All posts by Ron Forthofer

Homelessness, Corporate Welfare and Priorities

The homelessness issue has been a source of controversy at the local, state and national levels for some time now. There has been some limited progress, but this problem has certainly not been resolved humanely. Sometimes lost in the debate about this issue is that the homeless are fellow human beings, including families with children, and most of them really don’t want to be without homes.

Many of these people were and are hard working people who suffered some event, whether it was due to the predatory financial crisis ten years ago, a health crisis, a loss of a good-paying job, an accident, a severe weather-related event, the opioid crisis or other drug addiction, etc. A disproportionately large number are military veterans who suffer from PTSD or other injuries that prevent them from maintaining employment. Many of us could also become homeless if we were faced with something that disrupted our income source.

Despite the valiant efforts of lots of smart and compassionate people, the conditions faced by the homeless in the U.S. are, in general, a disgrace. I had the good fortune to have lived in Western Europe for two years in the 1980s and saw very few homeless people there. Most of these nations had good safety net programs that were a right. Unlike the U.S., self-described as the world’s greatest nation, these Western European nations valued and provided human rights including, for example, the rights to health care, housing and food, rights that don’t exist here.

Much of the lack of progress regarding homelessness in the U.S. is due to a shortage of public funds to deal adequately with the issue. Unfortunately, we accept this shortage instead of questioning why it exists.

An examination of the US budget reveals that over 60% of the discretionary spending goes to funding the military, including expensive weapons that help fuel an arms race. Other nations without an empire spend far less on their militaries. For example, our military budget is greater than the combined total of the seven nations with the next largest military budgets. Note that much of this money does not go for our national security but, instead, is corporate welfare. The military, including our naval fleets and air force as well as the over 800 military bases around the world, is used, among other things, to protect overseas investments of banks and other transnational corporations. More corporate welfare goes to the weapons manufacturers for weapons that often don’t work, are grossly over budget, and/or are unnecessary.

Our political leaders have also greatly increased homelessness in Gaza, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen, areas or countries we have attacked or where we supported our allies’ attacks.  Shamefully, we almost never consider these people.

One might ask how we have arrived at this situation where our nation doesn’t value human rights of our people or of the others. Instead U.S. leaders sacrifice our rights to the protection of a banking and corporate empire that enriches the already wealthy at the expense of the rest of us and the environment.

A partial answer to the above question is that we have a political system influenced/controlled by money. Our lightly-regulated capitalist system allows the accumulation of vast amounts of money that translate into political power. Laws are then created to further rig the system to benefit the wealthy. Our economic system allows no room for compassion for the other, a system in which looking out for number one and excessive greed rule the day. This neo-liberal economic system stands in stark contrast to the professed teachings of most religions including Christianity.

Unless we change our political and economic systems, we won’t have a government of, by and for the people. Instead we will continue to have a budget that protects and expands the wealth of those in power instead of protecting our true human rights (including the right to shelter) and the right to a clean, safe and sustainable environment. Therefore we require a fundamental change in the U.S. political/economic system. Otherwise, continuing on our current path is likely to result in either a nuclear conflict or worsening climate chaos, both of which threaten human survival.

Iran, Sanctions and Moral Authority

For over two decades, US neo-cons have been pushing for an attack on Iran on the pretext that it was developing nuclear weapons. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has been a key player in this effort, exerting as much pressure as he and the Israeli lobby can for an US attack. Netanyahu also often threatens that Israel might attack Iran. Note these are the same people who pushed for the illegal US attack on Iraq based on the bogus claim that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.

Fortunately, the 2007 US National Intelligence Estimate on Iran concluded that Iran did not have an active nuclear weapons program. This finding undercut President George W. Bush’s campaign for an attack. Furthermore, this NIE conclusion opened the door for diplomacy.

In 2015, President Obama, despite intense opposition by Netanyahu and many of his ardent supporters in Congress, committed the US to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. This deal among Iran, Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the US was designed to prevent the creation of an Iranian nuclear weapon. Key to achieving this goal was the intrusive monitoring of Iranian facilities by the International Atomic Energy Agency. Even many former Israeli military and intelligence officials supported this agreement. All the nations involved in the JCPOA, including the US, agree with the IAEA that Iran is fully complying with the accord.

However, in May 2018 President Trump violated the agreement by withdrawing the US and re-implementing harsh US sanctions against Iran. This violation did tremendous damage to US credibility and made future negotiations more difficult since the US clearly cannot be trusted to honor its commitments.

Following Trump’s decision, the other participants initially said they would still honor their word. However, since then, the US has been attempting to coerce Britain, France and Germany as well as other nations to go along with the sanctions by threatening them with the choice between trade with Iran or with the US. The goals of these sanctions, economic warfare, seem to be the destruction of the Iranian economy that will inflict sufficient hardship on the Iranian people and lead to the overthrow of their government. Dream on.

In addition, Secretary of State Pompeo recently announced the formation of the Iran Action Group to coordinate US policy towards Iran. Its focus is on the 12 unrealistic demands Pompeo made of Iran in his speech in May. That speech was not diplomacy but, essentially, a demand for Iran to surrender its sovereignty. If these sanctions, economic warfare, don’t work, there’s always the military option.

It appears as if the Trump administration did not learn anything from the disaster President George W. Bush created in Iraq and it subsequently spread to the entire Middle East. Trump is following the same script that the Bush administration used and is risking creating an even larger catastrophe than Iraq possibly leading to a confrontation with Russia.

Unfortunately, the US has a long record of imposing sanctions on other nations. It claims that it uses sanctions to support democracy and human rights or in fighting terrorism. These stated reasons are often simply a palliative cover for advancing the interests of US banks and other corporations. Despite what a propagandized US public believes, an examination of the US record of human rights violations and war crimes shows that the US lacks the moral legitimacy to judge any other nation.

For example, the US was founded based on two original sins – the genocide of American Indians and slavery of Blacks. Both these groups were and still are denied fair and just treatment. In the international arena, the US has overthrown or supported the overthrow of governments in this hemisphere and elsewhere. A few better known examples of the many, many US staged or supported coups are Iran in 1953, Guatemala in 1954, Chile in 1973, and Ukraine in 2014. Two major US war crimes can be included — millions killed in and the devastation of Vietnam and Iraq.

In addition, the US is the country: 1) most widely viewed as a threat to world peace in 2013; 2) that besides using torture carries out assassinations by drones; and 3) that is a long-term violator of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. That the US thinks it has the moral credibility to judge other nations demonstrates its incredible hubris. Shamefully other Western nations go along with this insanity.

Separation and killing of children

President Trump’s cruel policy of separating immigrant children from their parents as they sought asylum here mocked the idea that the US government values families. Unfortunately the US has a long and sad history of separating children from their parents. For example, the US took American-Indian children from their parents and Black slave families were often torn apart.

Fortunately the media provided non-stop coverage of Trump’s latest abomination. In addition, the US public continues to express its outrage about this horrific situation. This public outrage is one of the factors that finally caused Trump to end his appalling policy.

Unfortunately, the media has not provided much coverage of the reasons these immigrant families are leaving everything familiar behind and seeking asylum. The media sometimes mentions the terrifying violence in Central America while ignoring the US role in creating it.

Some US interventions

For example, since early in the twentieth century, the US has frequently intervened in Central and South America in support of US corporate interests. For example, in 1935 US Marine Corps Major General Smedley Butler, one of the most highly decorated Marines in US history, wrote:

I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism.

In his writing, Butler specifically referred to his service in Mexico, Haiti, Cuba, Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, and Honduras among other places on behalf of Wall Street, US banks and other corporate interests.

The US has continued to intervene in Central and South America, including the overthrow of elected governments. In 1954 the US supported the illegal coup against the democratically-elected Guatemalan government of Jacobo Arbenz. Perhaps more well known is the US support for the military coup against the democratically-elected Salvador Allende, president of Chile, in 1973 that led to a brutal dictatorship and horrendous human rights abuses.

Skipping over many more interventions, more recently the US quickly recognized the results of a coup in Honduras in 2009 that ousted the democratically-elected President Manuel Zelaya who was not favored by the US. Increasing violence and repression against the Honduran people by the coup government and gangs followed almost immediately and continues today.

Little media coverage of some children’s deaths

Contrast highly warranted public outrage over the separation of families to the relatively little public reaction to the reported large number of extra deaths of Iraqi children during the 1990s. These deaths followed the attack on Iraq in 1991 and the subsequent sanctions. In a 1996 interview, Leslie Stahl asked Madeleine Albright, then US ambassador to the UN: “We have heard that a half-million children have died. I mean, that’s more children than died in Hiroshima. And — and, you know, is the price worth it?” Albright replied, “I think this is a very hard choice, but the price — we think the price is worth it.” The number of deaths reported was likely overestimated but, regardless, Albright’s response is chilling. The sanctions preceded the 2003 US-led attack on Iraq that was even more destructive.

Perhaps this lack of public outrage was partially related to the US media that didn’t provide non-stop coverage of US war crimes similarly to its current coverage of Trump’s sickening and indefensible separations.

Also note the meager media coverage of the killing of children and their families and the US role in these murders in Yemen, Syria, Libya and Afghanistan. Have we as a people become so jaded to the deaths of the other when it is supported by both major political parties? Or is the lack of outrage related to the media’s poor coverage?

In addition, where is the outrage against the illegal siege of and the lethal Israeli attacks on Gaza that are incredibly devastating to the entire Palestinian population in Gaza, particularly to the children? Unfortunately the US media pays little attention to Palestinians, allowing the incredible suffering and the trauma to continue.

Lastly, consider the Israeli treatment of Palestinian children who are forcefully separated from their families and imprisoned where they are often further abused. Rep. Betty McCollum has introduced H.R. 4391 that would stop US support for Israeli abuse of Palestinian children. Encourage your representative to support this bill.

U.S. Mainstream Media: Empire’s Tool

The U.S. mainstream media has an important role to play as the fourth estate. Sometimes it does an excellent job of informing the public on issues, particularly on many social issues. However, the mainstream media long ago abrogated its responsibility of accurately informing the public about U.S. foreign policy. Instead it has become a tool to advance the interests advocated by the U.S. establishment, particularly the goal to maintain U.S. hegemony.

U.S. Foreign Policy Rationale

George Kennan, a major foreign policy figure after WWII, wrote a policy memo for the State Department in 1948 stating:

Furthermore, we have about 50% of the world’s wealth but only 6.3 of its population. This disparity is particularly great as between ourselves and the peoples of Asia. In this situation, we cannot fail to be the object of envy and resentment. Our real task in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships, which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity without positive detriment to our national security. To do so we will have to dispense with all sentimentality and daydreaming; and our attention will have to be concentrated everywhere on our immediate national objectives. We need not deceive ourselves that we can afford today the luxury of altruism and world benefaction…

The numbers are different today, but Kennan’s point is still valid. Our leaders today try to advance U.S. banking and corporate interests by maintaining the obscene inequity Kennan identified. At the same time, our leaders strive to convince the U.S. and foreign populations that our interventions are done with good intentions, that is, in the name of advancing free-market democracy, human rights or self defending, that is, protecting the U.S. against foreign threats. The mainstream media seem to view its job as spinning these interventions to reinforce the government’s version.

Iraq

For example, many of us remember how the George W. Bush administration and our leading media misled the public over Iraq’s non-existent weapons of mass destruction. This was the government’s stated reason for attacking Iraq, but the control of Iraq’s large oil resources was one key reason for the attack. These false WMD allegations led to a major U.S. war crime and the devastation of Iraq. The media has since downplayed how this war crime led to the creation of ISIS and the continued slaughter of innocents in the Middle East.

Iran

Lesser remembered is how the compromised mainstream media again cooperated with the Bush administration in attempting to generate support for an attack on Iran, another nation with huge oil resources. The same spurious claim of an active nuclear weapons program was put forth. Fortunately the U.S.  intelligence community finally stood up for the truth and undercut support for an attack despite strong Israeli pressure for it. However, this revelation of no active Iranian program has not prevented the continued attempt by many politicians, supported by several leading truth-challenged media pundits and the Israeli lobby and Saudi money, to sway U.S. public opinion to be in favor of an attack.

In addition, in an additional effort to justify an attack on Iran, numerous U.S. political officials and pundits claim that Iran is the foremost state sponsor of terrorism. These shameful officials and pundits ignore Saudi Arabia and its support for terrorists. For example, a 2009 State Department cable stated: “Still, donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide.” I guess the out for Saudi Arabia is that it’s private donors providing the funding instead of the Saudi government.

Honduras

The media is also playing its role in Honduras and Venezuela. Since the U.S. currently backs the Honduran government, a government that came to power after a military coup in 2009, the media downplays horrific violations of international law and human rights there. For example, although the UN General Assembly, the Organization of American States, and the European Union all condemned the 2009 coup, the U.S. wouldn’t officially declare it a coup and actually continued military aid. In addition, then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton kept the democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya from being returned to office.

The result of the coup has been a large increase in violence and human rights abuses by this U.S. ally. Government actions include the killings of labor and environmental activists, peasants, reporters and opposition politicians. Crime has grown massively and many people have fled in fear of their lives. Poverty also increased dramatically while the wealthy profited.

Now it appears that the current incumbent Honduran President, Juan Orlando Hernandez, stole the November 2017 presidential election. OAS representatives independently monitored the election and found widespread irregularities, doubted the validity of the outcome, and called for a new election. Unsurprisingly, the U.S. accepted the results from an election group dominated by Hernandez’s supporters that gave Hernandez the victory. Instead of providing in-depth coverage and challenging the U.S. position on Honduras since the 2009 coup, the media continued its focus on Venezuela.

Venezuela

Hugo Chávez was elected President of Venezuela in 1998. He implemented social programs that greatly expanded access to food, housing, health care and education, benefiting a large majority of the population. Chávez used some of Venezuela’s vast oil and gas wealth to fund these expansions. This Chávez decision, along with his warm relations with Cuba and unwillingness to support a number of U.S. positions, caused him to be viewed as a threat to the U.S.-led neo-liberal system.

In 2002, Venezuelan business leaders and some of the military staged a coup against Chávez. True to form, the U.S. failed to condemn the coup. Predictably, the New York Times editorialized in support of the coup. Chávez ‘s supporters and the military quickly rallied and forced the restoration of Chávez and democracy.

The U.S. mainstream media continues its campaign against the Venezuelan democracy while trying to convince the U.S. population that we are supporting democracy. Contrary to the mainstream media, William Blum wrote the following after the restoration of Chávez: Or as Monty Python legend, Terry Jones, put it: Chávez was ousted in “a free and fair democratic coup, only to be returned to office two days later on what seems to have been little more than the whim of the people.”

After the failed coup, the U.S. resorted to economic and political warfare to undercut Venezuelan democracy just as it had done in Chile against the democratically-elected Salvador Allende government. It has been almost 16 years since the failed coup against Chávez  and the U.S. funded opposition still hasn’t ousted the government.

U.S. Secretary of State Tillerson recently said a military coup is possible, although adding the U.S. isn’t specifically advocating for regime change. Instead, he hoped Nicolas Maduro, the democratically elected successor to Chávez, would voluntarily step down. Note that Venezuela, falsely labeled a dictatorship, will hold another presidential election this April. I hope there will not be another coup attempt, abetted by neighboring foreign forces and the U.S., before then.

Blatant Hypocrisy

All of this discussion ignores the mainstream media’s two greatest successes, that is, avoiding any in-depth consideration of violations of international law and human rights by Israel and the U.S. itself. The U.S. mainstream media portrays Israel as the victim of Palestinian terrorism while ignoring Israeli occupation of Palestinian land and continuing widespread oppression and state terrorism against Palestinians. The media also ignores the elephant in the room, U.S. crimes. As a result of media’s slavish complicity, most of the U.S. public has little idea about how terribly illegal, unjust and violent U.S. foreign policy really is.

Clearly the U.S. is hypocritical in its foreign policy positions and the mainstream media is generally polite enough not to point this out.

Peace and Justice on Earth and Goodwill to All

Unfortunately, the hope for peace and justice on earth and goodwill to all seems to be receding with each passing year. US politicians, particularly the neo-cons and neo-libs in Washington DC, seem to respond with a bah, humbug to this desire. These neo-folks, like other Americans, are people who have not directly experienced the ravages, destruction and killing of war here and are thus all too quick to ignore diplomacy. Instead they resort to the military in response to challenges, whether they are real or manufactured.

There are a number of potential flash points where, if the situation is mishandled, the potential for widespread death and devastation is present. In a few cases, the potential conflict could go nuclear. North Korea, Syria, Ukraine, Iran, the South China Sea, and along the Russian border with Eastern Europe are areas of particular concern. Making matters worse, these neo-folks also act as if they don’t understand that the use of only a small portion of the nuclear weapons on earth could kill tens-to-hundreds of millions, further destabilize the climate and imperil the world’s food supply.

Even without the use of nuclear bombs, our so-called conventional weapons, including napalm and depleted uranium, wreaked havoc on Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, Syria, Serbia, Vietnam and North Korea. We had little understanding of their histories and cultures, their fears and their needs. Instead, the leaders of these nations were portrayed as being evil and this portrayal magically made horrific US war crimes against civilians acceptable.

Apparently we, the U.S. public, long ago reached the point that widespread killing of the other became so acceptable that it didn’t even warrant discussion. According to J. Robert Oppenheimer (father of the atomic bomb), before the approval of the use of the atomic bomb, Secretary of War Henry Stimson struggled with the moral issues raised by WWII and expressed dismay at the “appalling” lack of conscience and compassion ushered in by the war. Stimson stated that he was disturbed by the “complacency, the indifference, and the silence with which we greeted the mass bombings in Europe, and, above all, Japan.”

After the initial use of atomic weapons, Admiral William Leahy, effectively Chief of Staff to presidents Roosevelt and Truman, commented: “It is my opinion that the use of the barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan … My own feeling was that in being the first to use it, we had adopted an ethical standard common to the barbarians of the Dark Ages. I was not taught to make war in that fashion, and wars cannot be won by destroying women and children.”

In 1948 General Omar Bradley said: “Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants. We know more about war than we know about peace, more about killing than we know about living.”

Our devaluation of diplomacy is reflected in our lack of ambassadors in many of these nations that we portray as enemies. This lack of diplomatic representation makes it difficult to enter into discussions or negotiations. Additionally, we tend to view things only from our perspective and this reduces the chance for success of any negotiation.

If we are indeed serious about achieving peace and justice on earth and extending goodwill to all, we must first accept that those opposed to our policies are fellow human beings. They are not lesser beings. The Golden Rule, treat others as you wish to be treated, must apply to these other people.

The other have the same human rights as we do and the same desire to provide a good life for their families. This includes having food, housing, jobs, sanitation and a safe water supply, health care, a clean environment, educational opportunities and electricity.

We must also stress diplomacy first and understand that compromise is not a dirty word. We cannot demand that the other comply with what we say. We need to try to understand why the other has taken its position.

In addition, we must reduce our military spending, particularly on weapons that don’t work or are not necessary. The US spending on the military and its related areas dwarf the combined military spending of nations labeled as our enemies. Instead of spending on destructive weapons, spend on programs that are constructive and increase our security — the items listed above.

Perhaps then we can finally achieve true peace, justice and goodwill to all.

The First Nine Months of Donald Trump’s Presidency

For the past nine months, we have seen widespread attacks on the common good. The latest assault is the Republicans’ proposed tax reform, a huge transfer of wealth to the richest one-tenth of one percent. This legislation would also greatly increase the national debt, supposedly a major red line for Republicans. In addition, President Trump continues to: 1) slow action on climate change; 2) support fossil fuels; and 3) weaken the protections of clean air, water and soil. Trump and the Republicans have repeatedly tried to repeal the Affordable Care Act. The repeal would have eliminated coverage for millions while increasing costs for millions more. Trump now is using an executive order to withhold subsidy payments, harming more Americans. White supremacists, especially males, believe they have support from the White House. They are pleased by Trump’s continuation of the ongoing large-scale deportation of Hispanic immigrants and by his repeated attempts to keep Muslims out.

The U.S. spending on the military was already out of control, and the Pentagon cannot account for over $6.5 trillion. Despite the already unnecessarily huge military budget and astonishing unaccountability, Trump proposed a large increase and Congress raised that amount even more.

These items give a hint of the scope of the disaster we are experiencing. Given these and other issues that deserve much more media attention, I find it hard to reconcile the focus that some media still place on the questionable allegations of Russian hacking of the Democratic National Committee’s emails. I wonder what has happened to journalistic standards when the mainstream media repeatedly has treated allegations as facts.

U.S. intelligence agencies and others have searched for proof of this Russian hacking for well over a year. An early January 2017 intelligence report was touted as proof, but it provided no solid evidence, only an assessment, i.e., a best guess, in support of the allegation. Moreover, the report was presented as being done by 17 U.S. intelligence agencies, but was actually performed by handpicked analysts from three agencies — the CIA, FBI and NSA. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence was also involved. Remember the George W. Bush administration used bogus sources and cherry-picked intelligence to support the claim that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. Unfortunately the media a vital role in promoting this disinformation.

There have been numerous other highly suspect claims of Russian activity, for example, an alleged threat to the power grid that was quickly knocked down, an attempt to hack voting systems in 21 states, and the use of Facebook and other social media to influence the election and to create disharmony.

Why is this unsubstantiated hacking allegation still being pushed? I doubt that it is really driven by concern about protecting our political system from outside influence. For example, Israel and its supporters have exercised undue influence on our system for decades with little concern expressed. In addition, given that outside interference is terrible, why aren’t we outraged over the history of U.S. interference in elections of and collusion in coups against many other nations? This history includes the blatant collusion by the Clinton administration in Russia in 1996. People elsewhere see this hypocrisy.

If we are serious, a few of the many steps we can take to improve the integrity of our elections are: 1) ensuring that all citizens are allowed to vote; 2) using paper ballots; 3) providing public funding of campaigns; and 4) having a nonpartisan group run the Presidential debates.

I think there are two more probable reasons why the inept Democratic Party leadership, much of the U.S. establishment, and much of the mainstream media have for still promoting this allegation. One refers mainly to domestic considerations and the other focuses on the foreign arena. The contention of the hacking of the DNC swiftly became the basis of a claim of collusion between Trump and Russia. The charge distracted attention from the DNC’s efforts to undermine the Bernie Sanders’ campaign. After Hillary Clinton lost the election, the Democratic Party leadership continued to focus attention on its unproven claim of Russian hacking. This focus diverted attention from the Democratic Party’s need to reform itself into a party representing everyone, not just the wealthy. Perhaps some also view the collusion allegation as a way of building support for impeaching Trump.

Regarding the foreign policy area, the allegation of Russian hacking fits nicely into an ongoing PR campaign to convince Americans that Russia is our enemy. Russia, under President Vladimir Putin, has dared challenge worldwide U.S. supremacy. In addition to economic sanctions, a military response to this challenge is possible and the U.S. public must be prepared to accept and support it.

If there were no Russian hack of these emails, those creating and benefiting from this allegation while knowingly increasing the risk of a nuclear conflict, are beyond the pale.

An Insane Policy Towards North Korea

This year we commemorate the 72nd anniversary of the unjustifiable US use of nuclear weapons against civilians in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Those two attacks demonstrated the horrific power of the atomic bomb, a bomb that is tiny in comparison to the nuclear weapons available today.

Here are a few quotes that are worth pondering as we now face an avoidable crisis with North Korea, a nation with a few nuclear weapons.

After the initial use of atomic weapons, Admiral William Leahy, effectively Chief of Staff to presidents Roosevelt and Truman, commented: “It is my opinion that the use of the barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan … My own feeling was that in being the first to use it, we had adopted an ethical standard common to the barbarians of the Dark Ages. I was not taught to make war in that fashion, and wars cannot be won by destroying women and children.”

In 1948 General Omar Bradley said: “Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants. We know more about war than we know about peace, more about killing than we know about living.”

William Perry, former a Secretary of Defense under Bill Clinton, recently wrote: “I believe that the risk of a nuclear catastrophe today is greater than it was during the Cold War — and yet our public is blissfully unaware of the new nuclear dangers they face.”

Steven Starr with Physicians for Social Responsibility wrote in 2014: “These peer-reviewed studies – which were analyzed by the best scientists in the world and found to be without error – also predict that a war fought with less than half of US or Russian strategic nuclear weapons would destroy the human race.”

Given what we know, it is criminally irresponsible to continue tit-for-tat provocations with North Korea. Russia, China and North Korea have offered a solution that would freeze North Korea’s nuclear weapon and ballistic missile programs in exchange for a freeze on joint war games by the US, South Korea and now Japan that alarm North Korea with the possibility of a nuclear attack.

For the US to continue with sanctions and war games instead of negotiating is insane as it is endangering the world. An attack by the US on North Korea would likely draw China and Russia into the fighting. Not to negotiate shows that General Bradley’s quote is still correct about our leaders. We must demand that the US negotiate to prevent perhaps the greatest catastrophe of all time.

Insane policy towards North Korea

This year we commemorate the 72nd anniversary of the unjustifiable US use of nuclear weapons against civilians in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Those two attacks demonstrated the horrific power of the atomic bomb, a bomb that is tiny in comparison to the nuclear weapons available today.

Here are a few quotes that are worth pondering as we now face an avoidable crisis with North Korea, a nation with a few nuclear weapons.

After the initial use of atomic weapons, Admiral William Leahy, effectively Chief of Staff to presidents Roosevelt and Truman, commented: “It is my opinion that the use of the barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan … My own feeling was that in being the first to use it, we had adopted an ethical standard common to the barbarians of the Dark Ages. I was not taught to make war in that fashion, and wars cannot be won by destroying women and children.”

In 1948 General Omar Bradley said: “Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants. We know more about war than we know about peace, more about killing than we know about living.”

William Perry, former a Secretary of Defense under Bill Clinton, recently wrote: “I believe that the risk of a nuclear catastrophe today is greater than it was during the Cold War — and yet our public is blissfully unaware of the new nuclear dangers they face.”

Steven Starr with Physicians for Social Responsibility wrote in 2014: “These peer-reviewed studies – which were analyzed by the best scientists in the world and found to be without error – also predict that a war fought with less than half of US or Russian strategic nuclear weapons would destroy the human race.”

Given what we know, it is criminally irresponsible to continue tit-for-tat provocations with North Korea. Russia, China and North Korea have offered a solution that would freeze North Korea’s nuclear weapon and ballistic missile programs in exchange for a freeze on joint war games by the US, South Korea and now Japan that alarm North Korea with the possibility of a nuclear attack.

For the US to continue with sanctions and war games instead of negotiating is insane as it is endangering the world. An attack by the US on North Korea would likely draw China and Russia into the fighting. Not to negotiate shows that General Bradley’s quote is still correct about our leaders. We must demand that the US negotiate to prevent perhaps the greatest catastrophe of all time.

Threat to free speech

There is a Senate bill, along with a companion bill in the House, working its way through Congress with strong bipartisan support, that poses a significant danger to free speech. One would think this bill would be a big deal but, surprisingly, the bill has not received much coverage in the mainstream media.

Fortunately the American Civil Liberties Union is alert to efforts undermining free speech. Thus, in a July 20th article on the ACLU website about S. 720/H.R. 1697, the Israel Anti-Boycott Act, Bryan Hauss, Staff Attorney, wrote:

The bill would amend existing law to prohibit people in the United States from supporting boycotts targeting Israel — making it a felony to choose not to engage in commerce with companies doing business in Israel and its settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories. Violations would be punishable by a civil penalty that could reach $250,000 and a maximum criminal penalty of $1 million and 20 years in prison.

Hauss continues:

The bill is aimed at advocates of boycotts targeting Israel, most notably the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement — a global campaign that seeks to apply economic and political pressure on Israel to comply with international law. Specifically, the bill sponsors intend the act as a response to the U.N. Human Rights Council’s 2016 resolution calling on companies to respect human rights, including in occupied Palestinian territories. No matter what you think about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, one thing is clear: The First Amendment protects the right to engage in political boycotts.

Amazingly, supporters of this bill seem to have a problem with calling on companies to respect human rights! Who would draft such a problematic bill that stifles free speech and nonviolent political action?

The theintercept.com website carried a July 19th article by Glenn Greenwald and Ryan Grim that said:

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency reports that the bill “was drafted with the assistance of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.” Indeed, AIPAC, in its 2017 lobbying agenda, identified passage of this bill as one of its top lobbying priorities for the year.

This AIPAC-influenced bill is consistent with AIPAC’s long-term pattern of advocating for the interests of a foreign nation, Israel. AIPAC is one of the most powerful lobbies in Washington, D.C. and many members of Congress seem to automatically toe its line. Thus it is not surprising that 46 senators and 245 representatives have already signed on to the bill originally introduced on March 23rd.

Greenwald and Grim added that cosponsors include liberal Senators Ron Wyden, Richard Blumenthal, Maria Cantwell as well as conservative Senators Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and Ben Sasse. In the House, cosponsors include conservatives such as Jason Chaffetz, Liz Cheney, and Peter King as well as liberals Ted Lieu, Adam Schiff, and Eric Swalwell. Greenwald and Grim noted that these latter three members, who have built a wide public following by posturing as opponents of authoritarianism, are cosponsoring one of the most oppressive and authoritarian bills that has pended before Congress in quite some time.

Many of the cosponsors claim they were unaware of the penalties that could be applied in the bill whereas a few others state that they have a different reading of the bill, particularly related to the criminal penalties.

In addition to using AIPAC and other groups to lobby Congress, Israel previously directly inserted itself into our legislative process. For example, in 2015 Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blatantly campaigned to derail the nuclear agreement with Iran. Also of concern, many U.S. and Israeli political experts thought Netanyahu clearly tried to sway the outcome in the 2012 U.S. Presidential election in favor of the Republican candidate Mitt Romney.

We must protect our free speech by opposing this highly questionable bill designed to benefit a foreign nation. In Colorado this means questioning Senator Bennet and Representatives Lamborn, Coffman and Buck, about their support for this appalling bill. We can also thank the other members of the Colorado delegation for not cosponsoring this terrible affront to free speech and the Constitution.

Little-known Tale of Betrayal and Cover Up

This article is about events so counter-intuitive that Hollywood would reject the plot as being too unbelievable. Fifty years ago on June 8th, another nation intentionally attacked a U.S. Navy ship in international waters, and the U.S. didn’t respond.

The attack

The lightly-armed intelligence-gathering U.S. ship, USS Liberty, was under close observation for at least six hours before an air attack began around 2 pm. The ship was flying a five-by-eight-foot American flag for most of that time. The flag continued to be flown until being shot down and then replaced with an even larger flag.

The attacking jets used cannons, rockets and napalm against this basically defenseless ship. The attack, consisting of about thirty air sorties over a twenty-five minute period, killed and wounded a number of the crew, caused raging fires, and knocked out the defensive gun mounts and most of the ship’s communication equipment. The attackers also jammed the ship’s radios on both the U.S. Navy’s tactical and the international maritime distress frequencies. However, due to the actions of a brave radio operator, the ship was able to send a distress call to the U.S. Sixth Fleet over 400 miles away.

After the air attack ended, three torpedo boats appeared and came in for the kill. They opened fire with 20 and 40-mm guns and torpedoes. One torpedo hit just below the waterline and opened up a 39-foot-wide hole in the U.S. Navy ship, now basically dead in the water. The torpedo boats continued to fire armor-piercing projectiles into the ship for forty minutes.

Three lifeboats that were still usable were secured and dropped over the ship’s side. The attackers shot up two of the lifeboats and carried the third lifeboat away. Shortly afterward, more jet fighters and two assault helicopters carrying armed troops appeared. However, before the final assault, these aircraft suddenly departed.

The attackers killed thirty-four Americans and wounded over 170 out of 294 crew members.

The appalling betrayal and cover up

Before the torpedo boats attacked, four U.S. jets were launched to help the U.S. ship. However, they were soon recalled on order of the U.S. Secretary of Defense. The reason given for the recall was that these planes were carrying nuclear weapons. About 95 minutes later, another wave of U.S. planes was launched, but it was subsequently recalled on order of the U.S. president. The U.S. ship did not receive any aid from the Navy until around dawn the next day when two U.S. destroyers finally arrived.

The Navy ordered the sailors not to discuss the attack with anyone, and split up and reassigned the crew. While the ship was limping to a dry dock in Malta, the Navy convened a formal Court of Inquiry. Strangely, the Court’s mission was not to investigate the attack, but to determine whether any shortcomings of the crew had contributed to the injuries and deaths that resulted from the attack. What!? The Court had one week to report which led to what Rear Admiral Merlin Sterling, the Navy’s former judge advocate general, later described as a “hasty, superficial, incomplete and totally inadequate inquiry.”

Defying the cover up

In June 1982, the ship’s crew members reunited for the first time and formed an association with, among others, the goal of obtaining a Congressional investigation of the attack and of bringing the true story to the American people.

As a result of efforts of an association member and of a local activist, Boulder Mayor Linda Jourgensen declared June 8, 1987 to be a day to memorialize the ship and the 34 crew members who were killed in the attack. In 1988, Colorado Governor Roy Romer issued a similar proclamation for June 8, 1988. A few other cities and states have also recognized the ship and her crew. However, Congress has yet to thoroughly investigate the attack.

Identities

The ship was the USS Liberty, Israel was the attacker, Lyndon Johnson was the President and the Defense Secretary was Robert McNamara. This murderous Israeli attack and reprehensible cover-up demonstrated to Israel that it could literally get away with murder, a terrible situation for the Middle East and U.S. policy independence.

Israeli apologists claim that this was a case of mistaken identity, but that claim is debunked here and here.

Remember the USS Liberty! Spread the word about this heroic crew, the despicable attack and the shameful cover up.