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    Monday
    Dec142015

    50 Years Later, Beyond Vietnam Still Applies  

              As the American Empire maintains its military presence in Afghanistan and Iraq, boosts operations in Syria, and expands its drone campaigns to the farthest reaches of the world, there appears to be no willingness amongst the leaders of this country to de-fund and scale down the imperialistic tendencies of our government.  Defunding our overseas enterprises, shutting down our military bases and outposts, and bringing our troops home would be a tremendous step forward for the United States and the people inhabiting the lands we are occupying.  A common response to those proposing a total withdrawal of U.S forces is:  “If we withdrawal now from Iraq and Afghanistan we’ll leave a power vacuum, we can’t just leave.”  In fact, we can just leave.  Aside from the fact that we’re not wanted in those places, that our intentions there are not to help the local populations, and that these wars have been based on lies and waged unconstitutionally, the U.S military has picked up land left war torn lands before.  Most notably, this happened in 50 years ago in Vietnam, which, up until Afghanistan and Iraq, was the longest running war in U.S history.  On April 4, 1987 (one year to the day before his assassination) Martin Luther King, Jr. gave a speech titled, Beyond Vietnam, at the Riverside Church in New York City.  In the speech, Dr. King offered a plan for withdrawal of U.S forces in Vietnam.  Excerpts from his speech, which should be listened to in it’s entirely by every American adult, are pasted below.  Almost everything he says about the U.S role in Vietnam can be applied to the current wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and increasingly, Syria.

     

     

    This I believe to be the privilege and the burden of all of us who deem ourselves bound by allegiances and loyalties which are broader and deeper than nationalism and which go beyond our nation’s self-defined goals and positions. We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for the victims of our nation, for those it calls “enemy,” for no document from human hands can make these humans any less our brothers.

    The only change came from America as we increased our troop commitments in support of governments which were singularly corrupt, inept, and without popular support. All the while the people read our leaflets and received the regular promises of peace and democracy and land reform. Now they languish under our bombs and consider us, not their fellow Vietnamese, the real enemy. They move sadly and apathetically as we herd them off the land of their fathers into concentration camps where minimal social needs are rarely met. They know they must move on or be destroyed by our bombs.

    Hanoi remembers how our leaders refused to tell us the truth about the earlier North Vietnamese overtures for peace, how the president claimed that none existed when they had clearly been made. Ho Chi Minh has watched as America has spoken of peace and built up its forces, and now he has surely heard the increasing international rumors of American plans for an invasion of the north. He knows the bombing and shelling and mining we are doing are part of traditional pre-invasion strategy. Perhaps only his sense of humor and of irony can save him when he hears the most powerful nation of the world speaking of aggression as it drops thousands of bombs on a poor, weak nation more than eight hundred, or rather, eight thousand miles away from its shores.

    I am convinced that if we are to get on to the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin, we must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

    If we continue, there will be no doubt in my mind and in the mind of the world that we have no honorable intentions in Vietnam. If we do not stop our war against the people of Vietnam immediately, the world will be left with no other alternative than to see this as some horrible, clumsy, and deadly game we have decided to play. The world now demands a maturity of America that we may not be able to achieve. It demands that we admit we have been wrong from the beginning of our adventure in Vietnam, that we have been detrimental to the life of the Vietnamese people. The situation is one in which we must be ready to turn sharply from our present ways. In order to atone for our sins and errors in Vietnam, we should take the initiative in bringing a halt to this tragic war.

    I would like to suggest five concrete things that our government should do to begin the long and difficult process of extricating ourselves from this nightmarish conflict:

    Number one: End all bombing in North and South Vietnam.

    Number two: Declare a unilateral cease-fire in the hope that such action will create the atmosphere for negotiation.

    Three: Take immediate steps to prevent other battlegrounds in Southeast Asia by curtailing our military buildup in Thailand and our interference in Laos.

    Four: Realistically accept the fact that the National Liberation Front has substantial support in South Vietnam and must thereby play a role in any meaningful negotiations and any future Vietnam government.

    Five: Set a date that we will remove all foreign troops from Vietnam in accordance with the 1954 Geneva Agreement.

    Part of our ongoing commitment might well express itself in an offer to grant asylum to any Vietnamese who fears for his life under a new regime which included the Liberation Front. Then we must make what reparations we can for the damage we have done. We must provide the medical aid that is badly needed, making it available in this country if necessary. Meanwhile, meanwhile, we in the churches and synagogues have a continuing task while we urge our government to disengage itself from a disgraceful commitment. We must continue to raise our voices and our lives if our nation persists in its perverse ways in Vietnam. We must be prepared to match actions with words by seeking out every creative method of protest possible.

    The war in Vietnam is but a symptom of a far deeper malady within the American spirit, and if we ignore this sobering reality, and if we ignore this sobering reality, we will find ourselves organizing “clergy and laymen concerned” committees for the next generation. They will be concerned about Guatemala and Peru. They will be concerned about Thailand and Cambodia. They will be concerned about Mozambique and South Africa. We will be marching for these and a dozen other names and attending rallies without end unless there is a significant and profound change in American life and policy.

    A true revolution of values will lay hand on the world order and say of war, “This way of settling differences is not just.” This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation’s homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into the veins of peoples normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice, and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.

    It is a sad fact that because of comfort, complacency, a morbid fear of communism, and our proneness to adjust to injustice, the Western nations that initiated so much of the revolutionary spirit of the modern world have now become the arch antirevolutionaries.

    Monday
    Dec072015

    Hope at the End of an Era, Why Islam Is Not the Problem, and Blowback

                On Thanksgiving, the Ron Paul Liberty Report episode was titled, “The Most Dangerous Time In Our History?”  Ron Paul talked about how, that as bad as the current geopolitical affairs are, they’re not as bad as they were during spikes in the Cold War.   Transcribed below is an excerpt from the end of the show, in which Dr. Paul outlines some basic rules that individual and nations could follow if they wanted to make the world a better place.

         We shouldn’t be all that disturbed that we are witnessing the chaos of the end of an era.  But, we also can be thankful that the end of an era that I lived through – and that was the Cold War, a Soviet system that had all these nuclear weapons, and we were up against each other over the Cuban crisis – you know, we got by those.  Sometimes the solutions come much easier than we ever dream. 

         But I do believe the only thing that can rectify all this is to have a growing number of people, especially young people, who will be moving into positons of leadership, understanding what personal liberty is all about, what it means that liberty is an individual event and that you have to follow a couple rules.

        One: You have to reject the notion that anybody or any government can ever initiate violence against somebody else to have their way.  And, boy, if they could just follow that rule. 

        And then it takes another thing that’s less prevalent today among some of our candidates and that’s a little bit of tolerance and understanding.   So if we have killed three million Muslims over the past fifteen years, we ought to recognize that and not think that all violence comes from the other side.  We have to be really very honest with ourselves.  To me that is what really counts, is honesty with ourselves and an honest approach to looking at the issues, but once you come to the conclusion that you believe in individual liberty and you believe in non-violence and you believe in tolerating other people who have different views and different religious views – as long as they’re not forcing their values on us – it would be a much better place and a much better world.  I think we’re further advance than we have ever been in the understanding of these issues, disregarding all the problems that are on the surface that motivate people to say that “we live in the most dangerous times ever.”  I think we live in one of the most exciting times ever, because, all of sudden, peace may break out and liberty may reign. 

             I’m going to follow-up on this transcription with an excerpt from another episode of the Liberty Report, this one from November 27th and titled “Myth-Busters! Things Are Not As Government Makes Them Seem.”  Here, Ron Paul addresses the fallacious notion that Islam is inherently violent, and that the United States, a largely Christian nation, has been victimized by pugnacious Muslim barbarians.  The excerpt transcribed here begins around the 6 min. point of the show:

          Chris Rossini:  Our argument is always that it’s a matter of foreign policy.  That a bunch of radical religious people are able to do a lot of what they do because nation-states are able to fund them and give them weapons to carry-out a lot of these atrocities.  We could go all the way, even further than this, but we could start during the 1980’s when Ronald Regan decided to intervene and back the Mujahedeen with Osama bin Laden to get the Soviets out of Afghanistan.  Of course that was none of the U.S’s business, and Osama bin Laden then went on to start Al-Qaeda, and Al-Qaeda branched out into ISIS.  Please, Dr. Paul, talk about how the big worry is U.S foreign policy, and other governments too, in funding and creating these monsters that now the government is asked to stop.




    Footage of former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski cheerleading for the Afghan Mujahadeen in 1979.

         Dr. Paul:  Okay, I’ll do that, but first I’ll put my priority where I think the biggest problem is, and that’s the size and growth of our government and the undermining of our personal liberties.  But that’s very much connected to your question about what’s going on with our foreign policy, how that is a source of many of our problems, and why ISIS is not the sole cause of the problem.  Yes, our policies have encouraged the growth of radicalism, but what has happened is because there are some radicals, there are some actually that we support.  You indicated the Mujahedeen and the Taliban – we’ve supported in the past, we’ve encouraged Hamas, the growth of Hamas along with Israel’s support for this.  And now we’re very much involved in pushing ISIS mainly because we think, or we pretend, that ISIS will go after Assad.  And so the whole effort our allies right now in NATO and Israel and Saudi Arabia – everybody wants to get rid of Assad and they’re willing to subsidize and push ISIS – but for them to turn around and say the whole problem is not our foreign policy contributing to the rising up of people, the whole thing is, they say, “radical Islam.”  If you don’t say “radical Islam” then you won’t admit the truth, so they want to say that Islam is the problem.  To me that’s sort of like saying Christianity is the problem because we have the Ku Klux Klan that claims they have Christian ideals and principles and that they only follow those principles.   Well how many people would be willing to accept the fact that the Ku Klux Klan states the religious principles of Christianity? And that’s sort of what is going on here...

    Bush holds hands with his boyfriend, Saudi King Abdullah.

         And if there is a danger – and I believe there is a danger of what we’re doing there – but if we don’t understand it… what the candidates are saying so often is that what we need to do is bomb and kill more people, rather than saying how did we contribute to it, how can we back off, how can we moderate this a little bit and not say that it is all Islam.  Maybe the fact that our policies lead to the killing of four million Muslims in the past fourteen years – so that has to play a role in it – but they say, “oh no, that really isn’t, you’re ducking it, you’re un-American, you want to blame America.”  But, the foreign policy that we have is deadly.  It’s deadly for us because it costs a lot of money, it kills a lot of people, it causes a lot of friction – just look at the results, the results are disastrous: chaos continues in Afghanistan, in Iraq, and look at what’s going on in Syria, look how we’ve contributed to the mess in Ukraine, and look at where Libya is – and it’s only when we get involved that these conditions just deteriorate.  But a lot of people believe that we’re well motivated, and we’re the exceptional nation, and it’s our personal moral responsibility to be the policeman of the world so if there are any infractions on our standards overseas we have this obligation to correct it.   That’s absolutely wrong, it costs too much money, it destroys our liberties here at home, and makes us very unsafe overseas, so I think it’s time the American people wake up and say, “Let’s change our foreign policy, because it’s nothing but trouble for us…”

         So we have the problem of blowback, which means that when people feel that we’ve done them harm, invaded their country, and killed a lot of their people, they don’t have tanks and planes and navies to come and attack us and try to throw us out of their country, but they can use the technique which people refer to as terrorism which means that people just go and put bombs and place that get our attention.  That just means that the answer by those who believe in neo-conservatism, the Dick Cheney types, is that we just need to kill more.  They’re still crying that losing 60,000 people in Vietnam wasn’t enough.  “If we would have only kept doing it,” and people say the same thing about Iraq, “We left too soon, and we should have more troops in there, and we should put more troops in Syria…” 

     



    Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld shakes hands with Saddam Hussein in 1983.

    Saturday
    Nov142015

    A Word on the Paris Massacre

    “When I grabbed her, half of her head fell down and her eyes fell on the ground,” he said.  He moved into another room where he found the pile of naked, burned corpses. Seven of the bodies belonged to children younger than 15. Four were children younger than 5. Several of the young ones had boot marks on their faces.  He speculated that someone threw 2-year-old Palwasha on the fire while the child was still alive.  “They were all shot in their heads,” Adin said. “Their brains were still on their pillows.”

                            -Trial testimony from the 2012 Kandahar Massacre, in which U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales went on a predawn rampage and killed sixteen innocent Afghan civilians.

    A relevant question that we should be posing in relation to the Paris massacre: would such an atrocity have been carried out in Western Europe absent the massive flood of Muslim refugees?  If we were to rewind back to last year, when there was no massive refugee crisis, is it possible that eight men in Europe would have harbored so much hatred in their hearts that they could have done something like this?  The answer is yes, such a massacre would have occurred anyway, refugee crisis or not. But why did it happen?  For the next few days and years we will hear that it is precisely because of the refugees that this occurred, that there is a direct connection between the killers and the exodus.  In the process we will learn to distrust, fear, and hate each other.  Borders shall close, martial law shall be imposed, minorities shall be scapegoated, and missiles will be launched.  Ultimately, the political and military measures which will unfold in this the great undertaking which follows shall benefit two parties: the terrorists and the military industrial complex.  But what are our options as civilized men?  After all, we are under attack by poor men whom possess not the highly-expensive advantage of advanced weaponry.  This is the thing, the Muslim terrorists and the governments of civilized countries whom vow to quash them despite their hypocritical actions of supporting terrorism are seeking the same thing: the elimination of freedom.  To be free means that you have to take risks.  To takes risks means that sometimes you have to die.  But to die free, as the men and women in Paris did today, is better than living under any police state created as a result of terrorists ambitions. If we bow down and give in, handing over our rights to overseers and thus denying the supposed roots for which we as Americans and Europeans stand for, then we lose, and we give the extremists what they want. But if we stand up and accept the fact that living radically free is a dangerous arrangement (though it would be less dangerous if we were not meddling in affairs and provoking the people of the Middle East for the last 70 years), and we’re willing to take the risk, then we win.

     

    The Duel After the Masquerade, Jean-Léon Gérôme 

    Thursday
    Nov052015

    Karen Armstrong and Ron Paul on Religious Violence and Peace

           In the To the Best of Our Knowledge interview below, Karen Armstrong talks about the roots of religious extremism and the connection between violence and religion in contrast to secular violence.  It's a great interview that is based off the subject of her latest book, Fields of Blood.  I happened to hear this interview around the same time that I heard Ron Paul talk about how religious minorities often manipulate theological doctrines in the Liberty Report episode pasted below.  I've transcribed the part where Ron Paul speaks of what he believes to be part of the solution to religious violence.  

     

    (I'm still working on how the hell to properly create and upload an AV file to the internet.  I'm a little slow when it comes to this high-tech stuff.)

     

     

    Ron Paul:  Well, the other thing that would help us in our argument would be the recognition that even if our intentions over there were well-motivated, you know: we’re there for humanitarian reasons and all this, even if that was their honest motivation, it doesn’t work.  It’s a total failure.  “Oh, they’re killing Christians, we gotta go in there and change their government.  I wish we had more stories of the countries over there when they were least involved with foreign countries – because there are stories, there are examples.  As a matter of fact, there are some examples in Iran right now – Jews live there, and Christians live there.  Just think of how the propaganda was used against Saddam Hussein – he had a Christian in his cabinet!  When they’re left alone, there are examples when the Christians and the Jews and the Muslims live together, but then there’s always elements who say, “Well, that religion, all they do is preach hate and killing,” which can be applied to just about every religion.  But when people are given a chance, they will live together.  But I think, actually, it’s ironic since I have strong religious beliefs – I think the answer is secular.  I think the secular answer to these problems and this hatred that goes back and forth is the accepting  of a universal religious principle of don’t kill; “thou shall not kill.”  Most great religions endorse that.  And don’t steal nor hurt people.  Then all of a sudden that means “if somebody has a different religion I’m not supposed to hurt them, I supposed to kill them” – that’s what it says.  But I think that’s a distortion of so much in religions, but I think a distortion by a small minority and all religions have done that.

    Thursday
    Oct222015

    Ron Paul on Dehumanization, Human Nature, and Morality 

              In a recent Liberty Report episode, Ron Paul speaks to the Drone Papers report published by the Intercept.   Leaked by a unknown whistleblower, the  Drone Papers shed light on the questionable procedures leading up the authorization of a drone strike, as well as the many mistake that have been make throughout the drone war campaign.  Dr. Paul delves deeper, examining the moral implications of a drone strike for those responsible for ordering and carrying this from of extrajudicial, remote execution from above, which he believes is immoral and against human nature.  The section transcribed below (by the best transcription machine and software I can find: myself) starts at around the 4:45 minute point of the video. 

     

              The whistleblowers here are talking about the people that they disagree with – they reveal this:  He says they come to the point where the reason they do this, they’re about to do this, is that they have to dehumanize their target.  They’re not people anymore.  And they had an interesting comment about that, let me just read that, and they’re referring to the people they are sent out to kill, and he said, “They have no rights, they have no dignity, they have no humanity to themselves, they just are selector to analyst” – just a thing.  “You eventually get to a point in the target’s life cycle that you are following them, you don’t even refer to them by their actual names.  This practice, he said, contributes to the dehumanizing of the people before you’ve even encountered the moral question of: is this a legitimate kill or not?” 

            They’re void of morally, which I guess they have to do that, or they wouldn’t be able to kill somebody, so they have to go through this process.  And I think that this is not something new or different, I think most wars involve this, I mean you just think about what names we’ve called our enemies… what is portrayed in the eyes of many Americans when you say “terrorist, terrorist.”   Well I’ve been told that if he’s a terrorist kill him.  Well we have no idea if he’s a terrorist.  He might be a suspect, but it’s this giant leap…  But I think there’s more than just dehumanizing the enemy, I think the process dehumanizes the person.  I have this conviction that the individual who does the killing has to be dehumanized as well… I think it’s a natural instinct for people not to walk up to a stranger and say, “Okay, I’m going to kill him.”  But they condition people to do this.  This is just so bizarre and so contrary to humanity and contrary to what I think should be an exceptional position for America.

             And the other thing is they’re not allowed to feel guilt.  I mean, you can take pills but the way we treat PTSD is that we don’t say there’s guilt because that means the foreign policy of the United States should be questioned.  There can’t be guilt, because we’re exceptional, we know what is right, and I think that adds fuel to the fire.

            And I think that has always been a challenge throughout history.  I keep wanting to believe, and I believe it is the case that the human race should be able to progress.   We have evolved in one sense in the technological way and we have greater abundance because we live betters and we have automobiles and this sort of thing, but we don’t seem to have advanced very much in the cause of treating people, interacting with people.  And as a matter of fact the technology has served to just go into the war effort.  So often, yes, we have appliances and all these things that make our lives better, but how much of our energy and our money and our wealth goes into killing each other?  So that’s such a contradiction.  I’m still optimistic enough that the human race can change and make progress because I think it’s a natural instinct.  I don’t think war is natural.  What is unnatural is the allowance of people to get hold of our governments who hold the propaganda machine that allows people to be dehumanized, and they do it in the name of goodness and exceptionalism.  That’s why it’s so disgusting.  And then if you say, “Well America is not the exceptional nation, we have our own problems,” then you’re “un-American and unpatriotic and you don’t care about freedom and liberty.”  That’s how bizarre it is.