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:   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.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Five American myths about the Canadian Health Care system

Several years ago, during the heated debate over the Affordable Care Act or "Obamacare" (which, as my wife pointed out to me, is not a "heath care" program, but is a "health insurance" program) I compiled a list of myths I've heard propagated about Canada's universal single-payer health system.

By far the most prevalent myth about the Canadian health care system is that it is government-run. That is a gross misunderstanding, but a common one.  The health care system in Canada is not run by the government; it is funded by the government; and there is a huge difference.  Nearly all health care in Canada is provided by private providers and administered by private or non-profit organizations.  None of the four hospitals whose services we've used are administered or owned by the government; they merely bill the government for services rendered under the provincial Medicare program.  The provincial government (not federal) is their primary client for billing purposes only.  Medical provides just have to abide by the Canada Health Act of 1984, which basically guarantees every Canadian resident equal access to all "medically necessary" health care services, without co-payments of any kind.

Americans badly need a health care system like the one we enjoy in Canada; where doctors and hospitals have one customer for billing:  their provincial government.  The Canadian government, certainly at the federal level, does not concern itself with health care provision.  

Myth:  Medicare is a Canadian-wide federal government program.  Canada's Medicare system is not a federal program, and is not administrated by the federal government; it is provincial, and service varies, coverage varies, taxes vary, between provinces.  In some provinces, people pay insurance premiums for Medicare; in New Brunswick it is free, but here we don't have prescription drug coverage under the age of 65 (I have employer-provided supplemental insurance coverage for medications).  The only thing the federal government has to do with Medicare is to set "guidelines" for the provinces to ensure that every Canadian resident has equal access to all "medically necessary" health care services, without co-payments of any kind, under the auspices of the Canada Health Act.  Incidentally, access to medical care is a right of all human beings under the 1948 UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was written, incidentally, by a New Brunswicker, John Peters Humphrey.

Myth:  Wait times for medically-necessary procedures are long in Canada.  I know there are horror stories, I've heard them too, but I'm not aware of anyone, personally, who has gone without badly-needed medical treatment ... elective surgery can have long waits.  If you have a need to see a  medical specialist, at least in New Brunswick, you go immediately in most cases. That's my personal experience, in this province.  
As for waiting linefor health care ... how many Americans wait the remainder of their natural lives for necessary medical procedures?  Far too many.

Myth:  Government bureaucrats, not doctors, make medical decisions in Canada.  It is important that every one understand that, in Canada, the only people who are allowed to make decisions about who gets care are physicians.  In the United States, by contract, HMOs and other private medical insurers do indeed make decisions about who gets what care (it's probably more appropriate to say "who gets denied the care they need).  In Canada, medical decisions are left entirely up to doctors, and there are no requirements for pre-authorization whatsoever.   If your family doctor says you need an MRI, you get an MRI.  In the U.S., if an insurance administrator or HMO rep says you are not getting an MRI, then you're not getting  one regardless of what your doctor thinks — unless, of course, you pay for it out of your own pocket.  I bet you there are far more Americans paying for necessary medical procedures out of their own pockets than there Canadians who find it necessary to do that.

Myth:  The government "manages" patient care in Canada.  Another misconception among Americans is the government of Canada "manages" patient care.  That's a gross misunderstanding, but a common one.  The health care system in Canada is not run by the government; it is funded by the government; there is a huge difference.  Medical treatment is solely the responsibility of doctors, not the Medicare system and its administrators.   This is complete unlike Health Management Organizations (HMOs)  in the US, where, essentially, a corporation DOES make medical decisions.  In Canada, a doctor's relationship to his patient is a professional medical one only; and doctors bill the government for services rendered under Medicare.  The doctor isn't forced to deal with insurance claims or payment collections.  It's much better that way.

Myth:  Doctors in Canada work for the federal government and draw civil servants' salaries.  Nearly all health care in Canada is provided by private providers and administered by private or non-profit organizations.  None of the four hospitals we've used are directly administered by the government:

  • The Dr. Georges-L. Dumont Regional [francophone] Hospital is run by the Vitalité Health Network, (or Réseau de santé Vitalité, if you prefer), which employs 7500 people about about 500 physicians in this province, none of whom are government employees.
  • The Stella-Maris-de-Kent [francophone] Hospital in Sainte-Anne is also run by the Vitalité Health Network.
  • The Moncton [anglophone] Hospital, is run by the Horizon Health Network which employs 13,000 people, and over 1,000 physicians in this province, none of whom are government employees. 
  • The IWK Health Centre in Halifax is 100% privately-owned and funded by a charitable foundation called the IWK Health Centre Foundation (be generous, please, with your tax-deductible contributions).
Americans badly needed a health care plan like Canada's; a single-payer, universal health care plan that is not run by the government.  Unfortunately, Obamacare is not it.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

The majority of people have always been "sheeple"

I moved my family to Canada, from rural north Alabama, in October 2005, largely because my antiwar views made me the target of hate in my community, but more importantly, because I no longer recognized the people I lived among. Not because they changed, suddenly, but because (at the age of 48) I saw them for what they really were, and what I risked becoming.

I spent the first four decades of my life in six different Bible Belt US states. The only thing that made me different from others was the fact that I refused to become part of a lynch-mob bent on vengeance. I stood by my values; and for that, I was forced out of the tribe.

I had to grow up and face a hard fact.  I had spent most of my life believing there was only one way to live; that the generations who preceded us have shown us that way; and any departure from it was, by definition, simply "off-course". To the extent that I deviated from the norm, I considered myself a basically recalcitrant person; maybe not evil, but not as ideologically pure as my good Southern Baptist Christian conservative neighbours, family, friends ... it was with great astonishment that I watched every one of those "good" people betray values they claimed to hold sacrosanct. It was at a very advanced stage of life that I understood that what passes for principled living for most people is just a matter of conformity.

I love living in Canada. I am glad that I will die here.

And the political system in the US? One of my biggest regrets in life is having trusted it, and involving myself in it. What a waste of time and energy.

Most people, in every culture, in all ages, have been obedient followers of the established authority – sheeple.   That's never gonna change.

That's not a new notion, by any means.  I read it recently in the first of a two-volume set I bought in a local used bookstore of H.G. Wells's The Outline of History (1920)  ... here it is:

There was a process of enslavement as civilization grew; the headmen and leaderly men grew in power and authority, and the common man did not keep pace with them; he fell by imperceptible degrees into a tradition of dependence and subordination.

On the whole, the common men were fairly content to live under lord or king or god and obey their bidding.  It was safer.  It was easier.  All animals – and man is no exception – begin life as dependents.  Most men never shake themselves loose from the desire for leading and protection.  Most men accept such conditions as they are born to, without further questions.

In [James Henry] Breasted's Religion and Thought in Ancient Egypt (1912), he gives various stories and passages to show that before 2,000 B.C. there was social discontent, but it was a naive unrevolutionary discontent.  There are complaints that men are treacherous and that judges are unjust.  Rich men are capricious and exacting and do not pity and help the poor.  There are quarrels about the scale of payment, and strikes against bad food and health conditions.  But there is no question of the right of Pharaoh to rule nor of the righteousness of riches.  There is no challenge to the social order; never do the complaints materialize into action.

– Volume 1, H.G. Wells The Outline of History (1920)

It was safer.  It was easier."

At no time has it ever been more apparent to me that most people are incapable of being anything more than the servants of the established authority.  And it was foolish to even believe they have a desire to be anything more; anything better.

We are where we are because people are what they are.  Not because of corrupt leaders.  Canadians know that.  America's leadership is a reflection of what the nation has become.  The leaders are merely a reflection of the greater society.  Essentially unprincipled.

Don't waste your time trying to change that natural order.  It may sound trite, but be the change you want to see in the world.  That's all any of us can do.

Change yourself.  

Sunday, December 17, 2017

National health care systems reflect a society's values

I was recently sent a scanned copy of this editorial which appeared in Newsweek magazine 6 years ago, in which the viewpoint was expressed that a country's health-care system reflects the societal values that predominate in that country.  Examples are provided. That article is available online.

The design of any country's health-care system involves political,
medical, and economic decisions. But the primary issue for any
health-care system is a moral question: should a rich society provide
health care to everyone who needs it? If a nation answers yes to
that moral question, it will build a health-care system like the ones in
Britain, Germany, Canada, France, and Japan, where everybody is
covered. If a nation doesn't decide to provide universal coverage,
then you're likely to end up with a system where some people get the
finest medical care on earth in the finest hospitals, and tens of
thousands of others are left to die for lack of care. Without the moral
commitment, in other words, you end up with a system like America's.

I was 48 years old when immigrated to Canada in 2005, with my wife and daughter (who was 14 at the time). At that time, Canada had a new conservative government and "privatisation" of the health care system was a hot topic. I think the Obamacare" debate in the States educated a lot of Canadians about our own health care system.

Under the auspices of the NAFTA treaty (as skilled work immigrants) we became eligible for Medicare after a three month wait). And we have no complaints.

The Canadian single-payer health care system is often criticized for long wait times for non-emergency medical procedures.  It is true that any non-emergency surgery, though, is likely to put you on a waiting list.  But in an emergency – a real emergency – you go straight to the head of the line, if your doctors says you need a procedure; you get it.  Without waiting.

In Canada, medical decisions are left entirely up to doctors, and there are no requirements for pre-authorization whatsoever  If your family doctor says you need an MRI, you get an MRI.  I did, immediately, in August 2012, after an accident.  No "waiting list".  In the US, if an insurance administrator or HMO rep says you are not getting an MRI, then you're not getting one regardless of what your doctor thinks — unless, of course, you pay for it out of your own pocket.  Which is why far more Americans are paying for necessary medical procedures out of their own pockets than there are Canadians who find it necessary to do that.  

As this article points out, "while the U.S. lets some 700,000 people go bankrupt due to medical bills each year, the number of medical bankruptcies in Canada is precisely zero." What's that worth to a society?

Health care spending, per-capita, and as a percentage of national GDP, is higher in the US than anywhere else in the world.  It's all about profit.  Not people.  And that has become a reflection of American society.  Profit before people.  It's a recipe for failure in any society.