From the Ground Up

Masoumah invites Afghan mothers to speak about difficulties they face (Photo: Afghan Peace Volunteers)

On a recent Friday at the Afghan Peace Volunteers‘ (APV) Borderfree Center, here in Kabul, thirty mothers sat cross-legged along the walls of a large meeting room. Masoumah, who co-coordinates the Center’s “Street Kids School” project, had invited the mothers to a parents’

meeting. Burka-clad women who wore the veil over their faces looked identical to me, but Masoumah called each mother by name, inviting the mothers, one by one, to speak about difficulties they faced. From inside the netted opening of a burka, we heard soft voices and, sometimes, sheer despair. Others who weren’t wearing burkas also spoke gravely. Their eyes expressed pain and misery, and some quietly wept. Often a woman’s voice would break, and she would have to pause before she could continue

“I have debts that I cannot pay,” whispered the first woman

“My children and I are always moving from place to place. I don’t know what will happen.”

“I am afraid we will die in an explosion.”

“My husband is paralyzed and cannot work. We have no money for food, for fuel.”

“My husband is old and sick. We have no medicine.”

“I cannot feed my children.”

“How will we live through the winter?”

“I have pains throughout my whole body.”

“I feel hopeless.”

“I feel depressed, and I am always worried.”

“I feel that I’m losing my mind.”

The mothers’ travails echo across Afghanistan, where “one-third of the population lives below the poverty line (earning less than $2 a day) and a further 50 percent are barely above this.”  Much of the suffering voiced was common: most of the women had to support their families as they moved from house to house, not being able to come up with the rent for a more permanent space, and many women experienced severe body pains, often a result of chronic stress.

Last week, our friend Turpekai visited the Borderfree Center and spoke with dismay about her family’s well having gone dry. Later that morning, Inaam, one of the students in the “Street Kids School,” said that his family faces the same problem. Formerly, wells dug to depths of 20 to 30 meters were sufficient to reach the water table. But now, with the water table dropping an average of one meter a year, new wells must be dug to depths of 80 meters or more. Inflowing refugees create increased demands on the water table in times of drought and so do the extravagant water needs of an occupying military, and the world’s largest fortified embassy, that can dig as deep for water as it wants. Families living on less than $2 a day have little wherewithal to dig deep wells or begin paying for water. The water has been lost to war.

Sarah Ball, a nurse from Chicago, arrived in Kabul one week ago. Together we visited the Emergency Surgical Center for Victims of War, feeling acutely grateful for an opportunity to donate blood and hear an update from one of their logistical coordinators about new circumstances they encounter in Kabul.

In past visits to Kabul, staff at the Emergency Hospital would point happily to their volleyball court, the place where they could find diversion and release from tensions inherent in their life-saving work.  Now, as an average of two “mass casualties” happen each week, often involving many dozens of patients severely injured by war, a triage unit has replaced the volleyball court. Kabul, formerly one of the safest places in Afghanistan, has now become one of the most dangerous.

The Taliban and other armed groups have vowed to continue fighting as long as the U.S. continues to occupy Afghan land, to wage attacks on Afghans and supply weapons to the various fighting factions. The United States maintains nine major bases in Afghanistan and many smaller forward operating bases.

Following President Trump’s announcement of an increase in U.S. troops being sent to Afghanistan, the Washington Post reported that “Direct U.S. spending on the war in Afghanistan will rise to approximately $840.7 billion if the president’s fiscal year 2018 budget is approved.”

What on earth have they accomplished?!

Masoumah asked each mother a second question: What are you thankful for? The atmosphere became a little less grim as many of the mothers said they were grateful for their children. Beholding the lively, bright and beautiful youngsters who fill the Border Free Center each Friday, I could well understand their gratitude. The following day, we joined two dozen young girls living in a squalid refugee camp. Crowded into a small makeshift classroom with a mud floor, our friend Nematullah taught a two-hour class focused on forming peace circles. The little girls were radiant, exuberant and eager for better futures. Nematullah later told us that all their families are internally displaced, many because of war.

I feel deeply moved by the commitment my young friends have made to reject wars and dominance, preferring instead to live simply, share resources, and help protect the environment.

Zarghuna works full-time to coordinate projects at the Border Free Center. She and Masoumah feel passionately committed to social change which they believe will be organized “from the ground up.” I showed Zarghuna a Voices accounting sheet tallying donations entrusted to us for the Street Kids School and The Duvet Project. I wanted to assure her of grass roots support from people giving what they can. “Big amounts of money coming from the U.S. military destroys us,” Zarghuna said. “But small amounts that are given to the people can help change lives and make them a little better.”

Mueller Mugs America: The Case Of Baby George Papadopoulos

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This is how the Deep State crushes disobedience by the unwashed American public. It indicts not only ham sandwiches but, apparently, political infants in diapers too, if that's what it takes. Hence the sudden notoriety of Baby George Papadopoulos, who pled guilty to "lying" about an essentially immaterial date to the FBI.

Oh, and by all signs and signals that plea came after this 30 year-old novice had been wearing a wire for several months.

So here's how this noxious act of bullying by Robert Mueller's Federally-deputized thugs came down. It seems that during the early months of 2016, when Trump was winning primary after primary against all mainstream media expectations, the Donald's establishment betters began attacking his foreign policy credentials with special malice aforethought.

That was mainly owing to his sensible suggestion that it would be better to seek rapprochement with Russia rather than pursue Hillary's Cold War 2.0 and that 25 years after the disappearance of the Soviet Union from the pages of history that NATO was obsolete.

Since this totally plausible (and correct) viewpoint was deeply offensive to the Imperial City's group think and threatened the Warfare State's existential need for a fearsome enemy, Trump's ruminations about making a deal with Putin were belittled. They were, in fact, attributed not to a fresh look at the realities abroad or the possibility that homeland security does not require a global empire, but to the candidate's lack of any pedigreed foreign policy advisors.

Indeed, when it came to the Republican-oriented foreign policy establishment -- nearly all of which had joined the Never Trump cause -- the Donald added insult to injury. That is, by suggesting he got his foreign policy views watching TV (like most of Washington) and that he could do a better job against terrorism than the Pentagon generals (not hard).

At length, however, the "who are your foreign policy advisors" meme got so relentless that the Donald relented. On March 21, 2016 he announced a group of five advisors that exactly no one who was anyone in the Imperial City had ever heard of, and for good reason.

The group included two recycled DOD flunkies, an anti-Muslim fanatic from the Lebanon religious wars and two kids of no accomplishment in the foreign policy field whatsoever. In a word, the foreign policy establishment's boycott of the Trump campaign at that stage was 100 percent effective.

Indeed, under a snarky headline the next day about how the new Trump foreign policy team "baffles GOP experts", Politico laid on the disdain good and hard:
'I don’t know any of them,' said Kori Schake, a research fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution and a former official in the George W. Bush State Department. 'National security is hard to do well even with first-rate people. It’s almost impossible to do well with third-rate people.'
One of the five, of course, was Carter Page who had actually spent time in Moscow years earlier working as a stock broker and didn't exactly share Hillary's fulminations that Putin was Adolph Hitler incarnate.

So Politico made very clear that Mr. Page was apparently some kind of Kremlin stooge for uttering true facts about Russia.

To wit, that Russia had not "invaded" Ukraine, but to the contrary, the February 2014 coup on the streets of Kiev was fomented, funded, and illegally installed in power by Washington agents on the ground. Among others, these included the US Ambassador to Ukraine, Assistant Secretary Victoria Nuland ("Yats is our man"), CIA operatives under embassy cover, the National Endowment for Democracy and its NGO subalterns and, especially, the War Party's roving Viceroy, Senator John McCain:
Page, who has worked for Merrill Lynch in Moscow, has accused the State Department's top official for Ukraine and Russia, Victoria Nuland, of 'fomenting' the 2014 revolution that overthrew Ukraine's government. That charge is often lodged by pro-Kremlin media outlets but is strongly disputed by the Obama administration.
In this context, Politico made short shrift of young Mr. Papadopoulos and properly so. This kid had no more qualifications to be named among the top five foreign policy advisors to the then near-presumptive GOP nominee than any one else in the DC phone book -- although at the time Baby George was called to duty he was apparently domiciled in London and perhaps listed in its phone book.

Indeed, after rounding up an ex-Pentagon bean counter, a washed-up general who had "managed" (not well) the US "occupation" of Baghdad in 2003-2004 and Walid Phares, the Lebanese war veteran who claimed that the Moslem Brotherhood had infiltrated the State Department and was fixing to spread "Sharia law" to the towns and villages of America, you almost have the impression that the Donald instructed Ivanka and Jared to check out the Mar-A-Logo sandbox to round out the rooster.

That's apparently where Papadopoulos came from because he had graduated from college only in 2009, got two more degrees by 2011 in London, functioned as a junior researcher at Hudson Institute for several years and then "worked" on Ben Carson's presidential campaign for three months -- if you consider that an actual job.

Per Politico at the time of the announcement:
One of them, George Papadopoulos, is a 2009 college graduate and an international energy lawyer. Papadopoulos had previously advised Ben Carson's presidential campaign. According to his LinkedIn page, he was a researcher at the conservative Hudson Institute in Washington, D.C., before joining the London Center of International Law Practice, which describes itself as dedicated to 'peace and development through international law and dispute resolution.'

Papadopoulos' LinkedIn page also boasts about his role at the 2012 meeting in Geneva of Model UN, the student role-playing exercise on international diplomacy. It adds that he has 'had experience lobbying foreign policy resolutions on Capitol Hill by means of coherent and concise arguments.'
In a word, Baby George's "crime" came about in the process of trying to put on his Big Boy Pants and get noticed by higher-ups in the campaign. So doing, he came into contact on about March 14 with a London professor who claimed to be plugged into Russian sources with "dirt" about Hillary.

Needless to say, the London professor, one Joseph Mifsud, who had formerly served in a high ranking government position in his native, well, Malta, as assistant to the Maltese foreign minister, didn't know anybody in the Kremlin, either. That is, Mifsud was actually a no count talking to a another no count.

Prior to his appearance on the FBI's fake stage of international intrigue, in fact, Mifsud had been a "director" of some sort at the London Academy of Diplomacy-----a place that grants masters degrees to young people earnestly endeavoring a career in making diplomacy, not war. That is to say, by the standards of the Imperial City it's a kind of Quaker Meeting for idealistic diplomats on the road to Nowhere.

As it turned out, George never made any contact with any Russian state officials, didn't have any meetings with clandestine Putin operatives, and came up with no anti-Hillary dirt at all -- despite months of trying and sending loads of essentially unanswered emails sent up the chain of command at Trump Tower.

In fact, despite sending six emails up the chain volunteering his eagerness to set up a meeting between the Donald and Vlad Putin nothing happened. Even the government's charging document admits these missive were based on Papadopoulos' conversations with a "Russian National" who claimed to be Putin's niece, but wasn't; and someone who claimed to have contacts at Russia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), but also, apparently, didn't.

As it turns out, the latter unnamed go-between was one Ivan Timofeev,  a program director at a Russian government-funded think tank called the Russian International Affairs Council. The latter was actually a glorified welcome wagon which hosts public meetings with prominent visiting politicians and public figures from the US and other countries.

Indeed, one guest speaker at this forum had been none other than Obama's former US Ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul. The latter is actually a fire-breathing Russophobe who can hardly be considered a pal of Putin's.

In any event, the government's charging document makes clear that Baby George's emails got nowhere. Indeed at one point the zealous Mr. Papadopoulos got swatted away by Paul Manafort, who...
.... replied to one such request by saying that 'Trump is not doing these trips. It should be someone low-level in the campaign so as not to send any signal.'
So finding no contacts, no meetings, no "collusion" or anything else validly related to the Mueller's mandate, the latter's legal gunslingers came up with the usual default "crime" when a criminal investigations comes up empty. To wit, Papadopoulos allegedly perjured himself by telling the FBI early this year that he had met the no count London professor before beginning his service as a Trump advisor.

And that was true enough -- except by the lights of the hair-splitting Torquemadas on Team Mueller.

It seems young George met the London Professor on March 14, about a week  before the Trump campaign's official announcement of its Team of Five. But in the kind of twisted gotcha that only jerks with a badge and gun can come up with, Papadopoulos stands guilty of perjury by his own (coerced) plea.

That's because at the time of the meeting he had already been recruited from the sandbox and "knew" he would be appointed to an advisory committee.

So what!

Trump apparently rarely even met with the Five and no one running the campaign paid much attention to them. Still, Baby George's carelessness about the exact dates and sequences of utterly irrelevant and inconsequential events is enough to get him time in one of Uncle Sam's hospitality suites:
Defendant PAPADOPOULOS acknowledged that the professor had told him about the Russians possessing 'dirt' on then-candidate Hillary Clinton in the forms of 'thousands of emails,' but stated multiple times that he learned the information prior to joining the Campaign. In truth and fact, however, defendant PAPADOPOULOS learned he would be an advisor to the campaign in early March, and met the professor on or about March 14, 2016......
That's all she wrote. This damning nugget appears on page  2 of the "Statement of Offense" and the balance of the 14 pages are a complete farcical joke. Papadopoulos' failure to get anywhere with the Russians in his digging for dirt on Hillary would make for a good episode for the rascals of South Park, but that's about all.

Anyone not involved in the campaign to reverse the 2106 election and remove the Donald from office should be forgiven for splitting a gut laughing when reading this hideous and utterly bogus case against Baby George Papadopoulos.

Every single player in the cast of characters -- mostly unnamed by the prosecutors but already sussed out by the press -- identified by Team Mueller had no ability to influence anything, let alone 165 million voters in a US election bombarded with upwards of $20 billion worth of reported and unreported campaign expenses, and the mainstream media's free nonstop campaign in behalf of Hillary.

Yet the document and Monday mornings announcement are also cause for alarm. The "crime", if there was any, was the $10 million that the DNC and Clinton campaign paid for the Trump Dossier. Those scurrilous documents were actually purchased for real money on the back streets of Moscow and do cite actual, live Russian MFA sources, not allegedly "MFA-connected" people, who apparently weren't.

But, of course, that's not what's coming down. The self-righteous Mueller who turned a blind eye to the massive stench of corruption coming out of the Uranium One deal in 2009/2010 when he was FBI director has only one mission in mind: To mug the American electorate for its audacity in electing Donald Trump President, thereby disturbing the equanimity of the Deep State's untethered rule.

The truth of the matter, however, is nearly the opposite. Prosecuting anyone -- one either side of the partisan aisle -- for marginal and tangential contacts with a Russian government purportedly wishing to influence the US election amounts to the height of hypocrisy.

Meddling in the political life, elections, and governance of virtually every nation on planet earth -- enemy, foe, rival, neutral and friend, alike -- is what Imperial Washington does.

It spends more than $1 billion per year on propaganda operations by the NED and the various agencies of the Board for International Broadcasting. And that's to say nothing of the tens of billions spent by the CIA, NSA and other elements of the $75 billion per year intelligence community hacking and stealing virtually all communications that course through the worldwide web.

But all of this is lost on the beltway media brats who front for the Deep State. Here is what one of the worst of the scolds and toadies, a "journalist" named Mike Allen, had to say about Baby George on his  pretentious Axios platform this AM:
Be smart: There is zero doubt — and piles of new evidence — that Russia manipulated our election. This next phase will show if Trump himself was aware or involved, or has any interest in doing anything about it — and how extensively America's most powerful companies enabled the mass manipulation.
Is this guy kidding?

If there is any evidence of Russia meddling or of hacking the Podesta and DNC emails, it's right there in the massive NSA server farms which capture all incoming communications to the US and outgoing, too. It is retrievable in an instant, but hasn't been because it's not there.

We didn't need Mueller's bully boys to bushwhack Baby George to find that out.

Then again, if you don't recognize that the Deep State and its minions in the press and both party establishments in Washington are pushing the nation to an extra-constitutional removal of a sitting President, you simply aren't paying attention.

So at least stay out of the casino. That's where the temblors will hit first.

Reprinted with permission from David Stockman's Contra Corner.

How to End the Endless War

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Wars that the United States is waging around the world undermine our security by turning entire populations against us and diverting our attention and resources away from urgent needs at home. No, the opposite is true: the United States faces serious threats, and can only protect itself by confronting them wherever they emerge. This debate has divided Americans for more than a century. Congress may soon have a rare opportunity to take one side or the other.

The battleground is Yemen, the poorest country in the Middle East. For nearly three years, Yemen has been under relentless attack from the region’s richest country, Saudi Arabia. Saudi bombing has created what the United Nations calls “the largest humanitarian crisis in the world.” More than half the population is hungry. Cholera is raging and may afflict 1 million people by the end of this year. A child dies from preventable causes every ten minutes. Saudi forces have blockaded Yemen’s main port, so almost no humanitarian aid can reach the victims.

This war could not proceed without American help. Missiles and bombs raining down on Yemen are made in the United States. American intelligence officers help Saudi pilots pick targets to attack. Most important, American tanker planes refuel Saudi fighter jets in flight, allowing them to carry out many more raids than they could if they had to return regularly to their bases. At the UN, American diplomats work to water down condemnations of Saudi Arabia, and to block investigation of possible war crimes.

Outrage at the American role in this war has led several members of Congress to propose a resolution that would pull the country out of “unauthorized hostilities” in Yemen. If they can force a vote, it may come in the first days of November. This will give Congress a chance to decide what role Washington should play in Yemen, in the multi-front Middle East War that we have been fighting since 1980, and in the world.

The resolution to pull US forces out of the Yemen war has bipartisan support, but so does the war itself. President Obama made the decision to plunge in, and President Trump has continued his policy. Both decided that the United States had to stand by its traditional ally, Saudi Arabia. Supporters of the war also make other arguments. They point out that forces we are helping to bomb in Yemen are supported by Iran, which we consider an enemy. Victory for those forces might be counted as a strategic loss for the United States. It could allow Yemen to become a base from which Saudi Arabia itself might be subverted. American involvement in this war is also a symbol that Washington stands by its allies and will use all means to crush terrorists in the Middle East.

The upcoming vote — if House leaders let it happen — will be about far more than Yemen. It is a test of whether Congress will continue allowing presidents to make decisions that push the United States into war, or whether it will awaken from its constitutional coma and assert its own right to do so. More than 200 years ago, when President Thomas Jefferson asked for authorization to send warships to fight pirates in North Africa, he said presidents are “unauthorized by the Constitution, without the sanction of Congress, to go beyond the line of defense.” Does that principle still apply, or does today’s rapidly changing “threat matrix” mean that Congress should stay out of the business of war? This question lies behind the upcoming congressional vote on Yemen.

Fair use excerpt. Read the rest here.

Racism, Propaganda And Wars

This week, the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, which promoted giving Palestine to the Jewish people, will be celebrated in London. Around the world, there will be protests against it calling for Britain to apologize for the damage it inflicted. Students from the West Bank and Gaza will send letters to the British government describing the negative impacts that the Balfour Declaration, and the Nakba in 1948, continue to have on their lives today.

As Dan Freeman-Maloy describes, the Balfour Declaration is also relevant today because of the propaganda co-existing with it that justified white supremacy, racism and empire. British imperialists believed that democracy only applied to “civilized and conquering peoples,” and that “Africans, Asians, Indigenous peoples the world over – all were … ‘subject races,’ unfit for self-government.” That same racism was directed at Jewish people as well. Lord Balfour preferred to have Jewish people living in Palestine, away from Britain, where they might serve as useful British allies.

In the same time period, Bill Moyers reminds us in his interview with author James Whitman, the  laws in the United States were viewed as “a model for everybody in the early 20th century who was interested in creating a race-based order or race state. America was the leader in a whole variety of realms in racist law in the first part of that century.” This includes immigration laws designed to keep “undesirables” out of the US, laws creating second class citizenship for African-Americans and other people and bans on interracial marriage. Whitman has a new book documenting how Hitler used US laws as a basis for the Nazi state.

Injustice is legal

The US government and its laws continue to perpetuate injustice today. For example, contractors who apply for state funds to repair damage from Hurricane Harvey in Dickinson, Texas, are required to declare that they do not participate in the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment, Sanction (BDS) movement. And Maryland Governor Hogan signed an executive order this week banning any state contractors from participating in the BDS movement, after local activists defeated similar legislation for the past three years.

Participation in boycotts should be protected under the First Amendment, as the right to protest Israeli apartheid should be. But, that right may also be taken away. This week, Kenneth Marcus was made the top civil rights enforcer at the Department of Education. He runs a group called the Brandeis Center for Human Rights, which actually works to attack individuals and groups that organize against Israeli apartheid on campuses. Nora Barrows-Friedman writes that Marcus, who has been filing complaints against pro-Palestinian student groups, will now be in charge of investigating those cases.

Dima Khalidi, the head of Palestinian Legal, which works to protect pro-Palestinian activists, explains that in the United States, “talking about Palestinian rights, and challenging Israel’s actions and narrative, [open] people up to a huge amount of risk, attacks, and harassment – much of it legal in nature, or with legal implications.” These attacks are happening because the BDS movement is having an impact.

This is just one obvious area of injustice. Of course, there are others such as immigration policies and travel bans. And there are racist systems in the United States that are not based in law, but are enshrined in practices such as racially biased policing, slave-wage employment of prisoners and the placement of toxic industries in minority communities. The Marshall Project has a new report on racial bias in plea bargains.

In considering why “the public is quiet” about the United States’ unending wars, the New York Times (10/23/17) fails to examine the failure of leading media outlets to actually oppose these wars.

War propaganda

The media, as it did in the early twentieth century, continues to manipulate public opinion to support military aggression. The NY Times and other mass, corporate media have promoted wars throughout the history of US empire. From the ‘Weapons of Mass Destruction’ in Iraq to the Gulf of Tonkin in Vietnam and all the way back to ‘Remember the Maine’ in the Spanish-American War, which began the modern US Empire, the corporate media have always played a large role in leading the US into war.

Adam Johnson of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) writes about a recent New York Times Op Ed: “Corporate media have a long history of lamenting wars they themselves helped sell the American public, but it’s rare so many wars and so much hypocrisy are distilled into one editorial.” Johnson points out that the New York Times never questions whether wars are right or wrong, just whether they have Congressional support or not. And it promotes the “no boots on the ground” view that it is fine to bomb other countries as long as US troops are not harmed.

FAIR also points out the media’s false accusation that Iran has a nuclear weapons program. Meanwhile there is silence about the secret Israeli nuclear weapons program. Iran has been compliant with the International Atomic Energy Agency, while Israel has refused inspections. Eric Margolis raises the critical question of whether the Trump administration put the interests of Israel, which opposes Iran, before the interests of the US when he refused to certify the nuclear agreement with Iran.

North Korea is a country that is heavily propagandized in the US media. Eva Bartlett, a journalist who has traveled to and reported extensively about Syria, recently visited North Korea. She presents a view of the people and photographs that won’t be found in commercial media, which give a more positive perspective on the country.

Sadly, North Korea is considered to be a critical factor in the US effort to prevent China from becoming the dominant world power. Ramzy Baroud writes about the importance of a diplomatic solution to the conflict between the US and North Korea because otherwise it will be a long and bloody war. Baroud states that the US would quickly run out of missiles and then use “crude gravity bombs,” killing millions.

The recent re-election of Shinzo Abe heightens conflict in that region. Abe wants to build up Japan’s small military and alter its current pacifist Constitution so that Japan can attack other countries. No doubt, the Asian Pivot and concerns about tension between the US and other countries are fueling support for Abe and more militarization in Japan.

3206776-1509029172US aggression in Africa

The US military presence in Africa came into the spotlight this week with the death of US soldiers in Niger. Although it was heartless, perhaps we can be grateful that Trump’s gaffe with the newly-widowed Myeshia Johnson at least had the impact of raising national awareness about this secretive mission creep. We can thank outlets such as Black Agenda Report that have been reporting regularly on AFRICOM, the US Africa Command.

It was a surprise to many people, including members of Congress, that the US has 6,000 troops scattered in 53 out of 54 African countries. US involvement in Africa has existed since World War II, largely for oil, gas, minerals, land and labor. When Gaddafi, in Libya, interfered with the US’ ability to dominate African countries by providing oil money to them, thereby freeing them from the need to be indebted to the US, and led the effort to unite African countries, he was murdered and Libya was destroyed. China also plays a role in competing with the US for African investment, doing so through economic investment rather than militarization. No longer able to control Africa economically, the US turned to greater militarization.

AFRICOM was launched under President George W. Bush, who appointed a black general to lead AFRICOM, but it was President Obama who succeeded in growing the US military presence. Under Obama, the drone program grew in Africa. There are more than 60 drone bases that are used for missions in African countries such as Somalia. The US base in Dijbouti is used for bombing missions in Yemen and Syria. US military contractors are also raking in huge profits in Africa.

Nick Turse reports that US military conduct an average of ten operations in Africa daily. He describes how US weapons and military training have upset the balance of power in African countries, leading to coup attempts and the rise of terrorist groups.

In this interview, Abayomi Azikiwe, the editor of the Pan-African News Wire, speaks about the long and brutal US history in Africa. He concludes:

Washington must close down its bases, drone stations, airstrips, joint military operations, consulting projects and training programs with all African Union member-states. None of these efforts have brought peace and stability to the continent. What has happened is quite the opposite. Since the advent of AFRICOM, the situation has been far more unstable in the region.

Building a global peace movement

The insatiable war machine has infiltrated all aspects of our lives. Militarism is a prominent part of US culture. It is a large part of the US economy. It cannot be stopped unless we work together to stop it. And, while we in the US, as the largest empire in the history of the world, have a major responsibility to act against war, we will be most effective if we can connect with people and organizations in other countries to hear their stories, support their work and learn about their visions for a peaceful world.

Fortunately, there are many efforts to revive the anti-war movement in the United States, and many of the groups have international ties. The United National Anti-War Coalition, World Beyond War, the Black Alliance for Peace and the Coalition Against US Foreign Military Bases are groups launched in the past seven years.

There are also opportunities for action. Veterans for Peace is organizing peace actions on November 11, Armistice Day. CODEPINK recently began the Divest From the War Machine Campaign targeting the five top weapons-makers in the US. Listen to our interview with lead organizer Haley Pederson on Clearing the FOG. And there will be a conference on closing foreign military bases this January in Baltimore.

Let’s recognize that just as wars are waged in order to dominate regions for their resources so that a few may profit, they are also rooted in white supremacist and racist ideology that believes only certain people deserve to control their destinies. By linking hands with our brothers and sisters around the planet and working for peace, we can bring about a multi-polar world in which all people have peace, self-determination and live in dignity.

Do We Need A New War Authorization?

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) challenged the Defense Secretary and Secretary of State yesterday, asserting that no one of intellectual honesty would believe that the 9/11 war authorization had anything to do with ISIS or Niger. He has a good point. But the White House does not want its war wings clipped and insists that things are fine as they are. We are militarily active in some 19 countries now. Does the 9/11 resolution really encompass all of these wars? Tune in to today's Liberty Report:

Regulation Is Killing Community Banks: Public Banks Can Revive Them

Crushing regulations are driving small banks to sell out to the megabanks, a consolidation process that appears to be intentional. Publicly-owned banks can help avoid that trend and keep credit flowing in local economies.

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At his confirmation hearing in January 2017, Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin said: “regulation is killing community banks.” If the process is not reversed, he warned, we could “end up in a world where we have four big banks in this country.” That would be bad for both jobs and the economy. “I think that we all appreciate the engine of growth is with small and medium-sized businesses,” said Mnuchin. “We’re losing the ability for small and medium-sized banks to make good loans to small and medium-sized businesses in the community, where they understand those credit risks better than anybody else.”

The number of US banks with assets under $100 million dropped from 13,000 in 1995 to under 1,900 in 2014. The regulatory burden imposed by the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act exacerbated this trend, with community banks losing market share at double the rate during the four years after 2010 as in the four years before. But the number had already dropped to only 2,625 in 2010.  What happened between 1995 and 2010?

Six weeks after September 11, 2001, the 1,100 page Patriot Act was dropped on congressional legislators, who were required to vote on it the next day. The Patriot Act added provisions to the 1970 Bank Secrecy Act that not only expanded the federal government’s wiretapping and surveillance powers but outlawed the funding of terrorism, imposing greater scrutiny on banks and stiff criminal penalties for non-compliance. Banks must now collect and verify customer-provided information, check names of customers against lists of known or suspected terrorists, determine risk levels posed by customers, and report suspicious persons, organizations and transactions. One small banker complained that banks have been turned into spies secretly reporting to the federal government. If they fail to comply, they can face stiff enforcement actions, whether or not actual money-laundering crimes are alleged.

In 2010, one small New Jersey bank pleaded guilty to conspiracy to violate the Bank Secrecy Act and was fined $5 million for failure to file suspicious-activity and cash-transaction reports. The bank was acquired a few months later by another bank. Another small New Jersey bank was ordered to shut down a large international wire transfer business because of deficiencies in monitoring for suspicious transactions. It closed its doors after it was hit with $8 million in fines over its inadequate monitoring policies.

Complying with the new rules demands a level of technical expertise not available to ordinary mortals, requiring the hiring of yet more specialized staff and buying more anti-laundering software. Small banks cannot afford the risk of massive fines or the added staff needed to avoid them, and that burden is getting worse. In February 2017, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network proposed a new rule that would add a new category requiring the flagging of suspicious “cyberevents.” According to an April 2017 article in American Banker:

[T]he “cyberevent” category requires institutions to detect and report all varieties of digital mischief, whether directed at a customer’s account or at the bank itself. . . .

Under a worst-case scenario, a bank’s failure to detect a suspicious [email] attachment or a phishing attack could theoretically result in criminal prosecution, massive fines and additional oversight.

One large bank estimated that the proposed change with the new cyberevent reporting requirement would cost it an additional $9.6 million every year.

Besides the cost of hiring an army of compliance officers to deal with a thousand pages of regulations, banks have been hit with increased capital requirements imposed by the Financial Stability Board under Basel III, eliminating the smaller banks’ profit margins. They have little recourse but to sell to the larger banks, which have large compliance departments and can skirt the capital requirements by parking assets in off-balance-sheet vehicles.

In a September 2014 article titled “The FDIC’s New Capital Rules and Their Expected Impact on Community Banks,” Richard Morris and Monica Reyes Grajales noted that “a full discussion of the rules would resemble an advanced course in calculus,” and that the regulators have ignored protests that the rules would have a devastating impact on community banks. Why? The authors suggested that the rules reflect “the new vision of bank regulation – that there should be bigger and fewer banks in the industry.” That means bank consolidation is an intended result of the punishing rules.

House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling, sponsor of the Financial CHOICE Act downsizing Dodd-Frank, concurs. In a speech in July 2015, he said:

Since the passage of Dodd-Frank, the big banks are bigger and the small banks are fewer. But because Washington can control a handful of big established firms much easier than many small and zealous competitors, this is likely an intended consequence of the Act. Dodd-Frank concentrates greater assets in fewer institutions. It codifies into law ‘Too Big to Fail’ . . . . [Emphasis added.]

Dodd-Frank institutionalizes “too big to fail” by authorizing the biggest banks to “bail in” or confiscate their creditors’ money in the event of insolvency. The legislation ostensibly reining in the too-big-to-fail banks has just made them bigger. Wall Street lobbyists were well known to have their fingerprints all over Dodd-Frank.

Restoring Community Banking: The Model of North Dakota  

Killing off the community banks with regulation means killing off the small and medium-size businesses that rely on them for funding, along with the local economies that rely on those businesses. Community banks service local markets in a way that the megabanks with their standardized lending models are not interested in or capable of.

How can the community banks be preserved and nurtured? For some ideas, we can look to a state where they are still thriving – North Dakota. In an article titled “How One State Escaped Wall Street’s Rule and Created a Banking System That’s 83% Locally Owned,” Stacy Mitchell writes that North Dakota’s banking sector bears little resemblance to that of the rest of the country:

With 89 small and mid-sized community banks and 38 credit unions, North Dakota has six times as many locally owned financial institutions per person as the rest of the nation. And these local banks and credit unions control a resounding 83 percent of deposits in the state — more than twice the 30 percent market share that small and mid-sized financial institutions have nationally.

Their secret is the century-old Bank of North Dakota (BND), the nation’s only state-owned depository bank, which partners with and supports the state’s local banks. In an April 2015 article titled “Is Dodd-Frank Killing Community Banks? The More Important Question is How to Save Them”, Matt Stannard writes:

Public banks offer unique benefits to community banks, including collateralization of deposits, protection from poaching of customers by big banks, the creation of more successful deals, and . . . regulatory compliance. The Bank of North Dakota, the nation’s only public bank, directly supports community banks and enables them to meet regulatory requirements such as asset to loan ratios and deposit to loan ratios. . . . [I]t keeps community banks solvent in other ways, lessening the impact of regulatory compliance on banks’ bottom lines.

We know from FDIC data in 2009 that North Dakota had almost 16 banks per 100,000 people, the most in the country. A more important figure, however, is community banks’ loan averages per capita, which was $12,000 in North Dakota, compared to only $3,000 nationally. . . . During the last decade, banks in North Dakota with less than $1 billion in assets have averaged a stunning 434 percent more small business lending than the national average.

The BND has been very profitable for the state and its citizens – more profitable, according to the Wall Street Journal, than JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs. The BND does not compete with local banks but partners with them, helping with capitalization and liquidity and allowing them to take on larger loans that would otherwise go to larger out-of-state banks.

In order to help rural lenders with regulatory compliance, in 2011 the BND was directed by the state legislature to get into the rural home mortgage origination business. Rural banks that saw only three to five mortgages a year could not shoulder the regulatory burden, leading to business lost to out-of-state banks. After a successful pilot program, SB 2064, establishing the Mortgage Origination Program, was signed by North Dakota’s governor on April 3, 2013. It states that the BND may establish a residential mortgage loan program under which the Bank may originate residential mortgages if private sector mortgage loan services are not reasonably available. Under this program a local financial institution or credit union may assist the Bank in taking a loan application, gathering required documents, ordering required legal documents, and maintaining contact with the borrower. At a hearing on the bill, Rick Clayburgh, President of the North Dakota Bankers Association, testified in its support:

Over the past years because of the regulatory burdens our banks face by the passage of Dodd Frank, and now the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, it has become very prohibitive for a number of our banks to provide residential mortgage services anymore. We two years ago worked both with the Independent Community Bankers Association, and our Association and the Bank of North Dakota to come up with the idea in this program to help the bank provide services into the parts of the state that really residential mortgaging has seized up. We have a number of our banks that have terminated doing mortgage loans in their communities. They have stopped the process because they cannot afford to be written up by their regulator.

Under the Mortgage Origination Program, local banks get paid what is essentially a finder’s fee for sending rural mortgage loans to the BND. If the BND touches the money first, the onus is on it to deal with the regulators, something it can afford to do by capitalizing on economies of scale. The local bank thus avoids having to deal with regulatory compliance while keeping its customer.

The BND is the only model of a publicly-owned depository bank in the US; but in Germany, the publicly-owned Sparkassen banks operate a network of over 15,600 branches and are the financial backbone supporting Germany’s strong local business sector. In the matter of regulatory compliance, they too capitalize on economies of scale, by providing a compliance department that pools resources to deal with the onerous regulations imposed on banks by the EU.

The BND and the Sparkassen are proven models for maintaining the viability of local credit and banking services. It is time other states followed North Dakota’s lead, not only to protect their local communities and local banks, but to bolster their revenues, escape the noose of Washington and Wall Street, and provide a bail-in-proof depository for their public funds.

America’s “Open Door Policy” May Have Led Us to the Brink of Nuclear Annihilation

Photo by frankieleon | CC by 2.0

“Neither a man nor a crowd nor a nation can be trusted to act humanely or to think sanely under the influence of a great fear.”

― Bertrand Russell, Unpopular Essays (1950) [1]

The North Korean crisis presents people on the left to liberal spectrum with one of the greatest challenges we have ever faced. Now, more than ever, we have to put aside our natural fears and prejudices that surround the issue of nuclear weapons and ask hard questions that demand clear answers. It is time to step back and consider who the bully is on the Korean Peninsula, who poses a dire threat to international peace and even to the survival of the human species. It is far past time that we had a probing debate on Washington’s problem in North Korea and its military machine. Here is some food for thought on issues that are being swept under the carpet by knee jerk reactions—reactions that are natural for generations of Americans who have been kept in the dark about basic historical facts. Mainstream journalists and even many outside the mainstream at liberal and progressive news sources, uncritically regurgitate Washington’s deceptions, stigmatize North Koreans, and portray our current predicament as a fight in which all parties are equally culpable.

First of all, we have to face the unpalatable fact that we Americans, and our government above all, are the main problem. Like most people from the West, I know almost nothing about North Koreans, so I can say very little about them. All we can talk about with any confidence is Kim Jong-un’s regime. Restricting the discussion to that, we can say that his threats are not credible. Why? One simple reason:

Because of the disparity of power between the military capability of the U.S., including its current military allies, and North Korea. The difference is so vast it barely merits discussion, but here are the main elements:

U.S. bases: Washington has at least 15 military bases scattered throughout South Korea, many of them close to the border with North Korea. There are also bases scattered throughout Japan, from Okinawa in the far south all the way up north to Misawa Air Force Base.[2] The bases in South Korea have weapons with more destructive capacity than even the nuclear weapons that Washington kept in South Korea for the 30 years from 1958 to 1991.[3] Bases in Japan have Osprey aircraft that can ferry the equivalent volume of two city buses full of troops and equipment across to Korea on each trip.

Aircraft carriers: There are no less than three aircraft carriers in waters around the Korean Peninsula and their battle group of destroyers.[4] Most countries do not have even one aircraft carrier.

THAAD: In April of this year Washington deployed the THAAD (“terminal high area altitude defense”) system in spite of intense opposition from South Korean citizens.[5] It is only supposed to intercept North Korean incoming ballistic missiles on their downward descent, but Chinese officials in Beijing worry that the real purpose of THAAD is to “track missiles launched from China” since THAAD has surveillance capabilities.[6] Therefore, THAAD threatens North Korea indirectly also, by threatening its ally.

The South Korean military: This is one of the largest standing armed forces in the world, complete with a full-blown air force and conventional weapons more than sufficient to meet the threat of an invasion from North Korea.[7] The South Korean military is well-trained and well-integrated with the US military since they regularly engage in exercises such as the annual “massive sea, land and air exercises” called “Ulchi Freedom Guardian” involving tens of thousands of troops.[8] Not wasting an opportunity to intimidate Pyongyang, these were carried out at the end of August 2017 in spite of the rising tension.

Japanese military: The euphemistically named “Self-Defense Forces” of Japan are equipped with some of the most high-tech, offensive military equipment in the world, such as AWACS airplanes and Ospreys.[9] With Japan’s peace constitution, these weapons are “offensive” in more than one sense of the word.

Submarines with nuclear missiles: The US has submarines near the Korean Peninsula equipped with nuclear missiles that have “hard-target kill capability” thanks to a new “super-fuze” device that is being used to upgrade old thermonuclear warheads. This is now probably deployed on all US ballistic missile submarines.[10] “Hard-target kill capability” refers to their ability to destroy hardened targets such as Russian ICBM silos (i.e., underground nuclear missiles). These were previously very difficult to destroy. This indirectly threatens North Korea since Russia is one of the countries that could come to their aid in the event of a U.S. first strike.

As U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis said, a war with North Korea would be “catastrophic.”[11] That is true—catastrophic primarily for Koreans, north and south, and possibly for other countries in the region, but not for the U.S.A. And it is also true that “backed up to the wall,” North Korean generals “will fight,” as Professor Bruce Cumings, the preeminent historian of Korea at the University of Chicago, emphasizes.[12]  The U.S. would “totally destroy” the government in North Korea’s capital Pyongyang, and probably even all of North Korea, as U.S. President Trump threatened.[13] North Korea, in turn, would do some serious damage to Seoul, one of the world’s densest cities, cause millions of casualties in South Korea and tens of thousands in Japan. As the historian Paul Atwood writes, since we know that the “northern regime has nuclear weapons which will be launched at American bases [in South Korea] and Japan, we ought to be screaming from the rooftops that an American attack will unleash those nukes, potentially on all sides, and the ensuing desolation may rapidly devolve into a nightmarish day of reckoning for the entire human species.”[14]

No country in the world can threaten the US. Period. David Stockman, a former two-term Congressman from Michigan writes, “No matter how you slice it, there just are no real big industrialized, high tech countries in the world which can threaten the American homeland or even have the slightest intention of doing so.”[15] He asks rhetorically, “Do you think [Putin] would be rash or suicidal enough to threaten the US with nuclear weapons?” That’s someone with 1,500 “deployable nuclear warheads.”

“Siegfried Hecker, director emeritus of the Los Alamos National Laboratory and the last known U.S. official to inspect North Korea’s nuclear facilities, has calculated the size of North Korea’s arsenal at no more than 20 to 25 bombs.”[16] If it would be suicidal for Putin to start a war with the U.S., then that would be even truer for Kim Jong-un of North Korea, a country with one-tenth the population of the U.S. and little wealth.

The U.S. level of military preparedness goes way above and beyond what is necessary to protect South Korea. It directly threatens North Korea, China, and Russia. As Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. once stated, the U.S. is the “greatest purveyor of violence in the world.” That was true in his time and it is every bit as true now.

In the case of North Korea, the importance of its governments’ focus on violence is given recognition with the term “garrison state,”[17] how Cumings categorizes it. This term recognizes the undeniable fact that the people of North Korea spend a lot of their time preparing for war. No one calls North Korea the “greatest purveyor of violence” though.

Who has their finger on the button?

A leading American psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton recently emphasized “the potential unraveling of Donald Trump.”[18] He explains that Trump “sees the world through his own sense of self, what he needs and what he feels. And he couldn’t be more erratic or scattered or dangerous.”

During his election campaign Trump not only argued for the nuclearization of Japan and South Korea, but expressed a horrifying interest in actually using such weapons. That Donald Trump, a man thought to be mentally unstable, has at his disposal weapons capable of annihilating the planet many times over represents a truly terrifying threat, i.e., a credible threat.

From this perspective, the so called “threat” of North Korea comes to look rather like the proverbial storm in a teacup.

If you feel afraid of Kim Jong-un, think how terrified North Koreans must be. The possibility of Trump letting an unstoppable nuclear genie out of the bottle surely ought to be a wake up call to all people anywhere on the political spectrum to wake up and act before it is too late.

If our fear of Kim Jong-un striking us first is irrational, and if the idea of his being on a “suicide mission” right now is unfounded—since he, his generals, and his government officials are the beneficiaries of a dynasty that gives them significant power and privileges—then what is the source of our irrationality, i.e., the irrationality of people in the U.S.? What is all the hype about? I would like to argue that one source of this kind of thinking, the kind of thinking we see all the time at the domestic level, is actually racism.  This form of prejudice, like other kinds of mass propaganda, is actively encouraged by a government that underpins a foreign policy guided by the greed of the 1% rather than the needs of the 99%.

The “open door” fantasy

The core of our foreign policy can be summed up with the regrettably still extant  propaganda slogan known as the “Open Door Policy,” as explained recently by Atwood.[19] You might remember this old phrase from a high school history class. Atwood’s brief survey of the history of the Open Door Policy shows us why it can be a real eye opener, providing the key to understanding what has been happening lately with North Korea-Washington relations. Atwood writes that “the U.S. and Japan had been on a collision course since the 1920s and by 1940, in the midst of the global depression, were locked in a mortal struggle over who would ultimately benefit most from the markets and resources of Greater China and East Asia.” If one had to explain what the cause of the Pacific War was, that one sentence would go a long way. Atwood continues, “The real reason the U.S. opposed the Japanese in Asia is never discussed and is a forbidden subject in the establishment media as are the real motives of American foreign policy writ large.”

It is sometimes argued that the U.S. blocked Japan’s access to resources in East Asia, but the problem is portrayed in a one-sided way, as one of Japanese greed and will to dominate causing the conflict rather than that of Washington.

Atwood aptly explains, “Japan’s Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere was steadily closing the ‘Open Door’ to American penetration of and access to the profitable riches of Asia at the critical moment. As Japan took control of East Asia the U.S. moved the Pacific Fleet to Hawaii in striking distance of Japan, imposed economic sanctions, embargoed steel and oil and in August 1941 issued an overt ultimatum to quit China and Vietnam ‘or else.’ Seeing the latter as the threat it was, Japan undertook what to Tokyo was the pre-emptive strike at Hawaii.” What many of us have been led to believe, that Japan just went berserk because it was controlled by an undemocratic and militaristic government, was in fact the old story of violence over who owns the world’s finite resources.

Indeed, the view of Cumings, who has spent a lifetime researching Korean history, especially as it relates to U.S.-Korea relations, fits well with Atwood’s: “Ever since the publication of the ‘open door notes’ in 1900 amid an imperial scramble for Chinese real estate, Washington’s ultimate goal had always been unimpeded access to the East Asian region; it wanted native governments strong enough to maintain independence but not strong enough to throw off Western influence.”[20] Atwood’s brief but powerful article gives one the big picture of the Open Door Policy, while through Cumings’ work, one can learn about the particulars of how it was implemented in Korea during the American occupation of the country after the Pacific War, through the not-free and not-fair election of the first South Korean dictator Syngman Rhee (1875–1965), and the civil war in Korea that followed. “Unimpeded access to the East Asian region” meant access to markets for the elite American business class, with successful domination of those markets an extra plus.

The problem was that anticolonial governments gained control in Korea, Vietnam, and China. These governments wanted to use their resources for independent development to benefit the population of their country, but that was, and still is, a red flag for the “bull” that is the American military-industrial complex. As a result of those movements for independence, Washington went for “second-best.” “American planners forged a second-best world that divided Asia for a generation.”[21] One collaborationist Pak Hung-sik said that “revolutionists and nationalists” were the problem, i.e., people who believed that Korean economic growth should benefit mainly Koreans, and who thought Korea should go back to being some kind of integrated whole (as it had been for at least 1,000 years).

“Yellow peril” racism

Since such radical thinking as independent “nationalism” has always had to be stamped out at any price, a major investment in costly wars would be necessary. (The public being the investors and corporations the stockholders!)  Such an investment would require the cooperation of millions of Americans. That is where the “Yellow Peril” ideology came in handy. The Yellow Peril is a mutant propaganda concept that has worked hand in glove with the Open Door Policy, in whatever form it is currently manifesting itself as.[22] The connections are vividly demonstrated in the extremely high-quality reproductions of Yellow Peril propaganda from around the time of the first Sino-Japanese War (1894–95) interspersed with an essay by the professor of history Peter C. Perdue and the Creative Director of Visualizing Cultures Ellen Sebring at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.[23] As their essay explains, the “reason expansionist foreign powers were intent on carving China into spheres of influence was, after all, their perception that untold profits would derive from this. This glittering sack of gold was, indeed, the other side of the ‘yellow peril’.” One propaganda image is a stereotypical picture of a Chinese man, who he is actually sitting on bags of gold on the other side of the sea.

Western racism towards people of the East has been long demonstrated with the ugly racist word “gook.” Fortunately, that word has died out. Koreans did not appreciate being treated with racial slurs such as this,[24] no more than Filipinos or Vietnamese.[25] (In Vietnam there was an unofficial but frequently deployed “mere-gook rule” or “MGR,” that said that Vietnamese were mere animals who could be killed or abused at will). This term was used to refer to Koreans, too, both north and south. Cumings tells us that the “respected military editor” Hanson Baldwin during the Korean War compared Koreans to locusts, barbarians, and the hordes of Genghis Khan, and that he used words to describe them like “primitive.”[26] Washington’s ally Japan also allows racism against Koreans to thrive and only passed its first law against hate speech in 2016.[27] Unfortunately, it is a toothless law and only a first step.

The irrational fear of non-Christian spiritual beliefs, films about the diabolical Fu Manchu,[28] and racist media portrayal over the course of the 20th century all played a part in creating a culture in which George W. Bush could, with a straight face, designate North Korea one of the three “Axis of Evil” countries after 9/11.[29] Not only irresponsible and influential journalists at Fox News but other news networks and papers actually repeat this cartoonish label, using it as a “shorthand” for a certain U.S. policy.[30] The term “axis of hatred” was almost used, before being edited out of the original speech. But the fact that these terms are taken seriously is a mark of dishonor on “our” side, a mark of the evil and hatred in our own societies.

Trump’s racist attitudes toward people of color is so obvious it hardly requires documenting.

Postwar relations between the two Koreas and Japan

With this prejudice in the background—this prejudice that people in the U.S. harbor toward Koreans—it is no surprise that few Americans have stomped their feet and yelled, “enough is enough” regarding Washington’s postwar mistreatment of them. One of the first and most egregious ways in which Washington wronged Koreans after the Pacific War was during the International Military Tribunal for the Far East that convened in 1946:  the sexual slavery system of the Japanese military (euphemistically called the “comfort women” system) was not prosecuted, making later military-spawned sex trafficking of any country, including the U.S., more likely to reoccur. As Gay J. McDougall of the U.N. wrote in 1998, “…the lives of women continue to be undervalued. Sadly, this failure to address crimes of a sexual nature committed on a massive scale during the Second World War has added to the level of impunity with which similar crimes are committed today.”[31] The sexual crimes against Korean women by U.S. troops of the past and today are linked with those by Japanese troops of the past.[32] The lives of women in general were undervalued, but the lives of Korean women in particular were undervalued as those of “gooks”—sexism plus racism.

The U.S. military’s lax attitude toward sexual violence was reflected in Japan in the way that Washington permitted American troops to prostitute Japanese women, victims of Japanese government-sponsored sex trafficking, called the “Recreation and Amusement Association,” which was openly made available for the pleasure of all allied troops.[33] In the case of Korea, it was discovered through the transcripts of South Korean parliamentary hearings that “in one exchange in 1960, two lawmakers urged the government to train a supply of prostitutes to meet what one called the ‘natural needs’ of allied soldiers and prevent them from spending their dollars in Japan instead of South Korea. The deputy home minister at the time, Lee Sung-woo, replied that the government had made some improvements in the ‘supply of prostitutes’ and the ‘recreational system’ for American troops.”[34]

It must also not be forgotten that U.S. soldiers have raped Korean women outside of brothels. Japanese women, like Korean women, have been the target of sexual violence during the U.S. occupation there and near U.S. military bases—sexually trafficked women as well as women just walking down the street.[35] Victims in both countries still suffer from physical wounds and PTSD—both a result of occupation and military bases. It is a crime of our society that the “boys will be boys” attitude of the U.S. military culture continues. It should have been nipped in the bud at the International Military Tribunal for the Far East.

MacArthur’s relatively humane post-war liberalization of Japan had included moves towards democratization such as land reform, workers’ rights, and permitting the collective bargaining of labor unions; the purging of ultranationalist government officials; and the reigning in of the Zaibatsu (i.e., Pacific War-time business conglomerates, who profited from war) and organized crime syndicates; last but not least, a peace constitution unique in the world with its Article 9 “Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes.” Obviously, much of this would be welcome to Koreans, especially excluding the ultranationalists from power and the peace constitution.

Unfortunately, such movements are never welcome to corporations or the military-industrial complex, so in early 1947 it was decided that Japanese industry would once again become the “workshop of East and Southeast Asia,” and that Japan and South Korea would receive support from Washington for economic recovery along the lines of the Marshall Plan in Europe.[36] One sentence in a note from Secretary of State George Marshall to Dean Acheson in January 1947 sums up the U.S. policy on Korea that would be in effect from that year until 1965: “organize a definite government of South Korea and connect up [sic] its economy with that of Japan.” Acheson succeeded Marshall as Secretary of State from 1949 to 1953. He “became the prime internal advocate of keeping southern Korea in the zone of American and Japanese influence, and single-handedly scripted the American intervention in the Korean War,” in Cumings’ words.

As a result, Japanese workers lost various rights and had less bargaining power, the euphemistically-named “Self-Defense Forces” were established, and the ultranationalists such as Prime Minister Abe’s grandfather Kishi Nobusuke (1896–1987) were allowed to return to government. The remilitarization of Japan continues today, threatening both Koreas as well as China and Russia.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning historian John Dower notes one tragic result that followed from the two peace treaties for Japan that came into effect on the day that Japan regained its sovereignty 28 April 1952: “Japan was inhibited from moving effectively toward reconciliation and reintegration with its nearest Asian neighbors. Peace-making was delayed.”[37] Washington blocked peace-making between Japan and the two main neighbors that it had colonized, Korea and China, by instituting a “separate peace” that excluded both Koreas as well as the People’s Republic of China (PRC) from the whole process. Washington twisted Japan’s arm to gain their cooperation by threatening to continue the occupation that had started with General Douglas MacArthur (Douglas MacArthur (1880–1964). Since Japan and South Korea did not normalize relations until June 1965, and a peace treaty between Japan and the PRC was not signed until 1978, there was a long delay, during which according to Dower, “The wounds and bitter legacies of imperialism, invasion, and exploitation were left to fester—unaddressed and largely unacknowledged in Japan. And ostensibly independent Japan was propelled into a posture of looking east across the Pacific to America for security and, indeed, for its very identity as a nation.” Thus Washington drove a wedge between Japanese on the one hand and Koreans and Chinese on the other, denying Japanese a chance to reflect on their wartime deeds, apologize, and rebuild friendly ties. Japanese discrimination against Koreans and Chinese is well-known, but only a tiny number of well-informed people understand that Washington is also to blame.

Don’t let the door close in East Asia

To return to Atwood’s point about the Open Door Policy, he succinctly and aptly defines this imperialistic doctrine thus: “American finance and corporations should have untrammeled right of entry into the marketplaces of all nations and territories and access to their resources and cheaper labor power on American terms, sometimes diplomatically, often by armed violence.”[38] He explains how this doctrine took shape. After our Civil War (1861-65), the U.S. Navy maintained a presence “throughout the Pacific Ocean especially in Japan, China, Korea and Vietnam where it undertook numerous armed interventions.” The Navy’s goal was “to ensure law and order and ensure economic access…while preventing European powers…from obtaining privileges that would exclude Americans.”

Beginning to sound familiar?

The Open Door Policy led to some wars of intervention, but the U.S. did not actually begin to actively attempt to thwart anticolonial movements in East Asia, according to Cumings, until the 1950 National Security Council report 48/2, which was two years in the making. It was entitled “Position of the United States with Respect to Asia” and it established a totally new plan that was “utterly unimagined at the end of World War II: it would prepare to intervene militarily against anticolonial movements in East Asia—first Korea, then Vietnam, with the Chinese Revolution as the towering backdrop.”[39] This NSC 48/2 expressed opposition to “general industrialization.” In other words, it would be OK for countries in East Asia to have niche markets, but we don’t want them developing full-scale industrialization as the US did, because then they will be able to compete with us in fields where we have a “comparative advantage.”[40] That is what NSC 48/2 termed “national pride and ambition,” which would “prevent the necessary degree of international cooperation.”

The de-unification of Korea

Before Japan’s annexation of Korea in 1910, the vast majority of Koreans had been “peasants, most of them tenants working land held by one of the world’s most tenacious aristocracies,” i.e., the yangban aristocracy.[41] The word is composed of two Chinese characters, yang meaning “two” and ban meaning “group.” The aristocratic ruling class had been made up of two groups—the civil servants and the military officers. And slavery was not abolished in Korea until 1894.[42] The U.S. occupation and the new, unpopular South Korean government of Syngman Rhee that was established in August 1948 pursued policies of divide and conquer that, after 1,000 years of unity, pushed the Korean Peninsula into a full-on, civil war with divisions along class lines.

So what is the crime of the majority of Koreans for which they are now about to be punished? Their first crime is that they were born into an exploited economic class in a country sandwiched between two relatively rich and powerful countries, i.e., China and Japan. After suffering tremendously under Japanese colonialism for over 30 years, they enjoyed a brief feeling of liberation that started in the summer of 1945, but soon the U.S. took over from where the Empire of Japan had left off. Their second crime was resisting this second enslavement under Washington-backed Syngman Rhee, sparking the Korean War. And third, many of them aspired to a fairer distribution of the wealth of their country. These last two types of insurrection got them in trouble with Bully Number One, who as noted above, had secretly decided to not allow “general industrialization” in its NSC 48/2, consistent with its general geopolitical approach, severely punishing countries that aspire to independent economic development.

Perhaps partly due to the veneer of legitimacy that the new, weak, and U.S.-dominated U.N. bestowed on Syngman Rhee’s government, few intellectuals in the West have looked into the atrocities committed by the U.S. during its occupation of Korea, or even into the specific atrocities that that accompanied the establishment of Rhee’s government. Between 100,000 and 200,000 Koreans were killed by the South Korean government and the U.S. occupation forces before June 1950, when the “conventional war” began, according to Cumings’ research, and “300,000 people were detained and executed or simply disappeared by the South Korean government in the first few months after conventional war began.”[43] (My italics). So putting down the Korean resistance in its early stages entailed the slaughtering of around a half million human beings. This alone is evidence that huge numbers of Koreans in the south, not only the majority of Koreans in the north (millions of whom were slaughtered during the Korean War), did not welcome with open arms their new U.S.-backed dictators.

The start of the “conventional war,” by the way, is usually marked as 25 June 1950, when Koreans in the north “invaded” their own country, but war in Korea was already well underway by early 1949, so although there is a widely-held assumption that the War started in 1950, Cumings rejects that assumption.[44] For example, there was a major peasant war on Cheju Island in 1948-49 in which somewhere between 30,000 and 80,000 residents were killed, out of a population of 300,000, some of the them killed directly by Americans and many of them indirectly by Americans in the sense that Washington assisted with the state violence of Syngman Rhee.[45] In other words, it would be difficult to blame the Korean War on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), but easy to blame it on Washington and Syngman Rhee.

After all the suffering that the U.S. has caused Koreans, both north and south, it should not come as any surprise that the government of North Korea is anticolonial and anti-American, and that some Koreans in the North cooperate with Kim Jong-un’s government in helping the North prepare for war with the U.S., even when the government is undemocratic. (At least the clips we are shown over and over on mainstream TV, of soldiers marching indicate some level of cooperation). In Cumings’ words, “The DPRK is not a nice place, but it is an understandable place, an anticolonial and anti-imperial state growing out of a half-century of Japanese colonial rule and another half-century of continuous confrontation with a hegemonic United States and a more powerful South Korea, with all the predictable deformations (garrison state, total politics, utter recalcitrance to the outsider) and with extreme attention to infringements of its rights as a nation.”[46]

What now?

When Kim Jong-un issues verbal threats, they are hardly ever credible. When U.S. President Trump threatens North Korea, it is terrifying. A nuclear war started on the Korean Peninsula could “throw up enough soot and debris to threaten the global population,”[47] so he is actually threatening humankind’s very existence.

One only need check the so-called “Doomsday Clock” to see how urgent it is that we act now.[48] Many well-informed people have succumbed, by and large, to a narrative that  demonizes everyone in North Korea. Regardless of political beliefs, we must rethink and reframe the current debate regarding this U.S. crisis—Washington’s escalation of the tension. This will require seeing the looming “unthinkable,” not as an isolated event but as an inevitable result of the flow of the violent historical trends of imperialism and capitalism over time—not only “seeing,” but acting in consort to radically change our species propensity for violence.

Joseph Essertier is an associate professor at the Nagoya Institute of Technology in Japan.

Notes.

[1] Bertrand Russell, Unpopular Essays (Simon And Schuster, 1950)

[2]US Military Bases in Japan Military Bases

[3] Cumings, Korea’s Place in the Sun: A Modern History (W.W. Norton, 1988) p. 477.

Alex Ward, “South Korea Wants the US to Station Nuclear Weapons in the Country. That’s a Bad Idea.” Vox (5 September 2017).

[4] Alex Lockie, “US sends third aircraft carrier to the Pacific as massive armada looms near North Korea,” Business Insider (5 June 2017)

[5] Bridget Martin, “Moon Jae-In’s THAAD Conundrum: South Korea’s “Candlelight President” Faces Strong Citizen Opposition on Missile Defense,” Asia Pacific Journal: Japan Focus 15:18:1 (15 September 2017).

[6] Jane Perlez, “For China, a Missile Defense System in South Korea Spells a Failed Courtship,New York Times (8 July 2016)

[7] Bruce Klingner, “South Korea: Taking the Right Steps to Defense Reform,” the Heritage Foundation (19 October 2011)

[8] Oliver Holmes, “US and South Korea to stage huge military exercise despite North Korea crisis,” The Guardian (11 August 2017)

[9]Japan-Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) Mission Computing Upgrade (MCU),” Defense Security Cooperation Agency (26 September 2013)

[10] Hans M. Kristensen, Matthew McKinzie, and Theodore A. Postol, “How US Nuclear Force Modernization Is Undermining Strategic Stability: The Burst-Height Compensating Super-Fuze,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (March 2017)

One submarine was moved to the region in April 2017. See Barbara Starr, Zachary Cohen and Brad Lendon, “US Navy Guided-missile Sub Calls in South Korea,” CNN (25 April 2017).

There must be at least two in the region however. See “Trump tells Duterte of two U.S. nuclear subs in Korean waters: NYT,”  Reuters (24 May 2017)

[11] Dakshayani Shankar, “Mattis: War with North Korea would be ‘catastrophic’,” ABC News (10 Aug 2017)

[12] Bruce Cumings, “The Hermit Kingdom Bursts Upon Us,” LA Times (17 July 1997)

[13] David Nakamura and Anne Gearan, “In U.N. speech, Trump threatens to ‘totally destroy North Korea’ and calls Kim Jong Un ‘Rocket Man’,” Washington Post (19 September 2017)

[14] Paul Atwood, “Korea? It’s Always Really Been About China!,” CounterPunch (22 September 2017)

[15] David Stockman, “The Deep State’s Bogus ‘Iranian Threat’,” Antiwar.com (14 October 2017)

[16] Joby Warrick, Ellen Nakashima, and Anna Fifield “North Korea now making missile-ready nuclear weapons, U.S. analysts say,” Washington Post (8 August 2017)

[17] Bruce Cumings, North Korea: Another Country (The New Press, 2003) p. 1.

[18] Transcript of interview, “Psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton on Duty to Warn: Trump’s ‘Relation to Reality’ is Dangerous to Us All,” DemocracyNow! (13 October 2017)

[19] Atwood, “Korea? It’s Always Really Been About China!” CounterPunch.

[20] Cumings, The Korean War, Chapter 8, section entitled “A Military-Industrial Complex,” the 7th paragraph.

[21] Cumings, The Korean War, Chapter 8, section entitled “A Military-Industrial Complex,” the 7th paragraph.

[22] Aaron David Miller and Richard Sokolsky, “The ‘axis of evil’ is back,” CNN (26 April 2017)   l

[23]The Boxer Uprising—I: The Gathering Storm in North China (1860-1900),” MIT Visualizing Cultures, Creative Commons license website:

[24] Cumings, The Korean War, Chapter 4, 3rd paragraph.

[25] Nick Turse tells the history of the ugly racism associated with this word in Kill Anything that Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam (Picador, 2013), Chapter 2.

[26] For the original symbolically violent article, see Hanson W. Baldwin, “The Lesson of Korea: Reds’ Skill, Power Call for Reappraisal of Defense Needs against Sudden Invasion,” New York Times (14 July 1950)

[27]  Tomohiro Osaki, “Diet passes Japan’s first law to curb hate speech,” Japan Times (24 May 2016)

[28] Julia Lovell, “The Yellow Peril: Dr Fu Manchu & the Rise of Chinaphobia by Christopher Frayling – review,” The Guardian (30 October 2014)

[29] Christine Hong, “War by Other Means: The Violence of North Korean Human Rights,” Asia Pacific Journal: Japan Focus 12:13:2 (30 March 2014)

[30] Lucas Tomlinson and The Associated Press, “‘Axis of Evil’ still alive as North Korea, Iran launch missiles, flout sanctions,” Fox News (29 July 2017)

Jaime Fuller, “The 4th best State of the Union address: ‘Axis of evil,’ Washington Post (25 January 2014)

[31] Caroline Norma, The Japanese Comfort Women and Sexual Slavery during the China and Pacific Wars (Bloomsbury, 2016), Conclusion, 4th paragraph.

[32] Tessa Morris-Suzuki, “You Don’t Want to Know About the Girls? The ‘Comfort Women’, the Japanese Military and Allied Forces in the Asia-Pacific War,” Asia Pacific Journal: Japan Focus 13:31:1 (3 August 2015).

[33] John W. Dower, Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II. (Norton, 1999)

[34] Katharine H.S. Moon, “Military Prostitution and the U.S. Military in Asia,” Asia Pacific Journal: Japan Focus Volume 7:3:6 (12 January 2009)

http://apjjf.org/-Katharine-H.S.-Moon/3019/article.html

[35] Norma, The Japanese Comfort Women and Sexual Slavery during the China and Pacific Wars, Chapter 6, the last paragraph of section entitled “Prostituted victims till the very end.”

[36] Cumings, The Korean War, Chapter 5, the second-to-the-last paragraph of the first section before the “Southwest of Korea during the Military Government.”

[37] John W. Dower, “The San Francisco System: Past, Present, Future in U.S.-Japan-China Relations,” Asia Pacific Journal: Japan Focus 12:8:2 (23 February 2014)

[38] Atwood, “Korea? It’s Always Really Been About China!CounterPunch.

[39] Cumings, The Korean War, Chapter 8, section entitled “A Military-Industrial Complex,” the 6th paragraph.

[40] Cumings, The Korean War, Chapter 8, section entitled “A Military-Industrial Complex,” the 9th paragraph.

[41] Cumings, The Korean War, Chapter 1, the 3rd paragraph.

[42] Cumings, North Korea: Another Country, Chapter 4, 2nd paragraph.

[43] Cumings, “A Murderous History of Korea,” London Review of Books 39:10 (18 May 2017).

[44] Cumings, Korea’s Place in the Sun: A Modern History, p. 238.

[45] Cumings, The Korean War, Chapter 5, “The Cheju Insurgency.”

[46] Cumings, North Korea: Another Country, Chapter 2, “American Nuclear Threats” section, the last paragraph.

[47] Bruce Cumings, “A Murderous History of Korea,” London Review of Books (18 May 2017). This is Cumings’ best brief-but-thorough, concise article on Korean history as it relates to the present crisis.

[48] Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

When Free Speech Dismantles Diversity Initiatives

Photo by Newtown grafitti | CC by 2.0


Case # 1:

In October 2017, Drexel University’s administration unilaterally suspended Professor George Ciccariello-Maher, a professor whose area of specialty is race and politics. His tweet about the Las Vegas shooting by Stephen Paddock, led to a campaign of harassment against him. In his series of tweets Ciccariello-Maher blamed “Trumpism” and the entitlement of white men for carrying out acts of violence.

Case # 2:

Bill Mullen, professor of American Studies and an organizer for the Campus Anti-Fascist Network requested that Purdue University (where he teaches) investigate documented incidences of White Supremacy on campus.  What Mullen received instead was a response from Purdue’s President Mitch Daniels saying, “I have spent considerable time replying to multiple messages from citizens who find your various pronouncements abhorrent and unacceptable and demand that you be sanctioned or expelled from the university entirely.”

Case #3:

On October 10th, 2017, students at Columbia University protested and disrupted a far right speaker, Tommy Robinson, an anti-Islam British activist.

Columbia University is now formally investigating the student activists.

College campuses are clearly on the frontline of the right wing’s battle against diversity and multiculturalism. These incidents at Drexel, Purdue and Columbia add to the larger narrative unfolding in colleges and university campuses across the country where students and faculty voices protesting the attacks on diversity initiatives are being threatened from both within and outside the institutions. In Ciccariello-Maher’s case, Drexel has blamed the professor’s statement for “losing some prospective students and donors because of the furor over the tweets.”

Taken together, these above narratives expose the precarious and tenuous position of our institutions as they wrestle with diversity initiatives, viewpoint diversities, left oriented critiques of free speech, while aspiring to maintain a revenue generating market model of education.

The Past Tense of Diversity Initiatives

By gone are those days when college Presidents announced their policies of “zero tolerance” for racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, anti-immigrant, Islamophobic provocations. What we have now, instead, are concerned voices of administrators, telling faculty in their memos that we need to be more mindful of our conservative students and speakers as they exercise “view point diversity.” The conservative base of students, we are told, are reluctant to speak up about their ideologies because they fear being silenced, or even vilified by their left leaning Marxist faculty and other students.

Vilified or silenced by whom? Weren’t diversity initiatives conceived to make legitimate spaces for promoting dialogues about forms of marginality and social justice issues? Weren’t these the same initiatives created to include the gender and identities of those that were historically marginalized?

While these above questions have remained unanswered, some colleges have new strategies to minimize vilification or silencing of conservative students on campus. Their plan: Enroll more conservative students.  According to a recent article in Inside Higher Ed, “College With Liberal Reputation Wants to Recruit Conservative Students” the new president of Warren Wilson College, Lynn M. Morton wants “the college to seek out and enroll conservative students.”

Warren Wilson isn’t the only place trying to recruit conservative students these days. Some college administrators have said that the 2016 elections of Donald Trump have intensified these recruitment efforts.  There is fear that colleges and universities are not serving the conservatives who make up a majority in this country.

While institutions are crumbling under the pressures of their conservative base, so are the various diversity initiatives. Like Warren Wilson, colleges are beginning to actively recruit conservative students by claiming that these conservative demographics are our “new minority.”

The arrival of the “new minority” have also brought to the stage new speaker and new organizations; Jordon Peterson, Charles Murray, Milo Yiannopoilos, Richard Spencer, Professor Watchlists, Turning Point USA, Club Evropa, Vanguard America.

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me”

The dormancy of the free speech debate during the last eight years of Obama’s presidency has been replaced by not just free speech, but offensive free speech. This has coincided with the historical rise of extreme right wing ideologies and their fascist take-over of identiterian politics globally.

Proponents of identiterian politics are using outright “hate” speech as “free speech” where figures like Milo Yiannopoulos can say, “Now, some of the most dangerous places for women to be in the world are modern, Western, rich European countries. Why? One Reason. Islamic Immigration – it’s got to stop.”

And then there is Richard Spencer, the leader of the alt right movement whose vision of an ideal society is to build a White society.  Vanguard America, right after the election of Donald Trump distributed posters at the University of Central Florida that read: “Imagine a Muslim Free America,” and “Free Yourself from Cultural Marxism.”

It has become amply clear to those who are fighting against fascism and White supremacy on college and university campuses, that the agenda of groups like alt-right and some conservative campus clubs like Identity Evropa, Young Americans for Freedom, Vanguard America, Turning Point USA (that also maintains the Professor Watchlist) is to not promote any view point diversity.  Instead, their sole agenda is to disrupt the legal and cultural protections to protect justice by asking for platforms to legitimize ideologically racist and culturally conservative indoctrination in the name of  “political diversity.”

While diversity initiatives that emerged in the early 90’s pushed for university curriculums to disrupt Whiteness, colonialism and imperialism as dominant epistemologies circulating in the humanities and the social sciences, Trump’s election marks a serious threat to such initiatives.

The turbulent 60s and 70s that gave rise to departments such as Black Studies, Women’s Studies, Gay and Lesbian Studies, and various social justice related movements on college campuses (under the broad banner of “multiculturalism”) challenged Eurocentric models of knowledge.  Such diversity-based models of education are obviously offensive to those who want to “Make American White Again.”

So they have begun a well-funded effort to invoke the principles of “free speech” to dismantle various diversity initiatives that have provided equal opportunities to the protected classes.

Here, the issue is less about freedom of speech, but freedom of expression as a strategy to provoke.  While freedom of expression may sound harmless, speech acts does affect and even harm.  The nursery rhyme logic of free speech as postulated by the right, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me” is discernibly false.

What these members that are proponents of free speech fail to acknowledge is that “freedom of expression’ does not give anyone an unfettered permission to say anything that want.  Ulrich Baer in his widely read New York Times opinion piece “What ‘Snowflakes’ Get Right About Free Speech” reminds us that free Speech on a college and university campus, have a responsibility to “[balance] the inherent value of a given view with the obligation to ensure that other members of a given community can participate in discourse as fully recognized members of that community. Free-speech protections . . . should not mean that someone’s humanity, or their right to participate in political speech as political agents, can be freely attacked, demeaned or questioned.”

Free Speech, Civility and the “disrupters”:

While the debate on free speech is dominating on most college campuses, we are also been told that offensive speech (if it has to be tolerated) then we must do so using “civility” in a “mutually respectful” climate.  Repeatedly civility is used as a smoke screen to silence speech that wants to dismantle racism, white supremacy and fascism.

In 2015, The Nation published “The New Thought Police: Why are campus administrators invoking civility to silence critical speech?” by Joan W Scott. Scott reminds us by quoting social theorist Nancy Fraser that, “Once a certain space or style of argument is identified as civil, the implication is that dissenters from it are uncivilized. “Civility” becomes a synonym for orthodoxy; “incivility” designates unorthodox ideas or behavior.”

Under the current political climate and especially on college campuses, any critique or outrage over discriminatory and vile rhetoric marks one as being “uncivil.” Organizations like Charlie Kirk’s the Professor Watchlist maintains a list of more that 200 + faculty members for their leftist ideas and viewpoints that are deemed as an indoctrination of leftist ideologies into the classrooms.  The Watchlist’s self proclaimed mission is to to “expose and document college professors who discriminate against conservative students, promote anti-American values, and advance leftist propaganda in the classroom.”

Similarly Foundation for Individual Rights in Education: FIRE blacklists institutions that have disinvited conservative speakers, marking them as the free speech violators. Under the banner of being crusaders for free speech, FIRE’s major grants, as Jim Sleepr exposed in “The Conservatives Behind the Campus ‘Free Speech’ Crusade” “come from the ultra-conservative Earhart, John Templeton, and Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundations; the Scaife family foundations; the Koch-linked Donors Trust.”   These are the same funders that also support and fund “conservative campus-targeting organizations that the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, the David Horowitz Freedom Center (whose “Academic Bill of Rights” would mandate more hiring of conservative faculty and would monitor professors’ syllabi for “balance”) and Campus Watch (which tracks and condemns liberal professors’ comments on the Middle East).”

Backed by powerful and conservative funders, in Trump’s America there is a growing fear that if one challenges the white supremacists and their narratives of culturally and morally oppressive stances, such disruptions are seen as “too disruptive,” “too offensive,” “too uncivil.” They are perceived as an infringement on the “invited” speakers right to free speech.

The alt-right, their donors, and their many followers have overwhelmingly targeted scholars of color, and those opposing racism, sexism, white supremacy and fascism.

June 2017 such an “uncivil disruptor” was African American Trinity college professor, John Eric Williams. Williams had shared an article in Fusion called “Bigoted Homophobe Steve Scalise’s Life Was Saved by a Queer Black Woman.”  He later shared another article from Medium called “Let Them Fucking Die” and used the “Let them fucking die” comment as a hashtag.

As a result of his hashtag, Williams received violent threats.  Rather than Trinity defending his right to free speech, administration put him on administrative leave.

Emerging Discourse on Silencing:

Perhaps we need to start thinking seriously about not the role of free speech, but a discourse of silencing and sanctions as a form of disciplining that has emerged in responding to campus climates that have historically suppressed ideas and positions of exclusions.

A debate on free speech and even offensive free speech on college and university campuses should not be at the cost of what we do not value and cannot value. Cheryl Harris has poignantly said in “More Than What Is: What Ought to Be,” “Defending the right to speak is theoretically distinct from defending the underlying message” but over and over, those who protest the racist character of the event are subject[ed] to the most strident critique.”

To not univocally denounce racist, homophobic, sexist, and Islamophobic speech, but to allow it on campuses as “viewpoint diversity” is at best an ethically irresponsible gesture.

Reshmi Dutt-Ballerstadt is a professor at Linfield College in Oregon and also the author of the book The Postcolonial Citizen: The Intellectual Migrant. Her most recent article in CounterPunch was titled as On Being the “Right Kind of Brown.”

 

A System Problem for Democracy


In 1956 William H. Whyte published a book entitled The Organization Man. Basing his findings on a large number of interviews with CEOs of major American corporations, Whyte concluded that, within the context of modern organizational structure, American “rugged individualism” had given way to a “collectivist ethic.” Economic success and individual recognition was now pursued within an institutional structure – that is, by “serving the organization.”

Whyte’s book was widely read and praised, yet his thesis was not as novel as it seemed. “Rugged individualism,” to the extent that it existed, was (and is) the exception for human behavior and not the rule. We have evolved to be group-oriented animals and not lone wolves. This means that the vast majority of us (and certainly not just Americans) live our lives according to established cultural conventions. These operate on many levels – not just national patriotism or the customs of family life.

What Whyte ran across was the sub-culture of the workplace as followed by those who set themselves upon a “career path” within a specific organization. The stereotypical examples are those, to quote Whyte, “who have left home spiritually as well as physically, to take the vows of organization life. [They adopt an ethic that] rationalizes the organization’s demand for fealty and gives those who offer it wholeheartedly a sense of dedication.”

Today, some private sector organizations have moved away from the most extreme demands of such conformity, but some other career lines have not, two examples being the military and career party politics. For insight in this we can turn to the sociologist C. Wright Mills, whose famous book The Power Elite was published the same year as Whyte’s The Organization Man. Mills’s work narrows the world’s ruling bureaucracies to government, military and top economic corporations.Those who make their careers within these entities, especially the military and the government, are ideologically conditioned to identify their well-being with the specific goals of their chosen organizations. That means they must bind themselves not only to the goals, but also to the ethics of their workplace. Those who balk are eventually punished and cast out of the organizations. Those who guide these organizations, and essentially decide how rules and ethics will be interpreted and applied, are Mills’s “power elite.”

How this works out in the military is pretty obvious. There is a long tradition of dedication to duty. At the core of this dedication is a rigid following of orders given by superiors. This tradition is upheld even if it is suspected that one’s superior is incompetent.

It may come as a surprise to the reader that party politics as practiced by many of the Western democracies is quite similar. The “power elites” who reside at the top of the so-called greasy pole, holding positions as the head of ruling and contesting parties, are likely to demand the same sort of obedience to orders as any military officer.

The Organization Man or Woman in Politics

Running for and holding office in countries like the United States and Canada often requires one to “take the vows of organization life.” Does this support democracy or erode it? Here is one prescient answer: the way we have structured our party politics has given us “an appalling political system which is a step-by-step denial of democracy and a solid foundation for a ‘soft’ dictatorship.”

Those are the words of the late Rafe Mair, a Canadian politician, broadcaster, author and a good friend of this writer. Rafe spent years in Canadian politics, particularly in his home province of British Columbia, and his experience led him to the conclusion expressed above. How does this translate into practice?

Rafe explained it this way: “In a parliamentary [or other form of representative] democracy the voter transfers his rights to his member of parliament [congressperson, senator or state legislator] to exercise on his behalf – the trouble is, by running for his political party the [elected person, in turn, is led to] assign your [the voter’s] rights to the [party] leader for his exclusive use!” There is no law that makes the elected official do this. However, the inducements to do so are very powerful.

Leaders of political parties can control their organizations in dictatorial fashion. They have power to reward or punish their party’s cohorts in a fashion that can make or break careers. For instance, they control the dispersal of party funds from monies for elections right down to one’s office budget, they determine whether a candidate will have to face a primary challenge, they make all committee assignments, they can promote and demote within the party ranks. As Rafe Mair observed, the possibilities for both reward and punishment are almost endless. In this way elected officials become bound to the diktats of their party’s leaders. They cannot normally vote their conscience or reliably represent their constituency unless doing so coincides with the desires of their party’s leadership.

Democracy in Danger

What is described here is a ubiquitous system problem. To one extent or another, this problem of centralization of power within organizations, particularly those that demand loyalty from their members, is commonplace – whether they are political organizations or not.

This being the case, there should be no surprise that many Western democracies are suffering from this system problem. Nor is it surprising that correcting the problem is very difficult, if for no other reason than those who control the corrupted system must be willing to participate in its reform.

What is surprising is that while many citizens sense a problem, few really understand what is going on and where it can lead. Rafe put it this way: “though the way the system fails is simplicity indeed, I daresay scarcely one in 100 voters understands that the consequences are fatal to anything but a charade of democracy.” Why is this so? It might be that beyond the classic town hall meeting, the distance between the average citizen and government bureaucracy is too great to hold the former’s interest. In normal times, apathy, and a sense of powerlessness, seems to be the default response to anything that does not impact our daily lives.

Nonetheless, increasing unresponsiveness on the part of government and a growing awareness of official corruption and mismanagement can lead to widespread citizen unease and frustration. At some point the voters may start looking for alternative politicians who claim to know what the problems are and how to fix them. Usually such claims are themselves no more than campaign hot air. However, in their ignorance, voters may well respond to such hot air, and the result can be a jump from the proverbial frying pan into the fire. U.S. voters seem to have taken just such a leap when they elected Donald Trump president.

Rafe Mair sounded the warning about this system problem and its ability to erode our democracies. He is gone now, but we and the problem he identified remain. Can we deal effectively with it? It is possible, but it will require overcoming mass apathy and ignorance and avoiding the deceptive messages of irrational leaders. I am not sure that history is on our side.

The Struggle for Independence: From Ireland to Catalonia

Photo by Lolo Manolo | CC BY 2.0

Falling into line with other EU governments, the Irish government declared it’s support for Spain against Catalonia. In the wake of the Catalan government declaring independence on October 27th 2017, the government of the Republic of Ireland issued a statement in which it said that it “does not accept or recognise the Catalan unilateral declaration of independence.”

May I also issue a statement: the Irish government does not speak for all of it’s citizens, there are those of us who do recognise Catalan independence because history is too heavy to dismiss.

I’m not surprised the Irish government is siding with Rajoy because the party currently in power in Ireland  is one with a dark history of supporting the wrong side on the Iberian peninsula. During the 1930s the founding father’s of today’s ruling party in Ireland sided with Franco in his push for a dictatorship.

Looking at the offcial website of the Irish Parliament , in particular its history section, hypocrisy reigns supreme. It tells us how the Irish Parliament came into being, how it came under severe suppression when it was deemed illegal by Britain. This little history lesson details how ” the British Government suppressed the Dail (Irish Parliament) and on 10 September 1919 Dail Eireann was declared a dangerous association and was prohibited……”

Following the December 1918 General Election in Britain, Ireland, which was still chained to the British empire, saw the independence movement Sinn Fein win 73 of the 105 seats available for Irish MPs in the House of Commons. Instead of taking up seats in the London Parliament, Sinn Fein followed through with what they had promised and set up an Irish Parliament in Dublin called Dail Eireann and on the 21st of January 1919 Ireland’s parliament was established in Dublin city. A cabinet was selected, courts set up, a constitution drawn and a declaration of independence followed an address to the free nations of the world.

The British response to the Irish Parliament was brutal. Members of the Irish Parliament were hounded and arrested. Those who evaded arrest tried to continue the work of parliament albeit in an underground fashion. The suppression of the Dail in 1919 can mirror what is going on in Catalonia today yet, those who now sit in the very same Irish Parliament suppressed and outlawed all those years ago have the audacity to ignore the facts of history.

Todays Irish government gladly celebrated the centenery  of the Easter Rising in 2016 and in 2019 no doubt will celebrate the centenery of the ‘outlawed’ Dail. The 1916 Easter Rising was an event which caught the attention of Catalans fighting their own battle for Independence. In the years following 1916 Catalans grew closer to the struggle in Ireland and followed it with great interest. They found in Ireland a kinship in the struggle against oppression.

After Dail Eireann was outlawed in early 1919, by the Winter of that year that very same outlawed government  in Dublin received a letter from staff at Catalan newspaper la veu de la Catalunya informing the Irish how their struggle gave Catalans the  “courage to pursue the fight and recover the freedom and the personality of Catalonia politically as well as socially.’

In the late 1920s a Catalan political movement emerged under the name Nosaltres Sols which translates to We Ourselves/ Ourselves Alone. It was a direct link to the influence of the Irish struggle and Sinn Fein which also translates to Ourselves Alone.

During the years of the War of Independence in Ireland, the Irish Parliament strove for international recognition. Sean T O’Kelly, a future president of Ireland, was one of many delegates cast across the globe in search of international respect for the small nation seeking Independence from Britain. In 1921 during a speech in Paris O’Kelly added Catalonia to the swelling number of small nations in search of Independence stating  how they were ‘copying Irish methods and utilising Irish propaganda for inspiring their own men.”

Maire ni Bhriain was the Irish representative in Catalonia during 1920 and she wrote how when 18 year old medical student and IRA volunteer Kevin Barry was executed by the British , students at Barcelona University held a special mass attended by hundreds of people and then had a wreath made of waxed flowers and sent it to Dublin. While in Barcelona Maire also managed to raise funds for the Irish prisoners dependents fund and £120 was generously sent from the Catalans to the Irish.

Maire also detailed how when the Sinn Fein Lord Mayor of Cork Terence MacSwiney was arrested and sent to an English prison, his plight was carefully watched by the Catalans . When MacSwiney went on hunger strike and subsequently died, his death resulted in outpourings of grief in Catalonia.  Marie wrote ” university students and shop assistants all wore green ribbons on their buttons holes……the Catalans always cherish their desire for separation from Spain and their desire for independence is a common bond of sympathy between them and us.”

The Irish Parliament in 1919 was seen as an affront to the British empire, a threat to its hold on Ireland’s will for independence, so it was suppressed. The British response to the will of the Irish people in 1919 can be clearly identified in the response of the Spanish to the will of the Catalan people in 2017. Spain, like Britain in 1919, showed ill respect for democracy. Such is the pity that the Irish government now side with oppression, given our own history of being denied an Independent Republic.