The Critical Journey From Apathy to Empathy: A Case of Misplaced Blind Faith

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Posted with permission from

by Shelley Bluejay Pierce
Saturday, 31 May 2008

These famous words from the 1776 Declaration of Independence sound good in theory but in actuality, at the time they were written, the evident truth was that only a select few humans were deemed “equal.”

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Equality did not include black slaves, most certainly was not bestowed upon the “heathen, savage, Indians” and did not include women or other minorities. Perhaps more accurately, the “self-evident” matter of equality for all human beings was a decision made by a small minority of European immigrants to this new land.

The actual definition of the term, self-evident is, “Evident without need of proof or explanation.”

The legal definition of the term unalienable is, “The state of a thing or right which cannot be sold….The natural rights of life and liberty are unalienable.”

As the founders of this new government began to set in motion the legal bulwark for the United States of America, they created such guiding documents as the Declaration of Independence and the Constitutional Amendments. As these lofty goals for the new union were set upon paper, perhaps these men were seeing what the future held for this country rather than the actualities of the time they lived in. For if in fact, these new leaders truly lived in accordance with these new guidelines, they would not have behaved in the ways that they did or treated their fellow human beings in the manner that history recounts.

If it were truly “self-evident” that such things as the natural world and all that was dwelling within or upon it could not be bought or sold due to its being an “unalienable” right as the very source for all of mankind’s survival, then the stealing and mass “ownership” mentality would not have prevailed. The ravaging of these new lands, long inhabited by the Indigenous people, would not have occurred and the abuse of the natural resources would not have proliferated.

If “all men are created equal” then the mass genocide of millions of original occupants to this land would not have been allowed. The decimation of entire cultures and thefts of the lands they dwelled upon for centuries would have not occurred because the original authors of this text would have seen that the land itself was an unalienable right, not for sale or transfer, because it was the land itself that offered the human race its means for survival.

The pervasive attitude carried by this European culture was one of “taming the wilderness.” Those inhabitants who had lived in harmony with these lands were forced off of them or annihilated so that “modern and civilized” expansion could take place. Perhaps in truth, the European mindset was nothing more than a grand opportunity to perpetuate all the destructive behaviors that had surrounded these people prior to them leaving Europe in the first place. Looking at the ongoing rape and ruination of the lands and natural resources makes it clear that the pervasive mindset has changed little over the last 200 plus years.

Over many decades of internal warfare, foreign wars, upheavals and massacres, we arrive into a new era that brought perhaps the greatest period of change to our United States of America. During the 1960’s and 1970’s, protests and civil unrest boiled over into all segments of the population. The “peace and love” movement grew to monumental levels and such civil rights as those fought for by Dr. Martin Luther King and others gained enormous momentum.

During this period of time there was a demand for change and for the first time ever in this country, true equality and access to those “unalienable rights” was a goal for ALL people, not just a select few. The changing times brought with it, a demand for a cleaner, safer environment that in turn brought the creation of new governmental agencies such as the Federal Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency. Both of these agencies were created to provide protection for all citizens in the United States and for the protection of the environment that sustains them.

The general population placed enormous public pressure upon the government and its leaders. Demanding peace, civil rights and increased environmental protection, the citizens of the USA brought to the forefront, a radical change in the way this country functioned. However, with this blossoming potential for radical change, there festered a dangerous mindset that would take decades to be acknowledged.

With alterations to the status quo came an increased sense of trust and peace of mind within the mindset of the average citizen. Each of us became dependent upon and truly believed that we would be protected by the leadership. We as a people trusted our military and first responders to care for our safety, both as a nation and as individuals, in our times of need. We trusted our new governmental agencies to ensure that we had access to all the unalienable rights such as clean water, safe food supplies, access to safe living conditions and medications to treat our illnesses.

That initial trust grew into a state of what may be more likened to “blind faith.” Failures discovered within this government have previously been responded to so that faults in the system could be addressed and corrected. Over the past decade, we have silently watched as all governing systems have seemingly taken on a life of their own and the enormous impact of its layered deception has brought this country to its knees.

The enormous and cumbersome size of the agencies set in place to “protect” us has become unapproachable even by the most studied citizen. The overwhelming amount of contradictory information available to each person leaves most individuals daunted by the task of being socially aware of the issues. The “information over-load” has hit every sector of this society to the point where the average citizen often chooses to ignore the information coming in from all directions and focuses simply on the personal realm they inhabit each day.

As we look at just one issue, the Iraq war, most of us are incapable of deciphering the facts from the propaganda. We cannot grasp the enormous expenditures involved with this one issue because the monetary figures are incomprehensible to most citizens. Perhaps examining a smaller “bite” of the full plate of issues is necessary for us to clearly see what is happening to us on the broader, national level. If the statement, “the sum of all parts makes up the whole” is true? Then a targeted examination may give us a good snapshot into our country as a whole.

Let’s choose an area of the country that most people assume as a peaceful country setting. There are no mass transit systems and the crime rates are not what you encounter in the large metropolitan cities across the USA. This is a small town consisting of farmers, ranchers, homeowners, shopkeepers and such things as one would expect to find in the mid-section of this country. Wide-open prairie lands, expansive horizons and peaceful surroundings are what brings many occupants to this community.

Zero in on Marty, South Dakota for this targeted investigation. This is a community situated within the boundaries of the Ihanktowan Nation, better known to most people as the Yankton Sioux tribal lands. Like many communities across the USA, there are limited or no zoning restrictions here due to the fact that they have never been required. The land itself and the environment in which the people dwell have dictated the lifestyle and activities of the occupants.

The unimaginable becomes your new daily nightmare if you are a member of this community when the agencies assigned to protect you, actually turn against you. These agencies approve the permits for a new resident moving in amongst you and you find out that your newest “neighbor” is a large, commercial hog farm, which will house as many as 3000 sows and produce as many as 75,000 hogs per year. Commonly referred to as a CAFO operation, (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation) these industrial sized farms are usually located at a distance from human habitation and city services due to their potential impacts upon the “neighbors” and the environment.

We as citizens of the USA have come to “trust” with “blind faith,” that our governing agencies will protect us from harm and ensure a safe environment in which to exist and prosper. However, in this case, the EPA and other agencies have approved this CAFO hog farm even with the knowledge that it will be situated in the midst of human occupation, culturally historic, and environmentally sensitive areas.

Looking at the facts about CAFO’s, documentation abounds detailing the foul smells and the reported higher rates of respiratory problems in people living near large-scale animal operations. Proof exists at all levels regarding the fact that the waste from this many animals harms the environment and human health. Water and ground pollution often occur when the waste containment systems fail or when the CAFO owners gain permission from local farmers to spread the “waste” across their fields as a means of disposing of the tons of manure produced each day. Gently referred to as “free nutrients for your crops,” the overwhelming evidence shows that too much of something is not a good thing. This includes “free nutrients.” According to the 1998 National Water Quality Inventory conducted by the EPA, 30 percent of surveyed rivers, 44 percent of surveyed lakes, and 23 percent of surveyed estuaries were contaminated with unsafe levels of “nutrient” pollution.

Manure from CAFOs may degrade soil quality over time and since heavy metals are often added to animal feed to promote growth in the animals, the manure may carry such things as arsenic, copper, selenium, and zinc. The high concentration of manure in CAFO lagoons often enables heavy metals to accumulate in the surrounding environment which later leaches out into nearby soil, surface waters, invasion of local private wells used for drinking water, poisoning wildlife, and polluting groundwater. The area in which this South Dakota hog farm is located will provide “nutrients” for the Missouri River and all areas downstream due to run-off of surface water. This potentially effects millions of people located a great distance away from this one hog farm.

Additionally, the property values that you as a homeowner depend upon for such things as resale value and home equity loan value plummets. No one wants to buy property in close proximity to a large-scale animal production facility. The land you dreamed of being your little piece of paradise instantly becomes valueless. You fear that no one in leadership is listening to you as you bemoan your recent fate. All you can do as an individual is cry out for justice and protection from the sources you once believed were brought into existence to “protect you” and your unalienable rights to “life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness.” All you find is a justice system meant to benefit others but not you, the private citizen.

The question now becomes, “How in the world did we get to this state of being in this country and why is no one listening to me?”

Follow the money trail and you will find, on a much smaller scale, the same problems as we find within the quagmire of the Iraq war and its funding processes. The government allots multi-millions of tax dollars to the rich farm corporations in the form of farm subsidies. The enormous tax funds are directed to those operations which make the biggest money and that includes CAFO’s. Why are these big tax-donated funds important? Why, to care for and repay the MILLIONS of dollars that these special interests group donate to the political campaigns for those officials that will support their causes once in office of course!

Case in point, in the 2006 election year, Agribusiness industries are reported to have contributed $44,732,566.00 to campaigns for elected officials in the USA. The Governor of South Dakota, Mike Rounds, reportedly received $36,250.00 for his 2006 electoral run from the agricultural businesses. Add to this figure all the agribusiness donations given to those Senators and Representatives representing the state where you dwell and you begin to understand why you now have a huge hog farm as a neighbor.

Money talks and bigger money speaks even louder in this country as history proves over and over again. The voice of the small, individual voter and citizen of this country means nothing in the bigger scheme of American politics. As one compares this localized scenario in South Dakota with the enormous Federal issues such as the Iraq war, similar layers of corruption are exposed. The farther up the political “food chain”one progresses, the less aid a single individual gets due to the larger amounts of political leverage gained by the contributions given by these special interests groups like agribusiness.

Lets take a look at some of the background issues surrounding the hog farm in South Dakota:

1) South Dakota Governor, Mike Rounds, cuts the Highway Patrol budget and states that he believes the agency “can get by with a $2 million reduction in its budget.” In early February 2008, a media source leaks a memo detailing how deep these budget cuts would hit the department.

2) One source states that the Highway Patrol budget cuts will take effect immediately and last only one year while another released memo states that the budget cuts will last “indefinitely.” (The citizens AND the Highway Patrol officers are left wondering what part media-spin is truth or fiction of course.)

3) One statement in the press says that this information comes from a written, authorized budget submitted by Governor Rounds but just a few days later, Governor Rounds tells the media that what is circulating was simply his “recommendations” for the upcoming expenditures and not the bottom line decisions. Once this memo was obtained by the media and circulated, Governor Rounds’ media-management team states that the memos were never meant for public circulation and that they were intended only for internal circulation. By February 15, 2008, the internal memos circulating in the State Highway Patrol were called a “miscommunication” by Governor Round’s office. (more media-spin and now the truth is even further from our grasp)

4) State Highway Patrol leadership released guidelines to their officers which I condense here. Startling issues begin to surface with these recommended cuts and leaves the average citizen in the coverage area wondering if there will be ANY response teams available should they need them. “Burning of overtime which will make it difficult to maintain current manpower requirements, especially on Fridays and weekends” is one of the department recommendations. Statements include the fact that there will be no new patrol vehicles purchased during the 2009 budget cycle. Governor Rounds states that troopers must save on gasoline requirements by having more “stationary patrols” where trooper will perform the “stare and glare” law enforcement techniques rather than actively pursue offenders. Other budget cuts will affect training for officers, Troopers will no longer help transport organ, eye or blood donations and search and rescue operations with the highway patrol airplane will be limited. Requests to assist BIA or tribal police with fatal crashes on reservations will be limited. Finally, the department acknowledges that because of these budget cuts, they will “more than likely be criticized by some agencies for their lack of manpower or response to incidents or accidents.” (Now the citizens in the area are really wondering about how safe they truly are in the event of an emergency.)

5) After the facts about this new hog farm came into mainstream media spotlight, Governor Rounds basically stated that he and his office preferred to let “tribal agencies work the issues out.” I am supposing that the Governor has forgotten that not ONLY tribal members are being impacted by this CAFO. The impacts are vast and have the potential to negatively impact many in South Dakota and all the way down the Missouri River.

6) Considering the fact that the South Dakota Highway Patrol is under major budget constraints and are told to limit all extra travel and deployment to scenes other than critical response areas, why did a reported 52 patrol cars roll onto the scene of a peaceful demonstration against the hog farm? Especially since the Highway Patrol leadership stated in their internal memo that, “requests to assist BIA or tribal police with fatal crashes on reservations will be limited.” (this was not a fatal crash, no one was armed with weapons and there were perhaps 50 or so protesters on the site…many of these were minors and children!)

Here is a picture of this small group of hog farm protesters that required 52 law enforcement vehicles (courtesy Yankton Sioux Tribe).

7) The road leading into the property where Longview Farms is building their hog farm has been considered by the Yankton Sioux Tribe and their own law enforcement officers as being under BIA jurisdiction which means that no local or State law enforcement agencies are to deploy there except under extreme circumstances. When construction of the hog farm began in early April, the community attempted to block the completion when the Yankton tribal council passed an exclusion order against Long View Farms, of Hull, Iowa. The BIA (Bureau of Indian Affairs) was asked to confirm its jurisdiction over the road leading into the hog farm property, which would have denied Longview Farms access to the building site. Even though there was NO FINAL DECISION MADE about the jurisdiction of this road, law enforcement from outside agencies descended en masse upon lands where jurisdiction was still very much in question.

Here is a small group of the dispatched law enforcement teams to deal with this handful of unarmed, peaceful protesters.

The large mobile unit was a reported SWAT team. To the sides of where this picture was taken, was an entire hillside of patrol cars. This response for a handful of protesters? (photo courtesy of Yankton Sioux Tribe)

8) Several members of the Yankton tribe were arrested, jailed and released on bail money paid by the tribe. They individually have had to seek legal defense and are going through all the legal proceedings for what may turn out to be illegal arrests once the jurisdiction of the road is decided. The BIA, which is funded by taxpayers in the USA, has paid out millions of dollars since 1994 to maintain this very road and added it to its inventory following a signed agreement between all local agencies. However, on May 5, 2008, a commission in Charles Mix County voted to rescind the agreement in response to the BIA’s declaration of ownership. (I guess what we, the US taxpayers think of all this, is null and void?)

9) Go a step further and examine a rough estimate at the costs for this police response to a small group of peaceful protestors gathered along side of a road that is yet to be determined as to WHO has jurisdiction over it! Based on online available figures for average salaries and costs of such things as officers and patrol cars, we find that the average salary for a State highway patrol officer is $30 per hour. Multiplied that by the number of hours required for response, handling, and completion of each assigned duty location. Gasoline costs of $3.85 per gallon based on today’s average price per gallon of fuel across the USA. Add in equipment wear and tear, vehicle tires, radios, uniforms, uniform cleaning, paper used and miscellaneous expenses. Add in the salaries for radio dispatchers, and office staff costs and you have a very rough average of $180.00 for each unit to respond to the scene of a normal, easy-to-handle incident, which averages one hour from dispatch to clearing. That’s $180.00 per hour is for local calls only and does not include extra travel across long distances. This rough average cost multiplied by 52 police units comes to approximately $9,400.00 PER HOUR! SWAT or Mobile units as seen in the picture above are usually presumed to be double that cost due to extra equipment and training for their personnel so add in another $360.00 per hour. Protesters on the scene reported that Wagner Police, North Platte Police Department, and State Highway Patrol vehicles came in on this one scene. Any overtime pay is probably 1.5x their salaries and Highway Patrol cars may have traveled into the protest site from wide areas all over South Dakota. Add in the costs for arresting these protesters, jail staff, court clerks, judges and office staff to manage all of this? Beginning to feel similar to war expenditures at the Federal level?

But I thought Governor Rounds stated that there was this huge deficit in the budget and that every possible money-saving effort needed to be made inside the Highway patrol?

Really? All of the above expense and manpower to manage a small number of peaceful protestors?

Still confused about how this all impacts YOU and the potential impacts of a hog farm moving in to YOUR neighborhood? Still confused about how the Federal government and its agencies are layered with special interest groups, huge campaign financing and layers of deception?

By looking at one small issue in a rural location nestled inside the United States of America, perhaps the realities are sinking in. Just how far we have allowed ourselves to become blinded by “trust” is that festering wound I mentioned earlier. We have so blindly accepted the protection from our government and its agencies and leaders that we have missed the fact that we are now dependent and blind to truth. Perhaps the biggest “self-evident” fact before us as a Nation of individuals is that our trust is entirely misplaced. Perhaps the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness is truly an allowance for the elite after all. Perhaps it is history repeating itself but this time, ALL races are included in the destruction. The decimation of the lands and resources that sustain us all is at stake as is the very country we all call “home.”

Now… about that hog farm…. ready to become “neighbors?” Do you still believe it won’t happen to YOU?

Blind faith strikes again.

Shelley Bluejay Pierce is an investigative journalist covering political, environmental and indigenous rights issues. Her work appears in numerous written publications and online websites worldwide and is a frequent guest on radio shows addressing these issues.

(All rights reserved, permission to reprint this article must be granted by author, Shelley Bluejay Pierce by contacting


The Critical Journey From Apathy to Empathy: The Battle Against a Tyrant Named “George”


The Critical Journey From Apathy to Empathy: The Battle Against a Tyrant Named “George”

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Dandelion Salad

Posted with permission from

by Shelley Bluejay Pierce
(Part one in series May 9, 2008)

Like many students in the Unites States of America, I have read and studied the Declaration of Independence written and adopted by the new Congress on July 4, 1776. I must admit however, that many decades have past since my last real study of this important political document. The study of our own history here in the USA is part of all formal studies across the country. However, most of us never have cause to revisit these critical pieces of written history that are still meant to guide our country and its leadership in all dealings with the citizens here.

Most average Americans can recall certain famous passages, but I doubt that many can recite larger portions of this document from memory. With a growing need to remind myself of these earliest political platforms, I felt compelled to return to these historic words once again.

The Critical Journey From Apathy to Empathy: The Battle Against a Tyrant Named “George”

(Part one in series)

I was curious to examine just how far we may have diverged and wandered from the original “road map to Democracy” that our founding leaders risked their very lives to produce for all generations to come. With a sense of urgency, I plunged into the Declaration of Independence with a passion like I had never experienced in my early days as a simple student in a classroom.

The opening few paragraphs are probably the most recognizable portions of the entire document. Most of us have heard these sentences repeated in political speeches, in patriotic songs or such things.The greatest surprise awaited me as I journeyed further into this historic piece of writing.

The beginning of this critical document reads:

“The Declaration of Independence of the Thirteen Colonies

In CONGRESS, July 4, 1776

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America, When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,

–That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

Most of us will instantly recognize the portion that reads, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

As young students, we studied the political history that led the original colonists to create the Declaration of Independence. The very foundation of the United States of America was based upon the needs of the people dwelling in this new land. The writers proclaimed their independence from England and all other outside governments by including these words,

“But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. —Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government.”

As I read further, my mental state progressed from a place of historical reverence for the words set down by the early leadership and on to shock, disbelief and outright anger. I re-read the document several times to be certain that I was truly seeing what I thought I was reading.

Sadly, I was indeed reading these words and the descriptions of exactly what claims were being laid against England. The most ironic and alarming point to this comparison is the realization that the ruler of England at this time in history was none other than the King of Great Britain, George the III!

At the sudden reminder of this long forgotten piece of history, I fell into uncontrollable laughter. I then launched into the document in search of more comparisons between what our ancestors accused King GEORGE of, and what many citizens in the USA are complaining of with our modern day GEORGE, the current leader of the USA, President George Bush.

Though the ironic and perhaps comical overlapping of names was the beginning point for me, further examinations inside the Declaration of Independence yielded results that were anything but amusing.

The original grievances the colonies listed against Britain and King George III are presented in part, below. At each placement of the word, “He” remember that they are referring to King George. As you read these statements, you may begin to see resemblances to accusations made about our current President, GEORGE Bush.

“The history of the present King of Great Britain [George III] is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers. He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us, in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty and perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.”

As I read each of these statements from the original Declaration of Independence, I began to see several glaring similarities to our current political behaviors in the USA. I am not a political analyst, pundit, media television news host, or corporate-owned journalist. On the contrary, I am a law-abiding, tax-paying citizen of the United States of America who also serves as a journalist. I may be inaccurate in some of my assessments here, but I believe that there is enough accuracy in my comparisons between these two leaderships as to warrant some serious analysis by other citizens of the USA.

Several political events that have taken place during the period of time that George Bush has served as President of the United States are comparable to many of the accusations the colonists first made against King George III.

The Bush administrations’ Patriot Act, the development and enormous expansion of the Homeland Security Agency, and massive increase in domestic surveillance upon its own citizens is one glaring comparison to the ruler ship of King George III.

The U.S. Congress has had numerous bills and potential laws go before the President for his signature only to be told outright that he, referring to the President,

“refuses to sign any bill from them unless it contains exactly what I WANT included in it…”

Appointed leaders inside the Bush administration appear intent on gaining exclusive protection for those who are also members of the inner circle nearest the President. They have been offered immunity, Presidential pardons and more “Get out of Jail Free” cards than at any time in history.

More tax-payer money has been misspent, lost, redirected, or falsely appropriated to those corporations involved directly with the elected governmental leadership than a journalist can even report on.

A brief list of accusations against this administration include, but are certainly not limited to:

  • Questionable actions taken by the White House, National Security Council, State Department, Department of Defense, and the Central Intelligence Agency related to the United Nations and Iraq Security Groups initial inspections of Iraq.
  • The detention of people suspected of terrorist activities or connections to such activities and held in foreign prisons for interrogations by the U.S. Many such people were never provided legal counsel or knew exactly what they were accused of.
  • The “secret” meetings of top-level advisors to the White House including current elected officials, where private discussions yielded the new policies and guide lines for “approved” torture techniques later used against suspected “terrorists.”
  • Since 2005, numerous local governments have introduced and passed resolutions calling for the impeachment of President Bush and members his administration. Among the states that have filed impeachement recommendations are: Alaska, California, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Washington, Wisconsin, and Vermont.

On May 21, 2006, the Alaska Democratic Party passed a resolution calling for the impeachment of President Bush, Vice-President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and World Bank President (and former Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz.) The resolution cited “the unjustified invasion of Iraq,” the administration’s “felonious warrantless wiretaps,” and “gross incompetence in response to natural disasters, stewardship of the economy and the environment.”

On April 21, 2006, California State Assemblyman Paul Koretz (D-Calif.) submitted Joint Resolution No. 39, calling for the impeachment of President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.

Among the list of suggested impeachable offenses were:

  • a. Misleading Congress and the American people regarding the threat from Iraq in order to justify an unnecessary war that has cost billions of dollars and thousands of lives and casualties
  • b. Exceeding constitutional authority by Federalizing the National Guard.
  • c. Spying on American citizens in violation of the 1978 Foreign Agency Surveillance Act
  • d. Holding American citizens without charge or trial

The list of complaints and alleged constitutional violations goes on and on yet no matter what the citizens of the United States of America demand from their leadership, there has yet to be action taken. No one in the elected leadership demands full accountability from the President or his extended administration.

“We the People” have seemingly been ignored.

Our demand for full disclosure regarding facts surrounding the “Oil for Food” scandal, the false comments made about September 11th bombings, the war in Iraq, or the endless string of “Presidential Pardons” have been ignored.

The muzzling of journalists, scientists and agencies that may endanger the “facts” as the Bush administration would have them be known continues on with impunity.

The citizens of the United States appear to be “ham-strung” by their own leadership. There is no movement toward accountability though our websites, media outlets and governmental documents are saturated with evidence of misconduct.

I am simply a member of the vast “We the People” in this country and am not an expert on political affairs. However, I believe that the average American citizen deserves the basic information laid out before them. They may then conduct their own investigation into the facts surrounding the very real decline in political morals in this country.

The original Declaration of Independence is one of the guiding beacons for our democracy. How far we have veered from its original directive is for those professional analysts out there to decipher. I am but one citizen who, on a certain day, discovered the alarming similarities between KING GEORGE vs. PRESIDENT GEORGE.

I can only hope that the citizens of this country awaken to the realities around them and soon realize that the time for true action is now. I hope they will take heed to the historic words from our founding fathers as they move forward to create a true democracy;

“A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.”

Shelley Bluejay Pierce is an investigative journalist covering political, environmental and indigenous rights issues. Her work appears in numerous written publications and online websites worldwide and is a frequent guest on radio shows addressing these issues.

(All rights reserved, permission to reprint this article must be granted by author, Shelley Bluejay Pierce by contacting


The Critical Journey From Apathy to Empathy: A Case of Misplaced Blind Faith

Bush Claims More Powers than King George III


Tomgram: Kill Them! We Are Going to Wipe Them Out!

Dandelion Salad

By Tom Engelhardt
June 1, 2008

Presidential Bloodlust
The Movie-Made War World of George W. Bush

Here’s a memory for you. I was probably five or six and sitting with my father in a movie house off New York’s Times Square — one of the slightly seedy theaters of that dawn of the 1950s moment that tended to show double or triple feature B-westerns or war movies. We were catching some old oater which, as I recall, began with a stagecoach careening dramatically down the main street of a cow town. A wounded man is slumped in the driver’s seat, the horses running wild. Suddenly — perhaps from the town’s newspaper office — a cowboy dressed in white and in a white Stetson rushes out, leaps on the team of horses, stops the stagecoach, and says to the driver: “Sam, Sam, who dun it to ya?” (or the equivalent). At just that moment, the camera catches a man, dressed all in black in a black hat — and undoubtedly mustachioed — skulking into the saloon.

My dad promptly turns to me and whispers: “He’s the one. He did it.”

Believe me, I’m awed. All I can say in wonder and protest is: “Dad, how can you know? How can you know?”

But, of course, he did know and, within a year or two, I certainly had the same simple code of good and evil, hero and villain, under my belt. It wasn’t a mistake I was likely to make twice.

Above all, of course, you couldn’t mistake the bad guys of those old films. They looked evil. If they were “natives,” they also made no bones about what they were going to do to the white hats, or, in the case of Gunga Din (1939), the pith helmets. “Rise, our new-made brothers,” the evil “guru” of that film tells his followers. “Rise and kill. Kill, lest you be killed yourselves. Kill for the love of killing. Kill for the love of Kali. Kill! Kill! Kill!”

“Wipe Them Out!”

Kill! Kill! Kill! That was just the sort of thing the native equivalent of the black hat was likely to say. Such villains — for a modern reprise, see the latest cartoon superhero blockbuster, Iron Man — were not only fanatical, but usually at the very edge of madness as well. And their language reflected that.

I was brought back with a start to just such evil-doers of my American screen childhood last week by a memoir from a once-upon-a-time insider of the Bush presidency. No, not former White House press secretary Scott McClellan, who swept into the headlines by accusing the President of using “propaganda” and the “complicit enablers” of the media to take the U.S. to war in 2002-2003. I’m thinking of another insider, former commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez. He got next to no attention for a presidential outburst he recorded in his memoir, Wiser in Battle: A Soldier’s Story, so bloodthirsty and cartoonish that it should have caught the attention of the nation — and so eerily in character, given the last years of presidential behavior, that you know it has to be on the money.

Let me briefly set the scene, as Sanchez tells it on pages 349-350 of Wiser in Battle. It’s April 6, 2004. L. Paul Bremer III, head of the occupation’s Coalition Provisional Authority, as well as the President’s colonial viceroy in Baghdad, and Gen. Sanchez were in Iraq in video teleconference with the President, Secretary of State Colin Powell, and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. (Assumedly, the event was recorded and so revisitable by a note-taking Sanchez.) The first full-scale American offensive against the resistant Sunni city of Fallujah was just being launched, while, in Iraq’s Shiite south, the U.S. military was preparing for a campaign against cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and his Mahdi Army militia.

According to Sanchez, Powell was talking tough that day: “We’ve got to smash somebody’s ass quickly,” the general reports him saying. “There has to be a total victory somewhere. We must have a brute demonstration of power.” (And indeed, by the end of April, parts of Fallujah would be in ruins, as, by August, would expanses of the oldest parts of the holy Shiite city of Najaf. Sadr himself would, however, escape to fight another day; and, in order to declare Powell’s “total victory,” the U.S. military would have to return to Fallujah that November, after the U.S. presidential election, and reduce three-quarters of it to virtual rubble.) Bush then turned to the subject of al-Sadr: “At the end of this campaign al-Sadr must be gone,” he insisted to his top advisors. “At a minimum, he will be arrested. It is essential he be wiped out.”

Not long after that, the President “launched” what an evidently bewildered Sanchez politely describes as “a kind of confused pep talk regarding both Fallujah and our upcoming southern campaign [against the Mahdi Army].” Here then is that “pep talk.” While you read it, try to imagine anything like it coming out of the mouth of any other American president, or anything not like it coming out of the mouth of any evil enemy leader in the films of the President’s — and my — childhood:

“‘Kick ass!’ [Bush] said, echoing Colin Powell’s tough talk. ‘If somebody tries to stop the march to democracy, we will seek them out and kill them! We must be tougher than hell! This Vietnam stuff, this is not even close. It is a mind-set. We can’t send that message. It’s an excuse to prepare us for withdrawal. “There is a series of moments and this is one of them. Our will is being tested, but we are resolute. We have a better way. Stay strong! Stay the course! Kill them! Be confident! Prevail! We are going to wipe them out! We are not blinking!'”

Keep in mind that the bloodlusty rhetoric of this “pep talk” wasn’t meant to rev up Marines heading into battle. These were the President’s well-embunkered top advisors in a strategy session on the eve of major military offensives in Iraq. Evidently, however, the President was intent on imitating George C. Scott playing General George Patton — or perhaps even inadvertently channeling one of the evil villains of his onscreen childhood.

American Mad Mullahs

Let’s recall a little history here: In the nineteenth century, Third World leaders who opposed Western imperial control were often not only demonized but imagined to be, in some sense, mad simply for taking on Western might. Throughout the latter part of that century, for instance, the British faced down various “mad mullahs” in North Africa.

Later, such imagery migrated easily enough to imperial Hollywood and thence into American movie houses. But here was the strange thing: In the Vietnam years, that era of reversals, a president of the United States privately expressed, for the first time, a desire to take on the mantle of madness previous reserved for the enemy in American culture (and undoubtedly many other cultures as well). It was not just that President Richard Nixon’s domestic critics were ready to label him a madman, but that, in his desire to end the Vietnam War in a satisfyingly victorious fashion, he was ready to label himself one.

“I call it the madman theory, Bob,” Nixon aide H.R. Haldeman reported the President saying. “I want the North Vietnamese to believe I’ve reached the point where I might do anything to stop the war. We’ll just slip the word to them that, ‘for God’s sake, you know Nixon is obsessed about Communism. We can’t restrain him when he’s angry — and he has his hand on the nuclear button’ — and [North Vietnamese leader] Ho Chi Minh himself will be in Paris in two days begging for peace.”

Henry Kissinger, Nixon’s national security adviser, was equally fascinated with the possible bargaining advantage of having the enemy imagine the President as an evil, potentially world-obliterating madman. “Henry talked about it so much,” according to Lawrence Lynn, a Kissinger aide, “… that the Russians and North Vietnamese wouldn’t run risks because of Nixon’s character.” What made this fascination with the idea of a mad president more curious was that it fused with fears held by White House aides and advisers that Nixon, finger on the nuclear button, might indeed be impaired or nearing the edge of derangement. “My drunken friend,” “that drunken lunatic,” “the meatball mind,” or “the basket case,” was the way Kissinger referred to him after receiving his share of slurred late night phone calls.

So, in a historic moment almost four decades ago, a desperate president suddenly found it strategically advisable to present himself to his enemies as a potential nation slaughterer, a world incinerator (and his aides were privately ready to think of him as such); the leader of what was then commonly termed “the Free World,” that is, was considering revealing himself as a mad emperor, a veritable Ming the Merciless.

Skip ahead these several decades and, presidentially, things have only gotten stranger. After all, we now have a president who has openly, even eagerly, faced the world as the Commander-in-Chief of Enhanced Interrogation Techniques, Extraordinary Rendition, and Offshore Imprisonment; a Vice President who appeared openly on Capitol Hill to lobby against a bill banning torture; and key cabinet members who, from a White House conference room, micromanaged torture, down to specific techniques in specific cases. Talk about Ming the Merciless.

Back in the 1960s and 1970s, you had one president whose critics would call him a “baby killer” — “that horrible song” was the way President Lyndon Baines Johnson referred to the antiwar chant, “Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?” — and another ready to take on the mantle of madness for purposes of private diplomacy; and each was reportedly brought to the edge of private madness while in office. But both were also uncomfortable with imagery of themselves and exceedingly awkward in the televisual world of politics that was already starting to surround them; neither imagined himself “in the movies.”

Last Screen Appearance?

Usually Ronald Reagan, an actual actor, is seen as the president who spent his time in office playing the role of a lifetime, but, as it happens, he had nothing on George W. Bush. From the moment the attacks of September 11, 2001 gave him his “calling” as a “wartime” president, he has been deeply embroiled in acting out his cartoonish version of the role of the century. In fact, he has often seemed like little more than an overgrown boy plunged into his own war movie and war-play memories.

Let’s remember that, soon after 9/11, this President launched his “crusade, this war on terrorism” with an image of a poster from some generic Western of his childhood. (“Bush offered some of his most blunt language to date when he was asked if he wanted bin Laden dead. ‘I want justice,’ Bush said. ‘And there’s an old poster out West… I recall, that said, Wanted, Dead or Alive.'”) For years, he visibly glowed when publicly dressing up in a way that was redolent of the boy version of war (that is, doll… er, action figure) play. While Abraham Lincoln never put on a uniform and an actual general, Dwight D. Eisenhower, put his in the closet in his years as president, Bush uniquely and repeatedly appeared in public togged out in military wear, looking for all the world like a life-sized version of the original 12-inch G.I. Joe action figure — whether “landing” a jet on the aircraft carrier, the USS Abraham Lincoln, and stepping out in a nifty flight suit, or appearing before massed hooah-ing troops in specially tailored jackets with “George W. Bush, Commander In Chief” carefully stitched across the breast. (In fact, more than one toy company did indeed produce G.I. Joe-style Bush action figures.)

Evident above all, from September 14, 2001 — when he climbed that pile of rubble at “Ground Zero” in New York City and, bullhorn in hand, to “USA! USA!” cheers, wiped out the ignominy of his actions on the actual day of the attacks — was just how much he enjoyed his role as resolute leader of a wartime America. While his Vice President and top advisors were grimly, if eagerly, preparing to whack Saddam Hussein and taking the opportunity to create a permanent commander-in-chief presidency, the President was visibly having the time of his life, perhaps for the first time since he gave up those “wild parties” of his youth.

A rivulet of telling details about his behavior has flowed by us in these years. We know from Bob Woodward of the Washington Post, for instance, that, after 9/11, Bush kept “his own personal scorecard for the war” in a desk drawer in the Oval Office — photos with brief biographies and personality sketches of leading al-Qaeda figures, whose faces could be satisfyingly crossed out when killed or captured. In July 2003, frustrated by signs that the Sunni insurgency in Iraq wasn’t going away, he impulsively offered this bit of bluster to reporters (as if he were the one who would take the brunt of future attacks): “There are some who feel like the conditions are such that they can attack us there. My answer is, bring ’em on.

In those moments when he spoke or acted spontaneously, there are plentiful clues that Bush took deep pleasure in finding himself in the role of commander-in-chief, and that he has been genuinely thrilled to do commander-in-chief-like things, at least as once pictured in the on-screen fantasy world of his youth. He was thrilled, for example, to receive from some of the troops who captured Saddam Hussein the pistol that the dictator had with him in his “spiderhole.” Back in 2004, TIME Magazine’s Matthew Cooper reported: “‘He really liked showing it off,’ says a recent visitor to the White House who has seen the gun. ‘He was really proud of it.’ The pistol’s new place of residence is in the small study next to the Oval Office where Bush takes select visitors.” Similarly, he returned from one of his brief trips to Iraq “inspired” by a meeting with the pilot who shot off the missile that incinerated Bin Laden wannabe Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

On and off throughout these years, you could glimpse just what a cartoon-like white-hat/black-hat persona he imagined himself to be playing. This was true whether he was in his blustery tough-guy mode, as when, in September 2007, he arrived in Australia publicly proclaiming that the U.S. was “kicking ass” in Iraq; or when, as commander-in-chief, he regularly teared up with genuine (movie) emotion as he handed out medals, some posthumous, for bravery; or even when he discussed his own wartime version of “sacrifice” — he claimed to have given up golf for his war. As he told Mike Allen of “I don’t want some mom whose son may have recently died to see the commander-in-chief playing golf. I feel I owe it to the families to be as — to be in solidarity as best as I can with them. And I think playing golf during a war just sends the wrong signal.”

The Washington Post’s Dan Froomkin has pointed out that even Bush’s callow sacrifice of golf wasn’t real — he kept on playing — but that hardly matters. What’s crucial is that all this real life play-acting still moves, even thrills, him. Recently, for instance, he gave a graduation speech at the U.S. Air Force Academy, where he once again compared Iraq to World War II (and so, implicitly, himself to President Franklin Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, a bust of whom he has kept in the Oval Office all these years). As Associated Press reporter Ben Feller commented: “Bush noted it was his last military academy commencement speech, and he seemed to savor it. He personally congratulated each cadet as cheers bounded across the stadium.” Note that word “savor,” when linked to the military and his commander-in-chief role. It’s been a quality evident in the President’s ongoing performance these last seven years. The photos of him goofing around with Air Force Academy graduates after his speech tell the story well.

In all this, you can sense a man in his own bubble world, engrossed in, and satisfied with, his own performance — both as actor and, as in childhood, audience. What Gen. Ricardo Sanchez has added to this is the picture of a man who, even in 2004, was already dreaming Vietnam disaster (“This Vietnam stuff… We can’t send that message.”); who, perhaps sensing that his blockbuster was busting, like Richard Nixon before him, proved willing to mix the white-hat and black-hat codes of his movie childhood in remarkable ways. Under the strain of a failing war, in private and among his top officials, he didn’t hesitate to take on that “guru” role and rally his closest followers with a call to kill, kill, kill!

A confused pep talk indeed. Even if Bush is still exhorting his top officials not to “blink,” Americans should. After all, there are almost eight months left to his presidency, and a man of such stunning immaturity, who confuses fantasy with real life, and is given to outbursts of challenge, bluster, and bloodlust should be taken seriously. Nixon’s “mad mullah” stayed private until transcripts of the Watergate tapes and memoirs started coming out. For us, the question remains, will this President be able to take a final turn on-screen before his term ends, playing the “mad mullah” in relation to Iran?

Tom Engelhardt, who runs the Nation Institute’s, is the co-founder of the American Empire Project. His book, The End of Victory Culture, has recently been updated in a newly issued edition. He edited, and his work appears in, the first best of Tomdispatch book, The World According to Tomdispatch: America in the New Age of Empire (Verso), which is being published this month.

[Note for Readers: As far as I know, the key passage in Sanchez’s memoirs quoted in this piece was first noticed and commented upon by that indefatigable Iraq reporter, Patrick Cockburn. Unlike the key passages in Scott McClellan’s memoir, this one from Sanchez’s book has been little attended to. However, Dan Froomkin (cited in this piece), who does the Washington Post’s online column, White House Watch, also noted its existence. That’s not surprising. He seems never to miss any important development when it comes to the Bush administration. I link to his invaluable column often. As far as I’m concerned, it may be the most striking example of the sort of service a sharp columnist for a major paper can offer in the online world. I find it a daily must-read and recommend it strongly. Finally, if you want to know more about Mad Mullahs, American war movies, and a host of other subjects from World War II through the Iraq War, check out my recently updated book, The End of Victory Culture.]

Copyright 2008 Tom Engelhardt

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. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Nuclear bomb blueprints for sale on world black market, experts fear

Dandelion Salad

by Ian Traynor, Europe editor
The Guardian,
Saturday May 31 2008

Nuclear bomb blueprints and manuals on how to manufacture weapons-grade uranium for warheads are feared to be circulating on the international black market, according to investigators tracking the world’s most infamous nuclear smuggling racket.

Alarm about the sale of nuclear know-how follows the disclosure that the Swiss government, allegedly acting under US pressure, secretly destroyed tens of thousands of documents from a massive nuclear smuggling investigation.

The information was seized from the home and computers of Urs Tinner, a 43-year-old Swiss engineer who has been in custody for almost four years as a key suspect in the nuclear smuggling ring run by Abdul Qadeer Khan, the Pakistani metallurgist who in 2004 admitted leaking nuclear secrets and is under house arrest in Islamabad.


h/t: CLG

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. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

US accused of holding terror suspects on prison ships

Dandelion Salad

by Duncan Campbell and Richard Norton-Taylor
The Guardian,
Monday June 2 2008

The United States is operating “floating prisons” to house those arrested in its war on terror, according to human rights lawyers, who claim there has been an attempt to conceal the numbers and whereabouts of detainees.

Details of ships where detainees have been held and sites allegedly being used in countries across the world have been compiled as the debate over detention without trial intensifies on both sides of the Atlantic. The US government was yesterday urged to list the names and whereabouts of all those detained.

Information about the operation of prison ships has emerged through a number of sources, including statements from the US military, the Council of Europe and related parliamentary bodies, and the testimonies of prisoners.

The analysis, due to be published this year by the human rights organisation Reprieve, also claims there have been more than 200 new cases of rendition since 2006, when President George Bush declared that the practice had stopped.


h/t: amnesty4AWOL & CLG

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. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Dems Reject Clinton’s Bid To Count FL And MI Delegates; Vote To Recount 2004 OH Votes Instead (satire)


by R J Shulman
Dandelion Salad
featured writer
Robert’s blog post
June 1, 2008

WASHINGTON – To the surprise of everyone, after failing to come to a decision on whether to seat the disputed Florida and Michigan delegates, Democratic party officials agreed that what was needed was a full recount of the Ohio votes cast in the 2004 election. “We realized that the biggest disservice to the Democratic Party and to the world,” said Representative Robert Wexler of Florida “was when Senator Kerry gave up so fast on the vote count in Ohio, guaranteeing Bush a second and, if you can believe it, more disastrous second term.”

At first there was silence among the supporters of Hillary Clinton who wanted all of the Florida and Michigan delegates counted and an equally quiet response from followers of Obama who were hoping for some compromise. Then there were shouting and hugging as Democrats became instantly united. “I never thought I would hug an arugula chomping Obama supporter,” said Wanda Levitt and 63 year-old Hillary Clinton supporter, “but when I realized the enemy was Bush, I knew that the vote counting we needed was in Ohio in 2004.”

“Better late than never,” said Charles Olney of Cleveland, Ohio who had come to support Obama. “Without Bush’s second term, we would have a saner supreme court, torture would have been declared un-American as it should be and spying would be left to the movies and not our own government on we the people.”

While a small minority of Democrats had felt they had adequate proof that the Ohio vote was stolen in 2004 and that Kerry had actually won, this was the first time their theories were given a green light by the Democratic party. No viable challenge to the Ohio vote, which decided the 2004 election was raised at the time, as Kerry reacted swiftly by conceding the election. “I wish he had reacted that swiftly to the Swift Boat attack ads,” said a former Kerry supporter.

With Florida and Michigan no longer in play, Senator Obama will most likely declare victory this coming week. Sources close to the Obama and Clinton camps have said discussion are underway to solidify Democratic unity by running an Obama/Clinton ticket in the fall. “But first,” said Harlod Ickys, a Clinton advisor, “we will negate the Bush 2004 election and place Senator Kerry in the White House so he can begin to clean up the biggest pile of dog excrement ever created in Washington.”

Air Force Unit’s Nuclear Weapons Security Is ‘Unacceptable’

Dandelion Salad

By Walter Pincus
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, May 31, 2008; Page A03

The same Air Force unit at Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota that was responsible for mishandling six nuclear cruise missiles last August failed key parts of a nuclear safety inspection this past weekend, according to a Defense Department report.

The 5th Bomb Wing was given an “unacceptable” grade in security of nuclear weapons, according to the review by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency. In another category, management and administration, it received a grade of “marginal,” based on deficiencies in recording changes that affected the operational status of nuclear cruise missiles and gravity bombs.


h/t: CLG

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. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.



Bolivia: Indigenous leaders beaten and publicly humiliated

Dandelion Salad

Posted with permission by Green Left Weekly

by Franz Chavez
Green Left Weekly
31 May 2008

Bolivia may have its first-ever indigenous president, but racism is alive and well in this country, as demonstrated by the public humiliation of a group of around 50 indigenous mayors, town councillors and community leaders in the south-central city of Sucre.

The incident, which shook the country but received little attention from the international press, occurred on May 25, when President Evo Morales, an Aymara Indian, was to appear in a public ceremony in Sucre to deliver 50 ambulances for rural communities and announce funding for municipal projects.

But in the early hours of May 25, organised groups opposed to Morales began to surround the stadium where he was to appear. Confronting the police and soldiers with sticks, stones and dynamite, they managed to occupy the stadium.

The president cancelled his visit, and the security forces were withdrawn to avoid bloodshed.

Right-wing violence

But violent elements of the Interinstitutional Committee, a conservative pro-autonomy, anti-Morales civic group that is backed by the local university and other bodies, continued to harass and beat supporters of the governing Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) and anyone who appeared to be indigenous.

A mob of armed civilians, partially made up of university students, then surrounded several dozen indigenous Morales supporters, including local authorities who had come from other regions to attend the ceremony.

The terrified indigenous people, who had sought refuge in a poor neighbourhood on the outskirts of Sucre, were stripped of their few belongings and forced to walk seven kilometres to the House of Liberty, a symbol of the end of colonial rule in Bolivia that was declared there in 1825.

In the city’s main square, they were forced to kneel — shirtless — and apologise for coming to Sucre. They were also made to chant insults like “Die Evo!”

They were surrounded by activists from the pro-autonomy movement, who set fire to the blue, black and white MAS party flag, the multicolour flag of the Aymara people and colourful hand-woven indigenous ponchos seized from the visiting Morales supporters.

Sucre Mayor Aidee Nava and the Interinstitutional Committee immediately apologised after the incident. Morales called on Sucre officials to bring those responsible to justice.

Entrenched racism

Indigenous people in Bolivia have long suffered discrimination. They were not even allowed to vote until 1952, when the government of the Nationalist Revolutionary Movement (MNR) abolished pongaje — a system of forced labour for indigenous people in rural areas.

South America’s poorest country is divided between the western highlands, home to the poor indigenous majority, and the much wealthier eastern provinces that account for most of the country’s natural gas production, industry and agribusiness. The population of eastern Bolivia tends to be of more European and mixed-race descent.

Santa Cruz, Bolivia’s richest province, is at the vanguard of an autonomy movement that involves six of the country’s nine regions. People in Santa Cruz voted in favour of regional autonomy in a May 4 referendum, and three other eastern provinces will hold similar referendums in June.

Analysts say that underlying the autonomy movement, which is spearheaded by the right-wing business and political elites who governed Bolivia for decades, is the question of control and use of Bolivia’s natural resources.

The aim of the left-wing Morales government is to distribute the nation’s wealth more evenly, in order to improve the living conditions of the country’s indigenous people — most of whom live in appalling poverty.

According to MAS representatives and an independent analyst who spoke to Inter-Press Service, the May 25 incident has encouraged Morales supporters to redouble their efforts to bring about structural changes aimed at eradicating inequality and discrimination.

“We are witnessing a backlash by the oligarchy”, Rene Navarro, a MAS representative in the constituent assembly that is rewriting the Bolivian constitution, told IPS. Navarro predicted more violence against indigenous people by the right.

The right is attempting in the media to portray the Sucre violence as part of a government-fomented campaign aimed at further polarising the country along regional lines. But Navarro argued that the racist violence is “a blow to all citizens alike”. He said that the government should publicise what it has achieved over the last two-and-a-half years.

Fighting back

MAS lawmaker Jose Pimentel, a former leader of the country’s miners’ union, told IPS that it was urgently necessary to get the draft constitution approved in a referendum, with the support of the rural indigenous peasants in alliance with the urban poor.

Independent analyst Franco Gamboa agreed that the only option open to the government is to continue forging ahead with the new constitution, the vote on which is being delayed by the autonomy referendums as well as plans for a recall referendum for Morales, his vice president, and the country’s nine provincial governors.

The aim of the new constitution, whose draft was approved by the MAS majority in the constituent assembly in a December vote boycotted by the right, is to create a unified but decentralised state that recognises Bolivia’s cultural and ethnic diversity, while ensuring greater political participation and access to land and other resources by indigenous people.

Gamboa said the reaction of conservative groups in Sucre and the autonomy movements in eastern provinces reflect opposition to the greater political independence and expanded land rights that the new constitution would grant indigenous people — which represent a challenge to the privileges enjoyed by the landowning and business elites.

The new constitution would recognise greater autonomy for the provinces, municipalities and indigenous communities, while the anti-Morales provinces only want decentralisation at the municipal and provincial levels.

Pimentel stressed that “the fact that Morales was elected as the country’s first indigenous president is not sufficient to do away with a racist, neo-colonial state, which is why it is important to reform the constitution”.

Juanita Ancieta, a leader of the Women’s Federation of the Tropico de Cochabamba, told IPS that “we are not going to allow them to divide Bolivia, and we are not going to sit back with our arms crossed, doing nothing”.

[Originally published by the Inter-Press Service on May 28, abridged from]

Venezuela: Big stakes in November elections

Dandelion Salad

Posted with permission by Green Left Weekly

by Kiraz Janicke & Federico Fuentes, Caracas
Green Left Weekly
1 June 2008

Following the December 2 constitutional reform referendum defeat — the first for the forces of the Bolivarian revolution since the election of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in 1998 — and facing popular discontent at the problems holding back the advance of the process of change, the pro-revolution forces face a big challenge in securing an overwhelming victory in the November regional elections in order not to lose ground to the US-backed opposition.

Chavez, who described the upcoming regional elections as “the most important in Venezuelan history”, outlined what is at stake: “Imagine if the opposition groups managed to win the mayor of the Capital District, the mayor of Caracas, the state of Miranda, the state of Carabobo, Zulia, Tachira, Anzoategui … the next step would be war, because they would come for me, once again we would be in the same situation as April 11″ he said in reference to the April 2002 US-backed coup against the Chavez government.

Chavez’s list was no coincidence. Apart from being some of the most strategic states in terms of population and economic strength, they are also. along with Aragua, Lara, Merida and Nueva Esparta, states where the opposition won a majority in the constitutional reform referendum. If repeated in November, it could see the number of Chavista governors reduced from 21 out of 23 to 14.

Such a result would provide a strengthened opposition with a launching pad to intensify its campaign to remove Chavez through a recall referendum in 2010 — or through more violent means.

In this context, the democratic primaries held by the 5.7-million-strong United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) on June 1, to choose candidates for the November 23 regional elections for mayors and governors, are crucial for re-engaging and revitalising the grassroots of the Chavista movement to push the revolution forward .

Uphill battle

In the 2004 regional elections the Chavista alliance — at that time predominately comprised of the Movement for the Fifth Republic (MVR — Chavez’s then-party that has dissolved into the PSUV), Homeland For All (PPT), Podemos and the Communist Party of Venezuela (PCV) along with smaller organisations — won 20 of the 22 governorships up for election along with the mayor of the Capital District.

The Chavistas also won an overwhelming majority of the municipalities, as commentators talked of an electoral map painted red.

Opposition forces, demoralised by their crushing loss in the recall referendum on Chavez’s presidency in August 2004 and claiming fraud (although there was no evidence) and in large part abstained from the regional elections in November.

This time the situation is not as favourable for the revolutionary forces. Boosted by its victory in the December referendum, a recycled opposition — presenting itself as removed from the old, discredited parties — is attempting to run a united campaign (although public clashes over seats in opposition strongholds are increasing) and can count on a re-mobilised and confident supporter base.

They will also count on more moderate sectors from the Chavista camp that have broken with the revolution since 2004 as the process of change has radicalised — such as the social democratic Podemos. In 2004, Podemos was won two governorships.

The revolutionary forces were then in a period of ascendancy, having defeated three attempts to depose Chavez — April 2002 coup, December 2002-January 2003 bosses lockout and the 2004 recall referendum. Today the mood is different.

Discontent, demoralisation and demobilisation have impacted on the popular forces, as many blame bureaucracy and corruption for sabotaging the revolutionary process — undermining both the social gains and blocking genuine popular power.

Imperialist offensive

Venezuela’s elite opposition, backed by US imperialism, has been increasing its orientation toward the poor majority that make up Chavez’s support base — adopting a populist discourse, such as “we want to improve the missoins” (the government-funded social programs that are helping solve the problems of the poor) and “build more houses for the poor”.

It is seeking to take advantage of discontent to infiltrate the barrios through what it calls “popular networks”, which according to US-Venezuelan lawyer Eva Golinger, recieve money from the US government-funded USAID. These networks work to spread rumours, promote divisions among Chavistas and mobilise people against the government.

It can be expected that the opposition will employ the same tactics in the lead up to the elections that worked for them in the constitutional reform referendum, such as extra-parliamentary destabilisation — including violent protests and economic sabotage — combined with a virulent campaign of media manipulation and lies to create a climate of crisis and ungovernability.

A renewed offensive by US imperialism to isolate the Chavez government internationally is adding to the internal pressure. The US has attempted to link the Chavez government with “terrorism” based on the supposed documents found on the laptops retrieved from the site of the illegal military assault by Colombia (the US’s key ally in the region)on a camp of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Venezuela has categorically rejected the allegations.

Despite claims by the US and Colombian governments that an Interpol investigation into the laptop backs up the charges, the Interpol report states on page 9 that, “The verification of the eight seized FARC computer exhibits by Interpol does not imply the validation of the accuracy of the user files, the validation of any country’s interpretation of the user files or the validation of the source of the user files.”

In addition, the US navy has decided to reactivate, after 58 years, its Fourth Fleet to patrol Latin American waters, and on May 16, Colombian troops were intercepted inside the Venezuelan border. On May 17, a US warplane was caught violating Venezuelan airspace.

Internal struggle

On top of all this, internal divisions between the “endogenous” (internal) right-wing of Chavismo, which doesn’t want to break with capitalism, and the more radical grassroots pushing the deepen the process of change and especially extend direct democracy to empower the poor are becoming increasingly exposed.

Since its was launched last year, the PSUV has become a battleground between these sectors, reflecting the conflicting class interests within the Bolivarian movement. This dynamic is playing out in the primary elections.

While the June 1 internal elections, which are open to all members of the PSUV, represent an historic landmark in the Bolivarian revolution — for the first time allowing the grassroots to participate in the selection of candidates — struggles over the form and content of this process have not been absent.

Sources within the PSUV told Green Left Weekly that it was the rank and file, who in a general assembly on May 9, forced the national leadership to back down from an initial proposal whereby the local PSUV battalions would be able to suggest names that would then be tallied in order to come up with a list of 15, from which the national leadership would select the final candidate.

Under the alternative compromise proposal, which was approved, if no candidates receives either 50% plus one votes or a margin of more than 15% above the next candidate, then the national leadership, in consultation with Chavez, will select the candidate from the top three.

Importantly, Chavez announced that all the results of the internal elections will be made publicly available in order to allow greater transparency, and in doing so reversed a previous decision by the national leadership to keep the results secret.

A key example of the internal struggle is the controversy that erupted following the exclusion of the popular mayor of Torres Municipality, Julio Chavez (no relation to the president), from the list of pre-candidate nominations for governor of the state of Lara.

Sections of the national leadership had attempted to pressure Julio to stand down in favour of more conservative candidate Henri Falcon. Even though the mayor rejected the proposal, he was excluded from the list of pre-candidates released by the national leadership.

This prompted a rebellion among rank-and-file PSUV members in Lara, who saw Julio’s exclusion as a bureaucratic attempt by the national executive to override internal democracy and impose a candidate from above.

Hundreds of PSUV members mobilised spontaneously and surrounded the party’s regional headquarters on May 29 and 30, and in a play on Julio’s surname, chanted the famous slogan celebrating the defeat of the coup; “Uh ah, Chavez no se va! (Chavez is not going).

The PSUV national executive was forced to back down and reincorporated Julio onto the list of pre-candidates for governor of Lara. The president, who has repeatedly called for candidates to be selected democratically, telephoned the mayor directly to assure him that the situation had been corrected

Julio, loathed by opposition sectors and particularly local business elites, is extremely popular among the poor for being the only mayor in Venezuela to have transferred control of the majority of the municipal budget directly to organised communities, and for implementing a process of radical transformation and democratisation of the entire governance system of his municipality.

The intervention by Chavez in defence of democracy, like his decision to nationalise the Sidor steel plant on April 9 after a long workers struggle there and the subsequent sacking of the right-wing labour minister, has boosted the morale of the rank-and-file.

Chavez has also pressured sectors tempted to flout the democratic decision of the party and stand as candidates outside of the PSUV: “Those that do not accept the results will be morally pulverised by the Bolivarian people.”

“What is important” Chavez argued, “is that we come out more united after June 1.” For this to happen, the mass participation of the ranks in the elections will be vital for consolidating the pro-revolution forces in the lead up to the regional elections.

Also key to the success of the Chavista forces is the strengthening of the Patriotic Alliance, which unites the PSUV with smaller pro-Chavez groups that haven’t joined the new party, such as the PPT and PCV.

However, frictions have emerged as the smaller parties have raised concerns about their exclusion from discussions on candidates and the platform on which to contest the elections.

With the PSUV still in formation and with important internal divisions, a yet to be solidified alliance with other groups and a significant layer of revolutionary activists who for a variety of reasons chose to remain outside the parties, there will be a serious need to push forward mobilise the broadest layers of the popular sectors.

Chavez has already called on each active member of the PSUV to work at mobilising a further five people — recalling the successful grassroots mobilising strategy used to win the 2004 recall referendum.

[Kiraz Janicke and Federico Fuentes are members of the Green Left Weekly Caracas bureau. They are both featured speakers at the Resistance national conference in Sydney, June 27-29. Visit for more information and to register.]

As things look, Israel may well attack Iran soon

Dandelion Salad

By Joschka Fischer
05/31/08 “Daily Star

As a result of misguided American policy, the threat of another military confrontation hangs like a dark cloud over the Middle East. The United States’ enemies have been strengthened, and Iran – despite being branded as a member of the so-called “axis of evil” – has been catapulted into regional hegemony. Iran could never have achieved this on its own, certainly not in such a short time.

A hitherto latent rivalry between Iran and Israel thus has been transformed into an open struggle for dominance in the Middle East. The result has been the emergence of some surprising, if not bizarre, alliances: Iran, Syria, Hizbullah, Hamas and the American-backed, Shiite-dominated Iraq are facing Israel, Saudi Arabia, and most of the other Sunni Arab states, all of which feel existentially threatened by Iran’s ascendance.

The danger of a major confrontation has been heightened further by a series of factors: persistently high oil prices, which have created new financial and political opportunities for Iran; the possible defeat of the West and its regional allies in proxy wars in Gaza and Lebanon; and the United Nations Security Council’s failure to induce Iran to accept even a temporary freeze of its nuclear program.

Iran’s nuclear program is the decisive factor in this equation, for it threatens irreversibly the region’s strategic balance. That Iran – a country whose president never tires of calling for Israel’s annihilation and that threatens Israel’s northern and southern borders through its massive support of proxy wars waged by Hizbullah and Hamas – might one day have missiles with nuclear warheads is Israel’s worst security nightmare. Politics is not just about facts, but also about perceptions. Whether or not a perception is accurate is beside the point, because it nonetheless leads to decisions.

This applies in particular when the perception concerns what the parties consider to be threats to their very existence. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s threats of annihilation are taken seriously in Israel because of the trauma of the Holocaust. And most Arab governments share the fear of a nuclear Iran. Earlier this month, Israel celebrated its 60th birthday, and US President George W. Bush went to Jerusalem to play a leading part in the commemoration. But those who had expected that his visit would mainly be about the stalled negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians were bitterly disappointed. Bush’s central topic, including his speech to Israel’s Knesset, was Iran. Bush had promised to bring the Middle East conflict closer to a resolution before the end of his term this year. But his final visit to Israel seemed to indicate that his objective was different: he seemed to be planning, together with Israel, to end the Iranian nuclear program – and to do so by military, rather than by diplomatic, means.

Anyone following the press in Israel during the anniversary celebrations and listening closely to what was said in Jerusalem did not have to be a prophet to understand that matters are coming to a head. Consider the following:

First, “stop the appeasement!” is a demand raised across the political spectrum in Israel – and what is meant is the nuclear threat emanating from Iran.

Second, while Israel celebrated, Defense Minister Ehud Barak was quoted as saying that a life-and-death military confrontation was a distinct possibility.

Third, the outgoing commander of the Israeli Air Force declared that the air force was capable of any mission, no matter how difficult, to protect the country’s security. The destruction of a Syrian nuclear facility last year, and the lack of any international reaction to it, were viewed as an example for the coming action against Iran.

Fourth, the Israeli wish list for US arms deliveries, discussed with the American president, focused mainly on the improvement of the attack capabilities and precision of the Israeli Air Force.

Fifth, diplomatic initiatives and UN sanctions when it comes to Iran are seen as hopelessly ineffective.

And sixth, with the approaching end of the Bush presidency and uncertainty about his successor’s policy, the window of opportunity for Israeli action is seen as potentially closing.

The last two factors carry special weight. While Israeli military intelligence is on record as saying that Iran is expected to cross the red line on the path to nuclear power between 2010 and 2015 at the earliest, the feeling in Israel is that the political window of opportunity to attack is now, during the last months of Bush’s presidency.

Although it is acknowledged in Israel that an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities would involve grave and hard-to-assess risks, the choice between acceptance of an Iranian bomb and an attempt at its military destruction, with all the attendant consequences, is clear. Israel won’t stand by and wait for matters to take their course.

The Middle East is drifting toward a new great confrontation in 2008. Iran must understand that without a diplomatic solution in the coming months, a dangerous military conflict is very likely to erupt. It is high time for serious negotiations to begin.

The most recent offer by the six powers – the UN Security Council’s five permanent members plus Germany – is on the table, and it goes very far in accommodating Iran’s interests. The decisive question, however, will be whether it will be possible to freeze the Iranian nuclear program for the duration of the negotiations to avoid a military confrontation before these negotiations are completed. Should this newest attempt fail, things will soon get serious. Deadly serious.

Joschka Fischer, Germany’s foreign minister and vice chancellor from 1998 to 2005, led Germany’s Green Party for nearly 20 years. THE DAILY STAR publishes this commentary in collaboration with Project Syndicate-Institute for Human Sciences (c) (

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US Paying Allies to Fight War in Iraq

Dandelion Salad

By Subodh Varma– TNN
05/31/09 “Times Of India

NEW DELHI: The tale of massive fraud and embezzlement of millions of dollars by the US military in its operations in Iraq continues. Testifying before the US Congress Committee on Oversight and Government Reform on 22 May, Mary Ugone, deputy inspector general of accounts in the Pentagon said that an audit of $8.2 billion spending related to the Iraq war showed that $7.8 billion had been improperly spent.

Over 180,000 payments, mostly since the war started in 2003, were made by the defense department to contractors for everything from bottled water to vehicles to transportation services.

In her testimony, Ugone also revealed that $135 million were given to forces from three countries UK, South Korea and Poland to facilitate their participation in the war. This is the first time that the US has officially admitted paying its allies in the so-called Coalition of the Willing that invaded Iraq in March 2003.

In his opening statement, Henry Waxman, chairman of the committee, said that wounded soldiers are getting notices from the Pentagon to return signing bonuses with interest since they had not completed the full term. “There is something very wrong when our wounded troops have to fill out forms in triplicate for meal money while billions of dollars in cash are handed out in Iraq with no accountability,” he said.

In an earlier report released in November 2007, the Inspector General had concluded that the Defense Department couldn’t properly account for over $5 billion in taxpayer funds spent in support of the Iraq Security Forces. It said that thousands of weapons, including assault rifles, machine guns, and rocket-propelled grenade launchers were unaccounted for, and millions of dollars had been squandered on construction projects that did not exist.

Ugones testimony gave detailed examples of the bizarre manner in which US defense officials doled out huge amounts of money without recording where it was going. In one case a sum of $320 million was paid an Iraqi official for paying salaries with only an incompletely filled voucher signed by one official. Since no details of the spending plan were attached as required by Pentagon rules the auditors have no clue as to where the money went. This payment was made from assets seized from Iraq.

Auditors found that the Pentagon gave away $1.8 billion from seized Iraqi assets. There were 53 vouchers noting these payments but not even one adequately explained where the money went.

In another instance, two vouchers, one for $5 million and the other for $2.7 million showed payments to a vendor for goods and services provided except that there were no details of what goods or services were actually delivered.

Over $2.7 billion was spent on providing equipment and services to the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF). The auditors found that $2 billion of this was not properly accounted for. For example, 31 heavy tracked recovery vehicles costing $10.2 million were given to the ISF, but 18 of them could not be traced because identification numbers were not recorded.

Copyright Times Of India

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. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

3 former Gitmo Prisoners to address US audience

Dandelion Salad


Democracy Now!

Three Former Gitmo Prisoners to Address US Audience in Historic EventThis weekend, three former Guantanamo prisoners will talk for the first time to a US audience about their prison experiences. We speak to Almerindo Ojeda, UC Davis professor and principal investigator with the Guantanamo Testimonials Project, a UC Davis-based effort to catalog accounts of prisoner abuse.

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Sami al-Hajj returns to Al Jazeera

Sami al-Hajj

Horrors We Have No Choice But To Forget By Robert Fisk

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By Robert Fisk
05/31/08 “The Independent

I have a clear memory of a terrible crime that was committed in southern Lebanon in 1978. Israeli soldiers, landing at night on the beach near Sarafand – the city of Sarepta in antiquity – were looking for “terrorists” and opened fire on a car load of female Palestinian refugees.

It took the Israelis a day before they admitted shooting at the car with an anti-tank weapons, by which time I had watched civil defence workers pulling the dead women from the vehicle, their faces slopping off on to the road, an AP correspondent holding his hands to his face in shock, leaning against an ambulance, crying “Jesus Christ! Jesus Christ. I suppose all this is because of what Hitler did to the Jews.” Save for his remark, however, all I remember is silence. As if the whole scene was muted, sound smothered by the dead.

Yet I was running a tape recorder for part of the time, and when I listened to the old tape again a few days ago, I could hear many women, weeping, cars passing, honking horns above the shrieks of grief. My own original notes state, in my handwriting, that “a throng of women stood crying and wailing”. Yet all I remember now is silence. A child was on a stretcher, cut in half, a girl in the back seat of the car, curled in death into the arms of an older woman. But silence.

I was reminded of all this by an especially powerful interview conducted at Cannes with the Israeli director Ari Folman, who has made a remarkable film – Waltz with Bashir – about Israel’s later, 1982 invasion of Lebanon and about the “collective amnesia” of the soldiers who participated in this hopeless adventure.

Bashir Gemayel was the name of Israel’s favourite Christian Maronite militia leader who was elected president but almost immediately assassinated. It’s an animated film – a film of cartoons, if you like – because Folman is trying to fill in the empty space which the war occupies in his mind. Because he can’t remember it.

“I never talked about my army service,” Folman said. “I got on with my life without talking about it, without thinking about it. It was like something I didn’t want to be connected with whatsoever.” In one astonishing scene, Israeli soldiers come ashore in Lebanon – only to find that there is no one there. They are entering an empty country, washed clean of memory.

Alas, Lebanon was not empty; more than 17,000 Lebanese and Palestinians, almost all civilians, died in that terrible war, and at the end of Folman’s movie, the animation turns to reality with photographs of some of the 1,700 Palestinian dead of the Sabra and Chatila massacre, murdered by Israel’s Phalangist allies while the Israelis watched from high-rise buildings. It is Folman’s dream that this film should be shown in an Arab country – given the dotage and stupidity of most Arab ministers, that is surely a hope that will not be realised – but it did almost win the Palme d’Or at Cannes.

Amnesia is real. And it afflicts us all. But it is also a block to memory. Take my old letter-writing friend, poet Don Newton. He dropped me a note the other day, asking why humans have to create wars and mentioning, at the start, that he remembered the Second World War and, in 1944, Germany’s V2 missiles. What grabbed me by the throat, however, was the penultimate paragraph of his letter, written with an eloquence I cannot match – and whose power and suddenness will shock you, as readers, just as it shocked me. This is what Don wrote:

“I saw some of my friends killed around me when I was 12, when a V2 punched into the road near where we were playing … I was lucky and survived but ran over the road to find my father lying dead by our front gate. He looked for all the world like a grey, dusty broken puppet with his left arm laying next to him. It had been sliced off just above the elbow by a piece of shrapnel that had also cut through the oak gatepost behind him.

“Strangely enough, that sight seems to have wiped from my conscious mind all but a handful of memories of him and those are mostly unpleasant in their associations, like the time I burst into the toilet when I was only six, to find him sitting reading a newspaper, and blurted out that my younger brother by a year had been run over. Peter died in hospital the next day without ever recovering consciousness. This ‘amnesia’ is, I suppose, a defence mechanism but I find it weird and unable to break. I am struggling to put this problem into a poem and, hopefully, when it is out on paper maybe the fog will clear?”

I find this letter – horror and the mundane inextricably, unbelievably mixed together – unanswerable. The V2 explosion turns into a father’s death, the interruption in the lavatory into a child’s death. And a poem to clear the amnesia? Only a poet could suggest that. I didn’t see my father die but I was sitting beside my own mother when she died from the results of Parkinson’s. My memory is clear – she choked on her own saliva because she could no longer clear her throat – and I do remember sitting by her body and thinking (and here I quote another Israeli, a fine and brilliant novelist), “I’m next!”

So I turned, of course, to a haiku in Don’s latest collection of poetry, The Soup Stone, called “Mum’s Death, 1982” – the same date as Folman’s Israeli invasion when he (and I) were trying to stay alive in Lebanon:

“Just sitting, waiting,

For your last slow breath.

Suddenly – it’s here.”

Which is about as close to death as you can get in verse. And there really is a silence at the end.

Robert Fisk’s new book, ‘The Age of the Warrior: Selected Writings’, a selection of his Saturday columns in ‘The Independent’, is published by Fourth Estate

Copyright The Independent

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. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

George Monbiot tries to citizen arrest John Bolton!

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Democracy Now.

Alleging War Crimes, British Activist, Writer George Monbiot Attempts Citizen’s Arrest on Former UN Ambassador John Bolton
John Bolton, the former US ambassador to the United Nations, escaped a citizen’s arrest Wednesday night as he addressed an audience in Britain. We speak to George Monbiot, the British activist and columnist who tried to arrest Bolton. Monbiot says
I almost had a tear in my eye with i saw this.

Bolton is a war criminal for his role in helping to initiate the US invasion of Iraq.

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