and who have continued the war in Afghanistan for nine years, the people who keep everything about these wars secret except what is useful to sustain them, the people who finance these wars on credit without raising taxes, dumping the costs on future generations – these people are not “morally culpable,” “guilty” or endangering anyone?

Do I have that right?

In other words, to reveal information about the war makes one morally guilty of endangering people, while being responsible for the war itself does not.

Journalists in Name Only: Just(?) 50,000 Non-Combat(?) Troops in Iraq

I was listening to NPR’s “Morning Edition” broadcast this morning in the car, and I heard a reporter say that President Obama was “redefining” the American role in Iraq, now that he had brought the number of US forces in that country down to “only” 50,000 troops, and that “combat operations” would be ending effective this month. The remaining forces, the reporter announced, with no hint of irony and no explanation, would “only” be engaged in helping to train Iraqi troops and police, and in “counter-insurgency” operations.

Excuse me, but aren’t we at war in Afghanistan, and isn’t that operation, involving about 200,000 US, Australian and NATO troops (excluding the Dutch, who are pulling out after the country’s participation in it brought down the conservative government), called a “counter-insurgency” campaign? Isn’t counter-insurgency by definition a kind of “combat”?

WTF? This crap is being called journalism?

By the way, about that 50,000 number. For the record, that is a lot of soldiers. It is for one thing two times the number of US troops stationed in South Korea. It is twice the number of troops that were employed in the invasion of Panama in 1989. It is about the number of troops the US had in Vietnam in early 1964 after the first round of escalation by then President Lyndon Johnson.

Government Racism: A Case More Outrageous than Sherrod's Firing

The telephone at the DC area home of Marsha Coleman-Adebayo began ringing non-stop after the story broke recently about the hasty firing of U.S. Agriculture Department employee Shirley Sherrod on false charges of being a racist.

Outraged callers wanted not just to express sympathy over Sherrod’s mistreatment but also to offer continuing support for Coleman-Adebayo, whose epic battle with a federal agency over despicable employment discrimination and retaliation produced America’s first civil rights law of the 21st Century.
Over a dozen years ago Coleman-Adebayo, an MIT-trained PhD, faced an onslaught from officials at the Environmental Protection Agency because she had spoken out about racism within that agency as well as about the EPA’s coddling of a U.S. corporation whose regulation-skirting mining practices in South Africa were seriously injuring workers there.

National Insecurity: A Government Afraid of the Truth

The White House’s initial response to the release of 92,000 pages of raw reports from the field by US forces in Afghanistan for a period from 2004-2009–that it was a threat to national security and to the lives of American troops–was as predictable as it was farcical.

These documents didn’t reveal anything new to America’s enemies in Afghanistan or Pakistan. The Taliban fighters knew full well that their heat-seeking missiles had successfully downed American helicopters. They didn’t reveal anything new to Pakistan’s intelligence service, the ISI. The Pakistanis knew that they were assisting the Taliban with intelligence, strategic planning and weapons in their fight against US forces and the current puppet regime in Kabul. They didn’t reveal anything to the long-suffering civilian population in Afghanistan either. Afghans know that US forces have been targeting them at checkpoints, wantonly bombing their houses and villages in attempts to hit suspected Taliban or Al Qaeda leaders or fighters, and covering up those atrocities when innocent men, women and children are the victims.

No, what the release of these documents threaten is the huge almost decade-long lie that both the last administration of President George W. Bush, and the current administration of Barack Obama have been putting out, that the US is engaged in a “good war,” trying to defeat “terrorists” and establish a democratic government in Afghanistan.

 Why Leaders Tremble at LeaksWikiLeak-Why Leaders Tremble at Leaks

Letter to an American Hero

This letter is being sent to PFC Bradley Manning at the following prison address in Kuwait. For obvious reasons, I’ve left my return address off this posting.

Inmate PFC Bradley Manning
TFCF – Theater Field Confinement Facility
APO AE 09366 USA

Dear PFC Manning:

The New York Times just reported on 92,000 classified military field reports from Afghanistan that graphically underscore what a demoralizing mess that war is. The leaked material has stirred new opposition in Congress to funding the war, and WikiLeaks is now seen by many as a much needed instrument to crack open the grip that secrecy has on the truth in America.

On the other side, there are powerful enemies. General James Mattis told a Senate confirmation hearing for his new job as Commander of Central Command that the leak was “an appalling act.” But then he assured the senators the leak revealed “nothing new.”

The point is such leaks are finally fueling robust debate over the war in Afghanistan. And the leak you are alleged to have made that resulted in WikiLeak’s web video “Collateral Murder” was the beginning of it all.

Philly Knows Better: Republican Scam Machine Again Tries to Smear Obama and Black Activists as Racists

Yet another Republican attack charging “reverse racism” is in play, this one datelined Philadelphia.

The usual suspects – right-wing operatives, conservative media commentators and GOP Congressmen – are portraying two members of the New Black Panther Party, including of one carrying a baton, as having intimidated white voters during the November 4, 2008 presidential election where Obama defeated GOP candidate McCain.

A closer examination by ThisCantBeHappening! however reveals that, just like the doctored video that falsely implied that USDA official Shirley Sherrod was a racist who had denied farm aid to poor whites, this Philly claim of alleged black intimidation of white voters is just more trumped-up nonsense.

BP's Don't-Ask-Don't-Tell Policy: The Well’s Corked, But Public and Government are Left in the Dark

Prof. Bob Bea, of UC Berkeley, a civil engineer with years of expertise in marine oil drilling, says he is concerned that during the current crisis of BP’s blown-out well deep under the Gulf of Mexico, government scientists may not be getting all the information they need from the secretive oil company in order to make intelligent decisions about shutting down the gusher.

“Certainly we independent investigators are not getting information about the condition of the well or about the leaks in the surrounding sea floor,” says Prof. Bea, who is a member of the Deepwater Horizon Study Group at UC Berkeley’s Center for Catastrophic Risk Management, where he is co-director, “And I don’t think the expert investigators at the Department of Energy are getting it either.”

“Information about oil reservoir formations is highly secretive among the oil companies. BP would be loath to share information about what’s going on in a reservoir with competitors,” he says.

What has Prof. Bea and other outside experts concerned is that the casing of the BP well–the long string of pipe that runs from the sea floor down to the high-pressure oil reservoir 2.5 miles below the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico–has “clearly been breached.”

In the Church of the Reverend Gary Davis, Ernie Hawkins Is St. Peter

So here we are in the eighth term of the Reagan administration, in the middle of a heat wave, in the middle of the hottest year on record, in the middle of a likely mass extinction event.

It’s not quite time to say good-bye to your friends and family. It would be time to have a general strike, except nobody’s doing anything, so it’s hard to get jazzed about the prospect of overthrowing the corporate state. Doom is almost certain, yet not imminent enough for focus. What to do until there’s focus?

Me, I’m going to play the guitar. After many years of practice, I still kinda suck. I’m maybe a B-level fingerpicker. There are probably 50 children under the age of 5 on YouTube who play better than I do. That gets really discouraging. But I plod along. Nothing gives me a sense of satisfaction like learning a new move on the guitar neck.

Most of my repertoire consists of songs by John Fahey and the Reverend Gary Davis.

In the Church of the Reverend Gary Davis, Ernie Hawkins Is St. Peter

So here we are in the eighth term of the Reagan administration, in the middle of a heat wave, in the middle of the hottest year on record, in the middle of a likely mass extinction event.

It’s not quite time to say good-bye to your friends and family. It would be time to have a general strike, except nobody’s doing anything, so it’s hard to get jazzed about the prospect of overthrowing the corporate state. Doom is almost certain, yet not imminent enough for focus. What to do until there’s focus?

Me, I’m going to play the guitar. After many years of practice, I still kinda suck. I’m maybe a B-level fingerpicker. There are probably 50 children under the age of 5 on YouTube who play better than I do. That gets really discouraging. But I plod along. Nothing gives me a sense of satisfaction like learning a new move on the guitar neck.

Most of my repertoire consists of songs by John Fahey and the Reverend Gary Davis. Both were Christian mystics, Fahey through several levels of irony and existential philosophy, Davis a pure Pentacostal. Both created astounding, eerie worlds of beauty by absorbing and reconfiguring just about everything in American music in the first half of the 20th century. Both had difficult lives, Fahey struggling with addiction and inability to deal with the onerous details of normal life, Davis traumatized by blindness, racism, poverty and homelessness. Fahey lived from 1939-2001, Davis from 1896-1972.

I’ve been listening to Fahey since college. I could hear him from the first note. Davis has been a more recent acquisition. I didn’t get him for a long time because of his singing, which borrows heavily from his preaching, which is to say that he bellows and roars a lot. It takes a little getting used to. I did not really understand how great his musicianship was until a brilliant guitarist named Ernie Hawkins put out five sets of DVDs teaching a portion of Davis’s huge body of composition. I bought them all because I knew from his other DVDs (teaching Lightnin’ Hopkins, Mance Lipscomb and Blind Willie McTell) that Hawkins was one of those very rare birds who can both teach and play. There are a lot of guitar teachers wandering around out there in the digital wasteland, and most of them aren’t all that useful. Hawkins really has figured out how everything fits together on the guitar neck and how to explain it. Even more important, his love and gratitude for Davis’ music pops though the television. You can’t help but get swept up in it.

At some future date, I’m going to write something about John Fahey in this space. In the meantime, the place to get started listening to Davis is an album called Harlem Street Singer, which is available on iTunes or Amazon.

Davis has many wonderful disciples out there in the acoustic steel-string guitar subculture, most prominently Jorma Kaukonen (in Hot Tuna and solo), Woody Mann, Roy Bookbinder and Stefan Grossman. Hawkins is probably first among equals there. The guy plays amazingly pristine renditions of Davis, plus other songs done in the Davis style, often called “Piedmont blues.” Hawkins’ singing is a little bit of an afterthought—he gets this beatific look on his face when he’s nailing it all over the guitar neck and it seems like he doesn’t want to interrupt all that virtuoso fingerpicking with mere vocalizing. But who cares? The guitar is transporting, both for him and the listener. If Davis were the Messiah, then Hawkins would be St. Peter, Jorma the Apostle Paul.

“No one plays Rev. Gary Davis better than Ernie Hawkins,” says Stefan Grossman, a direct student of Davis back in the 60s.

The Long War: Just Say 'No'

Military violence has such a death-grip on national policy in America, it’s hard for citizens to grasp there are real alternatives to war.

Marine General James Mattis, the man appointed by President Obama to replace General David Petraeus as leader of the Central Command that oversees all US operations in the Iraq/Afghanistan theater, is a colorful case in point.

Mattis is famous for his tough guy statements. My favorite is: “Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet.”

His most quoted remark is about how much fun killing is, specifically referring to killing Afghan men who slap their women around.

“You know, guys like that ain’t got no manhood left anyway. So it’s a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them.”