Feminism, Freedom, poetry, Politics, Spain, Uncategorized, War, We The People

The Partisan

Her smile inspires her fellow partisans and her community

She throws caution to the wind

so as to watch their spirits soar

When Fascists questioned her commitment

she let her carbine counterclaim

She looks out over Barcelona

her city

From the top of the highest tower

survaying a land riven by

passions and politics

But beyond this tumultuous horizon

there is a glint of light

beginning to peak through

the gathered clouds

and so she smiles

and goes about her revolution

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history, opinion, War, War Crimes

A Word on the Atomic Bombing of Japan in 1945

White-stripe-Mark-ROTHKO

The lethal possibilities of atomic warfare in the future are frightening. My own feeling was that in being the first to use it, we had adopted an ethical standard common to the barbarians of the Dark Ages. I was not taught to make war in that fashion, and wars cannot be won by destroying women and children.” —-Fleet Admiral William D. Leahy, Chief of Staff To President Truman

“The Japanese had, in fact, already sued for peace. The atomic bomb played no decisive part, from a purely military point of view, in the defeat of Japan.” —-Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, Commander in Chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet

“[T]he widespread image of the Japanese as sub-human constituted an emotional context which provided another justification for decisions which resulted in the death of hundreds of thousands.”—Historian James J. Weingartner, The Pacific Historical Review

“I was one of those who felt that there were a number of cogent reasons to question the wisdom of such an act. During his recitation of the relevant facts, I had been conscious of a feeling of depression and so I voiced to him my grave misgivings, first on the basis of my belief that Japan was already defeated and that dropping the bomb was completely unnecessary, and secondly because I thought that our country should avoid shocking world opinion by the use of a weapon whose employment was, I thought, no longer mandatory as a measure to save American lives.”

—–President Dwight David Eisenhower in his memoirs, “The White House Years

***

I do believe that what the US did Atomic Bombing Japan in 1945 amounts to a crime against humanity on par with the Holocaust or the Rwandan Genocide. No one “needs” to atomic bomb another nation, lives “saved” by using a bomb instead of an invasion is a non sequitur argument and is based on the racist, propagandistic and self serving assumption that the Japanese people (a sophisticated, advanced, and as philosophical and moral a people as any one Earth) would fight to the death to a person. We murdered 300,000 people, maimed hundreds of thousands more, and terrorized millions. Added to the 1 Million+ killed in the Napalm Firebombings of 67 large and medium sized Japanese cities this amounts to a genocide, even within the context of war, as over 90% of those killed in the bombings were civilians and non-combatants.

We condemn, rightly, the Wehrmacht and the Imperial Japanese Army for their atrocities against civilian populations and non-combatants, but we do not hold ourselves to the same standard because from our perspective, we were the “good guys”. In the case of the war with Imperial Japan, there were no good guys: Both nations, U.S. and Japan, were brutal, hegemonic, imperial and colonial powers in the Pacific, and both were fighting for influence in South East Asia and the South Pacific for its strategic location and natural resources. The Japanese were brutal and committed genocidal acts during and before the war. So did the United States. One does not excuse the other. However, we must acknowledge the part we play in the course of human events, and we must, if we are to hold on to any claim of being a moral nation and people, acknowledge the evil that we have committed and which was committed in our name. There were no winners in the Pacific War, none save for those at the very top of the military, political, and business worlds.

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Activism, poetry, War

Failing Towards Right

Gandhi_Salt_March

If there is warfare or if there is peace
I’ll stand for the people forced on their knees
For profit, pleasure assaulted and beat

There’s nothing moral in shots to the head
In making sure those we hate are all dead
There’s nothing a gun screams that cannot be said

Words are the weapons that kill over time
Schemes planted find their fruition in crime
Horrors inspired by prayer books and rhymes

The truly evil can look quite benign
With faces that look like yours or like mine
Not what the devil would seem to design

Remember my friends that hate is a mirror
Reflecting our own pain and deepest fears
Charge sin to others and end up in arrears

Success may seem to be rooted in might
There is nothing wrong in failing towards right
Losing the battle but learning to fight

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Ancient History, Socialism, Violence, War, War Crimes

The Military Grunt as Moral Scapegoat

grunt_vietnam_375

In the mediocre Roman film yarn Centurion,  about the often lionized and mythologized imperial Roman state and its army, for a quote that makes a nonetheless  near perfect summation of the argument I endeavor to make about the attitudes that allow for the continued disrespect and disgust of the “grunt” i.e. worker class of the military:

 

In the chaos of battle, when the ground beneath your feet is a slurry of blood, puke, piss and the entrails of friends and enemies alike, it’s easy to turn to the gods for salvation. But it’s soldiers who do the fighting, and soldiers who do the dying, and the gods never get their feet wet.

               

Those left wing intellectuals and activists who shun the military and its members as a part of a capitalist power structure do so out of facile stupidity and a lack of perspective. Those who fight the wars and military actions undertaken by the United States and its corporate multi-national partners do so largely out of devotion to the ideal of a nation that would be admirable if actually extant; one devoted to individual liberty, communal safety and prosperity, democratic ideals and a respect for those aspects of our national political theory that serve to uphold the common good. There is nothing inherently inhumane or exploitative about this set of principles and the members of the military who fight and die for this ideal should not be ostracized or belittled. We must remember that 90% of our military is made up of those who if they did not live within the military system would be considered working class or even impoverished, though these categories are increasingly becoming one and the same. The military is a largely proletariat army fighting bourgeois wars. We should not punish those who do the fighting, dying and bleeding in national military actions for the crimes of the power structure that is made up of and beholden to the idea of capitalist imperial expansion.

Why do we as socialists treat the military as a part of the enemy structure? Well, because we have been conditioned to do so by our media and culture. In so many media and cultural depictions of the military there is a bias towards depicting the cataclysmic and orgiastic violence of war. This is not shown as a systemic aspect inherent to war, or the equally endemic corruption and cynicism of the management and leadership class, but as the unique failing of the “grunt”. The grunt is a macho, uneducated, uncouth and altogether lower class individual, a sort of hick army ant whose innate violent tendencies are revealed when he is unleashed upon the helpless hordes of the nation targeted for military punishment. When a massacre occurs in military context, be it a fictional depiction as in Full Metal Jacket or Platoon, or in the many media stories that proliferate during increasingly unpopular military endeavors, the focus is invariable and inevitably put on the individual soldier. This was one of the major failings of the Vietnam era protest movement. We focus on the torture-porn sensationalism of individual acts of depravity and fetishize the idea that the military grunt is inherently unstable and profane. Indeed why would we expect anything more from the poor, the uneducated and the un-bourgeois?

What goes unseen is the corrupting nature of the structures that govern the military and the civilian bureaucracies that govern its actions and activities. The officer class, the bureaucrat power structure and the management who represent capitalist business and power interests are largely to blame for the real evils of martial brutality. We seem to suffer under the delusion that our grunts appear where they are ‘needed’ almost by magical fiat, and once in theater they live within an anarchic society governed by the innate brutality of the lower classes. Mai Lai, Abu Gharaib, Gitmo, the excesses bombing of Axis occupied cities during the Second World War. All of these moral travesties are often looked at through the lens of “how could they?”, as though these actions were dreamed up by the depraved minds of individual grunts without any sort of input or tacit approval from the higer military/civilian command. Within the contemporary context when a grunt commits unacceptable military violence it is an “atrocity” and an example of “brutality”. However, when we do deign to look at the responsibility of the power structures and command figures we see the same incidents as “failures of policy” or “tactical blunders”. The soldier did the actual killing so we choose not to apportion blame to the command class or analyze their own culpability in the action committed. Do atrocities and crimes against humanity really only occur in a working class vacuum? Do the officers and the bureaucrats get to skate by without any blame at all?

When prisoners are mistreated we do not attack the inherent morality of Generals and Defense Secretaries as we do the soldiers who do the “wet work”; at worst we scold them for failing to keep control over the little savages in their control and at the best we praise them for doing the nations “dirty work”. We expect our Generals and Secretaries to appear pure, noble, and competent. We see them as the stopgap keeping the brutality of the grunt class at bay. What we do not realize is that the true responsibility for the wars, atrocities, and violence we see on a day to day basis lies with the command structure. These grunts do not send themselves overseas! They do not choose where they go or why and they do not pick what the overall aim of a mission is! They are paid enough to maintain themselves, fed, clothed, trained with particular pre-ordained skills, told that their cause is just and that violence is a sign of patriotic potency.

There is a reason that the military recruits most actively in areas that are economically depressed (often by the same powers and interests that dictate military policy) and in working class, immigrant and minority communities. These are areas where the lore of escape from oppression is reason enough to want a paycheck, a gun, a uniform and a cause to die and kill for. Why should we be surprised when the violence inherent to these situations is displaced and projected onto foreign communities with even less power and opportunity than the areas from which the grunts themselves have emerged? The unacceptable side-effects of free market created poverty and oppression are made palatable or at least plausibly deniable when transported into a foreign realm. The pitiable and sympathetic underclass becomes the reprehensible and brutal warriors unfit for civilized consumption. The officers, bureaucrats, and secretaries become the true heroes, the real best and brightest, the true essence of American nobility, even if they half-heartedly insist that we give applause and laurels to the “brave” military grunts they have already tainted forever through the missions they have mandated and the atrocities they have set in motion. The grunts are heroes when they go off to war, heroes when they do the sort of killing that we are told is acceptable, and heroes when the sacrifice their own lives for a cause that becomes more opaque the closer you look at it, but they are untouchable when they commit deeds outside of the standards of acceptability. Of course these standards are set by the Generals and the secretaries and the grunts can only go where they are told. This makes it all the easier to discard these displaced proletarians when they are brought back from the foreign killing fields and all the easier to think that this is just what happens when you let the underclass take power into their own hands.

Military action serves not just to expand capitalist and bourgeois power overseas and to create new free markets and dependencies but also as a way to turn potential sympathy for oppressed proletariat victims into antipathy towards and fear of brutal militarized victimizers. We turn the working class heroes of everyday life into monsters in a never ending charnel carnival where acts of patriotic violence are exhibited for our amusement and self-validation. Those at the top are never monsters and they are never to be feared. At the most they are “failures” who should be “punished” by being expelled from the public realm into permanent exile in the private sector. Of course now that the private sector largely controls the public realm, how is this in any way exile?

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poetry, Politics, War, War Crimes, World, World War II

The Wasted Century

stalingrad

The unripe promise of a different past

Buried in a heap of classified reports and red brocade

How strange the echo of an unheard cry

It bounces ‘gainst the windows letting light into our hearts

Better dead than red they said

Though I’m partial to believing

That the reason west feared the east

Was that they saw so much of themselves in the other

What is and was and might have been

Had we only made believe

That human blood and human toil

Were worth their weight in gunpowder and lead

200 million offerings

Upon an iron alter

Smeared with the still smoldering flesh

Given as tokens to ideological gods

Capital and Control

Neither is right

Neither left us anything but

Blackened bones

6 continents screaming

Bloody murder into an endless horizon

Colored umber and oily blue

Cronus belching the remains of generations

Into his calloused hands

The people ignore the monster in their midst

Because he at least has the decency to snuff them out

Casting lots and votes and bodies into hastily dug holes

Dead no less from a red or a red white and blue bullet

Bleeding into that same dust from which Prometheus molded our flesh

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Alawite, Arab Spring, Kurds, Middle East, Syria, Syrian Civil War, Violence, War, War Crimes

Syria: Edge of Disaster?

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/08/23/us-syria-crisis-idUSBRE8610SH20120823

The link above is to a wonderful and insightful article from Reuters International on the conflict in Syria and how it is spreading throughout the region. Please read it either before or after your read my post.

***

The conflict that started in Syria between the Alawite dominated Assad regime and the Sunni majority rebels and Free Syrian Army is fast turning into a regional war that pits Alawite minority ruling class once supported by the imperial powers and the Sunni majorities in these nations. I believe that the social and political revolutions known collectively as “The Arab Spring”, sparked by the self immolation of a  fruit vendor in Tunisia and spreading across the Arab world, has opened up long festering wounds. The mass of Sunni denizens of this region, long mistreated and ignored by the western and imperial powers and the Shi’ite and Alawite minorities who were given and took power, have finally found their voice and are acting out against what they see as a regimes and forces that are inherently hostile to their interests. This is taking the form of revolutions, protests and uprisings against the governments, but also against innocent members of these “ruling” minorities. The situation is explosive, and getting more so every day.

The Kurds also seem to be seeing an opportunity here and are throwing in with the Alawites in Syria, while the Turks are siding with the Sunni. Fighting in Lebanon has broken out and scores of civilians and soldiers have died as neighborhoods begin to tear themselves apart along ethnic and religious lines. US and France seem to be getting close to getting involved, and the Russians are still doing the “hear no evil, speak no evil, see no evil” shtick. All the while anywhere from 10,000-30,000+ have been killed in the fighting, many of the  dead civilians. Turkey has really wanted a reason to crack down on the Kurds and the PKK (Kurdish Workers Party) and the Kurdish rebels helping, or at least not hindering, the Assad’s Syrian Army in their border conflict is giving them just that reason. Of course there is no love lost between Turkey and Syria, nor between the latter and Lebanon.

The US of course has regional interests (cough cough Israel and Turkey cough cough) and really does not want to see another ethnic powder keg go off a la the Iraqi Civil War (ironic, given that powder keg was set off by US interference in the region) but is also concerned about the proliferation and use of bio and chemical weapons by the Assad regime. US President Barack Obama surprised many with his tough words on WMD’s and a promise to use military force if their use is even threatened. All the while the UN is desperately trying to remain relevant in the situation after the dismal failure of the Kofi Annan peace mission (undermined by Russian and US intransigence and posturing and general UN ineptitude).

I have no idea how this will all end up, but I do have a strong feeling that this intranational conflict is about to become a violent international one. Who will blink first? Will Assad’s Syria, backed by Iran’s Shi’ite mullahs and Kurdish nationalists, fall into a pitched conflict with Turkey and it’s NATO allies? I have a feeling that this once unimaginable situation becomes more likely every day the violence continues. Stay tuned.

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Allen West, Congress, Criticism, Democracy, essay, extremism, Florida, News, opinion, Politics, racism, War, War Crimes

Rep. Allen West (War Criminal-FL)

“If I am in that same situation, I am making that same decision [again].”1 So said Congressman Allen West in response to a question about his non-judicial conviction under an Article 15 of the Universal Code of Military Justice Proceeding for the beating and terrorizing of an unarmed captive. West was fined $5000 and had the incident was put in his permanent military record. Prosecutors made it clear at the time that the actions West was accused of could have been referred to a general Court Martial proceeding. According to CNN.com reporting from 2003, “military prosecutors said his actions amounted to torture and violated articles 128 and 134 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice”Military Prosecutor Capt. Magdalena Pezytulska believed that West, who was a Lt. Colonel serving in action in Iraq at the time, should have been tried for assault that essentially amounted to torture and for threatening further torture and loss of life. Capt. Peztulska went on to say that  “This is a case about a man who lost his temper,” and that West should be punished for his actions.2

What happened that day in Iraq that led to such serious questions about the stability and judgment of this officer who would go on to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives?  Yahya Jhodri Hamoodi, a civilian officer in the Iraqi Police force, was accused by a military intelligence officer of being involved with/having knowledge of an alleged plan to attack West and the troops in his command. West detained and interrogated the man and, not getting the information he wanted to hear, and admitting that the interrogation was “going nowhere”, West decided to up the ante and purposefully threaten the man with physical violence. West told is men that the man was not to be killed or harmed in any way “that he would have to be repaired” (whatever that means) but added that the situation he was initiating ”could get ugly,”.3

Things then went as you would expect in a situation involving a fearful armed man with power over an unarmed captive. “[West] watched four of his soldiers from the 220th Field Artillery Battalion beat the detainee on the head and body.” Already West had already allowed what amounted to a War Crime to be committed. Under Part I, Article 3 of the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in a Time of War, “there shall be no “violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture” perpetrated against a civilian or civilian official. There is no exception given even when that civilian is “suspected” of planning an attack on armed forces.4 But the abuse didn’t stop there. After this beating West took Mr. Hamoodi, placed him next to an empty barrel outside and discharged his firearm into the barrel and right next to Hamoodi’s head. The man had no reason to believe that he was going to survive this experience and he did indeed fear for his life. West later admitted that he wanted Hamoodi to think that ”this was going to be the end”, in reference to the abuse he subjected the man to.5

After this incident the Lt. Colonel, who seemingly had a bright career ahead of him, suddenly decided it was in his best interest to retire from the armed forces. After he did so he moved back to his native Florida and tried to put the disgraceful incident behind him. If only that had remained the case. In 2010 West ran for and won a seat in the US House of Representatives. He styled himself as a brash Tea Party conservative who had no regrets for what he did to terrify and abuse a man who turned out not to be involved in an attack that never took place. As noted above, West even bragged about what he did, and never showed an ounce of regret or remorse for the shame he brought upon the US and the military.

Now that I have the facts out of the way, I can really start tearing into this scumbag.

If West restricted his violence against human decency and the good name of the Congress and the people it represents to the events listed above, that would be enough in my book to disqualify him from ever “serving” the public in an official capacity. Alas, West seems to go out of his way to bring shame to everyone and everything he touches. Below is just a sample of the horrible things he has done and said while in office

 

On Obama voters: “I must confess, when I see anyone with an Obama 2012 bumper sticker, I recognize them as a threat to the gene pool.”

 

Regarding women who combat misogyny and campaign for equal rights: “[S]trengthen up the men who are going to the fight for you… these planned Parenthood women, the Code Pink women, and all of these women that have been neutering American men and bringing us to the point of this incredible weakness — to let them know that we are not going to have our men become subservient.”

 

On his own Heterosexuality: “I like to, you know, ride my motorcycle. What do you want me to do? You want me to change my behavior and ride a scooter? I’m not into that.”

 

On Gay Americans and their Rights:

“People Can Change Their Behavior, but I Can’t Change My Color”

“Gay marriage is an oxymoron”

 

On the Repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”: “Now is not the time to appease a very small special interest group and I’ll leave it at that.”

 

On a private pool being forced to build a lift and ramp for disabled patrons in order to comply with the American’s With Disabilities Act:

“I have talked with and received letters from several South Florida hotels saying this is a wasteful exercise that will cost Florida businesses a lot of money and accomplish nothing.”

 

On Black Democratic voters: “I’m here as the modern-day Harriet Tubman to kind of lead people on the underground railroad away from that [Democratic Party] plantation.”

 

On his fellow Congress members who vote to get out of Afghanistan: “I would take these gentlemen over and let them get shot at a few times and maybe they’d have a different opinion.”

 

On allowing some to…Ride his motorcycle? “That would be like touching my wife.”

 

And this is just SOME of the vitriol and hate this disgrace to the USA has spewed since being elected to office. I can only hope that Florida comes to its’ senses and votes out this misogynist, homophobic, disrespectful, racist war criminal.

  1. http://crooksandliars.com/blue-texan/allen-west-r-fl-brags-about-torturing-i
  2. http://articles.cnn.com/2003-12-12/us/sprj.nirq.west.ruling_1_allen-west-iraqi-detainee-military-justice?_s=PM:US
  3. http://www.nytimes.com/2004/05/27/world/struggle-for-iraq-interrogations-colonel-risked-his-career-menacing-detainee.html?scp=1&sq=How%20Colonel%20Risked%20His%20Career%20by%20Menacing%20Detainee%20and%20Lost&st=nyt
  4. http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/History/Human_Rights/geneva1.html
  5. http://www.nytimes.com/2004/05/27/world/struggle-for-iraq-interrogations-colonel-risked-his-career-menacing-detainee.html?scp=1&sq=How%20Colonel%20Risked%20His%20Career%20by%20Menacing%20Detainee%20and%20Lost&st=nyt
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