Once you’ve seen the face of god,
You see that same face on everyone you meet.
The true god has no face. The true Tao has no name. But we cannot identity with that until we are of a very high level of insight. Until then, the gods with faces and the Tao with names are still more worthy of veneration and study than the illusions of the world.
With long and sincere training, it is possible to see the face of god. Holiness s not about scientific objectivity. It is about a deep and clear recognition of the true nature of life. Your attitude toward your god will be different than anyone else’s god—divinity is a reflection of your own understanding. If your experience differs from others, that does not invalidate your sense of godliness. You will have no doubts after you have seen.
Knowing god is the source of compassion in our lives. We realize that our separation from others is artificial. We are neither separate from other people nor from Tao. It is only our own egotism that leads us to define ourselves as individuals. In fact, a direct experience of god is a direct experience of the utter universality of life. If we allow it to change our way of thinking, we will understand our essential oneness with all things.
How does god look? Once you see god, you will see that same face on every person you meet.
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JEREMY HINZMAN LEADS WAY
FOR U.S. WAR RESISTERS IN CANADA
by Gerry Condon
Five days a week, Jeremy Hinzman, a native of South Dakota, doggedly rides his bicycle through the snow-laden streets of Toronto (now thawing). Since receiving his Canadian work permit, he has been employed as a bicycle messenger, a job he had “been wanting to try for eons.” Jeremy is 26 and in excellent shape. He is a long distance runner and has run a couple of marathons since he arrived in Canada in January 2004. Nonetheless, he admits to being exhausted when he arrives home from work. “It’s a good thing I started this job at the most difficult time of year,” he says. “It can only get easier from here.”
This philosophical attitude and the stamina of a long distance runner have served Jeremy well ever since August 2, 2002, when, as a soldier in the U.S. Army, he asked to be classified as a Conscientious Objector
and reassigned to a non-combat job.
It takes a lot of fortitude for a soldier to declare himself a Conscientious Objector. Although military law makes provisions for soldiers who decide they are pacifists, many soldiers are not informed of this option. Pursuing Conscientious Objector status is frowned upon, especially in a gung-ho unit like Jeremy’s – the 82nd Airborne. “C.O.” applicants are called coward and traitors. Some have even been physically and sexually assaulted by fellow soldiers.
But Jeremy had the right stuff. He had a profound commitment to seek spiritual direction in his life. And he had the courage to follow his conscience, wherever it led him. He had converted to Catholicism in high school. Even while in Army training, he was reading about the Buddhist philosophy of living. On Sundays, Jeremy and his wife attended the Quaker meeting in Fayetteville, North Carolina, next to Fort Bragg, the “Home of the Airborne.” They enjoyed the weekly group meditations and were inspired by the pacifist message of the Quakers. Jeremy, an active duty airborne troop in a time of war, came to realize that he could not in good conscience carry a weapon or kill another human being.
Despite this epiphany, Jeremy did not want to break his contract with the military. Motivated largely by his desire for higher education, he had enlisted for a 3-year tour in the Army. Most Conscientious Objectors seek to be discharged from the military. But even though he harbored doubts about the wars the U.S. was waging in Afghanistan and Iraq, Jeremy was nonetheless willing to go to war in a non-combat capacity. After all, the vast majority of military occupations do not require one to be personally involved in killing. He could be a cook, an administrative assistant, a mechanic, maybe even a medic.
The Army would have done itself a big favor if it had acknowledged Jeremy’s sincerity and granted him duty that he found compatible with his moral beliefs. But that’s not the way the Army works. On Halloween 2002, Jeremy was informed that the Conscientious Objector application he had submitted three months earlier had been “lost.” He was then ordered to ship to Afghanistan. Jeremy was dismayed but he obeyed. He shipped with his unit to Afghanistan on December 7, 2002. Before doing so, however, he resubmitted paperwork asking that he be recognized as a Conscientious Objector and assigned to appropriate non-combat duties.
Jeremy’s C.O. “hearing” in Afghanistan
Six months later at an isolated U.S. Army base in the middle of hostile Afghan territory, Private Jeremy Hinzman’s “C.O.” hearing took place. Military law requires that Conscientious Objector claimants be given non-combat duty while awaiting a decision on their claim. For six months Jeremy had been working in the kitchen, 7 days a week, 14 hours a day.
The C.O. hearing officer asked Jeremy a frequently used trick question regarding self-defense. Usually it goes like this: “If your wife and child were being assaulted by bloodthirsty rapists, would you defend them?” But Jeremy was asked about the family of fellow soldiers with whom he ate, slept, worked and played. You can’t let your buddies down, you know…. “If this base is attacked by Taliban terrorists, will you or won’t you pick up a gun to defend your fellow soldiers?” Jeremy said that he would – that he saw self-defense as very different from planning and executing aggressive military actions. “Gotcha!” the Army officer must have thought, pleased that his ploy had worked. “You are not a Conscientious Objector.”
It has been clearly established in Conscientious Objector law that self-defense is different than war, and that Conscientious Objectors have as much right to defend themselves as anybody else. Yet U.S. military officers often use this line of questioning to sabotage the claims of soldiers seeking this status. Sending a C.O. applicant to an isolated war zone and asking whether he would defend his buddies was grossly manipulative and clearly unfair.
Jeremy saw the writing on the wall. The negative recommendation of the hearing officer deterred him from further pursuing his C.O. claim. Instead he obeyed orders to resume guard duty. Today he wishes he had done otherwise. “My only regret is that I didn’t just take off my uniform and refuse all orders.”
Jeremy’s tour of duty in Afghanistan ended in July 16, 2003. He and his 82nd Airborne unit returned to Fort Bragg. Shortly afterwards, he discovered that his initial C.O. application remained in his Army personnel file, and had not been “lost” at all. The Army had lied to him before sending him to a war zone.
Moral Dilemma: Iraq or Canada?
Jeremy’s doubts about the morality of the war in Iraq were fueled by reports from the grisly battlefield. He heard that thousands of civilians – men, women and children – had died in the fighting. His concerns came to a head in December 2003 when the 82nd Airborne was ordered to Iraq. They were to leave right after the Christmas holidays.
A momentous moral decision faced Jeremy and his wife, Nga, a Vietnamese-American social worker whose family was resettled in South Dakota after the U.S. military withdrawal from Vietnam. Jeremy and Nga decided to head for Canada, where, in the 1960’s and 70’s, tens of thousands of U.S. draft resisters and deserters had found a welcome alternative to going to Vietnam or going to jail. In the first week of January 2004, they packed their 1-year-old son, Liam, and a few belongings into their compact car and headed north.
But Canadian immigration rules had tightened greatly since the Vietnam War. It was no longer possible to come to Canada as a visitor and apply for “landed immigrant status.” And it was no longer possible to show up at the Canadian border with a job offer and be immigrated within the hour. Canadian law now requires would-be immigrants to apply from outside Canada, to have needed job skills and/or a substantial bank account, and to wait up to two years or more for a decision. Clearly, this is not an option for a soldier on the run.
Jeremy is first U.S. war resister to seek refugee status in Canada
So Jeremy Hinzman became the first U.S. war resister ever to apply for political refugee status in Canada. Nobody from the U.S. has ever been granted refugee status in Canada, a close ally of the U.S. and its largest trading partner. Nonetheless, other GI’s morally opposed to the U.S. war in Iraq are following Jeremy’s lead.
Two months later, in March 2004, Brandon Hughey, 18, an Army tank driver from west Texas, arrived in Toronto. In May 2004, David Sanders, 19, a U.S. Navy cryptologist from Arizona, surfaced in Canada. Dan Felushko, a U.S. Marine with dual U.S.-Canadian citizenship, simply moved home to Toronto with his Canadian wife. Media reports of their presence in Canada and growing disenchantment with the U.S. war in Iraq are leading other GI’s to follow suit.
Recent arrivals to Canada include U.S. Army Specialist Clifford Cornell, 24, from Arkansas, and U.S. Army Specialist Darrell Anderson, 22, from Kentucky. Anderson, who already fought in the Iraq war, was injured and awarded a Purple Heart. But he did not want to return to Iraq where he might kill innocent civilians for “oil and money.” Another veteran of the U.S. war in Iraq, U.S. Army Specialist Joshua Key of Oklahoma, recently arrived in Toronto with his wife and four children, ages 8 months to 7 years. A large color photo of the entire family graced the front page of the Toronto Star newspaper on the same day that Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin was meeting President Bush at his Texas ranch. Dozens of AWOL GI’s are rumored to be laying low in several Canadian cities, even as some of their fellow soldiers are going to jail rather than to Iraq (see www.SoldierSayNo.org). According to the Pentagon, 6,000 U.S. soldiers are currently listed as “deserters,” having been AWOL for at least 30 days.
Jeremy Hinzman and all of these young war resisters are being represented by Jeffry House, a prominent Toronto lawyer who himself came to Canada to avoid the Vietnam draft. Well over 50,000 young Americans did the same. 30,000 of them are now Canadian citizens, some of them quite prominent, with 10,000 estimated to be in the greater Toronto area. GI’s and family members interested in the “Canada option” frequently contact Jeffry House by email at email@example.com, or at his Toronto office number, 416-926-9402 x152. He advises them that if they come to Canada and apply for refugee status, either internally or at the border, they will automatically receive the protections of Canadian refugee law until their claim can be heard, which could take up to a year.
“But coming to Canada is a serious decision,” says House. “People must be prepared for an extended period of uncertainty.” Before making that decision, they should seek advice in the U.S. GI’s who want out of the military have a number of options about which the military command prefers they remain ignorant. The GI Rights Hotline in the U.S., at 1-800-394-9544, is providing valuable counseling to thousands of soldiers and their families. Jeffry House believes that AWOL soldiers already in Canada but “under the radar screen” would be well advised to seek legal representation and apply for refugee status.
Canada’s Refugee Board Rules Against Jeremy Hinzman
Jeffry House is convinced that Jeremy Hinzman has a strong case for refugee status and should eventually be granted it. He cites the Geneva Conventions on War and the Nuremberg Principles, which maintain that it is a soldier’s obligation to disobey illegal orders or to participate in war crimes. The U.S. war on Iraq, being neither defensive nor approved by the U.N, is illegal. Therefore, orders to fight in Iraq are illegal. Soldiers who refuse these illegal orders are obeying international law and U.S. law too, since the U.S. Congress has ratified these international laws and treaties.
House also provided Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Board with reams of documentation confirming that the U.S. military has engaged in a widespread pattern of systematic war crimes in Iraq. “If Jeremy Hinzman had gone to Iraq, he would likely have been put in a position of committing or supporting the commission of war crimes.”
After several delays, Jeremy Hinzman’s hearing before the Immigration and Refugee Board took place in early December 2004. It went on for three full days and was attended by reporters from around the world. Ominously, the Canadian government intervened in the hearing, arguing that the issue of the legality of the U.S. war should have no bearing on the Refugee Board’s decision. Brian Goodman, the hearing officer, took his cue from the government and allowed no arguments on the legality of the war.
The Immigration and Refugee Board did hear much testimony, however, on U.S. war crimes in Iraq. Former U.S. Marine Staff Sergeant Jimmy Massey gave dramatic firsthand accounts of the reckless killing of civilians in Iraq. His testimony received worldwide coverage. So did the sobering words of his wife, Jackie Massey, about the Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD) that her husband brought home from Iraq. “He has terrible nightmares every night,” she said. “I can look at him in the morning and know what kind of day we are going to have.”
But on March 24 of this year, Goodman ruled against Jeremy Hinzman, asserting that he does not fit the definition of a refugee facing persecution for his beliefs. “This is a big mistake,” says Jeffry House. “There is no way that the legality of the war is not relevant. In fact, it is the central, key factor to be considered.” He cites the UN Handbook on Refugees, which specifically states that soldiers who refuse to participate in wars that are widely condemned by the international community should be considered as refugees.
House and Hinzman are now appealing this decision to Canada’s federal courts. “If the Court will give us a hearing,” says House, “it will likely rule in Jeremy’s favor.” Several more months will pass before the Court will decide to hear the appeal. A legal decision on the appeal might come by the end of the year.
Did a soldier from Saddam’s army pave the way for U.S. war resisters?
There are some fascinating precedents in Jeremy Hinzman’s favor. Soldiers from the armies of both Iraq and Iran have been granted refugee status in Canada. One, a Yemeni citizen serving in the Iraqi Army, had refused to participate in Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait. The Iranian soldier had refused to be a party to chemical warfare. Significantly, both men were at first denied refugee status by the Immigration and Refugee Board, only to have the decisions reversed in federal court.
Will Canada’s “broken” refugee system accommodate U.S. war resisters?
Canadians of all political persuasions are concerned about the huge backlog of political refugee claimants from around the world, many of whom are thought to be economic refugees. They worry about arbitrary decisions by the political appointees on the Immigration and Refugee Board. Many consider the refugee system to be “broken,” and debate rages in the Canadian media about how best to fix it. Understandably, some Canadians don’t believe it will help matters to add U.S. military deserters into the refugee mix. But most Canadians do not want to send these young soldiers-of-conscience to prison in the U.S. That is not the Canadian way.
Canadians support war resisters
In the meantime, Jeremy Hinzman and his fellow war resisters are receiving widespread support from Canadians, most of whom strongly oppose the U.S. war in Iraq. The Canadian government spurned George Bush’s call to become part of the “coalition of the willing,” and send its troops to Iraq. Canada did, however, send soldiers to Afghanistan, and recently announced they will double the current level to 11,000 “peacekeepers.”
Prominent Canadians and sympathetic organizations have formed the War Resister Support Campaign, and thousands of Canadians have signed their online petition (see www.resisters.ca). The petition calls on the Canadian government to provide a sanctuary for U.S. war resisters, whether or not they are granted political refugee status.
Influential Toronto Star columnist Thomas Walkom recently opined that Canada should make a special provision for U.S. war resisters to become Canadian immigrants. “We do it for nannies,” he says. Childcare workers are welcomed into the Canadian workforce and given three years to show they are self-supporting and staying out of trouble. Then they are allowed to immigrate.
“Couldn’t we do as much for those who don’t want to kill,” says Lee Zaslofsky of the War Resister Support Campaign. Zaslofsky, who describes himself as a “proud Canadian,” is a former U.S. soldier who refused to fight in Vietnam. Remembering those days, he declares, “It's time for the Canadian government to renew[former Canadian Prime Minister] Pierre Trudeau's pledge to make Canada a "refuge from militarism."
U.S. - Canadian Tensions Complicate War Resister Decision
Whether and how Canada will once again become a “refuge from militarism” is viewed in the context of many U.S.-Canadian tensions. Canadians are upset over the U.S. ban on the importation of Canadian softwood lumber and beef. The Bush administration has expressed concern over Prime Minister Paul Martin’s proposals to legalize gay marriage and decriminalize marijuana. U.S. war resisters in Canada are already enjoying the free, universal healthcare that is anathema to Washington.
With a possible national election looming as early as June, Prime Minister Paul Martin’s minority Liberal government recently decided not to participate in George Bush’s “missile defense shield.” This was a popular decision in Canada, but it angered the White House, which had been pushing hard for Canadian political endorsement of its plans to militarize space. Some Canadian officials worry that giving a green light to U.S. war resisters may further antagonize the “elephant” next door.
A victory for Jeremy would certainly be an important precedent — the first time a U.S. war resister, or anyone from the U.S., for that matter, would be granted refugee status in Canada. Even so, the refugee claims of other U.S. soldiers will continue to be heard on a case-by-case basis. If U.S. soldiers keep coming, however, the Canadian government may find it expedient to look for a collective solution, as they have previously done with other groups of refugees. The Canadian government could follow Sweden’s example, which granted Vietnam-era deserters humanitarian asylum based on “special circumstances.” There is also a precedent for allowing failed refugee claimants to immigrate to Canada for “humanitarian and compassionate reasons” once they have established themselves in Canada.
Jeremy and the War Resisters: Still in Canada
Jeremy Hinzman is spending another day pushing the pedals of his bicycle through the busy streets of Toronto. When he comes home to Nga and Liam, he is too tired to worry about his situation. He has given scores of interviews to U.S., Canadian and international media, but he tries not to get caught up in all the fuss. On Sundays, he and his family attend the Toronto Quaker Meeting. Jeremy and Nga frequently socialize with their many friends. It seems as if they have lived in Toronto forever. Liam is working his way through the “terrible two’s,” and hoping for another ride on the back of Jeremy’s bike.
“We’ve got a life here,” says Jeremy, without any second thoughts, “and a good one too.” Because he had the courage to follow his conscience, Jeremy and his family have found a new home in Canada. Whether it will be a temporary home or a permanent one may not be known for months, even years. But his Canadian supporters are upbeat and optimistic. “We have a long way to go,” says Lee Zaslofsky. “But we're confident that Canada will not become an enforcement arm of the Pentagon. These war resisters will be staying in Canada as long as they wish.”
The War Resister Support Campaign believes the Refugee Board decision was just the first step in a long struggle. It’s a good thing Jeremy is a long distance runner. He is likely to win in the end. Some would argue he already has.__________________
Gerry Condon deserted from the U.S. Army in 1969 after refusing to fight in Vietnam. He lived for 3 years in Sweden and 3 years in Canada, before returning to the U.S. in 1975 as part of the campaign for amnesty for all war resisters. Although an Army court martial had sentenced him to 10 years in prison, he never spent a day in jail. He now serves as director of Project Safe Haven, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or through the website, www.SoldierSayNo.org.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License .
© DUCKDAOTSU MEDIA
A knife keeps its edge
Only with honing and proper cutting.
A warrior's virtue is readiness.
A sage's virtue is awareness.
This life is so competitive and challenging that one must remain in constant readiness for the problems and conflicts that come with each day. That is why followers of Tao meld the way of the warrior and the sage. They want the courage and preparedness of the fighter, the luminous perception of the wise. Each day, they dedicate themselves to maintaining their characters and perpetuating their development. But how does one maintain one’s edge without blunting?
There is a fable about a king who was watching his butcher. He was amazed that the man could dismember a whole ox without much effort and without dulling his knife. Seeking to learn, the king questioned his servant, who said that his secret was to insert his knife only in the spaces between muscles, thus parting the body along its natural lines. In this way, where an ordinary butcher had to grind his blade daily, he only had to sharpen his knife once a year.
From this we can learn that we must first hone ourselves to a sharp edge, but the proper use of our talents is equally essential. We must remember to take action along the basic lines and seams of the day. If we do this, we can never be opposed for long.
a reading list of books and interpretations of the Daodejing is available at
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“I am not going to be silenced”
April 15, 2005
CARL WEBB is one of a group of military service members who have said no to George Bush’s war for oil and empire--and refused to be deployed to Iraq. Last month, he talked to Socialist Worker’s CINDY BERINGER about his decision and the struggle of the military resisters.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -WHY DID you sign up with the military in the first place?
My first overseas tour was in 1984 when I was in the regular army. That was in Korea, and I came back to the states in 1985 and stayed in Kentucky for three years. Then I got out in 1988 and got married. That didn’t work out and I had some family economic troubles, so I went back in that same year and went to Germany. I was in Germany from l988-1990. I was actually there when the Berlin Wall came down.
WHILE YOU were in, did you witness things that might have predicted the direction the U.S. military has taken now?
DEFINITELY. THE second time I was in the regular Army, the recruitment effort was toward recruiting linguists. Farsi was at the top of the list--what they speak in Iran. Arabic was number two. The top languages were indigenous to the Middle East, so I guess they figured that’s where the next wars would be.
After I did my tour in Korea in 1984-85, I was stationed at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, the home of the 101st Airborne, which was part of the Iraq Deployment Force. They were doing their training tours in the Sinai Peninsula in Eqypt.
Until I joined the Army, I had read a little bit, but until you are actually serving, you have no idea how many bases and how many troops that we have overseas. At any given time, almost one-third of the military was overseas. That’s definitely a global empire.
I signed up with the National Guard in August 2001, one month prior to 9/11. It was an okay three years. I was in a medical unit; they even sent me to EMT school. I rode around on the ambulance in Austin. Everything was okay until July 2004. I had done my last summer training at Fort Hood, and the next month would have been my last month of drill--my last weekend in the Texas Army National Guard.
Then I got this phone call. The sergeant said, “Hi, I’ve got some bad news. You’re being called up to go to Iraq.” I thought my unit had been activated, but I had been called up under the stop-loss program. Along with a few other people, I would be loaned out to another unit.
There’s always a possibility that the unit could be activated, so that’s why I was so relieved that it hadn’t been activated for three years. I was in total shock when I got the call. The first day I was in disbelief. I kept telling myself that maybe they made a mistake--maybe someone hit the wrong key on the computer, and maybe they didn’t realize that I had only one drill left.
So I went to the unit, and they told me that there had been no mistake. I immediately came home, got on the computer and sent out distress calls to Austin Against War, the local antiwar group. I talked for hours with my friend about what my options were.
Of course, in Texas, the first thing that jumps into your head, rather than going to Canada, is just drive a few hours to Mexico. It sounded kind of romantic, at first. But when you actually look into the realities of it, the potential of permanent exile was more than likely, and the idea that I would never see my family again popped into my head.
I’m not the average young soldier of 17. I’m 39. I think it was more than a decade before amnesty was given to Vietnam vets who went to Canada. I’d be like 50. My mother is 75. That just wasn’t an option for a person my age.
I didn’t know how I would survive in a foreign country living underground. At least during the Vietnam War, Canada was actually willing to accept draft dodgers. This is a different time, and Canada is like the junior partner in crime to the U.S. They have said that they aren’t going to willy-nilly accept people evading military service.
DID YOU ever consider going to Iraq?
AT SOME point, I probably considered it for about maybe 10 seconds. I even had some people in Austin Against War who said that I might as well go, because I’m a medic, and I wouldn’t be running around with a gun. I reminded him that all medics carry a gun, and that in Saving Private Ryan, the medic dies. The enemy doesn’t really make a distinction between who’s a computer operator or a soldier. They just start shooting.
Relative to combat forces, I would be a little bit more safe, but not safe enough for me. I never had any intention of going to Iraq and participating in this atrocity.
There’s also the issue that I consider even serving as a medic to be aiding and abetting the war machine. I tell people, “Put yourself in the shoes of someone in the German army during World War Two or the Confederate Army during the Civil War.” Even though you’re not a combatant, you’re part of the war machine. I’m not willing to be a part of the war machine in any way.
Via Austin Against War, I talked to someone with Nonmilitary Options for Youth and a lawyer with the National Lawyers Guild. I also did a lot of research on the Internet.
I considered applying for conscientious objector status, but I came to realize that the process wasn’t going to work for me. There are plenty of stringent criteria for granting CO status. I didn’t see how I could pass. So I chose the last option, which was just to refuse to go--and tell them, “You can either kick me out or throw me in jail.” I’d rather do a few years in jail than a few years in Iraq.
I didn’t tell them anything because they wouldn’t have let me leave the base. I was supposed to report to the Guard, and they would drive me up to my new unit. I packed my bags, announced that I was having a big going-away party, without announcing my intentions. On the day I was supposed to report, I got on the bus and left.
WHAT HAS the military’s response been?
THEORETICALLY, AFTER 24 hours missing, the military is supposed to consider you AWOL--absent without leave. In a certain amount of time--say a week--when they realize you’re obviously not coming back, they’re supposed to drop you from the roster and move your status from AWOL to desertion. Then they report you to the local authorities, who will arrest you.
So I left with the intention of waiting a week or so and then calling Fort Knox, which is one of the bases where a soldier can voluntarily turn himself back to the military. There’s actually a 1-800 number for a deserter’s hot line.
I kept calling that number and telling them I wanted to turn myself in. I asked them to check to see if my unit has dropped me from its rolls. I’ve called several times, but they still have no record of any kind of paperwork from my unit. They tell me to keep checking, keep checking--maybe the paperwork got lost.
I got an e-mail from a captain at Fort Hood that says, “You have officially been dropped from the rolls at Fort Hood; you should contact an attorney.” He even gave me the phone number to the trial defense service at Fort Hood. I thought I had finally got some closure. But when I called Fort Knox again, I got the same answer--no record of your existence.
That is still the case. A German television producer who is doing a documentary on U.S. deserters confronted my battalion commander at a NATO ceremony and asked about me. My commander said that I would be taken care of--that I would be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
He also said that of 3,000 soldiers from Texas, I was the only one who didn’t show up. Evidently, he was just talking. I’ve talked to a lot of organizations like the GI [Rights] Hotline and Iraq Veterans Against War, and they say that 5,000 to 8,000 people aren’t showing up.
The Army just doesn’t have the resources to deal with them. And they’re also afraid of the publicity. A couple of shows like 20-20 and 60 Minutes have done shows on the stop-loss program.
THERE HAVE been some lawsuits filed against the stop-loss program. Do you think they’ll make a difference in your case?
I THINK all of the cases like that have lost. People are going to continue to take these cases to court, because they’re all good cases constitutionally, but they’ve all lost.
The people I’ve talked to think the military is doing their best to avoid any more bad publicity. So they’re not cracking down as hard as you would think because they know that people will continue to file suits, get lawyers and talk to the press. And they just don’t have the manpower, because they’re sending all their MPs to Iraq.
So I really think that in this particular aspect--when it comes to the media--the antiwar movement has the upper hand, because the government is obviously trying to avoid this publicity. It makes them look pretty bad.
The last thing I saw was on 60 Minutes. There was this woman who was 50 years old who had been called back up. She was 5 foot 1, and the machine gun she had to carry was bigger than she was. It hasn’t been covered that much, but there has been some media coverage of 50 year old men who are over there, having heart attacks. They got called back up, and they’re out there in 130 degrees, with heavy backpacks and guns.
The military really stepped in it this time--they put themselves between a rock and a hard place, no pun intended. They don’t want to institute a draft because they’re afraid of the reaction, so they’re keeping all the old soldiers in. It’s actually going to backfire on them; it already has.
IF YOU had called the hotline and found you had been dropped, what were you going to do next?
I WAS going to get a bus, go down and turn myself in, and request a discharge. At that time, they could decide to give me a bad-conduct discharge. That’s what they’ve been doing in most of the cases. There is the possibility that they could be really, really vindictive and want to make an example of me--as they have of some soldiers--and court-martial me and send me to jail.
But I’m in a state of limbo right now. According to Fort Knox, I don’t even exist. This has been going on since last August. That’s fine with me. I don’t like it, but I’m not going to put myself in the position where the government can tell me what to do.
I’m not going to go to Iraq. I will continue to speak out in the media as long as I can. I’m not going to be silenced because of the fear that they would be more vindictive If I’m so vocal.
WHAT DO you think the antiwar movement should do to support resisters like you?
I THINK the most important part of activism right now is outreach. I’ve always been a proponent of working with the media. This is really a battle for the hearts and minds of the nation, and the best way to keep the movement afloat and moving forward is to get as much media attention as possible.
Groups and people like you who are actually putting the news out there are what will actually build the movement. It’s going to take greater numbers. Before the war, on February 15, we had 10,000 people at the Austin state capitol. We’re going to need more marches like that, with more people.
I know that I’m inspired when I pick up any sort of alternative press, and someone is speaking out. It motivates me to do the same. So that’s what I’m trying to do. I want other soldiers out there to know that they don’t have to be silent--they don’t have to be depressed. I want them to know that they can resist.
I think the biggest part the antiwar movement can play in the struggle is keeping the resistance out there, so that more people know about it. This is what groups such as Texans for Peace, Nonmilitary Options for Youth and the International Socialist Organization, that I met while in Austin, are doing.
THE UNMAKING OF A WARRIOR
Navy sailor Pablo Paredes didn’t just walk away from the war.
He publicly denounced it, and now finds himself in another kind of battle
~ By DAVID ROLLAND ~
Seated in a taqueria in San Diego’s Logan Heights neighborhood, clad in jeans, a T-shirt, and a denim jacket, Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Pablo Paredes doesn’t seem like he’s sitting in the center of a national firestorm over military service in Iraq. The 23-year-old sailor fidgets as he talks, frequently cocking the brim of his baseball cap from side to side, but he’s otherwise unguarded, well-spoken, exuding an air of competence. Even though he’s facing a possible court-martial and is technically restricted by a kind of military detention – what the Navy calls “disciplinary legal hold” – he manages to crack a smile when he talks about being savaged by some of his more famous critics, including none other than super-patriot and convicted felon Oliver North.
In a Washington Times commentary, North contrasted Paredes’s story with the tale of 25-year-old Marine Sgt. Rafael Peralta, who, on November 15, threw his mortally wounded body onto a live grenade in a house in Fallujah, Iraq, reportedly saving the lives of several fellow Marines. North wrote: “Sgt. Rafael Peralta was the polar opposite of Pablo Paredes, the petty officer who turned his back on his shipmates and mocked his commander in chief.”
Paredes laughs. “Yeah, Oliver North – I love that. The Iran-Contra-scandal jerk himself is talking about humanity and righteousness and honor. Oliver North – beautiful!”
But North isn’t the only one who fails to see the humor in Paredes’s story. On the morning of December 6, 2004, Paredes turned up on the docks at the 32nd Street Naval Station in San Diego for the planned deployment of his ship, the U.S.S. Bonhomme Richard, which was carrying 2,000-plus Marines to the Persian Gulf. As the others queued up were getting last tearful hugs and kissing their children, however, Paredes came with TV news cameras in tow. Wearing a T-shirt that read, “Like a cabinet member, I resign,” he stood with his ship in the background and declared his objections to the U.S. military action in Iraq, saying he was refusing to board.
Resistance to the war by active military personnel is certainly nothing new, and in fact has been on the rise as the conflict in Iraq drags on. According to CBS News, the Pentagon has reported over 5,500 deserters since the start of Operation Enduring Freedom in Iraq, many of whom reject the war on the grounds that there’s no connection between the 9/11 attacks and Saddam Hussein. The military, nonetheless, is aggressively prosecuting: On April 8, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals denied a soldier’s challenge to the military’s “stop-loss” policy, saying that Oregon National Guardsman Sgt. Emiliano Santiago was required to go to Afghanistan despite the fact that he has completed his eight-year enlistment. On March 28, a U.S. military court in Germany convicted Army mechanic Blake Lemoine of “willfully disobeying orders” by refusing to carry out duties because of religious beliefs after a year in Iraq. The number of such cases continues to mount.
But the way that Paredes did it – turning his objections into a full-blown media event – set many in the community, and in the military, spoiling for a fight. By making a show of it, he’d made himself a hero and target.
“Our group came together as an extension of peace movement work,” says Larry Christian with the San Diego Military Counseling Project, a group unaffiliated with the military that helped Paredes find legal counsel and file for conscientious objector status. “So what helps the peace movement helps us. So when someone does speak out in such a public way, we believe it helps all of us.”
The Green Party wrote an open letter in support of Parades, and organized an April 4 appearance in San Diego with Ralph Nader. On April 8, Code Pink’s Medea Benjamin made an appearance with Paredes in San Diego to help raise funds for his defense.
Critics, however, immediately attacked him, saying he surely hadn’t thought out the consequences of his action either for himself or for his shipmates. An open letter to Paredes from Citizen SMASH of the blog The Indepundit cried he’d made no impact on stopping the war, but added, “You did, however, manage to fuck up your own future.”
But Paredes had thought it out. What he did on December 6 was the culmination of a couple years’ worth of personal transformation and intellectual development and a couple weeks’ worth of agony over a decision that would change his life forever.
“Pablo’s a really bright, thoughtful guy. He knew going in that he was inviting a lot of attention, that he would be in the spotlight,” says Christian. “And he knew there would be some consequences.”
He wasn’t arrested that day – Paredes suspects the TV cameras had something to do with that – but soon thereafter, the Navy quietly declared him a fugitive. He subsequently turned himself in, and so he currently spends from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. every day (with time off for lunch) in a kind of loose house arrest, just like dozens of other wayward sailors, killing time, reading books, and awaiting his fate.
On March 25, the Navy would officially charge Paredes with being absent without leave and missing movement, charges for which he may face court-martial May 11. The potential consequences are unclear. In a best-case scenario, the judge could accept his filing for an “other than honorable” discharge in lieu of court-martial, and the whole thing would be over. In the worst, he could get a reduction in rank, loss of pay, one year in the brig, and an “other than honorable” or “bad conduct” discharge. That would give him a misdemeanor on his criminal record, which would dog him for the rest of his life.
Worse, however, might be the eternal scorn of his countrymen. The letter on The Indepundit drew tons of responses, most of them heaping coals on Paredes’s head. And the writers pulled no punches, reminding that sometimes the penalty for desertion is death.
“I guess he just wanted his 15 minutes of fame, but it will leave him with a life full of shame,” wrote one correspondent. “Hopefully nobody will have to pay the ultimate price for this fool’s cowardice and selfishness.”
“This guy is the biggest coward I’ve ever heard of,” wrote another. “He might want to think he’s a hero, but in reality, he’s just another piece of garbage who won’t honor a contract that he signed.”
A third made it more plain: “Pablo should be shot – and I’m up for the job.”
A Bronx boy’s taleFive years ago, Paredes had never heard of Ollie North. He didn’t know the U.S. military had recently been involved in conflicts in Somalia and Kosovo. Hell, he said, “at that point, I couldn’t place none of those places on the map. I couldn’t tell you anything about foreign policy. I mean, I was completely indifferent to politics … . I could tell you my president and vice president, and was impressed that I could do that.”
He smiles and chuckles a lot as he details his journey from the Bronx, New York neighborhood where he grew up, through an eye-opening, two-and-a-half-year Navy stint in Japan, and smack into the transformation that turned him into a peace activist who’d rather go to jail than support the war in Iraq.
Son to Ecuadorian father Victor Paredes Sr., a cab driver, and Puerto Rican mother Milagros Paredes, a government secretary, and younger brother to Victor Paredes Jr., who works in Latino-oriented advertising, Pablo Paredes was a typical lower-middle-class Bronx kid. “You know,” he says, “I was into hip-hop, dancin’, basketball.”
He performed in community musical theater as a hobby, acting and singing in productions such as Oklahoma, The Pajama Game, and Godspell. He had aspirations of college. ‹
His dad took a job driving a truck to make more money than he’d been pulling in driving a cab to help send his youngest son to a university, but a forklift accident left him without the use of his legs, and the family was suddenly in dire financial straits. It “put us into an even worse economic situation because there was no income coming from his side,” Paredes says. “There was a lawsuit, but it took about six years before that actually panned out, and then all he really got was his medical expenses paid back. You know, sometimes it works out that way – McDonald’s hot coffee will get you a million dollars, but negligence on the forklift operator that ruins your life will get you medical expenses.”
Paredes landed at the College of Mount Saint Vincent, a liberal-arts school in Riverdale, New York, working two part-time jobs when not attending classes. But money became tight, and he found himself reassessing his options. “I either had to get a third job or let the college thing go,” he says.
Like most economically disadvantaged teens across the country, Paredes had been approached by military recruiters “three or four times,” and some high school classmates had joined the Navy, “so that sounded like the way to go.” The plan was to learn computer technology and grab some college money, but “four and a half years later, I don’t know anything about computers,” he says.
Culture shockThough Paredes claims he hasn’t picked up much in the way of marketable skills during his time in the Navy, it hasn’t exactly been a waste of time, either. Far from it.
The first turning point in Paredes’s adult life came in Japan, where, accompanied by his young wife Vania, he was stationed for more than two years until last March. The way he tells the story, Paredes underwent a metamorphosis in the Far East which sowed the seeds of his discontent with the U.S. military.
His first shock was cultural. In Japan, he was immediately confronted by a different way to live and comport oneself than he was accustomed to in the Bronx. His perception of Japan was a whole society of people who were courteous, honest, and determined to succeed. “Everyone expects everyone to do great, and doing substandard work at any level is taboo,” he says. “I mean, you go to a coffee shop, and your service is going to be amazing.
“Finding yourself in that environment is just 180, all the way,” he continues, “because I grew up in the Bronx, where it’s like, look over your shoulder; if you don’t cheat on your taxes, you’re an idiot, because everyone on your block is doing it – it’s that kind of world, it’s dog-eat-dog, it’s do what you gotta do to survive.”
To illustrate his point, Paredes cites the mundane activity of paying train fare. When he first arrived in Japan, “I was definitely cheating on the train fare, and I was definitely doing everything I had to do in a New York way and [thinking], These guys are retarded, you know – I’m great; I’m not gonna have to spend a dime in my whole two and a half years here
“But then, after a while, it’s just, like, Man, how can I be the only one that does this? What a horrible person I am.”
At the same time, the new people Paredes was spending time with – people he met while taking Japanese-language classes, for example – were opening his eyes in a different way, forcing him to educate himself in matters of politics and current events just so he could avoid being “the moron at the table,” as he puts it. “Like, every other night of the week, having coffee and sushi or something while talking with five people that all spoke a different language, and four translators involved … it got really interesting.”
Conversation would inevitably turn to American foreign policy, an embarrassing development for Paredes, who says he knew less about his home country’s history and policies than did his new group of foreigner friends. So, he’d head back to his ship, where he and his shipmates had plenty of time to kill, to educate himself, reading books as fast as he could and researching on the Internet references brought up earlier in conversation.
“Really quickly I had to fill that void,” he says, “and I just became book hungry and Internet crazy.”
Paredes’s intellectual exploration led him to lefty thinkers like Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, and Michael Parenti – “I got kind of addicted to these guys” – with Chomsky’s Manufacturing Consent becoming something of an automatic filter into which he’d feed information he’d come across about American politics and the mainstream media.
He says he tried hard not to preach his newfound opinions to his shipmates, but he often engaged in what he refers to as “debate.” Paredes calls what happened to him in Japan “an awakening,” and it’s here where he gets philosophical.
“It involves being incredibly conscious of everything you do as an individual,” he says, “and it’s kind of an agreement between a group of individuals that we’re all going to be very conscious of what we do as individuals. And there’s nothing better in the world than when that happens to a society – because what can go wrong when every single person is just worried about doing everything they have to do, right?
“Because I decided to live my life that way, it’s not going to change every person around me. But who knows – I may affect one person. And as cliché as it sounds – better to be part of the solution than part of the problem, right? So, I had this whole change in the way I think and the way I look at my own actions.”
Looking for a way outThe upshot of Paredes’s time in Japan was that he could no longer relate to the uniform he climbed into each day. As hard as it may be for people to hear in these times of war, and as obscene as his Internet detractors may find this notion, Paredes’s job had become a source of shame for him. As a principle, war was simply not acceptable.
“I understand now that I was complicit to war,” he says. “I couldn’t have peace of mind knowing that that’s what I did, knowing that that’s my job. Someday, I’m going to have to look back and accept that that’s how I got there” – wherever his life takes him.
Granted, he says, some people put the uniform on for “incredibly noble reasons,” but “the manner in which it protects the people is through violence, and I’ve gotten to a place in my life where I don’t want to solve problems that way, so it makes me very ashamed that I’m a part of a system that is designed to solve problems that way.”
Paredes has adopted the opinion of people like Cardiff scholar and foreign-policy critic Chalmers Johnson – that the United States is a modern-day empire. “Back in the days of Rome, you just had to go colonize – ‘This is mine, all mine,’” he says. “Now, it’s a different world. There’s no value in owning a country. There’s more value in influencing the economy and the politics of a country, or a territory or an area. Now, having an empire is just about setting up all of these spheres of influence all over the place.”
While Paredes was in Japan, the United States influenced Iraq in a big way, and when his time in the Far East was up, he was certain that his next gig would have something to do with Iraq – probably on a ship providing taxi service for Marines heading into battle. Given his principles, the prospect didn’t thrill him. He’s quick to point out that his objections have nothing to do with fear. “Unless you’re a pilot or special forces – and I’m neither – you’re not going to be in danger,” he says. “You’re going to hop on a ship, you’re going to do your specific job, you’re going to have air-conditioned spaces, cable, Internet, and you’re going to come back home after a while and everybody’s going to love you and tell you you’re a hero. It’s like a win-win situation – if you don’t become conscientious.”
No, his concern was aiding and abetting the execution of a war he doesn’t support. Trained as a fire controlman, his job was to fire defensive weapons systems on board his ship, which is equipped with a battery of Sea Sparrow and other missile systems. With eight months left in his Navy tenure, Paredes decided to enroll in Master-at-Arms school, a military police program, with a mind toward spending his remaining months checking identification at the front gate at some stateside Navy base. He says he was in the program, at a Navy school in San Antonio, Texas, for about five weeks before he realized that entering the program had added three years to his Navy stint.
As was his right, Paredes opted to drop out of the program rather than endure three more years. Had he remained in the program, he would have been stationed at a base in Port Hueneme in Ventura County. “You couldn’t ask for a better way to work your way out of the Navy,” he says, “but I wasn’t interested in a nice place for a longer amount of time still in the Navy.”
On the Indepundit blog was a post by someone who says he was the “chief in charge of getting FC3 orders” when Paredes dropped out of Master-at-Arms school. The post, signed “OSC,” said Paredes had the opportunity to claim conscientious-objector status, but he chose to state a different reason for wanting out. When “asked if he would have problems completing his mission as a Fire Controlman, possibly having to fire missiles from a ship,” OSC writes, Paredes “responded that he was fully capable of completing whatever job he was given on the ship. I have reread his statement as to why he wanted to drop from [Master-at-Arms school], and he lists his number one reason as, and I quote, ‘My marriage has suffered serious damage due to the separation that comes with the needs of the Navy.’ I even scheduled him an appointment with our legal officer to make sure that he did not fall into the conscientious objector category. His sole motivation during the entire process was to get back to his wife.”
OSC concludes by joining the anti-Pablo ‹ chorus: “I feel really sorry for those that actually have beliefs against the war, and have aligned themselves behind this liar.”
Paredes said the claim that he was presented with the option of conscientious-objector status is “absolutely bogus.” He says the bit about his marriage was only one of many issues he discussed with his chief in charge. His conversations with his superiors were centered on his philosophical objections to war, he adds.
Empire strikes backLate last fall, he was told to report to San Diego and was given a month to get settled. In November he was informed that in two weeks’ time, he’d be assigned as a fire controlman on the U.S.S. Bonhomme Richard, heading to the Persian Gulf as part of Expeditionary Strike Group Five, a group of seven Navy and Coast Guard ships and a submarine.
The expeditionary strike group provides the military with a sort of floating base, handy when foreign governments don’t give the United States permission to base military operations on their soil. Although not an aircraft carrier per se – it can’t launch standard jets – the deck of the Bonhomme Richard looks like one. It’s made for launching and landing helicopters and vertical-lift Harrier jets. In the ship’s stern is an interior deck, which opens up when the need arises to let loose three Landing Craft Air Cushions, large boats that travel on rubber inflatable skirts, carrying Marines, Humvees, or tanks for beach assaults.
For Paredes, the assignment was precisely what he had been trying to avoid. A number of ideas began clanging around in his head. Get high, fail a drug test, and earn a dishonorable discharge? Suffer a sudden injury? Sometimes desperate circumstances lead to desperate measures. A Navy SEAL friend offered to break his leg at the shinbone, something Paredes considered seriously enough to discuss it with his wife and his brother, who begged him not to go through with it.
But it was a friend from Japan who nonchalantly offered the idea that would stick. He says his friend e-mailed him: “Why don’t you just refuse to go?”
“I was just, like, ‘Wow. How ’bout I do that? How ’bout I just tell ’em the truth, and keep this completely principled, completely honest?’” he recalls.
It was December 2, four days before he was scheduled to ship out, when Paredes decided to make his issue with his uniform a media event. He hadn’t, however, talked with legal counsel about his move. He simply got on the phone and cold-called TV-news desks. Local Fox 6 and the Spanish-language Univision did pre-event interviews, which set the dominoes in motion. More interviews followed – mostly Latino, independent, and local media.
Antiwar activists immediately embraced him. Representatives from groups such as San Diego Military Counseling Project, Vietnam Veterans Against the War, and Iraq Veterans Against the War offered to help him any way they could. Paredes has since embraced the activists right back, attending and speaking at their events. No matter the outcome of his case, they say his willingness to speak out has had a positive effect.
“If he gets the full punishment, it won’t have a significant impact on others,” says Larry Christian of the Military Counseling Project. “By now, you see there are some 6,000 people who have left the military. We get calls from people all the time who say, ‘My unit is going and I don’t want to go, what can I do?’ Sometimes there’s nothing they can do, and that’s why there’s the 6,000. By then, they’re in a desperate situation, and sometimes they do drastic things with consequences. Pablo did it publicly, but there are a lot more who are doing it on their own, who take off because they cannot contend with the prospect of having to go participate in a war that they think is so wrong. That’s going to continue happening no matter what happens to Pablo.”
In fact, he notes, as the number of soldiers gone AWOL and applying for Conscientious Objector status rises, more resources are becoming available. The Los Angeles Chapter of the National Lawyer’s Guild is now starting a project to give legal help to service members who want out, called the Bill Smith Military Resistance Project in honor of a leading legal advisor to draft evaders during the Vietnam War.
After a brief side trip to offer humanitarian assistance to tsunami victims in Sri Lanka, sailors friendly to Paredes sent him notice the U.S.S. Bonhomme Richard was last in the Gulf of Bahrain, engaged in the Iraq War effort.A Navy spokesperson told CityBeat that an investigation of Paredes has been completed, but a decision about his fate hasn’t yet been reached. If a military judge will not accept his plea for an other-than-honorable discharge in lieu of court-martial, he goes on trial in May. On a separate track, the Navy is also processing Paredes’s request for conscientious-objector status, which won’t be decided upon until after his punishment has been meted out. If, by some twist, he should find himself still in the Navy, conscientious objector status might end up springing him – for his beliefs, which is what he wanted all along.
Pablo Paredes’s website is www.swiftsmartveterans.com.
As insurgent attacks have diminished since the national elections Jan. 30, Iraqi and U.S. officials have focused attention largely on shaping the country's political future and expressed hope that the insurgency was winding down. But a videotape broadcast on al-Jazeera television showed a scene more typical of last summer and fall: a foreigner pleading for his life as gunmen pointed automatic weapons at his head.
Jeffrey J. Ake, 47, of LaPorte, Ind., apparently reading from a statement on a wooden desktop in front of him, asked the United States to start a dialogue with Iraqi insurgents, to start withdrawing its forces from Iraq and to save his life, according to al-Jazeera. In one hand, he held open what appeared to be a U.S. passport, and in the other, an ID card.
The White House announced that authorities were monitoring the situation but would not negotiate for Ake's release. Ake was kidnapped Monday from a water-treatment facility near Baghdad where he worked as a contractor on a reconstruction project.
Meanwhile, four other American contractors were among those wounded yesterday by a car bomb that killed five Iraqis in Baghdad. The victims were traveling between the capital and the nearby airport in a Defense Department convoy when the bomb detonated.
Al-Qaida in Iraq, the insurgent group led by a Jordanian guerrilla, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, asserted responsibility for the attack in an Internet statement.
In northern Iraq, a bomb killed at least nine Iraqi police officers as they were defusing another explosive device planted beneath an oil pipeline near Kirkuk.
The slain men were members of an Iraqi anti-sabotage unit for oilfields, police Col. Afran Hannah said. They had successfully disabled one bomb -- apparently a decoy -- only to have a second, hidden bomb explode nearby. Five Iraqis were wounded in the incident.
And on Iraq's long border with Syria, U.S. Marines battled guerrillas claiming ties to al-Qaida for a third straight day. The U.S. military said yesterday that Marines had killed 30 insurgents Monday and Tuesday as they repeated
Nicholas D. Kristof article, “A Slap in the Face,” in the New York Times (April 12, 2005) is the latest and most appropriate example of this trend.
Very few critics of the so-considered mainstream media would as accurately describe the vanishing public trust in its reporting and analysis as is described by Kristof. However, he closes the argument with a grave misconception and an utterly wrong conclusion.
He sums up his whining over public's lack of interest in the four months house arrest of NBC Journalist, Jim Taricani, in these words: “If one word can capture the public attitude toward American journalists, I'm afraid it's ‘arrogant.’"
He goes on to conclude: “Unless we can recover the public trust… we'll wake up one day to find ourselves on the wrong side of history.”
If Kristof and his fellow corporate mainstreamers are not yet awake, it does not mean that they are not on the wrong side of history.
It doesn’t mean that the public shun them just because they are 'arrogant.' The public has shunned them because they present lies of their the US administration as facts and facts on the ground as fiction.
Public can deal with arrogance but not lies and outright deception. Kristof’s fellow journalists, who are facing government’s wrath in the form of up to 18 months for protecting their sources, are actually facing the same monstrous system and an invisible tyranny which they have been propping and supporting all along. Best of luck to them now.
The public knows well that the so-called “mainstream” media does not belong to them, nor does it represents them.
This media is actually serving the cause of the totalitarians who are out there to kill hundreds and thousands of people, occupy other countries, establish concentration camps abroad and pass draconian legislations at home only for protecting their personal interests and promoting their religious fantasies.
The public knows how the New York Times, for example, behaved in the run up to the Iraq war and how its hallow apologies for supporting administration's lies didn’t prove it innocent at all before the public.
The “mainstream" media is itself responsible for the worsened climate for freedom of the press because the tyrants they served for so long now want the same kind of subservient attitude and submissive media to continue toeing their line.
Seeking the passage of a federal shield law for journalists is now too little and too late a measure to undo what the journalists in the multi-million dollars media business have already done to themselves. Kristof's right analysis and wrong conclusions further confirm that when you lie for so long, you start believing in your lies.
The journalists and analysts associated with the “mainstream" media — the mainstreamers — have gone sick to the extent that they are hardly able to reflect on why all this is happening now.
They can see and they admit it. According to Kristof's admission: “I think, is that we in the news media are widely perceived as arrogant, out of touch and untrustworthy.” However, it once more shows the missing why aspect it the discussion.
They still believe, they are on the right side of history for promoting the truth and justice. They still look with contempt at the alternative sources of news and analysis to which the general public is flocking for information and understanding.
To the mainstreamers, most of the truth diggers are either Muslim "radicals," or mere “conspiracy theorists.” Despite failing to answer a single question out of the hundreds posed by the so-considered conspiracy theorists, the mainstreamers blindly and dutifully regurgitate the official line.
Journalists from the mainstream media still make a mockery of the accurate analysis on many web logs and independent web sites. Even giving a reference to the work of the organizations and web sites which are monitoring the inaccuracies of the “mainstream” media is embarrassing for the stars of the “mainstream” media.
This is how the mainstreamers decided to serve the interest of the corporate and totalitarian world behind them. They turned their back on accuracy, impartiality and truth. In turn the public turned its back on them. Now Mr. Kristof realizes that in his “society, public support for the news media has all but evaporated.”
This is too sad and too late a realization. However, it is meaningless because of the lack of determination to break out of the chains of self-imposed censorship on the truth. Still there is no intention to wake up because they still cherish the hope that things will improve and they would have something for face saving.
The leading mainstreamers are quick to give reference the recent studies, such as the one by the Pew Research Center, "Trends 2005," which says that 45 percent of Americans believe little or nothing in their daily newspapers, up from 16 percent two decades ago. However, the mainstreamers can hardly question how this unbelieving public voted for a lying administration?
Despite an overwhelming evidence and heavy criticism and complaints to the contrary, to the mainstreamers the 2004 elections were still the most free, fair and democratic elections of the US history.
It must not be surprising to find the tyrants and the tyranny the mainstreamers have been supporting all along, turn around and start jailing the mainstreamers. In the environment, which the product of their own hands, the mainstreamers must not be surprised at the creation of their own hands. The journalists heading for jails is not even the actual beginning.
Many would feel relieved to read Mr. Kristof whining in the New York Times today because it will give them some confidence that turning their back on the “mainstream” media is, after all, being felt by the mainstreamers: the accomplices of the totalitarians who starved 1.8 million innocents to death through genocidal sanctions and waged wars on the basis of lies upon lies.
Interestingly, Kristof is the one who is single-handedly waging a crusade for bringing justice to the victims of oppression in Sudan. He never stops using the word “genocide” for the situation in Sudan. However, he has hardly uttered this word a single time to describe the death of 1.8 million Iraqis who perished due to the genocidal UN sanctions on Iraq.
Now he says: “Public approval is our life-support system, and it is now at risk.” It is not just at risk. It is now gone. "Mainstream" is history as far as its usefulness is concerned. Hope this shows Mr. Kristof and his fellow mainstreamers how biased they have been in their reporting and analysis.
According to the National Opinion Research Center analysis public confidence in the press has fallen sharply since 1990. Is it not the time when the neocons and other totalitarians in the US administration, media, academia and other fronts have decided to go out all gun blazing and talking to the world from both sides of their mouth? And, have not the mainstreamers been their main accomplice to the genocides and wars since 1990?
Public distrust in the corporate mainstream media is not unfair at all. Even the PEW study that is cited by Kristof in defense of his whining is insufficient.
The study says only 14 percent of Republicans believe all or most of what they read in the New York Times, whereas among Democrats the figure is only 31 percent. The Fox News Channel is considered credible by fewer than one-third of the Republicans - and an even smaller number of Democrats.
It is ironic that this study does not give statistics of those Americans who do not trust either of these parties and hence don’t believe in anything that is reported in support of the official stories.
Reconnection to the public is not easy. It is just face saving to suggest that there should be more willingness to run corrections, more ombudsmen, and more acknowledgement of our failings, because studies have suggested that the media has been running corrections as a routine matter but the image that their initial wrong story leaves is incorrigible. So this process of wrong reporting, correction and belated apology is just the “mainstream” media’s modus operandi. That is how it serves its hidden objectives and leaves something for face saving. But, it will not be so any more.
Similarly, establishing diverse newsrooms at home is no alternative to total silence over the ban on Al-Jazeera TV and other news outlets abroad. Diverse newsrooms can never cover for volunteering to be embedded journalists in service of the naked aggression and cover up of the war crimes.
If two words can capture the public attitude toward the so-called mainstream media, I'm sure it's "liar, deceptive." Not surprisingly, this charge is absolutely fair. It's imperative for the public and sources of alternative news and views to take heart from the whining in the New York Times op-ed pages today and continue to show them their real face.
The “mainstream: media has already proved itself to be on the wrong side of history. We must reassure ourselves that in the face of the deep personal interests of its bosses, there is no hope that the "mainstream" media or mainstreamers will correct their ways of reporting and analysis in the near future.
The alternative sources of news and views should redouble their efforts and remain committed to telling as it is. This whining is the first admission of defeat.
By Abid Ullah Jan Al-Jazeerah, April 13, 2005