Archive for the 'Iraq' Category

Toxic legacy of US assault on Fallujah ‘worse than Hiroshima’

Independent UK, July 24, 2010

Toxic legacy of US assault on Fallujah ‘worse than Hiroshima’

By Patrick Cockburn

Birth defects in Fallujah

Children in Fallujah who suffer from birth defects which are thought to be linked to weapons used in attacks on the city by US Marines.

Dramatic increases in infant mortality, cancer and leukaemia in the Iraqi city of Fallujah, which was bombarded by US Marines in 2004, exceed those reported by survivors of the atomic bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, according to a new study.

Iraqi doctors in Fallujah have complained since 2005 of being overwhelmed by the number of babies with serious birth defects, ranging from a girl born with two heads to paralysis of the lower limbs. They said they were also seeing far more cancers than they did before the battle for Fallujah between US troops and insurgents.

Their claims have been supported by a survey showing a four-fold increase in all cancers and a 12-fold increase in childhood cancer in under-14s. Infant mortality in the city is more than four times higher than in neighbouring Jordan and eight times higher than in Kuwait.

Dr Chris Busby, a visiting professor at the University of Ulster and one of the authors of the survey of 4,800 individuals in Fallujah, said it is difficult to pin down the exact cause of the cancers and birth defects. He added that “to produce an effect like this, some very major mutagenic exposure must have occurred in 2004 when the attacks happened”.

US Marines first besieged and bombarded Fallujah, 30 miles west of Baghdad, in April 2004 after four employees of the American security company Blackwater were killed and their bodies burned. After an eight-month stand-off, the Marines stormed the city in November using artillery and aerial bombing against rebel positions. US forces later admitted that they had employed white phosphorus as well as other munitions.

In the assault US commanders largely treated Fallujah as a free-fire zone to try to reduce casualties among their own troops. British officers were appalled by the lack of concern for civilian casualties. “During preparatory operations in the November 2004 Fallujah clearance operation, on one night over 40 155mm artillery rounds were fired into a small sector of the city,” recalled Brigadier Nigel Aylwin-Foster, a British commander serving with the American forces in Baghdad.

He added that the US commander who ordered this devastating use of firepower did not consider it significant enough to mention it in his daily report to the US general in command. Dr Busby says that while he cannot identify the type of armaments used by the Marines, the extent of genetic damage suffered by inhabitants suggests the use of uranium in some form. He said: “My guess is that they used a new weapon against buildings to break through walls and kill those inside.”

The survey was carried out by a team of 11 researchers in January and February this year who visited 711 houses in Fallujah. A questionnaire was filled in by householders giving details of cancers, birth outcomes and infant mortality. Hitherto the Iraqi government has been loath to respond to complaints from civilians about damage to their health during military operations.

Researchers were initially regarded with some suspicion by locals, particularly after a Baghdad television station broadcast a report saying a survey was being carried out by terrorists and anybody conducting it or answering questions would be arrested. Those organising the survey subsequently arranged to be accompanied by a person of standing in the community to allay suspicions.

The study, entitled “Cancer, Infant Mortality and Birth Sex-Ratio in Fallujah, Iraq 2005-2009”, is by Dr Busby, Malak Hamdan and Entesar Ariabi, and concludes that anecdotal evidence of a sharp rise in cancer and congenital birth defects is correct. Infant mortality was found to be 80 per 1,000 births compared to 19 in Egypt, 17 in Jordan and 9.7 in Kuwait. The report says that the types of cancer are “similar to that in the Hiroshima survivors who were exposed to ionising radiation from the bomb and uranium in the fallout”.

Researchers found a 38-fold increase in leukaemia, a ten-fold increase in female breast cancer and significant increases in lymphoma and brain tumours in adults. At Hiroshima survivors showed a 17-fold increase in leukaemia, but in Fallujah Dr Busby says what is striking is not only the greater prevalence of cancer but the speed with which it was affecting people.

Of particular significance was the finding that the sex ratio between newborn boys and girls had changed. In a normal population this is 1,050 boys born to 1,000 girls, but for those born from 2005 there was an 18 per cent drop in male births, so the ratio was 850 males to 1,000 females. The sex-ratio is an indicator of genetic damage that affects boys more than girls. A similar change in the sex-ratio was discovered after Hiroshima.

The US cut back on its use of firepower in Iraq from 2007 because of the anger it provoked among civilians. But at the same time there has been a decline in healthcare and sanitary conditions in Iraq since 2003. The impact of war on civilians was more severe in Fallujah than anywhere else in Iraq because the city continued to be blockaded and cut off from the rest of the country long after 2004. War damage was only slowly repaired and people from the city were frightened to go to hospitals in Baghdad because of military checkpoints on the road into the capital.

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Cuts to KPFA’s “Flashpoints” Spark Continuing Outrage

December 24th update from Chandra Hauptman,  a member of the KPFA Local Station Board

This time of year should be a happy time for some people but, at KPFA, some staff are being fired and others are having their hours reduced, in an indiscriminate way. The General Manager (GM) appears to be unfairly targeting programs that she does not support, such as Flashpoints. She states publicly that she is making 20% cuts across the board but this has not happened. And, at the same time, she is making new hires, such as the new development director, who is the former GM of KPFK, Sean Heitkemper. Below is an article that Henry Norr submitted to the Berkeley Daily Planet on behalf of Flashpoints and will probably be published in tomorrow’s edition of the paper.  (It wasn’t)  There is also a hit piece against Flashpoints, rife with many errors, in the East Bay Express.

The new Local Station Board (LSB)  chair and officers have repeatedly requested that Lemlem meet with us to discuss the cuts but she has not replied to our requests. Nor has she met with the staff to discuss the cuts or explain her rationale (if she has any) as to how she determined what cuts to make.

Further, the cuts made so far account for only 1/4 of the savings that need to be made at KPFA, as mandated by last year’s PNB, and to balance the KPFA budget.

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Cuts to KPFA’s Flashpoints Spark Outrage

By HENRY NORR

In the face of mounting deficits, KPFA this month began laying off staff. The cuts come as no surprise; in fact, they’re overdue, considering that the station has been running in the red for several years, in defiance of Local Station Board and Pacifica National Board mandates to bring expenses into line with income. Anger and protest were probably inevitable when the cuts finally came. But by implementing them in an abrupt and seemingly insensitive way, ignoring provisions of the paid staff’s union contract, and loading what looks like a disproportionate share of the pain on one program – Flashpoints – management has succeeded in turning a tough situation into yet another full-fledged crisis for the station.

The first victim of this new cutback campaign was Eric Klein, Flashpoints’ technical producer and engineer, whose half-time position was eliminated with no advance notice on December 7; Dennis Bernstein, the show’s host, wasn’t informed until he went looking for Klein an hour before airtime. After co-host Nora Barrows-Friedman e-mailed station manager Lemlem Rijio seeking an explanation and making the case that the show requires a technical producer, Rijio invited her to “share her concerns” in person. When they met on December 9, Barrows-Friedman argued (according to an account she posted on Facebook) that it was “unreasonable” to expect her to absorb Klein’s work on top of her other responsibilities, whereupon Rijio “casually” informed her that her hours were being cut in half, from 40 to 20 per week, effective immediately.

Then, a few days later, Robert Knight, a New York-based journalist who delivers a short news analysis (“The Knight Report”) at the top of the Flashpoints hour most days, received a letter by FedEx informing him that his contract would expire on December 28.

Knight is not a member of the union that represents KPFA’s paid staff, Communications Workers of America Local 9415, but Klein and Barrows-Friedman are. According to the union’s contract, should staff cuts become necessary, layoffs are generally supposed to be based on seniority. Klein didn’t rank high on the seniority list, but Barrows-Friedman has worked at the station considerably longer than other staffers whose hours have not been reduced. The contract also specifies that “Those who will be laid off shall be notified as soon as possible, normally thirty (30) working days, but in no case less that fifteen (15) working days before such layoff is to take place,” yet neither Klein nor Barrows-Friedman got so much as a day’s notice – even though management has had literally years of advance warning about its budget problems.

Treating employees this way may be par for the course in the corporate world nowadays (see the new George Clooney movie “Up in the Air”), but even aside from contractual requirements, I think most KPFA subscribers expect better of their station.

To Flashpoints’ staff and fans (including me), the recent moves raise a larger issue: has management singled the program out for particularly severe cutbacks? When, after six days of silence, Rijio finally offered an explanation of the cuts in an e-mail message to subscribers and a recorded message now played incessantly on the air, she claimed that “Each department at the station – Programming, Operations, Development, and Administration – is being cut by 20 percent” and “All public affairs programs are being cut across the board and reductions have been made to bring each show’s cost into line with its income.”

So far, Rijio has not responded to requests for details from listeners and members of the station board. But information gleaned from staffers and data provided to the board when it considered the station’s budget last summer cast serious doubt on her claim of even-handedness. Certainly other public-affairs shows have also suffered cuts, but typically in the range of 14-18 percent, measured in paid staff hours.

In the case of Flashpoints, however, with the elimination of Klein’s job, the reduction in Barrows-Friedman’s hours, and the cancellation of Knight’s contract, staffing has been slashed more than 40 percent, from approximately 135 hours a week to 80 per week. (Bernstein works full-time, while “roving producer” Miguel Gavilan Molina and now Barrows-Friedman are each paid for 20 hours per week. Another full-time position was eliminated two years ago.) To the surviving staff, the cuts amount to a deliberate attempt to destroy the show. “There is no way we can survive at this [reduced] level,” Barrows-Friedman wrote on her Facebook page.

That prospect has sparked deep concern among Flashpoint’s intensely loyal listeners, who value the show for its outspoken radicalism – so different from the NPR-like tone of pseudo-objectivity maintained on most of KPFA’s news and public-affairs programming – and its focus on reporting the grassroots realities in hard-pressed communities rarely heard from in most of our media – Palestine above all (including Barrows-Friedman’s moving reports from her frequent trips to Gaza and the West Bank), but also Haiti, New Orleans, immigrant and native American communities, and recently Honduras.

As word of the cutbacks spread, protest flared. Professors Peter Phillips and Mickey Huff of Project Censored and the Media Freedom Foundation (which just weeks ago gave the Flashpoints crew its lifetime achievement award) published a denunciation of the cuts, complete with supporting statements from such left luminaries as Barbara Lubin and Richard Becker. Arab-American community organizer Eyad Kishawi publicly threatened to organize a boycott of the station. Michael Parenti issued a call to a demonstration in front of the station last Thursday.

And other prominent radical intellectuals who have appeared on the show – including Howard Zinn, Dahr Jamail, Anthony Arnove, and Richard Falk – signed an open letter declaring that they will “refuse to be interviewed or to allow prior work to be aired, or to give permission for our books, CDs, DVDs and other work to be used as premiums during KPFA’s fund drives” until Barrows-Friedman is reinstated to a full-time position and Flashpoints provided with a technical producer.”

So far, there’s no indication that management will back down from its plans, but Flashpoints’ staff and supporters seem determined not to go without a fight.

To express support for Flashpoints, write to general manager Lemlem Rijio at gm@kpfa.org <mailto:gm@kpfa.org> and turn out for the first meeting of the new LSB, now set for 7 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 11, 2010 (disregard dates announced earlier) at the Humanist Hall, 390 27th St. (near Telegraph), Oakland.

Henry Norr was recently re-elected to KPFA’s Local Station Board

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Michael Parenti writes:

Nora Barrows Friedman has seniority over at least a dozen more recent and less experienced staff people. She has done an outstanding job at Flashpoints, showing a special dedication and talent. She has top professional qualifications and standards, tested by time and performance. She and Dennis Bernstein raise more money for the station than just about any other program. Rather than being a drain on the KPFA budget, Nora is an asset.   Taking her talents and contributions into account, one is forced to conclude that Nora is being cut for reasons that can only be political. Once again the KPFA management, under the direction of Lemlem Rijio, a person of determinedly conventional proclivities, is making a decision that is politically inspired. I can  myself testify to Rijio’s ideologically motivated inclination to deny access to the airwaves to someone whose politics are to the left of her own or whose politics are just too controversial for her. She and her confederates are working hard to turn KPFA into NPR. In their attempt to assassinate Nora and finish off Flashpoints, they don’t know what they are getting themselves into.

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See earlier article “KPFA’s program “Flashpoints” is under attack by station management.”

See video of a December 17  rally for “Flashpoints” here and here.

Read a MWC News Open Letter to KPFA management on “Flashpoints.”

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Iraq vet: Our real enemy is not the ones living in a distant land, they are right here in front of us. Racism is their weapon

Our real enemy is not the ones living in a distant land,
they are right here in front of us.  Racism is their weapon

Iraq vet talks on class, race, and exploitation

Iraq vet talks on class, race, and exploitation

“Our real enemy is not the ones living in a distant land whose names or policies we don’t understand; The real enemy is a system that wages war when it’s profitable, the CEOs who lay us off our jobs when it’s profitable, the Insurance Companies who deny us Health care when it’s profitable, the Banks who take away our homes when it’s profitable. Our enemies are not several hundred thousands away. They are right here in front of us.”

How do the the rulers get away with it?  This soldier is clear:

“Racism is a vital weapon employed by this government. It is a more important weapon than a rifle, a tank, a bomber or a battleship.” “They  need a public who’s willing to send soldiers into harm’s way, they need soldiers willing to kill and be killed without question. They can spend millions on a single bomb, but that bomb only becomes a weapon when the ranks in the military are willing to follow orders to use it.”

“And the ruling class, the billionaires who profit from human suffering, who care only about expanding their wealth and controlling the world economy, understand that their power lies only in their ability to convince us that war, oppression, and exploitation are in our interest. They understand that their wealth is dependent on their ability to convince the working class to die to control the market of another country. And convincing us to kill and die is based on their ability to make us think that we are somehow superior.

“Poor and working people in this country are sent to kill poor and working people in another country, to make the rich richer. Without racism, soldiers would realize they have more in common with the Iraqi people than they do with the billionaires that send us to war. .. Our enemies are right here at home, and if we organize and fight with our sisters and brothers we can stop this war, we can stop this government, and we can create a better world. “

Mike Prysner is from IVAW, Iraq Veterans Against the War. This speech was from Winter Soldier in March 22, 2008. You can view his entire testimony here, which spells out the role of racism, and how, under a veneer of anti-racsm, the army and and civilian society are now pushing an onslaught of racism which is both homicidal and suicidal.

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Pakistan, at crossroads of rivalry between Russia, China, and the US, refuses to satisfy US demands on Taliban and Afghanistan

Pakistan, at crossroads of rivalry between  Russia, China, and the US, refuses to satisfy US demands on Taliban and Afghanistan.  US support for India also a factor.

The New York Times December 15 article, “Rebuffing U.S., Pakistan Balks at Crackdown” emphasizes a geo-political importance of Pakistan beyond its hosting pipelines bring Central Asia’s oil and gas to Western and/or Chinese capitalists:

Demands by the United States for Pakistan to crack down on the strongest Taliban warrior in Afghanistan, Siraj Haqqani, whose fighters pose the biggest threat to American forces, have been rebuffed by the Pakistani military, according to Pakistani military officials and diplomats.

The core reason for Pakistan’s imperviousness is its scant faith in the Obama troop surge, and what Pakistan sees as the need to position itself for a regional realignment in Afghanistan once American forces begin to leave.

It considers Mr. Haqqani and his control of large areas of Afghan territory vital to Pakistan in the jostling for influence that will pit Pakistan, India, Russia, China and Iran against one another in the post-American Afghan arena, the Pakistani officials said.

Pakistan is particularly eager to counter the growing influence of its archenemy, India, which is pouring $1.2 billion in aid into Afghanistan. “If America walks away, Pakistan is very worried that it will have India on its eastern border and India on its western border in Afghanistan,” said Tariq Fatemi, a former Pakistani ambassador to the United States who is pro-American in his views.

In the 1980s, Jalaluddin Haqqani (Siraj’s father) received money and arms from the C.I.A. routed through Pakistan’s spy agency, Inter-Services Intelligence, to fight the Soviets, according to Ahmed Rashid, an expert on the Afghan Taliban and the author of “Descent Into Chaos.” In the 1990s, when the Taliban ran Afghanistan, Jalaluddin Haqqani served as governor of Paktia Province. The relationship between the Haqqanis and Osama bin Laden dates back to the war against the Soviets in the 1980s, according to Kamran Bokhari, the South Asia director for Stratfor, a geopolitical risk analysis company.

When the Taliban government collapsed at the end of 2001 and Qaeda operatives fled from Tora Bora to Pakistan, the Haqqanis relocated their command structure to North Waziristan and welcomed Al Qaeda, Mr. Bokhari said.

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When Gitmo and Abu Ghraib Come Home

CounterPunch, October 26, 2009

When Gitmo and Abu Ghraib Come Home

By BILL QUIGLEY and DEBORAH POPOWSKI

The Louisiana Board that licenses psychologists is facing a growing legal fight over torture and medical care at the infamous Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib prisons.

In 2003, Louisiana psychologist and retired colonel Larry James watched behind a one-way mirror in a U.S. prison camp while an interrogator and three prison guards wrestled a screaming near-naked man on the floor.

The prisoner had been forced into pink women’s panties, lipstick and a wig; the men then pinned the prisoner to the floor in an effort “to outfit him with the matching pink nightgown.”  As he recounts in his memoir, Fixing Hell, Dr. James initially chose not to respond.  He “opened [his] thermos, poured a cup of coffee, and watched the episode play out, hoping it would take a better turn and not wanting to interfere without good reason…”

Although he claims to eventually find “good reason” to intervene, the Army colonel never reported the incident or even so much as reprimanded men who had engaged in activities that constituted war crimes.

Sadly, the story of Dr. James’ complicity in prisoner abuse does not end there.  The New Orleans native and former LSU psychology professor admits to overseeing the detention, interrogation and health care of three boys, aged twelve to fourteen, who were disappeared to Guantanamo and held without charge or access to counsel or their families. In Fixing Hell and elsewhere, Dr. James proudly proclaims that he was in a position of authority at Guantanamo.

Government records indicate that, as the senior psychologist consulting on interrogations, his decisions affected the policy and operations of interrogations and detention on the base.  During his time there, reports of beatings, sexual abuse, religious humiliation and sleep deprivation during interrogations were widespread, and draconian isolation was official policy.  Prisoners suffered, and some continue to suffer, devastating physical and psychological harm.

Dr. Trudy Bond, a psychologist under an ethical obligation to report abuse by other psychologists, filed a complaint against Dr. James before the Louisiana State Board of Examiners of Psychologists in February 2008.

Dr. Bond’s complaint says that Dr. James’ conduct violated Louisiana laws governing his psychology license.  As a psychologist and military colonel, he had a duty to avoid harm, to protect confidential information, and to obtain informed consent, as well as to prevent and punish the misconduct of his subordinates.

How did the Louisiana licensing board respond?  Rather than investigate, the Board dismissed the complaint, and when asked again, reaffirmed its decision.  Dr. Bond has now taken the case to the Louisiana First Circuit Court of Appeal in Baton Rouge.  Dr. James played an influential role in both the policy and day-to-day operations of interrogations and detention in the notorious prison camps built to hold men and boys captured during the U.S. “War on Terror.”

According to his own statements, he was a senior member of interrogation consulting teams that, as documented by government records, were central in designing interrogation plans that exploited psychological and physical weaknesses of individual detainees.  In one example cited by the New York Times, a military health professional told interrogators that “the detainee’s medical files showed he had a severe phobia of the dark and suggested ways in which that could be manipulated to induce him to cooperate.”

Had Dr. James chosen to cast himself as a brave, but ultimately ineffective voice against torture, he may have fooled some people into believing him. Instead, he’s presented an utterly implausible portrait: one of a man “chosen” by “the nation” to “fix the hell” of Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib, a feat he claims to have accomplished so successfully that ever since he was first deployed in January 2003, “where ever [sic] we have had psychologists no abuses have been reported.”

This is patently untrue.  The real “fact of the matter,” as documented by government records, reports from the International Committee of the Red Cross and eyewitness accounts, is that serious abuses were widespread both during Dr. James’ tenure as senior psychologist for the Joint Intelligence Group at Guantánamo, and after he left.

One would imagine that such disregard for a law designed to protect the public welfare would greatly concern the body charged with its enforcement. But the Louisiana State Board of Examiners of Psychologists, which issued James his license, has refused to investigate whether he violated professional misconduct law.

The Board’s conduct should alarm all Louisiana health professionals and their patients.  The Board demeans the profession when it fails to seriously address the possibility that a Louisiana licensee was involved in torture.  It also strips the Louisiana psychology license of meaning and value.

How can patients rely on a license issued and enforced by a body that arbitrarily refuses to look into allegations of grave misconduct?

As the legal battle wears on, the people of Louisiana need to ask the Board’s members what “good reason” they await in order to act. They should demand that the Board of Examiners conduct a thorough investigation of Larry James and, if what he admits is true, revoke his privilege to practice.

Bill Quigley is a Loyola Law professor working at the Center for Constitutional Rights.

Deborah Popowski is a Skirball Fellow at the Harvard Law School Human Rights Program. Both authors are involved with the campaign When Healers Harm: Hold Health Professionals Accountable for Torture, see http://whenhealersharm.org/

Bill can be contacted at quigley77@gmail.com.

Deborah can be contacted at dpopowski@law.harvard.edu.

 

John Pilger: Empire, Obama and the Last Taboo

johnpilger.com July 9, 2009

Adapted from an address, Empire, Obama and the Last Taboo, given by John Pilger at Socialism 2009 in San Francisco on 4th July

Barack Obama is the embodiment of this “ism”. From his early political days, Obama’s unerring theme has been not “change”, the slogan of his presidential campaign, but America’s right to rule and order the world. Of the United States, he says, “we lead the world in battling immediate evils and promoting the ultimate good… We must lead by building a 21st-century military to ensure the security of our people and advance the security of all people.” And: “At moments of great peril in the past century our leaders ensured that America, by deed and by example, led and lifted the world, that we stood and fought for the freedoms sought by billions of people beyond their borders.”

Mourn on the fourth of July

In an essay for the New Statesman, John Pilger argues that while liberals now celebrate America’s return to its “moral ideals”, they are silent on a venerable taboo. This is the true role of Americanism: an ideology distinguished by its myths and the denial that it exists. President Obama is its embodiment.

The monsoon had woven thick skeins of mist over the central highlands of Vietnam. I was a young war correspondent, bivouacked in the village of Tuylon with a unit of US marines whose orders were to win hearts and minds. “We are here not to kill,” said the sergeant, “we are here to impart the American Way of Liberty as stated in the Pacification Handbook. This is designed to win the hearts and minds of folks, as stated on page 86.”

Page 86 was headed WHAM. The sergeant’s unit was called a combined action company, which meant, he explained, “we attack these folks on Mondays and we win their hearts and minds on Tuesdays”. He was joking, though not quite. Standing in a jeep on the edge of a paddy, he had announced through a loudhailer: “Come on out, everybody. We got rice and candy and toothbrushes to give you.”

Silence. Not a shadow moved.

“Now listen, either you gooks come on out from wherever you are, or we’re going to come right in there and get you!”

The people of Tuylon finally came out and stood in line to receive packets of Uncle Ben’s Long Grain Rice, Hershey bars, party balloons and several thousand toothbrushes. Three portable, battery-operated, yellow flush lavatories were kept for the colonel’s arrival. And when the colonel arrived that evening, the district chief was summoned and the yellow flush lavatories were unveiled.

“Mr District Chief and all you folks out there,” said the colonel, “what these gifts represent is more than the sum of their parts. They carry the spirit of America. Ladies and gentlemen, there’s no place on earth like America. It’s a guiding light for me, and for you. You see, back home, we count ourselves as real lucky having the greatest democracy the world has ever known, and we want you good folks to share in our good fortune.”

Thomas Jefferson, George Washington and Davy Crockett got a mention. “Beacon” was a favourite, and as he evoked John Winthrop’s “city upon a hill”, the marines clapped, and the children clapped, understanding not a word.

It was a lesson in what historians call “exceptionalism”, the notion that the United States has the divine right to bring what it describes as liberty and democracy to the rest of humanity. That this merely disguised a system of domination, which Martin Luther King described, shortly before his assassination, as “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world”, was unspeakable.

As the great people’s historian Howard Zinn has pointed out, Winthrop’s much-quoted description of the 17th-century Massachusetts Bay Colony as a “city upon a hill”, a place of unlimited goodness and nobility, was rarely set against the violence of the first settlers, for whom burning alive some 400 Pequot Indians was a “triumphant joy”. The countless massacres that followed, wrote Zinn, were justified by “the idea that American expansion is divinely ordained”.

Not long ago, I visited the American Museum of History, part of the celebrated Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC. One of the popular exhibitions was “The Price of Freedom: Americans at War”. It was holiday time and lines of people, including many children, shuffled reverentially through a Santa’s grotto of war and conquest where messages about their nation’s “great mission” were dispensed. These ­included tributes to the “exceptional Americans [who] saved a million lives” in Vietnam, where they were “determined to stop communist expansion”. In Iraq, other true hearts ­“employed air strikes of unprecedented precision”. What was shocking was not so much the revisionist description of two of the epic crimes of modern times as the sheer scale of omission.

“History without memory,” declared Time magazine at the end of the 20th century, “confines Americans to a sort of eternal present.. They are especially weak in remembering what they did to other people, as opposed to what they did for them.” Ironically, it was Henry Luce, founder of Time, who in 1941 divined the “American century” as an American social, political and cultural “victory” over humanity and the right “to exert upon the world the full impact of our influence, for such purposes as we see fit and by such means as we see fit”.

None of this is to suggest that vainglory is exclusive to the United States. The British presented their often violent domination of much of the world as the natural progress of Christian gentlemen selflessly civilising the natives, and present-day TV historians perpetuate the myths. The French still celebrate their bloody “civilising mission”. Prior to the Second World War, “imperialist” was an honoured political badge in Europe, while in the US an “age of innocence” was preferred. America was different from the Old World, said its mythologists. America was the Land of Liberty, uninterested in conquest. But what of George Washington’s call for a “rising empire” and James Madison’s “laying the foundation of a great empire”? What of slavery, the theft of Texas from Mexico, the bloody subjugation of central America, Cuba and the Philippines?

An ordained national memory consigned these to the historical margins and “imperialism” was all but discredited in the United States, especially after Adolf Hitler and the fascists, with their ideas of racial and cultural superiority, had left a legacy of guilt by association. The Nazis, after all, had been proud imperialists, too, and Germany was also “exceptional”. The idea of imperialism, the word itself, was all but expunged from the American lexicon, “on the grounds that it falsely attributed immoral motives to western foreign policy”, argued one historian. Those who persisted in using it were “disreputable purveyors of agitprop” and were “inspired by the communist doctrine”, or they were “Negro intellectuals who had grievances of their own against white capitalism”.

Meanwhile, the “city on the hill” remained a beacon of rapaciousness as US capital set about realising Luce’s dream and recolonising the European empires in the postwar years. This was “the march of free enterprise”. In truth, it was driven by a subsidised production boom in a country unravaged by war: a sort of socialism for the great corporations, or state capitalism, which left half the world’s wealth in American hands. The cornerstone of this new imperialism was laid in 1944 at a conference of the western allies at Bretton Woods in New Hampshire. Described as “negotiations about economic stability”, the conference marked America’s conquest of most of the world.

What the American elite demanded, wrote Frederic F Clairmont in The Rise and Fall of Economic Liberalism, “was not allies but unctuous client states. What Bretton Woods bequeathed to the world was a lethal totalitarian blueprint for the carve-up of world markets.” The World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the Asian Development Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank and the African Development Bank were established in effect as arms of the US Treasury and would design and police the new order. The US military and its clients would guard the doors of these “international” institutions, and an “invisible government” of media would secure the myths, said Edward Bernays.

Bernays, described as the father of the media age, was the nephew of Sigmund Freud. “Propaganda,” he wrote, “got to be a bad word because of the Germans… so what I did was to try and find other words [such as] Public Relations.” Bernays used Freud’s theories about control of the subconscious to promote a “mass culture” designed to promote fear of official enemies and servility to consumerism. It was Bernays who, on behalf of the tobacco industry, campaigned for American women to take up smoking as an act of feminist liberation, calling cigarettes “torches of freedom”; and it was his notion of disinformation that was deployed in overthrowing governments, such as Guatemala’s democracy in 1954.

Above all, the goal was to distract and deter the social democratic impulses of working people. Big business was elevated from its public reputation as a kind of mafia to that of a patriotic force. “Free enterprise” became a divinity. “By the early 1950s,” wrote Noam Chomsky, “20 million people a week were watching business-sponsored films. The entertainment industry was enlisted to the cause, portraying unions as the enemy, the outsider disrupting the ‘harmony’ of the ‘American way of life’… Every aspect of social life was targeted and permeated schools and universities, churches, even recreational programmes. By 1954, business propaganda in public schools reached half the amount spent on textbooks.”

The new “ism” was Americanism, an ideology whose distinction is its denial that it is an ideology. Recently, I saw the 1957 musical Silk Stockings, starring Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse. Between the scenes of wonderful dancing to a score by Cole Porter was a series of loyalty statements that the colonel in Vietnam might well have written. I had forgotten how crude and pervasive the propaganda was; the Soviets could never compete. An oath of loyalty to all things American became an ideological commitment to the leviathan of business: from the business of armaments and war (which consumes 42 cents in every tax dollar today) to the business of food, known as “agripower” (which receives $157bn a year in government subsidies).

Barack Obama is the embodiment of this “ism”. From his early political days, Obama’s unerring theme has been not “change”, the slogan of his presidential campaign, but America’s right to rule and order the world. Of the United States, he says, “we lead the world in battling immediate evils and promoting the ultimate good… We must lead by building a 21st-century military to ensure the security of our people and advance the security of all people.” And: “At moments of great peril in the past century our leaders ensured that America, by deed and by example, led and lifted the world, that we stood and fought for the freedoms sought by billions of people beyond their borders.”

Since 1945, by deed and by example, the US has overthrown 50 governments, including democracies, crushed some 30 liberation movements and supported tyrannies from Egypt to Guatemala (see William Blum’s histories). Bombing is apple pie. Having stacked his government with warmongers, Wall Street cronies and polluters from the Bush and Clinton eras, the 45th president is merely upholding tradition. The hearts and minds farce I witnessed in Vietnam is today repeated in villages in Afghanistan and, by proxy, Pakistan, which are Obama’s wars.

In his acceptance speech for the 2005 Nobel Prize for Literature, Harold Pinter noted that “everyone knew that terrible crimes had been committed by the Soviet Union in the postwar period, but “US crimes in the same period have been only superficially recorded, let alone documented, let alone acknowledged, let alone recognised as crimes at all”. It is as if “It never happened. Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening, it wasn’t happening… You have to hand it to America… masquerading as a force for universal good. It’s a brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis.”

As Obama has sent drones to kill (since January) some 700 civilians, distinguished liberals have rejoiced that America is once again a “nation of moral ideals”, as Paul Krugman wrote in the New York Times. In Britain, the elite has long seen in exceptional America an enduring place for British “influence”, albeit as servitor or puppet. The pop historian Tristram Hunt says America under Obama is a land “where miracles happen”. Justin Webb, until recently the BBC’s man in Washington, refers adoringly, rather like the colonel in Vietnam, to the “city on the hill”.

Behind this façade of “intensification of feeling and degradation of significance” (Walter Lippmann), ordinary Americans are stirring perhaps as never before, as if abandoning the deity of the “American Dream” that prosperity is a guarantee with hard work and thrift.. Millions of angry emails from ordinary people have flooded Washington, expressing an outrage that the novelty of Obama has not calmed. On the contrary, those whose jobs have vanished and whose homes are repossessed see the new president rewarding crooked banks and an obese military, essentially protecting George W Bush’s turf.

My guess is that a populism will emerge in the next few years, igniting a powerful force that lies beneath America’s surface and which has a proud past. It cannot be predicted which way it will go. However, from such an authentic grass-roots Americanism came women’s suffrage, the eight-hour day, graduated income tax and public ownership. In the late 19th century, the populists were betrayed by leaders who urged them to compromise and merge with the Democratic Party. In the Obama era, the familiarity of this resonates.

What is most extraordinary about the United States today is the rejection and defiance, in so many attitudes, of the all-pervasive historical and contemporary propaganda of the “invisible government”. Credible polls have long confirmed that more than two-thirds of Americans hold progressive views. A majority want the government to care for those who cannot care for themselves. They would pay higher taxes to guarantee health care for everyone. They want complete nuclear disarmament; 72 per cent want the US to end its colonial wars; and so on. They are informed, subversive, even “anti-American”.

I once asked a friend, the great American war correspondent and humanitarian Martha Gellhorn, to explain the term to me. “I’ll tell you what ‘anti-American’ is,” she said. “It’s what governments and their vested interests call those who honour America by objecting to war and the theft of resources and believing in all of humanity. There are millions of these anti-Americans in the United States. They are ordinary people who belong to no elite and who judge their government in moral terms, though they would call it common decency. They are not vain. They are the people with a wakeful conscience, the best of America’s citizens. They can be counted on. They were in the South with the civil rights movement, ending slavery. They were in the streets, demanding an end to the wars in Asia. Sure, they disappear from view now and then, but they are like seeds beneath the snow. I would say they are truly exceptional.”


The Return of the Resistance in Iraq

Truthout, Sunday 31 May 2009

The Return of the Resistance

by: Dahr Jamail, t r u t h o u t | Perspective

At least 20 US soldiers have been killed in Iraq in May, the most since last September, along with more than 50 wounded. Iraqi casualties are, as usual – and in both categories – at least ten times that number.

Attacks against US forces are once again on the rise in places like Baghdad and Fallujah, where the Iraqi resistance was fiercest before so many of them joined the Sahwa (Sons of Iraq, also referred to as Awakening Councils), and began taking payments from the US military in exchange for halting attacks against the occupiers and agreeing to join the fight against al-Qaeda in Iraq. In early April I wrote a column for this website that illustrated how ongoing Iraqi government and US military attacks against the Sahwa, coupled with broken promises of the Sahwa being incorporated into the government security apparatus or given civilian jobs, would likely lead to an exodus from the Sahwa and a return to the resistance.

Slowly, but surely, we are seeing that occur. While US liaison Col. Jeffrey Kulmayer has called this idea, along with the ongoing controversy from the Iraqi government – led by US-pawn Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki – not paying most of the Sahwa members, while continuing government arrests of and attacks on Sahwa members “overblown,” this does not change reality. Let us recall the telling words of the reporter Caud Cockburn, father of journalist Patrick Cockburn, “Never believe anything until it’s officially denied.”

Not surprisingly, in direct contradiction to Kulmayer’s comment, the Sahwa have warned the Iraqi government not to disregard its commitments to the fighters as far as providing them jobs and payment. On May 28, the independent Saudi-owned United Kingdom-based newspaper, al-Hayat, reported:

“A number of the leaders of the awakening councils called on the Iraqi government to honor its commitments towards the members of the awakening councils by paying their salaries which are three months late. They warned that their fighters might rebel against the government if their demands for their financial rights continue to be disregarded which might have an adverse effect on the security situation. Sheikh Masari al-Dulaymi, one of the leaders of the council in Falahat al-Taji to the north of Baghdad, announced that the committee supervising the national reconciliation process warned the leaders of the councils in and around Baghdad that their salaries would be paid and that a form of cooperation will be agreed upon with the tribes to preserve the security in Baghdad.”

The paper added that al-Dulaymi also pointed out that many council fighters abandoned their duties in protecting their areas because of the delays in receiving their salaries, and “we don’t want the crisis to grow any worse because the council members already distrust government promises.” Al-Hayat also reported that Sheikh Khaled Yassine al-Janabi, a leader of the council in al-Latifiyah in southern Baghdad, warned that the “government’s disregard for the issue of the councils and their demands will have an adverse effect on the security situation.”

Simultaneously, the Iraqi Resistance, whose ranks are growing with disenfranchised Sahwa along with other Iraqis joining for the usual reasons: their countrymen and women being detained, tortured, and raped by occupation forces and their Iraqi collaborators, the destroyed infrastructure and the suffering that accompanies this, among a myriad of other reasons (like the fact that one in four Iraqis lives in poverty), are, at least verbally, preparing to resume full operations.

The Los Angeles Times recently reported that a commander in the Iraqi Resistance, who is also a member of the currently besieged Sahwa, said, “If we hear from the Americans they are not capable of supporting us … within six hours we are going to establish our groups to fight against the corrupt government. There will be a war in Baghdad.”

Having relied on the US military to fulfill their promises of assisting the Sahwa into the Iraqi political system, as well as for protection from ongoing attacks from the Maliki government security apparatus, their patience has just about run out.

A former military intelligence general, a resistance commander who heads a group called the Iraqi Liberation Army, and who is also a member of the Sahwa, told The Los Angeles Times in the same article, “If the Americans leave Baghdad in 24 hours, the street belongs to the resistance and the people. The people are boiling.”

Violence has been escalating since January. April was the deadliest month for Iraqis in over a year. Daily we are watching Sahwa members leave their security posts. Rather than safeguarding the areas where they worked as security, many of them, in protest of government attacks and lack of payment, are rejoining the resistance. Simultaneously, they have effectively ceased targeting al-Qaeda operations in Iraq, which was also what the US had created the Sahwa for in the first place. Thus, when al-Janabi warns that the “government’s disregard for the issue of the councils and their demands will have an adverse effect on the security situation,” the “adverse effect” is two-fold. And this does not account for the future ramifications of having 100,000 fighters, who were allied with the occupation forces, turn completely against them again. Today, as aforementioned, we are getting a small, very small, taste of what that might look like.

Rivers of blood continue to flow in occupied Iraq. On May 25 a suicide bomber drove a car packed with explosives into a US patrol in Mosul, killing eight people and wounding another 26. The same day, in Hilla, 60 miles south of Baghdad, a gunman killed a Sahwa fighter who was manning a checkpoint.

On May 21, suicide bombers struck in two cities, killing three American soldiers and nearly two dozen Iraqis in a spasm of violence that took at least 66 lives in two days. That same day saw more attacks against the Sahwa, who in addition to being attacked by Iraqi government forces, are being attacked by al-Qaeda. Seven Sahwa members were killed in Kirkuk on May 21 as they waited in line at a military base to receive their salaries.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon is prepared to leave fighting forces in Iraq for as long as a decade, despite an “agreement” between the US and Iraq that would bring all US troops home by 2012. General George Casey, the Army chief of staff, recently stated that the Pentagon must plan for extended US combat and stability operations in both Iraq and Afghanistan, saying, “Global trends are pushing in the wrong direction,” he said, “They fundamentally will change how the Army works.” It is important to note that at the moment, the US maintains 139,000 troops in Iraq, which is still a greater number than that which existed prior to the so-called “troop surge” of George W. Bush.

Many of these troops, along with nationalistic US citizens who blindly supported, and/or continue to support the criminal occupation of Iraq, believe it is a mandate from God that justifies the “might makes right” strategy of US Empire. Let us recall one of the better-known authors from the United States, Mark Twain. Better known for Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, Twain was quite anti-war. I certainly was never instructed to read Twain’s “The War Prayer,” part of which sardonically reads:

“O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth to battle – be Thou near them! With them – in spirit – we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe. O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with little children to wander unfriended the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst, sports of the sun flames of summer and the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave and denied it – for our sakes who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet! We ask it, in the spirit of love, of Him Who is the Source of Love, and Who is the ever-faithful refuge and friend of all that are sore beset and seek His aid with humble and contrite hearts. Amen.”

This is the slaughter and suffering that is being caused by the US occupation of Iraq. This is the death and suffering that is causing the Iraqi Resistance to once again form, gain strength, and prepare to resume full operations.


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