Archive for Militarism

The Catch-22 Of Oil-Wellian Logic

A few years ago we spent a long weekend at a lovely hotel on the pristine St. Petersburg, FL shore. We walked along the beach, collected shells, ate seafood. Yesterday I got an email from them telling me they weren’t Pensacola and to come on down, the water’s fine. They even have their own no-spill-here -cam.

Unfortunately, while tar balls are not washing up on their beautiful beach (at least not yet), the safety of the water is not something I would want to bet on.  While I have all the empathy in the world for people wanting to salvage the economic remains of their lives, there are some serious questions about the safety information we are getting regarding the Gulf.  As Chamber of Commerce denizens are madly (and I do not use that word lightly) telling us the only oil you need to worry about is the suntan variety, marine biologist Dr. Riki Ott, who is an expert on the impact of oil disasters, notes that,

“Public officials have failed to sound an alarm about the public health threat because three federal agencies – DHHS, EPA, and OSHA – cannot find any unsafe levels of oil in air or water. Perhaps the federal air and water standards are not stringent enough to protect the public from oil pollution. Our federal laws are outdated and do not protect us from the toxic threat from oil – now widely recognized in the scientific and medical community.

BP is still in the dark ages on oil toxicity. BP officials stress that, by the time oil gets to shore, it is “weathered”

After wading in safe water...

After wading in 'safe' water...

and missing the highly volatile compounds like the carcinogenic benzene, among others. BP fails to mention the threat from dispersed oil, ultrafine particles (PAHs), and chemical dispersants, which include industrial solvents and proprietary compounds, many hazardous to humans.

If oil was so nontoxic, then why are the spill response workers giving hazardous waste training? Our federal government should stop pretending that everything is okay. What isn’t safe for workers isn’t safe for the general public either.”

It bears remembering as well that the monitoring that is being done of air and water quality is not up to elementary school science standards in some regards.  NRDC’s Gina Solomon points to sample results that, “don’t say where they were taken, and who was in the area.”

Questions have also been raised about testing labs with ties to BP and the veracity of assertions that dispersants are not in the air and increased arsenic levels. And then there is the matter of report after report of reporters being denied access to the effected areas.  Bottom line–between deliberate misinformation, denial of access to information and an approach to scientific fact checking that is less sophisticated than a kid’s chemistry set, assurances of safety along the Gulf are suspect at best.

But that is not even the most dangerous part of the story.  As I pointed out a few weeks ago, the oil disaster, first framed by BP, the government and media as a regrettable spill, quickly escalated into a war that needed to be fought. As Anne McClintock writes,

“Billy Nungesser, indefatigable President of the Plaquemines Parish, implores anyone who will listen: “We will fight this war….We will persevere to win this war.” For Ragin Cajun, Democratic strategist, James Carville: “This is literally a war… this is an invasion…We need to hear someone say ‘We’ll fight them on the beaches.’” Retired Gen. Russell Honore, who oversaw the Katrina debacle, insists: “We need to act like this is World War 111. Treat this like it’s an invasion…equal to what we decided about terrorists. We’ve got to find the oil and kill it.”…

…Visit the BP site (one of the more surreal Alice-Through-the-Looking-Glass internet experiences) and you will see the word “kill”–BP’s favored, faux-techno buzzword–appearing with ritualistic incantation. Kill the well, kill the leak, kill the oil, which morphs into “kill mud” (the mud that will kill the leak) and “kill lines” (the lines that follow the pipes to kill the leak)..

…So why are people calling the calamity a war and why does it matter that they do?

Calling the oil the ‘enemy’ helps us not to question who was culpable in the first place. Calling the response ‘a battle front’ helps us not ask who, other than the military, should be in charge. Calling the spill an ‘invasion’ helps us not to see that our global culture of militarization is what got us into the mess in the first place. Calling the spill a ‘war’ only fuels the pervasive militarization that produced the crisis in the first place. And calling the oil the enemy helps us not admit how much we, the consumers, having awakened the oil from its ancient slumber to fuel our gas-greedy lives, are the most complicit of all…

…All this war talk would be understandable, defensible even, were it not for a fatally circular, feedback loop. BP would not be in the Gulf drilling deeper than it knows how to drill were it not for its uniquely profitable relation with the US military war machine. The United States Department of Defense buys more oil than any other entity on the planet. The protection of overseas oil is now so unquestioned that even Defense Secretary Gates warned against the “creeping militarization” of U.S. foreign policy. And to fuel this militarization, the Pentagon uses 75% of the oil bought by the DOD for its jets, bombers, drones, tanks, and Humvees. And in order to keep buying this oil, the military has to keep protecting our regional oil interests, two thirds of which are now in conflict prone zones. US military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan use a staggering ninety million gallons a month. And to garrison this vast, global gas-station, the DOD keeps expanding, which means buying more oil.

From whom? In 2009, BP was the Pentagon’s largest contractor at $2.2 billion…

…Keeping this in mind, we would do well to remember that militarization is the number one cause of environmental destruction in the world, and that military production facilities, which are exempt from environmental restrictions, are the most ecologically devastated places on earth. We drill, we spill; nature pays the bill.”

GritTV’s Laura Flanders asks some important questions about the connection between the economy, which according to experts such as Paul Krugman and Robert Reich is in serious trouble, and the military:

“The US is currently shedding hundreds of thousands of jobs each month. It’s not just in the Ozarks that the recruiters are the only ones with jobs around. The economy shed 125,000 jobs in June. That’s about the number of troops we have left in Iraq…

…We’ve long heard about fighting people over there so we don’t have to do it here. Is the colder truth becoming that we’re sending people over there because we sure can’t employ ’em over here? And we’re scared to death of what unrest might come with a massive return of men and women who’ve served and endured — and who expect something better for their families than starvation wages, and no social services when they get back?”

I think there is a lot of truth to that as well as to the fact that a bad economy makes for fruitful military recruitment when kids can’t get jobs or afford college, why not join the military like that cool recruiter who hangs out at lunch in the cafeteria in that bad-ass uniform is pushing you to do.  As McClintock points out, the military is  busy defending the oil on which its existence depends. And for that it needs an endless supply of human cannon fodder.

And so we fight pointless wars without end rather than actually defending our citizens or literally, our shores.  We allow the real enemy to tell us how to ‘clean’ up the resultant disaster and to control the information flow even while the oil flows unabated, because we are addicted to their product and our Congress has been bought off.

As for the beaches of St. Pete–are they safe?  Perhaps.  I hope so, but we simply cannot have enough confidence in what passes as data to say so, even if the damage is not visible.  What is unquestionably dangerous however is the wholesale usurpation of government oversight by a  lawless private corporation and the denial of freedom of the press in covering this story.  As damaging as this disaster has already been to the ocean, shoreline and inhabitants of both, it will continue to be more so unless we insist on proper precautions, good science and full transparency. Above all, it is time to take a long overdue, very hard look at just what our military is supposedly defending and why and how, in the end, real security is defined.

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Playgrounds At Guantanamo

In the jaw hanging open department, this is just a hop, skip and a jump from a certain oil disaster–couldn’t we maybe put the oil here, or at the very least, the top brass of BP, Halliburton and Transocean?  Afterall, the oil is actually threatening our shores, unlike most if not all of the prisoners for life at Guantanamo?

“The cost of the marquee (at Guantanamo), along with a smaller sign positioned near the airfield: $188,000. Among other odd legacies from war-on-terror spending since 2001 for the troops at Guantanamo Bay: an abandoned volleyball court for $249,000, an unused go-kart track for $296,000 and $3.5 million for 27 playgrounds that are often vacant.”

Playgrounds??? For whom?

“The Pentagon also spent $683,000 to renovate a cafe that sells ice cream and Starbucks coffee, and $773,000 to remodel a cinder-block building to house a KFC/Taco Bell restaurant.

The spending is part of at least $500 million that has transformed what was once a sun-beaten and forgotten Caribbean base into one of the most secure military and prison installations in the world. That does not include construction bonuses, which typically run into the millions.

Also not included are annual operating costs of $150 million — double the amount for a comparable U.S. prison, according to the White House. Add in clandestine black-budget items, such as the top-secret Camp 7 prison for high-value detainees, aptly nicknamed Camp Platinum, and the post-Sept. 11, 2001, bill for the 45-square-mile base easily soars toward $2 billion…

Millions went to build artificial-turf football and baseball fields that professional players would envy, surrounded by a cluster of facilities, including a running track, a skate park, an outdoor roller hockey rink and batting cages.”

And while we pour millions down the Guantanamo hell hole, people in this country do not have jobs, they are losing their homes, cannot afford healthcare or education. But not to worry, we have a roller hockey rink at Guantanamo.

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Wanna Buy Some Oily Swampland In Florida?

As things get more and more surreal every moment on this planet, it becomes difficult to write in a way that

A last romp at the beach?

A last romp at the beach?

doesn’t send you the reader or me the writer into tears or over a cliff.  While the oil continues to gush, there have been some truly bat-shit scary ideas of how to stop it, including the Dr. Strangelove nuke it solution.  Nuking a hole in a gushing hole, radiating the gulf and who knows what else when the wind blows is helpful how?

One thing to be said for that idea, it makes the idea of putting the military, you know the one that is winning the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, in to deal with it almost sound sane.  I said almost.  But not to worry,

“U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates is rejecting a more forceful role for the military in plugging the Gulf of Mexico oil leak.Gates says the deep-water disaster is beyond the military’s expertise.”

Osama Bin Laden is rolling on the floor laughing in his cave.  We spend how much every year to protect ourselves against all manner of ‘terrorism’ and when we actually have a real something to be afraid about, the military’s response is ‘We got nothing’?  Oh and in answer to how much we spend to not be able to defend ourselves against real threats, here is the growing count and amount,

“The US spent $661 billion on its military in 2009, a 75.8 percent increase from 2000. While current US military spending is still a carryover from the years of George W. Bush, President Barack Obama shows no signs of cutting spending. The Nobel Peace Prize winner excluded security-related expenditure from a planned three-year squeeze in discretionary expenditure. At a recent hearing before Congress, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates talked about efforts to trim the fat but the proposed Defense Department baseline budget for fiscal 2011 is $708 billion.”

But don’t look to divert any of those funds to cleaning up wetlands or providing employment assistance for those along the Gulf who now joint the ranks of the already beleaguered unemployed.  After all, a strong defense is important.

And then there is the Goldman Sachs oh so timely sale of BP shares?  No need to be suspicious of that with Tim Geithner at the helm.

And the recession remember the recession?  Is it back?  Might could be, hardly a surprise, ‘splains the mirage like quality of our supposed recovery.

And in the miscellaneous oh there’s a surprise category:

1.  Meanwhile, we spent how much money fighting the less than epic swine flu pandemic to the benefit of big Pharma and why?  Remember Rumsfeld’s connection with Tamiflu?  Nuf said.

2.  And radioactive fish?  Has nothing to do with proximity to nuclear plants.

Meanwhile, Arizona is doing its damnedest to whitewash itself, Israel went into its bat shit bully mode and the DADT debate is promising to last longer than the healthcare debate.  I won’t even bother with links for those, you know, and I can’t bear to even spend the time to remind you. Stay tuned, the bad news is there will be more bad news and worse yet, more bad lies.  And you’ll never guess who is going to get stuck paying the tab.

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When The Truth Is Found To Be Lies

We Americans are not very good at telling or hearing the truth, although we’d like to think that we are. We tell our schoolchildren that George Washington could not tell a lie about chopping down the cherry tree, even though, ironies of ironies, the story likely isn’t true.  We fall all over ourselves giving the microphone to people whose whole understanding of the world is a lie (Rand Paul, Sarah Palin) because while we might not be very good at discerning or disseminating facts, we do so love our fiction.

Over the weekend we listened to our President tell West Point Cadets we will succeed in Afghanistan–succeed?  At what?  Even his own General–McChrystal– recently said that indeed, no one is winning. Congress keeps appropriating money for this endless battle but the truth is that war will make you poor.  Congressman Alan Grayson has it right,

“Next year’s budget allocates $159,000,000,000 to “contingency operations,” to perpetuate the occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq. That’s enough money to eliminate federal income taxes for the first $35,000 of every American’s income each year, and beyond that, leave over $15 billion that would cut the deficit.”

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And in the Gulf–one wonders if there has been a coup–BP seems to be calling the shots.  The EPA tells them not to continue to use a toxic chemical dispersant (see quote below regarding why this is so extremely terrifying and see here regarding the issue that this chemical was approved for use even though we have known about its toxicity for many years), and BP says they will keep using it.  When reporters call law enforcement, they reach BP, scientific evidence is being evaluated by a company that counts BP as a client and worst of all, damage estimates are repeatedly minimized.

But the marshes are being destroyed, the oceans poisoned–there is no going back from this and as yet no way to stop it.  This isn’t Exxon-Valdez, it is far, far worse and the damage beyond anything this country has ever seen  and one which cannot be fixed.  The Gulf coast as we know it is gone.  The fishing, the tourism.  There will be health consequences.  There won’t be fish.  Or perhaps coral reefs. Or perhaps us. And that is the truth of it.

Bob Herbert puts it eloquently,

“No one knows how much of BP’s runaway oil will contaminate the gulf coast’s marshes and lakes and bayous and canals, destroying wildlife and fauna — and ruining the hopes and dreams of countless human families. What is known is that whatever oil gets in will be next to impossible to get out. It gets into the soil and the water and the plant life and can’t be scraped off the way you might be able to scrape the oil off of a beach.

It permeates and undermines the ecosystem in much the same way that big corporations have permeated and undermined our political system, with similarly devastating results.”

And just how devastating?  As bad as the consequences of  what we have seen so far will be, it may get far, far worse:

“The oil field the Deepwater Horizon had tapped is said to be the second largest deposit in the world. Viewzone.com reports, “The site covers an estimated 25,000 square miles, extending from the inlands of Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and Texas. “

The oil deposit is so large, it could produce 500,000 barrels of a day for more than a decade.

Part of the reason the well exploded is because the site also contains large deposits of natural gas…

…The New York Times has reported that scientists suspect the leak is thousands of times larger than what BP has been reporting.  Some estimates are as high as one million gallons a day.

Rock particles, gas and oil escaping under pressure are pushing against  the capstone on the sea floor that surrounds the actual well. If it collapses, the canyon of oil will escape with a vengeance.

Neither BP nor anyone else wants to say what will happen it the wellhead gives way or the sea floor around it caves in.”

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Meanwhile, to hear government officials and Wall Street tell it, the economy is recovering, and perhaps in the language of economics it is.  But in truth the ‘recovery’ looks something like an upside down Ponzi scheme, a bit like the Tempe, AZ City Hall.

All the wealth is at the top but there is little to support it down below–and unlike the architecturally brilliant building, the upside down economic pyramid must eventually fall down. We have almost pathological blinders when it comes to seeing the obvious perils to our continued existence–climate change and global warming, peak oil, water and food shortages, melting glaciers, species extinction, deforestration, floods, droughts, oceans under siege. But still we gulp the koolaid and believe that growth is good and things will be better soon.  And we are just as blind when it comes to understanding that commodifying the sanctity of corporate well-being over human welfare is ultimately our downfall, not the path to prosperity that it claims to be.

I don’t watch much television, but I guess I should because it seems there is a Tru Tv which claims to be, “television’s destination for real-life stories told from an exciting and dramatic first-person perspective.  “Not Reality. Actuality”.   The truth will not be televised, but television is truth. As for the American dream, it is the reality show to end all reality shows.  And in the finale, the truth will out, but unlike “Lost” or American Idol”, there won’t be re-runs and don’t hold your breath for a spin-off or a sequel.

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Note regarding dispersants:  Via the Times Online this is why these are so very dangerous.  I would add that we should be extremely worried about the impact on reproductive health on animals and humans as well:

“Dispersants can contain particular evils. Corexit 9527 — used extensively by BP despite it being toxic enough to be banned in British waters — contains 2-butoxyethanol, a compound that ruptures red blood cells in whatever eats it. Its replacement, COREXIT 9500, contains petroleum solvents and other components that can damage membranes, and cause chemical pneumonia if aspirated into the lungs following ingestion.

But what worries Dr (Susan) Shaw most is the long-term potential for toxic chemicals to build up in the food chain. “There are hundreds of organic compounds in oil, including toxic solvents and PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons), that can cause cancer in animals and people. In this respect light, sweet crude is more toxic than the heavy stuff. It’s not only the acute effects, the loss of whole niches in the food web, it’s also the problems we will see with future generations, especially in top predators.””

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Peak-A-Boo

Hello U.S. media?  Why exactly am I reading this story because of a link on Buzzflash to a blog that quotes a British newspaper?:

The good old days no more: "Come listen to a story about a man named Jed A poor mountaineer, barely kept his family fed, Then one day he was shootin' at some food, And up from the ground came a bubblin' crude. Oil that is, black gold, Texas tea."

The US military has warned that surplus oil production capacity could disappear within two years and there could be serious shortages by 2015 with a significant economic and political impact.

The energy crisis outlined in a Joint Operating Environment report from the US Joint Forces Command, comes as the price of petrol in Britain reaches record levels and the cost of crude is predicted to soon top $100 a barrel.

“By 2012, surplus oil production capacity could entirely disappear, and as early as 2015, the shortfall in output could reach nearly 10 million barrels per day,” says the report, which has a foreword by a senior commander, General James N Mattis.

It adds: “While it is difficult to predict precisely what economic, political, and strategic effects such a shortfall might produce, it surely would reduce the prospects for growth (emphasis mine) in both the developing and developed worlds.

They are still concerned about growth? Talk about epic delusional understatement, survival might be the more relevant consideration.  But hey, what me worry, think I’ll just drive over to the nearest java infusion station and read the local paper so I can learn which hunky guy is misbehaving with which starlet, but first  I’m going to send some money to support independent media and you should too.  Gotta have your priorities.

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The Turning Point–Kent State 40 Years Ago Today

Do not forget:

From KentState1970.org:

Twenty-eight guardsmen have acknowledged firing from Blanket Hill. Of these, 25 fired 55 shots from rifles, two fired five shots from .45 caliber pistols, and one fired a single blast from a shotgun. Sound tracks indicate that the firing of these 61 shots lasted approximately 13 seconds. The time of the shooting was approximately 12:25 p.m.

Four persons were killed and nine were wounded. As determined by the FBI, their distances from the firing line and the types of wounds they received were as follows:

  1. Joseph Lewis, Jr., 20 yards, wounded in the right abdomen and the left lower leg.
  2. Thomas V. Grace, 20 yards, wounded in the left ankle.
  3. John R. Cleary, 37 yards, wounded in the left upper chest.
  4. Allen Michael Canfora, 75 yards, wounded in the right wrist.
  5. Jeffrey Glenn Miller, 85 to 90 yards, killed by a shot in the mouth.
  6. Dean R. Kahler, 95 to 100 yards, wounded in the left side of the small of his back. A bullet fragment lodged in his spine, and he is paralyzed from the waist down.
  7. Douglas Alan Wrentmore, 110 yards, wounded in the right knee.
  8. Allison B. Krause, 110 yards, killed by a bullet that passed through her left upper arm and into her left side
  9. James Dennis Russell, 125 to 130 yards, wounded in the right thigh and right forehead
  10. William K. Schroeder, 130 yards, killed by a shot in the left back at the seventh rib.
  11. Sandra Lee Scheuer,130 yards, killed by a shot through the left front side of the neck.
  12. Robert Stamps, 165 yards, wounded in the right buttock.
  13. Donald Scott Mackenzie, 245 to 250 yards, wounded in the left rear of the neck.
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Terrorizing Women And Children In The Name Of Democracy

Yesterday’s observance of International Women’s Day began for me with a sober reminder that women’s lives, and those of their children, are still under siege both here in the U.S. and everywhere. The front page of my morning newspaper carried this truly disheartening picture of women in black as it were, voting in Iraq, a testament to the deterioration of women’s rights in Iraq, where previous to the U.S. invasion, women were among the most privileged in the Arab world. Now they are seen in restrictive clothing, voting while invisible.

IraqiWomenVote

Radio Free Europe reports that,

“There’s been significant attention paid to the role of women in this weekend’s parliamentary elections, both as voters and as candidates. Much of the discussion has centered around how Iraqi women will participate in the vote. There’s been some concern over the potential for Iraqi men to unduly influence the votes of their female relatives. A number of citizens speaking to RFE/RL’s Radio Free Iraq admitted that such pressure was commonplace.

One citizen, Abu Milad, told RFI that he was sure his wife would vote for whomever he votes for. Hussein Abdel-Rahman, a young college student, admitted that he will attempt to sway his sisters’ voting choices, but attributed this phenomenon to the nature of Iraqi society, which is dominated by what he calls the “Eastern view” of relations between men and women…

…Young women from a village in Diyala province told RFI that many women in rural areas were being told that they were not allowed to leave their house to participate in the elections. They added that the male members of many households had collected the voter registration cards of all the women in their family, and planned to cast ballots on behalf of their female relatives, in addition to their own.”

Democracy? Not. But what nailed me was the article directly beneath the picture reporting that our state legislature in Kentucky once again is suffering from an acute case of brain in paranoid dick disease with some of our abortion phobic representatives trying to hijack 2 bills aimed at improving children’s lives by insisting on the addition of anti-abortion language.

Call it a tale of 2 fundamentalisms. If we really wanted to end terrorism, the first place to look is clearly at home.

On a related note, the U.S. military continues to prey on our children, marketing the fighting of war as an opportunity for occupational training and education, while the fine print on the sign up contract tells a different story. Young women in particular however face additional risk of being sexually assaulted by these snake oil recruiters. Learning Not Recruiting* has issued their annual compendium of suspect behavior by recruiters that has been reported (which they quickly point out is likely to be the tip of the iceberg in terms of actual number of cases). As they note in an email,

“With whatever other crimes in frauding, drug dealing, questionable enlistments, etc. that are committed, the vast majority of the reports involve sexual assault, rape and manipulation of young girls by recruiters.”

Documented reports for 2009:

1. Police: Army recruiter had sex contact with teen
recruit
2. Army Recruiter Arrested on Sex Charge
3. Army recruiter pleads not guilty
4. Recruiter uses slur at high schools
5. Former Recruiter Gets 3 Years on Child Sex
Charges
6. National Guard recruiter pleads guilty in theft
7. Marine guilty in sex assault of stepniece
8. Army recruiter disciplined
9. Ex-Guard recruiter sentenced to prison
10. Area Navy recruiter charged with statutory rape of
teenager
11. Marine recruiter faces 14 felonies
12. Case impugns Marine recruiting
13. Parents of recruit sue the Army, say they were
misled
14. Marine recruiter gets 3 years for sexual assault
15. Air Force recruiter charged with selling drugs
16. Marine recruiter charged with pimping girl, 14
17. Recruiter allegedly propositioned student
18. Ex-CCHS Army recruiter under investigation
19. Former Marine recruiter pleads guilty of rape
20. Miramontes guilty of manslaughter
21. Recruiter charged in child prostitution sting
22. 2 recruiting bosses fired after suicide probe
23. U.S. Navy-Marine Corps Court of Criminal
Appeals: US v. Scholz (Conviction upheld against
recruiter who had sex with and impregnated 14-
year-old 9th grade student)
24. Low morale, stress blamed in Army recruiter
suicides
25. U.S. Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals: US v.
Curran (Conviction of recruiter on multiple sex
offenses upheld)
26. Marine gunnery sergeant jailed 90 days for
adultery
27. Substance abuse appears a problem among stressed
Army recruiters

We read about the abuse of child soldiers in what the press paints as darkest Africa, all too easy to ignore because it is over there and it is someone else’s children. But it isn’t just over there, it is here too. It is terrorism being committed against our own children, and most assuredly not the defense of democracy.

Meanwhile, the military enjoys impunity from the damage caused by dumping toxics near military bases, perchlorate pollution and weaponry leashed on civilian populations such as Fallujah causing all manner of health problems, especially for children whose tiny bodies are the most vulnerable and birth defects and miscarriages.

Yet hardly a day goes by that we do not hear from our country’s leaders that they are spending billions more to fight terrorism and keep us safe from the enemy while our schools are pretty literally reduced to holding bake sales to stay solvent. Orwellian doublespeak at its finest, or as Pogo would have said, we have met the enemy and he is we. Poisoning children, sexually assaulting women and girls, depriving women of their rights while the country goes bankrupt–we are not safer and any notion that this is democracy is delusional. We are not only terrorizing others, we are terrorizing (and killing) ourselves.

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*With many thanks to Ret. Col. Ann Wright for bringing the recruiting abuse story to my attention.

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The Accidental Terrorist

This morning I awoke to the image of a little girl in Afghanistan.  I don’t know her name, let’s call her the Accidental Terrorist–she had the prettiest dark eyes, wide open staring sightless at the sky, her body mangled and bloody, a victim of one of the recent U.S. bombing attacks. She was just a little girl.

She must have run outside to play despite warnings from the soldiers to stay inside and keep her head down.  She wasn’t a terrorist, and we are not safer for her death.  Instead, we have destroyed a piece of the future of the world.  It was not ours to so wantonly dismiss.

I wonder–did the young soldiers who dropped the bomb know that children would be killed?  Can they live with that?  What will they tell their children about the day they killed a little girl who  ran out to play in Afghanistan?

Meanwhile back in this country it seems that a Saudi prince known for financing terrorism is now the 4th largest voting shareholder at Fox News’ parent company.  You’ve got to admit, where Bin Laden left off, Glenn Beck has carried on quite nicely with his inaccurate, incendiary spew. Ingenious really.

We’ve gotten to a point in this country where it is almost like a case of mass assisted suicide.  Jonestown without the koolaid.  Our schools and roads are in disrepair. Sick, broke, unemployed and foreclosed have become our public lack of options.  Our air is unbreathable and our water undrinkable, our press corp spends countless hours reporting on Tiger Woods’ apology and boys who don’t go up in balloons and teabag rallies and whether Sarah Palin is a creditable candidate for President.  And in the name of ending terrorism, we send our children to kill other children half way around the world.

If Bin Laden is high-fiving somewhere out of sight, who can blame him for we have become the destructive force that he aspired to be.

She was just a little girl.

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Unspeakable–U.S. Military Advises Afghans To Keep Their Heads Down To Avoid Being Killed By Bombs. They Died Anyhow.

Those of you of a certain age will remember those grade school Armageddon drills where we we were instructed to get under our desks and put our heads between our knees in case of a nuclear attack, a tactic that served no purpose and certainly wouldn’t have saved us if the Commies attacked.

Now the U.S. military has a new version of this callously useless advice that they are using in Marjah, Afghanistan:

Afghan villagers should stay inside and “keep their heads down” when thousands of U.S. Marines launch a massive assault on a densely-populated district in coming days, NATO’s civilian representative to Afghanistan said Tuesday.

The results are predictable, here is Robert Naiman‘s well-worded summary of the results:

Civilian casualties are inevitable,” said U.S. officials before launching their weekend military assault on Marja in southern Afghanistan, and in this case, they were telling the truth. Yesterday, the New York Times reports, a U.S. rocket strike “hit a compound crowded with Afghan civilians… killing at least 10 people, including 5 children.”

What justification has been provided by the government of the United States for its decision to kill these five children?

It will be argued that the government of the United States did not decide to kill these five children specifically, and that’s absolutely true. The U.S. government did not decide to kill these particular children; it only decided to kill some Afghan civilians, chosen randomly from Marja’s civilian population, when it decided to launch its military assault. These five children simply had the misfortune of holding losing tickets in a lottery in which they did not choose to participate…

…NATO forces have decided to advise civilians in Marjah not to leave their homes, although they say they do not know whether the assault will lead to heavy fighting.

These five kids were staying inside, as instructed. It didn’t save them from U.S. rockets. Perhaps they weren’t keeping their heads down.

You can read the rest of Naiman’s commentary here.  Suffice it to say, “Duck” is not an acceptable strategy for protecting civilians and should be seen as a gross violation of international law.

Billions of dollars spent killing children.  How dare we talk about winning or honor.

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Reclaiming Our Ground–The Empowerment Of Standing Up For Our Lives

Like many of you, I have discouragement fatigue. No matter what we do, it seems that the corporate and and government leaders are determined to take the fast road to hell in a handbasket. We keep waging war, we continue to destroy the environment, people are hungry and sick, too many have lost jobs and homes, our schools and roads are in disrepair. Getting out of bed in the morning sounds like a really bad idea. What difference will it make if we sign one more petition, call our elected officials one more time, let alone head out into frigid temperatures to a protest gathering?

One very good reason is that it is not so much about the impact our actions have on others but rather how our actions empower ourselves. I have written multiple times about the power of protest and standing up for what you believe in (here, here and here) but what is so difficult to capture in words is the spiritual empowerment of standing your ground. I’m not sure how many protests I attended before I came to understand this–quite a few–until one day, standing with a few friends protesting outside of a lecture given by Condoleezza Rice, I found myself feeling literally rooted to the cold sidewalk where we stood. That is something you have to feel to understand, not something that can be adequately said in words. But since that time, whenever I am out on the street, I stop to pay attention to the strength and connectedness that comes from standing your ground.

Wile at a vigil in 2005, two days after being arrested and jailed when trying to enlist at the Times Square Recruiting Center (left to right: Miriam Poser, Joan Wile, Cindy Sheehan, Carole Abrahams, Joan Kaye and Maggie Vall)

Joan Wile, founder of Grandmothers Against the War and one of my sheroes has a wonderful piece on her blog, where she talks about why the sense of empowerment that comes from standing up for what you believe in is so important in these discouraging times (and while both she and I are talking about standing in the literal sense, as I try to do in my writing every day, you can do a whole lot of standing up from a sitting down position :-). Describing the weekly gathering of Grandmothers Against War on the day after George Bush was re-elected she writes,

The other people standing on Fifth Avenue with me were equally depressed and ready to give up the struggle. You’ve never seen so many long faces.

Then, an amazing thing happened. As we stood there with our peace signs and banners, the black clouds in our minds began to waft away. Slowly, we began to smile and chatter in our usual good spirits. By the end of the vigil, we were practically jubilant. Nothing had changed — the grim reality was still the fact that the worst President in history was going to head the government for another four years and reap hideous injustices and catastrophes. But, WE had changed. We had decided to press on and continue battling for our issues.

It was clear that in the act of fighting back, we were able to banish our hopeless feelings.

Eve Tetaz at an anti-war protest in March 2007. By Lori Perdue.

Eve Tetaz at an anti-war protest in March 2007. By Lori Perdue.

Or put another way, in the words of Eve Tetaz, an almost 79 year old who has racked up her 21rst arrest for protesting puts it,

“In everything I do,” she said, flashing her large smile, “I want to be a reflection of my faith.”

Indeed. Imagine the power of what might happen if every person who feels that corporations should not be more powerful than people and every person who is unemployed and every person who cannot afford healthcare and every person who believes in the right to breathable air and drinkable water and every person who has lost a home or lost a child or spouse to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were to gather with their neighbors in the town squares of this country. Not in anger although goodness knows we have every right to be, but simply to empower ourselves with the act of standing up for our lives. That would be a force to be reckoned with.

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