Brazil, USA, Dems, the Glass Ceiling … & Democracy

June 17th, 2016

— Reflections on Mark Weisbrot’s The Brazilian Coup and Washington’s “Rollback” in Latin America and our notions of democracy — here, and abroad

Glass Ceiling? … On Women Presidents?
•  The USA (Power, Parties & Media) talks a lot about possibly getting its first female president, even while it is totally silent as the first woman president of Brazil is being illegally removed from office … with our help.

— Deceit & hypocrisy, anyone?

Weisbrot spoke of seeing newly-elected Lula in Porto Alegre at the World Social Forum, standing under a sign denouncing U.S. war plans in Iraq. It was actually January 2003, though, not 2002, Mark.

Attending that Social Forum, there were organizations and NGO’s from all over the globe. That included the U.S. Green Party. There was no representation, however, from the United States’ Democratic Party to such a world-wide Peoples’ Event. Nor that year, nor ever, … and we should be mindful of that fact.

• It was a few months later that in Miami, Clinton, Dems and friends faced off with the AFL-CIO & other pro-labor groups (including the Green Party) to push for yet another NAFTA-type “trade” agreement—the FTAA—and its thoroughly undemocratic deals leading to their culmination in today’s TPP. For the first time at a U.S. public event, we saw a military-equipped police force (armed and dressed by the Iraq war budget) throw senior citizens and others to the ground for … protesting.

• At one public event in Miami, union leaders, ever-loyal to their precious DNC, prevented both Dennis Kucinich and Ralph Nader from being allowed as speakers at the main rally. I attended the meetings where that prohibition was decided, albeit against many opposing votes. Ultimately, Dems went on to screw their union “friends'” positions (despite their displayed loyalty) on the trade deal, just as it had done so many times before. All led … by … Clinton.

Unionists warned Greens at the Rally, “you had better not ‘spoil’ the next election, running your own candidate” even as they themselves had censored the best speakers available for the event.

— SO, very little new has happened this year with the Democratic Party … though the specific Clinton has changed. They still betray workers and attack or silence anyone who DEFENDS the working class and questions our oligarchic status quo.

— The Sanders phenomenon indicates the first wide-spread skepticism and revolt in decades. Even Carter says we live in an oligarchy and not a democracy. And was Bernie ATTACKED now, as were Kucinich & Nader in 2000 & 2003? Any doubts? See a pattern?

— Sanders was indeed attacked … by the PARTY … and by the Media. Certain subjects are taboo for the oligarchic-owned Dems in oligarchic-run USA. In 16 years we see things have only gotten WORSE! Yet the deaf & dumb Hillbots are still out there telling us that WE … are a threat.

Glass Ceiling? … Thoughts On Women Presidents.

Today, the U.S. (the one envisioned by Hillary) is mum on the Coup currently occurring in our largest Southern neighbor and ally, Brazil. They were a bit more vocal and evident in Honduras. While the outcome in Brazil is as yet unknown, our government has obscenely abandoned supporting democratic principles there, to encourage new policies of the “temporary” government which, among other things, make Brazilian resources readily available to buy.

— It appears our own government wants to head back to the days of Latin America staying in our back yard, minding our orders. That is also the way that Democrats rule, so it seems.

•  The USA (power, parties & media) talks of getting its first female president, even as it is totally silent while the first woman president in Brazil is being illegally removed … with our help.

— Deceit & hypocrisy, anyone?

see: The Brazilian Coup and Washington’s “Rollback” in Latin America

History and Responsibility — A Lesson for July 4th

June 22nd, 2014

[ NOTE: This was published on the OpEdNews website in July 2008, and is based upon the original article written near another July 4, while working as a media coordinator at Florida International University, circa 1997.
— Much of this still seems quite relevant today.  ]

Some things I heard at work the last few days has caused me to reflect on some basic issues about our society and the upcoming “birthday bash” of the USA. Some people were complaining that it’s going pretty hard on middle class white citizens these days. Hard to get a job. Pushy Latinos. Arrogant blacks. People in positions of power they don’t deserve. You know and I know, I was told, that sometimes we’re better qualified for those jobs. But they get them. As I sought a way to counter those views with reason and with clarity, I came face-to-face with … history.

We need a new sense of history. Our pioneer past and our technological present leave each one of us as separated points (thousands of them), not a fabric. The concept of news with its immediacy (not to mention market value) suspends us in time like unfolding chapters of a cosmic soap opera, the next chapter of which now lies in the mind of the Author, dependent solely upon his will and his mood.

“How did we Get Here?” one might ask. “What does it matter? We’re here now!” seems to be the common reply. “Forget that old stuff. Lighten up. Today is the First day of the Rest of your Life,” goes the popular wisdom. That might well be a useful perspective for personal history, but it doesn’t quite work that way for a society. The crisis of not knowing what History is, nor how to interpret it, comes down upon us heavily and repeatedly. And—yes—does affect our individual lives.

The notion that somehow we, as a nation, have escaped History, together with the tradition/myth of independence and self-reliance, gives rise to thinking that we are not responsible for the way things turned out, nor for correcting them, unless we choose to do so as an act of good will.

Thus, the concepts of reparations or affirmative action are often seen by the white majority to be generally unfair, individual acts which would be better seen and judged on a one-to-one basis. The thought that something might have happened in the past which explains the present conditions is not usually acceptable. Historical responsibility is unfortunately either barely understood or incomprehensible. If, as “common sense” dictates, each man is responsible for himself and his own destiny, how is it possible that we should give special privileges to some? Do we dare presume that everyone starts out on equal footing?

Here is one of the great ironies of any debate on racism and responsibility: it is taken as a given in mainstream American social ideology that the individual trumps the common or collective. Many writers and politicians use this “principle of individual merit” to denounce social efforts such as affirmative action or reparations, and claim each instance must be seen individually, each case judged on own its merit. Those admirable individual strengths of any European who just stepped off the boat, might well stand him in good stead, even while overcoming hardships, yet a black man in similar circumstances would likely have his individuality entirely dismissed from over 50 yards away. Deep-rooted racism permits the hypocrisy of the mainstream embracing the collective when it comes to punishment, and have that trump the individual should he be black.

However, a hundred fifty years ago, or ninety, or thirty, or ten, there were any number of real, individual, unfair and unthinkable acts committed by real people in their own time, who also thought little of the past, much less the future. Those acts, those countless acts of repression, torture, horror, separation, and degradation—to the degree of not allowing black people to learn to read or even possess their own names—have had long term effects. They violated the most basic principle given as the reason for founding this nation and society: Equality. Equality to be, to know, to have opportunities—the famous “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

What many fail to realize is that that entire heritage, that history came about through the real (if often inflated) “histories” and actions of real people in a real struggle over real conditions which plagued them in their own times. What they left to us (or to anyone who cares to know), are not bedtime stories, but rather the stories of the values they had felt compelled to fight for. We like to wave the banner that we contend stands for those acts and those values. As we do so again this year, we should be aware of the struggles and sacrifices necessary for all of us to continue to stand for those principles for all our citizens.

This July 4th, you can do something significant for yourself and for your friends. Remind each other that history is not just a funny hat that someone once wore, or a talking robot at Disney World; remember, rather, that it is the sum total of what people did each day over the years. To those who say, “It’s not my fault—my ancestors didn’t have slaves!” point out to them that they lived in an economy that did. For those who claim, “I’m not to blame—my grandparents came from Ireland (or Lithuania, or Spain),” remind them that at the time they came here seeking a new life, whether they knew it or not, they were coming to a country that already had a historic debt to pay, and likely fleeing one whose debt was too big to pay.

You might not have contributed to the historical debt, but when the time comes to “pay it off,” would you rather do so with dignity and conscience, or in the streets, with pain, loss, and blood?

A. Kobrin

Author’s NOTE: This is based upon an article written near another earlier July 4, while working as a media coordinator at Florida International University (FIU), circa 1997. It was “resurrected” when the 2008 N’COBRA (National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations) Conference was held at FIU. Reparations, one of America’s “forbidden thoughts” (nod to Chomsky), one of many taboo topics that until touched and examined deeply, will always keep America at arm’s length from acknowledging, confronting and dealing with its Reality.

# # # #
— The author is an educator, web consultant, photographer, visual anthropologist, and acivist who seeks a re-dedication to democracy through participation; he has been active in a number of local organizations, and the Green Party.


“They Hate Us for Our Freedoms”

April 3rd, 2014

“They Hate Us for Our Freedoms.”

When W. Bush pronounced this about supposed cave-dewlling adversaries out to destroy the fundaments of our democracy, how many thought this might as well refer to the U.S. Supreme Court?

Apparently, there were earthquakes in both Chile and Washington, D.C. today.

– – – – – – – – – –

These two pieces in CommonDreams give a taste of what SCOTUS has in mind for this year’s definition of “democracy.”

Robert Jensen’s reflections on Thanksgiving

November 28th, 2013

Thanksgiving Anxieties, Political and Personal — the holiday taken with a grain or two of salt.

In his op-ed piece below, Robert Jensen, journalism professor from Austin, wonders: “Don’t many of us feel just a bit uncomfortable with a holiday that is defined by obligatory family gatherings that often cover up unresolved strife and/or apathy; thoughtless overeating simply because so much food is available; spectacle sports that have become painfully close to Roman gladiator contests; and relentless consumption that often involves buying stuff that many people don’t really want and no one really needs?”

Thanksgiving Anxieties, Political and Personal

Tuesday, November 26, 2013
By Robert Jensen, a Truthout Op-Ed

“Are you the guy who hates Thanksgiving?”

The man posing that question on my voicemail continued with a sharply critical comment about one of the essays I have written in recent years about the holocaust-denial that is at the heart of that U.S. holiday. My first reaction was not to argue but to amend: “I don’t hate Thanksgiving—I just think it’s appropriate to critique a celebration that obscures the reality of the European conquest of the Americas.”

That description is accurate, at one level—my rejection of Thanksgiving is more intellectual than emotional, a political decision to reject that distortion of history. Whatever the actual details of the 1621 celebration involving Pilgrims and Wampanoag Indians (and there is ongoing debate about various factual claims), Thanksgiving is one way the dominant culture minimizes or denies the larger historical context of Europeans’ genocidal campaign against indigenous people to acquire the land base of the United States. Without that genocide, there is no United States. For the victors’ descendants to take a day off to give thanks without acknowledging that seems, well, just a bit sociopathic.

I have taken several cracks at making this case, from several different angles,

“No Thanks to Thanksgiving”

“Why We Shouldn’t Celebrate Thanksgiving”

“How I Stopped Hating Thanksgiving and Learned to Be Afraid”

“The Meaning of Thanksgiving”

and I continue to believe the argument is sound and that we should all take it seriously. Until we can tell the truth about our history, there is little hope for the future. But rather than restate that case, this year I’m thinking more about the questions raised by that one word, “hate.”

I recognize that my discomfort with Thanksgiving can’t be explained completely by a judgment based on an intellectual argument. I don’t hate Thanksgiving, in some irrational way, but it’s true that as an adult I have never really much enjoyed the holiday, even before I developed a clear political critique. Some of the sources of that discomfort are mundane: I’m a vegetarian who comes from a dysfunctional family, and I don’t care for football or shopping. So, a holiday identified with turkey and traveling home doesn’t have much to offer me. I get by just fine without the NFL, and the increasingly inescapable connection between Thanksgiving and the beginning of the pathological consumption cycle known as “Christmas shopping” makes me surly.

OK, so maybe I do hate Thanksgiving, but my critics should at least recognize there are some perfectly rational reasons behind the emotional reaction. As with most human responses, the intellectual and emotional elements are intertwined and hard to tease apart. If I can acknowledge that about my critique of Thanksgiving, it seems only fair that the staunch defenders of the holiday do the same. Is not the intense defense of Thanksgiving also in some ways an emotional reaction?

And, if those of us on different sides of the Thanksgiving divide can recognize the complexity of our reactions, can we consider whether there are any shared values before concentrating on disagreements? I feel alienated from the dominant culture on Thanksgiving, not because I dislike the idea of gathering with others to give thanks but because of both the larger political context (about which I recognize my critics and I disagree) and an increasingly numbed culture (about which my critics and I may find common concerns).

In other words: Don’t many of us feel just a bit uncomfortable with a holiday that is defined by obligatory family gatherings that often cover up unresolved strife and/or apathy; thoughtless overeating simply because so much food is available; spectacle sports that have become painfully close to Roman gladiator contests; and relentless consumption that often involves buying stuff that many people don’t really want and no one really needs? Of course not everyone in the United States has access to all these markers of affluence, but these Thanksgiving Day routines are more the norm than aberration.

These reflections are not confined to one day; we live in this corrosive culture 365 days a year. For me, much of what is considered “normal” in the United States isn’t very appealing. I think we eat too much cheap food, are spectators to too much cheap entertainment, and buy too much stuff (some of it cheap and some expensive, but all costly to the larger living world). And many people struggle with family dynamics that are stuck in unresolved pathologies which quietly coerce people into ignoring problems for the sake of family “harmony.”

I have long felt that at the heart of Thanksgiving is a denial of reality and an exercise in numbing ourselves, individually and as a culture. I am not claiming that everyone’s celebration of Thanksgiving is defined by these negatives; individual experiences vary widely, of course. But the alienation I’m describing is not hard to understand, and not limited to a few surly people on the margins.

And whatever one’s personal relationship to the holiday, the political question remains: Why is it “normal” in the United States to celebrate a holiday that is based on a profound distortion of history? That kind of inquiry should lead us to related questions.

— Why is it “normal” to embrace the hierarchy and wealth inequality of corporate capitalism, even though most of us claim to hold moral and/or theological principles that are rooted in the centrality of human dignity, equality, and solidarity? How compatible is capitalism with the values that are essential to a decent human community?

— Why is it “normal” to assert that we are the world’s most advanced democracy, without acknowledging that the concentration of wealth in the U.S. economy has left most of the population outside of the formal political process? Are capitalism and democracy compatible?

— Why is it “normal” to express concern about environmental issues without ever questioning an economic system that is obsessed with the very growth that is undermining the integrity of the ecosystems on which are own lives depend? Is capitalism compatible with a sustainable human presence on the planet?

I do not believe there are simple answers to those political questions but I’m pretty sure they are relevant questions, and I can’t imagine dealing honestly with the steadily mounting problems of social injustice and ecological unsustainability unless we face such questions. I’m also pretty sure that my personal reaction to Thanksgiving raises relevant questions about our family relationships and culture that also demand an honest accounting.

And I am absolutely certain that in both political and personal arenas, denial is an impediment to meaningful progress. If we can’t deal honestly with these problems, it’s unlikely that we will have much to give thanks for in the years to come.

Robert Jensen is a professor in the School of Journalism at the University of Texas at Austin and board member of the Third Coast Activist Resource Center in Austin. He is the author of Arguing for Our Lives: A User’s Guide to Constructive Dialogue (City Lights, 2013); and We Are All Apocalyptic Now: On the Responsibilities of Teaching, Preaching, Reporting, Writing, and Speaking Out.

On SUFFICIENCY in Surveillance-Land

November 19th, 2013

Out-of-control SPYING is needed in a world by those whose false values and processes are destructive and dangerous to the vast majority, and produce natural self-defensive opposition by those simply seeking to live a decent life.

Among the most blind-sided values venerated by run-amok profiteers, is EFFICIENCY. So much of our world has bowed down before that deity.

“SUFFICIENCY,” on the other hand, is about getting what we NEED, not necessarily whatever we CAN. This has been clearly shown in a metaphor by the brilliant author and analyst Jeremy Rifkin. My wife, he said, is looking for her husband to be there for her in many ways, not merely as an efficient man. Efficiency is quite a different beast from sufficiency. With an enormously different outcome. It can be, and often is, totally divorced from both quality and desirability.

EFFICIENCY — getting the MOST, for the LEAST effort — very often completely misjudges Reality and Costs, though it pretends to be the best way to act. It often is a highly misused and distorted concept, twisted to justify the desires of some at the expense of others. It can be “efficient” to have and control cheap workers. It is not efficient to BE one.

Yes. Our Economic Wizards, our god-like self-declared “Masters of Profit and Loss” RARELY understand the most basic of notions … COST! Funny, isn’t it?

They IGNORE, or often don’t even SEE, any of the SOCIAL COSTS — those costs produced by their profit-making processes which are left for the surrounding society to pay. Like cleaning up runoff poisons dumped as “waste by-products” into our water supply. These are the costs of … Cleaning Up Their Messes. These may well be the result of their manufacturing (for their profits) — but they let the Public pay for it! Social costs.

How could they miss such a Basic Element while calculating their “bottom-lines”?
• Is it gross economic incompetence?
• Perhaps, they just like it that way, or,
• They might prefer it as simply cheaper — even though it is neither correct nor fair, or
• maybe, … they just don’t care.

That might make some of them liars, socio-paths, thieves, or worse.

How about the incredible health costs incurred by so many folks ingesting highly-promoted, and lowly-nutritious junk food lining our supermarket shelves?

NOTE: Dismissing the REAL Costs of Social Costs is not unlike dismissing Collateral Damage of drones. This is a Symptom of literally Delusional, Self-Righteous, Morally Bankrupt elements in a society.

“Let someone else pay,” they say. “Let them eat cake.”

Going forward, we should seek SUFFICIENCY — for a truly sane, solid, and sustainable world.

Syria: Once again, the attack is upon us, as well.

September 6th, 2013

Words are what have gotten Obama into a difficult dilemma according to an article by Prof. Adil Shamoo, Forget Red Lines: Obama Should Eat His Words on Syria (in Foreign Policy in Focus via CommonDreams ). He should never have toyed with the “RedLine” metaphor and created the challenge to his credibility. That’s wrong, I’m afraid. That analysis is too personal about Obama, and almost forgiving. This is much bigger than one man, and one narrow focus on an incident.

credibility-msg-kid-dunesThis ain’t about words, Prof. Shamoo. Not directly. Not the words being said. Though it DOES concern a considerable LACK of, and misuse of, words. Far too much remains unspoken, unknowable to an anxious world, and specifically to a nation expected to foot the bills and suffer the consequences of this latest iteration of World Moral Police Syndrome.

The U.S. desire and willingness to go and engage militarily in Syria has its own impetus which is simply not being stated. The wordly debate and Congressional charade is ONLY about FINDING the verbal justifications/excuses that will satisfy enough Americans’ anxieties to “get away with” moving forward — strong enough to mask the real intentions, whatever they may be (proximity to Iran, most likely). It smacks of the period of WMD’s and mushroom clouds which preceded the invasion of Iraq.

Face it. Rather than poorly chosen words, this is all about hypocrisy and lies, and masking the true faces and motivations of the decision-makers, and decision-making institutions. It’s all just behind the Blue Curtain. Our fate in the hands of a closed Mystery Inquisitorial Collective, shaping the destinies of peoples, and the destinations of resources. Any wonder why they are SO concerned with secrecy? The U.S. has quite a long history of using, storing, selling and delivering varieties of chemical weapons used in at least Japan, Korea, Vietnam, and Iraq. THAT’S the Hypocrisy and lies part missing from the sweet-sounding public words. Oh such false indignation in Kerry’s words. Has he no shame? As to WHO ELSE is behind this, and WHY (and I don’t mean the elected officials who may end up backing it, but rather the faceless ones who are twisting their arms or lining their pockets), THAT is the real reason they are putting whistleblowers in jails, while giving preemptive pardons to war criminals.

Death, pain and destruction in a foreign land, silence in your own. Here we go, making new friends again. Is this not enough to shame the moral patina from the pretenses coming out of the mouths of our so-called leaders. Why aren’t the churches admonishing the war-makers? Clearly, Death and Destruction is fine if done THEIR way, but telling the public about it or filming it and publishing details online can put one in jail.

Newspeak — words, not as meaningful concepts, but as flimsy shields to deflect unwanted criticism and complications from exposing often vicious plans.

That our supposedly law-abiding officials who swore an oath to a Constitution they repeatedly ignore and dilute, feel neither the need for national consensus to do something that further destroys our domestic economy and breaks international treaties which we have signed into law, and, in fact, may violate the current national consensus, is a worrisome large-scale departure from the rule of law and democratic principles. Only wisdom and knowledge is required to find solutions, not ego-posturing and macho brinksmanship. This is as embarrassing as it is dangerous.

Let My People Vote! … but don’t let them hear WHAT their voting for …

September 25th, 2012


Sara Silverman takes on Voter ID laws which make it harder for likely Democratic voters to get to cast their ballots in November (on CommonDreams). Sounds good, right? Her spiel is cute and hip, as well. Check it out.
 JUST ONE THING, however … if you’re gonna get emotionally involved in her appeal, then you should be aware of these OTHER things, as well. Please be patient, however, and read through my comments, which follow. The Title of her original piece was “Let My People Vote.”
How about THIS, Sarah: “Let All People Be Fully Informed, … then Allowed to Vote — Fairly” Can you wrap your head, and skit, around THAT?  Cuteness Does Not Make Right (at least not yet).

= = = = = = = = = = =

MY Comment to her piece on CommonDreams:

 = = = = = = = = = = =

Oh, so very CUTE … and informative. Thanks Sarah! Whodathunkit: that Republicans would try to use “legal-sounding” tricks to “profile” who gets an obstacle to voting!! SHAMEFUL.

Democrats — you’re being abused again to lessen your share of the Power. Democrats wouldn’t use their influence to stop people from participating in the election process — WOULD they?

Well, ok, ONLY if the ideas were coming from some insignificant “Third Party” whose notions on sustainable development, free and fair education, free and fair elections, punishing Banksters, and stopping illegal drone bombing and wars would upset the Corporate Apple Cart.

Historically, it seems the Democrats have done whatever was necessary to prevent smaller (and of course poorer) parties like the Green Party from gathering signatures and getting on the ballot. Surprised? They used ridiculously high numbers of signatures and interminable challenges to those signatures by well-paid lawyers. Dems have tried to stop Ballot Initiatives that would reform election practices, such as Clean Elections (publicly-funded), and Instant Runoff Voting which guarantees that only a Majority (50+) can win. Also, they have collaborated with their supposed adversaries, the Republicans, to prevent Greens and others from participating in Nationally Televised Debates, where topics off the Corporate Agenda might get brought up before the Public Eye: Items like our War Budget, the XL Pipeline, BP’s actions in the Gulf, Wall Street’s sweet deals, etc.

YES. Cry Foul, Sarah. Democrats might even agree enough to do something about those bad “laws” and make Voting FAIR again, right? But wait!? Weren’t the 2000 and 2004 elections STOLEN via dirty tricks in Florida, Ohio, and elsewhere? And didn’t Dems not even complain back then? Hmmm …

Here we are, in the good ‘ol USA, given a choice to select between the ideas and programs of Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.

But WHAT if you wished to show your OPPOSITION to BOTH their plans, like their Aggressive & Illegal foreign policies for our nation, or their joint opposition to a REAL National not-for-profit Healthcare Plan (like Single-Payer) for everyone??

… Oh, … just CAN it, right, Sarah? Save it for some OTHER election — just be overjoyed you got to cast a ballot at all!!

As for actually getting to VOTE for the IDEAS you truly believe in, well … some other time, maybe.

For all your efforts, Sarah, You deserve a medal from the Lesser-of-Two-Evils Society. Maybe even a statue.

Severe distortion over “patriotism.”

December 26th, 2011

“Severe” is actually mild. Those that overuse the term, like to define it for the rest of us. It is past time for the 99% to re-appropriate our own vocabulary, and use it as we  see fit to describe a world of living beings, not just of things and territories.

I’d first like to make clear these thoughts on the Manning “case” that Prof. Cohn writes about:

What MORE could you do FOR your country than expose the lies and deceit meted out by usurping power brokers at the top.

ALL the talk about the Founding Fathers, freedom, the Constitution, Bill of Rights and so on which functioned as a socio-political “glue” and Narrative for over 2 centuries, is personified by the selfless acts of Bradley Manning, a man to be respected, admired, emulated — and FREED.


Published on Sunday, December 25, 2011 by

Bradley Manning: A Hero, Not a Traitor

by Marjorie Cohn

The end of U.S. military involvement in Iraq coincided with Bradley Manning’s military hearing to determine whether he will face court-martial for exposing U.S. war crimes by leaking hundreds of thousands of pages of classified documents to Wikileaks. In fact, there is a connection between the leaks and U.S. military withdrawal from Iraq.

When he announced that the last U.S. troops would leave Iraq by year’s end, President Barack Obama declared the nine-year war a “success” and “an extraordinary achievement.” He failed to mention why he opposed the Iraq war from the beginning. He didn’t say that it was built on lies about mushroom clouds and non-existent ties between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda. Obama didn’t cite the Bush administration’s “Plan for Post-Saddam Iraq,” drawn up months before 9/11, about which Former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill reported that actual plans “were already being discussed to take over Iraq and occupy it – complete with disposition of oil fields, peacekeeping forces, and war crimes tribunals – carrying forward an unspoken doctrine of preemptive war.”

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta also defended the war in Iraq, making the preposterous claim that, “As difficult as [the Iraq war] was,” including the loss of American and Iraqi lives, “I think the price has been worth it, to establish a stable government in a very important region of the world.”

The price that Panetta claims is worth it includes the deaths of nearly 4,500 Americans and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. It includes untold numbers wounded – with Traumatic Brain Injury and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – and suicides, as well as nearly $1 trillion that could have prevented the economic disaster at home.

The price of the Iraq war also includes thousands of men who have been subjected to torture and abuse in places like Abu Ghraib prison. It includes the 2005 Haditha Massacre, in which U.S. Marines killed 24 unarmed civilians execution-style. It includes the Fallujah Massacre, in which U.S. forces killed 736 people, at least 60% of them women and children. It includes other war crimes committed by American troops in Qaim, Taal Al Jal, Mukaradeeb, Mahmudiya, Hamdaniyah, Samarra, Salahuddin, and Ishaqi.

The price of that war includes two men killed by the Army’s Lethal Warriors in Al Doura, Iraq, with no evidence that they were insurgents or posed a threat. One man’s brains were removed from his head and another man’s face was skinned after he was killed by Lethal Warriors. U.S. Army Ranger John Needham, who was awarded two purple hearts and three medals for heroism, wrote to military authorities in 2007 reporting war crimes that he witnessed being committed by his own command and fellow Lethal Warriors in Al Doura. His charges were supported by atrocity photos which have been released by Pulse TV and Maverick Media in the new video by Cindy Piester, “On the Dark Side in Al Doura – A Soldier in the Shadows.” []. CBS reported obtaining an Army document from the Criminal Investigation Command suggestive of an investigation into these war crimes allegations. The Army’s conclusion was that the “offense of War Crimes did not occur.”

One of the things Manning is alleged to have leaked is the “Collateral Murder” video which depicts U.S. forces in an Apache helicopter killing 12 unarmed civilians, including two Reuters journalists, and wounding two children. People trying to rescue the wounded were also fired upon and killed. A U.S. tank drove over one body, cutting the man in half.

The actions of American soldiers shown in that video amount to war crimes under the Geneva Conventions, which prohibit targeting civilians, preventing the rescue of the wounded, and defacing dead bodies.

Obama proudly took credit for ending U.S. military involvement in Iraq. But he had tried for months to extend it beyond the December 31, 2011 deadline his predecessor negotiated with the Iraqi government. Negotiations between Obama and the Iraqi government broke down when Iraq refused to grant criminal and civil immunity to U.S. troops.

It was after seeing evidence of war crimes such as those depicted in “Collateral Murder” and the “Iraq War Logs,” also allegedly leaked by Manning, that the Iraqis refused to immunize U.S. forces from prosecution for their future crimes. When I spoke with Tariq Aqrawi, Iraq’s ambassador to the United Nations, at a recent international human rights film festival in Vienna, he told me that if they granted immunity to Americans, they would have to do the same for other countries as well.

Manning faces more than 30 charges, including “aiding the enemy” and violations of the Espionage Act, which carry the death penalty. After a seven day hearing, during which the prosecution presented evidence that Manning leaked cables and documents, there was no evidence that leaked information imperiled national security or that Manning intended to aid the enemy with his actions.

On the contrary, in an online chat attributed to Manning, he wrote, “If you had free reign over classified networks… and you saw incredible things, awful things… things that belonged in the public domain, and not on some server stored in a dark room in Washington DC… what would you do?”

He went on to say, “God knows what happens now.  Hopefully worldwide discussion, debates, and reforms… I want people to see the truth… because without information, you cannot make informed decisions as a public.“

Manning has been held for 19 months in military custody. During the first nine months, he was kept in solitary confinement, which is considered torture as it can lead to hallucinations, catatonia and suicide. He was humiliated by being stripped naked and paraded before other inmates.

The U.S. government considers Manning one of America’s most dangerous traitors. Months ago, Obama spoke of Manning as if he had been proved guilty, saying, “he broke the law.” But Manning has not been tried, and is presumed innocent in the eyes of the law. If Manning had committed war crimes instead of exposing them, he would be a free man today. If he had murdered civilians and skinned them alive, he would not be facing the death penalty.

Besides helping to end the Iraq war, the leaked cables helped spark the Arab Spring. When people in Tunisia read cables revealing corruption by the ruling family there, they took to the streets.

If Manning did what he is accused of doing, he should not be tried as a criminal. He should be hailed as a national hero, much like Daniel Ellsberg, whose release of the Pentagon Papers helped to expose the government’s lies and end the Vietnam War.

Marjorie Cohn, a professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law and past President of the National Lawyers Guild, is the deputy secretary general for external communications of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers, and the U.S. representative to the executive committee of the American Association of Jurists. She is the author of Cowboy Republic: Six Ways the Bush Gang Has Defied the Law and co-author of Rules of Disengagement: The Politics and Honor of Military Dissent (with Kathleen Gilberd). Her anthology, The United States and Torture: Interrogation, Incarceration and Abuse, is now available. Her articles are archived at www.marjoriecohn.comArticle printed from

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Thanks for the Warning, Paul

December 3rd, 2011

On Friday, November 4, 2011, Paul Krugman published in the New York Times an article entitled, “Oligarchy, American Style” which pointed to the increasing concentration of wealth and power in the US. We definitely need more critical thought in our media. While Krugman is not the only “liberal” economist or columnist to recently come out swinging about the crisis in which the US, and frankly the world, finds itself, I was prompted to write this response, which might easily have been addressed to other commentators who are now increasingly concerned with the nation’s economic and political health and welfare, and disturbed by seeming inaction in Washington.

Well, it’s “awful nice” when someone with a reputation comes out and says the truth. Thank you, Paul.

In terms of the Reality of this situation, however, this seems to be a case of Too Little Too Late.

Why this late warning? The situation has become DIRE. It has been growing dire for … decades. What here was not calculable, predictable, visible long ago?


… because “Decision-Making” in America has become largely a question of Commerce and arm-twisting (when not neck-twisting — to the snapping point). People — many people — actually DIE due to this oligarchic little secret about who gets to decide nearlyeverything (food, water & air quality, medical treatment, what flows in our bloodstreams, who goes to jail, who can get into school, who gets a job or a house, should we go to war, etc.). Lobbyist-driven, rubber-stamping Congress Folk put on a spectacle, but who gets truly represented in this show? I don’t think it’s you or me.

So, what are we supposed to DO now if we want to save this “Democracy-Thingy” you say is now threatened?

During, lo, these decades of growing political encroachment on our lives and successive governments by the one-tenth-percent, exactly which of our political institutions even mentioned the danger to the Public, or suggested Resistance, or offered a Remedy? The Democratic Party — in which you and so many others seem to rely for “fairness” or something — not only did NOT point out to America that this derailment was taking place, but instead, chose to cover up the situation — PLUS they silenced or attacked anyone who dared bring up this uncomfortable topic of lost freedoms and usurped decision-making. To complicate this compromise, the “lesser-of-two-evils” party never saw a War-Machine Handout Benefit they didn’t just love, bless their patriotic souls. Trying, ever soooo hard, apparently, to keep America safe.

Anyone who commented on this sorry situation AS it was actually occurring over the decades, was ignored, called a kook or worse. Much worse. Witness Ralph Nader, Noam Chompsky, Howard Zinn, Cynthia McKinney, Dennis Kucinich and others. So, now that the house is ON fire, we get liberals suggesting maybe it’s time we switch to lighter clothing because the heat is getting a bit intense. Thanks.

So. WHAT Democracy is it, Mr. Krugman, that is in danger of being lost, hmmmm? Are we talking abut the same thing here? The one I know about, the one outlined in our Constitution, has been absent a LONG time…

More smoke and mirrors — time to learn to see straight.

November 26th, 2011

The Debt Ceiling “dilemma” is just the latest red herring served the American consumer public. More brutal, but just one more.


We have suffered decades, nay generations, from the fallout of the McCarthy Era which destroyed the thinking and analysis which could have created alternative organizing and ways of thinking to prevent where we are now.


Hate to disappoint so, my loyalist friends, but the role of the Democratic Party from its duplicitous dealings with labor unions and the working class to its abandonment of ERA, to its waffling on abortion, to its support of unbridled aggression, its unwillingness to clean up or punish real polluters, or treasury thefts for all that matter, its cutting deals with banking, pharmaceutical, agribusiness, insurance, telecoms, and arms giants, its embrace, or acceptance of, executive crimes, violations of the Constitution and torture — ALL of this, and more (if this weren’t enough) — is what has made this current “debt crisis” scenario possible. They have crippled all attempts at denouncing, much less stopping, the real culprits, refusing to identify our very real homegrown enemies. In this guise, they simply will NOT encourage any opposition, much less resistance. “Holding out hands to the ‘other side’,” they tell us, is a good thing. For WHOM, we must wonder. THAT is what has led us to this sad juncture.


All the while, Republican-leaning ideologues and corporate globalists painted their pictures, wrote their narratives, and cheered all along the way, using the media conglomerates at their disposal.


Dem leaders, on the other hand, swept their own paths clear of any folks aware enough or ready enough to speak out and actually DO something about our situation (Dennis Kucinich, Michael Moore, David Swanson, etc.). No sir, none of them “troublemakers” to interfere with an orderly process (of WHAT, we must ask).


This brought us, full of fireless, useless “hope,” to this deadly crossroads; and even today are afraid to say WHO is the real enemy of Democracy. It’s not determined by the rank ‘n’ file, but many of them still march loyally in lock-step, opening the way for Leaders who long ago sold out.


Without the heritage of those silenced by McCarthy & friends to help them “see” the world and its machinations, today’s Dems think they understand “loyalty”, but know nothing of History or its consequences.


We need to hear from new voices NOW and/or become them ourselves to find lasting solutions.