Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Are you an "Oath Keeper"?

I was surprised to learn that Oath Keepers (founded nine years ago) still exists.  The group was founded in March, 2009 by Stewart Rhodes, a lawyer and former US Army paratrooper, coincidentally with the inauguration of President Obama.  Oath Keepers organizes former and current military and police to be prepared to resist all unconstitutional orders. As a result, they have been attacked by everyone from Bill O’Reilly on the right (who called them "anarchists") to Bill Clinton on the left (who linked them with "terrorists").

The "Oath" in Oath Keepers refers to the oath military servicemen and servicewomen and police take to defend the constitution. Stewart Rhodes claims he founded OathKeepers to help "defend the constitution from its enemies," most of whom, he believes are in or around the government.

Rhodes thinks neither liberals nor conservatives recognize the need to limit government to Constitutional bounds. "Picture a Venn diagram with 2 overlapping circles," he says. "People in each circle only object to what's going on when they are not in power. But there is a third section that, no matter who is in power, they care about the constitution and distrust those in power. My goal is to grow that third part of the population.” Among the "consistent Americans," Rhodes includes feminist author Naomi Wolf, Congressman Dennis Kucinich, and Congressman Ron Paul.  Two of them are liberals, the third a Libertarian; none of them are rightwing. Oath Keepers isn't partisan.

That all sounds great.  "We're not a political organization!" they claim loudly, "We champion liberty, American values, and upholding the Constitution, regardless of which political party is power."

Oath Keepers' lists Ten Orders We Will Not Obey. These include: "We will not obey orders to disarm the American people, conduct warrantless searches, detain American citizens as 'unlawful enemy combatants' or to subject them to military tribunal, impose martial law or a 'state of emergency' on a state, or invade and subjugate any state that asserts its sovereignty."

But wait.  Wait.  Just hold on a minute ... aren't these the very things the US began doing, in the name of its "War on Terror", 8 years before this organization was conceived?  Then why was this group founded only after the political party in power shifted?

The are the very same rightwing "patriots" who meekly and submissively accepted a major shift toward a police state 17 years ago.  They were silent about all of these things ... completely silent:

  • presidential claims of unlimited executive power
  • limitless imprisonment with no legal recourse
  • warrantless intrusive searches
  • warrantless wiretaps
  • creation of massive databases on citizens
  • repudiation of habeas corpus
  • redefining cruel and unusual punishment as "enhanced interrogation"
  • suppression of dissent
  • arbitrary no-fly lists
  • endless overseas wars

Isn't it ironic that this group was perfectly ok with all of these things as long as they were being done by a large, powerful, and growing federal government that was in the control of "their" political party?  Then, suddenly, after a change of power, they discovered their principles?  Just like that?  Or did they only oppose all these actions by the federal government because they don't like the political party in control?  That would make their motives political, not principled. That's loathsome.  They think all these things are fine, when they are being done to "others."  But if they think they're the ones who might be the targets, then, and only then, they choose to be upset?

These are people, who love to stroke each other at silly flag rallies where they talk about the right to own assault weapons.  But at a time when they needed to take a stand; at a time when true courage and principle were required; they stood down, and remained silent.  Compliant.  Submissive to authority.

When it took courage to stand up and oppose the actions of a runaway government; they were silent.  When public opinion was against those of us who opposed America's perpetual series of wars; they were silent.  When it took guts to oppose the things they claim to oppose; they remained gutless.

These aren't patriots at all; and they are certainly not leaders; these are weak followers of authority; the tools of that authority.

And now they want our respect NOW?   I don't think that's gonna happen.

Respect has to be earned; it's not a right.  And that, friend, is a true American principle.

Oath Keepers and True Patriots, 1941

Sunday, March 25, 2018

A demonstrated weakness of character is hard to redeem

The United States once set a high standard for the rest of the world to aspire to.  You remember that, right?

And a tremendous amount of American power (influence) was due to that high moral standard.  Call it admiration or respect, whatever, much of the world (the developed world, certainly) let the US lead in nearly all great matters: war, technology, business, industry, because of the high standard Americans demonstrated to others.

It is my belief that, by changing themselves, by demonstrating an inability to stand by their own stated principles when it mattered most to do so, Americans demonstrated a huge weakness.  A weakness of character.

Forget America's abuses of others ... the real abuse is of those things that, for so long, defined "American".  

Americans betrayed their own stated principles – Americans betrayed themselves – before they ever waterboarded a single prisoner in a secret CIA prison or killed women and children in a robotic drone strike.  Before they ever betrayed another living soul, they betrayed themselves. And that is what other nations (like Canada) are trying to avoid.  Canada is trying to remember what being "Canadian" means.  To abandon that, without strong justification, is simply too expensive.  It's too high a price to pay.  Americans (and this is, really, just my own opinion) will realize that there is no reward worth the price they have paid to have their fears assuaged. To be stroked by liars.

The damage Americans did to their own nation's credibility abroad has been immeasurable, literally incalculable, and the loss of respect is irredeemable.

Suck it up.

10 Years Ago: Dick Cheney's astonishing pro-war campaign

From ABC News, 3/24/08:

Cheney on Iraq: 'It's Important to Win'

Vice President Discusses Grim Milestone of 4,000 U.S. Dead in
Five-Year Iraq War


In an exclusive interview with ABC News, Vice President Dick Cheney
was asked what effect the grim milestone of at least 4,000 U.S. deaths
in the five-year Iraq war might have on the nation.

Noting the burden placed on military families, the vice president said
the biggest burden is carried by President George W. Bush, who made
the decision to commit US troops to war, and reminded the public that
U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan volunteered for duty.


That really is one astonishing interview.  In that one short interview, Dick Cheney managed to tell the American people that their opinions mean absolutely nothing to him.  In the same interview, he said that the 4,000 American Iraq war dead were all of volunteer soldiers.  They knew what they were getting into when they signed up, right?  It's their own faults. One week before, Cheney had answered "So?" when he was informed that 2/3 of the American public say the war was not worth fighting.  [verify it]

Ten years ago, in multiple interviews, US Vice-President Dick Cheney essentially told the American people to take their opinions and shove 'em you-know-where.

And he had the nerve to state that "the president carries the biggest burden for the war."  Not the 4,000 American soldiers who had died, or the 35,000+ who had been wounded, or their families ... no, it was the President who had sacrificed and suffered.  It was the President who lied his nation into this now 15-year-long war that Americans should all be concerned about; it was the pain and suffering of President George W. Bush that mattered most.

What an utterly contemptuous attitude that was.   I believe Americans show no self-respect when they're willing to allow leaders like this to keep their country involved in a war like Iraq.

As for Dick Cheney ... I'll call him what he is.  He's a gutless, draft-dodging, coward. 

He's a chickenhawk.  And he's a war criminal.

And Americans who accepted leaders like that are no better than he is.

Monday, March 19, 2018

15 years of war, and a staggering death toll

Today, 19 March, marks 15 years since the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.   Most Americans think that the number of Iraqi deaths that resulted from that invasion are fewer than 100,000.  Few Americans know that the most reliable estimates exceed 1 million, and most of those innocent civilians.  

Most Americans think that the war in Iraq is over, or has certainly wound down in the past couple of years.  Most don't realize that, since several major cities in Iraq and Syria fell to Islamic State in 2014, the US has led the heaviest bombing campaign since Vietnam, dropping 105,000 bombs and guided missiles, reducing cities like Mosul to rubble, killing thousands of civilians, knowingly and quite deliberately.

What can one say about the use of air strikes and especially robotic drones, both piloted from safe locations, targeting residential neighbourhoods, knowing that civilian lives will be lost, but discounting those lives as the "unfortunate collateral damage" of war?

As for terrorism being a coward's way of fighting ... it isn't any more moral to kill civilians with machines.  That's the same evil.  

There is no moral difference between a terrorist who deliberately targets civilians and the use of robotic drones against villages, knowing that civilian lives will be lost, but discounting those lives as the "unfortunate collateral damage" of war.  Both claim that their "end justifies the means", a morally-empty defense.  One attacker, though, is perhaps more honest about his intentions than the other.

The scale of America's killing is staggering.  Why aren't Americans able to understand this:  consider ... Iraq is a nation of fewer than 40 million people. If death and homelessness of a commensurate scale to that Iraq has suffered was visited on the US (of 330 million inhabitants), we would be looking at somewhere between 60 million and 100 million people whose lives were disrupted by a military invasion and occupation by a foreign army. As many as 21 million people dead in American streets. Slaughter and mayhem on a scale Americans can't conceive.  

Imagine that a foreign army invades the US and kills 21 million people.  How would Americans react?  How should they react?

What would you do if that happened to your country, and you were courageous and loved your country?   Would you defend your family against the invaders?

Would you support a violent insurgency against your country's occupier and its puppet government? Would you support the use of any means necessary to defeat that occupier in your own country?

Why should anyone else act any differently in their own homeland?

Don't believe the lie (as I did until fairly recently) that the people of Iraq are so badly divided against one another (along religious sectarian or tribal lines) that peace and stability is impossible without US intervention. While it is true that sectarian (tribal) loyalties override nationalism in Iraq, it is also true that the people of Iraq overwhelmingly support a nationalist government, unlike the current series of US-puppet governments. Iraqis want a government which protects their lives, their interests, and their resources from foreign murderers and thieves. That was where Saddam Hussein drew his support, from the people who believed the nation was threatened by external interests and forces.  Like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran, Hussein kept power by convincing the people that their futures were threatened by the United States, and its allies. And, you know what? Events have proved Hussein 100% right about that.  At least in the eyes of the Iraqi people.

Iraq's current government wants to "privatize" Iraq's vast oil resources and cede substantial control of the oil sector to "regional" authorities. The people see this as taking what is rightfully theirs, and dividing it among foreign companies (just like Sykes-Picot in 1916).

The violence in Iraq is caused by, and is prolonged by, the US occupation.  The people of Iraq want it ended. And they're paying the ultimate price for their freedom. That freedom be all the more valuable to them when they attain it.  But, you know what?  They will never again ... never again ... trust the Americans. That's the victory that was handed to radical extremist Islamists by the incompetence of US leadership, born of an utter ignorance of history.  That decided the outcome of this war.  

I believe the world will eventually unite to halt US aggressions.  I know that's an idealistic hope, probably unrealistic.  Nevertheless, I fervently desire it.
Charles Aulds
19 March, 2018

Saturday, February 10, 2018

My brief synopsis of the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis

I was born in 1957.  I was a total Cold War kid.  One of my earliest memories is of the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.  My father (a carrier-based dive-bomber pilot who served on the maiden cruise of the USS Forrestal in 1956) was an active reservist in 1962.  He packed his bags in October 1962, but I do not remember if he actually reported for service.  I was too young to remember anything but the fear.  I remember the fear. 

I was always taught that the Cuban Missile Crisis was an American victory in defending our hemisphere against Soviet aggression.  Utter bullshit.

The US was attempting to restore its own control over the government of Cuba, using force.  The US was the aggressor.  The US nearly brought the world into a nuclear war, killing, quite possibly hundreds of millions of innocent people.  The US acted dishonourably in Cuba.

What have I learned, since, about what really happened?

After the Spanish-American War (a war of expansionisn that US waged to take control of Spanish possessions) the US dominated Cuba's economy and its government.  By 1905, US mining companies controlled 80 percent of Cuba’s exports of copper ore and 10 percent of Cuba's land belonged to giant American-owned agriculture estates. The US restricted the right to vote to literate Cuban landowners, excluding the majority of Cubans and empowering the elite who they controlled and who were selling off Cuba.

This went on for decades and the majority of Cubans were forced into poverty while rich gangsters funnelled the country's resources into American hands.

In 1952, General Fulgencio Batista, with the backing of the Cuban military, the US government and an American Jewish mobster named Meyer Lansky, staged a coup and seized power, ousted the President, Carlos Prío Socarrás, and canceled the elections which were to be held three months later. Batista appointed his American friend Lansky "minister of gambling" and the police were told to turn a blind eye to prostitution and drug smuggling in Havana. Another mob friend of Batista's was the Mafioso Lucky Luciano.  From 1952 to 1959, Havana was a Mafia playground.  In return for giving the Mafia free free reign in Cuba, Batista took a 10-30 percent "skim" from the brothels (which employed 10,000–12,000 prostitutes), the 13 mob-controlled casinos, and all the other interesting criminal enterprises.  

Batista and the American were raping Cuba.  

It was under Batista's regime that a young Fidel Castor began arming and training anti-Batista revolutionary soldiers, the majority from Havana's poorer districts ... people who were most exploited by Cuba's American Mafia-controlled government.  Communist ideology had nothing to do with Castro's revolution. Fidel Castro might've have the makings of a dictator, himself, but he certainly was not a communist.  

"I don’t agree with communism. We are democracy. We are against all kinds of dictators. That is why we oppose communism."

– Fidel Castro, 1959

After an unsuccessful attempt at a revolutionary overthrow of the Batista government, Castro was arrested and exiled from Cuba to Mexico.  When he returned to Cuba, with the Argentine doctor and veteran guerrilla fighter Che Guevara in December 1956, Castro's began a very successful guerrilla war against Batista’s troops. After Batista's army had its ass kicked by Catro's guerrilla forces, Batista fled the country on January 1, 1959, taking an immense amount of Cuba's wealth with him (thank you, America).

Here's where the story really gets interesting.  Castro was still not a Communist.  He was a Cuban nationalist rather than communist revolutionary.  Castro wanted to establish a democracy in Cuba that would be an ally to the West.  He sought the recognition (respect) of the United States, who he did not consider an enemy of Cuba.  He appealed to the US for economic aid and support in rebuilding the country as a new democratic republic ... you know, founded like the United States itself, in revolution against tyranny.

The US President Eisenhower rebuffed the new Cuban government’s requests for recognition and assistance.  Castro turned to Canada for help.  When Castro flew to Montreal in 1959, Prime Minister John Diefenbaker, afraid of offending the US, refused to meet with him.  Castro, seeing no other choice, turned to the Soviet Union for help in establishing a new government in Cuba.  The Soviets responded favourably, which frightened the US.  The US, instead offering Castro assurance of security, cut off diplomatic relations with Cuba in February 1960. In June of that same year, the US imposed a trade embargo on Cuba (which was actually an act of war), determined to destroy Casto's new government.  Of course, that only pushed Castro closer to the Soviets, and he appealed to them for military assistance to defend his tiny country against American aggression which was already being planned.  In April, 1961, the US made a failed attempt to invade Cuba and overthrow the Castro government.  That was the Bay of Pigs assault.  .And that was when the Soviets decided to deploy medium-range defensive nuclear missiles in Cuba to defend an ally that was being threatened by the US.  

The Cuban Missile Crisis actually went down in less than a week:

  • Monday, October 22, 1962:  The American people learned of the developing crisis.
  • Tuesday October 23, 1962:  Reconnaissance showed that some Soviet missiles appear to be launch-ready.
  • Thursday, October 25, 1962:  JFK sent a letter to Nikita Khrushchev demanding the removal of all nuclear missiles from Cuba.
  • Friday, October 26, 1962:  Khrushchev offered a compromise; the Soviets would remove its defensive missiles from Cuba only if the United States publicly pledged that it would never invade Cuba again.  
  • Saturday, October 27 1962: Khrushchev added an additional condition for the removal of Soviet missiles from Cuba:  The US would remove its own nuclear missiles from Italy and Turkey, where were aimed at the Soviet Union, particularly those in Turkey, which were on the border of the Soviet Union. Through back channels communications, the US agreed to Khruschev's conditions.
  • Sunday, October 28, 1962:  Khrushchev announced in a radio broadcast that he would remove all missiles from Cuba.  And, a few months later, American Jupiter rockets were quietly withdrawn from Turkey as well.

Nikita Khrushchev not only defended an ally against a hostile aggressor, but he also forced the removal of nuclear-armed missiles along the border of the Soviet Union.  He won.

The US, on the other hand, mishandled the situation from start to finish and acted dishonourably in Cuba and toward the Cuban people.  

The propaganda lies be damned.

Here's a good 5-minute video synopsis of the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis:  https://youtu.be/bwWW3sbk4EU.   Don't miss the account of the one true hero of this entire affair, Vasili Arkhipov (at the 2m28s mark of the video).

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Try to understand the other side of America's many wars of aggression

In every war, you have to look at both perspectives. To Americans, the Vietnamese were evil commies that hate us for our freedom. To the Vietnamese, Americans were barbaric invaders trying to destroy their country.

In reality, the Viet Cong were heroes defending their homeland from foreign invasion. the USA was the aggressor, just like in every war it has fought in my lifetime. The US went all the way around the world to invade a tiny country in Southeast Asia.  To kill, rape, loot, and spray their food crop with Agent Orange. Yet Americans labeled the Viet Cong as evil. The lack of self awareness is absolutely stunning.  The hypocrisy of it is unescapable.

Was Vietnam really a threat to the United State? Did Vietnam invade the American homeland? The answer is obvious. The sad part is Americans praise their veterans as war heroes but they are actually war criminals. Yeh ... thank you for your service war crimes. Thank you for allowing others to control your actions and make you perform evil deeds.  That took real guts.

One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter.

Americans should understand that better than anyone else ... not because they studied what their country did in Indochina ... but because the spirit of the Vietnamese who opposed them should resonate with their own.

In 1945, when the Vietnamese established the new constitutional and democratic Republic of Vietnam, they used the US Declaration of Independence as a model, and quoted it directly in their own Declaration of Independence. 
(read it) Why? Because the United States once set a standard by which most of the world wanted to live ... a belief that there are certain natural rights that we all possess from birth. The Vietnamese were claiming that promise. They were claiming the rights that the Americans told them were theirs.

For thirty years, the Vietnamese fought the United States for the very rights the US claimed were the "inalienable rights" of all men, everywhere, of every race, culture and creed. And the United States steadfastly refused to uphold the rights claimed by the Vietnamese; the very rights that Americans had proclaimed the "universal rights of man." I'm not saying America betrayed the Vietnamese. I'm saying Americans betrayed themselves in Vietnam.

It is a basic American belief that we are all entitled to the same basic rights (at least to the extent that our societies can protect those). Most importantly, Amercians are to believe that the best possibility of a better life, the best hope of a just society, lies in the vital trust we place in the premise that a free self-governing people are the best diviners of their collective destiny; the best government is that which is "of, by and for the people." Not a government that attempts to restrict liberty using the excuse of security.

And that belief lies on the foundation of another important belief:  that we protect our own rights by defending the rights of others.

You want to live free? You want your rights respected? Then respect and defend the rights and freedom of others.

    Saigon, 1966

Saturday, January 13, 2018

All I need to know about WikiLeaks

All I need to know about WikiLeaks is that if it wasn't for WikiLeaks, we would never have known about the US military attempt to hide an incident in which civilians (including two journalists) were machine-gunned from helicopters while the gunners laughed.  That attack occurred three years before WikiLeaks released the "Collatoral Murder" video.

If not for WikiLeaks, that airstrike would have been completely covered up; it simply would never have happened.  Because the government would have decided what truths we have a right to know, and which we're best kept from knowing.  Reality or history would become what they choose it to be.

"Who controls the past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past" 

– George Orwell, 1984

If not for the brave people who have risked everything to bring truth to light, we would never have known about the 2009 Granai Airstrike in which as many as 140 civilians (mostly children) were killed, we would never have known about Abu Ghraib, the waterboarding of detainees, the secret prisons in which people are held indefinitely without legal recourse, the program of secret renditions, Guantanamo Bay.  Hell, go further back ... we would never have know about the massacre at My Lai in 1968.

Sometimes willful ignorance is not a suitable choice.  And it is never an honorable one.  Should it really require a major act of courage simply to accept the truth and to deal with it?  Something is terribly wrong in a society that prefers lies to the truth. Vast stockpiles of WMD, anyone?

Why has the United States government tried so hard to discredit WikiLeaks?  To prevent more embarrassing releases?  Yes, of course. Protect corporate secrets?  Yes.  Frighten truth-tellers into silence?  Yes.  All of these things, yes; but mostly the US government wants to preserve its control over our access to the truth.  They want the power to make the truth whatever they choose it to be.  They want to control reality (or our perception of it, which is the same thing).  Does that sound sinister?  Paranoid?  Then so be it.  Because it's also the truth.

If the U.S. government is successful in silencing WikiLeaks; they will have struck a blow at truth.  Ultimately, though, they want to strike a blow, not at those who would publish truth ... but at those who would read it.  People like you and me.  They want you to choose ignorance.  Ultimately, their target is a public that is empowered and informed by the truth.  That's why they are dead serious about assaulting your right to know.  What about you?  How serious are you about defending it?

All I need to know about WikiLeaks is that we need it.  We need it badly.