CIA’s changing role in U.S. imperialism’s expanding war

copyright © 2010 Michael Prysner.   Party for Socialism and Liberation

Originally Published on Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Attack highlights increased military operations of brutal secret agency

CIA agents in Afghanistan in 2001.

In eastern Afghanistan, near the Pakistani border, a member of the resistance infiltrated a CIA compound and detonated an explosive belt, killing seven CIA operatives and wounding six others.  

The CIA promptly vowed revenge for the attack.  Some agents spoke candidly on the day of the bombing, chest-thumping that they were in this fight for the long haul.  “There is no pullout [in 2011],” said one agent anonymously, “there is no withdrawal or anything like that planned.”

In a statement released by the CIA after the attack, the agency stated, referring to the casualties, that “we pledge to them and their families that we will never cease fighting for the cause to which they dedicated their lives-a safer America.”

This “noble cause” that the CIA and its agents are vowing to fight until the end did not begin in Afghanistan in response to the Sept. 11 attacks.  CIA operations in the country began in the late 1970s.  

Washington’s public rationale for why the U.S. government must fight in Afghanistan-lack of women’s rights, Islamic law, lack of education, and so on-have not always existed in Afghanistan.  There is, in fact, a period during which Afghanistan was on a progressive path.  In 1978, under the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan, women’s rights and anti-sexist laws were enacted for the first time in Afghanistan’s history.  Schools began opening throughout the country and a literacy campaign was initiated.  The government functioned on a secular, democratic platform, after a long feudal era.

As Afghanistan was building equality, increasing literacy and education, and building a new progressive society, Washington was worried about one thing.  The new government wanted independence and would not allow itself to be made a puppet serving the interests of U.S. capitalism.  The CIA was promptly dispatched, not for a “safer America,” but for a safer region for U.S. companies to exert their dominance.  

The CIA’s history in Afghanistan begins like this: spending billions of dollars to crush the only progressive period in the country’s history.  

How did they do this? By heavily funding and fighting alongside the most reactionary religious organizations, who began killing and maiming women not observing the most fundamentalist interpretations of Islamic law, destroying schools and murdering scores of civilians throughout the country.  Those CIA-backed forces then took state power, and ruled the country-while still receiving millions of dollars from the CIA.  Then, they were overthrown by the CIA in 2001.  

The CIA orchestrated the overthrow of the Taliban government in 2001, commanding the war with its operatives on the ground.  One of those agents who masterminded the U.S. takeover in 2001, Henry Crumpton, recently spoke out about the CIA tactics used.  He and his agents would visit tribal leaders, and offer them this ultimatum: “If you do not cooperate, the chances of your survival are greatly diminished.” 

If that particular tribal leader refused to assist the invading foreign forces in his country, Crumpton and his team would openly murder him.  Crumpton admitted, “And the next day, we’d talk to the tribal leader that was next door.  … Given the incentive that we had set the previous day, he was much more amenable to negotiations in our favor.”

The terrorist tactics used by the CIA in Afghanistan make it obvious why their base was targeted.

The CIA has long commanded military operations, from its death squads in Latin America to bloody military coups in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia.  But there has been a fundamental change in the CIA’s military role since 2001.  

Now, the CIA is on the front lines in Afghanistan more so than in any other mission.  Previously, the CIA primarily commanded U.S. military special operations troops, as well as local militias.  The CIA’s own paramilitary branch, known as the Special Activities Division, was small and rarely used in lieu of U.S. and foreign troops.  

After the Sept. 11 attacks, the Bush administration began the process of militarizing the CIA, which continues today.  The Special Activities Division was increased in size and funding.  They were given greater authority to clandestinely conduct military operations in Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen and other countries where U.S.  troops are not legally allowed.  

Now, instead of commanding U.S. or foreign military units and local reactionary militias, the CIA is increasingly conducting military operations with their own agents.  They even operate out of their own firebases scattered all over Afghanistan and Iraq.  This constitutes a major change in the structure of the CIA.  

The growing trend of privatizing the military can be seen as the CIA militarizes.  In addition to increasing their own number of troops, the CIA has also absorbed sectors of the notorious mercenary company known as Blackwater (now known as Xe).  

It was recently revealed that the CEO of Blackwater, right-wing evangelical billionaire Eric Prince, works directly for the CIA.  Blackwater troops became CIA troops, and have been conducting assassination campaigns and military operations in Pakistan and other countries.  

But the CIA’s militarization spans beyond commanding their own troops.  The CIA established a vast network of secret prisons, where suspects endure vicious illegal torture and absolutely no legal rights.

In addition, the CIA now has its own personal air force, commanding and piloting drones that are now being regularly used all over the world, conducting bombing missions in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Yemen and elsewhere.  The Obama administration recently approved even more funds to increase the CIA’s drone capabilities, putting bombs and missiles at their fingertips.  

The CIA is playing a more direct role in U.S. wars than ever before.  The U.S. ruling class wants the so-called “war on terror” to be shifted into the shadows.  

The anti-war movement exploded in late 2002, drawing the largest anti-war demonstrations in history against the invasion of Iraq.  The anti-war movement during the Vietnam War grew to a point where the U.S. government was forced to abandon its colonial aims in Vietnam.  Now, the United States is involved in what is already the longest war in U.S. history, which is growing more unpopular everyday.  The occupation of Iraq still has no end in sight.  The Pentagon brass has made it clear that we should brace for a long and bloody fight in Afghanistan.  Additionally, U.S. imperialism has goals elsewhere in the region.  

Capitalism has developed into a global economic system.  The United States and a handful of countries in Western Europe have competed with each other to dominate the markets and resources of the rest of the world for the past century.  They have also cooperated together in their joint struggle against socialism or against independent non-socialist governments in the developing world.

This has led to the bloodiest century in human history and shows no signs of abating.  

One way that the militarization of the CIA benefits the ruling class is that it allows the U.S. government to substitute other forces for those the U.S. military would have deployed.  U.S. military operations are much more subject to publicity and scrutiny, but clandestine CIA operations are ambiguous.  Working in the shadows allows the government to deny its own role in secret bombings, targeted assassinations and economic sabotage in other countries.  The history of the CIA includes the most blatantly criminal military operations, using the most brutal and murderous tactics to overthrow popular, democratically elected governments who do not submit to U.S. corporations, and installing the most reactionary and repressive dictators, from Guatemala, to Iran, to Haiti, to the Congo, and countless others.  If U.S. troops deployed to conduct these operations, there would have been even greater public outcry.  But they are instead conducted in the shadows, to mask the true nature of the system we live under.

Outright military invasion is often a last resort for the ruling class, when their other methods have failed to achieve their goals of economic domination.  With the changing role of the CIA, the extent of the capabilities of conducting covert operations has been stretched to new boundaries.  The CIA can now deploy its own soldiers, pilot its own bombing missions and manage its own prison apparatus.

In eastern Afghanistan, near the Pakistani border, a member of the resistance infiltrated a CIA compound and detonated an explosive belt, killing seven CIA operatives and wounding six others.  

The CIA promptly vowed revenge for the attack.  Some agents spoke candidly on the day of the bombing, chest-thumping that they were in this fight for the long haul.  “There is no pullout [in 2011],” said one agent anonymously, “there is no withdrawal or anything like that planned.”

In a statement released by the CIA after the attack, the agency stated, referring to the casualties, that “we pledge to them and their families that we will never cease fighting for the cause to which they dedicated their lives-a safer America.”

This “noble cause” that the CIA and its agents are vowing to fight until the end did not begin in Afghanistan in response to the Sept.  11 attacks.  CIA operations in the country began in the late 1970s.  

Washington’s public rationale for why the U.S. government must fight in Afghanistan-lack of women’s rights, Islamic law, lack of education, and so on-have not always existed in Afghanistan.  There is, in fact, a period during which Afghanistan was on a progressive path.  In 1978, under the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan, women’s rights and anti-sexist laws were enacted for the first time in Afghanistan’s history.  Schools began opening throughout the country and a literacy campaign was initiated.  The government functioned on a secular, democratic platform, after a long feudal era.

As Afghanistan was building equality, increasing literacy and education, and building a new progressive society, Washington was worried about one thing.  The new government wanted independence and would not allow itself to be made a puppet serving the interests of U.S. capitalism.  The CIA was promptly dispatched, not for a “safer America,” but for a safer region for U.S. companies to exert their dominance.  

The CIA’s history in Afghanistan begins like this: spending billions of dollars to crush the only progressive period in the country’s history.  

How did they do this? By heavily funding and fighting alongside the most reactionary religious organizations, who began killing and maiming women not observing the most fundamentalist interpretations of Islamic law, destroying schools and murdering scores of civilians throughout the country.  Those CIA-backed forces then took state power, and ruled the country-while still receiving millions of dollars from the CIA.  Then, they were overthrown by the CIA in 2001.  

The CIA orchestrated the overthrow of the Taliban government in 2001, commanding the war with its operatives on the ground.  One of those agents who masterminded the U.S. takeover in 2001, Henry Crumpton, recently spoke out about the CIA tactics used.  He and his agents would visit tribal leaders, and offer them this ultimatum: “If you do not cooperate, the chances of your survival are greatly diminished.” 

If that particular tribal leader refused to assist the invading foreign forces in his country, Crumpton and his team would openly murder him.  Crumpton admitted, “And the next day, we’d talk to the tribal leader that was next door.  … Given the incentive that we had set the previous day, he was much more amenable to negotiations in our favor.”

The terrorist tactics used by the CIA in Afghanistan make it obvious why their base was targeted.

The CIA has long commanded military operations, from its death squads in Latin America to bloody military coups in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia.  But there has been a fundamental change in the CIA’s military role since 2001.  

Now, the CIA is on the front lines in Afghanistan more so than in any other mission.  Previously, the CIA primarily commanded U.S. military special operations troops, as well as local militias.  The CIA’s own paramilitary branch, known as the Special Activities Division, was small and rarely used in lieu of U.S. and foreign troops.  

After the Sept. 11 attacks, the Bush administration began the process of militarizing the CIA, which continues today.  The Special Activities Division was increased in size and funding.  They were given greater authority to clandestinely conduct military operations in Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen and other countries where U.S. troops are not legally allowed.  

Now, instead of commanding U.S. or foreign military units and local reactionary militias, the CIA is increasingly conducting military operations with their own agents.  They even operate out of their own firebases scattered all over Afghanistan and Iraq.  This constitutes a major change in the structure of the CIA.  

The growing trend of privatizing the military can be seen as the CIA militarizes.  In addition to increasing their own number of troops, the CIA has also absorbed sectors of the notorious mercenary company known as Blackwater (now known as Xe).  

It was recently revealed that the CEO of Blackwater, right-wing evangelical billionaire Eric Prince, works directly for the CIA.  Blackwater troops became CIA troops, and have been conducting assassination campaigns and military operations in Pakistan and other countries.  

But the CIA’s militarization spans beyond commanding their own troops.  The CIA established a vast network of secret prisons, where suspects endure vicious illegal torture and absolutely no legal rights.

In addition, the CIA now has its own personal air force, commanding and piloting drones that are now being regularly used all over the world, conducting bombing missions in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Yemen and elsewhere.  The Obama administration recently approved even more funds to increase the CIA’s drone capabilities, putting bombs and missiles at their fingertips.  

The CIA is playing a more direct role in U.S. wars than ever before.  The U.S. ruling class wants the so-called “war on terror” to be shifted into the shadows.  

The anti-war movement exploded in late 2002, drawing the largest anti-war demonstrations in history against the invasion of Iraq.  The anti-war movement during the Vietnam War grew to a point where the U.S. government was forced to abandon its colonial aims in Vietnam.  Now, the United States is involved in what is already the longest war in U.S. history, which is growing more unpopular everyday.  The occupation of Iraq still has no end in sight.  The Pentagon brass has made it clear that we should brace for a long and bloody fight in Afghanistan.  Additionally, U.S. imperialism has goals elsewhere in the region.  

Capitalism has developed into a global economic system.  The United States and a handful of countries in Western Europe have competed with each other to dominate the markets and resources of the rest of the world for the past century.  They have also cooperated together in their joint struggle against socialism or against independent non-socialist governments in the developing world.

This has led to the bloodiest century in human history and shows no signs of abating.  

One way that the militarization of the CIA benefits the ruling class is that it allows the U.S. government to substitute other forces for those the U.S. military would have deployed.  U.S. military operations are much more subject to publicity and scrutiny, but clandestine CIA operations are ambiguous.  Working in the shadows allows the government to deny its own role in secret bombings, targeted assassinations and economic sabotage in other countries.  The history of the CIA includes the most blatantly criminal military operations, using the most brutal and murderous tactics to overthrow popular, democratically elected governments who do not submit to U.S. corporations, and installing the most reactionary and repressive dictators, from Guatemala, to Iran, to Haiti, to the Congo, and countless others.  If U.S. troops deployed to conduct these operations, there would have been even greater public outcry.  But they are instead conducted in the shadows, to mask the true nature of the system we live under.

Outright military invasion is often a last resort for the ruling class, when their other methods have failed to achieve their goals of economic domination.  With the changing role of the CIA, the extent of the capabilities of conducting covert operations has been stretched to new boundaries.  The CIA can now deploy its own soldiers, pilot its own bombing missions and manage its own prison apparatus.

Obama; State Secrets A Shame



Countdown: Turley on Obama Administration Invoking State Secrets on Surveillance Program

copyright © 2009 Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org

Today, the Obama truth is revealed.  Change has come in the form of familiarity.  Some American’s are embarrassed.  Others embrace what, when presented by the previous Administration, they rejected.  Apathy helps most Americans to avoid a sense of shame.  It was announced;  Obama defends Bush-era secrets.  This Administration has gone further to establish government sovereignty.  As a nation, the Obama White House tells citizens, our country will be better protected if details about the surveillance program are considered “Top Secret – Sensitive Compartmented Information.”

Several knew this too would come to pass.  Authentic transformation was but a tease meant to achieve supremacy for Senator Obama.  In the Summer of 2008, the Illinois statesman voted to give George W. Bush more power than even the former President requested.  The issue; the  Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, FISA.  The controversial ballot cast by then Senator Obama did not capture the attention of most.  People were consumed by woes that were more personal.  Privacy is a right most in the United States take for granted.  Until an event in an individual’s life awakens awareness for what was taken away long ago, most do not realize in America the Administration is legally able to watch and listen to a residents’ every move.

The media did not devote much time to Senator Obama’s, measured move.  More importantly, from a business perspective, news stories that address surveillance do not receive a larger share of the audience.  Perchance, auspiciously, for our current President, last July campaign distractions dominated the news cycle.  In 2009, talk of the economy is thought most essential.  Indeed, the United States had already experienced an authentic transformation.

After the infamous attacks on September 11, 2001, the electorate accepted the Bush Administration’s truth.  That is why there are few cries of alarm for the White House’s current claim.  The two are close to the same Each Oval Office expounded; there is a constant threat of terrorist aggressions.  Presidents’ need to have the power to act on “Intelligence.”  Privacy for citizens must be forfeited.  The Patriot Act needed to be passed.  (Please read the text.)  The Commander-In-Chief must have all the authority he or she requests if the American people are to stay safe.  

Hence, convinced of the need to be forever vigilant, countrymen and women changed near a decade ago.  The public became accustomed to constant shadowing.  In the recent past and present, the press presumes correctly.  There is no need to question what collectively, the public concluded justifiable.

It was as it is, apt to assume there was no tale to tell when Congress, with Obama in the Senate authorized the wonderful world of unlawful White House sanctioned wiretaps.  Nor is there a public interest story when the current occupant of the Oval Office through the Department of Justice proclaims, undercover work, legal or not, is necessary.  Americans have come to acknowledge, in dire times such as these, perhaps, the Administration needs be above the law.  The people need not have the power to sue for improprieties or illegalities.

Perhaps, this explains what was and continues to persist.  Less than a year ago, little time was spent on what candidate Obama justified as wise.  The few who expressed apprehension were eschewed.  Thoughts that often, history is repeated, were rejected.  Fear that what occurred today might follow was thought folly.  Regard for the notion, a President with power will not likely relinquish authority bestowed upon him or her, was ridiculed.  Then, as now, those scant individuals who voiced distress were easily dismissed as cynics.  They were relegated to the position of people without faith in the greater cause.  

Supporters of President Obama, sustain hope.  Activists felt, and continue to believe; this time is different.  Barack Obama, or the people who coalesced to create a vibrant civically responsible community, will indeed prevail.  The population is the change we can believe in, or would be were it not for the fact that under the direction of the Obama Justice Department, the government can wiretap without a warrant and still, not be charged with a crime.

Only this week, loyalist recount the rhetoric and rejoice in the knowledge; in countries such as Turkey Obama is a hit! Newsweek’s Howard Fineman, on MSNBC‘s Hardball said Obama “is putting himself forth as . . .president to the world.”  Countless partisans are reassured, assured; as Commander-In-Chief, the man who promised to work for the people, would do what was “right” for everyone on this Earth.  

Yet, less than three months in office, the tide has turned, and not for the better.  Obama Administration quietly expanded Bush’s legal defense of wiretapping program.  Indeed, as President, Barack Obama did as he pledged not to do.  Candidate Obama had declared There would be No warrantless wiretaps if you elect me.  Yet, trust in that promise has become another American shame.

(L)ate Friday afternoon, the  Obama DOJ filed the government’s first response to EFF’s lawsuit (.pdf), the first of its kind to seek damages against government officials under FISA, the Wiretap Act and other statutes, arising out of Bush’s NSA program.  But the Obama DOJ demanded dismissal of the entire lawsuit based on (1) its Bush-mimicking claim that the “state secrets” privilege bars any lawsuits against the Bush administration for illegal spying, and  (2)  a brand new “sovereign immunity” claim of breathtaking scope — never before advanced even by the Bush administration — that the Patriot Act bars any lawsuits of any kind for illegal government surveillance unless there is “willful disclosure” of the illegally intercepted communications.  

In other words, beyond even the outrageously broad “state secrets” privilege invented by the Bush administration and now embraced fully by the Obama administration, the Obama DOJ has now invented a brand new claim of government immunity, one which literally asserts that the U.S. Government is free to intercept all of your communications (calls, emails and the like) and — even if what they’re doing is blatantly illegal and they know it’s illegal — you are barred from suing them unless they “willfully disclose” to the public what they have learned. . . .

This brief and this case are exclusively the Obama DOJ’s, and the ample time that elapsed — almost three full months — makes clear that it was fully considered by Obama officials.  Yet, they responded exactly as the Bush DOJ would have.  This demonstrates that the Obama DOJ plans to invoke the exact radical doctrines of executive secrecy which Bush used — not only when the Obama DOJ is taking over a case from the Bush DOJ, but even when they are deciding what response should be made in the first instance.  Everything for which Bush critics excoriated the Bush DOJ — using an absurdly broad rendition of “state secrets” to block entire lawsuits from proceeding even where they allege radical lawbreaking by the President and inventing new claims of absolute legal immunity — are now things the Obama DOJ has left no doubt it intends to embrace itself.

Only days earlier an evaluation of the Obama White House evoked concern.  Obama Finds That Washington’s Habits of Secrecy Die Hard.  Might Americans particularly those who trusted President Obama would change an Administration’s corrupt practices, consider, as a candidate, an aspirant  Barack Obama built the foundation that now supports him.  The Obama Administration, the Government opts for secrecy in wiretap suit.  Those who today continue to purport, “I pledge my allegiance to President, Barack Obama,” or even only to his plans, may consider the thought.  Past is prologue.  

If Americans do not acknowledge the significance of early actions on the part of Presidential aspirants, if the people hold onto false hope, the electorate hurts itself.  Rights to privacy lost will  not only  be retained but also enhanced.  If citizens trust a challenger will be the change we can believe in, even when he reveals he is not, then, we can expect what will come.  Telephones will be tapped.  Surveillance will pass for security.  The fact that Americans allowed the same intrusive policies to persist is our shame.  

References; the loss of civil liberties restored . . .

Infamous Anniversary of Attack



Global Greens 2008 – Bruce Gagnon (Maine, USA)

copyright © 2009 Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org

March 19, 2009, is a day that lives in infamy.  There were others in the past.  However, on this date six years ago, the United States launched what has come to be accepted as unwarranted attacks on Iraq.  Although, from the first, there were protests even in high places such as the Senate floor, unilaterally, Americans bombed an innocent people.  This time, for near two years prior, pretense was presented as truth.

The American people were told by their President how dangerous the Iraqi Al Qaida terrorists were.  George W. Bush assured anxious Americans, he would protect us.  Congress was warned of what would occur if the United States did not react to the Middle Eastern threat.  Commander Bush sent a letter on March 18, 2003.  Even as his eight-year term ended, he worked to establish in the minds of historians and the electorate who had experienced all that occurred, Mister Bush kept us safe.  

As recently as December 2008, the now former President proclaimed, a newly acquired nuance to the saga he has long recounted on the war in Iraq.  “It is true, as I have said many times, that Saddam Hussein was not connected to the 9/11 attacks.  But the decision to remove Saddam from power cannot be viewed in isolation from 9/11.”  Yet, he retained and repeated his ever-strident commitment to the combat.  “It was clear to me, to members of both political parties, and to many leaders around the world that after 9/11, this was a risk we could not afford to take.”

Americans, many of whom are content the Bush era has passed, refer to the 9/11 Commission Report to invalidate the claims of a President who no longer resides in the White House.  Currently, countless citizens take comfort; Barack Obama presides over the Oval Office.  The just elected Commander-In-Chief has already begun to take steps to remove beleaguered troops from the embattled frontlines.  

Since Mister Obama took office, citizens are less concerned with the war in Iraq.  Many have faith the President will do what is best for military men and women.  Some are encouraged by reports that the Commander-In-Chief will send combat soldiers stationed in Iraq home safely, or perhaps, individuals are focused on more personal realities.  Anxiety over a potential, probable, or actual job loss consumes countless Americans, more so than combat abroad does.  A pension-plan gone bust, a lack of health care coverage, and a possible home foreclosure take precedence for millions more than war.  Few of the common folk feel as troubled by occurrences in the Middle East.  Most merely hope Mister Obama will do what is best.  

Occasional outspoken exception can be heard.  On March 12, 2009, former Bush White House spokesman Ari Fleisher stated, “[A]fter September 11th, having been hit once, how could we take a chance that Saddam Hussein might not strike again?  We got a report saying al Qaeda is determined to attack the United States.”  Nonetheless, even Conservatives such as John McCain endorse President Obama’s plan for withdrawal.

Overall, opinions on Iraq, the war and the withdrawal are mixed, even among foreign policy experts.

Then there are the few who fear further folly in the Persian Gulf.  Progressives, be they political figures or peace activists amongst the public, think the Obama agenda to end the conflict in Iraq is too little and too late.  Official dissent is often stated diplomatically.  Personal pleas may be more moving.  

A week before the sixth anniversary of America’s Second Gulf War, regardless of the President’s intended withdrawal everyday people stood out in the streets, just as they had done throughout the war.  ‘Iraq is a symptom of a foreign policy and priorities” that the peaceful felt and feel they cannot sanction.

At local vigils nationwide attendees talked of their observation, verified in the news.  Americans support the President’s proposed Afghan buildup.   ”Enough!  Bring the Troops Home Now!” was the oft-heard cry from those who crave global harmony.  Most asked as they had during the fateful Bush years.  “What Do We Do Now?”

Bruce K. Gagnon, Coordinator of Global Network Against Weapons offers his perspective.  In an article published on June 14, 2007, the recipient of the Doctor Benjamin Spock’s Peacemaker Award presents his ten-point plan.


I often hear from people asking me, “What should we do about all this?  How can we stop Bush?”

I would first say that we must move beyond blaming Bush.  The fact of U.S. empire is bigger than Bush.  Hopefully by now, all of us are more clear how the Democrats have been, and are now, involved in enabling the whole U.S. military empire-building plan.  It is about corporate domination.  Bush is just the front man for the big money.

So to me that is step #1 .

Step #2  is to openly acknowledge that as a nation, and we as citizens, benefit from this U.S. military and economic empire.  By keeping our collective military boot on the necks of the people of the world we get control of a higher percentage of the world’s resources.  We, 5% of the global population in the U.S., use 25% of the global resource base.  This reality creates serious moral questions that cannot be ignored.

Step #3  is to recognize that we are addicted to war and to violence.  The very weaving together of our nation was predicated on violence when we began the extermination of the Native populations and introduced the institution of slavery.  A veteran of George Washington’s Army, in 1779, said, “I really felt guilty as I applied the torch to huts that were homes of content until we ravagers came spreading desolation everywhere..  Our mission here is ostensibly to destroy but may it not transpire, that we pillagers are carelessly sowing the seed of Empire.”  The soldier wrote this as Washington’s Army set out to remove the Iroquois civilization from New York state so that the U.S. government could expand its borders westward toward the Mississippi River.  The creation of the American empire was underway.

Our history since then has been endless war.  Two-Time Congressional Medal of Honor Recipient Major General Smedley D. Butler, U.S. Marine Corps, told the story in his book War is a Racket.  Butler recalls in his book, “I spent 33 years and 4 months in active military service….And during that period I spent most of my time as a high-class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers.  In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism….Thus I helped make Mexico and especially

Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914.  I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in.  I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street….I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1902-1912.  I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916.  I helped make Honduras right for American fruit companies in 1903.  In China in 1927, I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested.”

Step # 4  We have to begin to change how we think about our country.  We have to learn to understand what oligarchy means.  I’ll save you the trouble of having to look up the definition – A government in which power is in the hands of a few.  When you have lost your democracy then what do the citizens do?  They must fight (non-violently) to take it back.  This of course means direct action and sometimes civil disobedience.  Virtually everything good in our nation (abolition of slavery movement, women’s suffrage, civil rights movement, anti-war movements, etc) have come from people stepping up when they were needed.  Calling for impeachment by the Congress becomes imperative today.  Are you in or out?

Step #5  Forget the “every man for himself” mythology.  We are all brainwashed in this country to believe in the rugged individualism story.  But movement for change can only happen in community – working with others.  So forget the egocentric notion that “one great man” is going to come save us.  It’s going to take a village – in fact all the villages.  Just like an addict goes to a group to seek help for addiction, knowing they can’t do it themselves, so we must form community to work for the needed change if we are to protect our children’s future.

Step # 6  What about my job?  Another smothering myth in America is success.  Keep your nose clean and don’t rock the boat.  Don’t get involved in politics, especially calling for a revolution of values (like Martin Luther King Jr. did) or you will get labeled and then you can forget about owning that castle on the hill you’ve always dreamed of.  In a way we become controlled by our own subservience to the success mythology.  We keep ourselves in line because success and upward mobility become more important than protecting free speech, clean water, clean air, and ending an out of control government bent on world domination.  Free our minds, free our bodies and we free the nation.

Step #7  Learn to work well with others.  Sure we all want to be stars.  But in the end we have to learn to set aside our egos if we want to be able to work with others to bring about the needed changes.  Cindy Sheehan should not be hammered just for telling the truth about the Democrats playing footsie with Bush on the war.

Step # 8  It’s the money.  How can I do this peace work when I have to work full-time just to pay the mortgage?  I’d like to help but I’ve got bills to pay!  Maybe we can begin to look at the consumerist life we lead and see that our addiction to the rat race keeps us from being fully engaged in the most important issue of our time – which is protecting the future generations.  How can we begin to explore cooperative living arrangements, by building community, that free us up economically to be able to get more involved?

Step # 9  Learn to read again.  Many of us don’t read enough.  We spend our time in front of the TV, which is a primary tool that the power structure uses to brainwash us.  We’ve got to become independent thinkers again and teach our kids to think for themselves.  Reading and talking to others is a key.  Read more history.  All the answers and lessons can be found there.

Step #10 Learn to trust again and have fun.  Some of the nicest people in the world are doing political work.  Meet them and become friends with them and your life will change for the better.

Mister Gagnon professes wars will be forever perpetual if we the people continue to consider our brethren an enemy.  If dominion is our preference, diplomacy will never be more than a mere word.  The public cannot blame George W. Bush or Barack Obama for its addiction to might and material goods.  Nor can we, the people expect an oligarchy to have the best interests of common folks at heart.  If consumption and competition are the principles that guide our population, battles will endure.  If peace is to ever come, as citizens, as a country, on every continent, the people must act in accordance with the principles most claim they hold dear.  Consistency, in thought and deed, can eliminate combat.

“Love thy neighbor” cannot be said only on Sundays, on the Sabbath, or in houses of worship.  Indeed, Bruce Gagnon might avow, as other peaceful persons do, March 19, 2009 is not the sixth anniversary of a war.  It is another date that lives in infamy, as has been every day in centuries of battles fought.

References for the reality of war . . .  

Strength Sought on September 11; Where is the Love



Black Eyed Peas – Where’s the love

copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert

On the eve of September 11, I was haunted by the heartache I have felt for seven very long years.  On the night, before the anniversary of the horrendous attacks, I was reminded of the people gone and not forgotten.  I also thought of those who survived.  Time has not healed the wound inflicted on that infamous day, now commonly called 9/11.  Indeed, with each passing minute and hour the hurt I feel intensifies.  

Minutes ago, as I prepared for the day of remembrance, I heard a broadcaster ask how to the loved ones of those who perished go on.  This Journalist wondered aloud, “Where do these people find the strength get up in the morning?”  The man on television screen touched me as he mused.  The newscaster tried to imagine what life must be like for the thousands who experience a greater sense of loss than those of us who did not have a friend, or a relative, in the region we now think of as Ground Zero.

Today, in memorial to the lives lost and in memory of those who survived, services were held.  The current Mayor of New York City, Michael R. Bloomberg said September 11, “began like any other [day] and ended like no other.”  Indeed, the attacks on the Twin Towers brought about a beginning and ending that was distinctive.  People, throughout America found strength.  The vigor realized did not materialize in a manner that is reminiscent of the Irish proverb Mayor Bloomberg went on to recite.  “Death leaves a heartache that nothing can heal.  Love leaves a memory that no one can steal.”

In the United States, thousands of fatalities did not serve to remind us that love lives on.  The horrific incident instead informed millions of what it means to hate.

Since the morning of the attack on the World Trade Center, it seems almost every American harbors a deep-seated detestation of strangers.  We do not much like those we know if they dare to differ from us.  A wrong word, an unseemly choice of wardrobe, the way one walks, or talks, all are sources of worry to a public now petrified of what might be.  The incidents that took place on September 11, 2001 gave birth to a fear so extreme, it seems as though the ability to love was stolen from Americans.

Today, and every evening after the World Trade Towers first fell, fear has flourished.  People ponder the persons they once thought of as friends and wonder.  Might the man or woman be a foe.  Countless in this country have faith only in self.  Collectively, United States citizens commit to Country First.  

Apprehension for any action thought un-American is expressed through abhorrence.  The stench of disdain is strong in this nation and has been for seven years.  

Perchance, the force of hatred endows Americans with the stamina needed to rise each morning.  A want for retribution may be the power that drives many residents in this, their homeland  Nationally, a  profound sense of patriotism can be persuasive.  Certainly, jingoism is pervasive in the United states today.  It has been for the last several years.  

Perhaps, the deep desire for revenge motivates many to make it through the day.  Surely, love has not survived.

Few trust their neighbors as they once did.  The population loathes a person of Islamic descent or anyone who looks as though they might be of such a heritage.  The depth of disdain is far greater than it had been.  Perchance, only those born on foreign soil cause extreme trepidation.  A person whose complexion is dark is suspected of being a terrorist, a Muslim, or a radical Jihadist.  Even those everyday average American citizens who peacefully practice this tranquil religion are thought to be evil.  Surely, “their” scripture are not as “ours,” so says the Christian community.

Some argue, the poor are a problem.  If the impoverished are unhappy, they might rebel.  Conventional wisdom calls upon Americans to beware; insurgent cells are easily born out of strife.  

Those identified as less than loyal are truly a concern.  If these individuals are  citizens, certainly they are not good Americans.  People ponder; why does he not wear a flag on his lapel.  Why does she not stand in support of a war.  From the time of the first attack, Americans have been on a rampage.  Almost all have found a reason for contempt.  

Whatever the rational may be, for numerous throughout the nation odium for the “other” has become the raison d’être, the purpose for living.  Love in modern America seems unattainable.  

Was the ability to have affection for all of mankind stolen on September 11, 2001?  Fondness does not seem to give Americans the strength to awaken or stay true to what once was the course of compassion.

As of the afternoon of September 11, 2001, the demoralized feel more sure the affluent have taken advantage of the average American.  People on the political Left, do not trust any individuals on the Right.  Those in Congress can no longer compromise; they can barely speak to each other.  Individuals in local communities cannot come together and create stable neighborhoods.  On the street it is each man, woman, or child for him or herself.

Worldwide the controversies play out.  People in one country do not appreciate those elsewhere.  World leaders tell us, there is an axis of adversaries.  The presumption is, these people or those do not like the United States.  Any from outside of America are fanatics.  None are “our” allies.  Inhabitants of the United States  have become extremely suspicious.  We are wary, leery, chary, and cautiously on guard, always.

The accepted wisdom is that an unknown force awaits in the shadows.  This antagonist will do us harm.  “Such an enemy cannot be deterred, contained, appeased, or negotiated with.  It can only be destroyed, and that’s the business at hand.”

Since that September morning, in 2001 Americans have been on edge, engaged in war, physically and emotionally.  It is “us” against “them.”  Allied forces and adversaries are easily identified, dependent on your views, and everyone has an opinion.  As of 9/11, people are ready, willing, and able to fight for what they believe.  The operative word is “fight.”

It seems wherever we turn today, a battle ensues.  People are on edge.  All are ready to pounce.  Given the slightest provocation, people will engage in a war of words, or one with weapons.  Justifications are explained as self-defense.  Reprehensions rule.  

People intent on resentment will find rationale for umbrage.  There is always an us and a them to be found.

Throughout this era I read articles that spoke to conspiracy theories.  Last evening, in yet one more missive, I read the planes did not crash into the Twin Towers.  Missiles completed a mission.  The latter essay stated that some believe the aircraft that supposedly crashed into buildings still fly today.  

Last evening, as I contemplated the possibility of a sinister plot, I could not help but think of the people who perished, the men, women, and children who choked on fumes as they fell from the sky.  I wonder; where are they now.  Where is the love that once existed in America.  Was fondness indeed stolen or was it replaced with fear expressed as revulsion?  I know not the answer.  I am only aware of what is and has been for so many years now.

Oh, how I had hoped that on the morning of September 11, 2008, when I awoke, the strength to love would again be observed in America.  However, as I opened the newspaper I realized hours did not heal wounds so deep.  Scars did not disappear in the night.  

I scanned the pages of a prominent periodical and saw  Bush Said to Give Orders Allowing Raids in yet another foreign nation.  The Border Fence while delayed will be built.  Reflections on terrorism affirmed that people still believed others were the enemy.  

Yes, morning has broken.  Sadly, my spirit still is not strong.  Love may have been stolen from many Americans hearts.  However, sincere affection for my fellow man is secure within me.  My hope is that some day will begin and end with love.  I yearn for mornings and evenings without the hate realized on September 11, 2001.  My desire is for the strength of fondness.  May we each find peace, serenity, and brotherly love in every moment.

September 11 Sources . . .

Iraq, Iraqis “Wouldn’t Exist Anymore”



Blitz Busts Bush on Early Iraq WMD Invasion Plans in 2000

copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert

As Governor of Texas, the Presidential hopeful warned us.  If we were to select him as Commander-In-Chief he would not send mixed messages. Americans might have read George W. Bush’s lips.  Pressure would be applied in abundance.  A thousand points of light illuminated the path the then possible Chief Executive proposed.  Yet, no one wished to believe a prominent person, the son of a former President of the United States could be so cruel.  Certainly, a candidate to the highest office in the land would not suggest that he would be happy to start a war while he worked to win the support of American people.  Yet, there it was, in the smirk, in the statement, in the glint seen in the eyes of Governor George W. Bush.  The date, January 16, 2000, one year and four days before the ready and willing combatant placed his hand on the Bible and recited the Presidential Oath of Office.

Americans entered a new age; the second millennium had just begun.  Yet, the people had learned little from hundreds or thousands of years of history.  While tuned into television, citizens did not need to read between the lines.  The future President spoke directly of his intent.  Journalist Wolf Blitzer heard the words and reiterated.  Perchance, the Broadcaster, too shocked by a truth he thought awesome, offered the then candidate a chance to redeem himself.  George W. Bush cognizant of how his words might be thought cocky, endeavored to lessen the concern, somewhat; however, he remained stalwart.  

The words were ominous, they, the Iraqi’s, would not exist any more.  They hung in the air.  Yet, people wanted to believe, as President, George W. Bush, (or whomever) would protect them.  The public chose to suspend disbelief.  With blind faith, supporters of the candidate followed their leader.  Those who did not endorse the aspirant did not dare to fear the unthinkable.  They thought they would or could “trust and verify.”  Few imagined the impossible would be their unwelcome truth.

Nearly two years later, circumstances afforded Mister Bush an opportunity.  The September 11, 2001,  attack on the Twin Towers allowed the former Governor, then President, to say, the world changed.  However, in truth, while the people’s perspective may have been transformed, the views George W. Bush expressed twenty-one months earlier were as they had been.  The Chief Executive’s sense of reality was static.

Commander-In-Chief Bush is consistent.  As documented, at least since January 2000, Mister Bush intended to eliminate what he decided was a threat, Saddam Hussein, and the country known as Iraq.  The harangue was heard  and George Bush would stay the course.

George W. Bush Opines on His Presidential Candidacy;

Blitzer: It’s almost exactly nine years since your dad, the president of the United States, accepted a cease-fire with Saddam Hussein in Iraq in exchange for full Iraqi agreement to comply with U.N. weapons inspectors. But for the last year, there have been no weapons inspection teams in Iraq at all. If you were president today, what would you do about it?

Bush: I would continue to keep the pressure on the Iraqi government.  I would continue to insist that inspectors be left — allowed into the country. I would continue to insist that Iraq complied with the cease-fire arrangement.

Blitzer: But they’re in violation of the agreement right now.

Bush: Absolutely.  Absolutely.  And we shouldn’t be sending mixed signals. And if any time I found that the Iraqi’s were developing weapons of mass destruction, they wouldn’t exist any more.

Blitzer: Who wouldn’t exist, the weapons?

Bush: The weapons of mass destruction, yes.  I’m not going to — they just need to hear that from a potential president, that if we catch them in violation of the agreement, if we in any way, shape or form find out that they’re developing weapons of mass destruction that there will be action taken, and they can just guess what that action might be.

Blitzer: And you’re not going to spell it out here today?

Bush: No, sir.

Ah, but he had shared the details.  The candidate crafted a message and then, in the midst of the interview thought better of being so blatant.  Perhaps, this election season, the American people might ponder the past.  Citizens could consider pronouncements are portals.  When the public listens to our current crop of Presidential challengers might the people acknowledge that a politician has power to change more than a policy.  Lives will be altered with the stroke of a Presidential pen.

This time, will our countrymen contemplate the messages delivered when a Presidential hopeful is away from the persuasive scripts?  Might Americans accept  commercials do not reveal what is within a heart and soul.  Stump speeches do not reveal authentic intentions.  

Let us listen when a potential Commander offers his truest calculations.  When a candidate speaks of possible combat, have faith.  He or she will engage.  If the same hopeful honors a citizen’s right to bear arms, believe him (or her).  Suppose surveillance is the subject.  A potential President that promotes a need to spy on those he or she thinks may be terrorists will follow through.  Holidays from taxes that build a healthy infrastructure, once proposed, will be part of the ultimate plan.  When a presumptive Chief Executive claims he or she will reduce the cost of Health Care Insurance and yet, does not establish a means for better access to affordable medical coverage, realize, he or she will not provide an avenue for those who struggle with what is.  What of energy, education, the environment; perchance Americans might acknowledge, no matter the issue, a person, a potential President will reveal him or herself in subtle ways.

Americans might follow the money, the man, and the woman.  People, no matter their station know what they need to say and when.  A hopeful President indebted to industry will not forget their allegiance, just as George W. Bush never forgot his.  Loyalty to family, friends, and financiers leads many a Commander to combat or a multitude of convenient truths.

All actions begin with a thought.  Words are windows into a being.  Be assured; if an aspirant muses of what he or she “might” do, trust they will.   Defensively, details may not be forthcoming before the position is secured.  Nonetheless, once the keys to the White House are in hand the world will change to fit the new office holder’s reality, when indeed he or she actually has not evolved.

Sources For Statement of War, or Peace.  We, the people decide . . .

Reverend Martin Luther King, Pastor Jeremiah Wright, Edward Peck; Fierce Urgency of Now



Martin Luther King, “Why I Am Opposed to the War in Vietnam”

copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert

He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it.

He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.


~ Martin Luther King, Junior

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.

~ Martin Luther King, Junior.

Days from now America will commemorate an anniversary.  On April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King Junior was brutally assassinated.  Citizens will recall the wisdom of a man who lived for peace and yet, fell victim to violence.  Homage will be bestowed.  The American people will praise the preacher, the teacher, and the man who taught us all to speak of what remained tacit for too long.  In the United States of America, all men are not equal.  As a country, we do not treat people well.  Nor do government officials lead us to the promised light of world harmony.

Reverend Martin Luther King spoke of the sorrow that Americans gives rise to throughout the globe.  However, most recall only portions of his homilies.  In memorial, people do as is characteristic.  They remember the platitudes oft repeated and conveniently forget the profound angst expressed.

“I have a dream,” is imprinted on the minds of most Americans.  The words ring out.  They are spelled out in historical accounts that focus on achievements.  Anglo Americans believe in this the “land of the free” we have accomplished much.  Perhaps, the mission is complete.  Caucasians remind themselves of what they believe is infinite progress.  Yet, those who experience the nightmare that lives large in their day-to-day experience recall another statement the Reverend made.  

As Doctor Martin Luther King Junior reflected upon what was and what might have been he saw the gains were never fully realized.  As an imminent war evolved into an extended and bloody encounter the Preacher proclaimed . . .

[M]y fellow Americans, who, with me, bear the greatest responsibility in ending a conflict that has exacted a heavy price on both continents . . .

There is at the outset a very obvious and almost facile connection between the war in Vietnam [Afghanistan, Iraq, name of war or incident you choose] and the struggle I, and others, have been waging in America.  A few years ago, there was a shining moment in that struggle.  It seemed as if there was a real promise of hope for the poor — both black and white — through the poverty program.  There were experiments, hopes, new beginnings.  Then came the buildup in Vietnam [insert the name of another battle] and I watched the program broken and eviscerated as if it were some idle political plaything of a society gone mad on war, and I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic destructive suction tube.  So, I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor and to attack it as such.

Perhaps the more tragic recognition of reality took place when it became clear to me that the war was doing far more than devastating the hopes of the poor at home.  It was sending their sons and their brothers and their husbands to fight and to die in extraordinarily high proportions relative to the rest of the population.

We were taking the black young men who had been crippled by our society and sending them eight thousand miles away to guarantee liberties in Southeast Asia which they had not found in southwest Georgia and East Harlem.  So we have been repeatedly faced with the cruel irony of watching Negro and white boys on TV screens as they kill and die together for a nation that has been unable to seat them together in the same schools.  So we watch them in brutal solidarity burning the huts of a poor village, but we realize that they would never live on the same block in Detroit.

Martin Luther King, advocate of nonviolence and peace witnessed that America had not truly come together to bring about racial harmony.  Persons with darker skin tones were called to combat in numbers that far exceeded the percent evident in the population at-large.  King understood classes were not integrated.  The divide between the rich and the poor had not been eliminated.  Indeed, the evidence of this was prominent in the Corps.

Reverend King felt as many Americans did, particularly those most profoundly affected by policies and practices that remained unchanged.  The impoverished, those who have fewer opportunities in a nation forever fractured, are asked to fight for the rights they do not realize.  The underprivileged, the deprived, those reduced to ruin are expected to serve a nation that does not provide for them.  Doctor King declared on April 4, 1967 before a Riverside Church congregation . . .

I could not be silent in the face of such cruel manipulation of the poor.  My third reason moves to an even deeper level of awareness, for it grows out of my experience in the ghettoes of the North over the last three years — especially the last three summers.  As I have walked among the desperate, rejected and angry young men I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems.  I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action.  But they asked — and rightly so — what about Vietnam [Iraq, Afghanistan, or perhaps Iran, Korea . . .]?

They asked if our own nation wasn’t using massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted.  Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today — my own government.  For the sake of those boys, for the sake of this government, for the sake of hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence, I cannot be silent.

The Reverend Martin Luther King, a year to the day before his demise felt it was time to speak to the injustices he saw within his own nation and  how the approach of the Administration circumvented attempts to reach the mountaintop known as tranquility.  For too long, too many, Doctor King among them, had remained silent.  Americans accepted truths, for talk of what is real was thought taboo.  No one wishes to defame the land they call home.  However, reluctantly, as Reverend King acknowledged . . .

“A time comes when silence is betrayal.” That time has come for us in relation to Vietnam [September 11, 2001, wars in Afghanistan . . .]

The truth of these words is beyond doubt but the mission to which they call us is a most difficult one. Even when pressed by the demands of inner truth, men do not easily assume the task of opposing their government’s policy, especially in time of war. Nor does the human spirit move without great difficulty against all the apathy of conformist thought within one’s own bosom and in the surrounding world.  Moreover when the issues at hand seem as perplexed as they often do in the case of this dreadful conflict we are always on the verge of being mesmerized by uncertainty; but we must move on.

Some of us who have already begun to break the silence of the night have found that the calling to speak is often a vocation of agony, but we must speak. We must speak with all the humility that is appropriate to our limited vision, but we must speak. And we must rejoice as well, for surely this is the first time in our nation’s history that a significant number of its religious leaders have chosen to move beyond the prophesying of smooth patriotism to the high grounds of a firm dissent based upon the mandates of conscience and the reading of history. Perhaps a new spirit is rising among us. If it is, let us trace its movement well and pray that our own inner being may be sensitive to its guidance, for we are deeply in need of a new way beyond the darkness that seems so close around us.

Over the past two years, as I have moved to break the betrayal of my own silences and to speak from the burnings of my own heart, as I have called for radical departures from the destruction of Vietnam, many persons have questioned me about the wisdom of my path. At the heart of their concerns this query has often loomed large and loud: Why are you speaking about war, Dr. King? Why are you joining the voices of dissent? Peace and civil rights don’t mix, they say. Aren’t you hurting the cause of your people, they ask? And when I hear them, though I often understand the source of their concern, I am nevertheless greatly saddened, for such questions mean that the inquirers have not really known me, my commitment or my calling. Indeed, their questions suggest that they do not know the world in which they live.  In the light of such tragic misunderstandings, I deem it of signal importance to try to state clearly, and I trust concisely, why I believe that the path from Dexter Avenue Baptist Church — the church in Montgomery, Alabama, where I began my pastorate — leads clearly to this sanctuary tonight.

I come to this platform tonight to make a passionate plea to my beloved nation.

Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King felt he must address an issue that remains stalwart.  Today, the situation has not changed, much to the contrary of claims among Caucasians and the affluent.

Regardless of the principles presented in the Constitution, in this country Black Americans are not free.  However, those whose skin is dark are asked to defend Anglo Americans from supposed enemies, and they do.  People whose complexions are purplish-brown fill the battlefields; they patriotically serve the homeland.  Frequently, too frequently, African-Americans, who were never fully accepted in their native country fall.  Before they ever experience what has long been a dream, equality, Black Americans perish.  In a desire to protect the freedoms they have never had, our Black and Brown brethren pass.

Anglo Americans know this; yet do not wish to acknowledge what is true.  Instead, Caucasians criticize anyone who might mention what is fact.  Recently, Reverend Jeremiah Wright has been the source of scorn.  Wright dared to deliver a sermon, which addressed the issue of inequity.

After the September 11, 2001, tragedy, Americans again chose the path of war.  African-Americans were once more called to battle.  The then Pastor of United Trinity Church of Christ, Chicago, Illinois Jeremiah Wright was distressed about what he saw as a shame.  In a nation founded on the noble principle of freedom, people of color were not.

Reverend Wright spoke of his anguish.  Yet, few outside the congregation heard more than a minute of what was said.  Anglo-Americans not in attendance assumed they knew the essence of the message, although they had not read the text.  The pinkish people, pale of skin did not realize he Reverend quoted the words of a white man, an United States Ambassador to Iraq, and Deputy Director of President Ronald Reagan’s task force on terrorism, Edward Peck.  Anglos did not realize that words and thoughts Jeremiah Wright discussed were those of a white man who believed America’s foreign policy was the cause for the calamity that placed this nation in peril.

Nor did the masses and classes, those not subject to racism reflect on how the words Wright offered were similar to those of another leader, one often honored as a Saint might be.  White Christians and Jews forever forgiving did not consider that Reverend Wright quoted the sentiments of a white man, a right-winged Republican official, a man who served with the esteemed Ronald Reagan in his sermon. Pray tell, might we consider the full text of Jeremiah Wright’s homily.

“I heard Ambassador Peck on an interview yesterday did anybody else see or hear him? He was on FOX News, this is a white man, and he was upsetting the FOX News commentators to no end, he pointed out, a white man, an ambassador, he pointed out that what Malcolm X said when he was silenced by Elijah Mohammad was in fact true, he said Americas chickens, are coming home to roost.”

“We took this country by terror away from the Sioux, the Apache, Arikara, the Comanche, the Arapaho, the Navajo. Terrorism.

“We took Africans away from their country to build our way of ease and kept them enslaved and living in fear. Terrorism.

“We bombed Grenada and killed innocent civilians, babies, non-military personnel.

“We bombed the black civilian community of Panama with stealth bombers and killed unarmed teenage and toddlers, pregnant mothers and hard working fathers.

“We bombed Qaddafi’s home, and killed his child. Blessed are they who bash your children’s head against the rock.

“We bombed Iraq. We killed unarmed civilians trying to make a living. We bombed a plant in Sudan to pay back for the attack on our embassy, killed hundreds of hard working people, mothers and fathers who left home to go that day not knowing that they’d never get back home.

“We bombed Hiroshima. We bombed Nagasaki, and we nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon and we never batted an eye.

“Kids playing in the playground. Mothers picking up children after school. Civilians, not soldiers, people just trying to make it day by day.

“We have supported state terrorism against the Palestinians and black South Africans, and now we are indignant because the stuff that we have done overseas is now brought right back into our own front yards. America’s chickens are coming home to roost.

“Violence begets violence. Hatred begets hatred. And terrorism begets terrorism. A white ambassador said that y’all, not a black militant. Not a reverend who preaches about racism. An ambassador whose eyes are wide open and who is trying to get us to wake up and move away from this dangerous precipice upon which we are now poised. The ambassador said the people we have wounded don’t have the military capability we have. But they do have individuals who are willing to die and take thousands with them. And we need to come to grips with that.”

Indeed, Anglo Americans must come to terms with the turmoil those who claim to be free of judgment, and ready to forgive, have done to destroy the likes of a passionate preacher and a Presidential aspirant. Pinkish people in the “United” States need to ponder the power of punitive pronouncements.  We, the white people must wonder, in what way we resemble the Almighty when we slam and damn our brethren and banish him from our hearts.

Currently, Caucasians claim to be colorblind.  Indeed, Anglos are merely colormute.  Anglo American citizens call for patriotism.  In truth, jingoism justifies the combat that benefits the affluent and the pinkish Americans who administer the Armed Forces.  Military missions are a show of might, in the name of right.  Actually, fear of our fellow man leads us to fight against those whose appearance differs from ours, whose ideology does not reassure us.  Anglo Americans may cry, “We honor the soldiers and support the troops.”  In truth, in a show of love, we lead our dark complexioned young and our poor persons of all colors to their death.  Anglos and affluent individuals might realize as Reverend Jeremiah Wright did, “This is a time for self-examination.”  “This was a time for me to examine my own relationship with G-d [or whatever force brings personal enlightenment to you.]”  If America is to change, to progress to become a nation of equals, perchance, pale persons might ponder the words of the honorable Martin Luther King Junior and remember.

A genuine revolution of values means in the final analysis that our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies.

This call for a worldwide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one’s tribe, race, class, and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing and unconditional love for all men. This oft misunderstood and misinterpreted concept — so readily dismissed by the Nietzsches of the world as a weak and cowardly force — has now become an absolute necessity for the survival of man. When I speak of love, I am not speaking of some sentimental and weak response. I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life. Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality. This Hindu-Moslem-Christian-Jewish-Buddhist belief about ultimate reality is beautifully summed up in the first epistle of Saint John:

Let us love one another; for love is God and everyone that loveth is born of God and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. If we love one another God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us. Let us hope that this spirit will become the order of the day. We can no longer afford to worship the god of hate or bow before the altar of retaliation. The oceans of history are made turbulent by the ever-rising tides of hate. History is cluttered with the wreckage of nations and individuals that pursued this self-defeating path of hate. As Arnold Toynbee says: “Love is the ultimate force that makes for the saving choice of life and good against the damning choice of death and evil.

Therefore the first hope in our inventory must be the hope that love is going to have the last word.” We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such a thing as being too late. Procrastination is still the thief of time. Life often leaves us standing bare, naked and dejected with a lost opportunity . . .

We still have a choice today; nonviolent coexistence or violent co-annihilation. We must move past indecision to action. We must find new ways to speak for peace in Vietnam [Afghanistan, Iraq, name of war or incident you choose] and justice throughout the developing world — a world that borders on our doors. If we do not act we shall surely be dragged down the long dark and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight.

Now let us begin. Now let us rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter — but beautiful — struggle for a new world. This is the calling of the sons of God, and our brothers wait eagerly for our response. Shall we say the odds are too great? Shall we tell them the struggle is too hard? Will our message be that the forces of American life militate against their arrival as full men, and we send our deepest regrets? Or will there be another message, of longing, of hope, of solidarity with their yearnings, of commitment to their cause, whatever the cost? The choice is ours, and though we might prefer it otherwise we must choose in this crucial moment of human history.

Anglos and the affluent, your actions, reactions determine our future.  Will we be separate and unequal or join as one.  Can we continue in silence, pretend to be colorblind, and remain colormute?  The time is now.  The import is intense.  We must speak of the pain and plight of the impoverished.  It is vital that each of us ask ourselves and our brethren to reflect on what is too real for those who are less privileged, or for people of color.

If we are to be united within the States, if we are to work as a world, one in harmony then we must all heed the words of our Pastor’s, Doctor Martin Luther King Junior and the Reverend Doctor Jeremiah Wright.  Let us not demonize those who speak of love and fellowship.  Might the white people in their wondrous glory forgive those who did not trespass, but spoke the truth that haunts those who remain silent.

“Before passing judgment on the man,

please consider that a good sermon is a conversation between three partners:

scripture, a preacher, and his or her congregation.

A church member’s belief functions like a blade.

It is in the dynamic interchange between the two,

often in the resulting sparks and tension, that a keen and sharp faith can develop.”


~ Reverend Matt Fitzgerald. Senior Minister, Wellesley Hills Congregational Church.  [Caucasian Cleric who worked with Reverend Jeremiah Wright]



FOX Lies!! The real sermon given by Pastor Wright

Homilies, Sermons, Sources . . .

Vice President Dick Cheney Defines Fallen Soldiers; Volunteers For Death



Cheney the man who cares

copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert

In a “glowing” statement, perhaps meant to glorify the horrific deaths of the soldiers slain in Iraq, Vice President Dick Cheney offered, “I think it’s a reminder of the extent to which we are blessed with families who’ve sacrificed as they have.”  The man who, in his youth sought five deferments in order to avoid service during the Vietnam War, went on to state, “A lot of men and women sign up because sometimes they will see developments.” Richard B. Cheney helps us to recall the terror Americans felt as they witnessed the Twin Towers fall on September 11, 2001.  He explains, this event and the thought of a terrorist threat “stimulated a lot of folks to volunteer for the military because they wanted to be involved in defending the country.”  “The thing that comes through loud and clear is how much they are committed to the cause, to doing what needs to be done to defend the nation,” Cheney proclaimed.  Yet, citizens cognizant of the reasons for a possible rise in recruitment remember more than a moment that changed the course of life for many young men and women.

Promises made by this Administration were ample.  The pledge to protect and defend was the battle cry in the States.  Those whose parents sacrificed to secure a life in America believed, to serve in the Armed Forces would be an honor.  Jesus Suarez was one of many immigrants who felt a need to fulfill a commitment to his homeland, past and present.

Yo Soy el Army

If you’re an immigrant, at least Uncle Sam wants you

By Deborah Davis

Metro Active

September 19, 2007

JESUS was an easy mark for the recruiter.  He was a boy who fantasized that by joining the powerful, heroic U.S. Marines, he could help his own country fight drug lords.  He gave the recruiter his address and phone number in Mexico, and the recruiter called him twice a week for the next two years until he had talked Jesus into convincing his parents to move to California.

Fernando and Rose Suarez sold their home and their laundry business and immigrated with their children.  Jesus enrolled at a high school known for academic achievement.  But the recruiter wanted him to transfer to a school for problem teenagers, since its requirements for graduation were lower, and Jesus would be able to finish sooner.  He was 17 1/2 when he graduated from that school, still too young to enlist on his own, so his father co-signed the enlistment form, as the military requires for underage recruits.

Three years later, at the age of 20, his body was torn apart in Iraq by an American-made fragmentation grenade during the first week of the invasion.  In the Pentagon’s official Iraq casualty database, his death is number 74.  Now Jesus is in a cemetery, and his parents, who blame each other for his death, are painfully and bitterly divorced.

We might inquire, was Jesus a volunteer or a victim of rabid recruiters?  Are émigrés dedicated to a cause, devoted to a country, or obligated to enlist.  Perhaps, fantasy fashioned Jesus’ faith in a military system gone awry.

In the Iraq war, citizenship is being used as a recruiting tool aimed specifically at young immigrants, who are told that by enlisting they will be able to quickly get citizenship for themselves (sometimes true: it depends on what the Immigration and Customs Enforcement branch of the Department of Homeland Security finds) and their entire families (not true: each family member has to go through a separate application process).  Nevertheless, with the political pressures on Latino families growing daily under this administration, many young Latinos are unable to resist the offer, which immigrants’ rights activists see as blatant exploitation of a vulnerable population.

The number of immigrants who fight or fought for personal freedom is high.  The statistics suggests those who were not born in this country do battle for the United States.  Some are invited to come to the States, as Jesus Suarez was.  Others, with Green Card in hand, realize the rights of citizenship are easily acquired if or when an individual joins the Armed Forces.

About 70,000 foreign-born men and women serve in the U.S. armed forces, or about 5 percent of the total active-duty force, according to the Pentagon.  Of those, nearly 30,000 — or about 43 percent — are not U.S. citizens.

Aware of the toll the war takes on recruitment, many Americans ponder the possibilities.  Might the United States government allow persons in America without papers to join?  If people will not volunteer, bribe them.  Millions in this country and across the borders are victims of need.  

The Bush Administration thought an Army of recruited refugees a fine idea.  Thus, they encouraged Congress to pass an immigration Bill that would provide citizenship for those in need.  The contingency, people without official papers must serve this country in order to receive vital documents.

Immigration bill offers a military path to US dream

By Bryan Bender

Boston Globe Staff

June 16, 2007

Washington — A little-noticed provision in the proposed immigration bill would grant instant legal status and ultimately full citizenship to illegal immigrants if they enlist in the US military, an idea the Pentagon and military analysts say would boost the Pentagon’s flagging efforts to find and recruit qualified soldiers.

The Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act, or DREAM Act, is part of the stalled package of proposals that many in Congress are seeking to resurrect.  The proposal, applicable to an estimated 750,000 undocumented residents of military age, stipulates that those who arrived in the United States before age 16, graduated from high school, and meet other qualifications could immediately enter the path to citizenship in exchange for at least two years’ service in the armed forces.

Though the overall immigration bill was sidetracked earlier this month amid bitter infighting, the prospect of using military service as one pathway to citizenship appeals both to lawmakers who side with immigration rights advocates and those who want tougher immigration laws and tighter borders.

Military service for undocumented did not disturb those in the House or the Senate.  Other issues were of great concern.  There seems to be agreement; those from abroad could serve this country well.  Immigrants want to come to our shores; so let them travel to America, conditionally.  If a non-native is killed in battle, so be it.  The Administration will say, the fallen foreign-born volunteered.  The rationale is all the Armed Forces are free to join, liberated to die.  The question is, “Are those who sign up volunteers or people paid to perform at the pleasure of the President and Vice President Cheney?”  Immigrants who fight for America may be fatalities of faith.

Children, born and raised in this country, also trust.  They are understandably convinced the cost of living in America is great.  Education is expensive.  Many young lads and lasses are lured by promises of “money for college.”  In an era when the cost of education accounts for countless debts, any assurance can calm the nerves of those anxious to create a better life for themselves.  Consider the plight of the young and poor who know, only a college degree can take them away from a world filled with woe.  This was true during the first Persian Gulf War and remains valid today.  Many military “sign ups” are casualties of the sum charged to attend college.

GI Blues

Military recruiters promise ‘money for college,’ but recent veterans find that tuition benefits fall short

By Elizabeth F. Farell

The Chronicle of Higher Education

May 13, 2005

Cheyne Worley graduated from high school at age 16 in 1985 and spent about a year and a half pumping gas and bagging groceries before deciding it was time to get on with his life.  Signing up for the Army seemed like the best option — not only would he keep his family’s tradition of military service alive (his grandfather, father, and uncle had all served), but a recruiter’s promise of money for college made enlistment a no-brainer. . . .

The promise of easing the financial burden of higher education is a recruiter’s most effective selling point.  According to a 2004 survey conducted by GfK Custom Research, an independent research firm, “money for college” is the leading reason civilians enlist, even as the war in Iraq makes more young people skittish about committing to military service.

The tuition perk offered as part of the Montgomery GI Bill, passed in 1984, has become even more important during the past year, as the military has attempted to reverse declining enlistment numbers by increasing its recruiting staff and its efforts to sign up high-school students.  The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 has also given recruiters more opportunities to reach young people, allowing them access to home phone numbers and addresses of high-school students and the same visiting privileges at secondary schools as college or job recruiters.

And the pitch military representatives make on those campuses sounds good.  In exchange for having $1,200 withheld from their first-year military salaries, active-duty soldiers become eligible after completing their enlistment term (three years, on average) for up to $36,144 toward their education expenses.  (Those who pay in an additional $600 receive $5,400 more toward their education.)

But the benefit covers only about 60 percent of the average cost of college, according to the College Board’s estimates.

If a potential enlistee learns of the promises not kept, there is another appeal to be made.  For those adventurous at heart, the military may seem a free ride to travel.  The opportunity to flee from a life filled with trouble.  For a few, those who volunteer for tour after tour, the trauma evident on the field was not part of their truth initially.  When it is, they conclude it is time to return home.  Yet, when faced with a reality that is far from the fantasy of wedded bliss, or a better job, they retreat to what is familiar.  Please ruminate over the role the military plays in the life of Jake Holland.

Iraq Diary: Why Jake Volunteered for a Third Tour

Signing back up for Iraq was a way to deal with the boredom, and the pain.  Yeah, he had met a woman on Yahoo personals.  And things were starting to look serious.  But Holland needed to go.  “It allowed me to get away from home for a while, kinda wrap my head around sh*t.  I know it sounds funny, but that’s the way it was,” he says.  “I needed to do this.”

The money was nice, too.  “Another factor – I’ m not going to lie to you – as was $50,000 tax-free dollars.  Lump sum.  Here you go.  Have it,” Holland says.  For a former Indiana farm boy, whose favorite meal growing up was “fried squirrel and milk gravy,” that was a serious haul.  “It took care of all my bills inherited from the divorce.  An F-250 pickup, paid for.  And quite a bit of savings.”

Plus, a good chunk of Holland’s first tour had been spent behind a desk, playing dispatcher to bomb disposal teams.  “I’d take a nine-line [form for describing a bomb site], hand it to the guys, who would go get shot at.  That wore on me worse than anything.  Worse than going out the gate,” he says, using military slang for the base’s walls.

But there was action waiting for him, back in Baghdad, with the 754th EOD company.  Snipers took shots at his head.  Bombs went off around his armored vehicle, crushing the windows.  One day, he got rid of eight improvised bombs and three unused explosives.  On another, a soldier’s head pretty much crumbled in front of him.  “They’re blowing stuff up like it’s cool,” he IM’ed me.  The worst was the bomb that went off at a West Baghdad power station: a rigged-up dump truck that disintegrated four Humvees, charred the earth, and threw up a blast that could be seen for ten miles around.

It was “overwhelming” enough to make Holland think about giving Iraq a rest.

However, while not committed to the cause Vice President Cheney cited, Jake Holland seems devoted to finding a deliverance from the “evil” that he experiences is his life back home.  Holland volunteered to fight for freedom; his own.  Jake suffered.  Unlike many of the troops who feel the Administration let them down or deceived them, for Jake, a potential peace in his personal life can be more attractive that the supposed tranquility of the streets of America.  Jake Holland did not feel a sense of harmony when at home.  For him the fight in Iraq was a flight to freedom.  In the Armed Forces, he had friends he felt more loyal to than those in the States.  Another serviceman may speak for more than the few.  

One soldier, speaking under condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals, said, “I don’t think that the American public realizes just how many soldiers and service members in general really do have reservations about what is going on over there … “

Tis true.  Those who serve this country have much to say of the realities that threaten their lives.  The truth is, in the minds of many a soldier, the Bush Administration may be considered a greater menace than the combatants in the Middle East.  Poor plans and promises not kept aside, a total disregard for necessary training endangers the troops more so than an improvised explosive device might.  A bomb can only do you in once; the  lack of instruction can destroy a military man or woman daily.

Schreck, a soldier from CT, January 23, 2005: “If there is one thing that has always stood out in my head during my deployment it was when we were told ‘The Army will never put you in a losing situation.’  At this point of my deployment, that statement could not be further from the truth.  Not only were our vehicles in an unserviceable condition, we were also putting the unit whom we were escorting at risk.”

Awbalth, a soldier from CA, October 20, 2004: “The thing we needed most in Iraq wasn’t bullets, body armor, cash, air conditioning, hot chow, or armored vehicles, although we were short on all of these things; the thing we really needed the most was training and preparation.

We had no or very little training on urban combat tactics, raids to detain or kill targeted individuals, collecting, reporting, analyzing, and using human intelligence, developing sources of information, using interpreters, bomb/unexploded ordinance detection and disposal, handling of detainees, questioning detainees, use of non-lethal force, cordon and search operations, and riot control.  This lack of training has caused the deaths of untold numbers of soldiers and Iraqis.”

While some servicemen and women may speak of what they needed publicly, most will not voice their deepest concerns.  Soldiers share stresses with each other, and on occasion with family.  At times, Mom’s and Dad’s are the voice of volunteers who are no longer in awe of the Armed Forces they willingly joined.  Nancy Lessin addresses concerns common among the troops.  She mourns for what her stepson Joe, a Marine, did not realize.  Joe was deployed in 2002.

“Our loved ones took an oath to defend this country and our Constitution from all enemies, foreign and domestic.  But there is a commitment our government makes to our troops in return: that it will not send our young men and women in uniform into reckless misadventures that put them at risk needlessly.

This is the part of the bargain that has been broken.

Yes, war is hell; but this is something else, and our loved ones and all our troops have been betrayed. We were all betrayed by this administration when it cited a litany of reasons for invading Iraq that shifted like desert sands and seemed to be based upon quicksand . . .

We were betrayed by a lack of planning-active military and their families are now dealing with back-to-back two-year deployments, announced a few weeks ago. And today National Guard and reservists and their families are reeling from the news about their tours of duty being extended. And yes, there is a problem with troops being short on water, short on food, short on supplies and short on equipment. This morning we received an email from a mother whose son is in Iraq. The email read:

“Our soldiers have been killed because there were not enough Kevlar vests to go around. One of my son’s friends was shot in the back in Fallujah and two of his platoon members were killed in an ambush in May because they only had 30 vests for 120 men. No one at his checkpoint had a vest, thus nine people were injured.”

Sad as all this seems, apparently, what the soldiers and their families experience is nothing in comparison to the weight the President of the United States carries, according to Vice President, Dick Cheney.  In the now illustrious interview with Martha Raddatz, Dick Cheney reminded Americans, the truest victim of this fateful war is George W. Bush.  The Commander-In-Chief did not volunteer for the onerous path he has been forced to travel.

“The president carries the biggest burden, obviously,” Cheney said. “He’s the one who has to make the decision to commit young Americans. . . .”

One can only wonder, did George W. Bush act voluntarily or was he too, in truth, a victim of circumstances.  Did George W. Bush expect to fulfill a fantasy, as Jesus Suarez did.  Might the President have presumed war would be the answer to what ailed him? Could the Chief Officer have been bored as Jake Holland was.  What drove the man in the Oval Office to make such a seriously flawed determination.  Was a need satisfied when the President sent troops to their death, or was fate the cause for his charitable engagement?  Pray tell Dick Cheney.  Certainly, your worldview is most definitive.



“Soldiers Speak Out” Trailer

Volunteer Forces and Resources . . .

Taxi To The Dark Side; Tales of Psychological and Physical Torture



“Taxi To The Dark Side” – Trailer

copyright © 2007 Betsy L. Angert

Americans each have taxied to the dark side in recent years.  Vice President Cheney, with the blessings of George W. Bush, was our guide.  We were the followers.  Citizens of the United States claim to care.  Yet, collectively, we allow an Administration to torture detainees in Guantanamo Bay and at Abu Ghraib prison.  Our fellow countrymen once honored the Rules of the Geneva Convention.  This standards are now thought quaint.  Americans no longer subscribe to the theory that intentional physical and psychological torment is a abhorrent.  Violations of human dignity are accepted, even endorsed.  

Post-September 11, 2001, after the Twin Towers fell, so too did our moral compass.  Americans do not believe that Human Rights must be honored.  That is unless, the person in question is a United States citizen.

On the afternoon of 9/11 Americans embraced any policy they thought would keep them safe.  Congress signed the Patriot Act into law.  From then on, people who disagreed with the Bush Administration were watched.  Those that had no quarrel with White House policies were jailed.  A dark skinned person with an accent unlike the one commonly accepted as native, was thought to be a terrorist.  Telephone and wiretaps were considered necessary.  Individuals willingly removed their shoes and permitted them selves to be the subject of body searches.  Fear flourished and remains intact.  For Americans, some shadowy authority will take control and keep us safe.  Hope does not remain eternal.  It no longer exists.

Citizens in this country cannot see the light.  They have slipped into the deepest crevices of cruelty.  Even when Americans know they are about to commit a crime against humanity, they do not stop themselves.  When in dire straits people perform as directed.

Filmmaker Alex Gibney, whose father, Frank Gibney, an interrogator of Japanese prisoners in World War II helped his son to feel the pain of a person ordered to torture another living being.  As the Director’s dying-Dad, who asked to be unhooked from his oxygen machine so that he might speak out against the Bush Administration’s policies said so forcefully, “It’s got to stop!”

The words of an adamant father barely able to breathe, helped to inspire his son’s endeavor.  As film reviewer, Kenneth Turan, of the Los Angeles Times writes, “[This] significant film shows why he [Alex Gibney] cares so passionately and why we should as well.”

I invite you, dear reader to reflect on the situation and read this dynamic review of the movie . . .

‘Taxi to the Dark Side’

The new documentary looks at torture’s effects on victims and perpetrators.

By Kenneth Turan

Los Angeles Times

January 18, 2008

GIVEN its subject matter, and its title, you’d expect Alex Gibney’s “Taxi to the Dark Side” to be profoundly disturbing and shocking, and it is.  But not always in the ways you’d expect.

A meticulous examination of the Bush administration’s embracing of torture as a weapon of choice in the war against terrorism by the director of “Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room,” “Taxi” is impressive enough to have taken the best documentary prize at the Tribeca Film Festival and to be a likely finalist for the documentary Oscar when the contenders are announced next week.

Because torture is its raison d’être, it’s a given that “Taxi” is difficult to take at times.  There are pictures from Abu Ghraib too appalling for family newspapers, upsetting videos, and unblinking photographs of men who died in U.S. custody.

Yet, what is most distressing about “Taxi” is not physical acts but psychological ones.  What is really appalling is how readily torture was embraced by officials as an absolute necessity and how easy it was for soldiers to, in the words of one, “lose your moral bearings” and become a party to atrocity.

For though the official line out of Washington is still “we do not torture,” it’s impossible to watch this film — and hear testimony not just from soldiers but also veteran FBI men and former Bush administration officials — without coming to understand that torture is exactly what we are engaged in.

“Taxi to the Dark Side’s” title has concrete origins.  Writer-director Gibney has loosely structured his film around the suspicious death of an Afghani taxi driver named Dilawar.  This young man took three passengers on a trip on Dec. 1, 2002, and never returned.

Dilawar ended up at Bagram, a former Soviet air base turned interrogation site for suspected Taliban.  Five days after he arrived, he was dead.  The press release said it was due to natural causes, but a pair of New York Times reporters, Tim Golden and Carlotta Gall, decided to investigate.  What they found out is that the official U.S. death certificate, delivered to Dilawar’s parents along with the body, listed the cause of death as “homicide” traceable to beatings he received while in captivity.

Filmmaker Gibney not only talked to the two reporters and Dilawar’s family, he also interviewed five clearly haunted soldiers who were put on trial in military court for the man’s death.  We hear firsthand exactly what they did as well as the circumstances that put unprepared men in interrogation situations with the pressure to produce results but without the written guidelines as to permissible behavior they desperately requested.

Gibney’s film is at pains to show where the impetus for this kind of savage behavior began.

Please also ponder a Public Broadcasting Services, Frontline program, The Dark Side.  Draw your own conclusions.  Consider how humans respond when under stress.  Also, contemplate the idea of power, and how, when bestowed upon one titled President or Vice can destroy absolutely.



Cheney’s Law – Public Broadcasting Services, Frontline

Search for the Light, Sources . . .

September 11; A Crisis of Terror, Affirm Life


Suheir Hammad – Def Poetry

On September 11, 2001, with the pain of death abound, a poet asks us all to affirm life.  As she walks, watches, waits for what, she knows not . . . she realizes she is certain.  While others see the differences, although they cannot accurately identify these, Suheir Hammad accepts there are none. 

The rhapsodist reminds us, in a revision of First Writing Since,  we are one, fractured, and flawed, we are all alike.  Therefore, we must affirm life if we hope to live together in peace.

Crisis of Terror

By Suheir Hammad
New York, New York

Suheir Hammad is the author of “Born Palestinian, Born Black” (Harlem River Press, 1996) and other books.

First Writing Since

1. there have been no words.
i have not written one word.
no poetry in the ashes south of canal street.
no prose in the refrigerated trucks driving debris and dna.
not one word.

today is a week, and seven is of heavens, gods, science.
evident out my kitchen window is an abstract reality.
sky where once was steel.
smoke where once was flesh.

fire in the city air and i feared for my sister’s life in a way never
before. and then, and now, i fear for the rest of us.

first, please god, let it be a mistake, the pilot’s heart failed, the
plane’s engine died.
then please god, let it be a nightmare, wake me now.
please god, after the second plane, please, don’t let it be anyone
who looks like my brothers.

i do not know how bad a life has to break in order to kill.
i have never been so hungry that i willed hunger
i have never been so angry as to want to control a gun over a pen.
not really.
even as a woman, as a palestinian, as a broken human being.
never this broken.

more than ever, i believe there is no difference.
the most privileged nation, most americans do not know the difference
between indians, afghanis, syrians, muslims, sikhs, hindus.
more than ever, there is no difference.

2. thank you korea for kimchi and bibim bob, and corn tea and the
genteel smiles of the wait staff at wonjo the smiles never revealing
the heat of the food or how tired they must be working long midtown
shifts. thank you korea, for the belly craving that brought me into
the city late the night before and diverted my daily train ride into
the world trade center.

there are plenty of thank yous in ny right now. thank you for my
lazy procrastinating late ass. thank you to the germs that had me
call in sick. thank you, my attitude, you had me fired the week
before. thank you for the train that never came, the rude nyer who
stole my cab going downtown. thank you for the sense my mama gave me
to run. thank you for my legs, my eyes, my life.

3. the dead are called lost and their families hold up shaky
printouts in front of us through screens smoked up.

we are looking for iris, mother of three. please call with any
information. we are searching for priti, last seen on the 103rd
floor. she was talking to her husband on the phone and the line
went. please help us find george, also known as a! ! del. his family is
waiting for him with his favorite meal. i am looking for my son, who
was delivering coffee. i am looking for my sister girl, she started
her job on monday.

i am looking for peace. i am looking for mercy. i am looking for
evidence of compassion. any evidence of life. i am looking for
life.

4. ricardo on the radio said in his accent thick as yuca, “i will
feel so much better when the first bombs drop over there. and my
friends feel the same way.”

on my block, a woman was crying in a car parked and stranded in hurt.
i offered comfort, extended a hand she did not see before she said,
“we”re gonna burn them so bad, i swear, so bad.” my hand went to my
head and my head went to the numbers within it of the dead iraqi
children, the dead in nicaragua. the dead in rwanda who had to vie
with fake sport wrestling for america’s attention.

yet when people sent emails saying, this was bound to happen, lets
! ! not forget u.s. transgressions, for half a second i felt resentful.
hold up with that, cause i live here, these are my friends and fam,
and it could have been me in those buildings, and we”re not bad
people, do not support america’s bullying. can i just have a half
second to feel bad?

if i can find through this exhaust people who were left behind to
mourn and to resist mass murder, i might be alright.

thank you to the woman who saw me brinking my cool and blinking back
tears. she opened her arms before she asked “do you want a hug?” a
big white woman, and her embrace was the kind only people with the
warmth of flesh can offer. i wasn’t about to say no to any comfort.
“my brother’s in the navy,” i said. “and we”re arabs”. “wow, you
got double trouble.” word.

5. one more person ask me if i knew the hijackers.
one more motherfucker ask me what navy my brother is in.
one more person assume no arabs or muslims were killed.one more person
assume they know me, or that i represent a people.
or that a people represent an evil. or that evil is as simple as a
flag and words on a page.

we did not vilify all white men when mcveigh bombed oklahoma.
america did not give out his family’s addresses or where he went to
church. or blame the bible or pat robertson.

and when the networks air footage of palestinians dancing in the
street, there is no apology that hungry children are bribed with
sweets that turn their teeth brown. that correspondents edit images.
that archives are there to facilitate lazy and inaccurate
journalism.

and when we talk about holy books and hooded men and death, why do we
never mention the kkk?

if there are any people on earth who understand how new york is
feeling right now, they are in the west bank and the gaza strip.

6. today it is ten days. last night bush waged war on a man once
openly funded by the
cia. i do not know who is responsible. read too many books, know
too many people to believe what i am told. i don’t give a fuck about
bin laden. his vision of the world does not include me or those i
love. and petittions have been going around for years trying to get
the u.s. sponsored taliban out of power. shit is complicated, and i
don’t know what to think.

but i know for sure who will pay.

in the world, it will be women, mostly colored and poor. women will
have to bury children, and support themselves through grief. “either
you are with us, or with the terrorists” – meaning keep your people
under control and your resistance censored. meaning we got the loot
and the nukes.

in america, it will be those amongst us who refuse blanket attacks on
the shivering. those of us who work toward social justice, in
support of civil liberties, in opposition to hateful foreign
policies.

i have never felt less american and more new yorker, particularly
brooklyn, than these past days. the stars and stripes on all these
cars and apartment windows represent the dead as citizens first, not
family members, not lovers.

i feel like my skin is real thin, and that my eyes are only going to
get darker. the future holds little light.

my baby brother is a man now, and on alert, and praying five times a
day that the orders he will take in a few days time are righteous and
will not weigh his soul down from the afterlife he deserves.

both my brothers – my heart stops when i try to pray – not a beat to
disturb my fear. one a rock god, the other a sergeant, and both
palestinian, practicing muslim, gentle men. both born in brooklyn
and their faces are of the archetypal arab man, all eyelashes and
nose and beautiful color and stubborn hair.

what will their lives be like now?

over there is over here.

7. all day, across the river, the smell of burning rubber and limbs
floats through. the sirens have stopped now. the advertisers are
back on the air. the rescue workers are traumatized. the skyline is
brought back to human size. no longer taunting the gods with its
height.

i have not cried at all while writing this. i cried when i saw those
buildings collapse on themselves like a broken heart. i have never
owned pain that needs to spread like that. and i cry daily that my
brothers return to our mother safe and whole.

there is no poetry in this. there are causes and effects. there are
symbols and ideologies. mad conspiracy here, and information we will
never know. there is death here, and there are promises of more.

there is life here. anyone reading this is breathing, maybe hurting,
but breathing for sure. and if there is any light to come, it will
shine from the eyes of those who look for peace and justice after the
rubble and rhetoric are cleared and the phoenix has risen.

affirm life.
affirm life.
we got to carry each other now.
you are either with life, or against it.
affirm life.

It is September 11, again.  On this the anniversary of unbelievable carnage, we, each, and everyone of us, can choose to affirm life for Americans for those of Arab descent, for Muslims, Jews, Christians, Conservatives, Liberals, the Right, the Left, and yes, even those that “wronged” US.

  • First Writing Since
  • Suheir Hammad
  • Giuliani Attacks Ron Paul; Disputes Theological Theories


    Ron Paul on CNN talking about the debate 5-16-07.mpg

    © copyright 2007 Betsy L. Angert

    I marvel at the ignorance, the ability to “ignore” information or the lack of knowledge expressed by former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani.  While the Mayor may wish to accentuate his actions during the September 11, 2001 clean-up operations, how can he negate a lesson that we all learn over time.  “What we do unto others, will be done unto us.”  Rarely, if ever does any being attack another without what they believe to be reason.

    Even if the broadly “accepted” theory were true, “they hate us for what we have,” I doubt the rage would be quite so deep.  Often, people strive to obtain what they covet.  America has “played” in the Middle East for decades.  We want their oil.  However, when humans feel victimized, they react.  As theologians might remind us, it is “an eye for an eye” often motivates brutal aggression.

    To state that he, Giuliani has never heard the contention Congressman Ron Paul made during the May 15, 2007 Republican debate is ludicrous.  Where might the Mayor have been in the last six years?  For that matter where was he as a child.  Did Mayor Giuliani merely walk onto the scene of a crime against humanity and declare this is unwarranted, unprovoked, and unnecessary?

    What some think of as “just,” may seem unreasonable to another.  The person inflicting pain thinks his or her behavior is apt.  The individual or group attacked has a different perspective.  The roles are often reversed simultaneously.  Ultimately, we must acknowledge that every [wo]man has a reason for each reaction.  If only we might walk a mile in the moccasins of others before we engage militarily. 

    Cable News Network contributor Roland Martin phrases a similar thought in this manner.  “We need to understand history and how it impacts what is happening today.”  He offers a brilliant assessment of the recent rhetoric.  Martin writes . . .

    What has been overlooked is that Paul based his position on the effects of the 1953 ouster by the CIA of Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh.

    An excellent account of this story is revealed in Stephen Kinzer’s alarming and revealing book, “Overthrow: America’s Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq,” where he writes that Iran was establishing a government close to a democracy.  But Mossadegh wasn’t happy that the profit from the country’s primary resource — oil — was not staying in the country.

    Instead, the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (now known British Petroleum, or BP) was getting 93 percent of the profits.  Mossadegh didn’t like that, and wanted a 50-50 split.  Kinzer writes that that didn’t sit too well with the British government, but it didn’t want to use force to protect its interests.  But their biggest friend, the United States, didn’t mind, and sought to undermine Mossadegh’s tenure as president.  After all kinds of measures that disrupted the nation, a coup was financed and led by President Dwight Eisenhower’s CIA, and the Shah of Iran was installed as the leader.  We trained his goon squads, thus angering generations of Iranians for meddling in that nation’s affairs.

    As [Ron] Paul noted, what happened in 1953 had a direct relationship to the takeover of the U.S. Embassy in 1979.  We viewed that as terrorists who dared attack America.  They saw it as ending years of oppression at the hands of the ruthless U.S.-backed Shah regime.

    As Americans, we believe in forgiving and forgetting, and are terrible at understanding how history affects us today.  We are arrogant in not recognizing that when we benefit, someone else may suffer.  That will lead to resentment and anger, and if suppressed, will boil over one day.

    Does that provide a moral justification for what the terrorists did on September 11?

    Of course not.  But we should at least attempt to understand why.

    Think about it.  Do we have the moral justification to explain the killings of more than 100,000 Iraqis as a result of this war?  Can we defend the efforts to overthrow other governments whose actions we perceived would jeopardize American business interests?

    Ahhh, Mister Martin, I love your musings.  For me, your words sing of truth.  This text might be considered biblical in its proportions.  The conclusion you offer is as Congressman Paul claims, the essence of his message.  Were it not for time, Ron Paul would have liked to utter the Testament phrase

    “[T]he children will pay for the sins of their fathers.”

    The United States is certainly paying for the sins of our fathers.  It is said that salvation comes through work.  Salvation is motivated by love.  Americans profess to believe,  ‘Love they neighbor as you love thyself.’  Yet, often we do not.  Thus, our country might reap as we sow. 

    Former United States Attorney General Ramsey Clark often reflects as Ron Paul did. In a recent interview with Cable News Network Correspondent Wolf Blitzer, the two address the sanctions imposed on Iraq.  Again, Americans accept, allow, and advance policies that are contrary to religious teachings.

    On the fiftieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Lawyer, legal scholar, and Civil Rights Activist Ramsey Clark recounted American history.  In a reflective speech, Clark recalled . . .  . .

    The most fundamental, dangerous and harmful violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on its fifteenth birthday is economic sanctions imposed on entire populations. The United States alone blockades eleven million Cubans in the face of the most recent General Assembly resolution approved by 157 nations condemning the blockade, with only the United States and Israel in opposition. The entire population of Cuba and every Cuban has had the “right to a standard of living adequate for health and well being… including food, clothing, housing and medical care” deliberately violated by the United States blockade.

    Security Council sanctions against Iraq, which are forced by the United States, have devastated the entire nation, taking the lives of more than 1,500,000 people, mostly infants, children, chronically ill and elderly, and harming millions more by hunger, sickness and sorrow. The sanctions destroy the “dignity and rights” of the people of Iraq and are the most extreme form of “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment,” which are prohibited by the Declaration.

    Despite the cruelest destruction of the most basic human rights and liberties of all the people in Iraq, including rights to medicine, safe drinking water and sufficient food, the United States government, with the major mass media in near perfect harmony, proclaims itself the world’s champion of liberty and human rights. The problem as Lincoln surely knew is not merely one of definitions. It is a problem of power, will, and accountability. The United States intends to have its way and serve its own interests, with Iraq, Cuba, Libya, Iran, the Sudan and many other countries whatever the consequences to the liberties and rights of those who live there.

    The United States control over and its concerted action with the mass media enables it to demonize such countries, its victims, for “terrorism,” threats to world peace and human rights violations at the very time it rains Tomahawk cruise missiles on them and motivates and finances armed insurrections and violence against them. At the same time, the United States increases its own staggeringly large prison industry, more than a million persons confined, including 40% of all African American males between 17 and 27 years old in the State of California.

    Simultaneously the U.S. spends more on its military than the ten largest military budgets of other nations combined, sells most of the arms and sophisticated weapons still increasing worldwide while rejecting an international convention to prohibit land mines and an international court of criminal justice. And the U.S. maintains and deploys the great majority of all weapons of mass destruction existent on earth, nuclear, chemical, biological and the most deadly of all — economic sanctions.

    Are we to believe that causing hunger, illness, and distress equates to loving our brethren as we would ourselves.  Such hypocrisy, I believe breeds the brutality that befalls us and did on that day of infamy.  Congressman Paul and the Iraq Study Commission Report concur.  There is little excuse for obfuscating the facts and for occupying another nation.  What Americans do and have done is not democratic; nor will our behavior advance egalitarian principles. 

    Man’s inhumanity to man explains much of what we are witnessing today.  This construct defines much of what we are part of and propagate.

    I ask us all to imagine what the world might be like if Americans used the ingenuity we often speak of to originate peace and prosperity for all, equally. 

    If citizens of this gluttonous country did not build a nation dependent on petroleum, would wars be as they are.  At least, the magnitude of these might be less.  Man devises the fuel consuming machines that now drive him.

    Granted, humankind might find another cause for hatred.  Nonetheless, if we, the people create a world whose mission is balance, if we work to live in harmony with nature, and did not choose to fight our fellow man for fossil fuels perchance the perils would be fewer.

    Those on the “Right,” frequently considered religious, G-d fearing followers of Ten Commandments, might do well to honor the laws of the Lord Almighty. 

    ‘Thou shalt not kill.’

    ‘Thou shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.’

    Then the sanctimonious “religious right” might know as atheists and agnostics experience.  Violate the Golden Rule; you, and your progeny shall be damned.  If the Lord does not admonish you for your brutal behaviors or reprimand you for your voracity, your fellow man or woman will.

    References, Resources, Religious, and Human Rights . . .

  • Martin: Paul’s 9/11 explanation deserves to be debated, By Roland Martin.  Cable News Network. May 18, 2007
  • Ramsey Clark on the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Third World Traveler.
  • Text of the Ten Commandments. Religious Tolerance.
  • Salvation: Historical and Christian Beliefs. Religious Tolerance.
  • Thou Shalt Love Thy Neighbor as Thyself.  Law of God.  Topical Bible Studies.
  • Mortality before and after the 2003 invasion of Iraq: cluster sample survey.  By Les Roberts, Riyadh Lafta, Richard Garfield, Jamal Khudhairi, Gilbert Burnham. October 29, 2004
  • Sanctions and the Oil-For-Food Programme Global Policy Forum.
  • Iraq Study Report. Iraq Study Group.