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    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.

    Monday
    Oct052015

    Letter to My Congresswoman

    This is a letter I sent to my Congresswoman Jackie Speier regarding role of the U.S military and government in relation to the increasingly litany of nightmarish problems developing in the Middle East and Central Asia.  I have mixed feelings on writing letters to our Congressional representatives, as the results of such letters and petitions have always been mixed in my experience.  Nevertheless, it's a good way to gauge the pulse of the person who's being paid to represent you, and if there is any hope for this nation it lies within taking back power at a local level, therefore questioning your Congressperson on matters of importance in effort to hold them accountable for their actions is a good start. 

     



    For anyone confused about why the American national election system isn't working for benefit of the citizens of this country, you may enjoy this explanation from Third Party candidates:

     

    Wednesday
    Sep232015

    At the Barricade and the Importance of Speaking Clearly 

           Andrew Solomon makes a beautiful and forceful point about one’s ability to articulate yourself properly in his “The Moth” story, At the Barricade, in which he recounts a moment of resistance that he witnessed at American Embassy during the final moments of the fall of the Soviet Union, when he was there by happenstance.  I’ve transcribed the excerpt I’m referring to below, and you can click here to hear his story in its entirety.  

    Andrew Solomon, At the Barricade (from the last third of the story):

            And when we got there, it was such a Russian scene:  there were flowers strewn on the ground, there were old women crying, there people talking about the nature of tragedy.  And we were all standing around, and suddenly, a young man came running up.  He had a tweed cap clutched in his hands and wire-rimmed glasses, and he looked like a 1917 Revolutionary or the student in a Chekov play, and he said, “Hurry up, come at once, there are tanks approaching the outer barricade.  We have to go and defend the outer barricade!”

           Well there had been tanks endlessly approaching and they had just always parked across the street.  And so we walked up to the outer barricade, quite far away in fact from the parliament building, and we arrange ourselves in front of it, holding hands.  And two minutes later, a column of tanks rolled up, and they stopped about two feet away from us.  And it was still the Cold War, and I had grown up thinking that there was nothing more frightening in the world than a Soviet tank coming up to you.  And the soldier on the front tank said, “We have been given unconditional orders to destroy this barricade.  If you move out of the way, we don’t need to hurt anyone, but if you won’t move out of the way, we’ll have no choice but to run you down.”  And the artist I was with said, “Give us just one minute.  Give us just a minute to tell you why we’re here.”


    Image from: www.timesofmalta.com

              And the solider on the front tank crossed his arms, and the artist on the front tank launched into a description of what freedom was.  And they said, “You are very young, you don’t remember the Stalin ear, let me tell you what it was like:  it was terrible.”  They said, “You don’t remember what it was like when Brezhnev ran things, but that was terrible too.”  And they said, “You say that you’re just following orders, but you’re making a choice to follow those orders, but you’re making a choice, and you could make a different choice instead.”  And they launched into a Jeffersonian panegyric to democracy, of kind of those of who live in democracies mostly couldn’t muster.  And when they finished, we stood there, sneezing, wet, cold, bedraggled, and the solider on the front tank just stared at us for a full minute.  And at the end of a minute he said, “What you’ve said is true, and we must bow to the will of the people.  If you’ll clear us enough space to turn around, we’ll go back and we’ll leave you you’re barricade.  And we all stepped aside, and the tanks made U-turns – which is not so easy for a tank – and they drove off the way that they had come.  And we all embraced one another.

             And then, I had to go to the airport because my visa expired that day.  And I got in a cab and was on my way to the airport when the news came on: the Putcsh had failed, Yeltsin was in charge, Russia was to be a democracy.  And I thought that language had come back for me.  I thought that I would be able to write and talk again, because what I had always hoped, but never believe to be true was that if you could only speak clearly enough about important things, you could change the world.