Category Archives: War Crimes

Venezuela: A Risk to Dollar Hegemony

After the new coup attempt – or propaganda coup – Venezuela lives in a state of foreign imposed insecurity. The failed coup was executed on 30 April by Juan Guaidó, the self-proclaimed and Washington-trained and endorsed “interim President”, and the opposition leader, Leopoldo López, who was hurriedly freed from house arrest by Guaidó with a couple of dozens of armed-to-the-teeth defecting military, who apparently didn’t quite know what they were up to. Because, when all was over after a few hours, most of them asked to be re-integrated into their military units – and, as far as I know, they were readmitted.

These are Washington’s puppets and “coup-makers”. When one sees that the so-called coup was defeated in a mere few hours, without any Venezuelan military interference, one wonders whether this was really planned as a coup, or merely as a “public relations” coup, for the media to ‘recharge’ their narrative of Maduro dictatorship, of a suffering people, of famine, of lack of medication and medical supplies all due to the Maduro government’s mismanagement of Venezuela’s natural riches, the lie-slander we have been used to for the last several years.

For sure, the Venezuelan people are suffering. According to a CEPR report sanctions have killed some 40,000 Venezuelans. And this, not because of President Maduro’s squandering of Venezuelan resources, but because of a brutal, merciless outside interference, principally from the United States and to a lesser degree from Washington’s European vassals. If you listen to the ceaseless drumbeat for war against Venezuela and her democratically elected President Nicolas Maduro, by Pompeo, Bolton, Pence and Trump, you can only wonder and shake your head.  What pathological and schizophrenic world are we living in? And are we all sick to the bone, that we tolerate it, that nobody of and in power – other than Russia and China – say ‘Halt’ to this deadly fiasco?

This article by Eric Zuesse, including leaked documents from Pentagon’s southern command, SOUTHCOM, will give the non-believers plenty of reasons to change their minds.

Western humanity has reached an abject state of mental disease. We allow the slaughter of tens of millions of people by the United States and its NATO allies in US-provoked wars and conflicts around the world, indiscriminate killing for resources and monetary dominion. But we follow the same killer nation in accusing a quiet, peace-loving, fully democratic country, like Venezuela, to be utterly trampled on and punished with the most horrific monetary and economic sanctions – all illegal, by any standards of law – and our western “leaders” know it all.

These western heads of state and their chosen minions do not have the guts or political courage to say ‘STOP’. They could, if they had any conscience left. These so-called leaders (sic) of vassal states, they have it all in their sovereign power. They could together decide that enough is enough, separate themselves from the Washington horrors and form a real European Union, a union to say no to the tyrant, a union that is capable of calling its own sovereign shots, decide its own destiny, a destiny of alliance with peaceful countries like Venezuela, Cuba, Russia, China, Iran and more, basically all those that have decided not to bend to the dictate of Washington.

Why don’t they? Have they been bought, or received death threats if they dare to deviate? All is possible, even likely, because it is unfathomable that the leaders, the political heads of all those 28 EU countries are hell-bent to believe the lies being propagated day-in and day-out, drip-by-miserable drip. It is not possible.

Back to Venezuela.

The western public at large must never be too long without devastating smear-news about a regime the empire wants to “change”. It is clear that the nefarious pair in Venezuela, Guaidó-López, followed strict Washington instructions. Guaidó would never dare do anything without prior approval and directives from his masters in Washington.

Despite threats after pompous threats and false accusations and failed coup attempts, President Maduro holds on to a solid backing of six million voters who supported him, more than two thirds of those who went to the ballots, on 20 May 2018. He also has the solid support of the military, who have a revolutionary integrity and conscience unknown to the west. And not least, he has the support of Venezuela’s solid allies, Russia and China.

Nevertheless, the United States will not let go. Why do they risk everything – even a devastating war?

Well, there are several reasons. First you may think, “It’s the Oil, stupid!”, and second, the turbo-capitalist, neoliberal turning-to-neofascist US will not tolerate a socialist state in what they still consider their ‘backyard’.  Well, all of this is true. Venezuela has indeed the world’s largest hydrocarbon reserves, and it is conveniently close to The US’s Texas refineries.

However, the key reason for Washington forcing ‘regime change’ is that Venezuela has stopped selling her hydrocarbon in US dollars, and, may therefore become a risk for the US-dollar hegemony around the globe. That is a punishable violation for the empire. At least two heads of state were assassinated because they dared abandoning the unwritten and unlawful, but nevertheless US-imposed rule to sell their oil and gas in US-dollars, Saddam Hussein of Iraq and Muammar Gaddafi. Both had started trading their oil in other than US-dollar currencies and were strong advocates for others to do likewise.

Some three years ago, Venezuela started selling her oil and gas in other currencies than the US-dollar, a cardinal sin.

Global dollar hegemony, meaning the full control of economies throughout the globe – a control that is rapidly fading – can only be maintained by a world flooded by dollars and with a monetary system that is entirely controlled by the FED and its associated American banks, by an international transfer system, SWIFT, that channels every dollar to be moved between countries, whether it is the US or any other country – through a US bank, in either New York or London. That still being the case, the US dollar remains the key reserve currency in the world, though rapidly fading. And second, through the obligatory trading of a commodities – like hydrocarbon energy – ONLY in US-dollars. The latter also allows the empire to print as many dollars as it needs to keep the world economy under control – and punish those that do not want to bend to Washington’s rule, with sanctions and confiscation of assets abroad, because — all transactions are controlled by the US banking system.

First, the dollar as a reserve currency, is fading rapidly, as ever fewer countries entrust their reserves to a largely recognized ‘fake’, fiat and debt-based currency, the US-dollar. They convert their dollar reserve holdings gradually into other assets; i.e. gold, or the Chinese Yuan which has become high in demand over the last few years. Logically, because China is already known as the undisputable strongest economy in the world, hence, the Chinese currency has a special reserve standing. However, the mainstream media do not report on this.

Second, with a growing number of countries that do no longer respect the Washington imposed US-dollar rule for hydrocarbon trading – the demand for dollars decreases rapidly – a direct confrontation to the United States’ dollar hegemony over the world. Russia and China have years ago stopped trading in US dollars, not only hydrocarbons, but everything. India and Iran have started doing the same. Other countries will follow – and Venezuela, one of the vanguards with the world’s largest oil reserves – should, therefore, not be allowed to become a model for other nations. The Trump Administration and its Wall Street masters will do what it takes to stop Venezuela from abandoning the dollar.

Hence, regime change and taking over the vast oil assets is of the order – with war, if necessary – “all options are on the table” – all under the blatantly fakest pretexts of “humanitarian intervention” and bringing back democracy – when the world knows that anywhere the US intervenes, democracy is abolished. In fact, what the US has managed – and wantonly so – is kill any democracy that ever existed.

Under these circumstances, Venezuela’s transgression in shedding the dollar for oil trading – and for trading in general – amounts to a serious threat to the dollar hegemony and must be suffocated. That’s what these coup attempts are all about. If they succeed, the dollar-currency collapse could be postponed for a bit, and taking possession of the oil reserves would be the icing on the cake.

What’s left after the dollar dominance over the world is gone, once the key tool, economic sanctions, for manipulating nations into doing the bidding of the emperor is no longer effective?  A broken US economy, one that already today depends heavily on the war and weapons industry – in fact, for over 50% of US GDP, when all associated manufacturing and services are counted. What’s left is the overwhelming firepower of that belligerent warmongering and war-dependent nation, with which the US and NATO could pull the rest of the world into oblivion.

That’s what’s at stake with any nation that wants to kick the petro-dollar. Also, Iran, of course. But both Iran and Venezuela have strong protection from Russia and China – two countries that freed themselves from the fangs of the dollar system years ago. And they are offering a bright future with viable Eastern monetary alternatives, mostly based on the Chinese Yuan and other currencies linked to SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization) members.

Venezuela – Venceremos!

Tackling the “Impossible”: Ending Violence

Whenever, in ordinary circumstances, the subject of violence comes up, most people throw up their hands in horror and comment along the lines that it is ‘in our genes’, ‘nothing can be done about it’ or other words that reflect the powerlessness that most people feel around violence.

It is true that violence is virtually ubiquitous, has a near-infinite variety of manifestations and, at its most grotesque (as nuclear war or run-away climate catastrophe), even threatens human extinction in the near-term.

Nevertheless, anyone who pays attention to the subject of violence in any detail soon discovers that plenty of people are interested in tackling this problem, even if it is ‘impossible’. Moreover, of course, at least some people recognize that while we must tackle each manifestation of violence, understanding the cause of violence is imperative if we are to successfully tackle its many manifestations at their source. To do all of this effectively, however, is a team effort. And hopefully, one day, this team will include all of us.

In the meantime, let me start by telling you a little about some of the people who are already working to end violence by tackling one or more of its many manifestations. These individuals are part of a worldwide network set up to focus on ending violence – ‘The People’s Charter to Create a Nonviolent World’ – and they have signed a pledge to do so.

Concerned about US government threats to Iran and Venezuela, several Charter signatories were part of one or both recent peace delegations to Iran and Venezuela respectively. These delegations were designed to open more lines of communication and to demonstrate solidarity with those who do not submit to US hegemony.

The 28-member US peace delegation to Iran from 25 February to 6 March 2019 included long-term nonviolent activists Margaret Flowers, Kevin Zeese and David Hartsough. Unfortunately for David, author of Waging Peace: Global Adventures of a Lifelong Activist and director of Peaceworkers, his trip didn’t go as planned. If you would like to read a compelling account of his time in Iran with some wonderful Iranians, while learning something about what it means to be on the wrong end of US sanctions, you will find it in ‘An American Casualty of U.S. Economic Sanctions on Iran’. Glad you got the lifesaving medical treatment from our Iranian friends that you needed, David, despite the sanctions! And it is a tragedy that Iran has recently suffered even more, as a result of the devastating floods that have hit the country, with the sanctions cruelly denying them vital emergency assistance.

In relation to Venezuela, a 13-member peace and solidarity delegation from North America landed in Caracas, Venezuela on the weekend of 9-10 March 2019. The delegation included leaders of antiwar groups from the US and Canada and, once again, Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers of ‘Popular Resistance’ and ‘Clearing the Fog’ podcasts. You can read an account of this delegation’s findings in Kevin and Margaret’s highly informative report.

Another initiative to support Venezuelans was outlined in the article ‘A Nonviolent Strategy to Defeat a US Military Invasion of Venezuela’.

Traveling widely to witness and demonstrate solidarity with those on the receiving end of US military violence, another long-term nonviolent activist, Kathy Kelly, recently wrote an article pointing out that ‘Every War Is a War against Children’ in which she evocatively documented examples of what this means for those children living in the war zones we call Yemen and Afghanistan. In an earlier article, Kathy questioned the morality of those corporations – such as Lockheed Martin, Boeing, General Dynamics and Raytheon – that profit from the killing their weapons inflict.

Environmental journalist Robert Hunziker continues to fearlessly research and truthfully document the ongoing assaults that humans are inflicting on Earth’s biosphere. In his most recent article ‘The Blue Ocean Event and Collapsing Ecosystems‘, Robert straightforwardly explains the content of a recent interview of Dr. Peter Wadhams, the world’s leading Arctic scientist. Robert notes that ‘Currently, the Arctic is heating up about 4 times faster than the rest of the planet… the temp difference between the Arctic and the tropics is dropping precipitously… thus, driving the jet streams less… creating meandering jet streams… in turn, producing extreme weather events throughout the Northern Hemisphere, especially in mid-latitudes where most of the world’s food is grown.’ Robert also notes that the study of ancient ice cores by a team from the British Antarctic Survey, University of Cambridge and University of Birmingham found ‘major reductions in sea ice in the Arctic’ which will crank up (via temperature amplification as a result of no Arctic sea ice) Greenland regional temperatures ‘by 16°C in less than a decade’ with horrific implications for life on Earth. Thank you, Robert, for reporting what the corporate media won’t touch and even many activists find too terrifying to seriously contemplate.

In Chile, Pía Figueroa continues her heavy involvement in efforts to network those committed to peace and nonviolence and to develop media channels that report the truth. Pía reports that ‘Pressenza International Press Agency’, which celebrated its tenth anniversary last November ‘in more than 40 places of the world’, continues to advance its contribution ‘with a journalism focused on peace and nonviolence, to a world in which all human beings have a place and their rights are fully respected, in a framework of disarmed and demilitarized societies, capable of re-establishing the ecological balance through governments of real and participatory democracy.’

Since attending the Media Forum organized in the city of Chongqing, China, by CCTV+ and CGTN, in October last year, Pía has been busy organizing the upcoming Latin American Humanist Forum in Santiago with the objective of ‘Building Convergences’, as its slogan points out. It will be held on 10-12 May with the participation of many grassroots and social organizations involved in more than twenty networks of nonviolent action and inspired by the European Humanist Forum that took place in Madrid, Spain, in May 2018.

Anwar A. Khan was born into ‘a liberal Muslim family in Bangladesh’. As a 16 year old college student, he participated in the ‘Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971, which resulted in horrendous loss of life, genocide against Bangladesh’s intelligentsia and systematic rapes.’ This experience taught him the nature of the US establishment as he was ‘on the battle field along with so many friends of mine and Indian soldiers to fight back the obnoxious nexus of the Pakistani military regime and the Whitehouse establishment’ to create Bangladesh. Khan Bhai went on to complete a post-graduate education, before embarking on a 43-year (so far) business career, involving many different levels of corporate engagement and which took him to many countries of the world, including Venezuela in 2010 where he met both Hugo Chavez and Nicolás Maduro.

He also writes regularly in his spare time and recently wrote an article highlighting the adverse impact of the lack of infrastructure under which many impoverished countries suffer, given the way in which the global economy functions to exploit them. In the article, he describes an inferno that started on the night of 20 February 2019 in a building at Chawkbazar, a 300-year-old Dhaka neighbourhood, ‘where chemicals for making deodorants and other household uses were illegally stored’. The fire ‘quickly spread to four nearby buildings where many people were trapped. Hundreds of firefighters rushed to the scene but traffic jams in the narrow streets held them up. It took almost 12 hours to bring the fire under control….’ The horrific inferno claimed about 100 lives and more were injured.

Commenting on the current project that she is organizing with friends, Lori Lightning outlines the rationale behind ‘Bear Bones Parenting’:

There’s no course or exam to pass to become a parent, and most try to figure this out once a parent, and usually in an exhausted overwhelmed state. Bedtimes, meals, chores, and healthy open communication all become a task without a trusted framework in place.

Based on 51 years of combined wisdom as educators, counselors, health practitioners, moms, step moms and foster moms, Bear Bones Parenting offers an intuitive formula to demystify the basics of parenting and a workbook with tools for reflection and wellness practices to take you actively through day to day living no matter where you are at in your life. You dedicate 15 minutes a day and in trade stop being overwhelmed. A “do it yourself” workbook filled with tools to turn life into what you envision for yourself and your family.

Our cast of puppets help to inspire playful reflection on our children’s temperaments and our own. Eventual creation of short videos will be easily accessible for busy parents and provide some examples of how things typically play out with temperaments and inspiration of the Bear way, which is curious, intuitive, firm and loving.

We hope that BBP can help reduce parental stress and frustration so there is time to connect in joy and curiosity with our children and foster their independence.

For more information, you can contact Lori at this email address: moc.liamgnull@gnitneraPsenoBraeB

Professor Mazin Qumsiyeh is volunteer Director of The Palestine Institute for Biodiversity and Sustainability (PIBS) and the Palestine Museum of Natural History (PMNH) but he is also actively engaged in the Palestinian struggle for liberation from Israeli occupation. As he evocatively noted in a recent Easter reflection:

This is the tenth Easter I celebrate after returning to Palestine in 2008. When we native Christian Palestinians have a few moments to meditate and reflect in this season, we reflect that some 2.5 billion human beings believe in a message that originated with a Palestinian baby born in a manger here and was crucified for being the first revolutionary Palestinian to push for caring for the sick and the poor.

We reflect on the real message of Jesus, a message of love and coexistence. The harsh reality on the ground reminds us of our responsibility to shape a better future.

We are hopeful because we take a long view of history. Some 150,000 years ago, humans migrated from Africa using Palestine as the passage way to Western Asia and then the rest of the world. 12,000 years ago, this area became the center of development for agriculture (the Fertile Crescent). This was where we humans first domesticated animals like goats and donkeys and plants like wheat, barley, chickpeas, and lentils. This transformation allowed our ancestors time to evolve what we now call “civilization”. Hence, the first writings, the first music, and art, and the first thoughts of deities. From our Aramaic alphabet came the Latin, Arabic, Syriac, and Hebrew alphabets. Aramaic was the language of Jesus and much of our current Palestinian Arabic is still Aramaic words.

Mazin continues to travel regularly, lecturing about initiatives of the museum but also about the political reality in Palestine. If you would like to volunteer to assist the museum’s projects, or to donate money, books, natural history items or anything else that would be useful, you are welcome to contact Mazin and his colleagues at gro.erutanenitselapnull@ofni

Finally, we are deeply saddened to report the passing of Tom Shea, a long-time stalwart in the struggle for a better world and one of the original team of individuals who launched ‘The People’s Charter to Create a Nonviolent World’ on 11 November 2011. We include below the testament of his great friend and fellow nonviolent activist, Leonard Eiger:

For Tom Shea, Peace WAS the Way

My dear friend and fellow Ground Zero member Tom Shea passed away peacefully in the early morning hours of April 3rd surrounded by his family.

Earlier in his life Tom had been a Jesuit, a high school teacher, and had started an alternative high school and Jesuit Volunteer Corp: Midwest. He had also been involved in social justice issues on the national level with the Jesuits. Ground Zero member Bernie Meyer remembers Tom with great fondness, from being a student at St. Ignatius High School in Cleveland where Tom was teaching, to resisting together at Ground Zero many years later.

Tom was 47 when he left Cleveland for Traverse City, Michigan in 1977. There he met his partner Darylene, and they were inseparable from then on. Together, they participated in the Nuclear Freeze movement, and were part of the Michigan Peace Team. They traveled to New York for the second Conference on Disarmament in 1982. They protested both the first Gulf War and the war in Iraq. They also engaged in war tax resistance.

At Darylene’s suggestion, they attended a course in conflict mediation in the early ‘80s at a time when there was little written on the subject. That experience led them to a course taught by Quakers at Swarthmore College in 1986. In 1990 Tom and Darylene founded the five-county Conflict Resolution Service in Northern Michigan and trained the first group of volunteer mediators. Their mission was to promote peace and civility in the community through the use of mediator guided dialogue. In the early days of the program, volunteers met in church basements and around kitchen tables to train, role play and share experiences. They would travel to the homes of people needing mediation, focusing on resolving family and neighborhood conflicts.

Tom and Darylene moved to Snoqualmie, Washington in 2007 to spend more time with Darylene’s children. Tom got involved in community issues and continued his war tax resistance work. You could find him every April 15th, in front of the local post office, offering tax resistance information.

I was still leading a social justice ministry at the Snoqualmie United Methodist Church when one day Tom called the church office and asked who was doing social justice work in the area. We connected immediately due to common work and friends. Soon, Tom and I were making the pilgrimage together across the water to Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action, and the rest (as they say) is history.

I have spent countless hours with Tom and Darylene, discussing world affairs and working together on strategies and tactics for our work with Ground Zero. Tom and Darylene have been inseparable as both life partners and co-conspirators for peace. Tom once said that Darylene is like a Jesuit herself: “Jesuits are taken as very scholarly people and she’s very scholarly.”

In addition to working on media and communications for Ground Zero, and planning vigils and nonviolent direct actions at the Bangor Trident nuclear submarine base, Tom put himself on the line many times, often entering the roadway blocking traffic, both on the County and Federal sides, symbolically closing the base and risking arrest. Tom also created street theatre scripts that have been used during vigils at the submarine base to entertain and educate people.

Robert Burrowes, who cofounded ‘The People’s Charter to Create a Nonviolent World’, said that “Tom was one of the true legends in my life. A long-standing symbol of, and nonviolent fighter for, everything that could be in our world.” When all is said and done, Tom’s life can be summed up by A.J Muste: “There is no way to peace. Peace is the way.”

We will be scattering some of Tom’s ashes (per his wishes) at Ground Zero Center during our August Hiroshima-Nagasaki weekend of remembrance and action.

I invite you to honor Tom’s memory by supporting the work of the National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee. There are many ways we can engage in war tax resistance in the context of a broad range of nonviolent strategies for social change.

While diminished by the passing of Tom, the Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action continues ‘to explore the meaning and practice of nonviolence from a perspective of deep spiritual reflection, providing a means for witnessing to and resisting all nuclear weapons, especially Trident. We seek to go to the root of violence and injustice in our world and experience the transforming power of love through nonviolent direct action.’ You can read about their ongoing efforts on their website, Ground Zero, which also features a ‘Current Action Alert: Stop the “Low-Yield” Trident Warhead!

Each of the individuals mentioned above is part of the ongoing and steadily expanding effort to end the violence in our world. They refuse to accept that violence cannot be ended, and each has chosen to focus on working to end one or more manifestations of violence, according to their particular interests. If you would like to join these people, you are welcome to sign the online pledge of ‘The People’s Charter to Create a Nonviolent World’.

If your own interest is campaigning on a peace, climate, environment or social justice issue, consider doing it strategically.

If your focus is a defense or liberation struggle being undertaken by a national group, consider enhancing its strategic impact.

If your preference is addressing the climate and environmental catastrophes systematically, consider participating in ‘The Flame Tree Project to Save Life on Earth‘.

If you would like to tackle violence at its source, consider revising your parenting in accordance with ‘My Promise to Children‘. If you want the evidence to understand why this is so crucial, see ‘Why Violence?‘ and ‘Fearless Psychology and Fearful Psychology: Principles and Practice‘.

If you are aware enough to know that you are not dealing effectively with our deepening crisis, consider doing the personal healing necessary to do so.

It may be that ending human violence is impossible, as many believe. But there are a great number of people around the world who do not accept this and who are struggling, relentlessly, to end violence before it ends us. What about you?

Notre Dame of Gaza: Our Mosques and Churches are Also Burning

As the 300-foot spire of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris tragically came tumbling down on live television, my thoughts ventured to Nuseirat Refugee Camp, my childhood home in the Gaza Strip.

Then, also on television, I watched as a small bulldozer hopelessly clawed through the rubble of my neighborhood mosque. I grew up around that mosque. I spent many hours there with my grandfather, Mohammed, a refugee from historic Palestine. Before grandpa became a refugee, he was a young Imam in a small mosque in his long-destroyed village of Beit Daras.

Mohammed and many in his generation took solace in erecting their own mosque in the refugee camp as soon as they arrived to the Gaza Strip in late 1948. The new mosque was first made of hardened mud, but was eventually remade with bricks, and later concrete. He spent much of his time there, and when he died, his old, frail body was taken to the same mosque for a final prayer, before being buried in the adjacent Martyrs Graveyard. When I was still a child, he used to hold my hand as we walked together to the mosque during prayer times. When he aged, and could barely walk, I, in turn, held his hand.

But Al-Masjid al-Kabir – the Great Mosque, later renamed Al-Qassam Mosque – was completely pulverized by Israeli missiles during the summer war on Gaza, starting July 8, 2014.

Hundreds of Palestinian houses of worship were targeted by the Israeli military in previous wars, most notably in 2008-9 and 2012. But the 2014 war was the most brutal and most destructive yet. Thousands were killed and more injured. Nothing was immune to Israeli bombs. According to Palestine Liberation Organization records, 63 mosques were completely destroyed and 150 damaged in that war alone, oftentimes with people seeking shelter inside. In the case of my mosque, two bodies were recovered after a long, agonizing search. They had no chance of being rescued. If they survived the deadly explosives, they were crushed by the massive slabs of concrete.

In truth, concrete, cements, bricks and physical structures don’t carry much meaning on their own. We give them meaning. Our collective experiences, our pains, joys, hopes and faith make a house of worship what it is.

Many generations of French Catholics have assigned the Notre Dame Cathedral with its layered meanings and symbolism since the 12th century.

While the fire consumed the oak roof and much of the structure, French citizens and many around the world watched in awe. It is as if the memories, prayers and hopes of a nation that is rooted in time were suddenly revealed, rising, all at once, with the pillars of smoke and fire.

But the very media that covered the news of the Notre Dame fire seemed oblivious to the obliteration of everything we hold sacred in Palestine as, day after day, Israeli war machinery continues to blow up, bulldoze and desecrate.

It is as if our religions are not worthy of respect, despite the fact that Christianity was born in Palestine. It was there that Jesus roamed the hills and valleys of our historic homeland teaching people about peace, love and justice. Palestine is also central to Islam. Haram al-Sharif, where al-Aqsa Mosque and The Dome of the Rock are kept, is the third holiest site for Muslims everywhere. Yet Christian and Muslim holy sites are besieged, often raided and shut down per military diktats. Moreover, the Israeli army-protected messianic Jewish extremists who want to demolish Al-Aqsa and the Israeli government has been digging underneath its foundation for many years.

Although none of this is done in secret; international outrage remains muted. In fact, many find Israel’s actions justified. Some have bought into the ridiculous explanation offered by the Israeli military that bombing mosques is a necessary security measure. Others are motivated by dark religious prophecies of their own.

Palestine, though, is only a microcosm of the whole region. Many of us are familiar with the horrific destruction carried out by fringe militant groups against world cultural heritage in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. Most memorable among these are the destruction of Palmyra in Syria, Buddhas of Bamyan in Afghanistan and the Great Mosque of al-Nuri in Mosul.

Nothing, however, can possibly be compared to what the invading US army has done to Iraq. Not only did the invaders desecrate a sovereign country and brutalize her people, they also devastated her culture that goes back to the start of human civilization. Just the immediate aftermath of the invasion alone resulted in the looting of over 15,000 Iraqi antiquities, including the Lady of Warka, also known as the Mona Lisa of Mesopotamia, a Sumerian artifact whose history goes back to 3100 BC.

I had the privilege of seeing many of these artifacts in a visit to the Iraq Museum only a few years before it was looted by US soldiers. At the time, Iraqi curators had all precious pieces hidden in a fortified basement in anticipation of a US bombing campaign. But nothing could prepare the museum for the savagery unleashed by the ground invasion. Since then, Iraqi culture has largely been reduced to items on the black market of the very western invaders that have torn that country apart. The valiant work of Iraqi cultural warriors and their colleagues around the world has managed to restore some of that stolen dignity, but it will take many years for the cradle of human civilization to redeem its vanquished honor.

Every mosque, every church, every graveyard, every piece of art and every artifact is significant because it is laden with meaning, the meaning bestowed on them by those who have built or sought in them an escape, a moment of solace, hope, faith and peace.

On August 2, 2014 the Israeli army bombed the historic Al-Omari Mosque in northern Gaza. The ancient mosque dates back to the 7th century and has since served as a symbol of resilience and faith for the people of Gaza.

As Notre Dame burned, I thought of Al-Omari too. While the fire at the French cathedral was likely accidental, destroyed Palestinian houses of worship were intentionally targeted. The Israeli culprits are yet to be held accountable.

I also thought of my grandfather, Mohammed, the kindly Imam with the handsome, small white beard. His mosque served as his only escape from a difficult existence, an exile that only ended with his own death.

Russia warns Bolton: “Monroe Doctrine” Remarks are Insulting to Latin America

What is the ‘Monroe Doctrine’? In brief, it is a document which defines the entire Western Hemisphere as a ‘backyard’ of the United States. It ‘philosophically’ justifies Washington’s neo-colonialism, and the most barbaric coups it has been triggering, as well as covered and open interventions in the Caribbean, and in Central and South America.

And now, National Security Advisor John Bolton, is using this term in connection with Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua, outraging those who are opposing the US foreign policy in the region. What he means is clear, although it is never pronounced as bluntly as that: Countries in the Western Hemisphere should never be allowed to go socialist, and they should be prevented from disobeying Western dictates.

In Doha, Qatar, the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, expressed his outrage over Bolton’s evoking of the ‘Monroe Doctrine’ now, when the West is doing all in its power to overthrow the democratically elected left-wing government of Venezuela:

The theory and the practice of “backyards” is generally insulting…

Sergei Lavrov also added that:

Since 1945, when the UN was founded, the international law is being regulated by this universal and the most legitimate organization.

This is, obviously, not how the United States sees the world. Maybe it never even considered such an approach.

*****

But back to the ‘notorious’ Monroe Doctrine.

Surprisingly, it was not always intended to intimidate and brutalize independent and progressive Latin American nations.

According to the definition of the United States Department of State:

The Monroe Doctrine was a United States policy of opposing European colonialism in the Americas beginning in 1823. It stated that further efforts by European nations to take control of any independent state in North or South America would be viewed as “the manifestation of an unfriendly disposition toward the United States.

So, in theory at least, this policy was supposed to be putting the brakes on European colonialist expansionism. This may sound almost unbelievable now.

How very unfortunate that it has evolved into one of the most unscrupulous tools of oppression in modern history!

Contradictory to its original meaning, the United States used the ‘Monroe Doctrine’ in order to overthrow basically all patriotic, progressive and left-wing governments in the Western Hemisphere; governments that resisted the selfish geo-political interests of Washington, or the interests of US corporations, including the infamous United Fruit Company which was notorious for treating virtually all Central American countries as if they were its private plantations.

Then during the Cold War, US foreign policy towards Latin America was built on the belief that the ‘Monroe Doctrine’ should be invoked in order to prevent the spread of Soviet-backed Communism in the region.

What followed is well known: massacres in Central America, brutal coups and fascist dictatorships in Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay and elsewhere; tens of thousands of men, women and children ‘disappeared’. Death squads murdering, raping and torturing everywhere, from Guatemala and Salvador to Argentina and Chile.

The fight for US hegemony was basically and cynically named as a ‘fight for democracy’. Slavery was defined as ‘freedom’. The ‘Monroe Doctrine’ became synonymous with Plan Condor, with monstrous torture chambers and with people being thrown alive into the sea from helicopters.

*****

Now the Trump administration is re-deploying those old and fatal Cold War warriors, elevating them to high positions, the same people who were murdering, plotting and cheering assassins. The list reads like a “Wanted for Genocide” catalogue: Elliott Abrams, Michael Pompeo and yes: John Bolton.

These individuals are, of course, unapologetic.

Just recently, John Bolton declared:

In this administration we’re not afraid to use the phrase ‘Monroe Doctrine’. This is a country in our hemisphere and it’s been the objective of American presidents going back to Ronald Reagan to have a completely Democratic hemisphere.

He was talking about Venezuela, of course.

And so, the almost 200 year old ‘Monroe Doctrine’ has been revitalized; put to deadly work once again.

As reported by the Daily Star:

Mr. Bolton said the Donald Trump administration was “not afraid to use the phrase ‘Monroe Doctrine’,” when asked why it was targeting Venezuela while maintaining close alliances with tyrannies such as Saudi Arabia. The doctrine, dating back to the 1820s, denoted the Western hemisphere as a zone of US influence.

It is clear that this time, what Mr. Bolton envisions under the ‘Monroe Doctrine’ has nothing in common with the fight against European colonialism. It is a bellicose ‘modern-day’ interpretation of the doctrine: the justification for Western imperialism all over the Hemisphere. And perhaps all over the world.

Sergei Lavrov correctly defined Bolton’s remarks as ‘insulting’. They are also deadly. As they are indicative of what Western foreign policy may soon become, or has already become: an unapologetic and uncompromising return to the harshest form of expansionism.

What the US tried to avert (perhaps) some 200 years ago, it at some point joined, and then ‘perfected’. Now, it is trying to bring it to an absolute extreme.

• First published by NEO – New Eastern Outlook

If I Had a Hacker

After Julian Assange’s arrest and the resulting explosion of the internet last weekend, I attempt to pick up some of the pieces.

This past week has been one of those weeks when the internet seemed to explode, as it does every so often. Analyzing the patterns in which the rubble hit the ground after the blast, there is an overwhelming sense of mass confusion. Questions and condemnations are everywhere. Who does he really work for? What are his real interests? Who wants to extradite him, and why?

In one moldy crevice of the internet we have people convinced that he couldn’t possibly be a rapist, he was set up, the women are crisis actors. In another fetid corner are those loudly proclaiming that because he may be guilty of these accusations, who cares if he’s extradited to the US for entirely other reasons?

And then, in still another myopic little hole, the loyal Democrats, convinced that anyone who calls out Hillary Clinton as an imperialist stooge of Goldman Sachs must therefore be working for both Putin and Trump. And, therefore, so what if Julian Assange is thrown to the wolves in Alexandria, Virginia, along with Chelsea Manning?

I get the powerful sense that people don’t know what to believe. When faced with a situation where there are many different interests involved, putting forward different perspectives for their own particular reasons, there is a tendency for people to retreat into irrational little corners and shout obscenities at anyone who tries to talk to them.

It is, however, through the opposite of this kind of retreat and shout mentality where we can begin to understand the world around us. It’s imperative that you first turn off your TV. With talk radio or talk TV like Fox or MSNBC, all you get is repetition of positions, rather than analysis of real information. But repetitive propaganda of a liberal, conservative, fascist, socialist, or other nature is not what we need. To understand the world, you need more information, not less — a broader array of angles from which to view the same situation, not more ways to beat a dead horse.

Cutting to the chase, Julian Assange is wanted by the forces of empire in Washington, DC, both Democratic and Republican, because he helped expose US war crimes in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. This is no longer a suspicion, but we can now say since his arrest in London it is a fact. Whatever he thinks of the relative pros and cons of the two ruling parties in the US, however he has treated people on an interpersonal basis, whether or not his organization has accepted donations from the right or wrong people now or historically — while all of these questions are certainly relevant broadly, they are not relevant to the basic reason why the US has been trying to resuscitate the moribund Espionage Act of 1920 to go after whistle-blowers and journalists — or, in the case of Julian Assange, whistle-blower/journalists.

Chelsea Manning got 35 years. Her future at this point is very uncertain. There is no reason to suspect that the Justice Department will be seeking any less of a punishment in their case against Assange, which is being pursued for the exact same so-called crimes — the crime of exposing war crimes. This is why Julian Assange should be defended.

The Prosecution Of Julian Assange Is A Threat To Journalists Everywhere

Supporters of Julian Assange gather outside Westminster Court after Assange’s arrest (Photo by WIktor Szymanowicz for AFP-NurPhoto)

Take action to protect Julian AssangeClick here to read about what you can do.

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The arrest of Julian Assange not only puts the free press in the United States at risk, it puts any reporters who expose US crimes anywhere in the world at risk. As Pepe Escobar wrote

Let’s cut to the chase. Julian Assange is not a US citizen, he’s an Australian. WikiLeaks is not a US-based media organization. If the US government gets Assange extradited, prosecuted and incarcerated, it will legitimize its right to go after anyone, anyhow, anywhere, anytime.

The Assange prosecution requires us to build a global movement to not only free Julian Assange, but to protect the world from the crimes and corruption of the United States and other governments. The reality is that Freedom of Press for the 21st Century is on trial.

There are many opportunities for a movement to impact the outcome of this process and to free Julian Assange.  The extradition process includes political decisions by both the UK and US governments. Courts are impacted by public opinion. If courts are convinced this case is about political issues, extradition could be rejected.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is seen after was arrested by British police outside Westminster in a police van on his way to Magistrates Court in London, Britain April 11, 2019 (Photo by Peter Nicholls for Reuters)

Next Steps, Next Opportunities

Last week’s arrest begins the next phase of Assange’s defense as well as the defense of our right to know what governments do in our name. It may seem like this is now a matter only for the courts, but, in fact, the prosecution of Assange is political. The extradition case is not a hacking case, as the US is trying to present it; it is a prosecution about exposing war crimes, corporate corruption of US foreign policy and other violations of law by the United States and its allies. The government is trying to change the subject to avoid the facts that Assange exposed.

In fact, the indictment does not even allege hacking. As Glenn Greenwald writes: “the indictment alleges no such thing. Rather, it simply accuses Assange of trying to help Manning log into the Defense Department’s computers using a different username so that she could maintain her anonymity.” Assange lawyer Barry Pollack described why journalists everywhere are threatened: “The factual allegations … boil down to encouraging a source to provide him information and taking efforts to protect the identity of that source. Journalists around the world should be deeply troubled by these unprecedented criminal charges.”

The extradition process is likely to last months, most likely more than a year. The Assange case could go into 2020 or beyond. Issues that could prevent extradition include Assange’s health conditions, human rights concerns, and whether there is a political motivation behind the US request. Not only can Assange appeal through the UK courts, but he may also appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.

While we should not limit our mobilizations to legal filings, hearings, appeals and administrative decisions, those are all opportunities to educate and mobilize people. The next court date on the extradition will be a preliminary hearing on May 2 where Assange will appear by video link.  Next, the United States must produce its case for requesting the extradition of Julian Assange from Britain by June 12.

These are just initial steps. Lawfare reports, “It may be years before Assange sees the inside of a U.S. courtroom. The initial Swedish request to extradite Assange from the U.K. came in November 2010. Assange successfully slowed the process until June 2012.”

Lawfare also points to the case of Lauri Love, who faced extradition for hacking US government computers. It took three years for the extradition case, and then Love raised health issues that would be impacted by a long sentence and  two years later, he won on appeal with the court ruling it would be “oppressive to his physical and mental condition.” Assange has also developed health issues over the last seven years of living in the Ecuadorian embassy.

Then, there is the case of another British hacker, Gary McKinnon, who was indicted in 2002. The extradition proceedings dragged on for a decade. In the end, then-Home Secretary Theresa May, withdrew the extradition order because of McKinnon’s diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome and depression: “Mr. McKinnon’s extradition would give rise to such a high risk of him ending his life that a decision to extradite would be incompatible with Mr. McKinnon’s human rights.”

That’s right, in one case the court ruled against extradition due to health issues, and the other, Theresa May (yes, the current prime minister) withdrew the extradition due to health reasons. Beyond health, there are other issues that could be persuasive in Assange’s case.

Someone cannot be extradited from the United Kingdom if the extradition is for “political purposes.” The US Department of Justice has tried to avoid the obvious politics of Assange’s case by alleging in the indictment that it is a hacking case. In reality, and everyone knows this reality, Assange is being prosecuted because he exposed war crimes including the wanton killing of journalists and civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan, the violation of human rights in Guantanamo Bay and the corruption of US foreign policy by transnational corporations. These are the big elephants in the room that the United States is trying to hide.

The U.S. prison system is seen around the world as inhumane. The UN Committee against Torture issued a report strongly criticizing the US prisons on a number of issues, among them torture and the extensive use of solitary confinement. The U.S .uses long-term solitary more than any other country in the world, on any given day, at least 80,000 people are held in solitary confinement in the US. The US holds political prisoners in long-term solitary confinement as demonstrated by the imprisonment of black liberation activists who were held in solitary for decades. And whistleblowers have been held in solitary as was Chelsea Manning during her prosecution, including her most recent incarceration for refusing to testify before the grand jury investigating Assange. The European Court of Human Rights has prevented extradition to the U.S. from the U.K .in a case involving an alleged terrorist because of inhumane prison conditions.

The US put forward a flimsy indictment that even on its face did not prove the allegation of assisting Manning with the password to access secret documents. The US put forward this weak and relatively mild charge probably to make extradition easier. They sought to avoid the political issue, which could have stopped the extradition. But, they are skirting extradition law with this approach, and if they hit Assange with a superseding indictment when he is extradited, it would be a violation of the doctrine of specialty, which means a person can only face trial for offenses presented to justify that extradition.

Assange on steps of High Court in London, December 2010 (Photo by Stefan Wermuth for Reuters)

The Politics of the Assange Prosecution

The reality of the Assange prosecution being about his journalism is obvious to all. Those in the media making the claim that this is about hacking, know they are stretching the truth in order to side with the U.S. government. People should know media that make this claim cannot be trusted to report the truth.

The editor of White House Watch, Dan Froomkin, pulls the thin veil off of this lie writing: “Julian #Assange has been charged with conspiracy to commit journalism. The free press has not ducked a bullet here; it’s taken one to the chest.” The Assange prosecution is about the criminalization of journalism. The Committee to Protect Journalists writes, the indictment would “criminalize normal journalistic activities.” This obvious truth will become more evident as the case proceeds and the movement educates the public and mobilizes support to free Assange.

Already, in USA Today, Jonathan Turley clarified what the prosecution is really about: “WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange will be punished for embarrassing the DC establishment.” The “embarrassment” really is complicity against crimes that in an effective international judicial system would result in prosecution of US officials and members of the US military who committed them. And in a US justice system that sought justice, there would have been prosecutions of members of the military for torture and of lawyers providing legal cover for these actions.

The US election season is upon us and this presents opportunities for mobilization and making Assange’s case an election issue. One presidential candidate seeking the Democratic nomination, Tulsi Gabbard, has already come out against extradition. More candidates need to be urged to oppose extradition.

Candidates can be pressured from the outside as well. Green candidate, Howie Hawkins already wrote that he opposes extradition and urges people to defend Freedom of the Press. Hawkins is in the exploratory phase of a potential campaign. The Green Party has also published a statement that “unequivocally condemns the arrest of Julian Assange and calls for his immediate release.”

President Trump has kept his options open. Trump said in the Oval Office, that he “knows nothing” about the prosecution and “It’s not my thing.” Sean Hannity, a Trump media cheerleader has offered to let Assange host his show and reach his 15 million viewers. Assange is a wedge issue that divides Trump loyalists.

If the movement does its job and builds a national consensus against the prosecution of a publisher for reporting the truth, Trump may side with those in his voting base that is against extradition; and the leading Democratic candidates may also come out against prosecution and to protect a free press that reports crimes of the US government.

In the United Kingdom, things are in flux as well. While the next election is scheduled for 2022, the government is ever closer to being forced to hold an election as it is trapped in a Brexit quandary and showing its inability to govern. Jeremy Corbyn has already said, “The extradition of Julian Assange to the US for exposing evidence of atrocities in Iraq and Afghanistan should be opposed by the British government.” Diane Abbott, the Shadow Home Secretary, said Assange should not be extradited: “It is this whistleblowing into illegal wars, mass murder, murder of civilians and corruption on a grand scale, that has put Julian Assange in the crosshairs of the US administration.” In the end, a new government could end the extradition as the Home Secretary can choose to reject the extradition.

There are also international politics impacted by the Assange prosecution. Assange’s lawyer Jen Robinson said “extradition will set a very dangerous precedent for all media organizations and journalists around the world.” This precedent means that any journalist can be extradited for prosecution in the United States for having published truthful information about the United States,

The US is seeking to prosecute a foreign reporter, working from a foreign country about US war crimes. What would happen if a US reporter wrote about crimes in a foreign country? Could that country prosecute a US journalist? That is the precedent the US is setting. And, how hypocritical for the US to seek to prosecute a foreign journalist in the same week that the US celebrated evading an investigation by the International Criminal Court of alleged US war crimes in Afghanistan.

Free Assange protest outside of British Embassy in Washington DC from News2Share.com

Free Assange Campaign Will Be A Global Campaign For The Right To Know

At least five times, the UN, through various committees and special rapporteurs, has called on Assange not to be prosecuted or extradited to the United States. A campaign to stop the prosecution of Assange will build into a global movement because the US has created chaos and havoc around the world, and has killed more than a million people this century and made many millions into refugees.

The people of the world are impacted by the actions of the United States and they have a right to know what the United States is doing. The people of the US are told we live in a democracy, but there can be no democracy when the people are not allowed to know what the government is doing in our name.

Protests occurred immediately on the day Assange was arrested and continued this weekend. We have started a campaign to Free Assange. As people understand the dramatic implications of this prosecution, protests will grow. Daniel Ellsberg described this unprecedented prosecution as a threat to the future of the republic and said it was time “to join ranks here now to expose and resist the wrongful–and in this country unconstitutional–abuse of our laws to silence journalists.”

In court, Assange showed his defiance of the national security state, which seeks to destroy him, by sitting calmly in the dock, reading Gore Vidal’s History of the National Security State and holding it up obviously to give everyone in court a view.  We must be in solidarity with that defiance and build the campaign that is needed to free Julian Assange.

What Now Should People of Conscience Do to Protect Julian Assange?

Several headlines have blared “Julian Assange Arrested.” This is misleading because Assange has been under de facto arrest ever since the Swedish authorities sought his extradition regarding sex-related allegations. Assange always stated that he was amenable to going to Sweden with a guarantee of no-further extradition to the United States. Sweden refused to accede to such a guarantee. Assange was also open to being interviewed in England. Finally, after having interviewed Assange in England, half-a-year later Sweden dropped its case against the man who has never been charged with any crimes.

Nonetheless, the United Kingdom behaved as any obedient lapdog would to its master, it stated that it would arrest Assange. Why? Because of the relatively benign charge of having breached bail. Note that this a breach of bail for something that he was never charged. That should put to rest any patina of legitimacy to the UK’s legal posturing. Will Assange get a fair trial in the UK, something he has said he did not receive previously. The remarks of the district judge Michael Snow foreshadow blatant partiality. Snow said of Assange: “His assertion that he has not had a fair hearing is laughable. And his behavior is that of a narcissist who cannot get beyond his own selfish interests.”

So what is the Assange case really about? It’s about power: the power to wage wars, the power to kill, the power to commit war crimes, and the power to silence or control narratives. The video “Collateral Murder” exposed the US power structure’s killing, warring, and monstrous criminality. Is it not a morbid hypocrisy that the people (Assange and Chelsea Manning) who expose the grotesquerie of killing are targeted for retribution through the so-called justice system while the killers go unpunished.1

WikiLeaks, however, is a publisher not controlled or cowed by the power structure.

Now that Assange has had his asylum revoked by Ecuadorian president Lenin Moreno (something that is held to be illegal, including by former Ecuadorian foreign minister Guillaume Long) that casts great shame on himself and his nation. Former president Rafael Correa called Moreno corrupt and “a traitor.”

So the question is what now? What do people who care about the right-to-know do? What do people who care about exposing war crimes and government corruption do? What do people who care about protecting whistleblowers do?

This is not just about protecting Julian Assange, the person. There are many political prisoners and persons unjustly persecuted in the world. Assange is one of too many victims of the Establishment. But Assange has garnered prominence, and this is because he and WikiLeaks had the skill, courage, and audacity to bring to light the nefarious deeds of the power structure that it intended to keep in the dark.

Protecting Julian Assange means not just preventing the extradition of the Australian citizen (shame also to Australia) to the US, but freeing Assange. As a strict elementary principle, people should not be arrested, persecuted, or denigrated for having the moral integrity to expose criminality. Instead they deserve plaudits and should be regarded as great role models for others.

What can be done?

1. Western state/corporate media needs to reverse its path and step to the forefront of protecting the public’s right-to-know. It seems highly unlikely, as it would be a massive reversal for a media that has thoroughly discredited itself. It is in the self-interest of the monopoly media. It would be self-preservation of its publishers and journalists who would now be subject to legal reproach when the power structure is dissatisfied with the news.2 Although the monopoly media would be coming extremely late to the game, protecting the right-to-publish (and the First Amendment in the US) would be pure self-interest.

Expecting a new tune in the monopoly media, however, is not about to happen because the monopoly media is part of the power structure seeking to make an example through Assange of the maltreatment that other potential whistleblowers would face.

Abusing law to prosecute Assange, even in secret (as would be expected given the power structure’s aversion to transparency) should cast an even brighter spotlight on what Assange and WikiLeaks are about, and why the US is seeking to silence the publisher.

2. Award Assange and WikiLeaks the Nobel Peace Prize. While the Nobel Peace Prize may still hold luster for some people, given its questionable awards to dubious recipients, its image has become quite tarnished. Awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to a whistleblower who exposed the malignancy of war would be right in line with the sentiments and intention of Alfred Nobel. People should make their views known to the Nobel Committee. It would be much more difficult to extradite a current Nobel peace laureate, wouldn’t it? It would be a reversal for the Nobel Committee in Norway.

3. The United Nations. Given that UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention found that Assange’s detention was arbitrary and called on the UK to allow Assange to leave the Ecuadorian embassy without fear of arrest or extradition, the latest arrest in the UK is the UK further thumbing its nose at the world. What if the UN panel along with other diplomats and dignitaries were to hold vigils outside the British Gitmo where Assange is being held?

4. People power. The force to challenge the establishment power structure is people power — the power of the masses. This should take on many forms. The obvious one is masses taking to the streets. Unless this is of enormous size and sustained, it will only be a resistance blip on the radar. Depending on how much people value their right-to-know; how much they are opposed to killing people living far away who have never lifted a finger against them, their family, their neighbors, their countrymen and women; how much they are dedicated to justice for all humans … they will be willing to engage in further sacrifice: general strike. This will hurt corporations and send a signal to politicians who fear losing political influence. And as an additional measure, people should consider abandoning reader- and viewer-ship of monopoly media, hurting the bottom line and spooking investors.

This is another fight people must not lose. The protection of Assange would be a victory for all those who are unjustly incarcerated everywhere; a victory for people’s right-to-know and empowerment of the people (knowledge, they say, is power); a victory for the anti-war crowd; a victory for freedom of the press; and, of course, a victory-of-sorts for Assange and WikiLeaks.

Most importantly, it would be a victory for humanity.

  1. Indeed, they were exculpated in a book as The Good Soldiers by Washington Post writer David Finkel. As interpreted in The New Yorker: “The soldiers are callous, as you would expect young men caught up in a particularly ugly and confusing kind of war to be. Callous and angry—and also, in other moments, hopeful, generous, capable of friendliness toward Iraqis.” The New Yorker article proffers as excuse, “bad judgement” and that such acts are “absolutely inevitable in wars”: “Does it reveal a war crime? I don’t think so. This isn’t Abu Ghraib, or the rape atrocity in the Triangle of Death, or the Haditha massacre. The Apache crews make a series of bad judgments—some of them understandable, like mistaking the photographer’s long lens as it pokes around the corner of a building for an RPG; others much less defensible, like firing repeatedly at a van that has stopped to pick up a wounded man—but they aren’t shooting indiscriminately like in a free-fire zone. The video is important because it shows the kind of tragedy that is absolutely inevitable in wars likes the ones America has been fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan…”
  2. As an aside, the attempt to belittle Assange’s credentials as a journalist or publisher are risible given the flawless publication record of WikiLeaks, which stands as the envy of every publishing entity.

Denmark’s PM Admires a Killing Soldier’s Simplistic View of Good and Evil

Denmark’s PM admires a killing soldier’s simplistic view of good and evil

It’s Friday, April 5, 2019, at 9 PM. An entertaining talk show, Skavlan. A dialogue between a prime minister and a special forces soldier who has no regret having kicked in doors and “killed a lot” in Afghanistan.

He justifies himself by the most primitive and long-ago debunked theory about Good and Evil in this world. And then the listening prime minister expresses his admiration.

Something roamed around in my mind hours after the event and I had to check: Did he really say what I think I heard?

It made me think about theories and worldviews on which political decisions can be founded. About the general, normalized fascination of war and killing, and about the soldier as hero and the victim as invisible, non-existent.

It made me think about the sophisticated, almost imperceptible, media methods by which perpetrators of law violations and war crimes are turned (and turn themselves) into victims and perform smoothly as part of a Friday night’s entertainment program.

And, finally, how a similar conversation about alternatives – about nonviolent peace-making – would appear irrelevant, unthinkable. There is no peace discourse today. War is peace given our “Zeitgeist”.

As far as I know, nobody has publicly expressed the view that this conversation was disturbing. I find that highly disturbing. Too.

Setting the stage and sitting on the stage

I had seen that the Danish Prime Minister, Lars Løkke Rasmussen, would participate in the serious and entertaining Swedish Television talk show Skavlan.

The Norwegian journalist, Fredrik Skavlan, is the host and interviewer. He is super professional, a good listener, makes people feel good and he has obviously done his research homework before meeting his, mostly famous, guests face-to-face. He lets them talk and does not see it as his task to challenge them, at least not politically.

According to Skavlan’s Facebook page, the talk show is one of Europe’s largest with around 2 million viewers per show.

Danish Prime Minister, Løkke Rasmussen listens to Ant Middleton in the Skavlan program


The Danish prime minister, Løkke Rasmussen, is responsible for Denmark’s recent bombings in both Iraq and Syria. His party isn’t new to warfare. His party colleague, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, was the Danish PM responsible for Denmark’s role as an occupying power in Iraq 2003-2007.

Fogh Rasmussen (they are not related) was then rewarded for this participation in aggression on a sovereign state without any UN mandate and became NATO’s Secretary-General.

In that role, he will be remembered for leading the Alliance’s destruction of Libya in 2011. There was a UN mandate about setting up a No-Fly Zone but not for the destruction of large parts of the country and the killing of its leader, Muammar Gaddafi.

Well, no guilt by association intended, but I had no expectations that Løkke Rasmussen that would say anything independent-minded, meaningful or critical about war as such.

Another participant in this program was Ant (Anthony) Middleton, a British Special Forces soldier who – evidently – is proud of having kicked in lots of doors in Afghanistan and killed a lot of people seemingly without the slightest remorse (see below).

Ant Middleton – who smiled a lot during the conversation


A quick search of the net tells that Anthony Middleton is a celebrity thanks to having been Chief Instructor for British Channel 4’s hit show ‘SAS : Who Dares Wins’. SAS stand for the Special Air Service of the British Army and the program slogan – Who Dares Wins – is also the slogan of SAS.

In other words, this is Channel 4’s contribution to promotes SAS whose activities around the world are basically top classified and probably not always lawful, noble or moral.

He is in the limelight thanks to just having published his autobiography and at the moment is on the “Mind Over Muscle Tour” around Britain.1

You’ll be able to see the sequence with Ant Middleton and the Danish PM (in English) here until October 2, 2019.

And with this, the stage is set.

The conversation

Now listen to the conversation which I have written down sentence by sentence from the program. Because the program is not available after October 2, I have written the essential passages here. Thus, 4:30 minutes into the clip:

“Skavlan to Middleton: How many have you killed?

Middleton: I’ve taken a lot of lives but what I do remember is not necessarily the people I have killed because – I’m the first man in, I’ve done three tours in Afghanistan and I am kicking down doors on a daily basis, we’re hunting down Taliban commanders. It’s – you know, the list goes on.

But what I do remember is not pulling the trigger. What people must remember is that my job is to conserve life, to save life. I only take life when there is a level of evil that’s been surpassed or I am in an immediate threat or my pals are in immediate danger to life. But what I do remember is being there and I could have taken a shot and every time it just wasn’t right, I took my finger off the trigger. Those are the times I do remember.

Skavlan: Do you think about the fact that you’ve killed a lot of people that is someone’s father, you’re a father of five yourself?

Middleton: No, no, not at all. Like I said, there is goodness and there is evil in this world. I’m a good man and I know that. And, as I said, if you surpass a certain threshold of evil, you do not deserve to be walking this planet, and that’s how I saw it. I never saw it – again it was never personal. I never saw it as this was someone’s… you know…Listen! If you live by the sword, you must expect to die by the sword. You know, it’s again… taking extreme ownership of yourself, holding yourself accountable.

Skavlan: But of course, there are casualties that are less guilty of being evil. Have you experienced that?

Middleton: (Pausing)…. It comes with the territory. It’s part and parcel of conflict. It’s part and parcel of being in a combat zone. And don’t get me wrong, there are bullies with weapons out there.

Skavlan then turns to the Danish PM: You’re the man behind the desk. Because the war he’s talking about is our war too, or has been. I wonder how you reflect on that, how hard a decision to send someone – you mentioned it before Ant came in.

Løkke Rasmussen (speaking to Middleton, not Skavlan): Well, first of all, I admire your attitude. And I totally agree with the way you distinguish between good and evil. But, you know, this is for real and as I mentioned earlier on, we have had 43 casualties in Afghanistan and I have been writing all those letters myself, and each time I have done so, I have felt the — (can’t seem to find the words) — it’s very personal. It’s not just for fun.

Middleton: We train our whole life to do that. I wanted that fight at the highest order. I trained my whole career to fight and when it came, it’s like you allow me to do my job. You know, there is the other side, of course there is the other side and it’s traumatic but…

Skavlan to Middleton: But you are sent by someone behind a desk that you never met?

Middleton: Yes but if they didn’t send me, they would not be allowing me to do my job and….

Løkke Rasmussen: Yes, and I realise that and without going into details, I have been in situations where our Special Forces have asked permission to do something on the ground where we have made the assessment that this would not happen…

Middleton: (smiling) I understand that…

Løkke Rasmussen: And when I have met those people later on and on a more private basis, they have actually been more or less angry with me: Why didn’t you approve? Why did you not give your permission? So…

Skavlan to Middleton: This is the situation you’ve been in…?

Middleton: Yeah, and if you did not use us, you would have just as much up war as if you didn’t. I suppose you can’t get it right?! I love my job. I prioritize it over my family and my children. I am not proud of that but I did it. I was waiting for that call. I wanted to be the first man through that door. You know, use me! You’ve spent millions on training me…

Skavlan: You were 16 when you joined the army. What was the push factor and what was the pull factor?

Middleton: I joined the army because I was a very self-sufficient young man, you know, who always wanted to stand on my own two feet. I always wanted to do my own thing and I always loved the challenge.

I’m an extreme doer. And, you know, I’m not an intellectual, I’m not a bookworm. I do, do, do… and 9 out of 10, I’ve failed and learned from that, so the military was just appealing and to get away, do my own thing, get a roof over my head, be fed, and you know the little bit of money I got I could start to build my life the way I wanted to. It wasn’t ”I’m going in and have this amazing career in the Special Forces.

It was, like you know, it was me as a youngster, let me stand on my own two feet, let me hold myself accountable for my life and see where it takes me. And the stepping stones… I’m good at what I have done and I love extreme soldiering, you know I was a para, then a Marine, then a sniper, then an (intelligence?) operator and the natural progression was into the United Kingdom’s Special Forces.”

What is actually stated here?

  1. There is good and evil in this world. The two are separated and the good people are on one side, the evil people on the other. It does not occur to Middleton, or the Danish PM, that there could be good and evil people on both sides. Or that each individual actor could have good and evil sides – that can be activated depending, for instance, on what the person experiences from the outside.
  2. Evil does not have to be defined, but it can be graduated. Over a certain level, it is right to not only try to stop the evildoer but to kill him. Over that level, the evildoer does not have a right to walk on earth.
  3. The judge that decides when that level is reached, is – he himself, the killer. So, it’s about the killer who does good and does justice by eradicating evil.
  4. Evil and good are qualities of human beings, not for example of situations, structures, or history and traumas.
  5. Although Middleton admits, indeed has no problems talking about, that he has killed a lot, he says that he knows he is a good person. And that goodness does not include any consideration for the humanity of the one he kills; it’s irrelevant to the argument and the deed whether the opponent is a father of children like Middleton himself is.
  6. Middleton mentions no particular, say ideological, reason for his participation in warfare, but emphasizes more than once during the program that he couldn’t wait to get off to Afghanistan, do what he was trained for; he doesn’t want to be stopped in carrying out his killing mission and – essentially – it is all about him doing his own thing, as he says, and loving the challenge.
  7. What is not stated is things like these: having a problem with having killed a lot; a sense of regret, guilt feeling or a wish for forgiveness or reconciliation. This assumption is backed up by the fact that, postwar, he has gone into public activities and entertainment media in which his military experiences come to good use. He has, to put it crudely, become a hero, a celebrity mass killer actor and lecturer.

Why is this really disturbing?

Probably, Middleton is only unique because of the almost charming, smiling and totally emotionless ways he is coping with his killing. Few, if any, go through such situations and kill a lot without having to cope with the fact that, in spite of all, they took life.

When returning from the killing fields, many feel alienated, feel that nobody understand what they have been through (which is true), and sooner or later, take to drugs, alcohol, or the radical way out – committing suicide. Very few become celebrity stars with huge audiences.

One may find Middleton’s witness account and his obvious denial of any wrongdoing rather disturbing. I do – but on the other hand, I have been working in war zones and met perpetrators as well as victims. Few have the moral fiber to go through years of psycho-social soul-searching and healing and ask forgiveness.

Most veterans are also hidden away, are never integrated in society and if they are received as heroes when coming home that status fades before dawn. Governments and societies usually don’t want to be reminded of such things.

No, I must admit that what disturbs me – for real, to quote him – is that PM Løkke Rasmussen’s bluntly admires Middleton’s attitude and also totally agrees with the good/evil dichotomy.

Løkke Rasmussen probably has less need for a psychological cover-up than has Middleton. But he anyhow subscribes to a theory that is as outdated and simplifying in the extreme and which has been academically debunked decades ago.

It’s also a theory which – when applied in the political realm – is sheer colonialist/racist: We (white/men/Westerners/Christians) are good people, those we kill – particularly abroad and particularly in Muslim countries – are evil: they are less white, mostly men but morally weaker, inferior, non-Westerners and Islam(ists). (Note that the word Christian-ist doesn’t exist – for a reason: Christianity shall not be connected with terrorism; Islam borders on – or is – terrorism; an evil religion. Thus Islamists.

If a prime minister knew as little about theories and concepts in fields such as economy, social welfare, or ideology – s/he would be facing a barrage of criticism. And there would be commentators and editorial writers who would shout at him: How can you say such things?!

Now it is only about war and peace, about “primitive” Afghans and those out there who threaten our ways of life. And it is about Denmark’s blindly loyal US-framed foreign and security politics and in those fields no special, scholarly competence is needed.

One thing is that such a conversation can take place in public, based on a stone-age theory, in the year 2019. Quite another is that it happens in front of tens of thousands of viewers and no one raises and eyebrow. I find that disturbing, very very disturbing.

It speaks volumes about the pervasive peace and conflict illiteracy of our culture and our times. It speaks volumes about the military and other hardline monopoly on the politically correct thinking about war and peace. And what sort of primitive thinking underlies everything called war, never challenged in the mainstream media and no longer even by the so-called Left.

It ought not be possible for educated people to speak on television the way prime minister Løkke Rasmussen and special forces soldier Middleton did and not causing an outcry.

The perpetrator as victim

In programs like Skavlan and in virtually all programs with news about events in the world, we never see simultaneously the perpetrator of violence with the victim of violence.

In this edition of Skavlan, we saw two different perpetrators of violence – the victims – those deserving to be killed – were not represented and had no voice. The conflict in Afghanistan was given no background except the implicit one: it’s filled with evil people and we have a right to find them, kick in their doors and kill them. They should not walk on this earth.

Ant Middleton did not seem to feel pity for himself. But, in the exchange with Løkke Rasmussen, he seems to see himself as a potential victim, namely if he had not been sent and had not been allowed to perform his killing job. If someone in the audience had shouted “You are not as good a man as you think you are” – he would probably have felt like a victim.

Løkke Rasmussen, the man behind the desk who gives orders and sends Danes into warzones, quickly avoids Skavlan’s questions and starts talking about how hard it is for him to personally write those letters to the families of Danish young boys who have been killed.

He may not be aware of it but his answer comes across as “Look how difficult my situation is!” – and he even states in as some kind of self-defence that war is “for real” and “not for fun.”

Their more or less explicit appeal for sympathy, for us empathising with them and their good intentions – well, does not touch me in the slightest. They could, at any moment in the past, have decided to stop being perpetrators of violence. Stopped being directly and indirectly responsible for taking lives. They made their choice.

Imagine instead: “I’ve raped a lot”

Imagine this conversation was not about war and peace. Imagine it was about rape, pedophilia, or inappropriate male behaviour vis-a-vis women – topical issues today and issues where there is a considerable political correctness and ever narrowing comfort zones.

Imagine an individual sitting in an entertainment TV program – but meaningful, serious such – and stating without flinching that he has no regrets about the boys and girls and female colleagues he had molested or raped and that he doesn’t even remember them.

Imagine that he also considered himself a good man and thought that those he had molested did somehow not deserve to walk in this planet. And you found out that, afterwards, this ‘good’ man had become a celebrity in the entertainment and lecturing world.

An intellectual counter argument to this imagined parallel example could surely be: But the teacher and his victims were not in conflict, it was not a mortally dangerous confrontation of “you or me”. And I’d say – “true, fair enough – but!”

Today’s discussions are about individuals feeling hurt, disturbed. The use of violence is limited to individuals and, as we all know, easily ends up on the front page of, say, New York Times, particularly if the involved parties are exactly that – famous, celebrities. It’s usually not about what I would call a worse offence, namely killing.

Warfare, in sharp contrast, is about a system of organised killing – mass killing of people “we” have no relations to. Strangers.

In the case of Afghanistan, it’s about the world’s militarily strongest countries that have fought a war in a small country for now 18 years. It about thousands of lives – if not in some cases and over time – millions of lives lost and whole societies destroyed.

It’s a system managed by huge state powers and profit-seeking corporations, think tanks and more – what President Eisenhower warned the Americans and the world about as far back as 1961.

And it is a cultural phenomenon: It’s about fighting those you look down upon, those who are morally or otherwise perceived as inferior, unworthy, living at a lower civilisational level than “we”.

Wars and killing in other lands are based on such assumptions – on demonization and de-humanization of entire nations and religions. And on the Middleton/Løkke Rasmussen “theory” that they are all evil out there and we have a right to be in their country, kick in thousands of poor people’s doors and kill this evil scum of the earth because we are good people.

Both types – the close personal and far anonymous, collective mass violence – deserves to be problematized. But he more people and media focus on the close personal hurt and harm, the less energy is left for addressing the larger world’s.

Or imagine this from a this thought-provoking angle…

Imagine Mr. Middleton had kicked in tons of doors in houses belonging to Jews, say in illegal settlement areas on occupied territory, and had “killed a lot” of Jews showing no regrets, just doing his job?

Imagine a Danish prime minister stating thoughtlessly that he admired such action and totally agreed with the theory that evil Jews deserved to be killed and not walk on this planet.

In lieu of a conclusion: The new militarism that we need to talk about in informed, intelligent ways

Over the last few decades, war has become so integrated into and intertwined with civil society that it has become normal, acceptable and legitimate. That’s what militarism is about.

Militarism was once about flags, parades, uniforms and song, it was about arming men (since then, weapon systems are manned and then made increasingly un-manned like drones). It was about some kind of rule-based dueling and honour. No more so!

Today’s militarism is about the melting into one the civil and the military spheres of society: the civilianization of the military and a militarization of the civil society. Civil society permeated by the ethos of killing, killing of them – the inferior – Evils in order to preserve us, the superior Goods. Killing for good.

I may be wrong. I have studied these things the last 45 years and there is, I gladly admit, a lot of books I have not read and many conflict and war zones I have not worked in. Be this as it may:

If you think I am wrong, let’s do what is still possible: Dialogue and learn from each other! Write your comments below, stimulate others to join that vitally important debate. But please…

Do not tell me that there is not something wrong deep down, that we are not far out, when such values, ethics and worldviews as those presented by two public figures in Skavlan do not raise eyebrows and provoke debates.

Do not tell me that we have kept decency and humanity intact and that we do right when we discuss individual cases of violence and remain, simultaneously, totally ignorant and illiterate about our own system of mass killing and the assumptions and theories that underpin them.

And, please, if the issue of globalised violence and war – as well as lost opportunities to make the world more peaceful and safe for all before it is too late – is not worth a wide and much more informed global conversation, tell me what is.

  1. Learn more about him on his homepage and on Wikipedia.

“The Essence of Being Palestinian”: What the Great March of Return is Really About

The aims of the Great March of Return protests, which began in Gaza on March 30, 2018 are to put an end to the suffocating Israeli siege and implementing the Right of Return for Palestinian refugees who were expelled from their homes and towns in historic Palestine 70 years earlier.

But there is much more to the March of Return than a few demands, especially bearing in mind the high human cost associated with it.

According to Gaza’s Ministry of Health, over 250 people have been killed and 6,500 wounded, including children, medics and journalists.

Aside from the disproportionately covered ‘flaming kites’ and youth symbolically cutting through the metal fences that have besieged them for many years, the March has been largely non-violent. Despite this, Israel has killed and maimed protesters with impunity.

A UN human rights commission of inquiry found last month that Israel may have committed war crimes against protesters, resulting in the killing of 189 Palestinians within the period March 30 and December 31, 2018.

The inquiry found “reasonable grounds to believe that Israeli snipers shot at children, medics and journalists, even though they were clearly recognizable as such,” the investigators concluded as reported by BBC online.

Many in the media, however, still do not understand what the Great March of Return really means for Palestinians.

A cynically titled report in the Washington Post attempted to offer an answer. The article, “Gazans have paid in blood for a year of protests. Now many wonder what it was for,” selectively quoted wounded Palestinians who, supposedly, feel that their sacrifices were in vain.

Aside from providing the Israeli military with a platform to blame the Hamas Movement for the year-long march, the long report ended with these two quotes:

The March of Return “achieved nothing,” according to one injured Palestinian.

“The only thing I can find is that it made people pay attention,” said another.

If the Washington Post paid attention, it would have realized that the mood among Palestinians is neither cynical nor despairing.

The Post should have wondered: if the march ‘achieved nothing’, why were Gazans still protesting, and the popular and inclusive nature of the March has not been compromised?

“The Right of Return is more than a political position,” said Sabreen al-Najjar, the mother of young Palestinian medic, Razan, who, on June 1, 2018, was fatally shot by the Israeli army while trying to help wounded Palestinian protesters. It is “more than a principle: wrapped up in it, and reflected in literature and art and music, is the essence of what it means to be Palestinian. It is in our blood.”

Indeed, what is the ‘Great March of Return’ but a people attempting to reclaim their role, and be recognized and heard in the struggle for the liberation of Palestine?

What is largely missing from the discussion on Gaza is the collective psychology behind this kind of mobilization, and why it is essential for hundreds of thousands of besieged people to rediscover their power and understand their true position, not as hapless victims, but as agents of change in their society.

The narrow reading, or the misrepresentation of the March of Return, speaks volumes about the overall underestimation of the role of the Palestinian people in their struggle for freedom, justice and national liberation, extending for a century.

The story of Palestine is the story of the Palestinian people, for they are the victims of oppression and the main channel of resistance, starting with the Nakba – the creation of Israel on the ruins of Palestinian towns and villages in 1948. Had Palestinians not resisted, their story would have concluded then, and they, too, would have disappeared.

Those who admonish Palestinian resistance or, like the Post, fail to understand the underlying value of popular movement and sacrifices, have little understanding of the psychological ramifications of resistance – the sense of collective empowerment and hope which spreads amongst the people. In his introduction to Frantz Fanon’s Wretched of the Earth, Jean-Paul Sartre describes resistance, as it was passionately vindicated by Fanon, as a process through which “a man is re-creating himself.”

For 70 years, Palestinians have embarked on that journey of the re-creation of the self. They have resisted, and their resistance in all of its forms has molded a sense of collective unity, despite the numerous divisions that were erected amongst the people.

The March of Return is the latest manifestation of the ongoing Palestinian resistance.

It is obvious that elitist interpretations of Palestine have failed – Oslo proved a worthless exercise in empty clichés, aimed at sustaining American political dominance in Palestine as well as in the rest of the Middle East.

But the signing of the Oslo Accord in 1993 shattered the relative cohesiveness of the Palestinian discourse, thus weakening and dividing the Palestinian people.

In the Israeli Zionist narrative, Palestinians are depicted as drifting lunatics, an inconvenience that hinders the path of progress – a description that regularly defined the relationship between every western colonial power and the colonized, resisting natives.

Within some Israeli political and academic circles, Palestinians merely ‘existed’ to be ‘cleansed’, to make room for a different, more deserving people. From the Zionist perspective, the ‘existence’ of the natives is meant to be temporary. “We must expel Arabs and take their place,” wrote Israel’s founding father, David Ben Gurion.

Assigning the roles of dislocated, disinherited and nomadic to the Palestinian people, without consideration for the ethical and political implications of such a perception, has erroneously presented Palestinians as a docile and submissive collective.

Hence, it is imperative that we develop a clearer understanding of the layered meanings behind the Great March of Return. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in Gaza did not risk life and limb over the last year simply because they required urgent medicine and food supplies.

Palestinians did so because they understand their centrality in their struggle. Their protests are a collective statement, a cry for justice, an ultimate reclamation of their narrative as a people – still standing, still powerful and still hopeful after 70 years of Nakba, 50 years of military occupation and 12 years of unrelenting siege.

Call of Duty: Resisting War in Venezuela

Every war is a war against children.

— Egalntyne Jebb, founder Save the Children a century ago.

Responding to the British post-war blockade of Germany and Eastern Europe, Jebb participated in a group attempting to deliver food and medical supplies to children who were starving.

In London’s Trafalgar Square, she distributed a leaflet showing the emaciated children and declaring:

Our blockade has caused this, – millions of children are starving to death.

She was arrested, tried, convicted, and fined. But the judge in the case was moved by her commitment to children and paid her fine. His generosity was Save the Children’s first donation. Source: Kathy Kelly

****

This vet for peace has made a life duty to a simple call to action —  Hands Off Venezuela. Imagine the same call in 1960 —  Hands Off Vietnam; or in 1970 —  Hands Off Chile; or in 1991 —  Hands Off Haiti; Hands Off Puerto Rico 140 years ago.

Those ham-fisted, Imperial-seeped and Monroe Doctrine-primed hands are ours, Uncle Sam’s.

There are resisters to this global hyper power disease that we have been infected with in America that professes a USA-rules-the-world mentality. Dan Shea is that Vietnam Veteran for Peace. He puts his actions where his mouth is.

Rewind the tape 13 years, and we see Dan as a Veterans for Peace organizer  working on the city of Portland becoming a sanctuary city for soldiers AWOL from the armed services who were inserted into Iraq and Afghanistan illegally.

“This is an opportunity for the citizens of Portland and the City Council to support the soldiers who are coming back and their right to speak out,” said Dan Shea of Veterans for Peace, who first proposed the idea.

Shea told an interviewer in 2006 he had enlisted with the Marines and spent most of 1968 in Vietnam, where he was exposed to the herbicide Agent Orange. That resulted in his diabetes, he said.

Shea professes he never supported the Vietnam War, yet like many boys and men (girls and women) back then – especially high school drop-outs — he felt obligated to serve. However, when he came home, he felt betrayed by the country, saying the initial reasons for going to war were nothing but lies. The same thing is going on today, he said.

Over the years of our illegal incursion into Iraq, destroying the country and killing a million or more, and then our longest war, Afghanistan, Shea has talked to veterans who can no longer support the war because of what they participated in or witnessed. “These are people of conscience,” he said. “They served for what is the best of our country — the ability to speak out — and now they are being persecuted for that.”

Shea has had a long history with Central America, and Latin America in general. He went to Venezuela in 2006 and met Hugo Chavez. He also has been to Nicaragua to meet with the revolutionary government and actors in that country which overthrew a despotic dictator, Somoza, who was a puppet of the United States.

Fast-forward to the current debacle of the US and its vassal states and even the supposedly “independent” EU countries  pushing for a violent overthrow of the Chavismo Nicolas Maduro. Shea has just returned from Venezuela on a fact-finding trip that included embracing the Venezuelan people.

Dan and I talked about how that arc of social justice and the golden rule, if indeed true, would have “saved” the world from war and injustice a long time ago. Unfortunately, the boomerang of the capitalists and lords of war continues to cut down movements and countries wanting no more of the insanity of “the endless war on terror” mentality Bush and his neocons (supported by Obama) promulgated.

How can we ever forget Mark Twain’s anti-imperial words in regard to his time and historically the crime of war:

There has never been a just [war], never an honorable one–on the part of the instigator of the war. I can see a million years ahead, and this rule will never change in so many as half a dozen instances. The loud little handful–as usual–will shout for the war. The pulpit will–warily and cautiously–object–at first; the great, big, dull bulk of the nation will rub its sleepy eyes and try to make out why there should be a war, and will say, earnestly and indignantly, ‘It is unjust and dishonorable, and there is no necessity for it.’ Then the handful will shout louder. A few fair men on the other side will argue and reason against the war with speech and pen, and at first will have a hearing and be applauded; but it will not last long; those others will outshout them, and presently the anti-war audiences will thin out and lose popularity. Before long you will see this curious thing: the speakers stoned from the platform, and free speech strangled by hordes of furious men who in their secret hearts are still at one with those stoned speakers–as earlier–but do not dare say so.

And now the whole nation–pulpit and all–will take up the war-cry, and shout itself hoarse, and mob any honest man who ventures to open his mouth; and presently such mouths will cease to open. Next the statesmen will invent cheap lies, putting the blame upon the nation that is attacked, and every man will be glad of those conscience-soothing falsities, and will diligently study them, and refuse to examine any refutations of them; and thus he will by and by convince himself the war is just, and will thank God for the better sleep he enjoys after this process of grotesque self-deception.”

― Mark Twain, The Mysterious Stranger and Other Stories

For 70-year-old Shea, that grotesque self-deception is what now emanates from the very pores of Trump’s regime, from the profiteers of war, from the elite who want Venezuela for their profits, and from the Democrats – the supposed opposition party – who believe America is the great white hope that should be meddling in Venezuela’s affairs.

That moniker, Vietnam vet for peace, speaks to Daniel Shea’s persuasive and holistic approach to life, and he’s  not easily dissuaded by the long arm of capitalism’s systems of oppression which create mayhem through social and cultural injustice he’s experienced in his 70 years on planet earth. He’s a former Marine who had been deployed to Vietnam in 1968.

He did not see himself engaging in the tradition of military service so many in this country seem compelled by — especially civilians like Donald Trump, who not only actively got out of military service during the Vietnam War, but also has been quoted many times deriding vets who went to war, calling them “losers.”

That call of duty, Shea told me, was predicated on being stuck in a hard labor job in Portland, Oregon, and the reality that his draft number would be called up anyway.

He wasn’t a supporter of the war, but he said he just went in to “just get it over with.”

“I did not support the war,” he told me. “I knew the minute I stepped into boot camp that it (military life) was not for me.”

Heck, he went AWOL before being sent to Vietnam – “We went out drinking, and we ended up showing up late to our duty station.” Hard drinking because he and his band of brothers didn’t know if they were going to live or die once in-country. For their human sanity wanting to drown out the reality of possible pending early grisly deaths – it’s a normal emotion and psychological state to resist death, one’s own death – Shea and the others were thrown into the brig.

This story begins in reverse, with Venezuela March 2019, but without a narrative context, few would know why the Portland, Oregon chapter president of Veterans for Peace just returned from Venezuela as part of a big delegation to meet with the people of that country, the people in the streets, in government, in the media and just the regular Jose and Josefina in an effort by this peace delegation to carry forth on some real ground truthing.

“We were on a mission, to listen, to observe, and to attempt to assess the root causes of opposition grievances and whether there might be avenues for talks to address their concerns and find compromises and produce a peace to the advantage of all concerned,” Shea told me. Obviously, the delegation was not blinded by the media lies and the Trump Administration’s propaganda war and the opposition party’s back-stepping.

The right for Venezuelans to determine their futures was always at the forefront of Shea’s and the others’ minds during this delegation. Nicolas Maduro was elected as the leader of the country, and this largely unknown puppet – hand-picked by the Trump people and his same old usual suspects of neocons, going way back, gleaned from the dirty wars of Central America and international felons (like Elliot Abrams) — Juan Guaido is as legitimate to Venezuelans to lead their country as is Donald Duck or Elvis Presley.

“Our main mission was to express our Solidarity with COSI – Venezuela — Committee of International Solidarity and Struggle for Peace.” Shea went with folks like Dr. Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese, Co-chairs of Popular Resistance.

Other heavy hitters included Ajamu Baraka, Black Alliance for Peace and 2016 VP running mate of Jill Stein; Joe Lombardo, co-coordinator United National Antiwar Coalition (UNAC); Gerry Condon, President of VFP; Sarah Martin, Anti-War Committee; Miguel Figueroa, President Canadian Peace Congress; Eva Bartlett, fearless Canadian freelance journalist; and others.

Dan and I cleared the air early on in our interview: I asked him what makes 2019 and Venezuela different than all the other times US presidents/ administrations have taken that which was not theirs to take, who murdered those who resisted and, then who set forth imperial overreach to subjugate people and societies through generation after generation.

“Same old story, nothing has changed – Capitalism is at the root cause of targeting Venezuela. The country’s oil is the price, and the US Corporate Masters will use any means necessary including war,” Shea told me. “They are willing to kill hundreds of thousands of people in order to secure oil for the United States. This was pretty much publicly stated by John Bolton to FOX News in which he said that United States would benefit economically from access to Venezuelan oil.”

Yet we are in an era of cognitive dissonance, distraction and delusional thinking, where the corporate mass media drive a false narrative that supports regime change and resource plunder while the uninitiated public is bombarded with the meaningless of social media feeds and popular lobotomizing culture. Or as Twain describes the US public’s myopic masses as that “great, big, dull bulk of the nation.”

The trip this past March was righteous and part of Shea’s vow of non-violence and weeding out the lies of the very country he went to war for. The trauma of combat was real for him as an 18-year-old in Indochina, but he made it clear to me that it was “the moral injury of realizing I was part of a killing machine that resulted in four to six million people killed and still many more effected by the health effects of Agent Orange.”

He tells me that when he first returned from “his war,” via the Philippines, he like many Vietnam vets was reluctant to self-examine with friends, family or the public: “I just didn’t want to talk war, about Vietnam, or anything associated with the military.”

He slogged ahead, used the GI Bill to enroll in community college in Portland. He got married with his first child on the way. He and his wife were living in an apartment, and got their first house soon thereafter.  Shea began his political development – or we could call it a series of enlightenments — during this period. Then his wife Arlene became pregnant. “This news was received with great joy as I always wanted to have children. We began a series of healthcare classes for pregnant women studying natural birth alternatives, and regular visits to the doctor to make sure Arlene was getting all the nutrients she needed during her pregnancy.”

Lamaze classes, and then the birth of Casey in 1977.  When Arlene’s water broke, the couple was extremely excited. It was a tough labor,  “I think it was about 10 hours and our doctor was a longtime family doctor by the name of Doctor Miracle . . .  how could you go wrong with a doctor named miracle?”

Shea was present at the birth and vividly recalls the doctors rushing his son to the side and then the medical team whispering, eventually stating there were some health concerns with Casey.

“Casey had a seizure and had to be rushed up to the NICU at Doernbecher Neonatal Unit Children’s Hospital. We learned our son had been born with a cleft palate, congenital heart disease and other abnormalities.”

Lots of tears, but Shea and his family were able to celebrate the miracle child, and then a year later, they had a second child, Harmony. Shea learned that the birth anomalies of his son were related to his exposure to Agent Orange in Vietnam. In 1981, their son at the age of three passed away, after seven weeks in a coma from a failed heart surgery.

I’ve worked with veterans who have a grief so painful and so deep tied to the trauma of Vietnam and the battle scars and the inhumanity of napalm dousing villages and carpet-bombing cities. However, the other story to the trauma is both tied to their own failing health and especially all the birth defects of offspring.  “I didn’t even want to live but the love of my wife and my daughter kept me grounded. Additionally, I came to see that my story — my loss — was just one out of millions of lives and all those children in Vietnam who would have been exposed to Agent Orange or who had been killed by our bullets and bombs.”

Out of the personal and historical pain, Shea began to “take a strong and deliberate opposition” to all wars and all military interventions. He dug deep into what the idea of how War and Peace had been so at odds in this Indian-killing country. He was attempting to understand how both civilians and military leaders could see it as “honorable to send their children to foreign shores to kill other children.”

I too have questioned our militarism with a military father who was in uniform for 32 years. Shea has wondered what mechanisms are in place and what sorts of psychological blind-spots would possess working class folks to be part of a deliberate military invasion of another nation to kill other working class families, including innocent men, women, children and even infants.

I still remember Muhammad Ali’s words when I was 10 years old and my father was a regular army officer in Vietnam:

Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go ten thousand miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights? (February, 17, 1966)

I continually remind people that Trump is a bad hombre in the sense he has a cadre of lawyers and some in criminal enterprises working for him and for whom he works. Bad hombre in the sense Trump has narcissistic personality disorder and believes he is the right hand of god even as he lives, breathes and dreams the way of Satan in the Bible he so publicly reveres.  Bad hombre in the sense Trump is a physically inept bully who encourages racism, white nationalism, misanthropy and blind allegiance to the red white blue and Benjamin’s.

I’ve been around real bad hombres, literally, people who slit the throats of their enemies, people who have no compunction fighting mano y mano to the death, yet these people in the drug dealing world and others I have met as a journalist and then some who I worked with as incarcerated folk have more humanity in their pinky fingers than a Trump and his Klan could ever hope for.

Yet, this country has gone downhill since its first slave holder president, George Washington, who stole from his own soldiers, relished killing the Mohawks for land they wouldn’t sell, and proceeded to break every treaty with the First Nations people.

Things have only gotten worse since Cherry-tree Cutting George took the helm.

Dan Shea: “You’re right this began before Trump. The same faces we saw involved in Central America in the 1980s are now pushing Trump to continue on this path. Those faces of course are John Bolton and Elliott Abrams as well as probably a number of other right-wing Republican capitalist anti-communist propagandists. Besides wanting other countries’ resources, they cannot stand to have examples in the world where socialism trumps Capitalism. This just might give people ideas . . .  and that’s dangerous for those in power who are raping the Earth of its resources polluting, our oceans.”

Mini Q & A:

Paul Haeder: What did the people of Venezuela leave you with?

Dan Shea:  Funny you should ask that question because after visiting with President Maduro, there was a press conference held outside the Presidential Palace and I said it’s my turn to speak. Told them I was born in the United States, but my father was from Panama as well as my grandmother so I have roots one foot in the US and one foot in Panama as well as Central America, but my heart is in Venezuela —  with all of you.

You might ask why I feel that way and I would answer because I have seen the tenacity of a people to stand up against one of the most powerful nations on Earth. Venezuelans have refused to accept United States in their bulling attempts and threats to overthrow their elected president and surrender their oil. This is basically the real interest of the United States and their corporate masters — OIL!

PH: What do you suggest people in the US — who do not want to interfere with the Venezuelan elections and people’s right to their own self-determination and the current legitimate government’s right to move forward — DO to affect change?

DS: Organize, organize, organize. Join any number of groups opposed to war, opposed to interventions. Be involved in mass demonstrations in Washington DC, say no to NATO, say no to war and racism, and demand Hands Off Venezuela.

If you’re a veteran, join Veterans For Peace, become a part of the solution not the problem. If you are a soldier currently in the military, VFP encourages you to resist illegal orders of invading a country that has been no threat to the United States. Refuse to deploy, refuse to continue serving in the military by becoming a conscientious objector. If you wish to battle injustice, totalitarianism, dictatorships then start here at home in the ‘belly of the beast’ and resist war, violence and help us build a massive Antiwar and Peace Movement.

PH: Discuss what you learned about this bizarre gambit Trump and the other pols are creating in the international press from the Venezuelan people’s perspective.

DS:  Most of the stuff coming from the US is lies, exaggerations and cherry-picked statistics to suit their narrative. Such as hyperinflation, and the lack of food and goods for sale because of shortages, but Trump and the media fail to tell you how US sanctions are creating that crisis.

PH: Notable moments there.

DS:  You have to maintain some sense of humor even under the dark cloud of war. Thus, Guaido has become joke. In a press conference in Venezuela, I felt it necessary to inject a little humor by declaring myself President of the United States. If Juan Guaido can declare himself president of Venezuela, then why can’t I declare myself the president of the United States.

*****

We talked about how things have changed since the anti-war and pro-civil rights movements in the country in the 1960s. Maybe that was a flashpoint moment, which led the copulating forces of the US government and corporations to entrench themselves deeper and deeper into anti-democratic methods of suppressing the masses, or even stopping targeted movements and campaigns.

Not many Americans who want change are willing to face jail and employment termination. Upton Sinclair stated it almost a century ago:

I intend to do what little one man can do to awaken the public conscience, and in the meantime,  I am not frightened by your menaces. I am not a giant physically; I shrink from pain and filth and vermin and foul air, like any other man of refinement; also, I freely admit, when I see a line of a hundred policeman with drawn revolvers flung across a street to keep anyone from coming onto private property to hear my feeble voice, I am somewhat disturbed in my nerves. But I have a conscience and a religious faith, and I know that our liberties were not won without suffering, and may be lost again through our cowardice. I intend to do my duty to my country.

— Letter to the Louis D. Oaks, Los Angeles Chief of Police, 17 May 1923

We are today deeper in a time of dumb-downing, largely because we have sold our souls and our brawn and intellectual mettle to the corporation. We have variations now on this theme that Sinclair and H.L. Mencken toyed with:

  • Never argue with a man whose job depends on not being convinced.
  • It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.
  • It can be very hard to understand something, when misunderstanding it is essential to your paycheck.
  • It is rather pointless to argue with a man whose paycheck depends upon not knowing the right answer.

For Dan Shea, he has great hope for and in the young people today, who are understanding putting truth to power and are training their minds to not only not accept war as inevitable, but also to train themselves to accept the very proposition that socialism is the only way to stop the madness. “They understand this perverse Orwellian language such as ‘preemptive war,’ or how politicians and generals call mass murder ‘collateral damage.’ To repeat, I see the people of Venezuela standing up against one of the most powerful countries in the world.”

He ends the interview with an allusion, deploying Albert Camus: The Greek myth has Sisyphus condemned to repeat forever the same meaningless task of pushing a boulder up a mountain, only to see it roll down again. For Camus, life is absurd and meaningless, as we see with Sisyphus, yet, “The struggle itself … is enough to fill a man’s heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.”

“I guess the gods would forgive him once Sisyphus pushes the boulder up the hill, but each time he pushes the stone up the hill, he is defying the system. I feel free knowing I too can defy the system.”