Category Archives: Military

Respect for the Flag: Ignorance or Hypocrisy?

With all that’s currently going on in the world, United States President Donald Trump continues to obsess on football players and the U.S. flag. He is demanding that they show ‘proper’ respect for a piece of cloth that represents a repressive oligarchy. Yet, this is, sadly, nothing new.

In 1807, crew members from the British ship Leopold sought to board the U.S. ship Chesapeake, to seek sailors who had deserted from the British navy. They were refused, so they fired on the Chesapeake, killing four U.S. sailors, and causing severe damage to the ship. This was considered an outrage, and an incident that contributed to the war that started five years later. In 1808, the new captain of the Chesapeake, Stephen Decatur, declared that “… the reputation of the Flag of the United States…” required the Chesapeake to be defined properly by the number of guns it had; there had been some discrepancy previously.

The wounds remained raw; Secretary of the Navy Paul Hamilton, in complaining about U.S. relations with Britain in 1809, outlined several areas, including “…the inhuman and dastardly attack on our Frigate Chesapeake – an outrage which prostrated the flag of our Country….”

Notice the importance of the flag, as early as 1807.

Perhaps we can look at the pledge of allegiance, that statement that is recited by school students from kindergarten through high school all across the country, and dissect it into its component parts.

“I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

  • ‘I pledge allegiance to the Flag.’ Really? One pledges allegiance to a flag? Although this writer recited it for 12 years, he had no real idea of what he was saying. But today, looking at even just the first six words, it is difficult to describe how ridiculous it sounds. The bald eagle is another symbol of the United States. Should we, perhaps, pledge allegiance to it? “I pledge allegiance to the bald eagle….”
  • ‘And to the republic for which it stands.’ Well, one supposes that one can feel a sense of allegiance to a country; although this writer can understand it, he does not experience it.
  • ‘One Nation under God’. Says who? This would seem to mean that atheists are exempt from making this pledge (lucky them!). Right-wing religious leaders are forever proclaiming that God is about the strike down the mighty U.S. because of such things as marriage equality, or health care for everyone. If Deity was in the business of smacking around countries when they displeased him (and this writer, an actively religious Christian, cannot see how either of those two things would), wouldn’t the U.S have felt that wrath during the time of slavery?
  • ‘Indivisible’. Discounting, of course, the Civil War, the nation has been indivisible from a geographic point of view. But there do seem to be a number of significant divisions: left and right; white and people of color; police and people of color; police and poor people; rich and poor; Muslims and conservatives; liberals (a vanishing breed, indeed) and conservatives; rural residents and their urban counterparts; East Coast and Midwest; elected officials and their constituents, etc.
  • ‘With liberty and justice for all’. How one can utter these six words in the context of the United States completely eludes this writer. Banks are ‘too big to fail’ and their corrupt executives ‘too big to jail’. Unarmed black men, women and children are routinely gunned down by white police officers, with almost complete impunity. Wealthy people accused of crimes hire the lawyers necessary to represent them, and help with plea bargaining, while impoverished people serve years-long jail terms for minor drug offenses. This list could go on.

The NFL protests began during the playing of the national anthem. Perhaps a look at those words, too, might be informative.

O say can you see, by the dawn’s early light,

What so proudly we hail’d at the twilight’s last gleaming,

Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight

O’er the ramparts we watch’d were so gallantly streaming?

And the rocket’s red glare, the bomb bursting in air,

Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there,

O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave

O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

The convoluted language here makes this almost as difficult to make any sense of, as the musical arrangement makes it to sing. For the convenience of the reader, this writer will re-write it into contemporary English.

“It’s early morning, can you see that thing we praised last night? You know, the flag that we watched in awe. As it got dark, the bombs that were killing people were lighting up the air so while we couldn’t see the people writhing in pain on the ground in mortal agony, we could sure see that flag! Yes, it still waves over our wonderful country!”

Alright, so perhaps there was a bit of editorializing here; the song doesn’t say anything specifically about people dying, but it’s a reasonable inference when bombs are dropping and rockets firing.

So, according to the illustrious U.S. president, when that song is being sung, and that flag is flapping in the breeze, everyone must stand in reverent, worshipful awe.

It has been decades since this writer attended any event where the U.S. national anthem was played. He expects to successfully avoid such circumstances for the rest of his life, a goal made easier by the fact that he hasn’t lived in the U.S. in years. But he must ask: don’t people have any idea what they are saying? Admittedly, this writer didn’t pay any attention during his elementary and high school years, but once that point is passed, shouldn’t people know what they are pledging allegiance to? Perhaps the habit of simply standing, putting hand on heart and then mouthing the vapid and vacuous words is too deeply ingrained; it’s as natural as breathing, and no one questions it.

But it’s high time people did. We can thank Colin Kaepernick for raising this consciousness, even a little bit. He, obviously, thought about the words, and decided not to ‘respect the flag’ (a ludicrous concept, at best) in a very public manner. His actions were sufficient to bring down the wrath of the president of the United States: good move, Mr. Kaepernick!

What will happen now? FOX Sports announced it will no longer broadcast the pre-game anthem, thus preventing the delicate sensibilities of its audience members from being offended by someone sitting or kneeling during it. Trump will, in all probability, continue to rail at the ‘sons of b——-‘ that want to protest racial discrimination in the U.S. And people of color will continue to be marginalized to an even greater degree during the Trump years than they have since prior to the passage of Civil Rights legislation in the 1960s.

Oh yes! The ‘land of the free and the home of the brave’! Indeed.

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Trump, Afghanistan and History

United States President Donald Trump has issued his new strategy for Afghanistan, the longest war in U.S. history. Some of his speech sounds like recycled excerpts from presidents talking about Iraq or Vietnam. In all likelihood, the U.S. will be as ‘successful’ in Afghanistan as it was in those two countries.

Mr. Trump said that three things struck him as he studied the situation in Afghanistan. “First, our nation must seek an honorable and enduring outcome worthy of the tremendous sacrifices that have been made; second, the consequences of a rapid exit are both predictable and unacceptable … third, and finally, I concluded that the security threats we face in Afghanistan and the broader region are immense.”

We will dissect this statement, for both its historical and illogical content.

  • “First, our nation must seek an honorable and enduring outcome worthy of the tremendous sacrifices that have been made.”

In 1968, Republican presidential candidate Richard Nixon promised this:  “I pledge to you that we shall have an honorable end to the war in Vietnam.” Seven long and deadly years later, international photographers captured the chaos and mayhem as Americans and their Vietnamese collaborators fled by helicopter, ship and any other means possible from the country, as the Communist forces declared victory after decades of war.  With over 55,000 U.S. soldiers, and at least 2,000,000 Vietnamese citizens (by conservative estimates), dead, the nation in ruins, effects from Agent Orange, the defoliant dropped on the country by the U.S. by the ton to remain for generations, there was nothing ‘honorable’ about the war except the eventual victory of the Vietnamese people over the mighty U.S.

In 2005, Melvin Laird, Defense Secretary under Mr. Nixon said this about Iraq: “Just because we get our force level down in Iraq doesn’t mean we can walk away or the losses we suffered will be in vain.” And Mr. Trump wants an “outcome worthy of the tremendous sacrifices that have been made.” Déjà vu all over again!

 

  • “Second, the consequences of a rapid exit are both predictable and unacceptable.” Without planning, they are certainly predictable; the U.S. exited Vietnam in a big rush. And they are probably unacceptable to a president with an ego that dwarfs even that of the highly insecure Democrat Lyndon Johnson, whose deadly six years in office were focused mainly on Vietnam, and whose policies there caused him not to seek the full term for which he was eligible, after his first elected term concluded.

One would think, however, that a plan could be developed to remove 8,500 U.S. soldiers from Afghanistan. The government – mainly the Taliban – would be more than happy to see them go, so if the U.S. were to make a proposal for their departure, there is no sensible reason to believe it would be rejected. The chaos that characterized the end of the Vietnam War could be avoided.

  • “Finally, I concluded that the security threats we face in Afghanistan and the broader region are immense.” This writer admits to being puzzled. Continued involvement in Afghanistan only fuels greater hatred of the U.S.; not because of its cherished and more or less mythical freedoms, but because it keeps killing people indiscriminately. This increases security risks. Perhaps, and here’s a novel idea, the U.S. could peacefully depart from Afghanistan, and begin trading with that country. There seems to be a great deal of trade in the opium ‘industry’ going on now; certainly, some more respectable products could be exchanged between the two countries.

These were not the only pearls of wisdom that fell from the great orange lips. Mr. Trump also said this: “America will work with the Afghan government as long as we see determination and progress”.  Again, we can look back to the Vietnam War for another parallel. President Nixon instituted a program he called ‘Vietnamization’, the goal of which was to “expand, equip, and train South Vietnam’s forces and assign to them an ever-increasing combat role, at the same time steadily reducing the number of U.S. combat troops”. This was not feasible in Vietnam in the 1970s, and is not feasible in Afghanistan today. As Kevin Boylan wrote in the New York Times on August 22, 2017:  “In South Vietnam itself, however, popular support for the war was always halfhearted, and a large segment (and in some regions, a majority) of the population favored the Communists”. The Vietnamese people were not about to fight against their own best interests, regardless of what the U.S. thought or wanted.

The same is true in Afghanistan. How many Afghani soldiers, who have experienced 16 years of U.S. violence, are going to want to fight on the U.S. side? It is the rare Afghani who has not experienced the loss of a loved one to U.S. bombs. The ‘determination and progress’ Mr. Trump wants to see is unlikely to materialize.

Christopher Kolenda, the senior adviser on Afghanistan and Pakistan to the oddly-named Department of Defense (it was originally called the War Department, a much more realistic and honest title) from 2009 to 2014, has said that the Afghanistan government’s inability to retake any territory controlled by the Taliban is “unlikely to change appreciably as long as both sides have international support.”

The U.S. government, which only recently decided to stop assisting terrorist groups in Syria, has, with Mr. Trump’s speech, decided to continue fighting an unwinnable war. The outcome is predicable: more deaths of U.S. soldiers; many more deaths of Afghanistan civilians – men, women and children; more hatred engendered against the U.S.; an eventual realization under some president that, much as the so-called ‘defense’ industry in the U.S. loves the war, because it is a lucrative market for its products, it is pointless for any other reason; the decision to leave Afghanistan, followed quickly by panicked departure of all U.S. personnel, with their Afghani collaborators mostly left behind to suffer the consequences of their treasonous acts.

Mr. Trump didn’t favor his audience with specifics of his plan, but reports now say that he will increase the number of soldiers in Afghanistan by 40,000.  When President George Bush decided in 2007 to send an additional 21,500 soldiers to Iraq, he avoided the term ‘escalation’, which had gotten quite a negative connotation during the Vietnam War. This, he said, was merely an ‘augmentation’.  Sometimes, he referred to it as a ‘surge’; Pentagon planners, ever creative if nothing else, called it a ‘plus-up’. Thus far, no clever turns-of-phrase have been adopted for Mr. Trump’s as yet not detailed plan; it will be interesting to see what it turns out to be.

Regardless of phraseology, it is business as usual in the U.S., as the nation continues its long tradition of mass murder against nearly defenseless people.

 

Originally published by Counterpunch.

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Trump and the United Nations

United States President Donald Trump brought his own peculiar bellicosity to the United Nations this week, threatening North Korea and Iran, and ignoring the human rights abuses of Saudi Arabia and Israel. He proclaimed that each nation should have the right to pursue its own goals, and that the U.S. had no interest in forcing its brand of democracy (such as it is) on any other nation. Then he criticized the socialist governments of Cuba and Venezuela, and harshly condemned both North Korea and Iran.

It is interesting that he seems to lump North Korea and Iran together. The former is a repressive, totalitarian regime with nuclear weapons, and the latter, with a democratically-elected president, has actually signed an international agreement saying its nuclear program is entirely peaceful. The U.S. is a signatory to that agreement, which Trump calls “the worst deal ever”.

This appears to be quite a contraction in the confused rhetoric of the U.S. president. He proclaims that Iran must never have nuclear weapons, and then wants to nullify the agreement that prevents that nation from creating them. What, one wonders, could be his motivation?

While it is next to impossible to determine at any given moment just what is happening in that pumpkin-like head, we will attempt to make some sense of this apparent contradiction.

At present, there are only a handful of countries in the Middle East that wield any great power: Saudi Arabia, Israel and Iran.

The U.S. has full diplomatic relations with the barbaric, repressive Saudi regime. And it must always be remembered that oil trumps everything else: human rights, international law, even common decency take a back seat to sacred oil. The bottom line here is money.

Next is Israel, with whom the U.S. also has full diplomatic relations. But it is not oil that motivates this alliance, but powerful pro-Israel lobbies in the U.S. Israel’s barbaric occupation of Palestine, and its unspeakable treatment not only of Palestinians, but of any non-Israelis within its own dubious borders, is condemned worldwide. Even the U.S. pays lip service to condemning it. But once again, the bottom line is money, and almost all U.S. government officials benefit from the largesse of pro-Israeli lobbies. In return, they jump through whatever bloody hoops Israel chooses to hold. Regard for human rights? Bah! International law? Israel makes its own laws! Common decency? Upheld stringently, as long as it applies to Israelis; all others need not apply.

Israel and Saudi Arabia have been growing ever more cozy with each other, and that is fine with the U.S. As long as Israel has no objection, Saudi Arabia can continue doing whatever its leaders want it to do.

Now we get to Iran. This nation chooses not to share its natural resources with the U.S., and has no diplomatic ties to Israel; it fully condemns that regime’s cruel and illegal activities in Palestine. And thus we have the crux of the U.S.’s problems with Iran.

Increasingly, Israeli politicians see themselves as major forces of influence in the world, even as the reality of the occupation of Palestine is more fully recognized and condemned. Iran must not threaten Israel’s hegemony in the Middle East; no, any nation that has a human rights record superior to Israel’s (and it would be hard to find a worse one), cannot gain the upper hand. Such an event may only increase Israel’s growing international isolation, and provide support to those uppity Palestinians, who have spent decades demanding the most basic human rights, of which Israel denies them.

How fair, one might ask, is the U.S. assessment of the Middle East situation? It must be remembered that everything that U.S. government officials see in the Middle East is viewed through an Israeli lens. And U.S. reaction to anything Israel does is based on that skewed view.

One telling example occurred in 1988.

President Ronald Reagan’s Secretary of State, George Shultz, had created a three-part plan to resolve the Palestine-Israel ‘conflict’. This included: 1) the convening of an international conference; 2) a six-month negotiating period that would bring about an interim phase for Palestinian self-determination for the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and 3) a date of December, 1988 for the start of talks between Israel and Palestine for the final resolution of the conflict.

The response from Israel was not unexpected. Then Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir immediately rejected this plan, saying, incredibly, that it did nothing to forward the cause of peace. The U.S. response was puzzling; the U.S. reinforced economic and security agreements with Israel, and accelerated the delivery to Israel of seventy-five F-16 fighter jets. An Israel journalist expressed the message this sent to Israel:  “One may say no to America and still get a bonus.”[1] Things have only gotten worse since then.

So as the Great Pumpkin plied his bizarre trade at the U.N., he succeeded in pleasing his racist, ignorant U.S. base, which for generations feared Communism and now fears Islam (Iran, it must be remembered, has a majority Islamic population). He also satisfied Israel, with that nation’s leader, Prime Murderer Benjamin Netanyahu, in his own speech later, lauding the U.S. president, as he condemned the U.N.

What can we take from all this? What conclusions can be drawn from Trump’s words that not only threatened North Korea and Iran, but also criticized the United Nations?

If anyone anywhere on the planet feels reassured by these words, they should not be allowed to handle sharp objects unsupervised. With Trumps words, the threat of nuclear war increased; experts agree that even a ‘limited’ nuclear war, if such a thing is even possible, would result in a global catastrophe, with up to a billion people dying from the war itself, and the years-long nuclear winter that would follow. Even short of a nuclear war, Trump’s words troubled many of the U.S.’s longest allies, which could have severe economic impacts on the U.S. And oppressed people around the world, striving for the basic human rights and dignity that so many people take for granted, could only be discouraged by the absence of any allusion to human rights in Trump’s address.

This is the leader of the free world. This is the man with the nuclear codes. This is the future of the U.S., which, with a deeply sordid past, cannot look to any change in the foreseeable future. It must be hoped that, at least, there is a future.

 

 

[1] Suleiman, Michael W. U.S. Policy on Palestine from Wilson to Clinton. Association of Arab-American Graduates, 1995.Page 185.

 

Originally published by Counterpunch.

 

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Omar Khadr, Canada and $10,000,000

The Canadian Government has awarded Omar Khadr, who spent ten years in the United States’ Cuban-based torture chamber, the sum of $10.5 million dollars. There is, among the right wing, a great hue and cry over this alleged ‘injustice’. After all, wasn’t Mr. Khadr fighting against a Canadian ally? Didn’t he confess to killing a U.S. soldier? Cue the weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth.

 Although not often done in political climes, looking at the facts can be a very helpful exercise. So, we will look at a few.

1. Mr. Khadr was 15-years-old when he was badly injured by U.S. soldiers. According to international law (that old thing), a 15-year-old in any military is a child soldier, and cannot be charged with any crime. Once Mr. Khadr was injured, his injuries should have been treated immediately (they weren’t), and he should have then been returned to Canada.

2. The U.S. invaded Afghanistan. If any country invaded the U.S., those opposing the invasion would be seen as heroes. People in Afghanistan who were fighting the invading forces should be seen in that light.

3. Regarding ‘confessing’ to killing a U.S. soldier, after years of unspeakable torture, one will confess to anything. And what did Mr. Khadr experience in Guantanamo? The following is just some of what the U.S. did to him. Remember, too that he had two gunshot wounds in his chest, multiple broken bones, and shrapnel splattered all over his body, which cost him the sight in one eye. His torture began immediately he regained consciousness, about a week after he was injured, at the Bagram air base, where he was detained. He was:

  • Tied to a fence with his hands tied high above his head; due to his injuries, raising his hands at all was extremely painful;
  • Tied up with a bag secured tightly around his head, making breathing difficult, as attack dogs snarled and growled at him from inches away;
  • Forced, despite, or perhaps because of, his injuries, to pile heavy water bottles together. Once he finished the task, his torturers knocked over the pile, and forced him to re-pile them.

4. Mr. Khadr was then transferred to Guantanamo, where the torture continued. One example, the shocking ‘mop incident’, of what he experienced, will suffice. The ‘mop incident’ involves the guards pulling Mr. Khadr’s arms and legs behind into a  so-called ‘bow’ position, causing his limbs to strain painfully at their sockets. It is not unusual for victims to pass out from the pain this causes. Over a period of many hours, the guards contorted Mr. Khadr into different, painful positions. Eventually, he urinated himself. The guards then poured pine-oil solvent all over his body and began dragging him by his feet through the mixture of urine and pine oil. They swung him around, the urine and solvent washing up into his face, using him as a human mop. When they were done, they brought him back to his cell, but did not allow him a change of clothes for two days.

5. Who, exactly, was responsible for the death of the invading U.S. soldier is up for debate. There are strong indicators that the grenade that killed him was U.S. made. Was he killed by ‘friendly fire’, that bizarre euphemism meaning accidental killing of soldiers by their fellow-soldiers? Or is it possible that a 15-year-old boy had the presence of mind and the lightening reflexes, in the middle of a desperate battle, to grab a grenade thrown near him by the invading soldiers, and fling it back out at them? If that’s the case, self-preservation and self-defense seem to be valid reasons.

6. U.S. behavior during Mr. Khadr’s entire, illegal incarceration was condemned by the United Nations and the international community.

There has been some discussion that the widow of Christopher Speer, the soldier allegedly killed by Mr. Khadr, could possibly sue him for some of the money he has been awarded. This would certainly be an interesting precedent. Could the survivors of all people killed by U.S. soldiers then sue the soldiers for some compensation? The U.S. would be bankrupt in no time.

Also, Mr. Speer was not a child when he enlisted. He was not defending his homeland; he was invading someone else’s.  While one mourns any death, and feels sorry for the survivors, Mr. Speer voluntarily put himself in a life-threatening position, and paid with his life for that decision.

Mr. Khadr was a child, under the care of adults who were defending their homeland, in a situation not of his own making.

For the first time since he was injured, Mr. Khadr is finally experiencing justice. After a decade of torture at the hands of ‘the land of the free and the home of the brave’, abetted by his own country, Canada, he is finally getting some compensation. $10 million isn’t enough, but there simply isn’t enough money to compensate someone who has experienced such barbaric cruelty and unspeakable suffering. It is hoped that Mr. Khadr will be able to use this money to enable him to have a comfortable life, obtaining the counseling he certainly requires due to his victimization, working in his chosen career, and raising a family. This writer wishes him all the best.

Originally published by The American Herald Tribune.

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Double Standards in United States’ Human Rights Practices

Remarks delivered at the conference, ‘United States, Human Rights and Discourse of Domination’, held in Tehran, Iran on July 2.

 

When discussing human rights, it’s helpful to define exactly what is meant. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in Paris on 10 December 1948.  Forty-eight countries, including the United States, ratified this declaration. It details fundamental human rights that are to be universally protected.

The document consists of thirty (30) articles, and is worth reading. For our purposes today, I will summarize just a few of the more common rights listed, and will address these and others during my presentation today.

According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, everyone is entitled to:

  • Freedom and dignity
  • Life, liberty and security of person.

The following are prohibited.

  • Slavery in all forms.
  • Arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.
  • Arbitrary deprivation of one’s nationality
  • Arbitrary deprivation of one’s property.

The United States presents itself to the world as a beacon of liberty and a proponent of human rights around the world, ready and willing to stand up for and defend the downtrodden. Florida Senator Marco Rubio recently said that the world looks to the U.S. as an example of democracy. This myth is not believed outside of the United States’ borders, and decreasingly within. There is simply too much evidence to the contrary.

The Universal Declaration on Human Rights mentions the prohibition of ‘torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatments’ and states that everyone is entitled to life.

In 2014, the U.S. government rightly condemned beheadings carried out by Daesh (aka ISIL, ISIS). In August of 2014, at least 22 people were executed in Saudi Arabia, and at least eight of them were beheaded. The following month, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry visited Saudi Arabia on an official visit; the U.S., of course, has full diplomatic relations with Saudi Arabia. The topic of beheadings was not known to have been mentioned during Mr. Kerry’s visit. Apparently, beheading is acceptable, depending on who is doing it.

Let’s remember that the United States has full diplomatic relations with Saudi Arabia. In a State Department cable released by WikiLeaks, Hillary Clinton said that “Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support base for al-Qaeda, the Taliban”.

Since I’ve mentioned ISIS, we’ll look at bit closer at that organization.

The following was reported by Global Research:

“In order to understand why the Islamic State has grown and flourished so quickly, one has to take a look at the organization’s American-backed roots. The 2003 American invasion and occupation of Iraq created the pre-conditions for radical Sunni groups, like ISIS, to take root. America, rather unwisely, destroyed Saddam Hussein’s secular state machinery and replaced it with a predominantly Shiite administration. The U.S. occupation caused vast unemployment in Sunni areas, by rejecting socialism and closing down factories in the naive hope that the magical hand of the free market would create jobs. Under the new U.S.-backed Shiite regime, working class Sunni’s lost hundreds of thousands of jobs. Unlike the white Afrikaners in South Africa, who were allowed to keep their wealth after regime change, upper class Sunni’s were systematically dispossessed of their assets and lost their political influence. Rather than promoting religious integration and unity, American policy in Iraq exacerbated sectarian divisions and created a fertile breeding ground for Sunni discontent, from which Al Qaeda in Iraq took root.”

Author and Middle East expert Kevin Barrett told Press TV the following:

“It has been a standard part of American policy and it is not just al-Qaeda and Daesh. These are the biggest and most spectacular current manifestations of the United States long-standing policy of supporting terrorists but it goes way back to the era of the Cold War.”

He further stated that the United States created the Daesh terrorist group in order to implement its regime change policy in Syria, and to divide and conquer the Middle East by stirring up ethnic and sectarian tensions.

In a June, 2015 column in The Guardian, Associate Editor Seumas Milne said this:

“[T]he U.S. and its allies weren’t only supporting and arming an opposition they knew to be dominated by extreme sectarian groups; they were prepared to countenance the creation of some sort of ‘Islamic state’ — despite the ‘grave danger’ to Iraq’s unity — as a Sunni buffer to weaken Syria.”

Garikai Chengu, a researcher at Harvard University, suggested in September of 2014 that ISIS “is made-in-the-USA, an instrument of terror designed to divide and conquer the oil-rich Middle East and to counter Iran’s growing influence in the region.”

Further information came from Vice-President Joe Biden. Speaking to students at Harvard University in October 2014, he said that Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates “were determined to take down Assad and essentially have a proxy Sunni-Shia war. What did they do? They poured hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of tons of weapons into anyone who would fight against Assad. Except that the people who were being supplied were al-Nusra and al-Qaeda and the extremist elements of jihadis coming from other parts of the world”. The vice-president dismissed the idea that any moderate Syrian groups could be fighting ISIS and Assad at the same time.

U.S. Representative Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii has focused in on the government’s funding of terrorists. “The CIA has also been funneling weapons and money through Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar and others who provide direct and indirect support to groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda.”

She went on to say this: “This madness must end. We must stop arming terrorists.”

In late 2015, Ms. Gabbard visited Syria. She said this:

As I visited with people from across the country, and heard heartbreaking stories of how this war has devastated their lives, I was asked, ‘Why is the United States and its allies helping al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups try to take over Syria? Syria did not attack the United States. Al-Qaeda did.’ I had no answer.”

Not all of ISIS’s weaponry was intentionally provided to it.

In Iraq, after the first phase of the U.S. war there, the U.S. left untold amounts of weaponry scattered about Iraq. As Iraq descended into the chaos and violence of civil war, that weaponry fell into the hands of anyone who wanted it.

In 2014, the U.S. Department of Defense, which really has nothing to do with defense, issued a press release, saying this: “The three strikes destroyed three ISIL armed vehicles, an ISIL vehicle-mounted anti-aircraft artillery gun, an ISIL checkpoint and an IED emplacement.” Very impressive, one might think.

However, Alex Kane, writing in Alternet, presented a different view. He said:

 “What went unmentioned by the Pentagon is that those armed vehicles and artillery guns they bombed were likely paid for with American tax dollars. The arms ISIS possesses are another grim form of blowback from the American invasion of the country (Iraq) in 2003.

In the first 13 years of the U.S.s’ so-called ‘war on terror’, U.S. taxpayers spent close to $14  million dollars every hour. This is an astounding amount for a war wherein the ‘enemy’ is being financed by the U.S. and other countries with which the U.S. has full diplomatic relations. Perhaps ‘victory’ isn’t the goal. The U.S. is the world’s largest supplier of weaponry, and with so many countries purchasing its goods, even to sell them to international terrorist groups, perhaps the U.S. isn’t interested in losing this lucrative market.

In March of 2015, the Los Angeles Times reported: “Syrian militias armed by different parts of the U.S. war machine have begun to fight each other on the plains between the besieged city of Aleppo and the Turkish border.” Again, as long as U.S. arms manufacturers are happy, what else matters? So what if a third of Syrians have had to flee their homes? What difference do nearly half a million deaths of innocent people make? For the U.S., human rights must not stand in the way of profits.

That same year, foreign military sales rose to a record high of $46.6 billion.

It is no exaggeration to say that America’s Middle East policy revolves around two factors: oil and Israel. By invading Iraq, the U.S. was able to obtain the oil it covets.

But as the U.S. continues bombing Syria and supporting terrorist groups in that country, and sanctions or threatens to sanction Iran, we clearly see that it is doing so for Israel. The U.S. wants to prevent Hezbollah in Lebanon, and Hamas in Palestine, from receiving support from Iran and Syria.  In the eyes of the U.S., only Israel can be a powerful force in the Middle East.

Another point in the Declaration of Human Rights is that ‘the will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government’.

Currently in the U.S., multiple investigations are ongoing to explore possible Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election of 2016. Arizona Senator John McCain said that such possible interference threatens the very essence of U.S. democracy. Former Senator and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said it’s almost unthinkable, when discussing reports about possible Russian interference in U.S. elections.

In typical U.S. style, interference in foreign elections is only acceptable when the U.S. does it. In 2006, when commenting on the election in the Gaza Strip that brought Hamas to power, Mrs. Clinton, then a U.S. senator, said this: “I do not think we should have pushed for an election in the Palestinian territories. I think that was a big mistake — and if we were going to push for an election, then we should have made sure that we did something to determine who was going to win.” So while Mrs. Clinton is now filled with great anger that Russia, perhaps, attempted to interfere in the U.S. election, she was certainly not above supporting the same behaviors, when she was a U.S. senator.

After Hamas was elected to govern the Gaza Strip in 2006, and President George Bush ordered a near-total ban on aid to Palestine, historian and political activist Noam Chomsky commented on this situation:

“You are not allowed to vote the wrong way in a free election. That’s our concept of democracy. Democracy is fine as long as you do what we [the United States] say, but not if you vote for someone we don’t like.”

In 2003, the United States invaded Iraq. This was, ostensibly, to rid that country of so-called weapons of mass destruction. Saddam Hussein, then the leader of Iraq, had welcomed Hans Blix, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) into Iraq to search peacefully for such weapons. Mr. Blix and his team were gaining unprecedented access to any area of the country they requested, and were finding nothing. Finally, before they had exhausted their search, U.S. President George Bush told Mr. Blix to remove his team from Iraq; his invasion as coming. Shortly thereafter, he began bombing Iraq. This resulted in the destruction of the Iraqi infrastructure, the killing of hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women and children, and the displacement of millions more. The human rights of these innocent victims were not considered by the mighty United States. The fact that the Iraqi people have suffered, and continue to suffer, far more since the U.S. invasion then they did under the previous government, is not considered, as the U.S. looks for its next target.

In October of 2007, four years after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, and while that war was still raging, Turkey was having difficulties with Kurdish rebels on its border with Iraq. There were signs that the Turkish government was considering an attack against them in Iraq. U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack made this statement at that time: “If they have a problem, they need to work together to resolve it and I am not sure that unilateral incursions are the way to go, the way to resolve the issue.” He further stated: “We have counseled both in public and private for many, many months the idea that it is important to work cooperatively to resolve this issue”.

If Mr. McCormack wasn’t sure that unilateral incursions were inappropriate, and that nations in conflict need to work cooperatively to resolve their issues, perhaps he could have so advised Mr. Bush.  However, such counsel would nullify that time-honored maxim: “It’s not wrong if the U.S. does it.” So while Turkey must not venture into Iraq to end Kurdish incursions into the country, the U.S. was then, and is now, free to attack any country it so chooses.

Perhaps we might benefit by looking at the by looking at how some words. During the height of the U.S. war against Iraq, the U.S. government officials and corporate-owned media called those Iraqis fighting the U.S. invasion ‘insurgents’. Somehow, in the view of the U.S., the invading soldiers were the ‘heroes’ and the people resisting them were the ‘terrorists’.

When a person or group commits an act of violence against the U.S., they are not seen as heroes, but as terrorists. The victims of those limited acts of violence are seen as heroes.

In 2015, the movie American Sniper was released in U.S. theatres to rave reviews and public acclaim. This was the story of Chris Kyle, a mass murderer, employed by the U.S., who was ‘credited’ with over 160 ‘confirmed kills’.

Imagine if Vietnam, or Palestine, or Iraq, or Yemen, or Syria, or any other country that the U.S. has oppressed or continues to oppress, were to release a movie praising and glorifying someone who killed 160 U.S. citizens, after the U.S. had bombed their country. Government officials would condemn the movie and the country; sanctions would be imposed; there would be universal condemnation throughout the U.S.

Again, in the view of the U.S., its own actions are never criminal, but those same actions, performed by other nations, are international crimes.

The United States government is currently considering declaring Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps a ‘terrorist’ organization. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps is a powerful branch of the Iranian military, responsible for, among other things, protecting the nation in the event of an attack by the U.S. or Israel, the two nations most likely to attack Iran. Protecting the U.S. from attack is, ostensibly, the role of the U.S. military. However, unlike the U.S. military, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps does not invade other nations. Its role is to protect the citizens of Iranian from enemies foreign and domestic. The role of the U.S. military, despite the lofty proclamations that country’s leaders may make, is to ensure the capitalist advantage of the U.S. around the world. This includes the overthrow of nations with governments considered too leftist, or those with natural resources (e.g. oil) that the U.S. wants to control. Based on this information, it certainly seems that it is not the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, but the U.S. military that is, in fact, a terrorist organization.

Keeping in mind that ‘The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government’, we will look at one example, among many, where, in the eyes of the U.S., political expediency trumped human rights.

In Chile, in 1970, Salvador Allende became the first Marxist democratically elected in a Latin American country.

Richard M. Nixon, a rabid anti-communist, was president at this time, and under his direction, the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) spent $3 million (over $19 million in today’s dollars) in anti-Allende propaganda during the campaign, and invested another $2.6 million (nearly $17 million in today’s dollars) into the campaign of Mr. Allende’s opponent. Please note again the U.S. anger about the possibility of Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Once Mr. Allende was elected, the U.S. attempted to prevent him from coming to power.

Yet Mr. Allende became president and began implementing the socialist program he’d promised, including the nationalization of several industries, reforming education, and increasing land distribution that had begun under his predecessor.

But the U.S. could not countenance a Marxist as the president anywhere. The U.S. supported radical, right-wing groups and publications, and funded major workers’ strikes. All this eventually led to the overthrow of the government, and Mr. Allende was replaced by General Augusto Pinochet. With his ascent to power, democratic rule in Chile ended after 41 years, and tens of thousands of Pinochet’s opponents were kidnapped, tortured and murdered. But his rule, in the view of the United States, was preferable to that of Mr. Allende.

In transcribed correspondence between Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and Mr. Nixon after the overthrow of the Allende government, we read the following:

“Nixon: Nothing new of any importance or is there?

Kissinger: Nothing of great consequence. The Chilean thing is getting consolidated and of course the newspapers are bleeding because a pro-Communist government has been overthrown.

Nixon: Isn’t that something. Isn’t that something.

Kissinger: I mean instead of celebrating – in the Eisenhower period we would be heros.

Nixon: We didn’t – as you know – our hand doesn’t show on this one though.

Kissinger: We didn’t do it. I mean we helped them. ______ created the conditions as great as possible.

Nixon: That is right. And that is the way it is going to be played.”

Millions of people in Chile were deprived of basic human rights for a period of decades, due to the deliberate actions of the United States.

The United States’ double standard on human rights is seen no more clearly, and is no more blatant, then in its dealings with Palestine and Israel.

In the U.S. there is a law referred to as the ‘Leahy law’, so named after its sponsor Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy. The basic provision of this law is as follows: “No assistance shall be furnished under this chapter or the Arms Export Control Act [22 U.S.C. 2751 et seq.] to any unit of the security forces of a foreign country if the Secretary of State has credible information that such unit has committed a gross violation of human rights.”

We will look for a moment at the Human Rights Watch World Report for 2017, and its descriptions of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. This report states that, during 2016, Israel:

  • Enforced severe and discriminatory restrictions on Palestinians’ human rights, to facilitate the transfer of Israeli civilians to the occupied West Bank, and to severely restrict the movement of people and goods into and out of the Gaza Strip.
  • Used lethal force against suspected attackers in more than 150 cases, including in circumstances that suggest excessive force and at times extrajudicial executions.
  • Killed at least 94 Palestinians and injured at least 3,203 Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza, and Israel as of October 31, including suspected assailants, protesters, and bystanders, according to the United Nations.
  • Destroyed homes and other property under discriminatory practices that severely restrict Palestinians’ access to construction permits and forcibly displaced, as of October 17, 1,283 Palestinian residents in West Bank areas under direct Israeli administrative control.
  • Maintained severe restrictions on the movement of people and goods into and out of Gaza, exacerbated by Israel’s refusal to allow Gaza to operate an airport or seaport.
  • Continued the closure of the Gaza Strip, restricting movement of people and on outgoing goods, having severe consequences for the civilian population, separating families, restricting access to medical care and educational and economic opportunities, and perpetuating unemployment and poverty.
  • Restricted the delivery of construction materials to Gaza which, along with a lack of funding have impeded reconstruction of the 17,800 housing units severely damaged or destroyed during Israel’s 2014 military operation in Gaza. About 65,000 people who lost their homes remain displaced.
  • In the West Bank, as of October 31, Israeli security forces and settlers fatally shot at least 83 Palestinians and wounded at least 3,015, including passersby, demonstrators and those suspected of attacking Israelis, according to UN monitoring. In some cases, video footage and witness accounts strongly suggest that excessive force was used.

The many ways in which these barbaric practices violate the basic human rights of the Palestinians, as described in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, are obvious.

Despite all this, the United States provides $4 billion annually to Israel. It also consistently uses its veto power on the United Nations Security Council to protect Israel from the international consequences of its cruel and illegal actions.

In 2014, as Israel was bombing the Gaza Strip, U.S. President Barack Obama said that attacks on Israel were ‘inexcusable’. And U.S. officials constantly say Israel has a right to defend itself from Hamas’s rocket attacks.

Let’s talk for a minute about those ‘rockets’ fired by Hamas. Normal Finkelstein, son of Holocaust survivors and an ardent advocate for the rights of the Palestinians, calls these ‘rockets’ ‘enhanced fireworks’. They are nothing compared with the deadly, precise weaponry that the U.S. gives to Israel.

Yet these same officials ignore the fact that Israel is in violation of international law in countless ways: displacing Palestinians from their homes; moving its residents permanently onto occupied territory; having separate laws for Israelis and Arabs living in Israel; the existence of Israel-only roads; indefinite detention without charge; the occupation of the West Bank itself, and the blockade of the Gaza Strip. Additionally, they refuse to recognize the international law that states that an occupied people has the right to resist the occupation by whatever means are available.

Yet the U.S. condemns all Palestinian resistance. As Palestinian activist Hanan Ashrawi has said, “the Palestinians are the only people on earth required to guarantee the security of the occupier, while Israel is the only country that demands protection from its victims.”

So in saying that Israel can defend itself against Hamas rockets, but ignoring Palestinians rights to resisting the occupation, the double-standard on human rights is again evident. And it is also worth noting that during 50 days in 2014, Israel fired more rockets into the Gaza Strip, than Hamas had fired into Israel in the previous 14 years.

And can the U.S. reasonably question whether or not Israel is in violation of international law? Section 3 of the Leahy Law states the following:

“In furtherance of paragraphs (1) and (2), the President is directed to formulate and conduct international security assistance programs of the United States in a manner which will promote and advance human rights and avoid identification of the United States, through such programs, with governments which deny to their people internationally recognized human rights and fundamental freedoms, in violation of international law or in contravention of the policy of the United States as expressed in this section or otherwise.”

There is one phrase in that paragraph that stand out: “avoid identification of the United States with governments which deny internationally recognized human rights and fundamental freedoms.’ The U.S. is closely identified with rogue, brutal, apartheid regime of Israel.

Let’s look at some of the things the U.S. chooses to overlook. In 2014, Israel bombed United Nations refugee centers in Gaza. It also targeted residences, mosques, press vehicles and hospitals. All these crimes are violations of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The U.S. may, somehow, be able to ignore many of these incidents, but the bombing of U.N. refugee  centers cannot be ignored; Israel was notified at least ten times that these centers were holding unarmed citizens. The U.S. offered some tepid criticism of Israel at that time, but didn’t reduce by one cent the billions of dollars it provides to that rogue nation.

The killing of four children playing on a Gaza beach was widely witnessed by the international press, but Israel ‘investigated’, and found the soldiers who shot those children were in no way culpable. So foreign aid from the U.S. to Israel continues to flow.

Let’s turn now to the United States’ foreign military bases.

The U.S. uses military bases around the world to control and dominate most of the planet. The United States has at least 800 military basis in 70 countries, housing hundreds of thousands of military personnel. This is far more than any other nation today or at any time in history. Of all the foreign military bases of all countries, about 95% of them are owned by the U.S.

Ostensibly, these bases exist to enable the U.S. to deploy thousands of soldiers anywhere in the world where they are ‘needed’, ‘needed’ being defined by U.S. corporate interests, of the interests of powerful lobby groups, such as AIPAC, although as activist David Swanson has said, with current technology, proximity isn’t important; soldiers and weapons can reach anywhere in the world just as quickly from the United States. These bases provide no benefit to the U.S. economy, or to the host country, whose citizens often resent the presence of a U.S. military base on land that could be used for farming, industry or housing. The advantages accrue only to certain contractors, and the politicians to whom they generously donate.

One foreign U.S. military installation is worth some discussion in this forum.

Guantanamo Bay is the Cuban location of one of the U.S.’s most barbaric and notorious torture chambers. The case of Omar Khadr, a Canadian citizen, is instructive.

Mr. Khadr was 15 years old when he was seriously injured in Afghanistan, and arrested by United States’ soldiers, and charged, on very flimsy evidence, with throwing a hand grenade that killed a U.S. soldier. It must be remembered that international law categorizes any ‘soldier’ under the age of 18 as a ‘child soldier’, who cannot be charged with a war-related crime. However, international law is not something that the mighty U.S. feels any obligation to follow.

When captured, Mr. Khadr sustained extremely serious injuries, including two gunshot wounds in his chest, multiple broken bones, and shrapnel splattered all over his body, costing him the sight in one eye. Yet his immediate medical treatment was lacking.

About a week after his capture, he regained consciousness and was detained at the Bagram air base. There, he was tortured. This torture included the following:

* Being tied to a fence with his hands tied high above his head; due to his injuries, raising his hands at all was extremely painful;

* Being tied up with a bag secured tightly around his head, making breathing difficult, as attack dogs snarled and growled at him from inches away;

* Having cold water thrown over him;

* Forcing him, despite, or perhaps because of, his injuries, to pile heavy water bottles together. Once he finished the task, his torturers knocked over the pile, and forced him to re-pile them. Please remember, he was 15 years old.

After this, he was transferred to Guantanamo, where the torture continued.

One such method is referred to as ‘the mop incident’. It is documented as follows:  Guards “pulled his arms and legs behind in a ‘bow’ position, until his limbs strained painfully at their sockets. This was known in the officially-sanctioned American torture guides as a ‘stress position,’ and victims often pass out from the pain. Over several hours, the guards contorted Mr. Khadr into different stress positions, each time shoving him into a painful position on the ground. Eventually, inevitably, he urinated himself. MPs returned, mocked him for a while and then poured pine-oil solvent all over his body. Without altering his chains, they began dragging him by his feet through the mixture of urine and pine oil. Because his body had been so tightened, the new motion was extremely painful. The MPs swung him around and around, the urine and solvent washing up into his face. The idea was to use him as a human mop. After this, the MPs uncuffed him and carried him back to his cell. He was not allowed a change of clothes for two days.”

He was only 15 years old; even one of the torturers at Bagram, Damien M. Corsetti, known as the ‘Monster’ and the ‘King of Torture’, later said this of Mr. Khadr. “He was a 15-year-old kid with three holes in his body, a bunch of shrapnel in his face. That was what I remember. How horrible this 15-year-old child looked.” Further, he described Mr. Khadr as an injured “child” detained in “one of the worst places on Earth.”

Yet the U.S. government saw him differently. Initial requests for information about Mr. Khadr’s incarceration, from the Director General of the Canadian Consular Affairs office, were ignored. In a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powel, a representative of the Consular Affairs office asked if Mr. Khadr was being well-treated; if he would have proper legal representation; if his status as a minor, as covered by the international conventions dealing with youths, was recognized, and when Canadian officials would be able to meet with him. Mr. Powell’s response was that Mr. Khadr had killed a ‘fine young American’ and would be treated by what passes in the U.S. for a justice system. Apparently, Mr. Powell had determined that, without official charge or trial, Mr. Khadr was guilty, and the U.S. ‘justice system’ would now administer the penalty in one of its foreign torture chambers.

Mr. Khadr was held at Guantanamo for ten years, during which he sustained ongoing torture and eventually, under extreme duress, confessed to several crimes. His incarceration and treatment were widely condemned around the world and by the United Nations.

In 2012, he was transferred to Canada to serve the remainder of an eight-year sentence, and was released on bail in 2015. The Canadian government, under Prime Minister Stephen Harper, appealed this court decision. The appeal was dropped when the new government of Liberal Justin Trudeau came into power.

This is just one example of how the United States simply tramples the basic human rights of people it deems unworthy of them.

Domestically, the U.S. is no more straightforward or honest in its dealings with human rights than it is on the international stage.

Going back to 1999, Amadou Diallo, age 23, was shot 41 times in 1999, after reaching for his wallet to provide police officers with his identification. An investigation by the New York City police department after the death of Mr. Diallo found that the officers acted ‘within policy’.  Four officers were charged with second-degree murder and reckless endangerment, but all four were acquitted.

Since then, the murders of people of African descent by white police officers have become almost epidemic, with the offending officers seldom, if ever charged. And these shootings seem to be routine procedure.

The Black Lives Matter movement grew out of the almost weekly shootings of unarmed men, women and children of African descent, usually by white police officers, almost always with complete impunity. But the crimes of the police go beyond race, to an atmosphere of exemption from consequences for almost any crime.

Just last week, two police officers were acquitted of all charges in the deaths of two, Black men. This is not unusual; it is rare for a police officer to be charged in the death of a man or woman of African descent, and convictions almost never occur. The trial of a third officer ended in a mistrial, for the second time.

Jeronimo Yanez was found not guilty of killing Philando Castile, age 32, in Minnesota. Mr. Castile’s crime was having a bulb burned out in the taillight of his car. When stopped, he told the policeman that he was carrying a gun, for which he was licensed. It seems unlikely that someone intending to shoot a policeman would first announce that he was armed. Nevertheless, he was shot seven times, just moments after he was stopped by the police.

Also acquitted last week was Dominque Heagan-Brown, also an African-American, found not guilty in the death of Slyville Smith, age 23, in Wisconsin, despite a damning video taken by another office that the jury saw. In it, Heaggan-Brown shot Mr. Smith in the chest, after the victim had thrown his weapon over a fence, and had his hand raised. He was on the ground when he was fatally shot. Beyond racism, this indicates a separate set of rules for the U.S. police.

In Ohio, the trial of Officer Ray Tensing ended in a mistrial for the second time, in the killing of Samuel Dubose, who was stopped because his car lacked a front license plate. Things escalated quickly until the unarmed Mr. Dubose was shot in the head while still sitting in his car.

Michael Brown, age 18, was shot and killed in Ferguson, Missouri, for allegedly robbing a convenience store, although he was unarmed. His body lay in the street for four hours, until police allowed it to be moved.

Eric Garner, 44-years old and the father of six children, was strangled by New York City police for allegedly selling cigarettes illegally.

Tamir Rice, age 12, was shot and killed for carrying a toy gun. Within two seconds of arriving on police arriving on the scene, the child had been shot in the chest, twice. There was no demand to drop the ‘gun’, just the shooting. The policeman who shot him was not charged with any crime.

In one incident that wasn’t fatal, 47-year-old Charles Kinsey, a social worker of African descent, was trying to bring a severely autistic man with whom he worked back into the residential facility. Police were called to the scene, and ordered Mr. Kinsey and his client to lie on the ground. Mr, Kinsey did so, although his client, sitting cross-legged and playing with a toy truck, refused. Mr. Kinsey addressed the police: “Sir, there is no need for firearms. I’m unarmed, he’s an autistic guy. He got a toy truck in his hand.”  One of the officers then fired three shots, hitting Mr. Kinsey in the leg. When Mr. Kinsey asked the officer why he had shot him, the officer responded “I don’t know.” He then handcuffed Mr. Kinsey, and rendered no first aid for 20 minutes. The officer, Jonathan Aledda, is on paid leave as this incident is investigated.

The belief has become common in the United States that if a man of African descent commits a crime, he is a thug, a criminal. If a Muslim man commits a crime, he is a terrorist. But if a man of European descent commits a crime, he is emotionally troubled, and requires assistance to help him regain his rightful place as a productive member of society.

In the U.S., over half a million people are homeless every day of the year, sleeping in shelters or on the street; of these, about 8% are veterans, men and women who have done the U.S. military’s dirty work around the world, and now, troubled by guilt resulting in substance abuse, domestic violence, inability to keep a job and other problems, the government simply dismisses them to live on the streets.

One of the basic human rights described in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a “Standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family”.

The official poverty level in the U.S. is ridiculously low: for a family of four, a family income below $24,600 annually is considered ‘poverty’.  A report from the Economic Policy Institute from August of 2015 indicates the following:

“The basic family budget for a two-parent, two-child family ranges from $49,114 (Morristown, Tenn.) to $106,493 (Washington, D.C.). In the median family budget area for this family type, Des Moines, Iowa, a two-parent, two-child family needs $63,741 to secure an adequate but modest living standard. This is well above the 2014 poverty threshold of $24,008 for this family type.”

Based on this report, a more realistic poverty line would be $49,000.00.

Determining a poverty level of $24,600 may reduce the number of people that U.S. statistics say live in poverty, but it doesn’t hide the fact that millions more are actually living in poverty.

One of the many myths that the U.S. perpetuates about itself to its citizens is the concept of ‘U.S. exceptionalism’. This is the belief that the United States has a unique mission to order the world to its concept of freedom and democracy. It also includes a sense of superiority over all other nations.

In 2014, President Barack Obama said “I believe in American exceptionalism with every fiber of my being.”

Some more quotes on this bizarre topic: Texas Senator Ted Cruz said this: “And it was American exceptionalism that stood up to the Soviet Union and freed hundreds of millions from behind the Iron Curtin.” He proved once again that he has no concept of history, as when, while bowing at the unholy AIPAC altar, he proclaimed that the nation of Palestine didn’t exist.

Florida Senator Marco Rubio, when campaigning for the presidential nomination in 2015, made this peculiar statement: “We are the greatest nation in the history of all mankind. Never be afraid to teach that to your children…. Our kids need to know the truth — that they were born citizens of the single greatest nation in the history of all of mankind.”

When South Carolina Senator Lindsay Graham was campaigning for the Republican nomination for president, a press release from his office said this: “Now he is ready to take those leadership skills to the White House, to restore faith in America’s exceptionalism, and our belief that the United States is still the leader… and best hope… for a free and safe world.”

This dangerous concept probably had its origins in an equally ugly and destructive concept, that of Manifest Destiny. . The term is believed to have been coined by John O’Sullivan, the cofounder and editor of The United States Magazine and Democratic Review in 1845.The term signified “…the mission of the United States ‘to overspread the continent allotted by Providence for the free development of our yearly multiplying millions.’” Mr. O’Sullivan further told his readers: “Until every acre of the North American continent is occupied by citizens of the United States, the foundation of the future empire will not have been laid.” Manifest Destiny became a catchphrase for what many considered to be a divinely-authorized continental expansion.

It is easy to see how that sense of superiority that belief that the United States was destined by Deity to occupy the entire North American continent, would evolve into today’s idea of exceptionalism. And it must be remembered that the U.S. stole large parts of Mexico, and invaded Canada in 1812, with the hope of conquering it and making it part of the U.S.

So a nation whose citizens feel it is divinely authorized to control the entire planet will naturally have no allegiance to international law; such laws are for other countries, not the mighty United States.

This is the United States, that self-proclaimed beacon of peace and justice. This is international hypocrisy at its most blatant and deadly. People within the U.S. and without are working tirelessly to resolve these issues, but they are opposed by powerful interest groups. Yet such shocking cruelty and violations of international law and the human rights of millions of innocent people cannot continue forever. The end of the injustices perpetrated by the United States will be a welcome day around the world.

Originally published by The American Herald Tribune.

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Filed under Gaza, Human Rights, Israel, Militarism, Military, Palestine

Distractions, Dysfunction and Donald Trump

The train wreck known as the Executive Branch of the United States government continues somehow, careening out of control towards the cliff. The cars are damaged, the passengers bruised, bloodied and terrified, but the engineer drives on, believing that all the problems thus far were caused by protesters, former President Barack Obama, ‘liberal’ courts, Muslims and the media.

But while President Donald Trump looks ahead, unconcerned about the collateral damage he leaves behind, the Republican-led Congress has been busy. Among their many activities has been the introduction of the following legislation:

  • Bill HR 861 to terminate the Environmental Protection Agency. So what if someone wants clean water: it can be purchased. Clean air? Move to a wealthy neighborhood where there is no industry, and there you are: clean air! And why are all these regulations required anyway? Can’t huge, multinational corporations be trusted to protect the fragile environment, regardless of the expense? Doesn’t the good of the world, and the needs of future generations trump stakeholder demands for profits? Don’t pigs fly?
  • Bill HR 610 to basically abolish the Department of Education. Under the terms of this bill, the Department “…is authorized only to award block grants to qualified states”. There goes public education. But that isn’t all; those wily Congress members also included in this bill a provision to eliminate the requirement that national breakfast and lunch programs “…increase the availability of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat or fat free milk in school meals; reduce the levels of sodium, saturated fat, and trans fat in school meals; and meet children’s nutritional needs within their caloric requirements”. Obesity is at epidemic levels in the U.S., and children’s obesity levels are increasing, but what the hey? Bring on the Big Macs for school lunches!
  • Bill HJR 69, to remove protections from some animals regarding hunting and trapping. Current law bans “…taking black or brown bear cubs or sows with cubs, taking brown bears over bait, taking bears using traps or snares, taking wolves or coyotes during denning season, and taking bears from an aircraft”. This bill would remove those protections.
  • Bill HR 785, to remove the right of unions to charge dues as a condition of employment. Unionized workers are powerful workers, and this just cannot be in the Republican Trump era.
  • Bill HR 354, which would defund Planned Parenthood. Now, let’s look at this one for a minute.

During a budget debate in 2011, Senator John Kyl (R-AZ) asserted that well over 90% of Planned Parenthood’s budget went to fund abortions.  As of January, 2016, abortions comprised about 3.4% of all of the organizations services, and this has remained fairly constant over the years. Of course, Mr. Kyle’s spokespeople explained his misstatement thusly:  they said that it was “not intended to be a factual statement.” In the parlance of 2017, one might call it an alternative fact.

That 3.4% represents a little over 300,000 abortions. The same report says that the total number of medical services provided by Planned Parenthood was nearly 9,500,000. So in the Republican’s great desire to end abortions, they will effectively also try to prevent over 9,000,000 medical services, such ‘trivial’ things related to women’s health as mammograms. Additionally, they will prevent women from being able to access contraception, thus increasing the number of unwanted pregnancies, and the number of abortions. But defunding Planned Parenthood plays well to the so-called Christian Right, which votes en masse for those who do its bidding.

  • Bill HR 808, which implements sanctions against Iran, which U.S. spokespeople call the greatest exporter of terrorism in the world. Again, we need to look at a few of those pesky things so often ignored in the nation’s capital, not only under Mr. Trump’s bizarre and chaotic administration, but in general under any president of either party: facts. The U.S. is by far the largest exporter of weaponry in the world. It is currently bombing at least five countries (Iraq, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Yemen), and is at war in Afghanistan. It is supporting terrorist organizations with money and training in Syria. The U.S. has over 1,000 military bases or installations around the world, threatening the host countries and those that surround them.  It supports such violent and barbaric regimes as Saudi Arabia and Israel.

Now, we will look at the list of countries Iran has invaded in the last several hundred years. Actually, we won’t, since there are none.

Based on this information, the writer asks the objective reader to decide for him or herself which of the two countries, the United States or Iran, should be considered the greatest exporter of terrorism in the world. He is confident he knows the answer.

But again, there must always be a big, bad, boogeyman for the U.S. to fight; you know, some nation that hates the U.S. because of its freedoms. And in the current climate, that boogeyman must be a predominantly Muslim country because, as we all know, all Muslims are terrorists. Well, perhaps we don’t all know that, but Mr. Trump and his adoring minions in Congress and across the U.S. certainly seem to believe it. They also believe that former President Barack Obama was born in Kenya, that evolution is a Satanic lie, and that universal health care is an evil beyond any ever experienced since the beginning of time. Except, of course, when they themselves need it.

So this is where the United States finds itself today, and it is certainly not a happy place. Mr. Trump’s electoral victory was fueled in part by the anti-Muslim, anti-gay, xenophobic right wing, and partly by those who despised his opponent, Hillary Clinton, so much, that they would have voted for Satan himself instead of her. And while those who adore him have not seen anything to dissuade that adulation (expect for some who are now faced with the real possibility of losing health care), those who saw him as the lesser of two evils are now having some second thoughts.

But it is too late for that. Mr. Trump and a Republican Congress have nothing to stop their train from barrelling down the track, annihilating all regulations designed to protect the health and safety of the citizenry. Certainly, one looks in vain (if one bothers to look at all) to any Democratic leadership to halt the looming disasters, because as appalled as they may appear to be, the illustrious Democrats generally cower, and allow the lobbyists to do their work. One must never annoy anyone who lines one’s pockets.

The Trump Administration is off to a very rocky start, and one is naïve indeed if one thinks things will improve anytime soon. One only hopes that the courts will prevent the most egregious of Mr. Trump’s policies. There seems to be nothing else to stop him.

Originally published by TheTruther.us.

 

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Mattis, the U.S. and Iran: What Source Terrorism?

It would be foolish to start this article with a comment about the disarray, confusion, and stupidity, and response to it, that have marked the first few weeks of the new Trump Administration. Worldwide anti-Trump rallies, massive protests at airports, and blatant falsehoods issued from the president, his spokespeople and top advisors have become business as usual in a very short time. None of this is news to the reader.

And, on top of it all, come these pearls of wisdom from the United States Secretary of Defense, one James Mattis: “As far as Iran goes, this is the single biggest state sponsor of terrorism in the world.”

There you are; a pronouncement by a representative of the single biggest state sponsor of terrorism in the world, accusing someone else of its own crimes.

Let us look at the evidence upon which the good Mr. Mattis might be drawing. Since World War II, the United States, that self-proclaimed beacon of peace and freedom, has either invaded or intentionally destabilized at least thirty-three (33) countries, including Angola, Argentina, Bosnia, Brazil, Cambodia, Chile, China, Cuba, Democratic Republic of Congo, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Greece, Grenada, Guatemala, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Korea, Kuwait, Laos, Lebanon, Libya, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tibet, Turkey and Vietnam. Some of these countries have been invaded by the U.S. more than once in that time. And, let us not forget, that at the close of World War II, the U.S. became the only country in history to use nuclear weapons, selecting two cities with no discernible military presence to annihilate.

Iran, that reprehensible sponsor of state terror has, since World War II, invaded a total of zero (0) countries.

Are we, once again, being given ‘alternative facts’ by the U.S. government?

With the U.S. still rattling its saber and now aiming it at Iran, we must ask ourselves why this is. Well, during the administration of President Barack Obama, Iran struck a deal with the world that sanctions against it would be lifted, as long as it used its nuclear development program for peaceful purposes. As we all know, Israel is the only country in the Middle East allowed to have nuclear weapons. Yes, that makes sense; allow an apartheid regime, in violation of countless United Nations resolutions and international laws, a brutal, occupying nation, to have nuclear weapons, but don’t let its sworn enemy (Iran) have any reasonable means of defending itself. For years, Israeli Prime Murderer Benjamin Netanyahu has been proclaiming to the adoring U.S. Congress that Iran is just months away from developing nuclear weapons. And when Mr. Netanyahu speaks, Congress listens. And why not? Between 2010 and 2016, pro-Israel lobbies contributed over $12 million dollars to the campaigns of U.S. senators, and between 2014 and 2016, they donated nearly $5 million dollars to members of the House of Representatives. What do justice, international law and human rights have to do with anything, when such sums are to be raised?

On February 1, Iran tested a new defensive missile, throwing the entire Trump Administration into a frantic tizzy.  Iran’s defence minister, Hossein Dehghan, denied that the test violated the agreement made during the Obama administration, stating that Iran’s missile tests don’t involve rockets with nuclear warheads. Said he: “The recent test was in line with our plans and we will not allow foreigners to interfere in our defence affairs”.

National Security Adviser Michael Flynn added to the very puzzling statement of Mr. Mattis, when he criticized the actions of Iranian-backed rebels in Yemen, a country which the U.S. has been bombing for years. It would have been interesting, one imagines, for someone to have questioned Mr. Flynn about U.S.-backed rebels in Syria, who are guilty of atrocious crimes against civilians, but, apparently, as long as we can make up something to criticize about Iran, no journalist will look too closely at the U.S.’s own crimes.

So what are we to make of all this? There seem to be a few ‘takeaways’ worth noting.

  • The U.S., under Mr. Trump’s chaotic reign, will continue to wage war around the world.
  • Israel still calls the shots.
  • The concepts of ‘journalism’ and ‘integrity’ will continue to have little or no association.
  • ‘Newspeak’, so named by George Orwell in his once-again best-selling novel, 1984, will continue, but under the new name of ‘alternative facts’.

One would hope, in vain, that perhaps Mr. Trump’s intention to launch World War III would cause him at least to ignore domestic policy, and perhaps leave things alone at home. But no, he has not been idle on the homefront. His brand new Secretary of Education, one Betsy Devos, who donated tens of millions of dollars to his campaign, does not support public education.  His nominee to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, finally, in January of this year, conceded that human activity plays ‘some’ role in climate change. The executive director of the Sierra Club, Michael Burne, said that appointing Mr. Pruitt to the EPA is “like putting an arsonist in charge of fighting fires”.  Mr. Trump has accused Judge James Robart, who overturned Mr. Trump’s travel ban, as inviting terrorists into the U.S., and referred to him as a ‘so-called’ judge, despite the fact that he was appointed by a Republican president, George Bush.

Since the primaries ended last year, resulting in the nominations of Donald Trump and former Senator Hillary Clinton, this writer has been in despair for the U.S. and the world. The candidates were far different, but each terrible in their own, unique ways. There were similarities, of course: both were wealthy, white, old and had very questionable backgrounds. Both grovelled at the repulsive Israeli altar. But from there, they each travelled down different roads, neither of which would be of any use to the 99%.

And now we see the damage that Mr. Trump is perpetrating upon the country and the rest of the world. One would like to see cooler heads prevail, but there are none in Washington, D.C. We can only hope that the damage caused by the Trump administration will not be too great to be reversed in four years.

 

 

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Fighting Back in Dallas

This past week, the nation witnessed, not once, but twice, the apparently unjustified killing of two Black men by white police officers. This no longer shocks anyone; young, usually unarmed Black men serve as target practice for the mainly white police force, so the fact that two more officers were simply practicing their shooting skills is hardly even news.

Dont shoot

Then, on Friday, we all awoke to the national uproar over the killing of five police officers in Dallas, Texas. This writer heard some news about it when at the fitness center in the morning; forgetting to bring his mobile device, he had no music to listen to as he used the stepper, and watched that well-known entertainment station, CTV-News, report its version of the news.

One ‘expert’, the name of whom this writer didn’t notice, since said ‘expert’ was already speaking as this writer was setting the adjustments on the stepper he was to use, said mournfully that this shocking event had cast a pall over the entire country.

Now, this writer is sorry for any murder victim, whether that person has been killed by a drone strike in Yemen, a bomb in Syria, an Israeli terrorist in Palestine, a police officer in Baton Rouge or a sniper in Dallas. He feels for the grieving survivors, and sympathizes with their anger at the perpetrator. Yet he feels it is unfair, at the very least, and criminal at the very worst, to classify the killing of five police officers in Dallas as any more tragic than the killing of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge or Philando Castile in Minneapolis. If a pall has been cast over the nation, it is the pall of blatant, unchecked racism.

And while there is nothing surprising about the constant murders of unarmed Black men by the police, there should be little surprise that, finally, people are fighting back. This does not excuse the murders of these officers, but one must consider that, sooner or later, with no recourse from the courts or the government, victimized people would, eventually, strike back.

After the shootings, Dallas Police Chief David Brown said this:”We don’t feel much support most days. Let’s not make today most days. Please, we need your support to be able to protect you from men like these, who carried out this tragic, tragic event.” Well, who,one might reasonably ask, is going to protect members of the Black community from the police? When the police shoot unarmed Black men, internal investigations almost always find the killing justified. No wonder many police departments “don’t feel much support most days”.

As of this writing, a suspect in the Dallas shootings has been identified. Needless to say, he has also been killed. Micah Xavier Johnson is said to have acted alone, unlike the white police officers who routinely kill Black men; they usually have partners and extensive back up, as they approach and shoot their victims.

Had Mr. Johnson not been killed, he, unlike the murderers of Michael Brown, Eric Garner and the many others shot by police, would have felt the full effects of the law. Snipers, unlike police officers, cannot kill innocent people with complete impunity.

Let us return for a moment to this writer’s brief exposure to CTV-’News’. In the past, he has seen how the corporate-owned media tells the vapid-minded viewer what to think. For example, when four Israelis were killed in a Tel Aviv cafe, this event was widely broadcast. But when two unarmed Palestinian teenagers, observing but not participating in a demonstration against Israel’s illegal and brutal occupation of Palestine, were shot by IDF (Israeli Defense Forces. Read: terrorists), in a crime taped by a security camera mounted outside a nearby store, there was no CTV ‘expert’ decrying this horrendous crime, no interviews with the survivors, and, therefore, no instructions to the viewers that they should be angry, sorrowful, etc. A teenage girl, intentionally hit and seriously injured by car driven by an illegal Israeli settler, and then shot by that settler, is not, in the minds of the corporations who own CTV, worthy of being reported. There is, in this view, no reason to shed any tears for her.

With a name like Micah Xavier Johnson, it will be difficult for the media to associate Mr. Johnson with Islam, to which it is almost mandatory for the corporate-owned shills that pass as news outlets to tie to any violent crime. We must all remember, when anyone proclaiming to be Muslim commits a crime, he is a radical jihadist, representative of the entire 1.8 billion people who are Muslims, and who, by definition, are all terrorists. If a Black man commits a crime, it is simply representative of the criminal element that is inherent in the race. If a white man commits a crime, he is mentally unstable, acting alone and, if not shot and killed by police, deserving of the best psychiatric help there is, so he can be rehabilitated, and live the productive, peaceful, law-abiding life typical of all whites.

When the funerals are held for these police officers, we will see thousands of other police officers in attendance. That the police forces in the United States are a ‘brotherhood’ bordering on a cult can hardly be disputed. One episode is telling:

This writer lived for many years in New Jersey. While there, a police officer’s estranged wife obtained a restraining order against her husband, due to domestic violence. He was forbidden from contacting her, or coming to her home. While this order was in effect, she began living with another man. One day, when she was at work, the police officer, her estranged husband, broke into her home. He found her boyfriend naked, sleeping in the bed. He confronted him and shot and killed him. He was subsequently arrested for murder.

As soon as he was arrested, several of his ‘fellow-officers’ mortgaged their homes to pay his bail. He was tried and acquitted of all charges.

Let’s remember that the officer was illegally in his estranged wife’s home. The man he shot had just awakened from sleep, and could hardly have been concealing a weapon; he was wearing nothing to conceal it with. Yet other police officers rushed to his defense, and maintained their belief that he was innocent, despite clear evidence to the contrary. Or perhaps the matter of innocence or guilt didn’t enter their minds: he was a police office, and therefore anything he did, even killing an unarmed, defenseless man, wasn’t wrong..

Mr. Eric Garner, mentioned above, begged for his life as police officers choked him to death. Mr. Brown’s bullet-riddled body lay in the street for hours, before police officers allowed him to be removed, so he could find some dignity in his brutal, untimely and unjustified death.

Numerous stories have been relayed about Black parents warning their teenage sons how to behave if confronted by a police officer, but such guidance is probably given in vain. Mr. Castile informed the police officers that he had a legally-obtained and registered gun in one pocket, and would retrieve his wallet from the other. That was insufficient to save his life.

Can anyone truly say and believe that racism is not rampant in the United States? Can they not say that separate laws exist, if not officially on the books, but certainly in practice, for people of color, and whites?

Violence is seldom justified (note that this writer will not say it’s never justified), but in the current situation, it should not be a surprise. In any racist oligarchy, where power is consolidated among the wealthy few, and the rest are second class citizens, with people of color being in the lowest tier of that lower category, the status quo cannot be expected to be maintained forever. Today’s violence in Dallas will be met with increased violence towards Blacks by the white establishment, which can only increase the cycle of violence. Where this will all end is anyone’s guess, but it will leave a trail of blood and sorrow in its wake.

Originally published by TheTruther.

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US Pads Defense Industry Profits By Arming Both Sides In Conflict

KITCHENER, Ontario — (Analysis) The United States has long billed itself as “the land of the free and the home of the brave.” This fairytale receives credence within the country’s own borders, as its lemming-like citizens place hand on heart, look at the waving flag, and wipe tears from their eyes.

Yet a good story doesn’t often play quite as well when cultures and traditions are different, and for countries that have a free press or that have been victimized by the U.S. — and their name is legion — the lofty statements about liberty and equality that U.S. spokespeople are forever mouthing don’t hold much water.

From the Philippines, Mexico, Chile, Brazil and Nicaragua, right through Korea, Vietnam and Grenada, to Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Palestine today, the United States’ blatant hypocrisy is on full display, as the citizens of those nations paid or continue to pay a high price for daring to be independent when the U.S. wanted their natural resources, or who had the temerity to democratically elect leadership that was too far to the left to accommodate U.S. corporate interests. And in the case of Palestine, being on the opposite end of a powerful political lobby causes their suffering at the hands of the U.S.

And even within the U.S., the fantasy of freedom and equality proclaimed by the corporate-owned media falls far short of the experience of many citizens:

Unarmed young black men serve as target practice for white police officers, with the nearly complete compliance of the judiciary and political establishment.

Women are paid, on average, 80 percent of what men earn in comparable positions.

Students graduate from colleges and universities burdened by tens of thousands, sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars, of debt, payable to the U.S. government; meanwhile, corporations borrow at a fraction of the student rate.

Children live in poverty at shocking levels for an industrial nation.

 There are 1.49 million homeless people in this country, including scores of veterans who naively thought they were fighting for liberty. On any given night, more than 578,000 homeless people are without shelter — that’s more than half a million Americans sleeping on streets, in cars, under tents and in other exposed places every night.

But what is any of that when the bottom line is and always has been the almighty dollar? While exporting death by bombing nations around the world, the U.S. also does a brisk business in the international weapons market, making it the world’s top arms exporter. It buys these weapons from domestic manufacturers and defense contractors like Lockheed Martin — companies with deep pockets that contribute generously to the campaign coffers of elected officials who do their bidding, and thus keep their profits high.

It only makes sense that the need for such armaments will grow as wars are waged. And the U.S. wages more wars than all other nations combined.

 

Maximizing profits for a deep-pocketed defense industry

But someone in the hallowed halls of Congress figured out that it isn’t really necessary to take sides in international conflicts or internal uprisings around the world. Doing so risks being on the losing side. Losing, of course, isn’t all that important as long as there is money to be made, but it does limit profit margins. So why not provide weapons to both sides? This would keep the arms manufacturers happy and maintain the flow of contributions to political campaigns.

Now, this strategy is not without risk; one must consider what U.S. citizens would think if they knew that their beloved government was siding with both sides of a conflict. But, as with any good business model, risk mitigation strategies are developed. With the corporate-owned media in the pocket of the government (fascism, anyone?), the people will only know what the government wants them to know. Any conflict can be spun as a contest of good versus evil, freedom versus oppression, or whatever buzzwords U.S. public relations specialists — certainly experts in their field — toss out.

Let us look at the complex situation in Syria. The government of President Bashar Assad is far from democratic, but it did offer stability in the nation. However, demands for democratic reforms were repulsed, and conflicts between the reformers and the government escalated. Reform groups, once united, began to split apart due to ideological differences, spawning the rise of Daesh (an Arabic acronym for the group known in the West as ISIS or ISIL). As the government attempted to repress growing demonstrations, violence continued to escalate.

Enter the United States, always ready to drop bombs on any nation. In August of 2013, the U.S. claimed that the Syrian government had used chemical weapons against its own citizens, killing 1,400 people. This in itself is an example of U.S. hypocrisy, since Israel uses chemical weapons against the Palestinians, with nary a word of protest from the U.S.

Those who rely on the corporate media for their news have never heard of this. But they did hear of Syria’s alleged use of such weapons, because that’s what the U.S. wanted them to hear. So a year after this alleged incident, the U.S. started bombing.

The U.S.has been funding Syrian rebels since at least 2011. But as mentioned above, there are several rebel groups, and the U.S. isn’t particularly discriminating where it lends its support. Additionally, various U.S. agencies don’t appear to consult with each other on the topic. In March of this year, the Los Angeles Times reported: “Syrian militias armed by different parts of the U.S. war machine have begun to fight each other on the plains between the besieged city of Aleppo and the Turkish border.” Again, as long as U.S. arms manufacturers are happy, what else matters? So what if a third of Syrians have had to flee their homes? What difference do nearly half a million deaths of innocent people make?

 

A history of arming both sides

Of course, this is nothing new, as a look back at World War II shows.

In 1917, the U.S. passed the “Trading with the Enemy Act,” which granted the president the power to restrict all trade between the U.S. and its enemies in times of war. On Dec. 13, 1941, less than a week after Pearl Harbor was bombed by the Japanese, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed an amendment to the act. The crux of the amendment is:

“A general license is hereby granted, licensing any transaction or act proscribed by section 3(a) of The Trading with the Enemy Act, as amended, provided, however, that such transaction or act is authorized by the Secretary of the Treasury by means of regulations, rulings, instructions, licenses or otherwise, pursuant to the Executive order No. 8389, as amended.”

In his 1983 book, “Trading with the Enemy,” Charles Hingham describes the activities of the major U.S. automobile companies during World War II:

”The substantial contribution of these firms to the American war effort in terms of tanks, aircraft components, and other military equipment is widely acknowledged. Less well known are the simultaneous contributions of their foreign subsidiaries to the Axis Powers. In sum, they maximized profits by supplying both sides with the materiel needed to conduct the war.”

Further:

“In Germany, for example, General Motors and Ford became an integral part of the Nazi war efforts. GM’s plants in Germany built thousands of bomber and jet fighter propulsion systems for the Luftwaffe at the same time that its American plants produced aircraft engines for the U.S. Army Air Corps … ”

And lastly:

“The outbreak of war in September 1939 resulted inevitably in the full conversion by GM and Ford of their Axis plants to the production of military aircraft and trucks. … On the ground, GM and Ford subsidiaries built nearly 90 percent of the armored ‘mule’ 3-ton half-trucks and more than 70 percent of the Reich’s medium and heavy-duty trucks. These vehicles, according to American intelligence reports, served as ‘the backbone of the German Army transportation system’.”

The U.S. was willing then, as now, to support both sides in its worship of the almighty dollar. In 1963, the U.S. supported Saddam Hussein, a leader of a rebel group opposing the government of Iraq that had previously been supported by the U.S. In 1979, when Russia invaded Afghanistan, the U.S. armed radical extremists who eventually became Al-Qaida, with whom the U.S. has now been at war for years.

 

No reason for change and hope

Despite the U.S. Declaration of Independence’s assertion that “all men are created equal” and that everyone has the right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” the U.S. deprives countless millions of people around the world of these basic rights in its quest to enrich the already super-wealthy.

Will this change? Will the upcoming presidential election bring fruition of the unrealized “hope and change” promise of eight years ago?

Hardly.

As Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, the two likely contenders for president from the major parties, only promise more of the same, or worse, there can be no optimism about 2017. The U.S. will continue to arm rebel groups against legitimate governments, resulting in the suffering of innocent people around the world and sky-high profits for U.S. arms manufacturers.

No one is talking about hope or change this year. There is, sadly, no reason to.

Originally published by MintPressNews.

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Whitewashing Militarism, Vietnam-War Edition

This year marks the fortieth anniversary of the Vietnamese victory over the United States, in the war that ravaged Vietnam, and caused untold suffering and division in the U.S. It was said, after the people of Vietnam were able to resist the most powerful military machine in the world, that the U.S. needed to rethink its war-mongering and military aggression, and, perhaps, turn to diplomacy before resorting to bombs. The lessons of Vietnam, it was proclaimed, must be remembered.

It doesn’t take a historian to see that any lessons from that disastrous war were all quickly forgotten. Not only has this been manifested by the U.S.’s almost constant war-making since its defeat in Vietnam, but now the government is also ‘commemorating’ that deadly, imperial disaster. To this end, it has launched a 13-year Commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War. This farce began in 2012, and the country will be subjected to it, in one form or another, until 2025.

Looking at the commemoration’s website, there are five (5) stated objectives. Each is more puzzling than the last. We will look at each one in some detail.

“To thank and honor veterans of the Vietnam War, including personnel who were held as prisoners of war (POW), or listed as missing in action (MIA), for their service and sacrifice on behalf of the United States and to thank and honor the families of these veterans.”

The U.S. has an odd way of thanking veterans, if it believes that an occasional parade will do the trick. Veterans, including large numbers of those who ‘served’ (more on that ridiculous term later) in Vietnam, have an above-average rate of depression, suicide, homelessness, drug-addiction and domestic violence. Victims of Agent Orange, the chemical defoliant used widely in Vietnam, which cause untold physical problems for veterans and their children, fought for years to have their illnesses recognized by the government as having been caused by those chemicals. Veterans’ hospitals have been shown to have long waiting lists, and deplorable conditions.

“To highlight the service of the Armed Forces during the Vietnam War and the contributions of Federal agencies and governmental and non-governmental organizations that served with, or in support of, the Armed Forces.”

One wonders why anyone wants to highlight the activities of organizations that made the killing of innocent men, women and children easier and more effective.

“To pay tribute to the contributions made on the home front by the people of the United States during the Vietnam War.”

It would seem to anyone with even a rudimentary knowledge of life in the U.S. during the Vietnam-War era that the nation should pay tribute to the contributions made by those who opposed the war. Tens of thousands of young men fled the country, rather than be victimized by the U.S. slave trade known as conscription. Countless others who went to Vietnam returned home and actively opposed the war. Numerous others were jailed when their conscientious-objector applications were denied, or when they publically burned their draft cards. Eventually, even the corporate-owned media, and many politicians, saw the validity and honor of their actions. But during this endless commemoration, all this will be ignored.

“To highlight the advances in technology, science, and medicine related to military research conducted during the Vietnam War.”

Now, perhaps, we are getting to the heart of the matter. Such ‘advances’ mainly serve to advance the bottom line of the fat-cats who profit from war. And any golden calf is always worth worshipping in the United States. And if so many advances in technology, science and medicine resulted from the Vietnam War, well then, why not have another war, and see what additional advances can be made?

“To recognize the contributions and sacrifices made by the allies of the United States during the Vietnam War.”

It would not be unreasonable to think that these allies would just as soon forget the whole thing. All any reminders of their involvement in the U.S.’s Vietnam folly can do is bring to mind any repeat of those mistakes when the U.S., with equal justification (read: none) invaded Iraq. So this commemorative frolic may not be something the allies will embrace.

And now let us take a moment to consider the term ‘military service’, an oxymoron if ever there was one. Militarism, as has been amply demonstrated by the U.S. for over two centuries, brings death, poverty, oppression, denial of human rights, and the untold and unspeakable suffering of innocent men, women and children. This has been true from the War of 1812 right up through today, as the U.S. and its allies bomb Syria, and spread suffering there, while causing increased hatred towards the United States. The killing of the innocent might be called ‘collateral damage’, but more of the innocent suffer and die than any of the U.S.’s self-identified ‘enemies’.

What does any of this have to do with service? That word, except when perverted by being affixed to the word ‘military’, implies selfless assistance, the acts of helping people who are suffering, or are somehow less fortunate than those performing the service. Volunteers in homeless shelters, at food banks, school programs and other facilities where people are assisted can be said to serve. Educators who devote their lives to teaching, despite low salaries, serve. But soldiers who invade independent countries and kill their citizens are not serving; there is a word for killing people, and it is not ‘service’.

But today, and for the next several years, apparently, the president and various other politicians will proclaim the greatness of the cause that led to the Vietnam War, looking at it through the 40-year-old tint of rose-colored glasses, and praise it as an example of U.S. greatness. There will be no mention of the anger on university campuses that often resulted in extreme police violence against students. The young men who left the country in order to avoid forced participation in the immorality of war will be ignored. And the citizen-lemmings will forget the scenes of U.S. personnel desperately fleeing Saigon as the Vietcong entered victoriously, and will place hand on heart, pledge allegiance to the flag, and sit back as the U.S. continues to operate the most effective killing machine on the planet.

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