Saturday, November 26, 2016

Viva la revoluciĆ³n. Viva Castro!

For what it's worth, Canadians don't buy the American lies about Fidel Castro.   And neither do I, anymore.  Canadians are very proud of having stood by Cuba, an ally, despite the shameful US embargo against that tiny country, which caused incalculable (and unnecessary) poverty and suffering to the Cuban people. For some bullshit theory about Communism taking over the world.   

Try as they might, lie as they might, American leaders have failed over the past 5 decades to convince the Cuban people and most of the world (especially Canada) that the poverty in Cuba is due to its socialist government.  Cuba's poverty is the result of a 54-year trade embargo by the United States, an embargo that completely failed to result in an overthrow of the Castro government.   

Incidentally, Fidel Castro was not primarily a communist; he was never an ideologue, he wasn't following a socialist ideology ... he was a nationalist.  His first concern was Cuba, and his people, and after overthrowing the corrupt US-backed Batista government in 1959, he appealed to the West to support him, to welcome his new government and to help Cuba survive.  He was rebuffed by President Kennedy in the US and Canada's Prime Minister, John Diefenbaker, refused to meet with him.  Castro's government was forced to accept aid from the Soviet Union in order to survive.  Which is the only reason it survived.  Things could've been different, if men had been better, wiser, more courageous, and I don't mean Fidel Castro.  His courage, his resolve, his dedication to his people, was absolute and unquestionable.

The CIA made hundreds of attempts to assassinate Fidel Castro in Cuba.  According to one source, 638 attempts have been documented. They used poisons, exploding cigars (seriously), and they attempted to embarrass him by using a super-hallucinogenic to induce a wild acid trip during a public appearance.  They also tried to use a  "potent depilatory that would cause his beard, eyebrows, and pubic hair to fall out."  

Especially in comparison to his "enemies", Fidel Castro stands tall as a man and a leader.

Canadians are glad they stood by him.

We disagree with the approach the United States has taken with Cuba. We think that our approach is much better – of partnership, of collaboration, of engagement.

It's not our job to tell our friends and allies what they should do or shouldn't do. It is our job to make sure we're doing what we know that we should do, that we can do in terms of creating opportunities for Canadians, for Canadian companies, but also opportunities for Cuba to continue to develop, to modernize, to improve in the many areas that it's building success in.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the University of Havana, 
Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

What was Libya like under the "cruel dictator" Muammar Gaddafi?

I know that Hillary Clinton (as the US Secretary of State) is being blamed for the 2011 overthrow of the Libyan government (that of Muammar Gaddafi) and turned that country into a failed state that is now a major source of violent extremism. It is true that the election of Hillary Clinton to the Presidency would have almost certainly guaranteed more US aggressions for the purpose "regime change" and, consequently, a spread of terrorism. But she didn't act alone ... not at all. With the recent examples of the US failures in Afghanistan and Iraq, what was the overwhelming mood of Americans in 2011 to the use of military force to overthrow another government in Libya? It was shameful. There was almost no opposition in the US except, perhaps, among Libertarians. Certainly not from either of the political parties. Where was the "opposition party" that was so willing to attack Clinton for Benghazi? Silent.

The exaggerated reports of Gaddafi's evil cruelty were swallowed whole by a frightened gullible public.  Propaganda works well on Americans. Too well.

What did the United State do to Libya? Ask, rather, what was Libya like under Gaddafi's dictatorial rule (and, yes, it was dictatorial)?  But how did the people of Libya fare under Gaddafi, at least compared to other nations in that region of the world?

We know, for instance, that everyone in Libya had access to an excellent health care system:

The number of medical doctors and dentists reportedly increased sevenfold between 1970 and 1985, producing a ratio of one doctor per 673 citizens. In 1985 about one-third of the doctors in the Libya were native-born, with the remainder being primarily expatriate foreigners. The number of hospital beds tripled in this same time period. Among major health hazards endemic in the country in the 1970s were typhoid and paratyphoid, infectious hepatitis, leishmaniasis, rabies, meningitis, schistosomiasis, venereal diseases, and the principal childhood ailments. Malaria has been eradicated, and significant progress has been made against trachoma and leprosy. In 1985 the infant mortality rate was 84 per 1,000; by 2004, the U.S. Agency for International Development estimated that the infant mortality rate had dropped to 25.7 per 1,000. Other estimates report an infant mortality rate of less than 20 per 1,000.

We know that primary education was both free to all Libyan citizens and was compulsory:
In 2001 public expenditures on education amounted to about 2.7 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) ... in the early 1980s, estimates of total literacy were between 50 and 60 percent, or about 70 percent for men and 35 percent for women, but the gender gap has since narrowed, especially because of increased female school attendance. For 2001 the United Nations Development Programme’s Human Development Report estimates that the adult literacy rate climbed to about 80.8 percent, or 91.3 percent for males and 69.3 percent for females. According to 2004 U.S. government estimates, 82 percent of the total adult population (age 15 and older) is literate, or 92 percent of males and 72 percent of females.

We know that Libya ranked 55th out of 170 countries on the 2010 United Nations Development Programme’s Human Development Report, which measures overall quality of life. 55th in the entire world!

The government subsidizes medical care and education. A labor law provides for workers’ compensation, pension rights, minimum rest periods, and maximum working hours. The government also heavily subsidizes rent, utilities, oil, and food staples.

It is a fact that the full truth is never exactly what we're told. In the case of the Libyan war, the truth was very much different from what we were being told.  The Libyan war was, first and foremost, a propaganda war; and it was another war for regional power and control of resources.  Concern for human rights or for national self-determination through democratic elections, were non-issues.

So, after decades of relative stability in Libya, especially in relation to the rest of the middle east, why did it suddenly become necessary for the U.S. to support (financially and militarily) Gaddafi's enemies in a civil war?

In January, 2009, Gaddafi announced that he was considering the nationalization of the foreign oil companies in Libya.  He also threatened to grant Russian, Chinese, and Indian oil companies the rights to pump and purchase Libyan oil.  Gaddafi sealed his own fate when he made the mistake Saddam Hussein made when Saddam announced in September 2000 that Iraq was no longer going to accept the U.S. petro-dollar for oil being sold under the UN’s Oil-for-Food program and, instead, Iraq would begin using the euro as Iraq's oil export currency.  Gaddafi, like Hussein before him, threatened U.S. hegemony over the oil resources of the middle east.  That was his real "crime."

Patriotism and "democracy" were used sell yet another neocon war ... and this time, just like every other time, most people bought it.

Just like most people will buy the next one. 

Don't tell me there won't be a "next one." You just wait for it.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Wayne Morse and Ernest Gruening – who were they?

The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution was passed by a joint resolution of the United States Congress on August 7, 1964 and was signed by President Lyndon Johnson three days later.  The Resolution gave the US President congressional authorization to make the first major military strikes (followed by a rapid escalation of the war) on Vietnam and its neighbouring countries without a formal declaration of war by Congress (a requirement of the US Constitution).

The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution gave Johnson the authority to launch the first major military strikes on Vietnam and began a ten-year period of abject shame for the United States.

The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution was passed unanimously in the House of Representatives, but it was opposed in the Senate by two men, both were Democrats which mean they broke with their party in voting their consciences.  Those Senators were Wayne Morse (Oregon) and Ernest Gruening (Alaska). During the debate on the Resolution, Senator Gruening told the Senate that he opposed "sending our American boys into combat in a war in which we have no business, which is not our war, into which we have been misguidedly drawn, which is steadily being escalated".  He was, of course, 100% right in taking that stand.

Morse and Gruening opposed the Resolution for the most honourable of reasons, they believe that the war dishonoured America and, as it turned out, they were both right about that. They didn't do it to garner votes, or to go along with their political party and its leaders, or to gain the approval of their peers.   Moral courage being defined as "the courage to take action for moral reasons despite the risk of adverse consequences," I regard those two votes as acts of courage; extremely rare among political leaders at the time.  Rare even today.

Both men died in 1974, just after the Vietnam war ended. I am glad they saw their act of courage vindicated by events.  We aren't all so fortunate.

Saigon, 1966

Monday, November 7, 2016

The "Mayaguez Incident" (May 1975)

Saigon. The following day, the South Vietnamese government of President Thieu surrendered to the Viet Cong, and that long regrettable war was over.

Earlier in that same month, US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger was quoted in the Washington Post as saying: "The U.S. must carry out some act somewhere in the world which shows its determination to continue to be a world power

The US had been humiliated in its first decisive military defeat. And that's why, in May 1975, the "Mayaguez Incident" became a huge news item; proof that Americans were back from their defeat and on top again. The military operation that "rescued" the crew of the Mayaguez; well, that was the proof. Except, the story spun as propaganda was not quite true.

So, what actually happened?

The Mayaguez was an American cargo ship that had sailed from South Vietnam in mid-May 1975 en route to Thailand. As it passed an island which belonged to Cambodia (a country the US had bombed during the Vietnam war, it was stopped by the Cambodians, whose government had recently fallen to the Khmer Rouge. The ship was forced into an island port, and the crew was place on a fishing boat and moved to the Cambodian mainland. The crew was questioned about spying, but at no time were any of them mistreated, and they later said they were treated respectfully and courteously. The Cambodians, convinced that the ship was not spying, released the crew and put them on a fishing boat headed for an American fleet. That was about 6:15 P.M. [all times are EDT] on Wednesday, May 14. At 7 P.M, Phnom Penh radio, which is heard in Bangkok, announced the release of the Mayaguez crew. That transmission was intercepted by the CIA station in Bangkok and translated.

There is little doubt that the Americans in knew of the crew's release. Nevertheless, the Marine assault ordered by President Gerald Ford on Koh Tang Island (where the Mayaguez crew had been held before being taken by ship to the Cambodian mainland) was not halted That assault was a disaster. Four of 11 helicopters transporting the Marines (CH-53s) were shot down, five more were disabled. 12 Marines were killed in the initial assault, from gunfire and drowning, and one-third of the Marine landing force (65 out of 200) were soon dead or wounded (which, by the way, exceeds the casualty rate in the Marine invasion of Iwo Jima). 23 more were killed in a helicopter crash (which was quickly hushed up) in Thailand during the evacuation of Koh Tang Island.

Final toll: 41 US Marines dead. 15 killed in action; 3 MIA and presumed dead, 23 killed in an evacuation helicopter crash. 50 wounded. And they "rescued" no one.

The Mayaguez assault on Koh Tang was the last official battle of the Vietnam War. The names of the Americans killed, as well as those of three U.S. Marines who were left behind on the island of Koh Tang after the battle and were subsequently executed by the Khmer Rouge, are the final names on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. 

President Ford actually went on U.S. national television to announce the heroic recovery of the Mayaguez and the rescue of its crew, but he conveniently forgot to mention the fact that the crew had in fact been released voluntarily by the Khmer Rouge.

The 1975 Mayaguez Incident was a fiasco for the US military. But that's not at all the way you heard it, is it?


Thursday, November 3, 2016

Have Americans completely abandoned their belief in the "natural rights of man" ?

Americans make a huge deal out of their founding documents (the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution), but few would acknowledge that those documents, and the United States itself, were founded on "natural rights."

What are "natural rights"?   These are the rights of all human beings; rights we all enjoy simply because we are human beings.  These rights are not granted by governments, or laws, or constitutions and, therefore, they cannot be abolished by governments.

Natural rights are the rights of all people, everywhere ... not granted by virtue of citizenship in any one country or adherence to any of the "one true" religions.

I'm not going to try to sell libertarian principles, but I would say this, libertarian thought is completely grounded, just like the United States itself, in the whole notion of "natural rights."  Libertarianism is completely consistent with every founding principle of the American nation.   The whole basis of libertarian thought is based primarily on the recognition of natural rights.  And if you want to understand American principles, read a modern explanation of libertarian theory.  I'd recommend the first three Chapters of Murray Rothbard's book For a New Liberty: The Libertarian Manifesto, first published in 1973. (download it for free)

If you prefer to avoid modern libertarian ideas completely (and I think that's understandable), you really need to read the works of those Western thinkers of the "enlightenment" whose ideas spawned the American revolution. John Locke (1632–1704) was one of the first and most  prominent of those who conceptualized rights as natural and inalienable. Locke, Thomas Hobbes, even Thomas Paine (Common Sense and Rights of Man), Alexander Hamilton and James Madison (the Federalist Papers).

Thomas Jefferson in the 1776 United States Declaration of Independence, famously condensed this to:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they 
are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights ...

Thus, America, perhaps uniquely in the annals of history, was a nation born in an explicitly libertarian revolution, a revolution against global empire; against taxation, corporate favoritism (primarily trade monopoly), and against militarism and concentrated centralized power (in a monarch or chief executive).

But Americans have strayed far from that tradition, and have changed dramatically to become the most powerful enemies of the notion of natural rights on the planet, systematically destroying it everywhere, replacing it with the idea that rights are a gift to other nations by the great and wonderful United States.  No matter if hundreds of thousands of people are dying; at least they're free from communism, or Islamist fundamentalism, or some other "-ism" just as evil.

And the US has a list of other nations that it wants to "gift" with their form of democracy.  I just can't understand why they'd resist, can you?

Most Americans are 1) authoritarians and 2) they are statists.  Both of those things stand in opposition to the concept of natural rights. Most Americans today believe that any rights we enjoy are granted by the laws created by men, protected by the armies of men, and are limited to those people who live under the protection of those states which recognize these rights in their legal systems.

The traditional American notion, long since abandoned, is that we all (every human being by virtue of our humanity) possess certain unalienable rights (we cannot be separated from them).  The men who enshrined this belief in the American Declaration of Independence believed so strongly in natural rights that they considered it a "self-evident" truth; in other words, they believed it was an obvious truth that didn't need further justification.  At that time, if you'll recall, the concept of natural rights certainly wasn't obvious or recognized by those who believed in the so-called "Divine Right of Kings", the monarchists or Tories who believed that defying the will of the King was heresy, the King ruled by divine appointment, not by the "consent of the governed."

Most Americans are authoritarians.  It surprised me when I realized that.  I had been so steeped in the "myth" of the rugged, courageous and independent American, I wasn't able to see how badly the myth differs from reality.  Americans are largely followers.  And while I thought for a long time that the Democratic Party offered an alternative to the "goose-stepping" obedience of the Republicans that surrounded me in the Deep South, that notion was shattered when Democrats gave their unquestioning support and allegiance (especially in the first two years of his 1st term in office) to the war policies of President Obama.  Because he was "their" leader, everything they criticized the former President for was suddenly A-OK.  Authoritarian followers.

Most Americans are statists. Statists believe that a large, powerful, central government is desirable; they may argue endlessly over whether that government should be be primarily a "welfare state" or a "warfare state," but in the end, neither side being willing to compromise on its goals for society, Americans will continue to live with government attempts to have both.  And, in the end, they'll live under a totalitarian state, essentially one that is financially unsustainable, and an enemy to liberty.

In short, Americans believe that government grants them their rights; and government can rescind those rights.  
And I don't accept that belief.  Do you?  To the contrary, that implicit trust in government is all that is necessary to ensure those rights will be abridged.