The Viet Nam War Ruined My Life

How many young Americans will say that about Bushwar? asks Miles Woolley.

I caught a quote by William Saletan yesterday that has been replaying in my mind as we wade through the post re-election of King George. Saletan writes for the MSN online Slate Magazine. The quote was "When you support a president going to war, you don’t get your war. You get his." This comment came from the post 9/11 days when many Americans threw their full support to the commander-in-chief. This action was predicated by the belief that America had been attacked and that whoever was leading our military needed the full support of all Americans. The support was specifically for the commander-in-chief and the holder of that position was George Bush. George perceived this backing as support for him and he pursued his agenda of putting America into a war with Iraq under the guise of fighting terrorism. So King George became a war president.

Sadly, the war president was re-elected. When you factor in the leads held in both houses by Republicans and add the possibility of some Supreme Court appointments, one can easily see the country taking a hard right ideological turn. Equally disturbing is the likelihood that King George will see his re-election as a confirmation of his actions. In short, we can expect at least four more years of war thanks to the "you’re doing the right thing" mandate the American voters delivered to Bush. According to the Monday quarterbacking news analysis, however, the single issue that drove most Americans to select Bush over Kerry was moral values. I swear I’m not making this stuff up. Moral values outpaced terrorism and the economy as the top reason America extended George’s job contract.

From this analysis, can we assume that Democrats are viewed as amoral sinners, while Republicans are the good guys? This is where I have difficulty understanding this election. I am asking for help to explain the logic of the morals argument to myself and to my children as well as to my students who are all wondering how we got from point A to point W. The question is: how did America choose Bush for president under the pretext of choosing high morals?

The war that ruined my life, The Vietnam War, had very unclear goals. Few could give reasonable explanations for why we were there at the time and history has been imprecise on giving a clarification in hindsight. Most agree today that Vietnam was a BFM, or big fat mistake (though other words might fit the acronym). Anyway, America stayed in that BFM for way too long, destroying the lives of our soldiers, their family’s lives, and the lives of the Vietnamese. Today’s BFM, The Iraq War has clear goals and objectives. America is in Iraq to put money into the coffers of The Carlyle Group, Halliburton, Cheney’s war machine, and perhaps into Big Oil. I suppose that catching Saddam Hussein was in the plan as well, but those pesky Iraqi "terrorists" keep killing Americans even after his removal.

Comparing the two wars, I see the Vietnam BFM as having a confusing, hard to explain purpose. If there was a moral justification for that war, it has escaped me. The Iraq BFM has to be seen as immoral. America has gained nothing by being there. We have found no weapons of mass destruction, no nuclear warheads, and no evidence to tie Hussein with Bin Laden. We have alienated many of our allies and have lost the respect of much of the world. We are seen as bullies who could not get the real terrorists who attacked us so we started a war with a country that our president decided was just loaded with bad guys. I recently read the study that indicates the Iraq War is responsible for killing over 100,000 innocent Iraqi citizens. That’s 100,000 deaths in addition to the enemy death count. So I’m wondering where the high moral values are in a commander-in-chief who can show his smug face in public knowing his war actions have killed so many innocent lives.

Bin Laden is responsible for taking perhaps 3,000 American lives and with the exception of lives taken at The Pentagon, those were innocent, non-combatant Americans. The world hates Bin Laden and many want him dead for his actions. George Bush is responsible for taking over 100,000 innocent lives and our country re-elects him using the rationale that George represents high moral values. Seriously, I have great difficulty putting the words "high moral values" in the same sentence with George’s name. I find it much easier to put Bush’s name in sentences with words like "moron, liar, murderer, and thief."

In my estimation, George W. Bush is the worst president in modern times. For those who did not vote, or could not vote for Kerry because of whatever reason, I say that Kerry or any other reasonable candidate would have been an improvement over Bush. Donald Duck would have had my vote over Bush.

November 6, 2004

Miles Woolley is a disabled Vietnam veteran living in Miami, Florida. He served with the 9th Infantry Division in The Mekong Delta in a Ranger unit doing reconnaissance 1968–69 where he received a gunshot wound to the head leaving one side severely paralyzed. He is a father of four grown children and grandfather of seven, including a set of triplets.

A Day of Infamy

On November 2 Americans blew their only chance to redeem themselves in the eyes of the world.

The entire world is stunned by the Bush administration’s abandonment of a half century of US diplomacy in favor of misguided, unilateralist, "preemptive" naked aggression on totally false pretenses against Iraq. America’s allies are amazed at the ignorance manifested by the Bush administration. They are resentful of Bush’s "in-your-eye" attitude toward friends who warned Bush against leading America into a quagmire and giving Osama bin Laden the war he wanted.

The world was waiting hopefully for the sensible American people to rectify the ill-advised actions of a rogue neoconservative administration. Instead, Americans placed the stamp of approval on the least justifiable military action since Hitler invaded Poland.

In the eyes of the world, Bush’s reelection is proof that Ariel Sharon’s neoconsevative allies in the Bush administration speak for America after all.

The world’s sympathy for America that followed the September 11 attacks has been squandered. If the US suffers terrorist attacks in the future, the world will say that America invited the attacks and got what it asked for.

Europeans and Asians will never be able to comprehend that Bush was reelected because Americans were voting against homosexual marriage and abortion.

The world is simply unable to believe that Americans, so enamored of family values, would vote to send their sons, fathers, husbands, and brothers to unprovoked war unless Americans valued empire and control over oil as more important than their family members.

The crude propagandistic Republican campaign against John Kerry is shocking to Europeans. The childishness of American conservatives scares them.

America’s French friends, seeking to save America from making the same mistakes that France made in the past, advised Bush not to rush into an Iraqi invasion. American conservatives instantly and blindly perceived French words of wisdom as proof that France was in the "against us" camp. Conservatives announced a boycott of French fries. Everything French was denigrated for no other reason than the French tried to warn us.

Conservatives quickly produced a "revisionist" book, "Our Oldest Enemy: A History of America’s Disastrous Relationship with France," "proving" that France has always been America’s worst enemy.

America’s European allies cannot differentiate the immaturity of American conservatives from the ignorance of the National Socialists.

As hearts harden and minds close against America, Americans will have to go it alone.

The US invasion of Iraq has proved to be a disaster--exactly as the French and everyone with a mere modicum of sense said in advance. Eight of ten US divisions are tied down by a few thousand insurgents.

US troops do not control towns, cities, roads, or even the fortified Green Zone.

The American impulse is to smash cities, thus killing women and children and destroying the homes and livelihoods of noncombatants, while the insurgents regroup elsewhere. The top American generals, who were ridiculed by the Secretary of Defense and his deluded neoconservative deputy for forthrightly stating that occupation of Iraq would require a larger army than was available, stand vindicated.

The price of the Bush administration’s delusion is 10,000 dead and maimed American troops--more than three times the casualties caused by the September 11 terrorist attacks. Bush’s declared policy of "continuing to the end" will swell this number and bring back the draft.

The world is amazed that Americans do not care that they have been deceived, lied to, and incompetently led and that Americans have chosen to continue along this path.

Bush’s reelection has ended forever respect for America. New and unflattering sobriquets for Americans are emerging. The American century is over.

November 6, 2004

Dr. Roberts is John M. Olin Fellow at the Institute for Political Economy and Research Fellow at the Independent Institute. He is a former associate editor of the Wall Street Journal and a former assistant secretary of the U.S. Treasury. He is the co-author of The Tyranny of Good Intentions.

The religious right's agenda on abortion and gay marriage could tear apart the GOP.

"Feeding a monster who has the party by its tail"

A mood of elation permeated the ranks of evangelical Christians in the United States Thursday as it became clear that the election marked a watershed moment for their chances of implementing a conservative moral agenda -- above all on the issues of abortion and gay marriage.

Buoyed by exit poll results suggesting that moral issues had weighed on voters' minds even more than terrorism, activists vowed to use their victory to push the second Bush administration to ban same-sex unions at a federal level and to move the Supreme Court to the right. "I think it's quite possible this could be a turning point," said Peter Sprigg of the Family Research Group, a lobbying organization.

"We're seeing from the exit polls that conservative Christian voters turned out in record numbers ... so we certainly will be pressing for action on key items of our agenda, and we will not be shy about claiming that our influence was significant in the outcome of the election."

In a post-election memo obtained by the New York Times, Richard Viguerie, a right-wing direct-mailing campaigner, issued a warning to the Republican Party. "Make no mistake -- conservative Christians and 'values voters' won this election for George W. Bush and Republicans in Congress," he wrote.

"It's crucial that the Republican leadership not forget this -- as much as some will try ... Liberals, many in the media and inside the Republican Party, are urging the president to 'unite' the country by discarding the allies that earned him another four years."

Morality turned out to be a key motivator in an election apparently dominated by the Iraq war, terrorism and the economy. According to exit polls, 20 percent of voters put moral issues at the top of their list -- more than any other issue -- and 80 percent of them were Bush supporters.

"George Bush speaks our language of faith, and John Kerry doesn't," said Carrie Earll, a spokeswoman for Focus on the Family, an influential conservative group. "Right now, we live in a time when the economy, Iraq and the war on terror are big topics -- so the fact that social and moral values took precedence over those, even in wartime, is an indication that this is fundamental to who we are as a people."

A decisive energizing factor appears to have been measures banning same-sex marriage, which passed in all 11 states where they were on the ballot. Campaigners in Ohio claimed to have registered tens of thousands of new voters intent on supporting a ban, implying that voting for Bush might have been almost an afterthought for some.

"That certainly galvanized the church," said Earll. "The fact that there was a presidential election was just another factor. People would have gone to the polls to vote on the marriage amendment whoever was on the ballot for president."

With several Supreme Court justices likely to retire, the victory also leaves anti-abortion campaigners more hopeful than ever that the complexion of the court could be shifted to eradicate the current tenuous majority in support of Roe vs. Wade, which reaffirms abortion as a constitutionally protected right. Holding open that possibility was a central part of the Bush campaign's effort to energize its Christian conservative base and reach the millions of evangelicals who stayed home on Election Day in 2000.

But a leading moderate Republican told the Guardian yesterday the tactic could prove self-destructive if pushed further. "If Bush deliberately or inadvertently appoints enough judges to overturn Roe vs. Wade, the worst-case scenario is that it's the beginning of the end of the Republican Party," said Jennifer Blei Stockman, co-chair of the Republican Majority for Choice. "It wouldn't be long before the outrage would spill into the voting booth, and it would only be a matter of time before the Democratic Party ascends to power that will last for a long time."

In pandering to evangelical conservatives, Stockman said, Republican strategists had "been feeding a monster who now has the party by its tail." At least 75 percent of Bush voters do not consider themselves evangelicals, she said. "The keynote speakers at the Republican Convention were all 'pro-choice' moderates, from Arnold Schwarzenegger to Rudy Giuliani to [New York Gov.] George Pataki. Was that just a masquerade or was something of substance communicated?"

Conservative Republicans argue that talk of an imminent reversal of Roe vs. Wade is fearmongering, though they are far from reticent themselves in using lurid and shocking campaign messages.

"On the immediate front, let's ban partial-birth abortion," said Earll, referring to the late-termination practice to which Bush has declared himself opposed. "Right now, we have a Supreme Court that says it's a constitutional right to stab a nearly born infant in the back of the head and suck its brains out."

American views on abortion, however, may be less sharply divided than the vocal campaigners for each side make out, said Corwin Smidt, a professor of Christianity and politics at Calvin College in Michigan. "The percentage of Americans who want total free choice has been going down, but there has been no real increase in the percentage of people who want to eliminate all abortion," he said.

By Oliver Burkeman
salon magazine

Tomgram: Chalmers Johnson on the CIA and a blowback world

No longer will Dick Cheney have to pay visits to Langley, Virginia and lean on CIA analysts to produce the kind of intelligence a Veep might need; not now that the President has his man, Republican loyalist Porter J. Goss, heading up the Agency, and a second term in hand. Of course, the CIA was already highly politicized in the first Bush term. Run by George Tenet (accurately dubbed "a political apparatchik" by Toronto Sun columnist Eric Margolis), throughout most of the last four years, it proved a servile agency despite possessing perfectly clear-eyed analysts who knew the truth about Iraq and wanted to pass it on.

But not, it seemed, servile enough. Unhappy with the intelligence pickings from the CIA, the Bush administration turned to its loveably, unreliable then-"friend," Iraqi exile Ahmed Chalabi, for the sort of intelligence that could actually be used to terrify a nation into war -- you know, all those weapons of mass destruction in Saddam's hands, all those ties between Saddam and al-Qaeda -- and then Douglas Feith, the number three man in the Pentagon, created the Office of Special Plans to "search for information on Iraq's hostile intentions or links to terrorists." It cherry-picked intelligence from Chalabi and others and passed it up the line to those eager to speak of mushroom clouds going off over American cities.

Such a complicated process, though. Now, former Republican congressman as well as ex-CIA agent and spy-recruiter Goss will bring no less loyal political aides from the House and elsewhere into the Agency's leadership and so simplify matters in a second Bush term. Already, before November 2, Goss's CIA was working hard to suppress crucial 9/11 information, as Los Angeles Times columnist Robert Scheer reported. The CIA will now be but another, ever expanding militarized arm of an administration that will already control Congress (hence no possibility of serious oversight over the Agency), significant parts of our courts and justice system, a media machine, a political machine, a religious machine, a majority of the state governments in our federalist system, and sizeable hunks of the government bureaucracy. The Pre! sident, in other words, will have his own intelligence arm and secret army at his beck and interventionist call for the next four years, and no one around to take a peek. The ultimate check on the administration was the electorate and it just failed. (Oh, let's not forget that there will at least be angry CIA agents and others still stuck in this highly politicized system, feeling betrayed, and as things begin to go truly off the tracks, leaking like mad.)

Of course, this administration has long been intent on putting much of what it does not only beyond all oversight, but utterly out of sight. After September 11, they put extraordinary effort and legal thought into creating an offshore mini-gulag, beyond the courts, beyond prying eyes, a torture-system beholden only to the President of the United States in his role as commander-in-chief. The CIA was put in charge of the most secret aspects of this system and, as the part of the government best tooled in the arts of offshore interrogation, from Abu Ghraib to a "ghost prison" in Jordan, they have overseen the worst parts of this black hole of injustice.

From the penumbra of the secret world of the Bush administration and the CIA will come future acts sure to outrage Americans. This then is a moment to return to history and remind ourselves of exactly what mayhem and misfortune the CIA has actually caused -- us as well as the rest of the world. That makes the Chalmers Johnson essay below on the CIA and Afghan blowback a must read. Johnson is the author of the prophetic book Blowback, written before 9/11, and more recently The Sorrows of Empire, which explores our military reach in the world. This piece has been slightly adapted from a review that originally appeared in the London Review of Books, a lively English literary/political publication, and that is reprinted with the Review's kind permission. Tom

Abolish the CIA!

By Chalmers Johnson

Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan and bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to 10 September 2001, by Steve Coll, New York: Penguin, 2004, 695 pp, $29.95.

Click here to read more of this dispatch.

Fascism Anyone?

Fascism’s principles are wafting in the air today, surreptitiously masquerading as something else, challenging everything we stand for. The cliché that people and nations learn from history is not only overused, but also overestimated; often we fail to learn from history, or draw the wrong conclusions. Sadly, historical amnesia is the norm.

We are two-and-a-half generations removed from the horrors of Nazi Germany, although constant reminders jog the consciousness. German and Italian fascism form the historical models that define this twisted political worldview. Although they no longer exist, this worldview and the characteristics of these models have been imitated by protofascist1 regimes at various times in the twentieth century. Both the original German and Italian models and the later protofascist regimes show remarkably similar characteristics. Although many scholars question any direct connection among these regimes, few can dispute their visual similarities.

Beyond the visual, even a cursory study of these fascist and protofascist regimes reveals the absolutely striking convergence of their modus operandi. This, of course, is not a revelation to the informed political observer, but it is sometimes useful in the interests of perspective to restate obvious facts and in so doing shed needed light on current circumstances.

For the purpose of this perspective, I will consider the following regimes: Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, Franco’s Spain, Salazar’s Portugal, Papadopoulos’s Greece, Pinochet’s Chile, and Suharto’s Indonesia. To be sure, they constitute a mixed bag of national identities, cultures, developmental levels, and history. But they all followed the fascist or protofascist model in obtaining, expanding, and maintaining power. Further, all these regimes have been overthrown, so a more or less complete picture of their basic characteristics and abuses is possible.

Analysis of these seven regimes reveals fourteen common threads that link them in recognizable patterns of national behavior and abuse of power. These basic characteristics are more prevalent and intense in some regimes than in others, but they all share at least some level of similarity.

1. Powerful and continuing expressions of nationalism. From the prominent displays of flags and bunting to the ubiquitous lapel pins, the fervor to show patriotic nationalism, both on the part of the regime itself and of citizens caught up in its frenzy, was always obvious. Catchy slogans, pride in the military, and demands for unity were common themes in expressing this nationalism. It was usually coupled with a suspicion of things foreign that often bordered on xenophobia.

2. Disdain for the importance of human rights. The regimes themselves viewed human rights as of little value and a hindrance to realizing the objectives of the ruling elite. Through clever use of propaganda, the population was brought to accept these human rights abuses by marginalizing, even demonizing, those being targeted. When abuse was egregious, the tactic was to use secrecy, denial, and disinformation.

3. Identification of enemies/scapegoats as a unifying cause. The most significant common thread among these regimes was the use of scapegoating as a means to divert the people’s attention from other problems, to shift blame for failures, and to channel frustration in controlled directions. The methods of choice—relentless propaganda and disinformation—were usually effective. Often the regimes would incite “spontaneous” acts against the target scapegoats, usually communists, socialists, liberals, Jews, ethnic and racial minorities, traditional national enemies, members of other religions, secularists, homosexuals, and “terrorists.” Active opponents of these regimes were inevitably labeled as terrorists and dealt with accordingly.

4. The supremacy of the military/avid militarism. Ruling elites always identified closely with the military and the industrial infrastructure that supported it. A disproportionate share of national resources was allocated to the military, even when domestic needs were acute. The military was seen as an expression of nationalism, and was used whenever possible to assert national goals, intimidate other nations, and increase the power and prestige of the ruling elite.

5. Rampant sexism. Beyond the simple fact that the political elite and the national culture were male-dominated, these regimes inevitably viewed women as second-class citizens. They were adamantly anti-abortion and also homophobic. These attitudes were usually codified in Draconian laws that enjoyed strong support by the orthodox religion of the country, thus lending the regime cover for its abuses.

6. A controlled mass media. Under some of the regimes, the mass media were under strict direct control and could be relied upon never to stray from the party line. Other regimes exercised more subtle power to ensure media orthodoxy. Methods included the control of licensing and access to resources, economic pressure, appeals to patriotism, and implied threats. The leaders of the mass media were often politically compatible with the power elite. The result was usually success in keeping the general public unaware of the regimes’ excesses.

7. Obsession with national security. Inevitably, a national security apparatus was under direct control of the ruling elite. It was usually an instrument of oppression, operating in secret and beyond any constraints. Its actions were justified under the rubric of protecting “national security,” and questioning its activities was portrayed as unpatriotic or even treasonous.

8. Religion and ruling elite tied together. Unlike communist regimes, the fascist and protofascist regimes were never proclaimed as godless by their opponents. In fact, most of the regimes attached themselves to the predominant religion of the country and chose to portray themselves as militant defenders of that religion. The fact that the ruling elite’s behavior was incompatible with the precepts of the religion was generally swept under the rug. Propaganda kept up the illusion that the ruling elites were defenders of the faith and opponents of the “godless.” A perception was manufactured that opposing the power elite was tantamount to an attack on religion.

9. Power of corporations protected. Although the personal life of ordinary citizens was under strict control, the ability of large corporations to operate in relative freedom was not compromised. The ruling elite saw the corporate structure as a way to not only ensure military production (in developed states), but also as an additional means of social control. Members of the economic elite were often pampered by the political elite to ensure a continued mutuality of interests, especially in the repression of “have-not” citizens.

10. Power of labor suppressed or eliminated. Since organized labor was seen as the one power center that could challenge the political hegemony of the ruling elite and its corporate allies, it was inevitably crushed or made powerless. The poor formed an underclass, viewed with suspicion or outright contempt. Under some regimes, being poor was considered akin to a vice.

11. Disdain and suppression of intellectuals and the arts. Intellectuals and the inherent freedom of ideas and expression associated with them were anathema to these regimes. Intellectual and academic freedom were considered subversive to national security and the patriotic ideal. Universities were tightly controlled; politically unreliable faculty harassed or eliminated. Unorthodox ideas or expressions of dissent were strongly attacked, silenced, or crushed. To these regimes, art and literature should serve the national interest or they had no right to exist.

12. Obsession with crime and punishment. Most of these regimes maintained Draconian systems of criminal justice with huge prison populations. The police were often glorified and had almost unchecked power, leading to rampant abuse. “Normal” and political crime were often merged into trumped-up criminal charges and sometimes used against political opponents of the regime. Fear, and hatred, of criminals or “traitors” was often promoted among the population as an excuse for more police power.

13. Rampant cronyism and corruption. Those in business circles and close to the power elite often used their position to enrich themselves. This corruption worked both ways; the power elite would receive financial gifts and property from the economic elite, who in turn would gain the benefit of government favoritism. Members of the power elite were in a position to obtain vast wealth from other sources as well: for example, by stealing national resources. With the national security apparatus under control and the media muzzled, this corruption was largely unconstrained and not well understood by the general population.

14. Fraudulent elections. Elections in the form of plebiscites or public opinion polls were usually bogus. When actual elections with candidates were held, they would usually be perverted by the power elite to get the desired result. Common methods included maintaining control of the election machinery, intimidating and disenfranchising opposition voters, destroying or disallowing legal votes, and, as a last resort, turning to a judiciary beholden to the power elite.

Does any of this ring alarm bells? Of course not. After all, this is America, officially a democracy with the rule of law, a constitution, a free press, honest elections, and a well-informed public constantly being put on guard against evils. Historical comparisons like these are just exercises in verbal gymnastics. Maybe, maybe not.

1. Defined as a “political movement or regime tending toward or imitating Fascism”
—Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary.


Andrews, Kevin. Greece in the Dark. Amsterdam: Hakkert, 1980.
Chabod, Frederico. A History of Italian Fascism. London: Weidenfeld, 1963.
Cooper, Marc. Pinochet and Me. New York: Verso, 2001.
Cornwell, John. Hitler as Pope. New York: Viking, 1999.
de Figuerio, Antonio. Portugal—Fifty Years of Dictatorship. New York: Holmes & Meier, 1976.
Eatwell, Roger. Fascism, A History. New York: Penguin, 1995.
Fest, Joachim C. The Face of the Third Reich. New York: Pantheon, 1970.
Gallo, Max. Mussolini’s Italy. New York: MacMillan, 1973.
Kershaw, Ian. Hitler (two volumes). New York: Norton, 1999.
Laqueur, Walter. Fascism, Past, Present, and Future. New York: Oxford, 1996.
Papandreau, Andreas. Democracy at Gunpoint. New York: Penguin Books, 1971.
Phillips, Peter. Censored 2001: 25 Years of Censored News. New York: Seven Stories. 2001.
Sharp, M.E. Indonesia Beyond Suharto. Armonk, 1999.
Verdugo, Patricia. Chile, Pinochet, and the Caravan of Death. Coral Gables, Florida: North-South Center Press, 2001.
Yglesias, Jose. The Franco Years. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1977.

Laurence Britt’s novel, June, 2004, depicts a future America dominated by right-wing extremists.
Laurence W. Britt

Free Inquiry magazine, Volume 23, Number 2.

... Free Inquiry readers may pause to read the “Affirmations of Humanism: A Statement of Principles” on the inside cover of the magazine. To a secular humanist, these principles seem so logical, so right, so crucial. Yet, there is one archetypal political philosophy that is anathema to almost all of these principles. It is fascism. (see above)

The Morality of Fear

The Morality of Fear

by Paul Wilson

The re-election of George W. Bush is as mystifying as it is frustrating to America's liberals. How is it that so many of our own countrymen can be so different in their viewpoint? Are they blind? Uncaring? Greedy? Brainwashed?

Or are they just afraid?

On the morning of November 3rd, I was flipping through the various news programs, with a Democrat's hangover, listening to the slew of political pundits cancel each other out as they tried to explain exit polls and campaign strategies. None of it mattered. It was over.

Only one question echoed through my mind as I contemplated Canadian citizenship...


Why, with so many injustices brought to light every day about Iraq, unemployment, the rape of our environment, every poor child left behind, etc., WHY had this regime been voted back into power to continue their fear-mongering? Why had we, the people, elected this man and his cronies to represent our interests abroad? Why was the mangling of the English language looked at with smirking pride?

It was shortly before the broadcast of John Kerry's concession speech that I heard one of the armchair experts (which one?...Which channel?...I'm not sure, and I don't think it matters) talk about the surprising fact that despite Bush running his entire campaign on the "war on terror" and "staying the course," the main issues among GOP voters were morality and family values.

This, of course was treated by the pundits, like everything else, as a brief diversion to fill a few minutes of infinite air-time. I, however, sat up and took notice. Apparently, issues like the traditional marriage amendment, which we Democrats laughed at and called misdirection, were all that were needed to bind the Republicans together!

While we Dems were busy listing the crimes against humanity that this administration had inflicted (I, myself, ran out of fingers), shedding a sub-group of protesters for each one, spreading ourselves ever thinner as we tried to cover them all, the Republicans rallied under one flag of denial, called Morality.

Why didn't we see it? Why didn't we realize that we were actually helping the Bush administration to win?

Since 9/11, we Americans have lived with fear. It has been spoon-fed to us in daily doses by the media for decades ("Can your bedsheets kill you? Tune in at 11:00 and find out!), slowly immunizing us to it. But now they had something concrete to harp on. And with the help of the "War President" and his corporate good-ol'-boys, harp on it they did, twisting it and stretching it out, until the tangible became intangible again. From orange alerts to possible terrorist attacks on middle America, fear came at us from every direction and no direction. It wasn't long before we began to live with the fear, pulling it over our heads like a favorite blanket.

Those of us with any religious upbringing know that fear is the Great Motivator. "Behaveth Thyself Or Else" is the motto of the Catholic church, in a nutshell. And when things are at their darkest (or portrayed that way), we need to know that there is a force looking out for us, smiting our enemies and showing us the right path. But in order to keep that force on our side, we must pay the price: Morality. Love thy (immediate) neighbor. Follow Me. Worship Me, and I will solve all your problems.

When the Bush machine brought God into the equation, America's fears had a new focus. First, if we didn't support Bush, we didn't support the troops, making us unpatriotic. Now, if we didn't support Bush we were sinners, no better than our "Godless" enemy (not really godless, just the wrong god).

This was John Kerry's predicament. This was why he had to appear to be "flip-flopping." How do you attack God's minions without appearing Godless?

Even those of us in the Kerry camp thought Kerry was not taking a strong enough stand on the issues we held dear. So we tried to help him.

Organizations sprung up everywhere, trying to push war attrocities and federal deficit and the economy down the throats of the public. 'Give America a wake-up call,' we thought. And we were right. It needed to be told.

We rallied the voters in a way that hasn't been seen since JFK. Lines at the polls going around the block.

So, why wasn't it enough?

Because the fear factor was stronger. And the more we pushed, the further into the blanket they buried themselves. What do you do when you have to choose between fear of the enemy and fear of your leaders?

Better the devil you know...

© Paul Wilson

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research and educational purposes.

Racism in the Age of Globalisation

Racism in the Age of Globalisation
By A. Sivanandan

Speaking at the Third Claudia Jones Memorial Lecture on 28 October 2004 organised by the National Union of Journalist's Black Members Council*, Dr. A. Sivanandan, Director of the Institute of Race Relations, examined how the two trajectories - the war on asylum and the war on terror - had converged to produce the racism/imperialism of the global era.
Nothing signifies the politics of Claudia Jones more than that I, an ex-colonial Asian, should be asked by the Black members' Council of the National union of Journalists to celebrate Black History Month by giving the lecture in her memory. For, the two guiding principles of Claudia's politics (you will excuse the familiarity, because I did meet her ; yes I do go back that far) - were first, that the struggles against colonialism and racism were part of the same continuum (we are here because you were there) and second, that Black, like Red, was the colour of our politics and not the colour of our skins - (though she herself may not have put it like that). It is those principles too, that governed the struggles of West Indian and Asian peoples in the first two decades of the post-war period.

Ingrained in Claudia's politics, however, was also a working-class perspective which, nevertheless, did not subsume the black struggle to the class struggle or maintain that racism would automatically vanish after socialism was won. And since the vast majority of us at that time came to work in the factories and foundries, or were recruited into the transport and health services, and even those of us who had qualifications were invariably forced by racial discrimination into lowly jobs (I myself started off as a tea-boy in Kingsbury library in 1958), it was a perspective that spoke to the experience of most African-Caribbean and Asian immigrants. But because that experience was not reflected in the mainstream media, Claudia, with her friend and colleague Abimanyu Manchanda, set up the West Indian Gazette and Afro-Asian Caribbean News. Claudia's understanding of culture, too, was that of a people's culture, a carnival of joy and celebration, of self-expression and self-organisation, a Hosanna to life. Hence her inauguration of the Notting Hill Carnival in August 1959.

The politics of anti-racism, the social worth of self-help and the culture of self-expression - all the elements of Black Struggle were already there in Claudia Jones' writings and activities. And the years that followed the riots of 1958 which established that we had no place in British society were the years that were to establish our place in British society.

And it is that history that I want to retrieve - the history that we made in this country, the history that Claudia Jones inspired. The history of us as black settlers, not coloured immigrants, the history that black workers contributed to the working-class struggle, which has been ignored by white historians, the history of the struggles of black women to overcome the particular racisms visited on them, such as the virginity tests of Asian women at the ports of entry and the enforced use of depo provera on African-Caribbean women, the history of black youth rebellion and revolt which lifted, not them out of the ghetto, but you and me, middle-class blacks into positions of power and office. It is that history I want to talk about not the unavailing history of black heroes and heroines, and celebrities and role-models and uncle Tom you know who and all. Besides, one cannot understand racism in the age of global capitalism without understanding the racism of industrial and colonial capitalism. We cannot contest the one without understanding how we contested the other.

The unity that informed West Indian and Asian struggles during the '50s and '60s is, I think, the most significant legacy that has come down to us. It was a unity that sprang not so much from the assumed virtues of our politics as from our common experience of colonialism, our common experience of class (most of us were in working-class jobs) and most importantly of all, our common experience of an undifferentiating racism that debased and dehumanised West Indian and Asian and African alike. And although the communities lived in different areas of the city and had their own cultures, they still supported each other in the fight against racism. Cultural identity was not a bar to political unity.

That unity was inspired by the revolutionary struggles in 'Portuguese Africa', the Civil Rights Movement in the United States, and the war in Vietnam. And was mediated through a number of political groups that sprang up in the early sixties. There was the Conference of Afro-Asian-Caribbean organisations (CAACO), in London for instance, and the Co-ordinating Committee Against Racial Discrimination in Birmingham (CCARD),. The former was initiated by Claudia Jones' West Indian Gazette in association with the Indian Workers Association (IWA) and Fenner Brockway's Movement for Colonial Freedom. The latter was set up by Jagmohan Joshi of the IWA and Maurice Ludmer a sports journalist who was the founding editor of Searchlight, and was instigated by a meeting at Digbeth called by the West Indian Workers' Association and the Indian Youth League to protest the suspected CIA murder of Patrice Lumumba, the leader of the Congolese revolution. And together, and separately, they marched and demonstrated against the immigration bill of 1962.

You see the connections- between Third World struggles and anti-racist struggles, between Africans, West Indians and Asians, between he class and the community? If I am at pains to draw these out it is because they are unique to the history of black people in Britain - and it is a history we must recall if we are to contest the racist imperialism of the global era.

To return to my narrative. After the passing of the Immigration Act of 1962 and the subsequent arrival of our families, our concerns turned to schooling and housing. Racist educational policies, such as the bussing out of Asian children from their communities, and the relegation of so-called ineducable West Indian children to schools for the educationally subnormal, gave rise to a number of community initiatives such as supplementary schools and summer schools, in homes, and church halls and temples. In housing, too, there were communal efforts to pool resources and purchase property. And to contest the overweening aggression of the police and the criminalisation of black youth through the operation of the Sus law (which, like the doctrine of pre-emptive war today, sanctioned the arrest of black youngsters who were suspected of being about to commit a crime) self-defence groups such as the Racial Action Adjustment Society (RAAS) under Michael X and the Universal Coloured Peoples' Association (UCPA) under the Nigerian writer Obi Egbuna were set up in 1965 and 1967 respectively. The former was influenced by Malcolm X's visit to Britain and the latter by Black Power and the anti-Vietnam war movement.

These organisations along with the West Indian, Pakistani and Indian Workers' Associations came to the aid of the strikers at various times in the mid and late '60s in various factories - in Preston, Southall, Tipton, West Bromwich, and so on. In nearly all these strikes, the support came not from the trade unions but from the community organisations and the community - with the landlords waiving rent, grocers giving credit, temples providing food.

On all these fronts, then, Africans, West Indians and Asians were beginning to fight as a class and a people, and a people for a class. So that when in 1968 Enoch Powell made his infamous 'rivers of blood' speech and London dockers and Smithfield meat porters marched on Parliament to demand an end to immigration, representatives from over fifty black organisations came together in Leamington and formed a national body, the Black People's Alliance (BPA), to co-ordinate the fight against state racism.

From Powell's speech and the politics of the BPA sprang a more militant tranche of black organisations, with their own educational and welfare programmes, advice centres and bookshops and newspapers - such as the Black Unity and Freedom Party, the Black Workers' Movement, the Black Panthers, The Fasimbas, - this time based on the Black Panther Party in the US.

In the meantime, Powell's fables of Asians putting dog-shit through English letter boxes and West Indians robbing old ladies, along with his nightmare vision of England's green and pleasant land crawling with piccaninnis (his word) smelling of curry (my contribution) and his call for a Ministry of Repatriation - all this was taken up by the tabloids, and some of the broad-sheets, and gave a fillip to the virulent and violent racism of the NF.

And although Ted Heath, the Tory leader sacked Powell from his cabinet, both the Tories and Labour edged closer to the NF position (Not much different from today then.) In 1970, Jim Callaghan, the Labour Home Secretary proposed that immigration should henceforth be restricted to patrials (ie people who had an English parent or grandparent, ie White Commonwealth Citizens). And the Heath government which came into power the following year brought in an immigration act which put a stop to primary immigration altogether. (As some wag remarked, 'What Powell says today, Labour says tomorrow and the Tories legislate on the day after.) It was left to Heath's successor Margaret Thatcher to steal the NF's clothes altogether and announce that 'we might be rather swamped by people of a different culture'.

Here again what I am anxious to show is not the chronology or the particularities of the history of Black peoples in Britain, but its recurring themes such as the connection between state racism, institutional racism and popular racism, and the different resistances they elicited at different times to meet different circumstances. So that when in the mid'70s the technological revolution began to alter the whole nature of industrial production and the factories and mills began to close and the workers to be disaggregated and dispersed, the locale of resistance too began to move from the workplace to the community. And here the expectations of a generation born and bred in Britain led to a more confrontational politics against the police under the banner of 'Here to Stay, Here to Fight' and a politics of self-defence against the NF under the slogan 'Self defence is no Offence'. But because police harassment affected the African-Caribbean community in particular - in addition to the sus law that continued to criminalise the young, whole communities were now being subjected to road blocks, stop and search and mass arrests - and NF attacks were concentrated on the Asian community, the struggles became separated. African-Caribbeaan youth rioted against police harassment and brutality on a number of occasions, but most memorably at the Notting Hill Carnival of 1976 when they set police cars aflame to the cries of Soweto, Soweto. And the Asian youth movements put the National Front to flight in Southall in 1979 and Bradford in 1981.

Then came Mrs Thatcher, with her policies of privatisation and liberalisation and cuts in public services, with her dog-eat-dog morality of greed and selfishness and individualism, with her anti-working class, anti-youth, anti-women politics maintained by the militarisation of a police force only too willing to beat the shit out of striking workers and keep a lid on the boiling ghettos. But in 1981 the chickens came home to roost, and the black youth of the slums, along with their white mates, exploded into rebellion across twenty-nine cities of the land.

It was only then that Mrs Thatcher set up a task force to look into urban regeneration, and appointed Lord Scarman to investigate the 'disorders', and police-black relations in particular. His diagnosis was that African-Caribbeans and Asians suffered from something he called 'ethnic disadvantage', and the cure for that was 'positive action' on the part of the government promoting equal opportunity for ethnic minorities and providing ethnic funds for differing ethnic needs. There was no such thing as institutional racism, he said, only racial prejudice, and irrational beliefs and attitudes, on both sides of the divide, black and white, police and public. Hence the way to improve police-black relations was to give the police lessons in racial awareness.

In effect, Scarman had personalised racism and so shifted the object of anti-racist struggle from the state to the individual, from changing society to changing people, from improving the lot of whole black communities, mired in racism and poverty, to improving the lot of ethnic individuals and groups. And equal opportunity in practice turned out to be an exercise in window-dressing: head counts and quotas, black faces in public places, Asians and African-Caribbeans and Africans vying with one another for office in an exercise in equal opportunism.

Already the multicultural policies that Labour had introduced in the mid'70s, to de-fuse black dissent, had shifted the struggle against racism to a struggle for culture and had begun to break up the black political community into its cultural constituents. Now, with money being poured into ethnic projects, and the creation of ethnic jobs, in pursuance of Scarman's recommendations, ethnic politicking began to replace anti-racist politics - and the term black, which had defined the politics of anti-racism, went out with it. And ethnic politics held sway at local level for the next two decades.

But in 2001, Bradford and Oldham and Burnley exploded in Asian-White riots and the government decided that ethnicity had gone too far - that the riots arose from too much Asian ethnicity: it had spread to education and housing and seized up the town halls; it had created Asian enclaves which kept out the native whites in an exercise in reverse apartheid. It was the excuse that Blunkett needed to ground his call for 'community cohesion'.

If Bradford was the excuse and the occasion, the reason was globalisation. For if globalisation is to function smoothly, it needs the social cohesion which only the state can provide. But before I develop that theme I would like to set it in context by looking at the politics of globalisation which, in turn, shapes racism.

Globalisation in political essence is international government by multinational corporations aided by nation states. In treating globalisation as a wholly economic project, we tend to overlook its political underpinnings. And the nation state is the political agency through which corporations are able to effect regime-change and/or sustain friendly regimes, militarily or politically to get at a country's resources and markets.

Historically, the nation state sprang from industrial capitalism to safeguard national capital against other capitals, and to mediate between capital and labour - to control, that is, such excesses of capital as would lead to social dislocation, and to provide labour with just enough social and economic security as would keep it from revolt. And it was on the anvil of that struggle that was beaten out the factory acts and the education acts and the welfare state - and the freedoms of assembly and speech.

But as I indicated earlier, the massive changes brought about by the microelectronics revolution has enabled capital to take up its plant and walk to any part of the globe where labour is cheap and captive and plentiful - and so freed capital from the exigencies of organised labour. Capital has become global, transnational and the function of the state has changed accordingly, from serving its own nationals to serving the multinationals, and picking up the ensuing social tab with a handout here and a law there - thus replacing the welfare state with the market state, the social welfare state with the market welfare state: the welfare of the market comes before the welfare of society.

The life-blood of a free market is competition, deregulation, privatisation - all of which fractures society - whereas globalisation requires stability and order and social cohesion. Hence Blunkett's whole raft of strictures on wayward youth, irresponsible parents, rioting ethnics etc. And community cohesion which came out of the Cantle Report on the Bradford riots and was adopted by Blunkett, refers more specifically and more importantly to the cohesion between the different communities, white and non-white in particular.

But if the politics of globalisation required community cohesion, September 11 provided its justification, and then proceeded, in its own right, to develop community cohesion into assimilation, justifying it this time with the politics of fear.

Assimilation (or integration, as it is sometimes euphemistically termed) spelt the end of multiculturalism and ethnicity. There was no such thing as Black British or Asian British anymore, only British British. And to be British was to adhere to core British values (whatever they might be), honour British customs and mores, speak the English language, take the oath of allegiance to the Queen if you wanted to become a citizen. After all, the rest of Europe was doing the same; each country - as Liz Fekete points out in her brilliant essay on Anti-Muslim racism - in terms of its own racialised history and nationalist mythology: France, on the basis of laïcité (state secularism), Germany on the primacy of Leitkultur (leading culture), Spain in the interests of public safety and crime prevention, the Netherlands on behalf of 'standards and values', Denmark - and this is classic doublethink - because the 'intolerant culture' of the immigrants prevents integration. All that Britain was doing was to fall in line.

And falling in line - convergence to use the EU phrase - is also the raison d'etre for a common immigration policy vis a vis refugees and asylum seekers - for a common market racism. That among the asylum seekers now seeking refuge are a number from white Eastern Europe is no matter. They are aliens, still, poverty-stricken aliens at that, come to scrounge off the welfare state - thieves and beggars and whores and Roma. Hence the treatment meted out to them is no different from the racist treatment meted out to non-white asylum seekers, only it's not colour-coded. They are subject to the same draconian legislation that moves them about from one unwelcoming city to another, holds them in condemned housing and detention centres and prisons - (you have all heard of Yarls Wood and Campsfield and Belmarsh) denies them the right to work and the self-respect that goes with it while beggaring them with handouts that barely keep them alive, and generally dehumanising them to the point where suicide seems the better option - if that is, they have not been murdered by racists first. And now, Britain and the EU propose, in the interests of national security, to set up camps in the regions of origin.

National security is also the ploy that the government has used to engender a politics of fear that would cower the nation into conformity and subservience - not just through state-sponsored lies and rumours such as the 45 minute threat, the ricin plot, or the siege of Heathrow airport, but through statutory enactments like the Anti-terrorism Crime and Security Act of 2001. Already the Terrorism Act 2000 had proscribed organisations which had been resisting tyrannies in their home countries or been involved in liberation movements. Now under the 2001 Act, hurried through parliament after September 11, foreign nationals (meaning refugees and asylum seekers) would be subject to arbitrary and indefinite detention on suspicion of being terrorists. Thus every refugee and asylum seeker (meaning Muslim) was not only suspect but subject to stop and search powers granted by the previous Act.

The two trajectories then - the war on asylum and the war on terror - have converged to produce a racism which cannot tell a settler from an immigrant, an immigrant from an asylum seeker, an asylum seeker from a Muslim, a Muslim from a terrorist.

Conversely, to be a true British patriot is to be anti-Muslim - for, they are terrorists under the skin, fundamentalists under the hijab, envious of western civilisation, fearful of western democracy. To be anti-Muslim is the apotheosis of patriotism. And patriotism, along with its cohabitee, demonisation, breeds the culture of conquest, of imperialism. They even have a Patriot Act in the US of A!

Racism, then, is not a given. It never stays still. It changes its shape, size, contours, purpose, function with changes in the economy, in the social structure, the political culture, the system - and above all the challenges, the resistance to that system. Today's racism, as we have seen, is embedded and shaped by globalisation. Globalisation needs it - first, to rationalise and justify the treatment of refugees and asylum seekers that it has caused to be thrown up on western shores in its rampage through the world; and second to rationalise and justify the imperial project needed to remove unfriendly regimes that stand in the way of its expansion and penetration. That is why it still needs the nation state.

And it is that symbiosis between racism and globalisation and globalisation and imperialism that now defines the remit of resistance. You cannot combat the one without combating the others. Imperialism is the project, globalisation the process, culture the vehicle and the nation-state the political and military agent. To look at racism as an isolate without considering its relationship to globalisation and therefore imperialism, is not only to descend into culturalism and ethnicism but to overlook the state racism that embeds institutional racism and gives a fillip to popular racism.

To look at globalisation without relating it to imperialism and therefore racism is not only to regard its penetration into Third World countries as an inevitable extension of trade, and not as a precursor to the regime change that follows in its wake, but to overlook the racist discourse that accompanies it and stirred up by the media, feeds into popular racism.

To look at imperialism without relating it to globalisation and racism is not just to accept the notion that regime change and pre-emptive strikes have no underlying economic motive but are a defensive strategy against the axis of evil and the terrorists they breed - ('post-modern imperialism', Robert Cooper, one-time adviser to our PM and now adviser to the EU, calls it). It is also to accept the hoary old myth of the white man's burden of bringing civilisation and enlightenment to the lesser breeds, of freeing them from tyranny, forcing them to be free if necessary, bombing them into freedom and democracy. Except that the underlying theme this time is not that of a superior race but of a superior civilisation. Hence the real war, not the phoney war, is not between civilisations, as Huntington would have it, but against the enforced hegemony of western civilisation.

I am reminded of a story from Aesop, or one of those guys, in which a wolf and a sheep are drinking from the same stream (some distance apart) and the wolf, eyeing his next meal, accuses the sheep of polluting his water. 'How can that be', protests the sheep, 'I am down stream and you are up.' 'That doesn't matter', says the wolf, 'I am going to eat you all the same.'

Sorry about the digression. To get back to the argument or, rather, to put it differently. Under global capitalism the relationship between the economic, political, cultural etc are so organic, that we can no longer think of society in terms of superstructure and base, with the economic base determining the political and cultural superstructure. That would have done for industrial capitalism. But information capitalism, electronic capitalism requires us to think in terms of circuits, not hierarchies. And the dynamo that drives those circuits is the free market system.

Which raises another point about globalisation - the way it affects us socially and personally. For what the market does is to create is a 2/3, 1/3 society of the have-everythings and the have-nothings, keep poverty from the public gaze, and reduce even personal relationships to a cash nexus (conducted in the language of the bazaar) even as it elevates consumerism to the heights of Cartesian philosophy: I consume, therefore I am.

In the process, it creates a political culture of self-aggrandisement and greed, of lies, smears and sleaze, spin and sycophancy, hypocrisy and humbug - arrayed before us in the conduct of government and of those who govern us - and sealed with the kiss of self-righteousness. The irony is that when our rulers ask us sub-homines to live up to British values, it is not the values they exhibit that they refer to, but those of the Enlightenment which they have betrayed. Whereas we (sub-homines, that is) in our very struggle for basic human rights, not only hold up human values, but challenge Britain to return to them.

But just as the attacks on the values of liberty and justice and human rights have grown more far-reaching and insidious, so too have new movements and new constituencies sprung up to challenge them - and what's more, have come together in global alliances against globalisation, as attested by the mass demonstrations in Geneva, Seattle, Prague, Genoa and Cancun and the deliberations of the World Social Forum from Porto Allegre in 2001 to Mumbai in January this year.

And no doubt strengthened by these protests, and instigated by the Brazilian President Lula da Silva, China, India, South Africa and Brazil (and soon perhaps Venezuela now that the attempts to get rid of Chavez have failed) have recently entered into trade agreements with each other, and a Bandung-style political alliance, to withstand American economic domination.

But in the final analysis, we need the media on our side - because it is you, and I mean the members of the Fourth Estate who, one still believes, are the guardians of our freedoms - especially today when the war on terrorism is eroding our civil liberties and violating the human rights of asylum seekers. And may I say in parenthesis, that we cannot defend the one without promoting the other - because civil rights derive from human rights. Besides, in an Information Society, it is you who are in the engine rooms of power. It is you who shape public opinion and inform popular culture. While those who own the media own the votes that own the government. Not Britannia but Murdoch rules the waves. I only ask that the Murdochs of this world do not also own the journalists whose ancient remit, whose Hippocratic oath, is to speak truth to power.

© A. Sivanandan
* Supported by The Guardian, The Gleaner and The Voice.The Institute of Race Relations is precluded from expressing a corporate view: any opinions expressed are therefore those of the authors.
© Institute of Race Relations 2004

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Buddhist chief beheaded in revenge for Muslim deaths

A Buddhist village chief was beheaded in Thailand's Narathiwat province
yesterday in an apparent revenge killing, a week after 78 Muslim
protesters were crushed to death en route to a military detention

The chief's death was the second beheading in a year of sectarian
violence in three predominantly Muslim provinces bordering Malaysia.
Almost 450 people have died in sporadic attacks, most of them policemen
or civil servants.

Police said that Jaran Torae, 58, went missing on Monday night and was
decapitated with a machete at about 8am, after being shot in the chest.
His head was found with a note, in a plastic fertiliser bag on the
roadside. His torso was retrieved later from a rubber plantation nearly
a mile away.

The message reportedly said: "This is revenge for the innocent Muslim
youths who were massacred at the Tak Bai protest. This was less than
what has been done to the innocent." On 25 October, a protest outside a
police station turned into a six-hour stand-off between security forces
and Muslim protesters demanding the release of six villagers suspected
of supplying weapons to militants. Seven protesters were shot dead and
78 of 1,300 men arrested for rioting were crushed to death or
suffocated after being loaded into military trucks.

Thaksin Shinawatra, the Prime Minister, is under pressure to stop
suppressing dissidents in the south. His comments that protesters who
died were weak because of Ramadan fasting provoked particular anger and
Islamic leaders feared retribution would follow. The Prime Minister
initially appeared to shrug off the condemnation of opposition
politicians and international human rights groups but later admitted
that his security forces had made mistakes. He ordered an investigation
after promising to heed royal advice to use a more "gentle approach".

Twenty people were wounded in separate bomb blasts on Friday last week,
and a task force of Thai senators has been dispatched to the south to
question detainees from the riot, at an army base in Pattani. Most of
the protesters have been released, and police will not press charges
for sedition, which carries a 20-year sentence. Instead, 58 Muslims,
mostly young men, will be charged with congregating unlawfully and
threatening officials. They face up to four years in jail.

On 28 April, 107 suspected Muslim militants were killed when they
attacked police positions in a failed effort to seize weapons. This
excessive use of force was also followed by the decapitation of an
assistant village chief in Narathiwat.

Narathiwat, and the neighbouring provinces of Pattani and Yala, used to
be strongholds of the separatist Pattani United Liberation
Organisation. At its peak, the Pulo had more than 20,000 militants, but
the movement disbanded after a government amnesty in the 1980s.

The government blames the recent attacks on local separatists inspired
by foreign Muslim extremists or educated at radical Islamic schools

By Jan McGirk, South-east Asia Correspondent 03 November 2004

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Mahajan: Falluja and the Reality of War | ZINN: The Optimism of Uncertainty

Fallujah and the Reality of War

By Rahul Mahajan

The assault on Fallujah has started. It is being sold as liberation of
the people of Fallujah; it is being sold as a necessary step to
implementing "democracy" in Iraq. These are lies.

I was in Fallujah during the siege in April, and I want to paint for you
a word picture of what such an assault means.

Fallujah is dry and hot; like Southern California, it has been made an
agricultural area only by virtue of extensive irrigation. It has been
known for years as a particularly devout city; people call it the City
of a Thousand Mosques. In the mid-90's, when Saddam wanted his name to
be added to the call to prayer, the imams of Fallujah refused.

U.S. forces bombed the power plant at the beginning of the assault; for
the next several weeks, Fallujah was a blacked-out town, with light
provided by generators only in critical places like mosques and clinics.
The town was placed under siege; the ban on bringing in food, medicine,
and other basic items was broken only when Iraqis en masse challenged
the roadblocks. The atmosphere was one of pervasive fear, from bombing
and the threat of more bombing. Noncombatants and families with sick
people, the elderly, and children were leaving in droves. After initial
instances in which people were prevented from leaving, U.S. forces began
allowing everyone to leave - except for what they called "military age
males," men usually between 15 and 60. Keeping noncombatants from
leaving a place under bombardment is a violation of the laws of war. Of
course, if you assume that every military age male is an enemy, there
can be no better sign that you are in the wrong country, and that, in
fact, your war is on the people, not on their oppressors, not a war of

The main hospital in Fallujah is across the Euphrates from the bulk of
the town. Right at the beginning, the Americans shut down the main
bridge, cutting off the hospital from the town. Doctors who wanted to
treat patients had to leave the hospital, with only the equipment they
could carry, and set up in makeshift clinics all over the city; the one
I stayed at had been a neighborhood clinic with one room that had four
beds, and no operating theater; doctors refrigerated blood in a
soft-drink vending machine. Another clinic, I'm told, had been an auto
repair shop. This hospital closing (not the only such that I documented
in Iraq) also violates the Geneva Convention.

In Fallujah, you were rarely free of the sound of artillery booming in
the background, punctuated by the smaller, higher-pitched note of the
mujaheddin's hand-held mortars. After even a few minutes of it, you have
to stop paying attention to it - and yet, of course, you never quite
stop. Even today, when I hear the roar of thunder, I'm often transported
instantly to April 10 and the dusty streets of Fallujah.

In addition to the artillery and the warplanes dropping 500, 1000, and
2000-pound bombs, and the murderous AC-130 Spectre gunships that can
demolish a whole city block in less than a minute, the Marines had
snipers criss-crossing the whole town. For weeks, Fallujah was a series
of sometimes mutually inaccessible pockets, divided by the
no-man's-lands of sniper fire paths. Snipers fired indiscriminately,
usually at whatever moved. Of 20 people I saw come into the clinic I
observed in a few hours, only five were "military-age males." I saw old
women, old men, a child of 10 shot through the head; terminal, the
doctors told me, although in Baghdad they might have been able to save

One thing that snipers were very discriminating about - every single
ambulance I saw had bullet holes in it. Two that I inspected bore clear
evidence of specific, deliberate sniping. Friends of mine who went out
to gather in wounded people were shot at. When we first reported this
fact, we came in for near-universal execration. Many just refused to
believe it. Some asked me how I knew that it wasn't the mujaheddin.
Interesting question. Had, say, Brownsville, Texas, been encircled by
the Vietnamese and bombarded (which, of course, Mr. Bush courageously
protected us from during the Vietnam war era) and Brownsville ambulances
been shot up, the question of whether the residents were shooting at
their own ambulances, I somehow guess, would not have come up. Later,
our reports were confirmed by the Iraqi Ministry of Health and even by
the U.S. military.

The best estimates are that roughly 900-1000 people were killed
directly, blown up, burnt, or shot. Of them, my guess, based on news
reports and personal observation, is that 2/3 to 3/4 were noncombatants.

But the damage goes far beyond that. You can read whenever you like
about the bombing of so-called Zarqawi safe houses in residential areas
in Fallujah, but the reports don't tell you what that means. You read
about precision strikes, and it's true that America's GPS-guided bombs
are very accurate - when they're not malfunctioning, the 80 or 85% of
the time that they work, their targeting radius is 10 meters, i.e., they
hit within 10 meters of the target. Even the smallest of them, however,
the 500-pound bomb, has a blast radius of 400 meters; every single bomb
shakes the whole neighborhood, breaking windows and smashing crockery. A
town under bombardment is a town in constant fear.

You read the reports about X killed and Y wounded. And you should
remember those numbers; those numbers are important. But equally
important is to remember that those numbers lie - in a war zone,
everyone is wounded.

The first assault on Fallujah was a military failure. This time, the
resistance is stronger, better-armed, and better-organized; to "win,"
the U.S. military will have to pull out all the stops. Even within
horror and terror, there are degrees, and we - and the people of
Fallujah - ain't seen nothin' yet. George W. Bush has just claimed a new
mandate - the world has been delivered into his hands.

There will be international condemnation, as there was the first time;
but our government won't listen to it; aside from the resistance, all
the people of Fallujah will be able to depend on to try to mitigate the
horror will be us, the antiwar movement. We have a responsibility, that
we didn't meet in April and we didn't meet in August when Najaf was
similarly attacked; will we meet it this time?

Rahul Mahajan is publisher of the weblog Empire Notes
(, with regularly updated commentary on U.S.
foreign policy, the occupation of Iraq, and the state of the American
Empire. He has been to occupied Iraq twice, and was in Fallujah during
the siege in April. His most recent book is
Full Spectrum Dominance: U.S. Power in Iraq and Beyond
He can be reached at


The Optimism of Uncertainty

by Howard Zinn
November 06, 2004

In this awful world where the efforts of caring people often pale in
comparison to what is done by those who have power, how do I manage to
stay involved and seemingly happy?

I am totally confident not that the world will get better, but that we
should not give up the game before all the cards have been played. The
metaphor is deliberate; life is a gamble. Not to play is to foreclose
any chance of winning. To play, to act, is to create at least a
possibility of changing the world.

There is a tendency to think that what we see in the present moment will
continue. We forget how often we have been astonished by the sudden
crumbling of institutions, by extraordinary changes in people's
thoughts, by unexpected eruptions of rebellion against tyrannies, by the
quick collapse of systems of power that seemed invincible.

What leaps out from the history of the past hundred years is its utter
unpredictability. A revolution to overthrow the czar of Russia, in that
most sluggish of semi-feudal empires, not only startled the most
advanced imperial powers but took Lenin himself by surprise and sent him
rushing by train to Petrograd. Who would have predicted the bizarre
shifts of World War II--the Nazi-Soviet pact (those embarrassing photos
of von Ribbentrop and Molotov shaking hands), and the German Army
rolling through Russia, apparently invincible, causing colossal
casualties, being turned back at the gates of Leningrad, on the western
edge of Moscow, in the streets of Stalingrad, followed by the defeat of
the German army, with Hitler huddled in his Berlin bunker, waiting to

And then the postwar world, taking a shape no one could have drawn in
advance: The Chinese Communist revolution, the tumultuous and violent
Cultural Revolution, and then another turnabout, with post-Mao China
renouncing its most fervently held ideas and institutions, making
overtures to the West, cuddling up to capitalist enterprise, perplexing

No one foresaw the disintegration of the old Western empires happening
so quickly after the war, or the odd array of societies that would be
created in the newly independent nations, from the benign village
socialism of Nyerere's Tanzania to the madness of Idi Amin's adjacent
Uganda. Spain became an astonishment. I recall a veteran of the Abraham
Lincoln Brigade telling me that he could not imagine Spanish Fascism
being overthrown without another bloody war. But after Franco was gone,
a parliamentary democracy came into being, open to Socialists,
Communists, anarchists, everyone.

The end of World War II left two superpowers with their respective
spheres of influence and control, vying for military and political
power. Yet they were unable to control events, even in those parts of
the world considered to be their respective spheres of influence. The
failure of the Soviet Union to have its way in Afghanistan, its decision
to withdraw after almost a decade of ugly intervention, was the most
striking evidence that even the possession of thermonuclear weapons does
not guarantee domination over a determined population. The United States
has faced the same reality. It waged a full-scale war in lndochina,
conducting the most brutal bombardment of a tiny peninsula in world
history, and yet was forced to withdraw. In the headlines every day we
see other instances of the failure of the presumably powerful over the
presumably powerless, as in Brazil, where a grassroots movement of
workers and the poor elected a new president pledged to fight
destructive corporate power.

Looking at this catalogue of huge surprises, it's clear that the
struggle for justice should never be abandoned because of the apparent
overwhelming power of those who have the guns and the money and who seem
invincible in their determination to hold on to it. That apparent power
has, again and again, proved vulnerable to human qualities less
measurable than bombs and dollars: moral fervor, determination, unity,
organization, sacrifice, wit, ingenuity, courage, patience--whether by
blacks in Alabama and South Africa, peasants in El Salvador, Nicaragua
and Vietnam, or workers and intellectuals in Poland, Hungary and the
Soviet Union itself. No cold calculation of the balance of power need
deter people who are persuaded that their cause is just.

I have tried hard to match my friends in their pessimism about the world
(is it just my friends?), but I keep encountering people who, in spite
of all the evidence of terrible things happening everywhere, give me
hope. Especially young people, in whom the future rests. Wherever I go,
I find such people. And beyond the handful of activists there seem to be
hundreds, thousands, more who are open to unorthodox ideas. But they
tend not to know of one another's existence, and so, while they persist,
they do so with the desperate patience of Sisyphus endlessly pushing
that boulder up the mountain. I try to tell each group that it is not
alone, and that the very people who are disheartened by the absence of a
national movement are themselves proof of the potential for such a

Revolutionary change does not come as one cataclysmic moment (beware of
such moments!) but as an endless succession of surprises, moving zigzag
toward a more decent society. We don't have to engage in grand, heroic
actions to participate in the process of change. Small acts, when
multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world. Even when we
don't "win," there is fun and fulfillment in the fact that we have been
involved, with other good people, in something worthwhile. We need hope.

An optimist isn't necessarily a blithe, slightly sappy whistler in the
dark of our time. To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly
romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not
only of cruelty but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness.
What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our
lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do
something. If we remember those times and places--and there are so
many--where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy
to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a
world in a different direction. And if we do act, in however small a
way, we don't have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is
an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human
beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself
a marvelous victory.

from Znet sustainer's mail

US strikes raze Falluja hospital

A hospital has been razed to the ground in one of the heaviest US air raids in the Iraqi city of Falluja.

destroyed hospital in FallujaWitnesses said only the facade remained of the small Nazzal Emergency Hospital in the centre of the city. There are no reports on casualties. A nearby medical supplies storeroom and dozens of houses were damaged as US forces continued preparing the ground for an expected major assault.

UN chief Kofi Annan has warned against an attack on the restive Sunni city.

It is the third time since the end of the US-led war that US and Iraqi forces have tried to gain control of Falluja. They say militants loyal to top al-Qaeda suspect Abu Musab al-Zarqawi are hiding there.

Zarqawi's supporters have been behind some of the worst attacks on coalition and Iraqi forces as well as dozens of kidnappings. Some of the hostages - foreigners and Iraqis - have been beheaded.


US troops using 155mm howitzers pounded a number of pre-planned targets in Falluja on Saturday.

Along with air strikes - one of the heaviest in recent days - this is all part of what appears to be a steadily increasing pressure on the insurgents, says the BBC's Paul Wood, who is with US marines outside Falluja.

Overnight, a column of armoured vehicles and humvee jeeps carried out attacks in the outskirts of Falluja designed to draw out the rebels and provide fresh targets for the air power and artillery. These are the kind of preliminary operations which would be carried out before a full-scale assault on Falluja, our correspondent says.

The air strikes reduced the Nazzal hospital, run by a Saudi Arabian Islamic charity, to rubble. Hospital officials quoted by Reuters news agency say all the contents were ruined.


* Apr 2003: US paratroopers shoot dead 13 demonstrators
* Nov 2003-Jan 2004: attacks on three US helicopters kill 25
* Feb 2004: 25 killed in attacks on Iraqi police
* 31 Mar 2004: four US contractors killed
* Apr 2004: US seals off city
* May 2004: Siege lifted
* June 2004: Zarqawi loyalists targeted in US raids - continuing to date
* Oct 2004: Iraqi PM threatens military action if Zarqawi is not handed over

More people were preparing to flee the city - more than half of the city's estimated 300,000 people have already left. US marine officers say the full-scale attack will go ahead only once Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi has given the order.

"The window really is closing for a peaceful settlement," Mr Allawi said on Friday after meeting EU leaders in Brussels.

In a letter to the leaders of the US, UK and Iraq, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan warned that the use of force risked alienating Iraqis when their support for elections was vital. But Mr Allawi called the letter "confused".

He said if Mr Annan thought he could prevent insurgents in Falluja from "inflicting damage and killing", he was welcome to try.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2004/11/06 13:14:28 GMT

We Do NOT concede Our Democratic Rights!

Sisters and Brothers,

While hundreds of thousands of votes in Ohio have yet to be counted and
reports of voter disenfranchisement throughout the country ­ particularly
among minority, immigrant, young, and low-income Americans ­ continue to
pour-in and questions are left to be answered about the massive gap between
early polling data and the final total in Florida ­ a state where half of
the voting populous used touch-screen machines that leave no paper trail,
John Kerry just conceded the presidential election.


Thousands of people in nearly 40 cities took to the streets yesterday. No
one has the authority to undermine our rights, to silence our voices and
our vote. There are many unanswered questions about the integrity of this
election and we need to continue to demand answers. We urge you to continue
your efforts to protect voters’ rights and push for investigations into
voting irregularities, and to transform your frustration, depression, and
outrage into action.


1) MONITOR OHIO. Watch the situation in Ohio and be ready to respond to
calls of support from Ohio groups. Read the reports by and by Greg Palast
( alleging that Ohio's
touchscreen machines skewed the election. See also

2) MEET-UP with members of your community. Have a community meeting to
create a space to speak-out and discuss voting irregularities in your
community, what happened nationally, and where do we go from here to demand
accountability. Post your meeting on-line at www.Nov3.US - click on
"Directory of Local Actions."

3) CONNECT with the Urgent Response Network:

1. Sign the Pledge of Action, and check your email for alerts
2. Check this and related websites regularly
3. Sign up to receive text-message alerts on your cell phone
4. Call 917-779-0013 for an automated voice mail message

4) INFORM YOURSELF about and advocate for the full platform of voting
rights, election, and structural reforms that will democratize America. Go
to www.Nov3.Us and click on "Defend Voting Rights," "Reform Our Elections,"
and "Deepen Our Democracy," for some great places to start.

Again, stand by, be vigilant, and don’t forget that all of your effortsfor
peace, justice, and democracy are going to create positive change in the

call to fight religious fundamentalism

Why I Will Continue To Fight

After the election results were final, I, like many Americans, felt a
profound sense of despair and hopelessness. How could this have happened?
This was not about fighting some evil cabal in the White House. It was not
about Bush/Cheney/Rove. It was about the American people choosing to leave
power with a clearly corrupt government, in spite of the debacle of the last
four years.

And then I saw the exit polls: the two top reasons people voted for Bush
were terrorism and “moral values.” It became clear to me that a significant
reason for Bush’s victory was the rise of fundamentalist religions in this

At first I didn’t know how to respond ­ if so many in this country are
casting their vote based on what I consider to be primitive belief systems,
maybe it was time for me to move elsewhere. Many friends echoed that
feeling. Part of me felt like throwing in the towel: "You made your bed,
America, now sleep in it."

But then I thought that perhaps this election was a wake-up call. It
suddenly became clear to me that battle lines had been drawn. Those of us
who feel that government, (indeed, people in general), should make decisions
based on reason and enlightenment are being challenged by those who think
decisions should be based almost entirely on religious beliefs.

And it goes beyond that. I also believe that fundamentalist belief systems
are inherently damaging to the individual and to society. I know this
because I once was a born-again Christian (I even prayed in tongues). I
know that when you lead your life based on a rigid set of beliefs that allow
for no questioning or individual thought, things become “clear” in dangerous
ways ­ it’s one of the reasons Islamic fundamentalists have been able to
recruit terrorists to do the horrible things they’ve done. And make no
mistake: fundamentalists in America are enacting their own form of
terrorism, albeit without physical violence.

We all know that the fundamentalist movement is growing in America: we’ve
seen creationism being debated again, after it was consigned to the ash heap
decades ago; powerful political organizations being formed by the likes of
Pat Robertson; media “watchdog” groups like Focus on the Family having a
huge impact on what we are allowed to see on TV; Halloween “Hell Houses”
around the country that use high-tech theater to scare teens into thinking
that homosexuality and abortion rights lead to eternal hellfire; the list
goes on and on.

A 1997 poll found that 43% of Americans who believe in heaven also believe
there are harps in heaven:

The possibility that those people are taking over our country is
frightening. If this movement continues to snowball, it could throw us back
into another Dark Ages. The Age of Reason could be coming to an end,
replaced by an Age of “Faith” ­ rigid, uncompromising, intolerant faith that
leaves no room for enlightened debate or discussion.

So what do we do?

I know what I’ve decided. From this day forward, a major portion of my
activism will be dedicated toward stopping the march of fundamentalism in
this country, because that movement affects all the activism we work on:
AIDS, abortion rights, women’s rights, anti-war movements, homophobia,
racism, etc.

Those of us in the other half of the country need to realize that this is
war. They’ve known it for years and have even said as much. But we’ve been
too timid to call it as we see it, for fear of sounding elitist and
trampling on people’s right to their beliefs.

But I’m saying it now: fundamentalism, whether Christian, Jewish or Muslim,
is dangerous and wrong. It prevents people from doing what we are all here
to do: to learn, to grow, to become more enlightened. Rigid, confining,
strict belief systems are strangling individuals and this country. We have
to fight back.

And while I have no desire to outlaw or suppress any religion, I have a deep
desire to promote clear thinking and reason, and I now dedicate myself to
fighting any belief system that prevents the human race from moving forward.
Anything less, and we risk a return to the Dark Ages, when superstition
and magic prevailed over science and reasoning.

This is not a call for a war on spirituality or organized religion. It is a
call to stop the kind of fundamentalism that reduces people to sins rather
than seeing them as human beings. It is a call to arms against the same
kind of "moralism" that used the bible to support slavery and the oppression
of women.

Where do we start? I don't know. But we have to start talking about it,
even though we know the response will be swift and strong. If you agree
with me, please forward this email to friends and email lists - add your
comments at the beginning if you like.

Let’s start the discussion - maybe we can turn this increasingly
"faith-based" country back into a reality-based one.

thank you to Mark Milano for this essay




beautiful woman surrounded by floating rose petals

Those truly linked don’t need correspondence.
When they meet again after many years apart,
Their friendship is as true as ever.

In the distant past, there was once a young and wealthy statesman who was on a diplomatic mission. Pausing by a river at night, he heard the haunting sounds of a lute. A passionate musician himself, he took up his own lute and eventually found a goatherd sitting on an old ruin. In those days, an aristocrat would not associate with a commoner, but the two men struck up a friendship through their music. Their playing was as smooth and natural as flowing water.

Once a year, the ambassador and the goatherd would renew their friendship. Though they had the chance to play their music with others during the rest of the year, each man declared that he had found his true counterpart.

The ambassador tried for many years to life the goatherd out of his poverty, but his friend steadfastly refused. He did not want to pollute their friendship with money.

Years later, when the ambassador was gray haired, he went to the appointed spot, but his friend was not thee. He tried to play alone, but his melody was forlorn. Finally someone came to tell him that his friend had starved to death during a recent famine. This news made the ambassador despondent. He was caught in the irony of knowing that he had the money to save his friend, and yet he understood the man’s vales as well. In sorrow, the ambassador broke his lute. “With my friend gone from the world, who will I play my music for?”

True friendship is a rare harmony.

365 Tao
daily meditations
Deng Ming-Dao (author)
ISBN 0-06-250223-9
for Jean who lives in India and in my heart
(for Jean, who lives in India and in my heart.)

Lady Xiang
Lady Xiang
(this is the artist’s title of the work)
for a complete biography of this artist and his work

**Suggested reading of daoist texts ancient poetry and contemporary Chinese literature is available at the site.
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