Posts tagged America
Posts tagged America
“This is not a reflection of who we are or what we stand for.”
— Jeff Gearhart, Wall-Mart general counsel, on the firm’s Mexico bribery
[Torture] “is not the norm.”
— Mike Pannek, Abu Ghraib prison warden.
“This is not who we are.”
— Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on the US massacre of 16 Afghan villagers.
“This is not who we are.”
— General John Allen, commander of forces in Afghanistan, on Koran burning
“This is not who we are.”
— Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta on troops posing with enemy body parts
“This is not who we are.”
— Secretary of State Clinton, also on troops posing with enemy body parts
Spying by the New York Police on Muslims in Newark, NJ, which the Newark Police Chief was alerted to, is “not who we are”
— Newark Mayor Cory Booker
“I can tell you something all of you know already - that using pepper spray on peaceful protesters runs counter to our values. It does not reflect well on this university and it absolutely is not who we are.”
— UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi, who ordered campus police to use force to clear peaceful student occupiers from the campus, leading to pepper spraying of students
Ripping families apart by deporting the undocumented parents of American-born children is “not who we are.”
— President Barack Obama
“This larger notion that the only thing we can do to restore prosperity is just dismantle government, refund everybody’s money, and let everyone write their own rules, and tell everyone they’re on their own — that’s not who we are.”
— President Barack Obama
“You can’t say, well, we developed trade and the economic relations first and the disregard of human rights. That’s not who we are. We are the United States of America.”
— Sasha Gong, director of the China branch of Voice of America
The latest PR catch phrase from business, administration, military, state and local officials after some atrocity or other is that whatever happened, it is certainly “not who we are,” a phrase appropriately initially uttered by the Vietnam War commander, Gen. William Westmoreland, with reference to the My Lai slaughter of 400 women, children and old men, all civilians, by a group of US soldiers.
American atrocities: Not who we are? Really?
Yet if all these abominations are not “who we are,” then why do our business, police and military and government institutions generate so many examples of obscene, horrific or criminal behavior?
If we examine the culture that guides our young men and women in battle, our public safety employees in their duties, or our business class in its pursuit of profit, it’s easy to see how shameful and reprehensible episodes such as these have become as routine as they have.
Take the military. The Pentagon achieves its ends by through war. Troops must be obedient and willing to kill. This doesn’t come naturally, so the military branches have to reprogram civilian recruits raised to believe killing is wrong so that they can be part of a murderous enterprise. After breaking down an enlistee’s individuality, trainers then teach them to despise “the other,” whomever it may be — kraut, gook, rag-head depending on the generation and the particular war. Only after sufficiently dehumanizing both the recruit and the future enemy can they mold a soldier who will do the dirty work demanded by an imperial nation. Then they build these soldiers into super-fit, adrenaline-charged fighters, surround them with propaganda that demonizes the enemy of the moment, and set them loose to “get the job done.”
The troops who are sent to Afghanistan find themselves in a conflict with no clear objective, let alone an achievable one. They face an able and motivated foe with a very simple objective: to drive the occupier out of their country. As U.S. losses mount, frustrations grow and pressure increases. It is an unfortunate commonplace that armed troops vent their anger with lethal force upon local civilian populations. Their ability to do that is part and parcel of their training that worked so hard to dehumanize these same people.
It is a sick hypocrisy for Obama, Clinton, Panetta, or Allen to claim that these actions are not a direct result of U.S. military and foreign policy. If Dick Cheney and John Yoo were torturing language and logic to advocate the torture of humans, why wouldn’t guards at Abu Ghraib fall into the same debased state of mind? (For example, years after he claimed it was “not who we are,” documents proved that, ahead of the My Lai massacre, Westmoreland himself had issued rules-of-engagement orders that any civilians found in Communist-held territory like My Lai, a “free-fire” zone, were to be considered enemy combatants, and treated the same as Viet Cong.)
Those in power attempt to frame the issue within the “one bad apple in the barrel” rubric. As long as they can pretend that war crimes and atrocities aren’t a logical outcome of official policy, they can shift blame to those without power and keep the odious policies in place. The cabinet secretary sanctimoniously intones platitudes about morality at the same time as one of his underlings is screaming “KILL!” into a fresh recruit’s trembling face.
The same kind of thing happens in the case of police and federal law enforcement officials. Increasingly militarized themselves, they are trained to believe not that their duty is to “protect and serve” or to uphold the nation’s freedoms and liberty, but rather that they are centurions tasked with enforcing “order” and protecting property—generally government property and the property of the wealthy. The general public then becomes a kind of “enemy” to be subdued with whatever force is necessary. Those who stand up for their rights under the law are perceived as threats to the authority of the enforcers, and are dealt with as enemies, to be beaten, pepper-sprayed in the face, spied upon and locked up.
Meanwhile, a farce of morals plays itself out in an endless cycle in the business world. Siemens, Boeing, Wal-Mart are just three prominent recent examples of corporations which have been exposed for using bribery as a standard business practice. Sam Walton may have started his company with some notion of honest (if ruthless) business practices, but the current business culture promotes success at any cost. Coming in second is for losers, and bribery of foreign (and domestic) officials is just another tool in the toolbox, as they like to say.
Just because these shameful acts may indeed indicate who or what our Empire’s institutions are, it does not mean that it is who we are as well. Most Americans, as well as most Afghans, Iraqis, Iranians etc., would not commit the types of acts that have made our nation infamous over the years. But if we are truly better than that, if this is not who we are, then we had better do something about the fact we are being represented to the world by the very actions that we find so heinous.
Even as countries are being abused by U.S. foreign policy, their people are often slow to blame or hate the American people. They often show a remarkable understanding that governments rarely represent their peoples’ wishes.
But we are the nation that is burdened by an impassioned rhetoric that asserts that we are the beacon of democracy, that we are captains of our own destiny. Our supposed innocence of the crimes of Empire and rapacious capitalism can be accepted for only so long. Eventually, we too must share the blame for the actions of our government and our economic culture. It is essential that we do hold every level of business and government accountable for every action that betrays America’s promise, both at home and abroad.
It is time to stop pretending that we are not also accountable. It is time to end militarism at home and abroad and to put people before profits. It won’t be the militarists and the profiteers who make such changes, though. It can only be us.
Otherwise, maybe former Dallas Cowboys coach Bill Parcells had it right, when he said, “You are what your record says you are.”
After visiting Fukushima, Senator Ron Wyden warned that the situation was worse than reported and urged Japan to accept international help to stabilize dangerous spent fuel pools.
Fuel pool number 4 is, indeed, the top short-term threat facing humanity.
Anti-nuclear physician Dr. Helen Caldicott says that if fuel pool 4 collapses, she will evacuate her family from Boston and move them to the Southern Hemisphere. This is an especially dramatic statement given that the West Coast is much more directly in the path of Fukushima radiation than the East Coast.
And nuclear expert Arnie Gundersen recently said (at 25:00):
There’s more cesium in that [Unit 4] fuel pool than in all 800 nuclear bombs exploded above ground…
But of course it would happen all at once.
It would certainly destroy Japan as a functioning country…
Move south of the equator if that ever happened, I think that’s probably the lesson there.
This week, Wyden said that the spent fuel is a national security threat to the U.S.:
AlterNet asked Sen. Wyden if he considers the spent fuel at Fukushima Daiichi a national security threat.
In a statement released by his office, Wyden replied, “The radiation caused by the failure of the spent fuel pools in the event of another earthquake could reach the West Coast within days. That absolutely makes the safe containment and protection of this spent fuel a security issue for the United States.”
[Robert Alvarez – a nuclear expert and a former special assistant to the United States Secretary of Energy] agrees, saying, “My major concern is that this effort to get that spent fuel out of there is not something you should be doing casually and taking your time on.”
Yet Tepco’s current plans are to hold the majority of this spent fuel onsite for years in the same elevated, uncontained storage pools, only transferring some of the fuel into more secure, hardened dry casks when the common pool reaches capacity.
Why are American nuclear authorities ignoring this threat?
A one-sided justice sees weaker states punished as rich nations and giant corporations project their power across the world
The conviction of Charles Taylor, the former president of Liberia, is said to have sent an unequivocal message to current leaders: that great office confers no immunity. In fact it sent two messages: if you run a small, weak nation, you may be subject to the full force of international law; if you run a powerful nation, you have nothing to fear.
While anyone with an interest in human rights should welcome the verdict, it reminds us that no one has faced legal consequences for launching the illegal war against Iraq. This fits the Nuremberg tribunal’s definition of a “crime of aggression”, which it called “the supreme international crime”. The charges on which, in an impartial system, George Bush, Tony Blair and their associates should have been investigated are far graver than those for which Taylor was found guilty.
The foreign secretary, William Hague, claims that Taylor’s conviction “demonstrates that those who have committed the most serious of crimes can and will be held to account for their actions”. But the international criminal court, though it was established 10 years ago, and though the crime of aggression has been recognised in international law since 1945, still has no jurisdiction over “the most serious of crimes”. This is because the powerful nations, for obvious reasons, are procrastinating. Nor have the United Kingdom, the United States and other western nations incorporated the crime of aggression into their own legislation. International law remains an imperial project, in which only the crimes committed by vassal states are punished.
In this respect it corresponds to other global powers. Despite its trumpeted reforms, the International Monetary Fund remains under the control of the United States and the former colonial powers. All constitutional matters still require an 85% share of the vote. By an inexplicable oversight, the United States retains 16.7%, ensuring that it possesses a veto over subsequent reforms. Belgium still has eight times the votes of Bangladesh, Italy a bigger share than India, and the United Kingdom and France between them more voting power than the 49 African members. The managing director remains, as imperial tradition insists, a European, her deputy an American.
The IMF, as a result, is still the means by which western financial markets project their power into the rest of the world. At the end of last year, for example, it published a paper pressing emerging economies to increase their “financial depth”, which it defines as “the total financial claims and counterclaims of an economy”. This, it claimed, would insulate them from crisis. As the Bretton Woods Project points out, emerging nations with large real economies and small financial sectors were the countries which best weathered the economic crisis, which was caused by advanced economies with large financial sectors. Like the modern opium wars it waged in the 1980s and 1990s – when it forced Asian countries to liberalise their currencies, permitting western financial speculators to attack them – the IMF’s prescriptions are incomprehensible until they are understood as instruments of financial power.
Decolonisation did not take place until the former colonial powers and the empires of capital on whose behalf they operated had established other means of retaining control. Some, like the IMF and World Bank, have remained almost unchanged. Others, like the programme of extraordinary rendition, evolved in response to new challenges to global hegemony.
As the kidnapping of Abdul Hakim Belhaj and his wife suggests, the UK’s foreign and intelligence services see themselves as a global police force, minding the affairs of other nations. In 2004, after Tony Blair, with one eye on possible contracts for British oil companies, decided that Gaddafi was a useful asset, the alliance was sealed with the capture, packaging and delivery of the regime’s dissenters.
Like the colonial crimes the British government committed in Kenya and elsewhere, whose concealment was sustained by the Foreign Office until its secret archives were revealed last month, the rendition programme was hidden from public view. Just as the colonial secretary, Alan Lennox-Boyd, repeatedly lied to parliament about the detention and torture of Kikuyu people, in 2005 Jack Straw, then foreign secretary, told parliament that ”there simply is no truth in the claims that the United Kingdom has been involved in rendition”.
Reading the emails passed between the offices of James Murdoch and Jeremy Hunt, it struck me that here too is a government which sees itself as an agent of empire – Murdoch’s in this case – and which sees the electorate as ornamental. Working, against the public interest, for News Corporation, the financial sector and the billionaire donors to the Conservative party, its ministers act as capital’s district commissioners, governing Britain as their forebears governed the colonies.
The bid for power, oil and spheres of influence that Bush and Blair launched in Mesopotamia, using the traditional camouflage of the civilising mission; the colonial war still being fought in Afghanistan, 199 years after the Great Game began; the global policing functions the great powers have arrogated to themselves; the one-sided justice dispensed by international law. All these suggest that imperialism never ended, but merely mutated into new forms. The virtual empire knows no boundaries. Until we begin to recognise and confront it, all of us, black and white, will remain its subjects.
The out-of-control Transportation Security Administration is past patdowns at airports – now it’s checkpoints and roadblocks
Ever since 2010, when the Transportation Security Administration started requiring that travelers in American airports submit to sexually intrusive gropings based on the apparent anti-terrorism principle that “If we can’t feel your nipples, they must be a bomb”, the agency’s craven apologists have shouted down all constitutional or human rights objections with the mantra “If you don’t like it, don’t fly!”
This callous disregard for travelers’ rights merely paraphrases the words of Homeland Security director Janet Napolitano, who shares, with the president, ultimate responsibility for all TSA travesties since 2009. In November 2010, with the groping policy only a few weeks old, Napolitano dismissed complaints by saying “people [who] want to travel by some other means” have that right. (In other words: if you don’t like it, don’t fly.)
But now TSA is invading travel by other means, too. No surprise, really: as soon as she established groping in airports, Napolitano expressed her desire to expand TSA jurisdiction over all forms of mass transit. In the past year, TSA’s snakelike VIPR (Visual Intermodal Prevention and Response) teams have been slithering into more and more bus and train stations – and even running checkpoints on highways – never in response to actual threats, but apparently more in an attempt to live up to the inspirational motto displayed at the TSA’s air marshal training center since the agency’s inception: “Dominate. Intimidate. Control.”
Anyone who rode the bus in Houston, Texas during the 2-10pm shift last Friday faced random bag checks and sweeps by both drug-sniffing dogs and bomb-sniffing dogs (the latter being only canines necessary if “preventing terrorism” were the actual intent of these raids), all courtesy of a joint effort between TSA VIPR nests and three different local and county-level police departments. The new Napolitano doctrine, then: “Show us your papers, show us everything you’ve got, justify yourself or you’re not allowed to go about your everyday business.”
Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee praised these violations of her constituents’ rights with an explanation asinine even by congressional standards:
“We’re looking to make sure that the lady I saw walking with a cane … knows that Metro cares as much about her as we do about building the light rail.”
See, if you don’t support the random harassment of ordinary people riding the bus to work, you’re a callous bastard who doesn’t care about little old ladies.
No specific threats or reasons were cited for the raids, as the government no longer even pretends to need any. Vipers bite you just because they can. TSA spokesman Jim Fotenos confirmed this a few days before the Houston raids, when VIPR teams and local police did the same thing to travelers catching trains out of the Amtrak station in Alton, Illinois. Fotenos confirmed that “It was not in response to a specific threat,” and bragged that VIPR teams conduct “thousands” of these operations each year.
Still, apologists can pretend that’s all good, pretend constitutional and human rights somehow don’t apply to mass transit, and twist their minds into the Mobius pretzel shapes necessary to find random searches of everyday travelers compatible with any notion that America is a free country. “Don’t like the new rules for mass transit? Then drive.”
Except even that doesn’t work anymore. Earlier this month, the VIPRs came out again in Virginia and infested the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel, also known as the stretch of Interstate 64 connecting the cities of Hampton and Norfolk. Spokesmen admitted again that the exercise was a “routine sweep”, not a response to any specific threat. Official news outlets admitted the checkpoint caused a delay (further exacerbated by a couple of accidents), but didn’t say for how long. Local commenters at the Travel Underground forums reported delays of 90 minutes.
I grew up in the Hampton Roads region of Virginia. When I was a kid, my dad crossed the bridge-tunnel every day while commuting to work. When I was in university, I did the same thing. The old conventional wisdom said “Get to the airport at least two hours early, so TSA has time to violate your constitutional rights before boarding.” What’s the new conventional wisdom – “Leave for any destination at least 90 minutes early, so TSA can violate your rights en route”?
Airports, bus terminals, train stations, highways – what’s left? If you don’t like it, walk. And remember to be respectfully submissive to any TSA agents or police you encounter in your travels, especially now that theUS supreme court has ruled mass strip-searches are acceptable for anyone arrested for even the most minor offence in America. If you’re rude to any TSA agent or cops, you risk being arrested on some vague catch-all charge like “disorderly conduct”. Even if the charges are later dropped, you’ll still undergo the ritual humiliation of having to strip, squat, spread ‘em and show your various orifices to be empty.
Can I call America a police state now, without being accused of hyperbole?
Believing in the classic American Dream that hard work will deliver prosperity is like believing that buying super lottery tickets is a smart way to become wealthy. Both are delusional beliefs because both are bets on incredible long shots that will disappoint nearly everyone who believes this garbage. The American Dream has been destroyed by a revolution from the top.
Americans have been watching authentic bottom-up revolutions in other countries but remain oblivious to a very different kind of revolution by elites that has been in progress for over three decades in the US. It has not destroyed the government or Constitution, merely bought control of both. Our government was not overthrown in a bloody revolution. It was purchased to win the class war against the 99 percent.
Call it the frog revolution. It is best understood by the parable of the frog in water that stays in it as the temperature is raised, ultimately to the boiling point, killing the frog. The key indicator of the US frog revolution is a mountain of data showing the rise in economic inequality, the loss of upward economic mobility, and the killing of the middle class. The vast majority of Americans, the 99 percent of frogs, remain ignorant of how they are being destroyed by that infamous rich and powerful one percent.
Note that in a poll released by Pew, 19 percent of Americans agreed with the statement that “success in life is pretty much determined by forces outside of our control,” the highest number since 1994. It would be much higher if there was not an epidemic of delusional thinking. But more on target, 40 percent of Americans — also the highest number since 1994 — agreed with the statement that “hard work and determination are no guarantee of success for most people.” For the counter-revolution we need that number must get much higher.
Analysis: Even in this first post-crisis presidential year, the US is still as out of touch as ever.
Through the patriotic haze of an American political campaign year, it is tempting to believe our own hooey.
America is exceptional and not in decline, Barack Obama insisted in his most recent State of the Union address. Mitt Romney, his leading GOP rival, insists against the opinion of most economists that the US economy can achieve average annual growth of 4 percent a year and anyone who says otherwise is a defeatist.
In fact, both are dead wrong. Gravity does affect the US just like any other nation, and 4 percent average annual growth for a mature economy is a pipedream.
US power — measured in terms of its relative economic importance and its diplomatic influence — is slipping all over the planet. US influence was written off as irrelevant in Europe’s debt crisis, and is being chased out of the Middle East by popular consent and unhappy results on the Iraqi and Afghan battlefields. In Latin America, America’s “backyard,” Washington’s writ increasingly is displaced by Brazil, just as it has been checked by Russia in the post-Soviet “near abroad.”
The US is slipping in Asia, too, losing its position as the most important trading partner with Asian nations (we lost Australia, Japan, India and South Korea to China in that category since the Great Recession).
Maybe you’ve heard of it and maybe you haven’t, but in Bluffdale, Utah alongside one of the largest polygamist sects in America, the NSA is building a one-million-square-foot data collection center — five times the size of the U.S. capital.
Despite immense secrecy, and construction workers with Top Secret clearances, news of the project made it to the pages of Wired last month. Intelligence authority James Bamford wrote that the center is part of President Bush’s “total information awareness” program that was killed by Congress in 2003 in response to public outrage over its potential for invading Americans privacy.
One senior intelligence official formerly involved with the project told Bamford “this is more than just a data center,” that it’s a code breaking megalopolis the likes of which the world has never seen.
Several years ago the NSA made a major leap in breaking complex encryptions used in everything from “financial information, stock transactions, business deals, foreign military and diplomatic secrets, legal documents, confidential personal communications.”
The official concluded by saying “Everybody’s a target; everybody with communication is a target.”
The story caused such a stir that the NSA’s chief General Keith Alexander was called before Congress last week to testify about the project and categorically denied the facility will be used to spy on American citizens.
“The NSA does not have the ability to do that in the United States,” Alexander told Georgia Rep. Hank Johnson. ”We’re not authorized to do that, nor do we have the equipment in the United States to collect that kind of information.”
NSA public information officer Vanee’ Vines backed up Alexander in an email saying: “What it will be is a state-of-the-art facility designed to support the Intelligence Community’s efforts to further strengthen and protect the nation.”
While it’s impossible to know the specifics of the work to be done in Bluffdale, it’s pretty clear the NSA does have the power to snoop on Americans at will, despite what General Alexander said to Congress.
Former NSA analyst Adrienne J. Kinne told Bamford the NSA has had the ability to listen in on American phone calls in real time since 9/11 when, she said, “basically all the rules were thrown out the window.”
The eavesdropping Kinne was involved in even included listening to U.S. journalists calling home from overseas.
“A lot of time you could tell they were calling their families,” she says, “incredibly intimate, personal conversations. It’s almost like going through and finding somebody’s diary,”
April 28-29, 2012
9:00am - 9:00pm
900 Massachusetts Avenue NW,
Washington, DC 20001
The peace group CODEPINK and the legal advocacy organizations Reprieve and the Center for Constitutional Rights are hosting the first international drone summit. The summit will bring together actors from various sectors, including CIP senior analyst and director of the TransBorder Project, Tom Barry, to discuss the expanding use and deployment of drones internationally and in the United States. Participants will also have the opportunity to hear the personal stories of Pakistani drone-strike victims.
“Drones are proliferating, and Americans are finally waking up to the way that the drone industry and the national/homeland security complex are driving this explosion of drones at home and abroad. Unfortunately, the call for better control, oversight, and international regulation of drones is coming largely from nongovernmental organizations and the grassroots. The Drone Summit on April 28-29 in Washington is an example of how NGOs, including the Center for International Policy, are taking the lead — not Congress, not the administration — in education and policy advocacy,” says Tom Barry.
Sunday, April 29 will be a strategy session to network, discuss and plan advocacy efforts focused on various aspects of drones, including surveillance and targeted killings.
Location: 100 Maryland Avenue NE, Washington, DC 20001
Sunday’s session is for representatives of organizations and individuals who want to be actively involved in this work. If you are interested in attending, please email Ramah Kudaimi at email@example.com.
Topics will include:
-the impact of drones on human lives and prospects for peace
-the lack of transparency and accountability for drone operations, including targeted killings
-disputed legality of drone warfare
-compensation for victims
-the future of domestic drone surveillance
-development of autonomous drones
-drone use along U.S. borders.
Speakers will include:
-Clive Stafford Smith, director of UK legal group Reprieve that represents drone victims
-Medea Benjamin, author of forthcoming book Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control
-Pardiss Kebriaei, attorney with Center for Constitutional Rights
-Shahzad Akbar, attorney with Pakistani Foundation for Fundamental Fights
-Rafia Zakaria, Amnesty International-USA Board of Directors
-Sarah Holewinski, director of Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict (CIVIC)
-Hina Shamsi, ACLU national security expert
-Jay Stanley, ACLU privacy expert
-Tom Barry, drone border expert with Center for International Policy
-David Glazier, law professor who served 21 years as a US Navy surface warfare officer
-Amie Stepanovich, legal counsel at Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC)
-Trevor Timm, activist at Electronic Frontier Foundation
-Peter Asaro and Noel Sharkey from the International Committee for Robot Arms Control (ICRAC).
Please contact Summit Organizer Ramah Kudaimi at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions.
Endorsed by the Center for International Policy, the Fellowship of Reconciliation, Global Exchange, Peace Action, United For Peace and Justice, Veterans for Peace, Voices for Creative Nonviolence, the Washington Peace Center and the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom.
Welcome to the ‘Homeland’.
MR. PRESIDENT,the times call for candor. The Philippines are ours forever, “territory belonging to the United States,” as the Constitution calls them. And just beyond the Philippines are China’s illimitable markets. We will not retreat from either. We will not repudiate our duty in the archipelago. We will not abandon our opportunity in the Orient. We will not renounce our part in the mission of our race, trustee, under God, of the civilization of the world. And we will move forward to our work, not howling out regrets like slaves whipped to their burdens but with gratitude for a task worthy of our strength and thanksgiving to Almighty God that He has marked us as His chosen people, henceforth to lead in the regeneration of the world.
This island empire is the last land left in all the oceans. If it should prove a mistake to abandon it, the blunder once made would be irretrievable. If it proves a mistake to hold it, the error can be corrected when we will. Every other progressive nation stands ready to relieve us.
But to hold it will be no mistake. Our largest trade henceforth must be with Asia. The Pacific isour ocean. More and more Europe will manufacture the most it needs, secure from its colonies the most it con-sumes. Where shall we turn for consumers ofour surplus? Geography answers the question. China isour natural customer. She is nearer to us than to England, Germany, or Russia, the commercial powers of the present and the future. They have movednearer to China by securing permanent bases on her borders. The Philippines give us a base at the door of all the East.
Lines of navigation from our ports to the Orient and Australia, from the Isthmian Canal to Asia, from all Oriental ports to Australia converge at and separate from the Philippines. They are a self-supporting, dividend-paying fleet, permanently anchored at a spot selected by the strategy of Providence, commanding the Pacific. And the Pacific is the ocean of the commerce of the future. Most future wars will be conflicts for commerce. The power that rules the Pacific, therefore, is the power that rules the world. And, with the Philippines, that power is and will forever be the American Republic… .
But if they did not command China, India, the Orient, the whole Pacific for purposes of offense, defense, and trade, the Philippines are so valuable in themselves that we should hold them. I have cruised more than 2,000 miles through the archipelago, every moment a surprise at its loveliness and wealth. I have ridden hundreds of miles on the islands, every foot of the way a revelation of vegetable and mineral riches…
At the start of the first hearing on a lawsuit challenging the Homeland Battlefield Act, a federal judge appeared to be “extremely skeptical” that those pursuing the challenge had grounds to sue the US government. However, by the end of the hearing, the judge acknowledged plaintiffs had made some strong arguments on why there was reason to be concerned about the Act, which passed as part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) on New Year’s Eve last year.
Adam Klasfeld of Courthouse News, one of the few media organizations that actually covered the hearing yesterday, reported that Judge Katherine B. Forrest cited the lack of definition of terms such as “substantial support” or “associated forces,” which appear in the law. Without clearly knowing what “substantial support” for terrorism or “associated forces” of terrorist groups could be, Forrest asked, “How does the common citizen know?”
The government lawyers contended that the Homeland Battlefield Law “affirms” the Authorization to Use Military Force passed under President George W. Bush. But, according to Klasfeld, Forrest asked why language had changed. “Congress writes legislation for a reason, right?” There must be a purpose for the change.
There are seven plaintiffs trying to sue right now. Dubbed the “Freedom Seven” by their attorneys, the plaintiffs include: Chris Hedges, a journalist; Daniel Ellsberg, who is known for releasing the Pentagon Papers; Noam Chomsky, a well-known writer; Icelandic MP Birgitta Jonsdottir; Tangerine Bolen, founder of RevolutionTruth.org; Kai Wargalla, deputy director of Revolution Truth and founder of Occupy London; and Alexa O’Brien, journalist and founder of US Day of Rage.
Paul Harris of The Guardian also covered the hearing. His report indicates that the government did not block Icelandic MP Birgitta Jonsdottir’s testimony from being entered into the record.
Jonsdottir, whose past association with WikiLeaks led the Justice Department to subpoena her Twitter account, had been warned that the State Department might prevent her testimony from being read in court, but author Naomi Wolf was permitted to read Jonsdottir’s statement.
Noting that many US political leaders have labeled WikiLeaks a “terrorist” organization, the statement read by Wolf explained why Jonsdottir had refused to come give lectures in the United States for fear of being detained.
[The NDAA] provisions create a greater sense of fear since now the federal government will have a tool with which to incarcerate me outside of the normal requirements of the criminal law. Because of this change in the legal situation, I am now no longer able to travel to the US for fear of being taken into custody as as having ‘substantially supported’ groups that are considered as either terrorist groups or their associates.
Bolen and Ellsberg did not testify on Thursday, but Hedges, O’Brien and Wargalla each appeared in person to testify. Harris reported that Hedges said he ”feared he might be subject to arrest under the terms of NDAA if interviewing or meeting Islamic radicals could constitute giving them ‘substantial support’ under the terms of the law.” O’Brien described in detail how a private intelligence firm was trying to link US Day of Rage to “Islamic fundamentalists.” And, Wargalla testified on how the City of London had listed Occupy London alongside al Qaeda and extremist groups from Belarus and Colombia.
Lawyer Benjamin Torrance, who was in court to represent the government, declined to answer if any of the plaintiffs concerned about the law could be targeted. He said he could not “make specific representations regarding specific plaintiffs.” He could not say if Icelandic MP Birgitta Jonsdottir “would have been detained had she flown in from Iceland.” All he could say was that “an association with WikiLeaks alone would not make her subject to the NDAA.”
The reluctance to answer specifically, though routine, led Forrest to state that the government was not helping its case that citizens do not have any reason to fear the law. The judge said, “If people weren’t worried before those series of questions, they could worry about it now,” she said. And, with regards to Hedges, who filed the lawsuit against the government, she added, “It sounded like Mr. Hedges was all over co-belligerents.”
The hearing that played out in court yesterday was held to determine if any of the plaintiffs had grounds to sue. Klasfeld noted, “To win the right to sue, only one of the seven plaintiffs needs to establish a ‘reasonable fear’ of being detained for free speech. The plaintiffs that remain standing can then challenge the law on constitutional grounds.”
Back in December, Congress passed the law but there wasn’t unanimous support. There was a level of consternation over what the Obama Administration was asking members of Congress to do. Much of that dismay came from a broad political spectrum of Americans that found the law to be an assault on civil liberties. Amendments were proposed but failed to pass.
The aftermath has not seen outrage among citizens relent. President Barack Obama may have issued asigning statement to the law, but it did little to change the fact that indefinite detention was codified into law. It did nothing to prevent future administrations from wielding the power of the Homeland Battlefield Act. And, as a result, members of Congress and state officials bolstered by anger at the grassroots level are mobilizing to ensure provisions of the NDAA are stripped or neutralized.
The plaintiffs are realistic about the chance they have to actually advance this lawsuit, but they also are convinced they have to push back against unchecked executive power in the United States. They see this as a beginning and intend to add many more plaintiffs to lawsuit in the coming weeks.
THIS week the Obama administration is playing host to Xi Jinping, China’s vice president and heir apparent. The world’s most powerful electoral democracy and its largest one-party state are meeting at a time of political transition for both.
Many have characterized the competition between these two giants as a clash between democracy and authoritarianism. But this is false. America and China view their political systems in fundamentally different ways: whereas America sees democratic government as an end in itself, China sees its current form of government, or any political system for that matter, merely as a means to achieving larger national ends.
In the history of human governance, spanning thousands of years, there have been two major experiments in democracy. The first was Athens, which lasted a century and a half; the second is the modern West. If one defines democracy as one citizen one vote, American democracy is only 92 years old. In practice it is only 47 years old, if one begins counting after the Voting Rights Act of 1965 — far more ephemeral than all but a handful of China’s dynasties.
Why, then, do so many boldly claim they have discovered the ideal political system for all mankind and that its success is forever assured?
The answer lies in the source of the current democratic experiment. It began with the European Enlightenment. Two fundamental ideas were at its core: the individual is rational, and the individual is endowed with inalienable rights. These two beliefs formed the basis of a secular faith in modernity, of which the ultimate political manifestation is democracy.
In its early days, democratic ideas in political governance facilitated the industrial revolution and ushered in a period of unprecedented economic prosperity and military power in the Western world. Yet at the very beginning, some of those who led this drive were aware of the fatal flaw embedded in this experiment and sought to contain it.
The American Federalists made it clear they were establishing a republic, not a democracy, and designed myriad means to constrain the popular will. But as in any religion, faith would prove stronger than rules.
The political franchise expanded, resulting in a greater number of people participating in more and more decisions. As they say in America, “California is the future.” And the future means endless referendums, paralysis and insolvency.
In Athens, ever-increasing popular participation in politics led to rule by demagogy. And in today’s America, money is now the great enabler of demagogy. As the Nobel-winning economist A. Michael Spence has put it, America has gone from “one propertied man, one vote; to one man, one vote; to one person, one vote; trending to one dollar, one vote.” By any measure, the United States is a constitutional republic in name only. Elected representatives have no minds of their own and respond only to the whims of public opinion as they seek re-election; special interests manipulate the people into voting for ever-lower taxes and higher government spending, sometimes even supporting self-destructive wars.
The West’s current competition with China is therefore not a face-off between democracy and authoritarianism, but rather the clash of two fundamentally different political outlooks. The modern West sees democracy and human rights as the pinnacle of human development. It is a belief premised on an absolute faith.
China is on a different path. Its leaders are prepared to allow greater popular participation in political decisions if and when it is conducive to economic development and favorable to the country’s national interests, as they have done in the past 10 years.
However, China’s leaders would not hesitate to curtail those freedoms if the conditions and the needs of the nation changed. The 1980s were a time of expanding popular participation in the country’s politics that helped loosen the ideological shackles of the destructive Cultural Revolution. But it went too far and led to a vast rebellion at Tiananmen Square.
That uprising was decisively put down on June 4, 1989. The Chinese nation paid a heavy price for that violent event, but the alternatives would have been far worse.
The resulting stability ushered in a generation of growth and prosperity that propelled China’s economy to its position as the second largest in the world.
The fundamental difference between Washington’s view and Beijing’s is whether political rights are considered God-given and therefore absolute or whether they should be seen as privileges to be negotiated based on the needs and conditions of the nation.
The West seems incapable of becoming less democratic even when its survival may depend on such a shift. In this sense, America today is similar to the old Soviet Union, which also viewed its political system as the ultimate end.
History does not bode well for the American way. Indeed, faith-based ideological hubris may soon drive democracy over the cliff.
Side note: The question remains: Is this PATRIOTISM or MURDER? [Considering all the jingoism in this fucked up shit-hole of a country, this question NEEDS to be asked, especially to all those self-righteous “patriotic” fucks out there.]
LOS ANGELES — An Iraqi woman brutally beaten in her southern California home in an apparently racially-motivated attack has died in hospital, US media reported.
Shaima Alawadi, 32 and a mother of five, died after she had been taken off life support Saturday at a hospital in San Diego County, CNN television reported.
Alawadi had been on life support since Wednesday when her teenage daughter found her unconscious in the living room of their home, the report said.
“During the initial stages of this investigation, a threatening note was discovered very close to where the victim was found,” police Lieutenant Mark Coit told the network.
Alawadi’s daughter said the note told the family to go back to Iraq and called them “terrorists,” CNN noted.
“A week ago they left a letter saying, ‘This is our country, not yours, you terrorists,’” the daughter, Fatima Al Himidi told CNN affiliate KGTV. “So my mom ignored that, thinking (it was) kids playing around, pranking. And so the day they hurt her, they left it again and it said the same thing.”
The family reportedly came to the United States from Iraq in the mid-1990s.