For those who aid US’s ‘outlaws,’ no good deed goes unpunished: Sri Lankan Refugee Family That Hid Snowden in Hong Kong Now Trapped in Limbo

By Dave Lindorff

Hong Kong — The bipartisan vengeance of the US government and it’s pervasive intelligence apparatus, on display currently in its rabid hounding of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, appears to know no bounds.

But as ugly as the full-court effort to bag Assange, already trapped by US the combined efforts of complicity government in Britain and Sweden and by US economic pressure on the government read more

Ten Questions About the Gulf War Monument Planned for Washington

Yes, they’re planning a monument to the Gulf War. I have some questions about the design.

  1. Really? Seriously? WTAF? Were there just not enough war monuments yet?
  2. There’s no monument to the arming of Saddam Hussein during the Iran-Iraq War, without which there could have been no Gulf War, and no monument (yet) to the deadly sanctions and bombings that followed or to the 2003-begun war on Iraq, which couldn’t have happened without the Gulf War. Why pick out the Gulf War segment
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Tomgram: James Carroll, The 12 Days of Bombing That Never End (for Me)

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Call it strange, but call it something. After all, never in history had there been such active opposition to a war before it began. I’m thinking, of course, about the antiwar surge that, in the winter and early spring of 2003, preceded the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Starting in the autumn of 2002, in fact, the top officials of President George W. Bush’s administration couldn’t read more

The Worst Statue in Charlottesville

A case can be made that just about any public statue in Charlottesville, Virginia, is the worst one. The much lamented statues of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson are not alone in their offensiveness. Determining a winner in a contest for the worst monument in Charlottesville is not nearly as important, I think, as removing any of the lot of them from our central public spaces and installing them in a museum. I’m grateful to everyone who has advocated for the removal of any of these monstrosities read more

Hong Kong looks freer than the US: Press Freedom is Under Threat in the Land of its Birth

By Dave Lindorff

            Hong Kong — Here in this ultra-modern city on the coast of southern China, I read in the morning paper that 11 consulates representing most of the nations of Europe, have lodged protests with the city’s chief executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor over a controversial new extradition bill that if passed would allow Hong Kong to extradite suspects to nations with which Hong Kong does not have an extradition deal. read more

How About a Peace Race Instead of an Arms Race?

In late April, the highly-respected Stockholm International Peace Research Institute reported that, in 2018, world military expenditures rose to a record $1.82 trillion.  The biggest military spender by far was the United States, which increased its military budget by nearly 5 percent to $649 billion (36 percent of the global total).  But most other nations also joined the race for bigger and better ways to destroy one another through war.

This situation represents a double tragedy.  read more

U.S. Army: 0 — Internet: 1

The U.S. Army tweeted a harmless rah-rah tweet and got hit with a burst of reality never encountered on corporate-controlled media. Score one for the internet.

The Army asked: “How has serving impacted you?”

Here’s a tiny sample of the responses:

5 hours ago
Replying to
I lost my virginity by being raped in front of my peers at 19. Got married to a nice guy who was part of my unit. He was in the invasion of Iraq. Came home a changed man who beat the shit out of me. He’s convinced y’all are stalking him and he’s homeless so great job there!

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Tomgram: Andrew Bacevich, What Illinois Bikers Know That Washington Doesn’t

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Today, TomDispatch regular Andrew Bacevich, author of America’s War for the Greater Middle East, focuses on the sole memorial in this country to those who have fought in our now almost 18-year-old war on terror — never actually a coherent “war” but a spreading set of conflicts, upheavals, and chaos of every sort. As Bacevich points out, the memorial to American soldiers who were sent into that chaos and died is essentially hidden away in a small Midwestern town, which tells you what you need to know about the value Americans actually place on those wars.

Of course, there is one other shrine in this country, New York City’s 9/11 Memorial and Museum, dedicated to the nearly 3,000 civilians who died in al-Qaeda’s initial attacks. Ever since, civilians have suffered massively without any kind of commemoration whatsoever — and yet, in a sense, you might say that there are indeed another set of “memorials” to the dead of the post-9/11 war on terror. You just have to put that word in quotation marks. I’m thinking about the rubblized cities of the Middle East. Of, for instance, Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, significant parts of which were, in 2017, reduced to ruins by American air power and artillery (which delivered an estimated 29,000 munitions) and ISIS suicide bombs and other explosives.  It still largely remains so. I’m thinking of the Syrian provincial city of Raqqa, on which the U.S. and allied air forces reportedly rained more than 20,000 bombs and which also remains in rubble. Other Iraqi cities like Ramadi and Fallujah had similar experiences.

Think of those cities (or former cities) as the very opposite of America’s memorial walls to the dead. Think of them as the wall-less cities of the dead (and the desperately living) in a region that, in response to the brutal killings of those victims in the towers in New York, continues to be rubblized with another war now possibly in sight. Tom
The “Forever Wars” Enshrined
Visiting mar-SAYLZ
By Andrew J. Bacevich

Earlier this month, I spent a day visiting Marseilles to videotape a documentary about recent American military history, specifically the ongoing wars that most of us prefer not to think about.

Lest there be any confusion, let me be more specific. I am not referring to Marseilles (mar-SAY), France, that nation’s largest port and second largest city with a population approaching 900,000. No, my destination was Marseilles (mar-SAYLZ), Illinois, a small prairie town with a population hovering around 5,000.

Our own lesser Marseilles nestles alongside the Illinois River, more or less equidistant between Chicago and Peoria, smack dab in the middle of flyover country. I have some personal familiarity with this part of America. More than half a century ago, the school I attended in nearby Peru used to play the Panthers of Marseilles High. Unfortunately, their school closed three decades ago.

Back then, the town had achieved minor distinction for manufacturing corrugated boxes for Nabisco. But that factory was shuttered in 2002 and only the abandoned building remains, its eight-story hulk still looming above Main Street.

Today, downtown Marseilles, running a few short blocks toward the river, consists of tired-looking commercial structures dating from early in the previous century. Many of the storefronts are empty. By all appearances, the rest may suffer a similar fate in the not-too-distant future. Although the U.S. economy has bounced back from the Great Recession, recovery bypassed Marseilles. Here, the good times ended long ago and never came back. The feel of the place is weary and forlorn. Hedge-fund managers keen to turn a quick profit should look elsewhere.

Perhaps not too surprisingly, this is Trump country. Marseilles is located in LaSalle County, which in 2016 voted for Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton by a hefty 14% margin. It’s easy to imagine residents of Marseilles, which is more than 96% white, taking umbrage at Clinton’s disparaging reference to The Donald’s supporters as so many “deplorables.” They had reason to do so.

A Midwestern Memorial to America’s Wars in the Greater Middle East

Today, Marseilles retains one modest claim to fame. It’s the site of the Middle East Conflicts Wall Memorial, dedicated in June 2004 and situated on an open plot of ground between the river and the old Nabisco plant. The memorial, created and supported by a conglomeration of civic-minded Illinois bikers, many of them Vietnam veterans, is the only one in the nation that commemorates those who have died during the course of the various campaigns, skirmishes, protracted wars, and nasty mishaps that have involved U.S. forces in various quarters of the Greater Middle East over the past several decades.

Think about it: Any American wanting to pay personal tribute to those who fought and died for our country in World War II or Korea or Vietnam knows where to go — to the Mall in Washington D.C., that long stretch of lawn and reflecting pools connecting the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial. Any American wanting to honor the sacrifice of those who fought and died in a series of more recent conflicts that have lasted longer than World War II, Korea, and Vietnam combined must travel to a place where the nearest public transportation is a Greyhound bus station down the road in Ottawa and the top restaurant is Bobaluk’s Beef and Pizza. Nowhere else in this vast nation of ours has anyone invested the money and the effort to remember more than a generation’s worth of less-than-triumphant American war making. Marseilles has a lock on the franchise.

Critics might quibble with the aesthetics of the memorial, dismissing it as an unpretentious knock-off of the far more famous Vietnam Wall. Yet if the design doesn’t qualify as cutting edge, it is palpably honest and heartfelt. It consists chiefly of a series of polished granite panels listing the names of those killed during the various phases of this country’s “forever wars” going all the way back to the sailors gunned down in the June 1967 Israeli attack on the USS Liberty.

Those panels now contain more than 8,000 names. Each June, in conjunction with the annual “Illinois Motorcycle Freedom Run,” which ends at the memorial, more are added. Along with flags and plaques, there is also text affirming that all those commemorated there are heroes who died for freedom and will never be forgotten.

On that point, allow me to register my own quibble. Although my son’s name is halfway down near the left margin of Panel 5B, I find myself uneasy with any reference to American soldiers having died for freedom in the Greater Middle East. Our pronounced penchant for using that term in connection with virtually any American military action strikes me as a dodge. It serves as an excuse for not thinking too deeply about the commitments, policies, and decisions that led to all those names being etched in stone, with more to come next month and probably for many years thereafter.

In Ernest Hemingway’s famed novel about World War I, A Farewell to Arms, his protagonist is “embarrassed by the words sacred, glorious, and sacrifice and the expression in vain.” I feel something similar when it comes to the use of freedom in this context. Well, not embarrassed exactly, but deeply uncomfortable. Freedom, used in this fashion, conceals truth behind a veil of patriotic sentiment.

Those whose names are engraved on the wall in Marseilles died in service to their country. Of that there is no doubt. Whether they died to advance the cause of freedom or even the wellbeing of the United States is another matter entirely. Terms that might more accurately convey why these wars began and why they have persisted for so long include oil, dominion, hubris, a continuing and stubborn refusal among policymakers to own up to their own stupendous folly, and the collective negligence of citizens who have become oblivious to where American troops happen to be fighting at any given moment and why. Some might add to the above list an inability to distinguish between our own interests and those of putative allies like Saudi Arabia and Israel.

Candidates at the Wall

During the several hours I spent there, virtually no one else visited the Middle East Conflicts Wall Memorial. A single elderly couple stopped by briefly and that was that. If this was understandable, it was also telling. After all, Marseilles, Illinois, is an out-of-the-way, isolated little burg. Touristy it’s not. There’s no buzz and no vibe and it’s a long way from the places that set the tone in present-day America. To compare Marseilles with New York, Washington, Hollywood, Las Vegas, or Silicon Valley is like comparing a Dollar General with Saks Fifth Avenue. Marseilles has the former. The closest Saks outlet is about a two-hour drive to Chicago’s Loop.

On the other hand, when you think about it, Marseilles is exactly the right place to situate the nation’s only existing memorial to its Middle Eastern wars. Where better, after all, to commemorate conflicts that Americans would like to ignore or forget than in a hollowing-out Midwestern town they never knew existed in the first place?

So, with the campaign for the 2020 presidential election now heating up, allow me to offer a modest proposal of my own — one that might, briefly at least, make Marseilles a destination of sorts.

Just as there are all-but-mandatory venues in Iowa and New Hampshire where candidates are expected to appear, why not make Marseilles, Illinois, one as well. Let all of the candidates competing to oust Donald Trump from the White House (their ranks now approaching two dozen) schedule at least one campaign stop at the Middle East Conflicts Wall, press entourage suitably in tow.

Let them take a page from presidents John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan at the Berlin Wall and use the site as a backdrop to reflect on the historical significance of this particular place. They should explain in concrete terms what the conflicts memorialized there signify; describe their relationship to the post-Cold War narrative of America as the planet’s “indispensable nation” or “sole superpower”; assess the disastrous costs and consequences of those never-ending wars; fix accountability; lay out to the American people how to avoid repeating the mistakes made by previous administrations, including the present one that seems to be itching for yet another conflict in the Middle East; and help us understand how, under the guise of promoting liberty and democracy, Washington has sown chaos through much of the region.

And, just to make it interesting, bonus points for anyone who can get through their remarks without referring to “freedom” or “supreme sacrifice,” citing the Gospel of John, chapter 15, verse 13 (“Greater love hath no man than this…”), or offering some fatuous reference to GIs as agents of the Lord called upon to smite evildoers. On the other hand, apt comparisons to Vietnam are not just permitted but encouraged.

I’m betting that the good bikers of Illinois who long ago served in Vietnam will happily provide a mic and a podium. If they won’t, I will.

Andrew Bacevich is a

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Fools’ Errands

Albion Winegar Tourgée may be best known now, though not in his lifetime, as the lead attorney in the Plessy v. Ferguson case, which was a set-up, a staged incident, with the cooperation even of the railroad company, to get a man arrested for sitting in the wrong car, take the matter to court, and end segregation on trains — except that it backfired horribly and legalized apartheid for over 50 years.

Tourgée’s work was not one incident alone, and his positive influence hasn’t ceased. His was one of the most influential white voices for equal rights for blacks in the decades following the U.S. Civil War. I want to quote and consider a short section found in one of his novels, A Fools Errand. The book was a runaway bestseller in 1879, published anonymously “by one of the fools.”

The book semi-autobiographically recounted the author’s endeavor to relocate himself and his family from the North to Greensboro, North Carolina, following the war, in order to assist in reconstruction. The book recounts the horrors of Ku Klux Klan terrorism against blacks and against whites advocating for rights for blacks. While the passage I’m about to quote generalizes, the book does not. It provides the perspectives of whites and blacks from the South and the North, including Southern Unionists and racist Northerners.

The generalization is worth paying attention to — and all the more so, because it describes the years immediately after the Civil War, which in a top-down simplified history found in text books, was the period of positive change when blacks voted and were elected, and which preceded the backlash of heightened racism and lynchings. In Tourgée’s account, the racism that followed was, at least in the South, already there, along with the lynchings, and change would only come through education. Tourgée pauses in the narrative of his book to explain the failure of the North and South to even understand each other:


“Northern Idea of Slavery.

“Slavery is wrong morally, politically, and economically. It is tolerated only for the sake of peace and quiet. The negro is a man, and has equal inherent rights with the white race.”

“Southern Idea of Slavery.

“The negro is fit only for slavery. It is sanctioned by the Bible, and it must be right; or, if not exactly right, is unavoidable, now that the race is among us. We can not live with them in any other condition.”

“Northern Idea of the Southern Idea.

“Those Southern fellows know that slavery is wrong, and incompatible with the theory of our government; but it is a good thing for them. They grow fat and rich, and have a good time, on account of it; and no one can blame them for not wanting to give it up.”

“Southern Idea of the Northern Idea.

“Those Yankees are jealous because we make slavery profitable, raising cotton and tobacco, and want to deprive us of our slaves from envy. They don’t believe a word of what they say about its being wrong, except a few fanatics. The rest are all hypocrites.”


“The Northern Idea of the Situation.

“The negroes are free now, and must have a fair chance to make themselves something. What is claimed about their inferiority may be true. It is not likely to approve itself; but, true or false, they have a right to equality before the law. That is what the war meant, and this must be secured to them. The rest they must get as they can, or do without, as they choose.”

“The Southern Idea of the Situation.

“We have lost our slaves, our bank stock, every thing, by the war. We have been beaten, and have honestly surrendered: slavery is gone, of course. The slave is now free, but he is not white. We have no ill will towards the colored man as such and in his place; but he is not our equal, can not be made our equal, and we will not be ruled by him, or admit him as a co-ordinate with the white race in power. We have no objection to his voting, so long as he votes as his old master, or the man for whom he labors, advises him; but, when he chooses to vote differently, he must take the consequences.”

“The Northern Idea of the Southern Idea.

“Now that the negro is a voter, the Southern people will have to treat him well, because they will need his vote. The negro will remain true to the government and party which gave him liberty, and in order to secure its preservation. Enough of the Southern whites will go with them, for the sake of office and power, to enable them to retain permanent control of those states for an indefinite period. The negroes will go to work, and things will gradually adjust themselves. The South has no right to complain. They would have the negroes as slaves, kept the country in constant turmoil for the sake of them, brought on the war because we would not catch their runaways, killed a million men; and now they can not complain if the very weapon by which they held power is turned against them, and is made the means of righting the wrongs which they have themselves created. It may be hard; but they will learn to do better hereafter.”

“The Southern Idea of the Northern Idea.

“The negro is made a voter simply to degrade and disgrace the white people of the South. The North cares nothing about the negro as a man, but only enfranchises him in order to humiliate and enfeeble us. Of course, it makes no difference to the people of the North whether he is a voter or not. There are so few colored men there, that there is no fear of one of them being elected to office, going to the Legislature, or sitting on the bench. The whole purpose of the measure is to insult and degrade. But only wait until the States are restored and the “Blue Coats” are out of the way, and we will show them their mistake.”

Now, it may seem obvious to us that this is a conversation between white men about black men, as if women do not exist — as well as that not all white men held exactly the same viewpoints. But the point is that it’s not a conversation at all. Neither side can hear the other. Each takes the other to be lying, because actually believing what is claimed can simply not be imagined. A takes B to view the world more or less as A does, not bothering to attempt to see the world as B claims to.

Tourgée was well aware that not all thought is conscious, that people can be self-deceived. But, whether beliefs are convenient or not, they can in fact be believed in. He was suggesting that we take seriously what other people believe. This is something we might do a bit more of today. If someone says that they believe racism in the United States is largely generated by Russian posts on social media, they may or may not know anything about U.S. history, they may or may not be a big supporter of Hillary Clinton, they may or may not know anything about Hillary Clinton’s history; the point is that they may truly believe what they say they do. The same goes for someone who says they’re terrified of ISIS taking over their local government in Kansas, but professes no fear or even anxiety about nuclear weapons or environmental destruction. Or someone who tells you that billionaires are on the side of poor people against the elites. A solution to such beliefs will not be found by dismissing them as unreal or theorizing that they will be worn away by democratic or market forces.

Imagining that others think what they say they think could be a huge boost to U.S. foreign policy. For example:

The U.S. Idea

If North Korea would stop building weapons and threatening, and bow to our will, then we would be able to bestow upon it all the benefits of our civilization, putting an end to the hunger and suffering created by their backward, ignorant, and stubborn ways.

The North Korean Idea

If the U.S. would stop building weapons and threatening, and treat us as an equal, then we could stop building weapons too and invest in human needs instead. If the U.S. would halt its horrific sanctions, we wouldn’t have the hunger and suffering that the U.S. creates and blames us for.

The U.S. Idea of the North Korean Idea

This arrogance is based in madness. A tiny rogue nation must meet the basic standards of all other nations except the Global Policeman, whose job it is to compel them to do so. Criminals always blame their aggression on the police, but they know better and are simply making a case to delude their people.

The North Korean Idea of the U.S. Idea

We have stopped building weapons and threatening, whenever the United States has done the same. The reason we cannot do so unilaterally is that the United States once absolutely destroyed our nation, leveled it, bombed it flat, killing millions. We cannot be asked to risk that again, and the U.S. would not be asking us to risk that again if it didn’t want to do it again.

Or, there’s this:

The U.S. Idea

Iran refuses to work with us. Israel and Saudi Arabia say it must be bombed. It clearly cannot be reasoned with. The lunatics took our people captive in an embassy for no reason. They’re building nuclear energy facilities for no reason. We have tried everything short of war to give the Iranian people a better government, and they’ve refused.

The Iranian Idea

The U.S. embassy overthrew our government in 1953. Who’s ever heard of having a revolution without clamping down on the U.S. embassy? We’re not suicidal — which is also why we’ve not threatened or started any wars in centuries. But the U.S. sends us sanctions and assassins and saboteurs, lies and inspectors — and threats from the neighboring countries which the U.S. has already destroyed. We agree to absurd agreements, and then the U.S. backs out of them; are we Native Americans? Is that why they keep promising to obliterate us?

The U.S. Idea of the Iranian Idea

What is with this irrational obsession with ancient history that backward people exhibit? The United States gave Iran a benevolent and progressive leader. His son is ready and waiting. The people of Iran are not as ungrateful as the fanatical regime ruling over them. We’ll be welcomed as liberators within hours when we finally find the nerve to bomb them.

The Iranian Idea of the U.S. Idea

We’re building nuclear energy for nuclear energy, at least we’re pretty sure we are, at least for now. Not everyone is a genocidal maniac! The United States is actively spreading nuclear energy to places like Saudi Arabia, just as it pushed it on us 50 years ago. Perhaps we should warn Saudi Arabia about the future.