YouTube.com is down at the moment

At 9:56 PM CT, YouTube.com is down, please check back later for the videos from YouTube that are posted on my blog.  So very sorry.  Hopefully it won’t be down for very long.  ~ Lo

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Nobody Marched to Impeach Bill Clinton By Linda Milazzo

Dandelion Salad

By Linda Milazzo

07/09/07 “ICH

NOBODY marched to impeach Bill Clinton. Angry citizens DIDN’T fill the streets, carry signs and beg a non-responsive Congress to do its Constitutional duty and remove Bill Clinton from his job. Panels WEREN’T held across the nation, moderated by Constitutional scholars who loved their country so much that they traversed its full span to inform packed audiences of the high crimes Bill Clinton had done.

Nope. That DIDN’T happen.

In 1998, thousands upon thousands of Americans DIDN’T call, write, fax and visit their elected leaders every day imploring them to impeach Bill Clinton. Millions of citizens DIDN’T believe that the rest of the world wanted Bill Clinton impeached. Groups of citizen activists DIDN’T band together to camp out at their Representatives’ homes and District Offices for days, sometimes weeks, holding “Impeach Bill Clinton” signs and wearing “Impeach Bill Clinton” T-shirts. Thousands of cars DIDN’T bear “Impeach Bill Clinton” bumper stickers.

Nope. That DIDN’T happen.

Average citizens DIDN’T travel to Washington, DC to walk the Halls of Congress and seek audiences with their elected officials demanding to have Bill Clinton impeached.

Nuh-uh!

“Impeachment Centers” WEREN’T opened dedicated to impeaching Bill Clinton like the one in Los Angeles that opened on the Fourth of July, dedicated to impeaching George Bush and Dick Cheney.

Hundreds of people DIDN’T join together in a park on a national holiday for an impeach-Bill-Clinton-rally the way they joined together in a park in Los Angeles on Wednesday for an impeach-Bush-and-Cheney-rally.

In 1998, the people DIDN’T need to inspire Congress to impeach Bill Clinton. The 105th Congress couldn’t wait to throw the popular President out of his job. In fact they impeached Bill Clinton even though we-the-people implored them not to.

Of course, there were some Americans in 1998 who bought the smear and destroy campaign by the rabid Republican spin-machine and rabid Republican legislators to impeach Bill Clinton under the guise of restoring the Presidency. These duped citizens were conned by mainstream media’s daily theatrics, directed by then-adulterer Congressman Henry Hyde, then-adulterer Speaker Newt Gingrich, then drug-addict Rush Limbaugh, future-indicted Congressman Tom Delay, and Special Pornographer Kenneth Starr. (My apologies to Larry Flynt).

How ironic for Gingrich and Hyde that Clinton was caught with his pants down just as they were dropping theirs. How further ironic that the lynchpin asserting the case for Clinton’s impeachment was Ken Starr’s obsessively compiled pornographic tome, whereas Americans today have a virtual library of scholarly books on the Constitutional merits of impeaching Bush and Cheney. Thanks to Mr. Starr’s salacious expose, it is likely his lurid accounting of a private consensual affair will be his singular most powerful climax.

The fact is, during the 105th Congress’s impeachment of Bill Clinton, Clinton’s public APPROVAL rating was a positive 73%. Conversely, as the current 110th Congress takes NO action to impeach George W. Bush, Bush’s public APPROVAL ratings range between 28 and 36%.

This means that the people’s well-liked President Clinton was penalized, while the people’s despised President Bush is allowed to stay on.

If this isn’t a failure of democracy of, for, and by the people, then what is?

The 105th Congress’s impeachment of Bill Clinton was an elitist backlash to pummel an Arkansas poor-boy for dethroning the patriarch of the ruling class. Unfortunately, the 110th Congress conforms to the same eliticism, refusing to impugn the progeny of that same ruling class. The collapse of our democracy is in no small part due to the ideological similarities between the Republican and Democratic parties, fueled by cronyism and mutual corporate ties.

Sadly, Speaker Pelosi and the Democratic Congress will rue the day they took impeachment off the table. By disregarding the wishes of The People and making no effort to impeach Bush and Cheney, Speaker Pelosi will go down in history as the Speaker who permitted the most corrupt Administration in American history to perpetrate its crimes. She has secured her legacy as the spineless leader of a spineless Congress that defied the Constitution and sanctioned Bush and Cheney’s lies. The 110th Congress and its Speaker have become enablers, accomplices and accessories to the crimes.

The bottom line… Bush and Cheney have eighteen months left to their term. During this time they are capable of many more egregious crimes. Congress’s failure to initiate articles of impeachment for Bush and Cheney’s criminal acts is a breach of Congress’s Oath “to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign or domestic.” If Pelosi and the 110th Congress do not uphold this Oath, they have secured their rightful places alongside Bush and Cheney as enemies of the state.

One final note: Members of both the House and the Senate have stated that impeachment is certain to fail. Let it be known that if the current Legislative Branch doesn’t make an honest attempt at impeachment, they have already failed.

But If they make an honest, heart-felt and diligent try, even if they fail, at least they have done their job.

Linda Milazzo is a Los Angeles based writer, educator and activist. Her writing has appeared in numerous domestic and international newspapers, magazines and journals. Over the past three decades, Linda has divided her time between the entertainment industry, community development projects and education.

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. This material is distributed without profit.

Noam Chomsky: Want to reduce terrorism, don’t participate in it (2002) + Nobel Lecture by Harold Pinter (2005)

Dandelion Salad

23 min 28 sec
http://www.chomsky.info

Noam Chomsky speaks to BBC’s Francine Stock at London’s St Paul’s Cathedral, Dec ’02.

Harold Pinter’s Nobel Lecture video: http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/literature/laureates/2005/pinter-lecture.html

Francine Stock: Since you first started in political activism in the sixties, do you feel that you have made a great deal of headway?

Noam Chomsky: I think the country has made a great deal of headway and I’m happy to participate in it, but it’s not traceable to individuals….If you go back to the sixties…there was no feminist movement, no Third World solidarity movements, no substantial anti-nuclear movement, no global justice movements. These are all developments of the last twenty or thirty years and they come from all over the place. For example, the solidarity movements…are quite unique – there’s never been a time when people from the aggressor country went to the victims and lived with them to try to protect them.

That happened in the eighties – tens of thousands of Americans did it and they came from conservative circles. A lot of it was church based. And it came from Main Street in the United States, and now it’s all over the world.

Continue reading

Mumia Abu-Jamal — Dead Soldiers and Dead Dreams! (video; DU)

Dandelion Salad

Statistics are one way to tell the story of the approximately 1.4 million servicemen and women who’ve been to Iraq and Afghanistan. According to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2004, 86 percent of soldiers in Iraq reported knowing someone who was seriously injured or killed there. Some 77 percent reported shooting at the enemy; 75 percent reported seeing women or children in imminent peril and being unable to help. Fifty-one percent reported handling or uncovering human remains; 28 percent were responsible for the death of a noncombatant. One in five Iraq veterans return home seriously impaired by post-traumatic stress disorder. see:
Soldiers Share the Devastating Tales of War By Emily DePrang

 

 

see:

Depleted Uranium

 

The Killing Machine By Fidel Castro

Dandelion Salad

By Fidel Castro

ICH

07/10/07 — Cuba Now

It was announced that the CIA would be declassifying hundreds of pages on illegal actions that included plans to eliminate the leaders of foreign governments. Suddenly the publication is halted and it is delayed one day. No coherent explanation was given. Perhaps someone in the White House looked over the material.

The first package of declassified documents goes by the name of “The Family Jewels”; it consists of 702 pages on illegal CIA actions between 1959 and 1973. About 100 pages of this part have been deleted. It deals with actions that were not authorized by any law, plots to assassinate other leaders, experiments with drugs on human beings to control their minds, spying on civil activists and journalists, among other similar activities that were expressly prohibited.

The documents began to be gathered together 14 years after the first of the events took place, when then CIA director, James Schlessinger became alarmed about what the press was writing, especially all the articles by Robert Woodward and Carl Bernstein published in The Washington Post, already mentioned in the “Manifesto to the People of Cuba”. The agency was being accused of promoting spying in the Watergate Hotel with the participation of its former agents Howard Hunt and James McCord.

In May 1973, the Director of the CIA was demanding that “all the main operative officials of this agency must immediately inform me on any ongoing or past activity that might be outside of the constituting charter of this agency”. Schlessinger, later appointed Head of the Pentagon, had been replaced by William Colby. Colby was referring to the documents as “skeletons hiding in a closet”. New press revelations forced Colby to admit the existence of the reports to interim President Gerald Ford in 1975. The New York Times was denouncing agency penetration of antiwar groups. The law that created the CIA prevented it from spying inside the United States.

That “was just the tip of the iceberg”, said then Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.

Kissinger himself warned that “blood would flow” if other actions were known, and he immediately added: “For example, that Robert Kennedy personally controlled the operation for the assassination of Fidel Castro”. The President’s brother was then Attorney General of the United States. He was later murdered as he was running for President in the 1968 elections, which facilitated Nixon’s election for lack of a strong candidate. The most dramatic thing about the case is that apparently he had reached the conviction that John Kennedy had been victim of a conspiracy. Thorough investigators, after analyzing the wounds, the caliber of the shots and other circumstances surrounding the death of the President, reached the conclusion that there had been at least three shooters. Solitary Oswald, used as an instrument, could not have been the only shooter. I found that rather striking. Excuse me for saying this but fate turned me into a shooting instructor with a telescopic sight for all the Granma expeditionaries. I spent months practicing and teaching, every day; even though the target is a stationary one it disappears from view with each shot and so you need to look for it all over again in fractions of a second.

Oswald wanted to come through Cuba on his trip to the USSR. He had already been there before. Someone sent him to ask for a visa in our country’s embassy in Mexico but nobody knew him there so he wasn’t authorized. They wanted to get us implicated in the conspiracy. Later, Jack Ruby, –a man openly linked to the Mafia– unable to deal with so much pain and sadness, as he said, assassinated him, of all places, in a precinct full police agents.

Subsequently, in international functions or on visits to Cuba, on more than one occasion I met with the aggrieved Kennedy relatives, who would greet me respectfully. The former president’s son, who was a very small child when his father was killed, visited Cuba 34 years later. We met and I invited him to dinner.

The young man, in the prime of his life, and well brought up, tragically died in an airplane accident on a stormy night as he was flying to Martha’s Vineyard with his wife. I never touched on the thorny issue with any of those relatives. In contrast, I pointed out that if the president-elect had then been Nixon instead of Kennedy, after the Bay of Pigs disaster we would have been attacked by the land and sea forces escorting the mercenary expedition, and both countries would have paid a high toll in human lives. Nixon would not have limited himself to saying that victory has many fathers and defeat is an orphan. For the record, Kennedy was never too enthusiastic about the Bay of Pigs adventure; he was led there by Eisenhower’s military reputation and the recklessness of his ambitious vice-president.

I remember that, exactly on the day and minute he was assassinated, I was speaking in a peaceful spot outside of the capital with French journalist Jean Daniel. He told me that he was bringing a message from President Kennedy. He said to me that in essence he had told him: “You are going to see Castro. I would like to know what he thinks about the terrible danger we just experienced of a thermonuclear war. I want to see you again as soon as you get back.” “Kennedy was very active; he seemed to be a political machine”, he added, and we were not able to continue talking as someone rushed in with the news of what had just happened. We turned on the radio. What Kennedy thought was now pointless.

Certainly I lived with that danger. Cuba was both the weakest part and the one that would take the first strike, but we did not agree with the concessions that were made to the United States. I have already spoken of this before.

Kennedy had emerged from the crisis with greater authority. He came to recognize the enormous sacrifices of human lives and material wealth made by the Soviet people in the struggle against fascism. The worst of the relations between the United States and Cuba had not yet occurred by April 1961. When he hadn’t resigned himself to the outcome of the Bay of Pigs, along came the Missile Crisis. The blockade, economic asphyxiation, pirate attacks and assassination plots multiplied. But the assassination plots and other bloody occurrences began under the administration of Eisenhower and Nixon.

After the Missile Crisis we would have not refused to talk with Kennedy, nor would we have ceased being revolutionaries and radical in our struggle for socialism. Cuba would have never severed relations with the USSR as it had been asked to do. Perhaps if the American leaders had been aware of what a war could be using weapons of mass destruction they would have ended the Cold War earlier and differently. At least that’s how we felt then, when there was still no talk of global warming, broken imbalances, the enormous consumption of hydrocarbons and the sophisticated weaponry created by technology, as I have already said to the youth of Cuba. We would have had much more time to reach, through science and conscience, what we are today forced to realize in haste.

President Ford decided to appoint a Commission to investigate the Central Intelligence Agency. “We do not want to destroy the CIA but to preserve it”, he said.

As a result of the Commission’s investigations that were led by Senator Frank Church, President Ford signed an executive order which expressly prohibited the participation of American officials in the assassinations of foreign leaders.

The documents published now disclose information about the CIA-Mafia links for my assassination.

Details are also revealed about Operation Chaos, carrying on from 1969 for at least seven years, for which the CIA created a special squadron with the mission to infiltrate pacifist groups and to investigate “the international activities of radicals and black militants”. The Agency compiled more than 300,000 names of American citizens and organizations and extensive files on 7,200 persons.

According to The New York Times, President Johnson was convinced that the American anti-War movement was controlled and funded by Communist governments and he ordered the CIA to produce evidence.

The documents recognize, furthermore, that the CIA spied on various journalists like Jack Anderson, performers such as Jane Fonda and John Lennon, and the student movements at Columbia University. It also searched homes and carried out tests on American citizens to determine the reactions of human beings to certain drugs.

In a memorandum sent to Colby in 1973, Walter Elder who had been executive assistant to John McCone, CIA Director in the early 1970s, gives information about discussions in the CIA headquarters that were taped and transcribed: “I know that whoever worked in the offices of the director were worried about the fact that these conversations in the office and on the phone were transcribed. During the McCone years there were microphones in his regular offices, the inner office, the dining room, the office in the East building, and in the study of his home on White Haven Street. I don’t know if anyone is ready to talk about this, but the information tends to be leaked, and certainly the Agency is vulnerable in this case”.

The secret transcripts of the CIA directors could contain a great number of “jewels”. The National Security Archive is already requesting these transcripts.

A memo clarifies that the CIA had a project called OFTEN which would collect “information about dangerous drugs in American companies”, until the program was terminated in the fall of 1972. In another memo there are reports that manufacturers of commercial drugs “had passed” drugs to the CIA which had been “refused due to adverse secondary effects”.

As part of the MKULTRA program, the CIA had given LSD and other psycho-active drugs to people without their knowledge. According to another document in the archive, Sydney Gottlieb, a psychiatrist and head of chemistry of the Agency Mind Control Program, is supposedly the person responsible for having made available the poison that was going to be used in the assassination attempt on Patrice Lumumba.

CIA employees assigned to MHCHAOS ­the operation that carried out surveillance on American opposition to the war in Vietnam and other political dissidents ­expressed “a high level of resentment” for having been ordered to carry out such missions.

Nonetheless, there is a series of interesting matters revealed in these documents, such as the high level at which the decisions for actions against our country were taken.

The technique used today by the CIA to avoid giving any details is not the unpleasant crossed out bits but the blank spaces, coming from the use of computers.

For The New York Times, large censored sections reveal that the CIA still cannot expose all the skeletons in its closets, and many activities developed in operations abroad, checked over years ago by journalists, congressional investigators and a presidential commission, are not in the documents.

Howard Osborn, then CIA Director of Security, makes a summary of the “jewels” compiled by his office. He lists eight cases ­including the recruiting of the gangster Johnny Roselli for the coup against Fidel Castro ­but they crossed out the document that is in the number 1 place on Osborn’s initial list: two and a half pages.

“The No. 1 Jewel of the CIA Security Offices must be very good, especially since the second one is the list for the program concerning the assassination of Castro by Roselli,” said Thomas Blanton, director of the National Security Archive who requested the declassification of “The Family Jewels” 15 years ago under the Freedom of Information Act.

It is notable that the administration which has declassified the least information in the history of the United States, and which has even started a process of reclassifying information that was previously declassified, now makes the decision to make these revelations.

I believe that such an action could be an attempt to present an image of transparency when the government is at an all time low rate of acceptance and popularity, and to show that those methods belong to another era and are no longer in use. When he announced the decision, General Hayden, current CIA Director, said: “The documents offer a look at very different times and at a very different Agency.”

Needless to say that everything described here is still being done, only in a more brutal manner and all around the planet, including a growing number of illegal actions within the very United States.

The New York Times wrote that intelligence experts consulted expressed that the revelation of the documents is an attempt to distract attention from recent controversies and scandals plaguing the CIA and an Administration that is living through some of its worst moments of unpopularity.

The declassification could also be an attempt at showing, in the early stages of the electoral process that the Democratic administrations were as bad, or worse, than Mr. Bush’s.

In pages 11 to 15 of the Memo for the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, we can read:

“In August 1960, Mr. Richard M. Bissell approached Colonel Sheffield Edwards with the objective of determining whether the Security Office had agents who could help in a confidential mission that required gangster-style action. The target of the mission was Fidel Castro.

“Given the extreme confidentiality of the mission, the project was known only to a small group of people. The Director of the Central Intelligence Agency was informed and he gave it his approval. Colonel J. C. King, Head of the Western Hemisphere Division, was also informed, but all the details were deliberately concealed from officials of Operation JMWAVE. Even though some officials of Communications (Commo) and the Technical Services Division (TSD) took part in initial planning phases, they were not aware of the mission’s purpose.

“Robert A. Maheu was contacted, he was informed in general terms about the project, and he was asked to evaluate whether he could get access to gangster-type elements as a first step for achieving the desired goal.

“Mr. Maheu informed that he had met with a certain Johnny Roselli on several occasions while he was visiting Las Vegas. He had only met him informally through clients, but he had been told that he was a member of the upper echelons of the ‘syndicate’ and that he was controlling all the ice machines on the Strip. In Maheu’s opinion, if Roselli was in effect a member of the Clan, he undoubtedly had connections that would lead to the gambling racket in Cuba.

“Maheu was asked to get close to Roselli, who knew that Maheu was a public relations executive looking after national and foreign accounts, and tell him that recently he had been contracted by a client who represented several international business companies, which were suffering enormous financial losses in Cuba due to Castro. They were convinced that the elimination of Castro would be a solution to their problem and they were ready to pay $ 150,000 for a successful outcome. Roselli had to be made perfectly aware of the fact that the U.S. government knew nothing, nor could it know anything, about this operation.

“This was presented to Roselli on September 14, 1960 in the Hilton Plaza Hotel of New York City. His initial reaction was to avoid getting involved but after Maheu’s persuasive efforts he agreed to present the idea to a friend, Sam Gold, who knew “some Cubans”. Roselli made it clear that he didn’t want any money for his part in all this, and he believed that Sam would do likewise. Neither of these people was ever paid with Agency money.

“During the week of September 25, Maheu was introduced to Sam who was living at the Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach. It was not until several weeks after meeting Sam and Joe ­who was introduced as courier operating between Havana and Miami ­that he saw photos of these two individuals in the Sunday section of Parade. They were identified as Momo Salvatore Giancana and Santos Trafficante, respectively. Both were on the Attorney General’s list of the ten most wanted. The former was described as the boss of the Cosa Nostra in Chicago and Al Capone’s heir, and the latter was the boss of Cuban operations of the Cosa Nostra. Maheu immediately called this office upon learning this information.

“After analyzing the possible methods to carry out this mission, Sam suggested that they not resort to firearms but that, if they could get hold of some kind of deadly pill, something to be put into Castro’s food or drink, this would be a much more effective operation. Sam indicated that he had a possible candidate in the person of Juan Orta, a Cuban official who had been receiving bribery payments in the gambling racket, and who still had access to Castro and was in a financial bind.

“The TSD (Technical Services Division) was requested to produce 6 highly lethal pills.

“Joe delivered the pills to Orta. After several weeks of attempts, Orta appears to have chickened out and he asked to be taken off the mission. He suggested another candidate who made several unsuccessful.”

Everything that was said in the numerous paragraphs above is in quotes. Observe well, dear readers, the methods that were already being used by the United States to rule the world.

I remember that during the early years of the Revolution, in the offices of the National Institute for Agrarian Reform, there was a man working there with me whose name was Orta, who had been linked to the anti-Batista political forces. He was a respectful and serious man. But, it could only be him. The decades have gone by and I see his name once more in the CIA report. I can’t lay my hands on information to immediately prove what happened to him. Accept my apologies if I involuntarily have offended a relative or a descendent, whether the person I have mentioned is guilty or not.

The empire has created a veritable killing machine that is made up not only of the CIA and its methods. Bush has established powerful and expensive intelligence and security super-structures, and he has transformed all the air, sea and land forces into instruments of world power that take war, injustice, hunger and death to any part of the globe, in order to educate its inhabitants in the exercise of democracy and freedom. The American people are gradually waking up to this reality.

“You cannot fool all of the people all of the time”, said Lincoln.

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. This material is distributed without profit.

see:
They Will Never Have Cuba! by Fidel Castro Ruz

Dependence Day, or What the Bald Eagle Told the Desert Rat about the 4th of July by Christopher Ketcham

Dandelion Salad

Tuesday, 10 July 2007
by Christopher Ketcham
Atlantic Free Press

Good party for the 4th here at Pack Creek: beer, fried turkey, music, starlight and moonrise and many friends. But little talk about independence, or the U.S., or the Constitution, its crafting under duress. No surprises: I am 34 and for my entire life the 4th of July has been meaningless except as an excuse to drink, gather, eat meat, watch explosions in the sky. Which is fine. The dudgeon and pretense of the holiday should therefore be excised and July 4 renamed “Get Wasted and Blow Shit Up Day” or something more in tune with the American mind and reality.

Better yet, if we wish to commemorate the degeneracy of our historical moment, our peculiar fallen stature as a people and a republic, we might try simply Dependence Day. Here in Moab, Utah, the dependence is utmost: strung out at the far ends of industrial foodism and carbon fuel addiction in the red rock, a desert people piling too many into a place with too few local resources for real sustenance: the trucks on the highways bring us the chow of a thousand-mile-plus supply line, the air conditioning in the 108 degree days (growing hotter every year), the lights at night and phone line that keeps me jabbering onto the Internet, the fridges that keep the ice to cool the brain from the smashing of the sun – all of it the function of large-scale, far-flung, giantist systems of dependence whose links, if severed, would bring about an apocalypse of such proportions as to render moot our partying, this writing, intellect, politics, freedom itself: behold the purest Malthusian struggle, bug-eyed cannibalism, many young and old reduced to a mental, moral, physical fetal position.

A few facts we know, ought to know, or know and don’t speak of because unacceptable in the current hologram of wellness and self-regard: it comes home to me in the memory of a crack whore among the warehouses at 9th Street and 2nd Avenue in Brooklyn, a toothless creature no more than 30 years old and looking 70 who was starved and told me, “Mistah, I’ll suck yo dick for five dollars – please.” I bought the woman a sandwich and avoided the blowjob…but here she is in the sage and under the moon haunting my imaginings of the U.S. as “independent”: We suck the dick of foreign oil imports whose slightest shiver in supply would send us into chaos; we suck the dick of foreign lenders, the Chinese and Japanese buying up our bond reserves, propping up our markets with cheap imports that we hoover like apes at the totem of a banana and without which the sand and spit foundation of U.S. home mortgages would collapse like beach to the sea. The perversity in these overseas relationships is that we bow for blowjobs while pointing a gun at the blow-jobbee, crying out By god we will keep sucking or shoot you.

Which brings me to the issue of the bald eagle as national symbol: I went hiking a few days ago in Salt Creek Canyon, finding again and always that the flora and fauna of the redrock country serve as a kind of metaphor and lesson plan for a true conservative conduct that so-called conservatives in the U.S. have abandoned. Here heat, sun, lack of rain, the thinness of soil, the vastness of scarcity makes moderation, modesty, self-reliance the norm and the virtue. And the eagle has no place.

The bald eagle with its great strength and noble visage and razor talons is a fraud. He survives not by prowess and creativity but by theft and the strong-arm, by dive-bombing smaller birds to make them drop the rats or rabbits or fish these more enterprising avians catch through lone hard work. The behavior of the bald eagle hence falls under the rubric of kleptoparasitism, which makes the bird a fitting symbol of the U.S. government, especially as regards foreign policy.

But kleptoparasitism is an aberration in the desert, which is why the vicious beady-eyed bald eagle finds a hard row to hoe in zones of self-reliance such as the redrock country. Instead, desert life teaches more admirable lessons, lessons that jibe, for example, with the so-called paleoconservatism – awful usage – of a Barry Goldwater, himself a desert rat who late in life rafted the Green and Colorado Rivers where they confluenced in Utah, toppling down the canyons in whitewater, and who was thus converted from conservatism to conservation in understanding that wild places should be kept wild. Desert flora foremost show that wildness – a sense of distance, keeping an arm’s length, not getting in each other’s way or invading mutual space – is key to a happy co-existence: among the top flora such as the sagebrush and the pinyon pines and the juniper, there is always spacing for each to have enough water and to cull the nutrients from that thin soil.

Hence no ostentation among these plants, no waste, no profligacy. The flowers such as the evening primrose or the four o’clock show-off bloom white and cream or magenta and crimson only when night falls, but come daybreak they close to no one’s notice (the scream of the sun would suck their life out in an hour’s time). Modesty is their virtue and also their survival. Meanwhile, some of the most beautiful and most damned of the lifeforms are armed to the teeth, showing that the best defense is a good offense: the claret-cup cactus, spiny to the point of impossibility; the scorpion, who hunts little bugs but rarely deploys his terrible piercing stinger against human beings. Above all, there is self-sufficiency in these lifeforms, suffering terrific extremes and the better for it, more economical, tougher, more muscled, more careful, more free than their counterparts in the easy climes of the temperate East.

The notion of a desert conservatism is not new and it haunts the thoughtful newcomer to the desert as much as an idea of Eden: it has its precedence in the mountain men loners who came west before the en masse migrations of the pioneers, before the gold bonanzas and the cattlemen welfare queens (the hardest tit-suckers of the West), before the railroad corporations conjured the first of the big real estate scams. And, in modern times, it finds expression in the throwback orneriness of writers such as Edward Abbey, who in Desert Solitaire of 1968 envisioned the deserts of the Southwest as a safe house of political liberty, the “base for guerrilla warfare against tyranny.” (Goldwater, an Arizonan, also spoke about this).
Ed Abbey wondered aloud in Desert Solitaire as to the necessary steps an American government might take to quash democracy. First, he suggested, encourage overpopulation and “concentrate the populations in megapolitan masses,” where they are easily surveilled and controlled. Second, mechanize agriculture so that food production sits in the hands of the few, eliminating the fundamental source of independence in self-sufficient communities (siege starvation is the ultimate quiet strong-arm). Then, fight wars against distant, mostly chimerical, threats overseas, “divert[ing] attention from deep conflicts within the society” and rendering “support of these wars a test of loyalty.” Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, the wilderness is to be razed, paved over, developed, rigged with highways and cellphone towers and WalMarts and utility corridors, means of access, centralization, control – because it is here that the last of the self-reliant tribes will find their hold-out, a perch unacceptable to forces of dominion. In short: create a system of dependency and thou wilt prevail…not news and surely an algorithm in the books of the sociopaths in the White House. Like his peer of a generation earlier, poet Robinson Jeffers, Abbey saw in the vanishing of desert wilderness the perishing of the republic, the freedom for which it stood.
And here in my hypocrisy of posting a screed on the Internet, sitting up late burning the coal of the power plants, I notice that even Google shows an image of the bald eagle, wings spread, descending in hero’s fight…holding perhaps an olive branch…or a stolen sprig from the mouths of children.

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. This material is distributed without profit.

Soldiers Share the Devastating Tales of War By Emily DePrang

Dandelion Salad

By Emily DePrang
Texas Observer

ICH 07/10/07

Alternet” 07/04/07

Statistics are one way to tell the story of the approximately 1.4 million servicemen and women who’ve been to Iraq and Afghanistan. According to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2004, 86 percent of soldiers in Iraq reported knowing someone who was seriously injured or killed there. Some 77 percent reported shooting at the enemy; 75 percent reported seeing women or children in imminent peril and being unable to help. Fifty-one percent reported handling or uncovering human remains; 28 percent were responsible for the death of a noncombatant. One in five Iraq veterans return home seriously impaired by post-traumatic stress disorder.

Words are another way. Below are the stories of three veterans of this war, told in their voices, edited for flow and efficiency but otherwise unchanged. They bear out the statistics and suggest that even those who are not diagnosably impaired return burdened by experiences they can neither forget nor integrate into their postwar lives. They speak of the inadequacy of what the military calls reintegration counseling, of the immediacy of their worst memories, of their helplessness in battle, of the struggle to rejoin a society that seems unwilling or unable to comprehend the price of their service. Strangers to one another and to me, they nevertheless tried, sometimes through tears, to communicate what the intensity of an ambiguous war has done to them.

One veteran, Sue Randolph, put it this way: “People walk up to me and say, ‘Thank you for your service.’ And I know they mean well, but I want to ask, ‘Do you know what you’re thanking me for?'” She, Rocky, and Michael Goss offer their stories here in the hope that citizens will begin to know.

***

Michael Goss, 29, served two tours in Iraq. He grew up in Corpus Christi and returned there after his other-than-honorable discharge. He lives with his brother. He is divorced and sees his children every other weekend while working the graveyard shift as a bail bondsman. He is quietly intelligent, thoughtful and attentive, always saying “ma’am” and opening the door for people. He struggles with severe PTSD and is obsessed with learning about the insurgency by studying reports and videos online. He is awaiting treatment from the Veterans Administration. He has been waiting for over a year.

Michael Goss:

I gave the Army seven years. It was supposed to be my career. I did two tours in Iraq, in 2003 and 2005. But during the last one, I started to get depressed. I lost faith in my chain of command. I became known as a rogue NCO. That’s how I got my other-than-honorable discharge.

One night they said to me, “Sgt. Goss, gather your best guys.” I say, “Where we going?” They say, “Don’t worry about it, just come on.” So we get in the car and go. We drive three blocks away, and there’s six dead soldiers on the ground. They say, “You’re casualty collecting tonight.” I’m not prepared for that. I wasn’t taught how to do that. But you’re there. So you pick them up, and you put them in a body bag, pieces by pieces, and you go back to your unit, and you stand inside your room. And they’re like, “You’re going on a patrol, come on.” You’re like, “Hang on a minute. Let me think about what I just did here.” I just put six American guys in damn body bags. Nobody’s prepared for that. Nobody’s prepared for that thing to blow up on the side of the road. You’re talking, and you’re driving, and then something blows up, and the next thing you know, two of your guys are missing their faces. They just want you to get up the next day and go, go, let’s do it again, you’re a soldier. Yeah, I got the soldier part, OK?

It gets to the point where they numb you. They numb you to death. They numb you to anything. You come back, and it starts coming back to you slowly. Now you gotta figure out a way to deal with it. In Iraq you had a way to deal with it, because they kept pushing you back out there. Keep pushing you back out into the streets. Go, go, go. Hey, I just shot four people today. Yeah, and in about four hours you’re going to go back out, and you’ll probably shoot six more. So let’s go. Just deal with it. We’ll fix it when we get back. That’s basically what they’re telling you. We’ll fix it all when we get back. We’ll get your head right and everything when we get back to the States. I’m sorry, it’s not like that. It’s not supposed to be like that. All the soldiers have post-traumatic stress disorder, and they’re like, “Hey, you’re good. You went to counseling four times, you can go back to Iraq. It’s OK.” No. It doesn’t work that way.

I have PTSD. I know when I got it — the night I killed an 8-year-old girl. Her family was trying to cross a checkpoint. We’d just shot three guys who’d tried to run a checkpoint. And during that mess, they were just trying to get through to get away from it all. And we ended up shooting all them, too. It was a family of six. The only one that survived was a 13-month-old and her mother. And the worst part about it all was that where I shot my bullets, when I went to see what I’d shot at, there was an 8-year-old girl there. I tried my best to bring her back to life, but there was no use. But that’s what triggered my depression.

When I got out of the Army, I had 10 days to get off base. There was no reintegration counseling. As soon as I got back, nobody gave a fuck about anything except that piece of paper that said I got everything out of my room. I got out of the Army, and everything went to shit from there.

My wife ended up finding another guy. I’m getting divorced, and I’m fighting for custody. She wants child support, the house, the car, the boys.

I get three nights off a week. And I drink and take pills to help me sleep at night. I do what I can to help myself. I talk to friends. Soldiers who were there. Once in a while one of my old soldiers will call me, drunk off his ass, crying about the stuff he saw in Iraq. And all I can do is tell him, “You and me both are going to have to find a way to work this out.” That’s the only thing I can tell him.

I do martial arts, that’s what I do. I go in a cage and I fight. It helps take my mind off of things. I get hurt, but I can’t feel it. I don’t feel it until after it’s all over with.

So let’s put this in perspective now. I got two Iraq tours, multiple kills, I picked up plenty of dead bodies, American bodies, enemy bodies. I killed an 8-year-old girl, which still haunts me to this day. I come back home. My wife finds somebody else. I’m sleeping on my brother’s couch while she has the apartment, the kids, the car, everything that we worked on together. I work as a bail bondsman making $432 a week, which all goes to my brother. I have to fight just to see my boys because she’s at the point where she thinks I don’t deserve to see my kids because I haven’t had help for my PTSD. She’s scared I might do something stupid. And the VA won’t help me out because of my other-than-honorable discharge. What else do you want to know?

Every month the VA sends me a letter saying I’m still under review. I’m like, I couldn’t care less about the money. I don’t care about disability percentage. I want you to tell me to go to this fucking doctor here and go get help. That’s what I want them to tell me. If they think I don’t deserve money because I got kicked out with other-than-honorable discharge, fine. But don’t tell me I’m cured all of a sudden, because I’m not. I still have my nightmares, anxiety attacks, panic attacks, I still see the glitter from the IED blowing up when I’m going down the street. I still see the barrette in her hair when I carried her out of the car to the ambulance when she was bleeding all over me. I still see all that. And there’s nothing that I can do about that now.

***

Rocky, 26, prefers to remain anonymous. He joined the Army shortly before the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and went to Iraq in 2004 for one year and a day. A Houston native, he lives alone now in a Dallas apartment, goes to community college and works in construction. He’s funny, playful and handsome, and carries a pool cue in his trunk to be ready for a game at any time. He doesn’t tell people he’s a veteran. He doesn’t like to talk about it. This story is an exception.

Rocky:

I was one of those kids that could have been handed anything on a silver platter. But I really worked hard for everything anyway, because I wanted to prove myself. And my parents, who would have given me anything, ruled with an iron fist. And I was patriotic. So it seemed like everything in my life pointed to the Army as the way to go.

I was 20. I’m sure I was different then. I don’t know how. I know how I am now. I assume that the character traits that I show now are the core set of values that I left with. My sense of pride, hard work. Everything I have, I made out of nothing.

You get to see what people are made of over there. You get to see how shallow people are, how weak they are. How strong they can be in horrible moments. And then how the people you should be looking up to are hiding, and you have to look out for them. You get to really see what a person is made of.

And over there, I learned to read people. I know what they’re going to do before they do it. After seeing the same movements before you get shot at or bombed, the same symptoms of the city and the people around you — it’s a fluid movement. Doors close, people disappear, and all of a sudden you’re like, OK guys, hunker down, it’s about to hit us. And all of a sudden, you’re under fire.

People would pop shots at us and pop back. They’d have a setup where they have a bomb in the road, and everybody sits by the windows when they set off an IED. When we’re looking at what’s going on, everybody’s laughing and pointing and smiling after your buddy’s sitting there bleeding. So I held them all responsible. Everybody that was in the guilty range.

If there was gunfire coming from a window, I shot into that window and made sure nothing was coming back out at me. One time, there was an RPG shooter shooting at me. He hit a Bradley in front of us, and we were in a Humvee. He hit the Bradley in front of us, and the round didn’t go off. It got stuck in the mud. So the Bradley rolled back, and we rolled back. And I had to shoot the position-caller before I could shoot the actual shooter. He didn’t have a gun, but I knew what he was doing. He was the one calling out what’s going on. He was on the phone. So I sent a shot up 20 feet above him and below him and to the side of him. And he just stood there. On his phone, talking the whole time. Innocent people run. The bad guys stay and fight. If they’re not running, they’re going to be calling. That’s the way I see it. So I shot him. If you freaked out and stood still, I’m sorry. I cannot take this chance again. You have to start making these moral decisions. Better to be judged by 12 than carried by six. You’re caught in the fucking middle of it.

After that, now I think, well, now I’m damned. Now I’ve done the worst thing. There’s not much more worse you can do than shoot an unarmed person. It’s not just, man, now I got to fucking deal with this. It’s like, man, I hope nobody saw that, because I’ll go to jail, too. You feel so horrible. You kind of die inside. There’s really nothing beneath me now. I’m at the bottom of the barrel. You’re worried about salvation and people finding out these dirty little secrets. It’s not something that you wanted to do. It might be something that you had to do, that you accidentally did. Things happen. And then there’s the whole fear of going to jail for trying to do what’s right for your country — it’s bad. Sometimes you think people are shooting at you, and you’d rather just chance it because you’re hoping they don’t have an armor-piercing round.

But I’m not going to bow down. I know what I’m made of — do you? Most people have no idea what matters. When I’m standing at the gates and I see St. Peter, I’ll say, lemme in. I try to do right now. I don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings. I go to school, maybe I’ll earn a midlevel job. Just fly under the radar. I don’t want any attention. I just want to be away from people. Not many people call me still. I keep it real dim in my apartment. I like it calm and quiet. This is what life’s made of. Being able to relax and be safe. Watch a movie, play some video games. Just to sit back and have fun with your friends. That’s beautiful.

***

Sue Randolph, 39, grew up in Saudi Arabia and earned her master’s degree in Arabic at the University of Michigan. After her service in 2003, she moved to Houston with her husband, a geologist. She now works in satellite communications and raises her 3-year-old daughter, a self-identified “princess,” and a 2-month-old kitten named Sparkles. Randolph’s family goes kayaking and hiking on weekends. She is clever, quick-witted, passionate and kind. She still struggles with anxiety while driving and when she’s near crowds. She finds news about the war upsetting and frustratingly inaccurate.

Sue Randolph:

I joined the Army because I had $65,000 in student loans and didn’t know how I was going to make payments. Since I had a master’s in political science — Middle East studies and Arabic — I ended up doing translation as part of the search for weapons of mass destruction. For a year, my team drove around behind the 3rd Infantry getting shot at, getting mortared, looking at warehouses of documents, chemicals, and parts of things that could be WMDs. I mean, you name it, we did it. We talked to people. We went into people’s houses.

The technological level of the things I saw wasn’t anywhere near anything [former Secretary of State] Colin Powell talked about. The buildings we went into, wiring was on the outside of the walls. I didn’t see anything like the equipment you’d see in a fifth-grade science lab. The most technically advanced thing we saw was a 12-volt car battery hooked up to bedsprings for torture. But not anything on the chemical or biological level.

Iraq looks like it’s straight out of the Bible. It’s mud brick, it’s falling down. It’s kids with sticks herding goats. There’s like three high-rises in all of Baghdad, and those are the only ones you’ll ever see on any newscast. The rest of it is mud brick falling down.

At the time, I would see little girls on the side of the road, and I felt like I was part of a big machine that was going to help them have a better life. At the time. Now, looking at all of the lack of evidence for us being there except GW throwing a temper tantrum, frankly I feel — not used, because I signed up for it — but I feel like we were there for no good reason. Eventually Saddam would have been overthrown, either by his own people or through Iran or someone else, and change would have come. It wouldn’t have been on our timetable, but it would have happened. I don’t think it was worthwhile at all.

When I went back to my base in Germany, it was like a bad dream. It was like nothing happened. Then I got out of the Army and came back to the States. Once you leave the Army, there’s no reintegration help of any kind. Unless you went looking for it, there was nothing. And even if you went looking for it, you had to dig.

The military says that they’re giving exit counseling and reintegration. What they’re calling reentry counseling, in my experience, was, “Don’t drink and drive. Pay your bills on time. Don’t beat your spouse. Don’t kick your dog.” All of these things that once you’ve reached a certain age, you’re supposed to know. None of it is, “If you have discomfort with dealing with crowds, if you don’t feel comfortable with your spouse, if you can’t sleep in a bed, if you don’t want to drive down the road because you think everything is a bomb, here’s what to do.” No psychological or de-stress counseling is involved in this reintegration to garrison. And that’s just if you’re staying in the Army. If you’re leaving the Army, you get, “Here’s how to write a resume.”

They don’t prepare you to leave. Hell, they didn’t prepare me to be there. I was going into people’s houses trying to tell the wife and kids as we’re segregating them out from the men that we’re the good guys. But they’re crying because one of their kids got killed because he was up there sleeping on the roof when we decided to bust into their house. I mean that’s crazy. But we’re the good guys. Now I have to deal with that for the next 20 or 30 years. I have a 3-year-old. I deal with that every day.

I think we are going to end up like after Vietnam if we’re not careful. The Vietnam guys were treated really horribly, and whether they came back and quietly went back to their lives or not, they were all stereotyped in a criminal negative. And I’m afraid if we as a society don’t learn what we didn’t do for those guys, we’re going to have that in spades. We don’t have low-end kind of industry jobs for them like working in the auto plant, so they’re not going to be supporting their families. And they’re going to be angry. They’re going to feel like they’re owed. Do we get everybody counseling as soon as they get out, mandatory 90-day counseling? I don’t know how. But there isn’t enough money in this country right now to make some of these guys feel like what they went through was worthwhile.

We have no comprehension of the psychological cost of this war. I know kids in Iraq who killed themselves. I know kids that got killed. OK, that’s apparently the price of doing business. But multiply me by 2 million. If I’m fairly high-functioning, what about the ones that aren’t? They’re going back to small-town America, and their families aren’t going to know what to do with them. It’s like, what do we do with Johnny now?

Emily DePrang is a writer from Pearland, Texas.

© 2007 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. This material is distributed without profit.

Iraq: Mixing Oil & Blood (video)

Dandelion Salad

Suryu

A controversial new Middle East oil law could lead to the “disintegration” of Iraq as a nation state. Two of the region’s most respected commentators, including the co-author of the new Iraq Oil Law and a former oil minister, have each expressed their “gravest concern” at what they believe could happen within their country if the law is approved in its current form.

The claims are made in a hard hitting documentary on Aljazeera International’s People & Power investigative current affairs series, presented by Samah El-Shahat.

Continue reading

Michael Parenti: Venezuela (videos)

with Michael Parenti
Featured Writer
Dandelion Salad
Michael Parenti Blog
July 10, 2007

on Jul 9, 2007

All the big media of the entire planet raised their voice against the democratic government of Venezuela for non-renewal of the license of RCTV. The continuous irregularities in its operation and its support for the coup d’état were no obstacles to preservation of its frequency, since the “freedom of expression” of the owners of the channel was the superior good. It happened that, in the middle of media commotion, the Spanish television Antena 3 organized a debate to which it invited Professors Luis Alegre Zahonero and Carlos Fernández Liria, who demolished the undemocratic argument of Nitu Perez Osuna. Continue reading

Big Easy to Big Empty (videos; Greg Palast; Katrina) (updated: Part 3)

August 29th 2006 marked the one year anniversary of the devastation in New Orleans caused by the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. This Special Greg Palast Report brings you exclusive footage and the stories you won’t hear on the other networks — the hidden political agendas and the suppressed eyewitness reports.
Big Easy to Big Empty – The Untold Story of the Drowning of New Orleans
In this half-hour film, Greg Palast and his team travel to New Orleans to investigate what has happened since Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast last year. On his visit, he discovers that the population of New Orleans is miniscule, the reconstruction sparse, suicide rates are climbing, and many have not, nor know how to, return to the city that care forgot. He examines why residents had to leave, what really caused the flood and why they aren’t returning.

see:

Greg Palast

 

A Letter to My Son: Regarding the Problem of War By Doug Soderstrom, Ph.D.

By Doug Soderstrom, Ph.D.

7/9/07

I want you to know how very much I love you, how much I have always loved you since the very day you were born. From that moment on I have given you my best as a father. I taught you everything I knew, everything you needed to know in order that you might one day become a man.

However, during the past few years the world has changed, and as a result I, as well, have changed. When you were but a child, I believed that a man had no choice but to love, honor, and respect his country, that one should, without question, obey the laws of his land. Since that time, however, I have come to believe that there is something of much greater value……. that of doing the will of God. Rather than meticulously carrying out the rather capricious commands of those who administer the affairs of this world, I suggest that you set for yourself a more demanding task, one of doing what you can to create a world of peace, love, and justice, that you do your best to serve a much higher calling, that of being a servant of your fellowman, one dedicated to the best interests of the human race.

During the past six years (ever since that of 9-11) our world has been transformed into a seeming “holocaust of horrors,” a world in which our president speaks of “wars without end.” For your own welfare as a human being, I ask that you take the time to listen to what I have to say, for how you respond may well determine if you become a man of honor, one controlled by the inner voice of his conscience, or that of an automaton, a mere piece of machinery, an inanimate cog, doing what it has been told to do.

The lesson of Nuremberg (a set of trials in which an International Military Tribunal convicted Nazi leaders for having committed crimes against humanity, for having essentially followed orders to wage war against their fellowman) was quite clear; human beings are sacred. We, each and every one of us, are more than mere citizens, more than the holders of a simple deed on “a petty piece of property.” We are shareholders of a much greater assemblage. We are members of the human race, each having laid claim to the one and same God. As such we must not allow ourselves to be constrained by the laws of our own land. The only law grand enough to guide the actions of man is that which serves the best interests of the human race.

One day we will each be held accountable for the degree to which we upheld the laws of peace, love, and justice. There will be no exceptions. Sooner or later (in this life or the next) there will be a “day of reckoning,” a time in which each, and everyone, of us will be held responsible for our actions. No one (not even a citizen of the United States) will be allowed to escape judgment simply because we, for whatever reason, assumed that we were supposed to have followed orders, that we had an arbitrarily-defined, patriotically-determined duty to obey the laws of our land. The Nazis learned this the hard way. The people of Germany should have known better than to have followed in the footsteps of a mad man. Surely we, as a people, have learned from the horrors of an earlier age. Consequently, we, as citizens, have, what I believe to be, an existential (no doubt a moral) imperative to tell our president that we will not follow him down the path of war, that we, as parents, will not allow him to use our sons (and daughters) as cannon-foddered-pawns in an utterly insane attempt to take over the world!

Once I was asked if I had any ideas concerning how to resolve the problem of war. I responded by saying, “Of course I do……. all war will end when young people tell their leaders that they will no longer go to war, that they will no longer continue to kill, that if war is to continue it must be fought by those who make the decisions to go to war!”

As such, it is essential that we exhibit the courage to follow the inner call of our conscience, the higher calling of God. Anything less than this will destroy the fabric of a nation, desecrate the human spirit, and lead to perdition. So, if called upon, that is, if you, as a young adult, are one day compelled to go to war for your country, ask yourself this rather simple question: “Would it be in my best interests to comply (to essentially go along) with orders to kill my fellowman, all of such, of course, in the name of a coin-engraved, cookie-cutter, American-sized God, or might it be more noble for me, as a man, to choose to become an ambassador for peace, love, and justice, an individual who has chosen to say yes to life and no to war, one who has taken a firm stance against the God-awful madness of war?

Then one day when you, as I, have reached the final days of your life, you will “be assigned” the inevitable task of trying to figure out if you in fact lived a good and decent life, if you, as an individual, had the courage to follow your conscience. And if such is found to be the case, you will spend the final days of your life basking in the glory of a man who knew how to live his life. But if, in looking back upon your life, you find a man who chose to go along with the crowd, one who did what he was told to do by others, one who no doubt sold his soul to that of the highest bidder, you will find a “man of tears,” an individual condemned to living the last of his days in a self-imposed prison of shame, an internment reserved for those who knew not how to live their lives.

As an old man then, one who was given the opportunity to be your father, my advice to you is to do the right thing; always, without exception, follow your conscience. Do that which will enable you to stand tall as a man of honor, a man of true integrity, one who will have chosen life as opposed to death, one who will have committed himself to the nobility of peace rather than the hate-filled horrors of war, one who will be proud of who he has chosen to become as a human being, an old man who will not be afraid to look at himself in the mirror and say “Yes Lord, take me, for I have lived a good and decent life, and I am not afraid to die.”

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. This material is distributed without profit.

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Personal Gratification by Jason Miller

Tuesday, 10 July 2007
by Jason Miller

“America does not go abroad in search of monsters to destroy.”

—John Quincy Adams

While it certainly was not his intent, Adams’ assertion serves to remind us of a truth revealed by vast oceans of tears, torrential rivers of blood, and formidable piles of human remains. Leaving murder, mayhem, and misery in its wake, America does “go abroad,” but not, as Adams noted, “in search of monsters to destroy.” What Adams failed to perceive, despite living in the midst of the Native American genocide and the abject evil of chattel slavery, is that America is the monster.

Yet like most monsters that exist outside the boundaries of imagination, the printed word, celluloid, or digital imagery, the United States and its denizens ostensibly appear rather harmless and mundane. In fact, it would probably be more accurate to say that a fair number of people still perceive us as downright heroic, cloaked as we are in our beguiling raiment of freedom and democracy.

“You need to ask why is it that we’re so surprised when the alleged BTK killer [in Wichita] ends up being someone who lives among us and works in our church and is a Cub Scout leader,” says Daryl Koehn, an ethicist at the University of St. Thomas in Houston and author of a new book, “The Nature of Evil.” “We want evil to be monstrous,” she says, “because if evil is monstrous, then by definition it doesn’t look like us.”
—“Calling Evil by Name” from the Christian Science Monitor (3/10/05)

While Jefferson penned the words, “life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness” in our Declaration of Independence, the notion actually evolved from Locke’s “life, liberty, and the pursuit of estate” and Adam Smith’s “life, liberty, and the pursuit of property.” Smith’s version even found its way into The Declaration of Colonial Rights, crafted by the First Continental Congress in 1774. We in the United States act monstrously because in spite of Jefferson’s re-wording, we did not divorce ourselves from Locke’s and Smith’s notions. We perceive an inextricable link between our happiness and the degree of material success we achieve.

Forged within the context of capitalism, which has become savage beyond comprehension as it rages against its inevitable self-destruction, our relentless devotion to our “inalienable right” to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” focuses primarily upon enhancing our own lives (others be damned), filling our heavily-mortgaged homes to the rafters with as much “stuff” as we can acquire, and satiating every hedonistic desire the law will allow, and then some. We rarely pursue the spiritual form of happiness to which Jefferson was probably alluding. In a nation where “I” rarely defers to “we” and property rights trump humanity, we US Americans tend to be all about “me” and hell-bent on dying a winner by possessing the “most toys.”

“About 24,000 people die each day from hunger or hunger-related causes. Three-quarters of the deaths are children under the age of 5.”

—-The Hunger Project, United Nations; Fall 2003

“You can find your way across this country using burger joints the way a navigator uses stars.”
—Charles Kuralt

Think about that figure of 24,000 for a moment. Each day that passes, nearly three times as many human beings succumb to malnutrition and hunger than the total number of people we have lost in our illegal and murderous invasion of Iraq that began in 2003. Yet as Charles Kuralt pointed out, there is no shortage of victuals in the United States. Fast food restaurants, the progenitors of numerous evils, including factory farming, Mcjobs, the corporatization of culture, and the “throw away” society, are nearly ubiquitous. We US Americans are “lovin’ it” and having it “[our] way” so much that highway weigh stations stops may eventually become mandatory for all motorists. 40 million of us are obese and 3 million more are morbidly obese.

Ironically though, we are so selfish and self-absorbed, that not only do we use our immense military and economic might to extort and force the rest of the world to supply our tiny percentage of the world’s population with a shockingly gluttonous one fourth of the Earth’s resources, we allow hunger and homelessness to exist amongst our own people!

Television, which is both our grossly distorted window to the world and a Siren’s call to viciously lacerate our souls upon the jagged coast of the Isle of Avarice where we ultimately find ourselves spiritually devoured by the beast called Consumerism, acts as a powerful catalyst for America’s pathological fascination with shopping.

While our multi-national corporations rape and exploit developing nations, our insanely over-funded death machine wages wholesale terror with a vengeance, our power-brokers on Wall Street man the bulwarks of predatory capitalism, our almost infinitely corrupt government protects and advances the interests of a cynical plutocracy, and the corporate media cover their collective asses, we US Americans disregard our consciences (which have been rendered virtually impotent by the inculcation of the notion of American Exceptionalism anyway) and pursue our “happiness” through serial retailing. What better way to inject a dose of instant nirvana into our lives without becoming another of the 300,000 non-violent drug offenders behind bars in the US?

Aside from its legality, shopping’s beauty lies in the ease with which one can attain the high it offers. We merely arm ourselves with a fistful of readily obtainable credit cards (remaining oblivious to the usurious interest to which we are obligating ourselves), jump in our SUVs that were actually designed to be used for public transit but somehow became modes of personal transportation, and head for the nearest leviathan, cookie-cutter retail establishment. (Who knew the stairway to heaven had only three steps?)

Once one arrives, there is a high probability of having a profound spiritual experience, like this for instance:

Entering the mall, you find yourself captivated by a kiosk peddling expensive sunglasses. One pair in particular demands your attention. Initiating a moment of narcissistic bliss, you casually don the shades and catch a glimpse of yourself in one of the many mirrors the vendor has generously provided. Smiling with self-satisfaction, you tell yourself you look “killer” in those $300.00 Dolce and Gabbanas. Madison Avenue’s indoctrination has convinced you that you deserve them and that you need them to show people who you are. So of course, you make them yours. You, my friend, have just been elevated to a higher plane of existence in retailing paradise.

On a really good shopping day, we find ourselves in the midst of an enchanted world where the line between reality and the American Dream becomes an indistinct blur. An upscale mall in suburban America is THE place to be on a weekend afternoon if you fancy yourself to be one of the “beautiful people”—white, at least comfortable financially, attractive, and thus amongst the only people who truly matter in this world.

Yet there is also plenty of room for the rest of us—those who refuse to relax our death grip on the losing lottery ticket that our magical thinking tells us is a guaranteed winner. Why do we refuse to let go of a pipe dream? Because we see ourselves as a nation brimming with Horatio Algers. “The good life” is just around the corner, if we just work hard enough. So potent is this pernicious lie, they will have to pry this metaphorical lottery ticket from our “cold, dead hands.”

Posturing, preening, styling, profiling, seeing, being seen, and best of all, exercising their patriotic duty to God, country, and retailer, the “beautiful people” set the trend for the rest of us. It’s hard to conceive of something more “inspiring” than the most spoiled and privileged human beings on the face of the planet filling their Hummers with bags emblazoned with the likes of Abercrombie, Neiman Marcus, the Limited, Nordstrom, and Saks so they can stay ahead of the fashion curve, play with the latest electronic toys, best the neighbors, and to have more contents to dampen the echoes reverberating throughout their relatively empty McMansion domiciles, which are large enough to house fifty people but often afford shelter to only a few.

Whether we are amongst the “blessed elite” of humanity or not, as US Americans it is our patriotic duty to shop. Shopping was our first “counter-terrorism measure” after 9/11, remember? Our very way of life depends upon our wallets and our willingness to open them.

If we falter in our sacred duty to over-indulge our desires at the expense of humanity and the Earth, dear reader, our world as we know it will be lost to the “Islamic hoards”, “Godless Communists”, and “Hispanic invaders.”

As long as greed, self-absorption, selfishness, and consumerism are so deeply woven into our sociocultural fabric, we who comprise the collective in the United States will exist as a living testament to Victor Hugo’s observation that, “Adversity makes men, and prosperity makes monsters.”

Jason Miller is a wage slave of the American Empire who has freed himself intellectually and spiritually. He is Cyrano’s Journal Online’s associate editor ( http://www.bestcyrano.org/) and publishes Thomas Paine’s Corner within Cyrano’s at http://www.bestcyrano.org/THOMASPAINE/. You can reach him at JMiller@bestcyrano.org

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