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By Paul DeRienzo
The latest in a series of troubling mishaps at the aging Indian Point nuclear power plant a week ago Saturday prompted a shutdown or “trip” of one of the two operating reactor units on the site and the dispatch of inspectors from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
By David Swanson, for teleSUR
David Swanson unmasks the propaganda logic behind Amazon.com's "Man in the High Castle" and U.S. celebrations of failure
The United States is indisputably the world's most frequent and extensive wager of aggressive war, largest occupier of foreign lands, and biggest weapons dealer to the world. But when the United States peeps out from under the blankets where it lies shivering with fear, it sees itself as an innocent victim. It has no holiday to keep any victorious battle in everyone's mind. It has a holiday to remember the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor -- and now also one, perhaps holier still, to recall, not the "shock and awe" destruction of Baghdad, but the crimes of September 11, 2001, the "new Pearl Harbor."
Similar to Israel, but with a variation, the United States is deeply obsessed with World War II, overlaid of course on a Southern obsession with the U.S. Civil War. The Southern U.S. love for the Civil War is love for a war lost, but also for victimhood and the righteousness of the vengeance wreaked on the world year after year by the U.S. military.
The U.S. love for World War II is also, fundamentally, love for a war lost. That may seem odd to say, because it is simultaneously very much love for a war won. World War II remains the U.S. model for potentially some day winning a war again, as it's been losing them all over the world for the 70 years since World War II. But the U.S. view of WWII is also strangely similar to the Russian view. Russia was brutally attacked by the Nazis, but persevered and won the war. The United States believes itself to have been "imminently" attacked by the Nazis. That, after all, was the propaganda that took the United States to war. There was not one word about rescuing Jews or anything half that noble. Rather, President Franklin Roosevelt claimed to have a map of the Nazis' plans for carving up the Americas, a map that was an amateurish forgery provided by British "intelligence."
Hollywood has made very few movies and television shows about all other wars combined, in comparison with dramas about World War II, which may in fact be its most popular topic ever. We're really not drowning in movies glorifying the theft or northern Mexico or the occupation of the Philippines. The Korean War gets little play. Even the Vietnam War and all the more recent wars fail to inspire U.S. storytellers like World War II, and some 90% of those stories relate to the war in Europe, not Asia.
The European story is much preferred because of the particular evils of the German enemy. That the U.S. prevented a peace without victor in World War I by crushing Germany, and then punished it viciously, and then aided the Nazis -- all of that is far more easily forgotten than the nuclear bombs that the United States dropped on Japan. But it is the Japanese attack of December 7, 1941, together with the fantasized Nazi invasion, that persuades the U.S. public that waging war in Europe was defensive. So the history of the United States training Japan in imperialism and then antagonizing and provoking Japan must be forgotten as well.
Amazon.com, a corporation with a huge CIA contract, and whose owner also owns the Washington Post, has launched a television series called the Man in the High Castle. The story is set in the 1960s with the Nazis occupying three-quarters of the United States and the Japanese the rest. In this alternative universe, the ultimate redemption is found in Germany being the nation to have dropped nuclear bombs. The Axis victors, and their aging leaders, have created and maintained an old-fashioned empire -- not like U.S. bases in proxy states, but a full-blown occupation, like the United States in Iraq. It doesn't really matter how implausible this sounds. It is the most plausible scenario that can embody the U.S. fantasy of someone else doing to it what it does to others. Thus U.S. crimes here in the real 2015 become "defensive," as it is doing unto others before they can do unto it.
Nonviolent resistance does not exist in Season One Episode One of this soothing victim adventure, and apparently hasn't for years at that point in the tale. But how could it? A force stoppable through nonviolence -- even an imaginary one -- cannot serve to justify the violence of the actual U.S. military. The German and Japanese occupiers have to be confrontable only through violence, even anachronistically in an age in which nonviolent techniques were known, in which the civil rights movement was resisting U.S. fascism to great effect.
"Before the war ... every man was free," says one of the attractive young white people who constitute all the heroes and some of the villains in this drama. Instead of race riots, McCarthyism, Vietnam, and the sterilizing and experimenting on the powerless that actually happened, this alternative United States includes the burning of Jews, the disabled, and the terminally ill. The contrast to the imagined pre-Nazi past in which "every man [but not woman?] was free" is stark.
Amazon also shows us Nazis behaving much like the actual United States behaves: torturing and murdering enemies. Rikers Island is a brutal prison in this TV show and in reality. In this fantasy, the symbols of U.S. and Nazi patriotism have been merged seamlessly. In reality, the U.S. military incorporated much Nazi thinking along with the many Nazis it recruited through Operation Paperclip -- another way in which the U.S. actually lost WWII if we imagine victory as democracy defeating the sort of society in which someone like Donald Trump could thrive.
The United States today manages to view refugees from the wars it wages in distant lands as dangerous enemies, as new Nazis, just as leading U.S. politicians refer to foreign leaders as new Hitlers. With U.S. citizens shooting up public places on an almost daily basis, when one such killing is alleged to have been done by a Muslim, especially a Muslim with any sympathy for foreign fighters, well, then that's not just a shooting. That means that the United States has been invaded. And that means that anything it does is "defensive."
Does Venezuela elect leaders the U.S. disapproves of? That's a threat to "national security" -- a somewhat magical threat to invade and occupy the United States and compel it to torture and kill wearing a different flag. This paranoia doesn't come from nowhere. It comes from programs like The Man from the High Castle, which -- the world should be warned -- is only at Season 1, Episode 1 so far.
A half century of US hospital bombings: Gen. John Campbell, Commander in Afghanistan and Serial Liar
By Dave Lindorff
“US forces would never intentionally strike a hospital.”
-- US Commander of NATO Forces in Afghanistan Gen. John Campbell
An invisible US hand leading to war?: Turkey’s Downing of a Russian Jet at the Turkish/Syrian Border was an Act of Madness
By Dave Lindorff
In considering the terrifying but also sadly predictable news of a Russian fighter jet being downed by two Turkish fighters, let’s start with one almost certain assumption -- an assumption that no doubt is also being made by the Russian government: Turkey’s action, using US-supplied F-16 planes, was taken with the full knowledge and advance support of the US. In fact, given Turkey’s vassal status as a member of US-dominated NATO, it could well be that Ankara was put up to this act of brinksmanship by the US.
Where’s the truth, and how can you find it?: The US Corporate Media are Essentially Propaganda Organs of the US Government
By Dave Lindorff
By Dave Lindorff
Are the American corporate media largely propaganda organs, or news organizations?
By John Grant
[Al Qaeda’s] strategic objective has always been ... the overthrow of the House of Saud. In pursuing that regional goal, however, it has been drawn into a worldwide conflict with American power.
By now there's not nearly as much disagreement regarding what happened to John and Robert Kennedy as major communications corporations would have you believe. While every researcher and author highlights different details, there isn't any serious disagreement among, say, Jim Douglass' JFK and the Unspeakable, Howard Hunt's deathbed confession, and David Talbot's new The Devil's Chessboard.
Jon Schwarz says The Devil's Chessboard confirms that "your darkest suspicions about how the world operates are likely an underestimate. Yes, there is an amorphous group of unelected corporate lawyers, bankers, and intelligence and military officials who form an American 'deep state,' setting real limits on the rare politicians who ever try to get out of line."
For those of us who were already convinced of that up to our eyeballs, Talbot's book is still one of the best I've seen on the Dulles brothers and one of the best I've seen on the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Where it differs from Douglass' book, I think, is not so much in the evidence it relates or the conclusions it draws, but in providing an additional motivation for the crime.
JFK and the Unspeakable depicts Kennedy as getting in the way of the violence that Allen Dulles and gang wished to engage in abroad. He wouldn't fight Cuba or the Soviet Union or Vietnam or East Germany or independence movements in Africa. He wanted disarmament and peace. He was talking cooperatively with Khrushchev, as Eisenhower had tried prior to the U2-shootdown sabotage. The CIA was overthrowing governments in Iran, Guatemala, the Congo, Vietnam, and around the world. Kennedy was getting in the way.
The Devil's Chessboard depicts Kennedy, in addition, as himself being the sort of leader the CIA was in the habit of overthrowing in those foreign capitals. Kennedy had made enemies of bankers and industrialists. He was working to shrink oil profits by closing tax loopholes, including the "oil depletion allowance." He was permitting the political left in Italy to participate in power, outraging the extreme right in Italy, the U.S., and the CIA. He aggressively went after steel corporations and prevented their price hikes. This was the sort of behavior that could get you overthrown if you lived in one of those countries with a U.S. embassy in it.
Yes, Kennedy wanted to eliminate or drastically weaken and rename the CIA. Yes he threw Dulles and some of his gang out the door. Yes he refused to launch World War III over Cuba or Berlin or anything else. Yes he had the generals and warmongers against him, but he also had Wall Street against him.
Of course "politicians who ever try to get out of line" are now, as then, but more effectively now, handled first by the media. If the media can stop them or some other maneuver can stop them (character assassination, blackmail, distraction, removal from power) then violence isn't required.
The fact that Kennedy resembled a coup target, not just a protector of other targets, would be bad news for someone like Senator Bernie Sanders if he ever got past the media, the "super delegates," and the sell-out organizations to seriously threaten to take the White House. A candidate who accepts the war machine to a great extent and resembles Kennedy not at all on questions of peace, but who takes on Wall Street with the passion it deserves, could place himself as much in the cross-hairs of the deep state as a Jeremy Corbyn who takes on both capital and killing.
Accounts of the escapades of Allen Dulles, and the dozen or more partners in crime whose names crop up beside his decade after decade, illustrate the power of a permanent plutocracy, but also the power of particular individuals to shape it. What if Allen Dulles and Winston Churchill and others like them hadn't worked to start the Cold War even before World War II was over? What if Dulles hadn't collaborated with Nazis and the U.S. military hadn't recruited and imported so many of them into its ranks? What if Dulles hadn't worked to hide information about the holocaust while it was underway? What if Dulles hadn't betrayed Roosevelt and Russia to make a separate U.S. peace with Germany in Italy? What if Dulles hadn't begun sabotaging democracy in Europe immediately and empowering former Nazis in Germany? What if Dulles hadn't turned the CIA into a secret lawless army and death squad? What if Dulles hadn't worked to end Iran's democracy, or Guatemala's? What if Dulles' CIA hadn't developed torture, rendition, human experimentation, and murder as routine policies? What if Eisenhower had been permitted to talk with Khrushchev? What if Dulles hadn't tried to overthrow the President of France? What if Dulles had been "checked" or "balanced" ever so slightly by the media or Congress or the courts along the way?
These are tougher questions than "What if there had been no Lee Harvey Oswald?" The answer to that is, "There would have been another guy very similar to serve the same purpose, just as there had been in the earlier attempt on JFK in Chicago. But "What if there had been no Allen Dulles?" looms large enough to suggest the possible answer that we would all be better off, less militarized, less secretive, less xenophobic. And that suggests that the deep state is not uniform and not unstoppable. Talbot's powerful history is a contribution to the effort to stop it.
I hope Talbot speaks about his book in Virginia, after which he might stop saying that Williamsburg and the CIA's "farm" are in "Northern Virginia." Hasn't Northern Virginia got enough to be ashamed of without that?
No more veterans!: November 11 or Armistice Day Began as a Time to Contemplate Peace, Not to Celebrate War and Warriors
By Dave Lindorff
Candidate Bernie Sanders’ silence speaks volumes: Budget Deal Fine Print Axes Benefit for Married Social Security Beneficiaries
By Dave Lindorff
Ninety-seven years ago, on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, fighting ceased in the “war to end all wars.” People went on killing and dying right up until the pre-designated moment, impacting nothing other than our understanding of the stupidity of war.
Thirty million soldiers had been killed or wounded and another seven million had been taken captive during World War I. Never before had people witnessed such industrialized slaughter, with tens of thousands falling in a day to machine guns and poison gas. After the war, more and more truth began to overtake the lies, but whether people still believed or now resented the pro-war propaganda, virtually every person in the United States wanted to see no more of war ever again. Posters of Jesus shooting at Germans were left behind as the churches along with everyone else now said that war was wrong. Al Jolson wrote in 1920 to President Harding:
“The weary world is waiting for
So take away the gun
From every mother’s son
And put an end to war.”
Believe it or not, November 11th was not made a holiday in order to celebrate war, support troops, or cheer the 15th year of occupying Afghanistan. This day was made a holiday in order to celebrate an armistice that ended what was up until that point, in 1918, one of the worst things our species had thus far done to itself, namely World War I.
World War I, then known simply as the world war or the great war, had been marketed as a war to end war. Celebrating its end was also understood as celebrating the end of all wars. A ten-year campaign was launched in 1918 that in 1928 created the Kellogg-Briand Pact, legally banning all wars. That treaty is still on the books, which is why war making is a criminal act and how Nazis came to be prosecuted for it.
“[O]n November 11, 1918, there ended the most unnecessary, the most financially exhausting, and the most terribly fatal of all the wars that the world has ever known. Twenty millions of men and women, in that war, were killed outright, or died later from wounds. The Spanish influenza, admittedly caused by the War and nothing else, killed, in various lands, one hundred million persons more.” — Thomas Hall Shastid, 1927.
According to pre-Bernie U.S. Socialist Victor Berger, all the United States had gained from participation in World War I was the flu and prohibition. It was not an uncommon view. Millions of Americans who had supported World War I came, during the years following its completion on November 11, 1918, to reject the idea that anything could ever be gained through warfare.
By Lawrence S. Wittner
The shock and disbelief with which many political pundits have responded to Bernie Sanders’ description of himself as a “democratic socialist”—a supporter of democratic control of the economy—provide a clear indication of how little they know about the popularity and influence of democratic socialism over the course of American history.
How else could they miss the existence of a thriving Socialist Party, led by Eugene Debs (one of the nation’s most famous union leaders) and Norman Thomas (a distinguished Presbyterian minister), during the early decades of the twentieth century? Or the democratic socialist administrations elected to govern Milwaukee, Bridgeport, Flint, Minneapolis, Schenectady, Racine, Davenport, Butte, Pasadena, and numerous other U.S. cities? Or the democratic socialists, such as Victor Berger, Meyer London, and Ron Dellums, elected to Congress? Or the programs long championed by democratic socialists that, eventually, were put into place by Republican and Democratic administrations—from the Pure Food and Drug Act to the income tax, from minimum wage laws to maximum hour laws, from unemployment insurance to public power, from Social Security to Medicare?
Most startling of all, they have missed the many prominent Americans who, though now deceased, were democratic socialists during substantial portions of their lives. These include labor leaders like Walter Reuther (president, United Auto Workers and vice-president, AFL-CIO), David Dubinsky (president, International Ladies Garment Workers Union), Sidney Hillman (president, Amalgamated Clothing Workers), Jerry Wurf (president, American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees), and William Winpisinger (president, International Association of Machinists). Even Samuel Gompers—the founder and long-time president of the American Federation of Labor who, in the latter part of his life, clashed with Debs and other socialist union leaders—was initially a socialist.
Numerous popular novelists and other writers also embraced democratic socialism, including Jack London, Upton Sinclair, Carl Sandburg, William Carlos Williams, Thorstein Veblen, C. Wright Mills, Erich Fromm, Michael Harrington, Irving Howe, and Howard Zinn. Eminent scientists, too, became democratic socialists, including Charles Steinmetz and Albert Einstein.
Many well-known social reformers also joined the ranks of America’s democratic socialists, among them Elizabeth Cady Stanton (women’s rights crusader), John Dewey (educator), Helen Keller (author and lecturer), and Margaret Sanger (birth control pioneer). Within the civil rights movement, particularly, a very important role was played by democratic socialists, among them W.E.B. Du Bois, A. Philip Randolph, Bayard Rustin, and James Farmer.
In fact, although very few people know it, even Martin Luther King, Jr. was a democratic socialist. “I am much more socialistic in my economic theory than capitalistic,” he wrote to Coretta Scott (soon to become his wife) on July 18, 1952. This belief system continued throughout his life, and, in the late 1960s, contributed to his shift from championing racial equality to championing economic equality. In a 1966 speech to his staff, King declared: “Something is wrong . . . with capitalism.” He added: “Call it democracy, or call it democratic socialism, but there must be a better distribution of wealth within this country for all of God’s children.” Plans for the Poor People’s Campaign followed, as did his death while promoting the unionization of Memphis’s exploited sanitation workers.
Some might argue that democratic socialism, like these individuals, is dead and gone, replaced by its hierarchical enemies, corporate capitalism on the Right and Communism on the Left. But that contention is belied by the continued existence of large, democratic socialist parties that either govern other democratic nations or provide the major opposition to the conservative governments of those nations: the British Labour Party, the French Socialist Party, the Swedish Social Democratic Party, the Australian Labor Party, the Brazilian Democratic Workers Party, the German Social Democratic Party, the Irish Labour Party, Mexico’s Party of the Democratic Revolution, South Africa’s African National Congress, the Israeli Labor Party, the New Zealand Labour Party, Chile’s Socialist Party, and many, many more around the world.
Nor is democratic socialism dead in the United States. In response to rising economic inequality and, particularly, the blatant greed and power of the wealthy and their corporations, Democratic Socialists of America—a descendant of the old Socialist Party of America, though an organization rather than a third party—is growing rapidly. Not surprisingly, it is fervently backing Bernie Sanders’ campaign for the presidency. Meanwhile, Democratic Party leaders are suddenly shying away from their corporate dalliances and picking up a few programmatic ideas from Sanders, democratic socialists, and their allies. These include a $15 per hour minimum wage, expansion of Social Security, free college tuition, and opposition to two pro-corporate ventures: the Keystone XL pipeline and the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
If the political pundits would look around, they would even discover a significant number of prominent U.S. democratic socialists at work in a variety of fields. They include muckraking authors like Barbara Ehrenreich, journalists like Harold Meyerson, actors like Ed Asner and Wallace Shawn, intellectuals like Noam Chomsky and Cornel West, documentary film-makers like Michael Moore, TV commentators like Lawrence O’Donnell, science fiction writers like Kim Stanley Robinson, feminist leaders like Gloria Steinem, peace movement veterans like David McReynolds, and academics like Frances Fox Piven.
These and many other democratic socialists, among them Bernie Sanders, have played an important role in American life. It’s a shame that so many political “experts” haven’t noticed it.
Lawrence S. Wittner is Professor of History emeritus at SUNY/Albany and is syndicated by PeaceVoice. His latest book is a satirical novel about university corporatization and rebellion, What’s Going On at UAardvark?
If you're into quaint, you can visit a historic village, restore some antique furniture, or for far less trouble pick up a mainstream analysis of the U.S. military from 40 years ago or so.
I just happened to read a 1973 book called Military Force and American Society, edited by Bruce M. Russett and Alfred Stepan -- both of whom have presumably updated their views somewhat, or -- more likely -- veered off into other interests. The problems and trends described in their book have been worsening ever since, while interest in them has been lessening. You could write a similar book now, with the numbers all larger and the analysis more definitive, but who would buy it?
The only point of re-writing it now would be to scream at the end ". . . AND THIS IS ACTUALLY A MAJOR PROBLEM TO DEAL WITH URGENTLY!" Who wants to read that? Much more pleasant to read this 1973 book as it was written, with its attitude of "Welp, it looks like we're all going to hell. Carry on." Here is an actual quote from near the end of the book: "To understand military expansion is not necessarily to arrest it. America's ideology could involve beliefs which are quite true and values which are quite genuine." This was from Douglas Rosenberg, who led up to that statement with 50 pages on the dangerously delusional myths driving U.S. military policy.
An earlier chapter by Clarence Abercrombie and Raoul Alcalá ended thus: "None of this should be taken as an indictment . . . . What we do suggest is that . . . social and political effects . . . must be carefully evaluated." Another chapter by James Dickey concluded: "This article has not been a call for relieving the army entirely of roles with a political context." Of course, it had been just that. Didn't these people realize that humanity just might survive for additional decades, and that copies of this book might survive as well, and that someone might read one? You can't just document a problem and then waive it off -- unless you're Exxon.
The heart of the book is data on the rise of the permanent war economy and global U.S. empire and arms sales with World War II, and the failure to ever return to anything like what preceded World War II. The authors worry, rather quaintly, that the military might begin influencing public policy or conducting foreign policy, that -- for example -- some officers' training was going to include studying politics with a possible eye toward engaging with politicians.
The warnings, quaint or not, are quite serious matters: the military's new domestic uses to handle "civil disturbances," the military's spying, the possibility that an all-volunteer military might separate the military from the rest of society, etc. Careful empirical studies documented in the book found that higher military spending produced more wars, rather than foreign dangers producing higher spending, that the higher spending was economically damaging, not beneficial, and that higher military spending usually if not always produced lower spending on social needs. These findings have by now of course been reproduced enough times to persuade a climate change denier, if a climate change denier were to hear about them.
The real quaintness, however, comes when this group of authors in 1973 tries to explain militaristic votes by Congress members. Possible explanations they study include constituent pressure, race and sex of the Congress member, ideology of the Congress member, and the "Military Industrial Complex," by which author Wayne Moyer seems to mean the Congress member's affiliation with the military and the level of military spending in the member's district or state. That any of these factors would better explain or predict a Congress member's vote on something militaristic, than a glance at the war profiteering funding used to legally bribe the member in recent election "contributions" seems absurd in 2015.
Yet, there is of course a great deal of truth to the idea that Congress members, to one degree or another, adopt an ideology that fits with, and allows self-respect to coexist with, what they've been paid to do. Campaign "contributors" do not just buy votes; they buy minds -- or they select the minds that have already been bought and help them stay that way.
To understand all of this is not necessarily to arrest it, but it damn well should be.
The latest from ThisCantBeHappening!:
Last Mexican of Venice
By Rip Rense
By Linn Washington, Jr.
Protests against rampant police brutality occurred recently in the respective capitals of France and the United States – two nations that proclaim strict fidelity to the rule of law yet two professed democracy-loving nations where officials routinely condone rampant lawlessness by law enforcers.
As documented in Douglas Blackmon's book, Slavery By Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II, the institution of slavery in the U.S. South largely ended for as long as 20 years in some places upon completion of the U.S. civil war. And then it was back again, in a slightly different form, widespread, controlling, publicly known and accepted -- right up to World War II. In fact, in other forms, it remains today. But it does not remain today in the overpowering form that prevented a civil rights movement for nearly a century. It exists today in ways that we are free to oppose and resist, and we fail to do so only to our own shame.
During widely publicized trials of slave owners for the crime of slavery in 1903 -- trials that did virtually nothing to end the pervasive practice -- the Montgomery Advertiser editorialized: "Forgiveness is a Christian virtue and forgetfulness is often a relief, but some of us will never forgive nor forget the damnable and brutal excesses that were committed all over the South by negroes and their white allies, many of whom were federal officials, against whose acts our people were practically powerless."
This was a publicly acceptable position in Alabama in 1903: slavery should be tolerated because of the evils committed by the North during the war and during the occupation that followed. It's worth considering whether slavery might have ended more quickly had it been ended without a war. To say that is not, of course, to assert that in reality the pre-war United States was radically different than it was, that slave owners were willing to sell out, or that either side was open to a non-violent solution. But most nations that ended slavery did so without a civil war. Some did it in the way that Washington, D.C., did it, through compensated emancipation.
Had the United States ended slavery without the war and without division, it would have been, by definition, a very different and less violent place. But, beyond that, it would have avoided the bitter war resentment that has yet to die down. Ending racism would have been a very lengthy process, regardless. But it might have been given a head start rather than having one arm tied behind our backs. Our stubborn refusal to recognize the U.S. civil war as a hindrance to freedom rather than the path to it, allows us to devastate places like Iraq and then marvel at the duration of the resulting animosity.
Wars acquire new victims for many years after they end, even if all the cluster bombs are picked up. Just try to imagine the justifications that would be made for Israel's attacks on Palestinians had World War II not happened.
Had the Northern U.S. allowed the South to secede, ended the returning of "fugitive slaves," and used diplomatic and economic means to urge the South to abolish slavery, it seems reasonable to suppose that slavery might have lasted in the South beyond 1865, but very likely not until 1945. To say this is, once again, not to imagine that it actually happened, or that there weren't Northerners who wanted it to happen and who really didn't care about the fate of enslaved African Americans. It is just to put into proper context the traditional defense of the civil war as having murdered hundreds of thousands of people on both sides in order to accomplish the greater good of ending slavery. Slavery did not end.
Across most of the South, a system of petty, even meaningless, crimes, such as "vagrancy," created the threat of arrest for any black person. Upon arrest, a black man would be presented with a debt to pay through years of hard labor. The way to protect oneself from being put into one of the hundreds of forced labor camps was to put oneself in debt to and under the protection of a white owner. The 13th Amendment sanctions slavery for convicts, and no statute prohibited slavery until the 1950s. All that was needed for the pretense of legality was the equivalent of today's plea bargain.
Not only did slavery not end. For many thousands it was dramatically worsened. The antebellum slave owner typically had a financial interest in keeping an enslaved person alive and healthy enough to work. A mine or mill that purchased the work of hundreds of convicts had no interest in their futures beyond the term of their sentences. In fact, local governments would replace a convict who died with another, so there was no economic reason not to work them to death. Mortality rates for leased-out convicts in Alabama were as high as 45 percent per year. Some who died in mines were tossed into coke ovens rather than going to the trouble to bury them.
Enslaved Americans after the "ending of slavery" were bought and sold, chained by the ankles and necks at night, whipped to death, waterboarded, and murdered at the discretion of their owners, such as U.S. Steel Corporation which purchased mines near Birmingham where generations of "free" people were worked to death underground.
The threat of that fate hung over every black man not enduring it, as well as the threat of lynching that escalated in the early 20th century along with newly pseudo-scientific justifications for racism. "God ordained the southern white man to teach the lessons of Aryan supremacy," declared Woodrow Wilson's friend Thomas Dixon, author of the book and play The Clansman, which became the film Birth of a Nation.
Five days after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the U.S. government decided to take prosecuting slavery seriously, to counter possible criticism from Germany or Japan.
Five years after World War II, a group of former Nazis, some of whom had used slave labor in caves in Germany, set up shop in Alabama to work on creating new instruments of death and space travel. They found the people of Alabama extremely forgiving of their past deeds.
Prison labor continues in the United States. Mass incarceration continues as a tool of racial oppression. Slave farm labor continues as well. So does the use of fines and debt to create convicts. And of course, companies that swear they would never do what their earlier versions did, profit from slave labor on distant shores.
But what ended mass-slavery in the United States for good was not the idiotic mass-slaughter of the civil war. It was the nonviolent educational and moral force of the civil rights movement a full century later.
By Dave Lindorff
President Barack Obama is on track to go down in history as one of the, or perhaps as the worst and most criminal presidents in US history.
By John Grant
“One of the most salient features of our culture is that there is so much bullshit. ... The realms of advertising and of public relations, and the nowadays closely related realm of politics, are replete with instances of bullshit so unmitigated that they serve among the most indisputable and classic paradigms of the concept.”
By Rivera Sun
In this new millennium marked by the looming threat of transnational trade deals like the Transpacific Partnership (TPP), The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), and the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA), one unusual trade adventure, Maine Sail Freight, will embark on a creative and bold journey as an act of defiance against what has become a poor standard of business-as-usual. When Maine Sail Freight launches its maiden voyage at the end of August carrying 11 tons of local, Maine-made cargo, the Greenhorns - a plucky band of young farmers - and the sailing crew of a historic wooden schooner are declaring their independence from corporate tyranny and re-invigorating sail freight as a wind-powered transportation agent of the booming local food economy.
And, interestingly, they will be carrying one freight item that has a long history of revolutionary potential: salt.
More than a hundred years before Gandhi's independence movement kicked the British Empire out of India, the American colonies were roundly beating the same empire using tools of nonviolent action – noncooperation, civil disobedience, boycotts, strikes, blockades, parallel governments, marches, rallies, and self-reliance programs. The two independence movements even shared parallel salt campaigns.
Gandhi's 1930 Salt Satyagraha campaign is famous. The 1776 New England saltworks expansion is virtually unknown. Indeed, several well-organized, clearly identifiable nonviolent campaigns are often overshadowed by violence and war in the retelling of revolutionary era history. The research, however, testifies to the nonviolent campaigns’ pivotal role in the struggles.
Know your history. The British certainly should have. In 1930, 150 years after American Independence, Lord Irwin, Viceroy of India, commented on the brewing salt law resistance saying, "At present the prospect of a salt campaign does not keep me awake at night." Too bad – if he had stayed awake, studying the history of salt, colonial governments, and independence movements, he might have lost sleep – but he may not have lost India.
In 1776, the British Empire lost the American colonies over a famous tax on tea … and salt.
Most everyone has heard the story of the Boston Tea Party – rowdy colonists, incensed by the tax on tea, dressed up as Indians and stormed Boston Harbor to dump the contents of a ship carrying import goods into the water. The colonials boycotted tea and demanded "no taxation without representation.” The tax on tea also contained a tax on salt. At the time, salt was a necessity for household survival and the economic functionality of the colonial fisheries, which exported salted fish. There were, however, no saltworks along the lengthy coastlines of North America. The salt used by the colonists was imported from the British Caribbean.
When the new tax laws were announced in the colonies, the colonists declared they would boycott imported goods from Britain, refusing to cooperate. Of course, they didn't use the term "boycott,” which would not be coined until 1880 when the Irish rebelled against the land agent Charles C. Boycott.
The colonists rebelled against the tax laws, declaring independence. A crippling embargo was placed on the colonies, cutting off the supply of imported salt entirely. In response, the Continental Congress placed a "bounty" on salt to encourage the young nation to build saltworks and produce this essential resource. Cape Cod responded to the call, even inventing new elements of the salt production process. They rejected the process of boiling out the water, as it used too many cords of wood, and instead developed a system of producing salt that used wind power to haul the seawater to the drying troughs, natural solar power to evaporate the water, and a unique construction of rolling canvas roofs that would keep the rain out of the troughs and could be pulled back on sunny days to allow the light in. The production of salt increased the American’s self-reliance, reduced their dependence on the empire, and strengthened their ability to resist British oppression.
These three dynamics – increasing self-reliance, reducing dependence, and strengthening the ability to resist oppression – are all elements of what Gandhi would later call "constructive program.” Gandhi employed 18 different constructive programs in his movement, one of which was the production of salt. The 1930 Salt Satyagraha was a powerful demonstration of the two-fold strength of nonviolent action. In addition to the constructive dynamics, it also utilized the "obstructive" dynamics of noncooperation and mass civil disobedience, as well as many acts of protest and persuasion including marches, rallies, picketing, letter writing, and demonstrations.
The story is simple: the British Empire enforced a monopoly on the production of salt in colonial India, operating the saltworks to their own profit and charging the Indians for the staple. In 1930, Gandhi decided to openly defy the salt laws, inciting thousands of Indians to make and sell salt, rendering the salt laws unenforceable through mass noncooperation. Gandhi added his usual political clarity and dramatic flair to the undertaking. Where the Americans pragmatically made salt as a necessity of survival and a tool of self-reliance, Gandhi's marches, public announcements, mass disobedience, and inimitable sense of humor made humble salt the downfall of British authority over India. Gandhi overtly challenged the British over salt--and won.
Today, many contemporary struggles revolve not around colonies and crowns, but rather between citizens and transnational corporations. The basic lessons of salt still hold true for modern times. To win our freedom one again, we must increase self-reliance and lessen our dependency on products of our oppressors. We must refuse cooperation with injustice and build parallel institutions that benefit people rather than some company’s bottom line. As Maine Sail Freight travels from Portland to Boston, reinvigorating traditional ocean trade routes, the participants are also joining the growing popular resistance to global corporate domination. As history will attest, their success lies in the willingness of the people to non-cooperate with business-as-usual and instead participate with the constructive actions of local, sustainable, and renewable economies. Here's where to find out more and join the Portland to Boston adventure.
Rivera Sun, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is the author of The Dandelion Insurrection and other books, and the cofounder of the Love-In-Action Network.
In its 1929 Man of the Year article, Time magazine acknowledged that many readers would believe Secretary of State Frank Kellogg the right choice, as probably the top news story of 1928 had been the signing by 57 nations of the Kellogg-Briand Peace Pact in Paris, a treaty that made all war illegal, a treaty that remains on the books today.
But, noted Time, "analysts could show that Mr. Kellogg did not originate the outlawing-war idea; that a comparatively obscure lay figure named Salmon Oliver Levinson, Chicago lawyer," was the driving force behind it.
Indeed he was. S.O. Levinson was a lawyer who believed that courts handled interpersonal disputes better than dueling had done before it was banned. He wanted to outlaw war as a means of handling international disputes. Until 1928, launching a war had always been perfectly legal. Levinson wanted to outlaw all war. "Suppose," he wrote, "it had then been urged that only 'aggressive dueling' should be outlawed and that 'defensive dueling' be left intact."
Levinson and the movement of Outlawrists whom he gathered around him, including well-known Chicagoan Jane Addams, believed that making war a crime would begin to stigmatize it and facilitate demilitarization. They pursued as well the creation of international laws and systems of arbitration and alternative means of handling conflicts. Outlawing war was to be the first step in a lengthy process of actually ending that peculiar institution.
The Outlawry movement was launched with Levinson's article proposing it in The New Republic magazine on March 7, 1918, and took a decade to achieve the Kellogg-Briand Pact. The task of ending war is ongoing, and the pact is a tool that might still help. This treaty commits nations to resolving their disputes through peaceful means alone. The U.S. State Department's website lists it as still in effect, as does the Department of Defense Law of War Manual published in June 2015.
Levinson and his allies lobbied senators and key officials in the United States and Europe, including French Foreign Secretary Aristide Briand, U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Chairman William Borah, and Secretary of State Kellogg. The Outlawrists united a U.S. peace movement far more mainstream and acceptable than anything that's borne that name in the decades since. But it was a movement that had been split over the League of Nations.
The frenzy of organizing and activism that created the peace pact was massive. Find me an organization that's been around since the 1920s and I'll find you an organization on record in support of abolishing war. That includes the American Legion, the National League of Women Voters, and the National Association of Parents and Teachers.
By 1928, the demand to outlaw war was irresistible, and Kellogg who had recently mocked and cursed peace activists, began following their lead and telling his wife he might be in for a Nobel Peace Prize.
On August 27, 1928, in Paris, the flags of Germany and the Soviet Union newly flew along many others, as the scene played out that is described in the song "Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream." The papers the men were signing really did say they would never fight again. The Outlawrists persuaded the U.S. Senate to ratify the treaty without any formal reservations.
None of this was without hypocrisy. U.S. troops were fighting in Nicaragua the whole time, and European nations signed on behalf of their colonies. Russia and China had to be talked out of going to war with each other just as President Coolidge was signing the treaty. But talked out of it they were. And the first major violation of the pact, World War II, was followed by the first ever (albeit one-sided) prosecutions for the crime of war -- prosecutions that rested centrally on the pact. The wealthy nations have, for a number of possible reasons, not gone to war with each other since, waging war only in poor parts of the world.
The United Nations Charter, which followed without replacing the Kellogg-Briand Pact, seeks to legalize wars that are either defensive or U.N. authorized -- loopholes more abused than used over the years. The lessons of the Outlawry movement may still have something to teach both the neocon war advocates and the "Responsibility to Protect" humanitarian warriors. It's a shame that their literature is largely forgotten.
In St. Paul, Minn., appreciation is reviving for local hero Frank Kellogg, who was indeed given the Nobel, is buried in National Cathedral, and for whom Kellogg Avenue is named.
But the man who led the movement that began to stigmatize war as evil and to make war understood as optional rather than inevitable was from Chicago, where no memorial stands and no memory exists.
David Swanson is the author of "When the World Outlawed War." He'll be speaking in Chicago on Aug. 27. For information, see http://faithpeace.org.
By John Grant
"Someone must have been telling lies about Joseph K., for without having done anything wrong he was arrested one fine morning."
Shell Oil has announced it may take a page out of the BP "Beyond Petroleum" greenwashing book, rebranding itself as something other than an oil company for its United States-based unit.
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons
We’re #1...in the heroin business!: US Lost in Afghanistan, But Did Make Afghanistan World’s Top Heroin Exporter
By Jack Balkwill
...The US government pretends to care about eradicating opium production in Afghanistan, while production soars to record levels. Can this be an accident?
The largest marketplace for illegal drugs continues to be the United States, despite a decades-long so-called "war on drugs." Can this be an accident?
This article originally appeared at TomDispatch.com.
By Jack Balkwill
How many days has it been
Since I was born?
How many days
'Til I die?
Do I know any ways
I can make you laugh?
Or do I only know how
To make you cry?
― Leon Russell, Stranger in a Strange Land
By John Grant
“Our ancestors were literally fighting to keep human beings as slaves and to continue the unimaginable acts that occur when someone is held against their will. I am not proud of this heritage.”
Books about how World War I started, and to a lesser degree how World War II started, have tended in recent years to explain that these wars didn’t actually come as a surprise, because top government officials saw them coming for years. But these revised histories admit that the general public was pretty much clueless and shocked.
The fact is that anyone in the know or diligently seeking out the facts could see, in rough outline, the danger of World War I or World War II coming years ahead, just as one can see the threats of environmental collapse and World War III approaching now. But the general public lacked a decent understanding prior to the first two world wars and lacks it now on the looming dangers created by environmental destruction and aggressive flirtation with World War III.
What led to the first two world wars and allowed numerous wise observers to warn of them years ahead, even to warn of World War II immediately upon completion of the treaty that ended World War I? A number of factors ought to be obvious but are generally overlooked:
This article originally appeared at TomDispatch.com.