Category Archives: War

Crimes against the Earth

Dear Caesar
Keep Burning, raping, killing
But please, please
Spare us your obscene poetry
And ugly music

— From Seneca’s last letter to Nero

The excavation of more than 600 billion tons of toxic carbon and hydrocarbon geological remains of previous biospheres and their transfer to the atmosphere as carbon gases constitutes nothing less than insanity leading to global suicide. With estimated profitable carbon reserves in excess of 20,000 GtC (Assessing “Dangerous Climate Change, including oil shale, tar sand, coal seam gas, further emissions would take the atmosphere, oceans and biosphere back to early Eocene (~55-40 million years ago) and Mesozoic-like (pre-65 million years ago) greenhouse atmosphere and acid oceans conditions, during which large parts of the continents were inundated by the oceans. Most likely to survive the extreme transition over a few centuries would be grasses, some insects and perhaps some birds, descendants of the fated dinosaurs. A new evolutionary cycle would commence. Survivors of Homo sapiens may endure in the Arctic.

Figure 1. Global warming by January 2018 relative to 1951-1980

Since about 542 million years ago, acting as the lungs of the biosphere, the Earth’s atmosphere developed an oxygen-rich composition over hundreds of millions of years, allowing emergence of breathing animals.

A critical parameter in Drake’s Equation, which seeks to estimate the number of planets that host civilizations in the Milky Way galaxy, is L – the longevity of technological civilizations. Estimates of L range between a minimum of 70 years and 10,000 years, but even for the more optimistic scenarios, only a tiny fraction of such planets would exist in the galaxy at the present time. It is another question whether an intelligent species exists in this, or any other galaxy, which has brought about a mass extinction of species on the scale initiated by Homo sapiens since the mid-18th century and in particular since 1945..

The history of Earth includes six major mass extinctions defining the end of several periods, including the End-Ediacaran, Ordovician, Devonian, Permian, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods. Each of these events has been triggered either by extra-terrestrial impacts (End-Ediacaran and K-T), massive volcanic eruptions, or methane release and related greenhouse events. Yet, with the exception of the proposed role of methanogenic bacteria for methane eruptions, the current Seventh mass extinction of species constitutes a novelty. For the first time in its history, the biosphere is in crisis through biological forcing by an advanced form of life; i.e., of a technological carbon-emitting species.

The distinct glacial-interglacial cycles of the Pleistocene (2.6 million years ago to 10,000 years ago), with rapid mean global temperature changes of up to 5 degrees Celsius rises over a few thousand years, and, in some instances shorter periods, forced an extreme adaptability of the Genus Homo. Of all the life forms on Earth, only this genus mastered fire, proceeding to manipulate the electromagnetic spectrum, split the atom and travel to other planets, a cultural change overtaking biological change.

Possessed by a conscious fear of death, craving a god-like immortality and omniscience, Homo developed the absurd faculty to simultaneously create and destroy, culminating with the demise of the atmospheric conditions that allowed its flourishing in the first place. The biological root factors which underlie the transformation of tribal warriors into button-pushing automatons capable of triggering global warming or a nuclear winter remain inexplicable.

Inherent in the enigma are little-understood top-to-base mechanisms, explored among others by George Ellis, who states:

Although the laws of physics explain much of the world around us, we still do not have a realistic description of causality in truly complex hierarchical structures.1

66 million years ago, huge asteroids hit the Earth, extinguishing the dinosaurs and vacating habitats, succeeded by the flourishing of mammals. At 56 million years ago, in the wake of a rise of atmospheric CO2 to levels near-800 parts per million, the monkeys made appearance. About 34 million years ago, weathering of the rising Himalayan and Alps sequestered CO2.  Earth was cooling, the Antarctic ice sheet formed and conditions on land became suitable for large, warm blooded mammals.

About 5.2 to 2.6 million years ago, in the Pliocene, with temperatures 2 – 3oC and sea levels 25+/-12 meters higher than during the 15th to 18th centuries, the accentuation of climate oscillations saw the appearance of the genus Paranthropus and the genus Homo. At least about one million years ago the mastering of fire by Homo Erectus, about a quarter of a millennium ago the appearance of Homo sapiens, and about 8,000 years ago the stabilization of the interglacial Holocene, saw the Neolithic and urban civilization.

Since the industrial age about 1750 and in particular from 1950, a period denoted as the Anthropocoene2, deforestation and climate change led to the demise of an estimated 10,000 species per year due to destruction of habitats, ever increasing carbon pollution, acidification of the hydrosphere.

Planetcide stems back to deep recesses of the human mind, primeval fear of death leading to yearning for god-like immortality. Once excess food was produced, fear and its counterpart, violence, grew out of control, generating murderous orgies called “war“, designed to conquer death to appease the Gods.

From the Romans to the Third Reich, the barbarism of empires surpasses that of small marauding tribes. In the name of freedom they never cease to bomb peasant populations in their small fields. Only among the wretched of the Earth is true charity common, where empathy is learnt through suffering.

War is a synonym for ritual sacrifice of the young. From infanticide by rival warlord baboons, to the butchering of young children on Aztec altars, to the generational sacrifice such as in WWI, youths follow leaders blindly to the death. Hijacking the image of Christ, a messenger of justice and peace, fundamentalists promote a self-fulfilling Armageddon, while others see their future on space ships and barren planets. Nowadays a cabal of multi-billionaires, executives and their political and media mouthpieces are leading the human race and much of nature to ultimate demise, with little resistance from the majority of people, either unaware or too afraid to resist the slide over the cliff.

Humans live in a realm of perceptions, dreams, myths and legends, in denial of critical existential factors3 in a world as cruel as it is beautiful. Existentialist philosophy allows a perspective into, and a way of coping with, all that defies rational contemplation. Ethical and cultural assumptions of free will rarely govern the behavior of societies or nations, let alone an entire species.

And although the planet may not shed a tear for the demise of technological civilization, hope on the individual scale for the moment is possible. Going through the black night of the soul, members of the species may be rewarded by the emergence of a conscious dignity devoid of illusions, grateful for the glimpse at the universe for which humans are privileged for the fleeting moment:

Having pushed a boulder up the mountain all day, turning toward the setting sun, we must consider Sisyphus happy.

— Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus, 1942

• Revised from “Planet Eaters

  1. “Physics, complexity and causality”, Nature, 435: 743, June 2005.
  2. cf. Steffen, Crutzen and McNeill, Ambio, 36, 614-621, 2007.
  3. Janus: A summing up, Arthur Koestler, 1978.

Capitalist Society Under the One Party of Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum

The delay of the socialist revolution engenders the indubitable phenomena of barbarism — chronic unemployment, pauperization of the petty bourgeoisie, fascism, finally wars of extermination which do not open up any new road.

— Leon Trotsky, In Defense of Marxism

While the citizens of the rich world are protected from harm, the poor, the vulnerable and the hungry are exposed to the harsh reality of climate change in their everyday lives…. We are drifting into a world of ‘adaptation apartheid.

— South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, United Nations Human Development Report 2007-2008

That puking up barbarism phenomena in this enclave of genocide and perpetual war, resource theft and global toxification come in a coat of many colors. In the simplest terms I see it daily in my job as underpaid and spat upon social worker jiggering with the penury, punishment and putrefying systems of bureaucratic hell and legal rape exemplified in the schizophrenic American version of capitalism.

In no way am I ever NOT entertained by the magical thinking and retrograde beliefs of those I serve – homeless veterans who in some cases decry welfare for the masses while picking up their welfare checks and benefits from the Veterans Administration. On top of that, they feel entitled because they ended up in the economic draft of the US Military Industrial Complex. These are not the ones who saw “battle” overseas, but the ones who were snookered into thinking a tour here or there, in a non-combatant role would get them somewhere in life.

Broken people come to the military, and the military breaks them again, and, the gift that keeps on giving are the systems of oppression and criminalization of living life in Trump’s “MAGA, MAGA über alles, über alles in der Welt.”

Reality is that this thing called America, united snakes one in all, was running on that manifest destruction at the moment those Puritanical misanthropes ended up on the east coast with their fears, dark perversions, warped criminal religiosity and white DNA primed for a taking, eminent domain and killings far and wide.

On the one hand, my clients with mental strains beyond repair and hobbled with a truck-load of PTSD, and another container ship full of physical ailments believe their “service” was honorable, somehow divorced from the huge welfare trough that is the military-private contractor complex, and more so, suspended from the reality that their own kind — fellow soldiers ranging from the likes of a Private Gomer Pyle to Gen Schwarzkopf — screwed them in every which way possible inside the human frame of exploitation and downright pathological assault on every front.

Screwed them with shitty equipment, shittier intel, rampant rotten orders, and a million environmental assaults that have rendered millions of men and women who individually barely served a few years into the walking-wheelchaired-vegetative state wounded.

There have been a million battles and skirmishes that were set up as suicide assaults.

Then on the other hand, some of the clients who are self-declared  deplorables — who believe in Trump as something more than a rotten, lying, wimp of a man with his self-anointed Six Star General’s Bully Epaulets and Bone Spurs Yellow Streak Academy Jumpsuit — are not limited to a bunch of uneducated cretins, but also those who thought time served would be a touchstone in their lives.

Constantly, I have to wrestle with my clients’ reprobate ideas that anything about the government sucks and everything about private capital shines. It’s a reverse ideology of anti-Americanism: against teachers, against librarians, against the postman, against scientists and doctors and others from the so-called Great American Democracy as products of state schools, state governments, municipalities, and the like. They’ll root for these pathetic sports teams, both college and the pros, rendering stupid their concept of where those facilities are and where the billionaire owners get their sports gladiators.

Delusional, really, as my clients shudder with spiritual epiphany at those millionaire preachers like the Billy-Frank Graham Klan and hyper-millionaires running the retail show and all those attendant systems of destruction in the Big Pharma-Big Prison-Big Energy-Big Mining-Big Ag-Big Construction Complex they so often defend as the Defenders of Democracy in Private enterprise.

Here’s a common link to the duality of systems of oppression, that structural violence that leads communities and entire classes and races of people into more and more dungeons of despair and destruction:

One fellow, 62, homeless because the apartment management tossed him out as the maintenance man, with the free apartment in the mix. Out of a job and no longer making the dough to pay rent, he was forced to squat for a while before the iron jaws of the sheriff department came in and served him eviction papers.

Lapsed car insurance, lapsed driver’s license, and, alas, a speeding ticket in a school zone. And, now, 8 years later after eight years on the road and homeless, this little shithole town of King City has him in their vise for $1700. The original ticket was $700 with the add on’s of court fees, administrative costs and other highway robbery checks and balances. So, this fellow is in need of a driver’s license, but these cities have been colonized by those PRIVATIZERS – in this case some multi-millionaire outfit out of Gig Harbor, Washington, which takes on the collections. Imagine, we want to set up a payment plan, even though this fine has passed the statute of limitations. But the City of King City, OR, puts a hold on releasing licenses until every red-blooded Yankee cent is paid off.

We can only imagine what the cut is for this Little Eichmann outfit collecting fines from hundreds of cities, maybe thousands. The interest of a thousand bucks might be waived, but still, the $700 is probably only pennies on the dollar for the city as the Collection Agency (AKA mob in MBA clothing) racks up the largess of the original out of wack fine as profit running their boiler rooms of collection workers.

Punishment, boomerang retribution. Name one place and one job where a personal vehicle can easily be pushed aside as part of the work routine, discounted as a necessity of getting to and from work, or the fact that blue collar work never requires a driver’s license for using company vehicles. Right! A driver’s license is a right, not a privilege, in this bunkered society!

The great American rah-rah, fighting for one’s country, fighting for these evil punks like a Trump, just doesn’t cut it when the ex-soldiers start adding up the contradictions and outright lies of the elite class, which a Trump and his cronies signify and exemplify.

The core of these systems of pain and recurring punishment generates hate, fear, resentment, anger and violence – of the mind, violence of the soul and possible violence exacted on the innocents and not so innocents around them.

These characters I work with mostly never look at the concurrency of pathological serial shooters and these racist, homophobic anti-tolerance military experience, or how these synagogue attackers were subliminally and overtly recruited into the Armed Services with the true blue Yankee Doodle Dandy and Johnny Comes Marching Home Again glee perpetrated again by the neo-fascist army of Republicans and Trump Lagoon Monsters, all of which the Democrats simultaneously hide from and deal with.

Colonized With Hive and Mob Mentalities Simultaneously

I’ve signed permission passes (we force adults to sign and ask for permission to leave a homeless facility!) for overnight stays away from the shelter where I work for people who have brokered this idea of “anomie” into their very existence, a lack of meaningful and structuralized social life in return for Black Friday, the height of meaningless self-gratification at the expense of not only the planet but the faceless and nameless people charged with running this engine of Retailapithecus restlessness. As Émile Durkheim the sociologist stated, we are a modern culture where the individual follows an increasingly “restless movement, a planless self-development, an aim of living which has no criterion of value and in which happiness lies always in the future, and never in the present achievement.”

More and more of the clients I work with have as their end goal individualized happiness, their 40 acres and a mule dream, for me myself and I. They come from a hive of military brainwashing and propaganda, one where leaders are followed and hated at the same time, one where the broken system of war, empire, manifest destiny, nation invasions and nation building (sic) is their ultimate plan of self-gratification – I joined to protect the flag, our way of life and to protect our borders from savages and invaders. Except the borders, as anyone knowing the history of these here United Snakes of America, is all about Norte Americanos encroaching and breaking the borders of others.

As Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz states in the Boston Review:

Even during the Civil War, both the Union and Confederate armies continued to war against the nations of the Diné and Apache, the Cheyenne and the Dakota, inflicting hideous massacres upon civilians and forcing their relocations. Yet when considering the history of U.S. imperialism and militarism, few historians trace their genesis to this period of internal empire-building. They should. The origin of the United States in settler colonialism—as an empire born from the violent acquisition of indigenous lands and the ruthless devaluation of indigenous lives—lends the country unique characteristics that matter when considering questions of how to unhitch its future from its violent DNA.

So, when I speak to the veterans and their families I work with on this matter of America’s soul wrapped in the banner of decimating other peoples who were here first, there is bloviating, knee-jerk proclamations that the victors enjoy the spoils, and that there is a god-given right to the American (white) ideal of moving the world toward His image.

This calculus I deploy for the homeless, those who have been screwed-blued-and-tattooed by the systems of oppression, by those debt collectors, those police and sheriff departments, by the judges and lawyers, top and bottom feeders all: I remind them that the so-called victors in their America are the One percent, including cretins from Hollywood, all the way to former generals/lobbyists/ contractors, and to include their sacred religious snake oil men like Graham. I remind them the wars they maybe have participated in were wars of oppression and wars of profits, completely tied to the ideals of screwing and stealing from your neighbor. That karmic doozy comes boomeranging back in the form of the victors on Wall Street, in the Boardrooms, and at the corporate tables of the Military-Pharma-Med-Prison-Education-Real Estate-Chemical-IT-Retail Complex. These too are the American ideals they supposedly signed up to protect with their lives in someone else’s country.

Again, what are we fighting for, sir?

This country’s leaders have always been Bill-Barak-Donald; Bezos-Adelson-Walton; CNN-FOX-Breitbart. “Money talks and money rules” is not some new Mar-a-Lago printed saying on Trump Condoms! As I continually told my 32-year military veteran father, his “work” in Korea, Vietnam, Saudi Arabia, Germany, France, Japan, et al was work for-by-and-because of the elites, the ones making two-bit Tin Soldiers jump through burning buildings and forced marches up another Pork Chop-Hamburger-Gizzard Hill. Marching orders by these bastions of money power and debt dread have been the history of these Un-united States.

Of course, the soldiers who are of color rarely jump on this Sherman Tank towed “bandwagon,” but to be sure, we talk about their own dire circumstances enveloped in the same sort of so-called “The Victors Enjoying the Spoils” mentality. The spoils include a complete but suppressed history of theft, lynchings, treaty breaking, incarcerations, land despoilments, eminent domain.

Black men and women fighting against black men and women from their mothership — Africa. AFRICOM. Imagine, a Black Alliance for Peace, and a movement to stop US military involvement in Africa, and again these disruptions of the narrative of white supremacy get flummoxed, and the irony of brown and black and red soldiers fighting for what, who knows, but definitely part of the system of oppression of their own people.

So, again, I go for the jugular, the fact that my old man and I argued much about the military’s legitimacy while on the same hand he agreed in my pursuit of journalism, writing, teaching, and education:

Not only does there need to be a mass movement in the U.S. to shut down AFRICOM, this mass movement needs to become inseparably bound with the movement that has swept this country to end murderous police brutality against Black and Brown people. The whole world must begin to see AFRICOM and the militarization of police departments as counterparts.

 Netfa Freeman, of Pan-African Community Action (PACA) and the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS). Freeman represents PACA, a BAP member organization, on BAP’s Coordinating Committee.

It cost $267 million to fund AFRICOM in 2018. Probably a lot more in dark money and secret budgets; let alone the billions coming from the Economic Hit Men:

That money is stolen from Africans/Black people in the U.S. to terrorize and steal resources from our sisters and brothers on the African continent. Instead, that money should be put toward meeting our human needs in the U.S. and toward reparations for people in every African nation affected by U.S. imperialism.

—  Vanessa Beck, BAP research team lead and Coordinating Committee member.

So, them’s fighting words, as the white damaged veterans reach for words, epithets, rejoinders, and false dichotomies in the form of, Might Makes Right. There is a greater good in what us mere mortals see. Money Talks, of course, as many of them believe this irreligious, woman thumper, chubby bully, inconceivably smut-riddled man is THEIR commander in chief.

This ground truthing isn’t a hot commodity on the lefty or progressive or socialist web sites, for sure, where their own respective tidy thinking is vaunted over messy shit coming from the mouths of people scratching for a living doing this dirty work of counseling assuredly lost, wounded, broken and in many cases, mean as cuss souls.

That 35,000-foot Noam Chomsky view is heralded over the gutter view, and it’s no deep search for meaning to understand the hive and the mob mentality colonizing those Democratic Socialists of America folk, those pro-Israel-at-any-cost Bernie folk, those Pried from My Cold Dead Hand NRA folk. You got the Godfather Cuomo in Albany getting some robed lion of repression judge to legally change his name to Mario Amazon Direct Cuomo, with all the dildos and vibrators free for life!

Trump or Biden, Adelson or Soros, Chris Wallace or Rachel Maddow, Daryl Hannah or Caitlyn Jenner. Charmin or Cottenelle. Coke or Pepsi. Prozac or Zoloft. Raytheon or Northrup Grumman. Mad dog Mattis or Old Blood and Guts Patton. Steelers or Florida State. A Star is Born or Bohemian Rhapsody.

The trenches are rarely delineated or written about, just these huge “investigative research white papers” on the power of the elite to powerfully corrupt all systems that were supposed to be set up to help-aid-assist-protect-empower-develop we the people’s communities. However, there are no more communities, just chaos (controlled chaos), disruptive technologies-economies-structural systems of repressions. Just Madison Avenue, Just Manufactured Narratives, Just Fallen Anti-Heroes, Just Entertainment.

Feeding the dopamine hits as the marketers of disaster-demented-demolition capitalism control all markets, all psychologies, all media, all armies.

The fact that millions of people share the same vices does not make these vices virtues, the fact that they share so many errors does not make the errors to be truths, and the fact that millions of people share the same forms of mental pathology does not make these people sane.

— Eric Fromm, The Sane Society

The Long, Brutal U.S. War on Children in the Middle East

On November 28, sixty-three U.S. Senators voted in favor of holding a floor debate on a resolution calling for an end to direct U.S. Armed Forces involvement in the Saudi-UAE coalition-led war on Yemen. Describing the vote as a rebuke to Saudi Arabia and the Trump Administration, AP reported on Senate dissatisfaction over the administration’s response to Saudi Arabia’s brutal killing of Jamal Khashoggi last month. Just before the Senate vote, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called current objections to U.S. relations with Saudi Arabia “Capitol Hill caterwauling and media pile-on.”

The “caterwaul” on Capitol Hill reflects years of determined effort by grassroots groups to end U.S. involvement in war on Yemen, fed by mounting international outrage at the last three years of war that have caused the deaths of an estimated 85,000 Yemeni children under age five.

When children waste away to literally nothing while fourteen million people endure conflict-driven famine, a hue and cry—yes, a caterwaul —most certainly should be raised, worldwide.

How might we understand what it would mean in the United States for fourteen million people in our country to starve? You would have to combine the populations of New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, and imagine these cities empty of all but the painfully and slowly dying, to get a glimpse into the suffering in Yemen, where one of every two persons faces starvation.

Antiwar activists have persistently challenged elected representatives to acknowledge and end the horrible consequences of modern warfare in Yemen where entire neighborhoods have been bombed, displacing millions of people; daily aerial attacks have directly targeted Yemen’s infrastructure, preventing delivery of food, safe water, fuel, and funds. The war crushes people through aerial bombing and on-the-ground fighting as well as an insidious economic war.

Yemenis are strangled by import restrictions and blockades, causing non-payment of government salaries, inflation, job losses, and declining or disappearing incomes. Even when food is available, ordinary Yemenis cannot afford it.

Starvation is being used as a weapon of war—by Saudi Arabia, by the United Arab Emirates, and by the superpower patrons including the United States that arm and manipulate both countries.

During the thirteen years of economic sanctions against Iraq— those years between the Gulf War and the devastating U.S.-led “Shock and Awe” war that followed—I joined U.S. and U.K. activists traveling to Iraq in public defiance of the economic sanctions.

We aimed to resist U.S.- and U.K.-driven policies that weakened the Iraqi regime’s opposition more than they weakened Saddam Hussein. Ostensibly democratic leaders were ready to achieve their aims by brutally sacrificing children under age five. The children died first by the hundreds, then by the thousands and eventually by the hundreds of thousands. Sitting in a Baghdad pediatric ward, I heard a delegation member, a young nurse from the U.K., begin to absorb the cruelty inflicted on mothers and children.

“I think I understand,” murmured Martin Thomas, “It’s a death row for infants.” Children gasped their last breaths while their parents suffered a pile-up of anguish, wave after wave. We should remain haunted by those children’s short lives.

Iraq’s children died amid an eerie and menacing silence on the part of mainstream media and most elected U.S. officials. No caterwauling was heard on Capitol Hill.

But, worldwide, people began to know that children were paying the price of abysmally failed policies, and millions of people opposed the 2003 Shock and Awe war.

Still the abusive and greedy policies continue. The U.S. and its allies built up permanent warfare states to secure consistent exploitation of resources outside their own territories.

During and after the Arab Spring, numerous Yemenis resisted dangerously unfair austerity measures that the Gulf Cooperation Council and the U.S. insisted they must accept. Professor Isa Blumi, who notes that generations of Yemeni fighters have refused to acquiesce to foreign invasion and intervention, presents evidence that Saudi Arabia and the UAE now orchestrate war on Yemen to advance their own financial interests.

In the case of Saudi Arabia, Blumi states that although Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman wants to author an IPO (Initial Public Offering), for the Saudi state oil company, Aramco, no major investors would likely participate. Investment firms know the Saudis pay cash for their imports, including billions of dollars’ worth of weaponry, because they are depleting resources within their own territory. This, in part, explains the desperate efforts to take over Yemen’s offshore oil reserves and other strategic assets.

Recent polls indicate that most Americans don’t favor U.S. war on Yemen. Surely, our security is not enhanced if the U.S. continues to structure its foreign policy on fear, prejudice, greed, and overwhelming military force. The movements that pressured the U.S. Senate to reject current U.S. foreign policy regarding Saudi Arabia and its war on Yemen will continue raising voices. Collectively, we’ll work toward raising the lament, pressuring the media and civil society to insist that slaughtering children will never solve problems.

• This article first appeared on the website of The Progressive magazine.

The War to End War 100 Years On

British author and social commentator H.G. Wells may have coined the expression that originally popularized World War I as The War that Will End War, as his book, based on articles written during that vast military conflict, was titled. In any case, in one version or another, the expression was one of the most common catchphrases of the Great War of 1914-1918 and has survived as an expression, often used with a grimace of sarcasm, ever since.

As we commemorate the passing of the 100th anniversary of the armistice ending ‘the war to end war’, one can only marvel at how wrong humans can be sometimes. Not content with the violence inflicted during World War I, humans used the twentieth century to systematically decimate human and other life as violence and war raged across the planet with an increasingly massive and sophisticated armory. In fact, by mid-century, in a tribute to their technological ingenuity and psychological dysfunctionality, humans had invented a weapon that could destroy life on Earth.

And by the beginning of the 21st century, humans were living in the era of perpetual war against life with war also the largest contributor to the climate catastrophe: Not only is the Pentagon the single largest industrial consumer of fossil fuels, but fighter jets, destroyers, tanks and other weapons systems emit highly toxic, carbon-intensive emissions, not to mention the greenhouse gases that are released from the detonation of bombs. How quickly the world forgot the toxic legacy of Saddam Hussein’s oil fires!’

So advanced is our war against life that human extinction is now imminent.

Resisting war historically

Of course, the failure to end war has not been the outcome of lack of effort. And while there have been many efforts focused on ending a particular war, efforts directed at ending a particular aspect of war (such as the use of a type of weapon), and efforts aimed at preventing a type of war (such as ‘aggressive war’ or nuclear war), there have also been ongoing efforts to achieve ‘the holy grail’: to end war itself.

These attempts have included ongoing grassroots mobilization by anti-war organizations spawned by World War I (such as the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom founded in 1915 and War Resisters’ International founded in 1921) and many equivalents since that time, official attempts to outlaw war such as the Kellogg-Briand Pact that outlawed war in 1928 but has been ignored ever since and institutional efforts to prevent it, particularly by establishment of the League of Nations in 1920 and its successor the United Nations in 1945, both also readily ignored or manipulated.

Separately from the above, however, there has been a long history of nonviolent activism to end wars and this has been conducted by individuals and groups all over the world. Undoubtedly the most effective anti-war movement in history was that undertaken in response to the US war against Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. Inspired and supported by the nonviolent resistance of the civilian population, and building on the long history of resistance to war within the military (see, for example, The Soldiers’ Strikes of 1919),  there was widespread nonviolent resistance undertaken by US troops and conscripts to end the US war against Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos from 1968 until it ended in 1975.

If you like, you can read detailed descriptions of the systematic and ongoing resistance (nonviolent and otherwise) within the US military in many forms, which progressively incapacitated the US Army, Marine Corps, Navy and Air Force during the last years of the war, forcing the US out of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. See Soldiers in Revolt: GI Resistance During the Vietnam War and Self-Destruction: The Disintegration and Decay of the United States Army during the Vietnam Era with a summary of the first book in ‘Antiwar Resistance Within the Military During the Vietnam War‘ and a review of it in ‘The soldiers’ revolt in Vietnam: Rebellion in the ranks.’

For a documentary account of the conscientious objection by more than half a million US conscripts to military service in South East Asia during this period, which overwhelmed the legal system making prosecutions beyond a token few impossible and, combined with soldier resistance and civilian efforts, forced Presidents Johnson and Nixon to curtail plans to escalate the war and make plans to end it, see the forthcoming film The Boys Who Said NO!

Reanalysing the Cause of War to Reorient our Resistance

So, if we are to use this 100th anniversary to renew our struggle to end war and to work effectively to achieve that purpose, then clearly we need to reassess our analysis of the cause(s) of war so that we understand the problem more precisely, and then use this revised analysis to guide the development and implementation of a strategy that addresses the cause(s). Of course, I am not suggesting that ending war will be easy, even with a sound analysis and a comprehensive strategy. But at least it will be feasible.

Before proceeding, I would like to record my own passion for this subject. I lost two great uncles to World War I: Tom Farrell was killed in action at Gallipoli and Les Burrowes was a victim of ‘shell shock’ – later labeled post-traumatic stress disorder – after being wounded in action three times at Gallipoli and then dying prematurely some years after the war.

My father served in World War II as a coastwatcher and both of his brothers, including his twin, were killed. I am named after my father’s older brother. Bob died when the Japanese POW ship Montevideo Maru was torpedoed by the USS Sturgeon on 1 July 1942. 1,053 Australian POWs died that night. And my father’s twin, Tom, died when his Beaufort Bomber was shot down on 14 December 1943 killing the entire crew.

So my childhood is dotted with memories of occasional commemorations of war which, for me, always ended with the same question: Why? But not just ‘why war?’ Given other manifestations of violence I observed around the world during my childhood, including exploitation of peoples in Africa, Asia and Central/South America as well as destruction of the environment, the deeper question was always my focus: ‘Why violence?’

Well, despite considerable research over three decades, I was never content with any version of the answer to this question that I found. Consequently, 14 years in seclusion with Anita McKone ‘taking our own minds apart’ finally gave me the answer I wanted. In ugly detail. If you would like to read this answer, which explains the unrelenting ‘visible’, ‘invisible’ and ‘utterly invisible’ violence that adults inflict on children and the enormous lifetime damage (including the legacy of unconscious fear, self hatred and powerlessness) that this causes, you can do so in ‘Why Violence?‘ with our process described in ‘Fearless Psychology and Fearful Psychology: Principles and Practice‘.

Needless to say, understanding a problem makes developing a strategy to address it far easier (which does not mean that the problem is easy to resolve). However, it is also the case that violence has many manifestations – notably including war, violence against huge sectors of the human population in various contexts (ranging from violence against women and indigenous peoples to military occupations and dictatorships), economic exploitation and destruction of the biosphere – and tackling each of these effectively requires its own sophisticated nonviolent strategy.

This is partly because certain manifestations of violence are structural or cultural as Professor Johan Galtung describes these terms, and they originated long ago and have been recreated and ‘built-in’ over successive centuries.

However, it is important to understand that the nature of any given structure or cultural symbol/process reflects the psychology of those who create and/or maintain it. That is, it is dysfunctionalized human beings who create and maintain dysfunctional (that is, violent and/or exploitative) structures and cultures.

So, for example, while the origin of capitalism can be explained in terms of the development of economic structures and processes that took place over preceding centuries (in a particular socio-political-legal setting), fundamentally the exploitative nature of capitalism is a direct outcome of the badly damaged psychology of those men who progressively created it and now those men (and some women) who maintain it, expand it and primarily benefit from the manner in which it exploits most others.

And if those men and women were not psychologically damaged by the violence they suffered during childhood, then they would devote their efforts to creating egalitarian economic structures and processes that benefited everyone equally and nurtured the biosphere. In short, a human being who is psychologically whole regards the idea of killing or exploiting a fellow human being as deplorable. This is not a moral stance. It is a psychological outcome for the child who is parented lovingly: such parenting produces compassionate identification with others (and, in fact, everything that lives and the biosphere as a whole).

The same reasoning applies to the institution of war particularly as it has evolved and is now conducted by western nations, led by the US, and their allies such as Israel. War is a method of conducting conflict. It has a great many components including elites who promote war-for-profit by using various channels such as ‘think tanks’, the corporate media, government propaganda and education systems to call for and ‘justify’ it, political processes to order it, legal processes to defend it (including against those who take nonviolent action against it), military command, control and communication structures to plan and implement it, corporations employing a labor force to manufacture weapons and other hardware to be used in it, military personnel to deploy and fire the weapons, and citizens willing to pay taxes (or too scared to resist doing so) to finance it.

But at every level of the institution of war, and despite vast advances in peace, conflict and nonviolence theory and practice during the past 60 years, it requires individuals who were terrorized during their childhood into believing that killing fellow human beings is an appropriate way to deal with conflict (or, a variation, that killing human beings is a reasonable way to earn a wage or make a profit). And because they are so psychologically damaged and now deeply embedded within the institution of war, consideration of alternatives to violence is only tokenistically contemplated, if at all (with occasional exceptions by those whose conscience survived the childhood violence they suffered). If you like, you can read a little more about how childhood violence creates insane individuals who perpetuate violence and war in articles such as ‘The Global Elite is Insane Revisited‘ but there is plenty more on that website.

In essence, if most human beings were not so psychologically damaged by the violence inflicted on them during childhood (leaving them unconsciously terrified, self-hating and powerless), there would be a mass uprising against the barbarity of war: the large-scale industrial slaughter of people like you.

So what are we to do?

Well, if we consider war as an outcome not of political and economic differences manifesting as military violence but, fundamentally, as an outcome of psychological dysfunctionality preventing intelligent resolution of conflict, then our strategy for ending war can acquire a sophistication it must otherwise lack. Put simply, by understanding the psychological roots of violence we can develop and implement a strategy that intelligently addresses these, both in the short and medium terms.

So how do we tackle, strategically, the interrelated set of problems that constitute the institution of war?

If your primary interest is focusing on war itself, check out the Nonviolent Strategy Wheel which simply illustrates the 12-point strategic framework necessary to conduct an effective nonviolent campaign and then consider the basic list of 35 strategic goals necessary to end war. Choose one or a few goals appropriate to your circumstances and conduct a strategically-oriented nonviolent campaign, as explained on the same website, to achieve those goals.

If you are concerned that you need some form of military defense against those who might attack your country, it is actually strategically superior to use a strategy of nonviolent defense, which is explained in detail in The Strategy of Nonviolent Defense: A Gandhian Approach and presented more simply in Nonviolent Defense/Liberation Strategy. In fact, this strategic framework can be used to plan and implement a nonviolent strategy to defend against a foreign invading power or a political/military coup, to liberate your country from a dictatorship or a foreign occupation, or to defeat a genocidal assault.

As an aside, if your preferred focus is the climate catastrophe, some other assault on the biosphere or a social justice campaign of any kind, the Nonviolent Strategy website will assist you to develop a comprehensive and focused strategy.

When conducting any campaign, keep in mind a clear understanding of ‘Nonviolent Action: Why and How it Works’ and remember the distinction between ‘The Political Objective and Strategic Goal of Nonviolent Actions’. By keeping these points in mind, your campaign (including each of your tactics) will be focused for strategic impact.

If your interest in ending war is more focused on undermining it at its source, consider making ‘My Promise to Children’ and nisteling, whenever appropriate, to children too. See ‘Nisteling: The Art of Deep Listening’.

This will mean that any children in your life are supported, at least by you, to become self-loving and powerful individuals who are immune to the seductions and indoctrination of those who advocate and make war while developing the capacity to pursue life-enhancing behavioral options when dealing with conflict.

If parenting children in this manner feels beyond you, consider allowing yourself the time to heal from the violence that you have suffered throughout your life. See ‘Putting Feelings First.’  And don’t forget: while depending on our psychological dysfunctionality to accept, finance and conduct war as a means of dealing with conflict, at its most mundane level, war is a conflict over resources, particularly fossil fuels, strategic minerals and fresh water, and it is our consumption of these, in all of those products (such as meat and cars) and services (like airline flights) that we buy, that fuels the wars conducted in our name while also destroying the biosphere in various other ways. (If you want to understand the psychological origin of this obsession with material goods, see ‘Love Denied: The Psychology of Materialism, Violence and War‘.) In short, there is no point deluding ourselves that we can subvert this violent world order without substantially reducing our consumption on all fronts.

So another way you can have strategic impact in undermining the institution of war (and capitalism), while slowing destruction of the biosphere, is to join those participating in ‘The Flame Tree Project to Save Life on Earth.’ The Flame Tree Project outlines a simple plan for people to progressively reduce their consumption, by at least 80%, involving both energy and resources of every kind – water, household energy, transport fuels, metals, meat, paper and plastic – while dramatically expanding their individual and community self-reliance in 16 areas.

You might also be interested in signing the online pledge of ‘The People’s Charter to Create a Nonviolent World’ where the names of many people who are working to end war (and other violence) are already listed.

Ending war is not impossible. Far from it, in fact. But it is going to take a phenomenal amount of intelligent strategic effort, courage and commitment.

International Conference Against US/NATO Bases Addresses Militarism

For the first time in the history of humanity, the technical means are at hand to eliminate poverty if resources were not diverted to making war. World hunger could be abolished with only a small diversion from military budgets. The only luxuries that so-called middle-class Americans would have to forego would be the Blue Angels air show and drone-bombing wedding parties in the Middle East. Yet, military spending is expanding, and with it global poverty.

On November 16-18, some 300 peace activists representing over 35 countries gathered in Dublin, Ireland for the first International Conference Against US/NATO Military Bases to address this tragic paradox of the technical ability to serve humanity and the political proclivity by the ruling circles in the West to do the opposite. Roger Cole of the Irish peace organization PANA identified the twin threats to humankind of global warming and global war, both driven by accelerating militarization.

Ajamu Baraka of the US-based Black Alliance for Peace highlighted the reactionary role of the US and its allies, which have by far the largest military expenditures in the world. The material basis for the absence of peace and the accelerating proliferation of military bases, in his words, is US imperialism.

Guantánamo was the first of the world network of US foreign military bases, according to keynote speaker Dr. Aleida Guevara from Cuba, daughter of Che. Cuba opposes this violation of national sovereignty. Today the US possesses some 1000 foreign military bases with troops stationed in over 170 countries.

Australian Annette Brownlie of IPAN warned of a new Cold War. The recent US National Security Strategy document, focusing on “great power confrontation,” signals open preparations for direct military confrontation with nuclear-armed Russia and China.

David Webb of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament in the UK explained that the US is the only nation with nuclear weapons based outside its soil. US policy is to develop “usable” nuclear weapons in an enhanced first-strike capacity. Missile defense, he reproved, is the shield for the sword of nuclear weapons. The purpose of missile defense is to protect the aggressor against the inevitable retaliation after a first nuclear strike.

Margaret Flowers of Popular Resistance reported that the recent US midterm elections brought in more Congressional representatives with military or security state backgrounds. The duopoly of the two US “war parties” is united in supporting an accelerated arms race. Well over half of the US government’s discretionary budget now goes to the military.

Unlike so much liberal and progressive political discourse in the US, which is obsessed with the personality of President Trump, the international perspective of this conference penetrated that distracting fog and concentrated on the continuity of US militarism regardless of who sits in the Oval Office.

The session on the environmental and health impacts featured testimony on the toxic effects of military bases in Okinawa, Czech Republic, and Turkey. The US Department of Defense is the world’s largest polluter.

National Coordinator of the Irish Trade Union Federation and Secretary of the People’s Movement, Frank Keoghan, described the transformation of the European Union (EU) into a war project with the recent rush to create a single EU army. Ilda Figueiredo from the Portuguese Council for Peace and Cooperation and another activist from France warned that the drive for an EU army would transform all national military bases into NATO bases and would in effect allow “nuclear bomb sharing.”

Margaret Kimberley of the Black Agenda Report chaired the Africa session. South African Chris Matlhako and Kenyan Ann Atambo discussed the dependency of African states on foreign aid, which is used as a tool to facilitate the occupation of Africa by foreign militaries.

Paul Pumphrey of Friends of the Congo described the development of US strategy in Africa, which has used African proxies to allow domination and extraction of valuable resources such as coltan from the Congo. Now the strategy also includes direct occupation by the US military. George W. Bush established AFRICOM in 2008 with just a single acknowledged US military base on the continent, followed by an explosion to some 50 bases and a military presence in practically every African nation under Obama.

The session on Latin America and the Caribbean outlined the immediate threat of military intervention in Venezuela, caught in the crosshairs of US imperialism. Veteran Cuban peace activist Silvio Platero of MOVPAZ condemned the continuing US blockade of Cuba and the colonial status of Puerto Rico. Speakers from Colombia (now a NATO partner), Argentina, and Brazil reported that their right-wing governments are cooperating militarily with the US.

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mairead Maguire from Ireland made an impassioned plea for all-out support of WikiLeaks whistleblower Julian Assange, “our hero of truth,” lest he die in a US prison.

The conference concluded on a high note of unity among the international peace forces. Conference coordinator Bahman Azad of the World Peace Council closed with a call to first educate and then mobilize.

Actions are being planned in Washington, D.C., around the 70th anniversary of NATO on April 4th. Coincidentally that is the date of the assassination of Martin Luther King and of his famous speech a year before when he presciently admonished, “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today is my own government.”

Be Afraid … Be Very Afraid!

Alarm, fear, panic, hysteria, dread are loose in Washington DC. Here are sample headlines which sum up why our lawmakers have emptied the shelves of smelling salts in the local apothecaries:

Commission:  U.S. could lose wars with Russia, China

U.S. could potentially lose a war against China or Russia as military edge has eroded, study says

U.S. ‘could lose’ its next war: Report shows military would struggle to win’ against Russia and China 

U.S. military might “struggle to win, or perhaps lose” war with China or Russia, report says

Our “official” defense budget for 2019 is $716 billion — $686 billion earmarked for the Department of Defense. That’s four times the defense budget of China, ten times the defense budget of Russia.

AND WE CAN’T WIN A WAR WITH THESE TWO BACKWARD, UPSTART NATIONS?

What’s the explanation? We’ve got the best-equipped, most powerful military money can buy. We’ve got the largest navy, the most submarines, the largest air force, the most tanks and artillery. We have over 800 bases around the world. And we can’t win a war against Russia or China?

What’s going on?

Glad you asked.

It seems that the peddlers of this paranoiac prattle, aka pitchmen for the MIC and all who profit from promoting war, left out two words.

What two words?

The two words are … (drum roll!!!) … ‘of aggression’.

That’s right!  We can’t win a war OF AGGRESSION against China or Russia.

What’s left out of the sales pitch for more astronomical increases in our defense spending is some simple straightforward talk, which would undercut the whole argument for more military might.

You see, neither China or Russia can win a war of aggression against the U.S. or Europe either. Somehow that didn’t get mentioned. So the truth is, right now we are at parity with these countries. We can’t win attacking them. They can’t win attacking us.

I would think this would be a cause for celebration. But that’s just me … and maybe 300 million other sane people in this country.

The difference is that neither China or Russia are trying to build some colossal offensive war machine. The major thrust of the defense spending for both of those countries is to DEFEND AGAINST a war of aggression. That’s where they put their money. And it takes a lot less money to defend a homeland, than to prepare to attack another country. Or to police an empire that stretches across the entire planet. A lot less!

That’s not to say that Russia and China don’t have offensive weapons. They do. But they deploy those weapons in a defensive posture. There are two ways to defend a country. Either you go head-to-head with an invading force, which would not just include soldiers, tanks, artillery, but also anti-ballistic missile systems, electronic warfare (incapacitating the high-tech weaponry of the attacking force), whatever mechanisms, some very destructive and lethal, are needed to keep the invaders at bay.

The other major defensive category is the ability to inflict so much damage on the aggressor nation, its aggression results in “unacceptable losses”. That can be personnel, military assets, but it can also be non-military assets. For example, taking down the aggressor nation’s power grid, internet, communications, even their satellites, all of which compromise the aggressor nation’s capacity to continue waging a war fall into this category.

Creating weaponry for those two purposes, that is, to defeat an invading military force or to discourage an aggressive attack, is predominantly what Russia’s and China’s military R&D and asset deployment has excelled at. This type of weaponry is much less expensive. Which explains in very simple terms why they can have such effective militaries at a fraction of the cost.

The handwringing, cold sweats, hyperventilation, allegedly caused by our WAR WINNING GAP — remember the missile gap of the 70s and 80s — are symptoms of the insanity which has infected both major political parties, destroyed any perspective and common sense, made completely impossible any rational conversation about the role our military should play in the world, and especially voided any discussion of how much of our nation’s resources should be diverted away from constructive social programs — including but not limited to quality universal education, investment in sustainable productive infrastructure, quality universal health care, and getting serious about addressing the climate crisis — to support the grand imperial project of world domination with even more military expansion.

Right now, no one can win a war of aggression. In all probability, considering the dismal record of our military since WWII, no matter how much the U.S. spends, it will NEVER BE ABLE TO WIN A WAR OF AGGRESSION. If we keep pushing for war, as they say, be careful what you wish for. Because neither Russia or China will back down. The risks of a major confrontation with either going nuclear are very high.

Don’t forget those two words: ‘of aggression’. Because when the lunatics now in power talk about our diminishing military capacity, they are referring to our decreasing ability to mount an armada and take on Russia and China OVER THERE, not HERE — that is, winning a war in “their immediate sphere of influence”.

If you have any doubts about what I’m saying, just check any map of foreign deployed military bases and track where the war games are taking place.

The Chinese Navy is not doing “freedom of navigation” exercises in the Caribbean or off the coast of New England or California. Russia and/or China are not conducting huge war games in Canada or Mexico. There are NO Chinese or Russian bases anywhere in our hemisphere. Moreover, while both Russia and China have conducted large-scale war games — important to note these are exercises in defending against large scale attacks from an aggressor — they are held in Russia and in China, not in bordering countries, and certainly not thousands of miles away in “our immediate sphere of influence”.

Andrei Belousov, deputy head of the Department of Nonproliferation and Arms Control at the Russian Foreign Ministry, recently made this statement:

Linguistically, this difference is in just one word, both in Russian and in English; Russia is preparing for war, and the US is preparing a war….Yes, Russia is preparing for war, I have confirmed it. We are preparing to defend our homeland, our territorial integrity, our principles, our values, our people — we are preparing for such a war.

Let’s hope they never have to fight such a war. We must relentlessly work toward removing the lunatics now in power in the Washington DC bubble — more resembling an insane asylum with each passing day — who apparently are preparing to launch such a war OF AGGRESSION against Russia, and another against China.

In summary, the military analysts are correct in saying, we can’t win such a war now. But they can double, triple, quadruple the defense budget, and it will accomplish nothing. No amount of destructive weapons will ever produce a winner in such a conflict. An attack on either Russia or China could very well go nuclear, in which case there will be no winners. There will be no one around period to plant flags or declare victory.

The Call Is Coming From Inside the House

I’m done with my graceless heart so tonight I’m going to cut it out and then restart.

— Florence and the Machine, Shake It Out

I brought all this
So you can survive when law is lawless
Feelings, sensations that you thought was dead
No squealing, remember that it’s all in your head,

— Gorillaz, Clint Eastwood

A typical American suburbia circa the 1970s and a typical situation. Parents ask a local teen to babysit so they can have an evening out by themselves. The normal rundown of instructions is given, there’s food in the fridge, help yourself, no sweets for the kids after 8, make sure they’re in bed by 9, and with that the parental units leave for the night ceding power to the babysitter. All is well until the phone rings. A foreboding voice on the other end asks a series of odd questions, unsettling questions. The babysitter assumes a friend is playing a prank so she laughs it off and hangs up the phone.

A half hour later the phone rings again. The same strange voice is on the other end, only this time more sinister, more menacing. Sweat erupts from her brow, her voice quivers, and she tells the stranger “Leave me alone or else I’m calling the police. This isn’t funny anymore!” She hangs up and looks at the phone with a worrisome glance, praying it doesn’t ring again, still hoping it’s a bad joke. She attempts to normalize the situation and watches some TV, washes the dishes, and puts the kids to bed for the evening.

An hour passes and all is fine, then it happens – Ring ring goes the phone, thud thud goes her heart. She answers without pleasantries this time “I don’t have time for this, and I’m contacting the authorities.” There’s no sound on the other end for a moment, and then the strange gravelly voice speaks “You should have plenty of time now that you put the kids to bed.” Panic. She’s being watched. She slams the phone down and picks it back up and calls the police. The police give her the standard routine and tells her to stay calm, they are going to trace the call, and will send an officer to check out the scene. She waits on the phone with the operator counting the seconds until the police arrive, and after a minute has passed the operator in frenzied voice exclaims: “We traced the call, it’s coming from a second line inside the house! Get out now!

And a horror trope is born, but there’s something deeper here, a metaphor which is equally as unsettling. Our minds are a house full of voices making calls to our conscious mind. Within each of us there is a benevolent babysitter that looks out for the fragile innocence within us and there’s also a psychopath with a malevolent spirit.

You see, the problem was coming from within all along. And it’s us, all of us. Our individual and collective suffering is due to ourselves. These social problems we face are created by us humans and the internal psychopathy we continue to foster. Each one of us, and I’m certainly no exception, has been a hypocrite, a gossip, an asshole, arrogant, rude, ungrateful, unneighborly, and fallen into the traps of being divisive.

If everyone awoke tomorrow and decided they were not going to pick up a weapon and harm someone there would be no more war. If everyone decided they would listen and try and understand one another before judging and condemning then most conflict and social predation would stop. If they chose forgiveness over vengeance then suffering would diminish exponentially. This sounds impossible, yet it isn’t. It’s a very possible thing to do, in fact, in this physical realm, really it’s easier and far less painful than deciding to commit acts of violence and aggression.

It only is unfeasible because of the perception of inertia in the moment. However, our perceptions can be and often are misinterpreted. The spell cast by momentum and the cultural indoctrination within our minds has set a path in motion which we ostensibly feel is inexorable. The lecherous desires for power continue to compel us to do things that work against all our best interests.

Personal and social change starts from within each of us, from an understanding of the multidimensional nature of our own hearts. When we consider the dynamics of change it takes an investment of introspection considering our own emotional connections and dissecting why we think what we think, and questioning the foundations of our held beliefs, and the core motivations why we retain these beliefs. We cannot heal a society if we are confused and broken ourselves. The end results of attempted change from a society with misplaced values will be a reflection of those values and will fail to transmute the existing societal framework sufficiently to quell the inner psychopath before the horror show ends horribly.

The decisions we make are often out of convenience, decisions made with a shadow intent where a deed may do some good for others in the short term which provides a rationalization for a darker motivation. When, in fact, the said deed primarily served ourselves and may have been detrimental to others in the long term. These are the types of rationalizations going on in the minds of most of the people sitting in public office now and just about every person chasing after money.

Too often we are seduced by desire and end up chasing those desires while justifying every terrible action along the way while in blind pursuit. A desire for lust, vengeance, money, power, validation, status – as many an ancient book of wisdom has taught, passion and desires are flaws, they are blinding and will lead one astray every time. You are complete as you stand, our time here is to learn, to be, to grow. Stop chasing and start learning.

We have been misled by the psychopathic egotist calling from the second line upstairs. Allowing our own past traumas to justify future wrong doings. Along the way we have all ignored the golden rule. We have all acted on occasion out of spite instead of love, and have been judgmental and horrible in our worst moments. These are our issues to resolve no matter how awful the external world around us is and it does not make it any less true that schadenfreude, bitterness, and resentment are wrong. It’s a suffering to ourselves and others just to think of harming another, let alone to speak or act on it.

The darkness always approaches with subtlety, it takes consistent awareness of our own internal thoughts to become responsible stewards of our own minds. We must monitor all that we absorb externally as well because no matter how well constructed our intent it can be corroded if we allow ourselves to be consistently exposed to the wrong things. It’s not enough to resist temptation but when we feel it to question it and ask where does it resonate from. Further, let’s not mistake outer politeness and dog whistles of hatred to mislead us, as the devil is well tailored, rehearsed in formal etiquette, and has a sophisticated tongue.

Thus it is paramount to our very survival to know we are one.

Remember it. Live by it. Those that have fallen off the path will throw many complex traps of blame to foster resentment instead of focusing on fixing the fucking structural issues before us. And we have all fallen off that path, a time or many.

What’s done is done. Let it go. How to make something better now is the only question before us and this is not an easy question. It takes courage, reason, good argumentation, and honesty within ourselves and to those who dissent against us.

We have to question the very nature of our words, what do they mean to us internally without relying on any appeals to authority. What is this word love? What does that really mean? How does it apply to how we govern ourselves in our day to day lives and what are the externalities of our held beliefs. What is it we are actually standing for?

One may think, “I’m not part of the problem.” However, this simply isn’t so, While an individual will always be able to find a worse case than themselves that doesn’t mean they don’t embody at least some of the cultural rot that has led humanity to this precipice where our planetary ecology has now put us on the clock. We either figure out how to deal with that psycho rattling around upstairs very soon or we perish.

Forgive them their debts as they forgive those…

It is “budget time” again!

That is the season when the persons displayed on television screens as representatives of those who have no representation engage in the theatrical display of subordination to those who actually own things, like the countries we happen to inhabit. Although there have been a few publicised investigations and even some occasional criminal charges against (usually septuagenarians) some conspicuous miscreants, there has been no action which could restore some health or sanity to what most of us consider the daily economy. In some countries, like where I live, people go on strike. There is little indication that the fundamental message of the strikers gets heard. Perhaps that is also why the television seems obsessed with the marketing of hearing aids. There is a hearing aid for every occasion, except sessions of the national assembly, where such technology might really help.

One way of dealing with the hearing impaired is repetition. In scientific terms this means increasing the rate of signal in proportion to noise in the hope that the essential message is received. Although I wrote a version of this paper in 2014, four years later I cannot help feeling some repetition would do no harm. If every budget season one has to listen to the same set of distortions, then it is only fair to reproduce the corrections.

Like the absurd climate debate, which never includes the “carbon footprint” of the largest military machines, the budget debates (essentially interchangeable) never discuss the cost of subsidising international banks and corporations to facilitate their extraction of wealth from the national economy. There is no intelligent, let alone honest, discussion of what is meant by “public debt”—or why the taxpayers must bear losses to guarantee tax-exempt profits for investors.

I always ask myself when someone says or writes “loss”, where did the money go? Even when a ship is lost at sea there is generally wreckage. Of course, the ocean is bigger than the economy and it is possible that a ship’s remains disappear beyond recovery. The price of abandoning the very modest social gains of the New Deal in the US and social democracy in Europe with the ascendancy of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan has been enormous, not only for US and European working people but, for the rest of the world. In fact, the meter is still running with no indication of when it will stop.

The crisis no one cares to talk about any more comprises trillions in losses. If these losses are real, then that means the value has been forfeited in favour of someone else. E.g. after the Great War France and Britain were essentially bankrupt: they owed nearly everything to US banks. Without economic manipulation, war and terror, India would probably have occupied the same status vis a vis Great Britain in 1945 that Brazil gained vis a vis Portugal after the Napoleonic Wars. The claims against the productive capacity and assets of Old Europe were held by identifiable third parties, representing, then as now, a tiny band of bankers. Of course, those claims were so great that no normal income streams from taxation could satisfy them. Control of Britain was effectively ceded to the US, while India was wracked by civil war rather than collecting the wartime debt Britain owed to her.

The other meaning of loss is the inability to sustain a certain valuation of an asset or income stream. The nature of the initial valuation is then the problem. The continuous attempts in the IFRS (international accounting standards) to skirt around the issue of essentially fraudulent valuation illustrates that even the private sector’s notion of “value”, whether book value or fair value, is the product of casuistry.

Since European “banking” was reorganised on the US Federal Reserve model by creation of the European Central Bank, it is instructive to consider how grand theft in the state-banking sector of the US functions. In other words, the “losses” hidden on the books of the USG banks, “Fannie” and “Freddie”, are either notional or they reflect claims that were satisfied in favour of third parties beyond the capacity of those institutions to generate income. Again we know who those third parties are. The “losses” are essentially sacrificed sovereignty.

Government institutions pledge to private persons (corporations and foreign exchange pirates) the State’s capacity to pay, derived from the ability to tax the working population, beyond any realistic possibility to extract that income. This was called “tax farming” in the bad old days of “colonialism”. Frequently punitive military force was sent into any country that was not delivering enough booty (aka interest on foreign debt). In fact, as retired general of US Marines infamously confessed that was his main job in the Corps—protecting corporate plunder.

This is essentially the same principle imposed through the ECB—except that some nominal account has to be taken of national political systems. Since in Europe the State was far more frequently the owner of capital infrastructure, absorbing the cost of its operation and regulating labour as civil servants, considerable ideological work had to be performed to cultivate the generation, which privatised most of the national capital assets held by European states. The fact that since 1945 the US has controlled the international payments system has reduced the need for military intervention. Decisions taken in New York, London, Frankfurt or Brussels can deprive a country of any affordable means to engage in the most basic financial transactions. The entities involved are privately owned and therefore cannot be coerced except by measures that would “threaten private property”.

Just as the railroads and banks obtained control over most of the continental US by defrauding the US government in the 19th century, the surviving banks have defrauded most of the American population of its home equity today. Although it was established that a conspiracy of UK-based clearing banks illegally fixed the LIBOR/ EURIBOR rates, this had no serious consequences. If one considers very carefully that nearly all mortgage and commercial financing agreements base their interest computations on one of these benchmarks, the true scope of the fraud becomes apparent. Everyone who made an interest rate agreement assuming the “free market” condition of the underlying rate was cheated. It could be argued that the interest rate clauses of innumerable contracts were void due to fraud. A perusal of public debt instruments would no doubt reveal even more catastrophic deception.

The endless wars, funded by plundering the public treasury and the wealth of other countries, are part of that income extraction, too. Now the US government and those of its vassals are little more than one large mercenary enterprise, together as NATO, the most heavily armed collection agency on behalf of third party creditors on the planet. It does not matter who occupies the mansion at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Of course, there is plausible denial for any of the beneficiaries of this plunder since populations weaned on soap operas and “crime drama” are incapable of examining, let alone comprehending, the most obvious operations of US corporations and their agents– who almost never appear as criminals on television. The “crime drama” narrative dominates almost every bandwidth on the critical spectrum and as a much younger US director, Michael Moore demonstrated in Bowling for Columbine, corporate crime does not make acceptable television. The most elemental sociological truths, plain to anyone who has ever belonged to a club or worked in middle management of a company, namely that “democratic” and “meritocratic” decisions are regularly subverted by scheming among the ambitious at the expense of the docile– become discredited when the insight is applied to the polity as a whole. People who do not think twice about making a phone call to a “friend” to influence a decision in their social club or place of employment, become incredulous at the suggestion that the chairman of a major investment bank would dictate policy to the head of state whose election he had financed.

In short, the debate about the current global economic “crisis” is obscenely counterintuitive and illogical to the point of incoherence. Who is willing to “follow the money”? This dictum, popularised in the Woodward and Bernstein fairy tale of US President Richard Nixon’s demise– All the President’s Men— appears utterly forgotten, despite recurring astronomic fraud perpetrated by US corporations since the so-called “S&L scandal”– crimes for which no more than a handful of people were indicted, let alone tried or sentenced. Only one corporation was deprived of its right to do business, Arthur Andersen, and this was patently done to spare all the politicians from the reigning US president, most of the US Congress, and untold state and local officials who had been bribed or otherwise influenced by Enron.

If the stories reported by Pete Brewton in 1992, the documented history of the OSS “China insurer” AIG, and the implications of the 2002 Powers Report on the Enron collapse are taken seriously, then Houston lies on a financial fault line more devastating than the San Andreas. That fault line runs from Texas through Virginia to the bedrock of Manhattan. The economic earthquakes that have persisted since 1980 are both literally and figuratively the result of deployment of the US atomic arsenal and the policies that gave rise to it. The US dollar’s continued, if fluctuating, strength as a reserve currency is based on drugs, weapons, and oil– all traded in US dollars. However, this material reality is also based on an ideological or dogmatic constitution. The seismic activity induced by US corporations created gaping holes in the global economy– holes which could only be breached by the financial instruments developed in the weapons laboratories of Wall Street based on the same conceptual models as the neutron bomb and today’s nano-munitions developed at Lawrence Livermore. Indeed, the theory has been almost universally accepted that people are always to blame for the problems of government and Business is the sole and universal solution to all problems. Hence tax monies will only be spent on weapons, war, and subsidies for corporations—the things Business needs.

A considerable obstacle to any change in the US, short of its destruction, is the fact that as Michael Hudson and former assistant Treasury secretary under Reagan, Paul Craig Roberts, write repeatedly, the US government has absolutely lost whatever legitimate function it may ever have had as an instrument of popular will. In other words, the efforts of working people, whether immigrant or ex-slave to remake the plutocratic regime of the 19th century into a State responsive to their needs were frustrated by the massive assaults on labour, combined with the ideological warfare of the “Progressive” movement. The latter, funded heavily by the newly created super-philanthropies, including those of Rockefeller, Sage, Peabody, and Carnegie, predated CIA-style front organizations and infiltration. They helped turn popular sovereignty movements into the kind of technocratic organisations which prevail today– dependent on corporate donations and led by the graduates of cadre schools like the Ivy League colleges, Oxford and the LSE. With few exceptions the only remnants of the “popular will” in the US are those that drive lynch mobs, reincarnated in “talk radio” today.

The main work of the USG and the corporations for which it stands has been to undermine any notion that the State is rightfully an expression of the popular will for the realisation of popular welfare. The State has been reduced to a protection racket. By the time Ronald Reagan, imitating Margaret Thatcher, pledged to “get government off the back of the people”, the only “people” who counted were corporations and those in thrall to them.

It is easy to forget that the US was actually founded on the basis of a kind of white (in that sense “enlightened”), oligarchic absolutism– the British parliamentary dictatorship minus hereditary monarch. Its moral vision predated the Thirty Years War and, until John Kennedy was elected president, its hypocrisy was that of Cromwellian fanatics. In revolutionary France and countries that were inspired by France, as opposed to the American independence war, struggle continued on the premises that the State is not the King (in whatever incarnation) but created by the citizens (not the possessive individual) for the maintenance of the common weal– including the nutrition, health, housing, education of its people. The opposition to destruction of the public sector or public services and the debate that continues in Greece, France, Italy, and to a lesser extent Germany, defies comprehension in North America and Great Britain because of some unfortunate residues of that revolutionary vision of the State so violently opposed by Britain and the US ever since 1789– except when the resulting instability provided business opportunities. (Thatcher did not restore the spirit of Churchill to power—but that of Wellington.)

Moreover as Coolidge once said, “the business of America is business”. If a policy or action of government cannot be expressed in terms of someone’s maximum private profit then it is indefensible in the US. The conditions of the Maastricht Treaty establishing the euro and the ECB are an attempt to impose those same ideological and political constraints on the European Union enforced by adoption of the Federal Reserve Act in the US. The Federal Reserve is essentially a technology for naturalising usury and endowing it with supernatural legitimacy. But just as it has been argued in some quarters that the US Federal Reserve triggered the Great Depression– for the benefit of the tiny bank of banking trusts– the European Central Bank, urged by the right-wing government in Berlin, is being pressured to follow the same rapine policies as the FED is pursuing today. Of course, there are other countries ruled by financial terrorism or where banking gangs have turned their entire arsenal against sovereign peoples.

The “Crisis” is not really about the “debt” or the heinous losses. It is a crisis of sovereignty. The failure of popular sovereignty means that a microscopic bacterial colony of the immeasurably rich can make war on the rest of the world, destroying the common weal and commerce at home and everything else abroad. Germany’s citizens have been bludgeoned since 1945 by Anglo-American propaganda and the occupation forces to persuade them that they– not the great banking and industrial cartels on both sides of the Atlantic– were responsible for Adolph Hitler’s rise to power. When in 1968, student leaders like Rudi Dutschke tried to remind Germans that their democracy was destroyed before Hitler’s putsch and that they had the right and opportunity to demand a democratic Germany after the war, those young people were harassed and even killed. (Dutschke was shot in the head by an unemployed labourer. That “lone” killer later died in prison with a plastic bag over his head.) Attempts to create a truly popular democratic government in Germany have been frustrated by foreign intervention since the French Revolution. Nevertheless people in Germany still believe that the State is there to provide services to the people– and not to fight wars to further foreign trade as suggested by Horst Köhler before he was relieved of his duties (ostensibly resigning) as German federal president.

There is no doubt in Germany that former Chancellor Schroeder’s refusal to follow the US into Iraq—whatever motivated it—enjoyed the widest support, even among those who tend to believe anything the US government says. The resignation of former IMF director and Federal President Köhler expressed the sensitivity of the situation then. On one occasion he referred to the great banking interests as “monsters” and then broke the silence on the German war efforts in Central Asia by explicitly articulating what had been Chancellor Merkel’s, silent but deadly policy of supporting US counter-terror in Afghanistan. Köhler was not opposed to the future escalation of German belligerence, but by his calling a spade a spade on national radio, the right-wing government in Berlin almost had to defend its unconstitutional deployment of German soldiers in public. Already that April Angela Merkel had been forced to sacrifice an army general and a cabinet minister when it became known that German combat aircraft were also bombing civilians like their US counterparts—and trying to keep the fact a secret.

In the midst of the financial crisis, that is the plunder and pillage of the accumulated reserves of Europe’s working population after those of the US are exhausted, it is impossible to ignore the restoration of Asian political and economic prominence. This process started in the 1960s when Britain and the US launched their wars to secure footholds and control of the vast resources of Indonesia and Indochina. Although only partly successful, the destruction of national independence movements throughout South Asia created the conditions for de-industrialising Europe and North America. Mistakenly much of the North American and European Left judged the losses in Korea and Vietnam as defeats for US power. Such judgments have been based on assessments of the official war aims and not on any analysis of the underlying corporate and financial policy objectives. The long-term results of those wars included creation of the massive debt system that is at the root of financial collapse for the majority of US Americans. Of course, China remains the great unconquerable threat to continuation of US hegemony. The balance of power in Asia may be very delicate indeed.

Continental Europe remained somewhat insulated from those seismic forces until 1989. The “velvet” invasion of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union led by US capital, aided as usual by the combined secret services and economic “consultants” of Shock Therapy, began the destruction of the economic base for European social democracy and “real socialism”. The debt machine created to exploit Eastern Europe was applied in Germany first– destroying the GDR and financing that destruction with EU-generated debt, culminating in the euro. Introduction of the euro effectively destroyed half of the purchasing power of working people in the Euro Zone overnight, creating the conditions for consumer borrowing which had prevailed in the US since the late 60s and eroding wages and benefits drastically.

The final loss of control over archaic legislative instruments (whether in the US or Europe) is not only assured by the system of bribery that turns those in office into indentured servants of corporations. Full investigation of the Enron scandal would have proven once and for all that there is almost no one in the US Congress not owned by some corporation. Similar conditions have come to prevail in European legislatures where for decades US academic and policy exchange programmes have trained the political class to work first and foremost for Business.

The loss is also assured by the now entrenched belief that the only legitimate human goal is individual personal profit. As Hudson has suggested, this is the “theology of the Chicago School”. Since Margaret Thatcher was appointed to convert Britain to that dogma, nearly the entire political, academic and “civil” culture has been saturated with people who cannot think in any other terms– even when they assert that they are still social democrats or democratic socialists. The latter insist that “social policy” is merely a palliative to prevent the poor and destitute from becoming unsightly spectres in urban entertainment centres. They all have become positivists– reifying the prevailing economic relations and worshipping quantitative methods– subordinating human agency to pseudo-science and thinly disguised opportunism. The only kindness this ethical standpoint can express is “charity”. Charity, however, has nothing to do with the common weal or the State as an embodiment of the popular will. In fact, it is just as parasitic as the belief from which it springs. If those whom John Pilger called “the new rulers of the world” consent to relieve us– that is to allow us anything resembling our dignity and subsistence wages– then it will scarcely exceed the infamous “dimes” with which John D. Rockefeller cloaked his cynicism in piety and charity. Nowhere is the cynicism more profound than in the expression “giving back”. Of course, the pennies “given back” are microscopic compared with the billions “taken” in the first place. But those shiny pennies and dimes are enough to keep embedded intellectuals loyal to Bill Gates or George Soros. For a few dollars more they will even protect the likes of Blankfein or Buffett.

“Charity” is the gratification a person finds when scratching a mosquito bite. One feels better while scratching– although this provides no relief. The cause of the itch is the substance injected by the mosquito while sucking the blood from its victim. Of course, some mosquitoes offer only token charity and the itch disappears. But there are mosquitoes that carry other parasites– the effects of their charity can last forever, or at least until the victim dies.

The American Dance of Life: A Handful of Unrelated but Connected Notes on the U.S. and War

Diego Rivera’s painting at the beginning of this article is called “Gloriosa victoria” (“Glorious Victory”) and was done by him in 1954 as a protest against the U.S. overthrow of Guatemala’s democratically elected government that same year. At the painting’s center, U.S. Sec. of State John Foster Dulles shakes hands with the new (Washington-approved) president of Guatemala while behind them other U.S. officials hand out money to Guatemalan soldiers.

This past Memorial Day, one vet who wasn’t honored by anyone but me was my Uncle Adam on my dad’s side. He died only a few years ago, my last older relative. A civilian for god knows how many decades, he was still a corporal at heart. And he had the mouth to prove it. If there was a version of Scrabble for only four-letter words, he would’ve never lost a game.

But the important thing is this. If you’re a vet like he was, when you die the government suddenly appears out of nowhere to describe your death as the passing-on of an American hero, all past crimes absolved. The VA may have scorned your claim that your cancer resulted from your tour of duty at Area 9 of the Nevada Atomic Test Site, or it may have turned a blind eye to the symptoms you suffered after your exposure to napalm in Vietnam, or it may have been aggravated by your claim that you returned from Afghanistan with PTSD, but once you’re dead everything’s forgotten and the White House bellows —

This man’s a hero!

You see, that’s how it happens. They bury you as a hero to hide the fact that when alive they treated you like shit.

*****

One event from almost thirty years ago left an indelible impression on me. It illustrated for me how society as a whole, including every institution and product and entertainment that’s part of it, increasingly becomes a mass-delivery device for saturating us with the propaganda necessary for keeping us synced to what’s psychologically required of us in order for the nation’s economic elites to retain power — and grow wealthier. Just think of how often we buy a tee-shirt emblazoned with the name of the company which manufactured it. This shows how the U.S. economic (and cultural) system has conditioned us to do what would have been considered impossible years ago: to fork up our hard-earned cash for the “privilege” of advertising a manufacturer’s product with no cost to the company! We’ve turned ourselves into walking billboards for corporate America’s further enrichment.

But that’s only the small-fry stuff.

On Super Bowl Sunday 1991, while Frank Gifford and his colleagues announced the game on ABC, their play-by-play commentary was spliced with live war-updates from the network’s then-top newscaster, Peter Jennings.  After a while, it was impossible for the viewing audience to tell which was the main attraction: the game or the war. But in reality, the question was irrelevant. The truth was that ABC had created a new kind of event, a hybrid form of activity which switched effortlessly back and forth between the “pastime” of real blood being spilled in a real war and another pastime, the football game’s highly disciplined athletic violence. An amazing simultaneity had been achieved: the crowd’s roar was like a split-personality screaming in 2 voices at once — one voice cheered on Baghdad’s obliteration, the other shouted for running back Otis Anderson as he plunged off-tackle toward MVP immortality.

This display of athletics and patriotism was reinforced by a Disney-influenced halftime show that featured a blond child, surrounded by a chorus of other kids, singing, “You are my hero, you are everything I want to be” in honor of US service people in the Gulf. As the boy’s sweetly warbled song turned the Florida air into an oozing goo of patriotic emotion, upbeat images of US military personnel periodically flashed on the TV. All this activity soon led to a special message, projected on the stadium’s giant screen as well as on televisions across the nation, from President Bush. In his message, the president extolled the virtues of fighting a war in which goodness (i.e., the US) would triumph over evil (i.e., Iraq). As halftime ended and the 2 teams prepared to resume their battle on the field, fans waved flags and a patriotic jolt better than any crack high swept through the stadium crowd and the nation’s millions of TV viewers.  When the kickoff occurred, somewhere in the Middle East an Iraqi target was undoubtedly leveled, detonated by a high-tech US weapon. The crowd cheered.

In the midst of such patriotism-infused cultural events, with people who are ready to kill for their country bonding everywhere in a euphoria of nation-love, it’s difficult to be a nonconformist, which is why the idea of turning the whole of society into a sprawling propaganda machine appeals to the 1 percent.

Events like the 1991 Super Bowl raise politics to the level of pure spectacle.  Such events — with their efforts to induce a trance-like national pride, and their emphasis on the wholesomeness of the military mentality and the moral purity of those in power — are not confined solely to the US and are not without precedent in the past. An example of this is Leni Riefenstahl’s 1935 Triumph of the Will, the German film that is a classic of Nazi propaganda and which includes many of the same elements that the 1991 Super Bowl/Gulf war extravaganza included. Riefenstahl’s film is alive, not with apparent hatred, but with the apparent power of goodness. Triumph is a feast of the images of such goodness: blond young men smiling and expressing male solidarity, buxom women working hard for the national good, a feel for the middle-European beauty of German cities and countryside, and a night-time political rally at Nuremberg which, with lit torches and an almost churchly atmosphere, seems, not like a mundane political event, but rather like a futuristic mass in honor of everything mysterious and noble in the galaxy. The film’s purpose was to create in the hearts of “good” Germans a sense of grand national destiny, a euphoric awareness of their historic mission to reorganize life on the planet in the name of a higher good that only they, among the world’s peoples, were capable of comprehending. Nazism’s deepest realities — racism, hatred of democracy, its belief in the usefulness of genocide — were hidden in the film behind images of happy nuclear families and individuals devoted to traditional values. In the end, of course, those romanticized traditional values killed 6 million Jews and millions of other people.

Just as Triumph obscured the details of Nazism’s character as a hate philosophy, so the 1991 Superbowl spectacle obscured the details of the US elite’s political/economic ambitions with regard to the middle east.  It also hid some of the war’s dirtier details — for instance, the US government’s willingness to expose its troops (and then to deny it did so) to chemical and biological weapons, and also the Pentagon’s policy of killing Iraqi civilians as a way of trying to force the population into removing Saddam Hussein from power. The burial of such details shouldn’t surprise us. Like Riefenstahl’s film, the purpose of the 1991 Superbowl spectacle was not to provide us with objective war-related information while the game was going on, but rather to manipulate people emotionally. Adopting techniques similar to the ones used in the pro-Nazi documentary, ABC and the White House employed wholesome-looking images for the purpose of instilling in the viewer a grandiose sense of national superiority. All of this is part of the language (words, symbols, images) of our American identity, our (theoretically) undeniable wholesomeness.

*****

None of us can escape it. It may be only a noise in the distance now, but it’s growing louder. As thousands of feet drum the ground, a procession of refugees, most of them from Central America, march toward the U.S.’s southern border.

These are the people who make up Trump’s hated “caravan.”

But it’s wrong to link the caravan issue only to Trump. Doing so not only misses the point, it trivializes the point to the brink of irrelevance.

The point is this: Why are they marching here? Is it simply because they’re jealous of U.S. wealth and want a piece of the pie? Or is it out of pure malice; do they get a sick thrill out of the idea of stealing U.S. citizens’ jobs?

It’s said that those in the know — the insiders with security clearances, the higher-ups, the experts — understand better than we do what’s going on in the world. The common wisdom assures us of that. Theoretically, it’s precisely such better understanding that has led the U.S. Customs and Border Protection division of the Department of Homeland Security to increasingly resist immigration from the southern Americas. Similarly, it prompted Obama to deport more immigrants from Latin America than any president prior to him. It’s also why Trump, Obama’s successor, now talks in reverent tones about a Glorious Wall, which supposedly will protect us from Latin America’s unwanteds.

What, though, is this trend’s purpose? What do “those in the know” know that has persuaded them this is a good idea? What secret information do they possess that purportedly makes them better able to grasp this issue than we are?

Well, whatever it is, it can’t be so covered up that we can’t locate it. Why not? All that’s required of an efficient knowledge-hunter is a strong stubborn streak, a lot of digging in the dark, a talent for scavenging and a low tolerance for b.s.

From 1980–1992, El Salvador was torn by violence precipitated by its military-led government. Even with all the resources made available to it as the result of U.S. aid, the government couldn’t suppress popular dissent over its broken promises to increase economic equity and political democracy. One reason for the government’s difficulty was that in response to its previous acts of repression, by 1980 the most important left and progressive formations in the country had formed an umbrella organization, Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN), whose guerillas fought the elites’ armies.

As Washington looked on, the government it propped up resorted to even more violence to restore order. Although some of these incidents — like the rape and murder by El Salvadoran National Guardsmen of four churchwomen1 from the U.S. who were sympathetic to the rural poor and other oppressed sectors of the population  — caused outrage among American citizens, the White House persisted in its support of the regime. As Jeffery M. Paige wrote in an essay on the situation during that period, “It is clear that El Salvador would fall tomorrow without United States military aid.”2

But the U.S. wasn’t merely helping out with aid; it was, in fact, participating. One dimension of Washington’s commitment to assist the El Salvadoran government was to involve our own military in training Salvadoran units in counterinsurgency. The most prized of these units was the Atlacatl Battalion, which soon after its creation became well-known for its relentlessness throughout El Salvador.

Created in 1981, the battalion was a rapid-response unit which specialized in battling leftist guerrillas. Designed to be an exemplary fighting team, its purpose was broader than merely killing FMLN guerillas. It was also meant to be a sort of living advertisement for proving to folks in the U.S. “how American money and training could transform the Salvadoran army into a professional fighting force.”3

What “professional fighting force” meant in this instance was that the unit’s efficiency in the field entailed massacres and other forms of illegal violence (e.g., purposeful killing of noncombatants, etc.). However, since El Salvador’s rulers were willing to crush any left-leaning peasant, worker or student demands which might clash with its U.S. patron’s financial or other regional interests, Washington continued to consider the nation an ally. The U.S. remained unbudging in this relationship throughout the 1980s, regardless of what happened.

And a lot happened.

One of those things, a mass killing perpetrated by the Atlacatl Battalion in the village of El Mozote, was detailed in the 1993 “Report of the UN Truth Commission on El Salvador.” After invading the village, the battalion murdered everyone they found, after dividing them into groups. First, they slew the men, who were mostly agricultural laborers and farmers with meager landholdings, then the women, then the children. Although initial death totals were estimated to be in the 200-plus range, later searches of particular sites in the village — like Santa Catarinain church where eventually more than 135 bodies were found, almost all under age twelve — expanded the verified number too much higher, somewhere in the range of 794-1000.4

The Truth Commission also cited in its 319-page report many other incidents of war-crime-level brutality, including 118 civilians killed close to Lake Suchitlán, an area supposedly under rebel control, and the 1989 slaying of “six Jesuit priests, a cook, and her 16-year old daughter . . . at the Pastoral Centre of José Simeón Cañas Central American University (UCA) in San Salvador.”

Further, the UN reports that in total 75,000 El Salvadorans were killed during the 1980-1992 period, with 85 percent of the civilian deaths caused by “agents of the State, paramilitary groups allied to them, and the death squads,” with the FLMN causing only 5 percent.

As Michael J.  Hennelly’s essay “US Policy in EI Salvador” (1993) at the Defense Technical Information Center (DTIC) establishes, during this same period “the military and political role played by the US government was one of the most significant aspects of the Salvadoran war.” He reinforces this point by tabulating the dollar amounts spent by the U.S. on military trainers, specialized interrogation classes, military hardware, etc., plus “over $4 billion in assistance to help ensure the survival of the Salvadoran government”. Hennelly calculates that these expenditures amounted to “about one million dollars a day in US assistance” during the period.5

His final judgment is that the operation was well worth the investment.

The proof’s in the pudding, I guess. 75,000 people dead apparently isn’t a debit in his rose-colored-glasses account. Neither was the coincident destruction of much of the economic infrastructure upon which the poorer and working classes depended for survival. It’s all part of the game called Empire.

Now it’s years later. Some of the children born back then, adults now, are approaching us. They’re part of the caravan mentioned earlier, men and women plodding forward, babies crying, a ragged column winding northward. What drives them?

In many cases, as in El Salvador, the refugees are in flight from poverty and violence, residues of the harm done by U.S. policies to their nations. These policies, neocolonial/imperialist in nature, prioritized alliances with dictators while methodically retarding those nations’ independent political and economic development as part of a U.S. strategy for making sure no leftist reformers mobilized sufficient numbers of people to jeopardize U.S. plans for the area.

One more example of this U.S. approach is its operations in Guatemala, particularly in relation to that nation’s thirty-plus year civil war, which stretched from the 1960s into the 1990s.

In 1999 the Guatemalan Commission for Historical Clarification released a report, Memory of Silence, on human rights violations and mass killings during the Guatemalan government’s repression of leftist anti-government forces. In the report’s Introduction, editor Daniel Rothenberg described the period as

a thirty-four year conflict forged by the Cold War, strongly influenced by U.S. foreign policy, and so severe that the commission determined that the state committed genocide against its own indigenous people.6

Regarding the genocide accusation, in 2013 the Guatemalan courts found General Ríos Montt, one of the dictators who led the government during the conflict, guilty of genocide against the Mayans, Guatemala’s indigenous people and the hardest hit of all the population sectors attacked by government forces and death squads. Although sentenced to 80 years in prison, his conviction was later overturned. He died in a helicopter crash before he could be retried.7

The question here is why, as documented by Memory of Silence, did the U.S. under the Reagan administration advise, train and provide international cover for Guatemalan units that killed over 100,000, mostly Mayan, people and disappeared countless others? Although Reagan was advised by the CIA of Guatemalan President Ríos Montt’s approval of such killings at the height of the death squads’ massacre spree in the early 1980s, Reagan nonetheless lauded Montt in a December 4,1982 statement following a meeting with him in Honduras. “I know,” Reagan pronounced, “that President Rios Montt is a man of great personal integrity and commitment” whose “country is confronting a brutal challenge from guerrillas.”8

The “brutal challenge” mentioned here by Reagan was a lie. As Memory of Silence points out, 93 percent of all deaths during the Guatemalan government’s war against its own people were perpetrated by Guatemala’s government-supported death squads, not by Reagan’s fantasy of an evil enemy’s brutality. The report also stressed that U.S. involvement in the conflict “had significant bearing on human rights violations during the armed confrontation.”

No wonder, given the amount of money we poured into the country. The quickest way to indicate the level of support given by the U.S. to the Guatemalan government in the latter part of the last century is to view a small slice of that assistance. From 1980-1986, U.S. aid to Guatemala grew from $11 million to $104 million9 But U.S. involvement in Guatemalan politics didn’t begin in the 1980s. It began long before.

Yet such is the power of our government’s culture of non-transparency that it is able to excommunicate such information from our nation’s official histories. Which is why historically the U.S. looks with distaste at serious investigative journalists and out-of-the-box analysts in the mold of Angela Davis, I.F. Stone, and Alexander Cockburn.

But even when buried information is unburied in the contemporary world, the media reburies it under so many pundit interpretations of what it supposedly means that the information is once again lost. What’s left afterward is society’s background noise: the ghostly echo of many simultaneous specialist monologues dissolved into a soup of endless chatter, not one detail of which makes sense anymore.

Given this context, it’s no surprise that as a nation we know so little today about Washington’s relationship with Guatemala. A relationship that also includes an issue not mentioned here yet: the CIA overthrow in 1954 of a democratically elected Guatemalan government led by President Jacobo Árbenz, an event believed by many to have precipitated decades of U.S.-provoked  death and ruination in the country.

Philip Rothenberg, Memory of Silence’s editor, described the overthrow and its aftermath this way: “In the mid-1950s, a successful ten-year democratic process that challenged the status quo was overthrown with support from the United States.” He then further states that from the coup onwards the U.S. exerted significant control “through overt and covert means” over Guatemalan politics for decades. This control includes the so-called civil war, which was actually a clash between a succession of U.S.-backed Guatemalan dictatorships and the people of their own country, people fighting to recapture some of the freedom and hope they’d experienced during the Árbenz period of leftist democratic reform. A period which we, the U.S., brought to a violent end.

The story of this violation of international law is one more tale that, if told in the U.S. in combination with the story of our intervention in El Salvador and elsewhere in Latin America, would help us to better understand the caravans of refugees which periodically march toward our southern border.

Whether we understand the reason for them coming or not, they keep coming. The reason for their coming is no surprise. It’s not because the caravans consist of rabid mobs foaming at the mouth to steal our livelihoods. It’s not because, as Carson Tucker suggested on Fox TV on July 17, 2018, that there’s a plan afoot for assimilating darker-skinned refugees from Latin America for the purpose of “changing election outcomes here by forcing demographic change on this country.”

The caravans head here not for these reasons but for others. They migrate in significant part because over the decades U.S. policies have left (and often still leave) disaster in their wake: fractured economies, austerity budgets shaped by the IMF and World Bank, giant gulfs between poor and rich, and drug lords and street gangs filling the gaps left by corrupted political leadership.

Today, fleeing violence and poverty at home, many Central Americans head north to the U.S. This is irony in the form of the darkest black humor. In-flight for their lives, asylum-seekers quit homelands wrecked by U.S. neocolonialism, then migrate toward the U.S. in hope of a better future! Such is the life of the international poor under advanced capitalism. Constantly caught between a rock and a hard place, they must accept help even from those imperial outsiders responsible for much of the hardship they’ve suffered.

*****

I saw an interesting fellow last night in Philadelphia on the corner of Chestnut St. and 2nd Ave., only a block or so from the Indian restaurant where Suman (my wife) and I ate earlier.

He was one of those guys you can find in any city, a bearded character who knows how to attract a crowd with his shenanigans. Dressed cleanly, although, in faded loose-fitting clothes that looked like they’d been in and out of a thousand laundromats on the wrong side of the tracks over the years, he wore a kid’s party hat, the kind shaped like a cone and secured in place by a rubber band under the chin. Playing the buffoon, but nonetheless showing his smarts, he glanced merrily at his growing number of listeners. An artist of the nonstop soliloquy, complete with punchlines and melodramatic facial expressions, his oratory soared like an MC who never saw an audience he didn’t love. I couldn’t keep up with everything he said, but at one point he mentioned a neighborhood called Star-Spangled Estates, then a while later joked, “If you’re gonna pull yourself up by the bootstraps, you best buy a new pair of colorful Nike laces first, so when you get where you’re going they’ll know you’re the man!”

The crowd loved him. A marvel of streetsmart articulacy, he was on a roll. Later, as he brought his spiel to conclusion, he did a sort of bump-and-grind to punctuate his words, then twirled in a circle and suddenly stood still, holding his hands, palms upward, in the air, with a plastic statue of liberty on one palm and a toy automatic weapon on the other —

“Oh yeah, folks, let me teach you the American dance of life! Let me show you how to let it all hang loose!”

The swarm of onlookers, which had grown much larger by then, roared their approval for his performance. It was his appearance that made their hearts go out to him. For them, for all of us, he was the spitting image of an old Uncle Sam down on his luck.

The government must have fired him years ago, then outsourced his job to god knows where.

*****

Rather than expressing a truth, the phrase “The land of the free and home of the brave” impersonates a truth.

The phrase is a lure like the lure on a fishing line. We are meant to bite down on it in a gluttonous spasm of patriotic hunger, only to have a hook rip open the roof of our mouth, then anchor itself unbudgingly in the wound.

This is how we’re caught. How groupthink triumphs.

Revolting against such a reality makes sense. But to revolt doesn’t mean lecturing people about what they should do. It means working alongside people so we can learn together how to transform ourselves into a relentless mass force for a revolutionary reorganization of the nation and a reinvention of values.

The wars are everywhere. Wars at home. Imperial wars overseas. Our struggle may be complex, but our goals aren’t. We must fight injustice and inequity wherever we find them within the U.S., and stop exportation of violence, murder, and oppression to other lands. We don’t need reform, we need revolution.

  1. Haggerty, Richard A., ed. 1990. El Salvador: A Country Study. Library of Congress, Federal Research Division.
  2. Paige, Jeffery M. 1993. “Coffee and Power in El Salvador.” Latin American Research Review, Vol. 28, No. 3. 1993.
  3. Wilkinson, Tracy. “Notorious Salvadoran Battalion Is Disbanded: Military: U.S.-trained Atlacatl unit was famed for battle prowess but was also implicated in atrocities”, LA Times, December 9, 1992.
  4. Malkin, Elisabeth. 2016. “Survivors of Massacre.” The New York Times, May 16, 2016; Tawney, Joseph. 2018. “The Long-Game.” International Policy Digest, January 12, 2018.
  5. Hennelly, Michael J. 1993. “US Policy in EI Salvador.” Defense Technical Information Center (DTIC).
  6. Rothenberg, David, ed. 2012. Memory of Silence. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
  7. Kinzer, Stephen. 2018. “Efraín Ríos Montt, Guatemalan Dictator Convicted of Genocide, Dies at 91.” The New York Times, April 1, 2018.
  8. Reagan, Ronald. 1982. “Remarks in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, Following a Meeting With President Jose Efrain Rios Montt of Guatemala.” UC Santa Barbara: The American Presidency Project.
  9. Grandin, Greg. 2013. “Guatemalan Slaughter Was Part of Reagan’s Hard Line.” The New York Times, May 21, 2013.

Remembering the Peace Makers: What the Armistice Commemorations Forgot

Those in the war industry and the business of commemorating the dead have little time for peace, even as they supposedly celebrate it. For them, peace is the enemy as much as armed opposing combatants, if not more so. Dr Brendan Nelson of the Australian War Memorial is every bit the propagandist in this regard, encased in armour of permanent reminder: Do not forget the sacrifice; do not forget the slaughter.  The issue is how war, not peace, is commemorated.

That theme was repeated, for the most part, in Paris on November 11.  US President Donald Trump spoke of “our sacred obligation to memorialise our fallen heroes.”  French President Emmanuel Macron marked the 100th anniversary of the Great War by having a dig at nationalism, calling it a “betrayal of patriotism” (is there a difference?).  The nationalists, he warned, were getting busy, these “old demons coming back to wreak chaos and death”.  The intellectuals (and here, he alluded to Julien Benda’s 1927 classic, La trahison des clercs) were at risk of capitulating.

But Macron, rather slyly, was hoping that the French obsession with universal values would somehow render his message less parochial: to be French was to be an internationalist, not a tunnel-visioned, rabid nationalist.  The soldiers who perished in the Great War did so in the defence of France’s “universal values” in order to repudiate the “selfishness of nationals only looking after their own interests.”  Much room for disagreement on that score, and Marine Le Pen would have been a suitable corrective.

The peace activities of the Great War, asphyxiated, smothered and derided in texts and official narratives, are rarely discussed in the mass marketed solemnity of commemorations.  The writings of those prophets who warned that any adventurism such as what transpired in 1914 would be met with immeasurable suffering are also conspicuously absent.  Jean de Bloc, whose magisterial multi-volume The Future of War appeared in 1898 in Russian, found it “impossible” that Europe’s leaders would embark on a conflict against each other; to do so would “cause humanity a great moral evil… civil order will be threatened by new theories of social revolution”. The end would be catastrophic.  “How many flourishing countries will be turned into wilderness and rich cities into ruins! How many tears will be shed, how many will be left in beggary!”

These sceptics were the enlightened ones, scorned for not having the sense of fun that comes with joining battle and being butchered in the name of some vague patriotic sentiment.  If human beings are animals at play, then play to the death, if need be – the rational ones were sidelined, persecuted and hounded.  They are the party poopers.

Prior to the first shots of the guns of August in 1914, Europe had witnessed a slew of meetings and activities associated with the theme of peace.  From 1889, pacifists were busy with Universal Peace Congresses, while the Inter-parliamentary Union made a stab at efforts and ideas to reduce national tensions.  The Hague Peace Conferences of 1899 and 1907, with one scheduled to take place in 1915, suggested a certain sensibility, even as the military machinery of Europe was getting ominously more lethal.  At the very least, the political classes were playing at peace.

The 1,200 women who gathered at The Hague in 1915 as part of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom feature as sane if forgotten voices before the murderous machine truly got going.  Their work involved attendees from 12 countries and the passing of 20 resolutions on war. They worked to convince those engaged in the murderous machine about the folly and were dismissed accordingly as cranks and nuisances.

The peace movement was sundered by the patriotic diseases that engulfed the continent, and such organisations as the International Peace Bureau failed to reach a consensus on how best to quell warring aggressions.  In January 1915, its Berne meeting was characterised by division, best exemplified by a resolution denouncing Germany and Australia for egregious breaches of international law.  The vote was divided evenly, and unity was destroyed.

While monuments to the war makers and fallen soldiers dot the town squares of the combatant nations, lingering like morbid call cards for failed militarism, there are virtually none in the service of peace.  The tenaciously wise and farsighted Austrian noblewoman Bertha von Suttner, the first woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 1905 and suspect the motives of governments behind the Hague Peace conferences, hardly figures in commemorative statuary.  Nor does Rosa Luxemburg, who began a twelve-month sentence in Berlin’s Barnimstrasse Womens’ Prison on February 18, 1915 for “inciting public disobedience”.

Her crime, committed during the words of her famous Fechenheim address, was to call upon German workers to refuse shooting their French counterparts should war break out.  “Victory or defeat?” she would sadly reflect in her anti-war tract, The Junius Pamphlet (1915) written whilst in confinement.  “Thus sounds the slogan of the ruling militarism in all the warring countries, and, like an echo, the Social Democratic leaders have taken it up.”

As Adam Hochschild sourly noted in 2014, those who refuse to fight or barrack for war are ignored by the commemorative classes.  “America’s politicians still praise Iraq War veterans to the skies, but what senator has a kind word to say about the hundreds of thousands who marched and demonstrated before the invasion was even launched to try to stop our soldiers from risking their lives in the first place?”

Events conspicuously against the spirit of killing and maiming opponents, such as that which took place during the short lived Christmas Truce of 1914, have only been remembered – and tolerated – because of their public relations quality.  These events sell chocolates and cakes; they draw people to sites and commodities.  The truce signalled no revolution; it did not challenge the war planners.  “It’s safe to celebrate,” commented Hochschild, “because it threatened nothing.”  The sovereignty of war, the institution of state-sanctioned killing, remained, as it still does, though selling peace can be lucrative when the shells have stopped falling.

The obscenity here is that conflict, most notably that of the First World War, was meant to be cathartic, a brief bit of masculine cleansing that would end by the arbitrarily designated time of Christmas.  It was advertised as a picnic, a brief testosterone outing which would see men return intact.  Foolishly, such figures as HG Wells saw it as “the war to end war”, so get it over and done with, minimal fuss and all. (To be fair to Wells, he found disgust and despair subsequently, reflecting upon this in The Bulpington of Blup in 1932.)

This was, truly, as the title of Margaret MacMillan’s work goes, the war that ended peace, and we should not forget the political and military classes, instrumental in dashing off soldiers to their death, who engineered it with coldness and ignorance.  Foolishness and demagoguery tend to hold hands all too often, distant from that most moving sentiment expressed by the jailed US socialist activist and presidential candidate Eugene V. Debs.  “I have no country to fight for; my country is the earth; and I am a citizen of the world.”